|Elemér Illyés : National Minorities in Romania|
National-Minority Education in Romania
The existence of an adequate number of educational institutions providing instruction in the mother tongue is essential for the survival and further development of any national group. In the long run, education in the language of a majority nation ultimately spells assimilation for any national minority. For this reason, any study of the position of the national minorities in Romania must pay close attention to the question of minority language education.
Statistical data alone cannot provide an accurate picture of the level, quality and content of minority-language education. One must also be aware of the implications and historical background of the cultural policy that lies behind the statistics, especially since such statistics are often compiled to serve propaganda objectives. If, for example, lack of proficiency in the majority language bars an ethnic minority from occupations requiring higher-level educational qualifications, then the members of such a national minority will be forced to send their children to schools which offer instruction in the majority language and this, in turn, can lead a state to the conclusion that there is no real demand for minority-language education. Or if, for example, minority-language schools are for any reason unable to provide an education comparable in quality to that provided in the schools of the majority nation, it is obvious that parents will be more likely to send their children to the latter. Furthermore, it may also be the case that institutions termed "nationality schools" are such in name only, while in reality instruction in the mother tongue is provided only partially or not at all.
In light of the above, two aspects of the question must be kept in mind when studying national-minority education. Firstly, it must be viewed in terms of the national minorities themselves, and, secondly, it must be viewed within the framework of the educational system of the country as a whole. Thus, on one hand, one can analyze the laws which guarantee education in the mother-tongue for national minorities, examining the extent to which the educational institutions contribute to securing national equality and the extent to which they carry out their "nationality" function. In this context, greater attention would be paid to the conditions under which such education takes place, including an examination of the quality of teaching, the question of textbooks and syllabi (particularly those related to teaching of literature and history), the training and composition of the teaching staff, and the ways and means used to transmit the cultural inheritance of the group in question. The important issue of the teaching of the language of the majority people, the age at which it is begun and how and with what results it is done is also part of such an approach. Nor can it be ignored that national-minority educational institutions are at the same time nationality institutions with cultural functions far broader than that of mere education: they are also the shapers and transmitters of national consciousness. On the other hand, it must also be remembered that the nationality educational institutions are also part of the overall educational system of a given state. From this perspective, one must examine the social factors that exert particular influence on the network of nationality institutions within the school system of the country; in short, one must take note of the demographic and sociological characteristies of a given minority group. The factors that need to be examined here include such questions as: whether the particular nationality lives in a fairly compact area or is widely scattered; the social stratification of that minority; and the possibilities for further education and upward social mobility open to the youth of the national minority as compared with the youth belonging to the majority nation. It is also necessary to examine each type of school separately, as well as the educational level of the nationality population and the proportion of those receiving education in their mother language as a percentage of all those of school age.
The question whether national minority educational institutions and the number of pupils and students attending them correspond to the proportion of minority population must also be considered. It is extremely difficult to evaluate the level of development of a national-minority school network or, indeed, the standard of the education offered in such schools, since in both cases the problem of comparison arises. Comparing the number of institutions and pupils to the amount of nationality population in a given country, for example, is an imperfect measurement since it can often overlook the problems of a school network in serving minority population dispersed over a wide area.
A comparison of national-minority education during the interwar period with that provided at present can also lead the researcher astray. Such comparison is impossible not only because of radical changes in socio-economic conditions but also because of the transformation of the significance and role of education. Today, the development of education is a key question in every country in the world. Increasingly higher levels of training are a precondition for dynamic technological and economic development. Nor can one ignore the fact that education is most effective when provided in one's native language.
Education can often speed up the assimilation of a national minority, particularly if the use of the language of that nationality is hindered in public life or in places of employment, despite all laws and measures to the contrary. Rapid assimilation can also be facilitated by the absence of suitable minority-language schools of particular types, or if the geographical distribution of minority schools does not correspond to the geographical distribution of the minority population. General (that is, primary) and secondary education in the mother tongue is also affected negatively if entrance examinations for institutions of continuing and higher education are not offered in the minority language. All of these issues are thus complex ones requiring an examination of many factors. An analysis of every aspect of these questions cannot possibly be undertaken here; in what follows only the most important problems will be indicated. However, before discussing the education of the national minorities in Romania and the Romanian educational system in general, some aspects of the historical development of this problem should be considered.
The origins of the independent Saxon and Hungarian school networks in Transylvania go back to the 14th and 16th centuries, respectively.
The Transylvanian Saxons were the first European people to establish a system of compulsory education, earlier than the Austrians or Prussians and 150 years earlier than the English:1 compulsory school attendance was introduced in the area of "Kö nigsboden" in 1722. The first Saxon gymnasium was founded in Kronstadt/ Brassó / Brasov in 1543 by Johannes Honterus, and the Saxon gymnasia of Hermannstadt/ Nagyszeben/ Sibiu, Schä ssburg/ Segesvá r/ Sighisoara, and Mediasch/ Medgyes/ Medias are centuries old. Kolozsvá r/ Cluj was the second university city of historical Hungary: as early as 1581 the Transylvanian Prince Stephen Bá thori founded a Jesuit academy there, which later became a university. Moreover, the college of the Hungarian Unitarians and Calvinists in Cluj has a 400 year-old history, and the Calvinist college in Nagyenyed/ Aiud, Marosvá sá rhely/ Tirgu Mures, and Szé kelyudvarhely/ Odorhei are also centuries old.
The Transylvanian nationalities' educational traditions are inseparable from the historic role of their churches. The Saxon and Hungarian schools in Transylvania, with some exceptions, were ecclesiastical schools attached to monastic communities or episcopal institutions; this relation, however, had been changed significantly after 1868. The Saxon Evangelical and Hungarian Catholic, Calvinist, and Unitarian Churches, were the oldest ecclesiastical schools in Transylvania. The educational activity of the Romanian Uniate and Orthodox Churches in this area was much less developed.2 This was certainly to some extent a result of the Hungarian government's neglect of its educational policies toward the national minorities, although the historically low social level and high rate of illiteracy among the Transylvanian Romanians cannot be ignored.
The significance of ecclesiastical education for the national minorities of Transylvania increased after 1868 in an Hungarian state striving for national unity. After World War I and in the first years after the Second World War, the continuity of education in the mother tongues, the survival of Hungarian and Saxon schools, and the continuing supply of minority intelligentsia were all ensured by the churches. Between the two world wars, 80-90 percent of the Hungarian school network in Romania was maintained by the financial, intellectual, and moral support of the Hungarian churches in Transylvania.3
After the confiscation of the property of the Transylvanian Saxon's institution of the Nationsuniversitä t in 1937, German education in Transylvania became the task of the Evangelical Church.
The education of the Banat Swabians developed differently. Because the majority of schools had been Hungarianized before 1918,4 the Catholic Church played an important role in building up a German educational system through private schools in the now Romanian Banat. A high school for the natural sciences and a teachers college that was incorporated into a commercial school in 1936 were founded in Timisoara/ Temesvá r.
Education for the National Minorities Between the Two World Wars
The structure of Hungarian and German society in Transylvania at the time of that area's annexation by Romania at the end of the First World War differed significantly from the social structure of the Old Kingdom (Regat). This difference was the result of historical conditions, and especially of the fuller development of a bourgeoisie in Transylvania. The bourgeois transformation and economic and intellectual growth were particularly noticeable in the German and Hungarian cities of Transylvania. A third urban element, the Jews, also contributed significantly to intellectual and economic development.
It is well known that, as a result of historical factors, the Hungarian, German and Jewish populations of pre-war Transylvania had attained a relatively higher level of economic and cultural development than the Romanian population of Transylvania or the population of pre-war Romania.5 Although, as a result of favorable political conditions, this difference has been considerably reduced during the past half-century, it has still not been eradicated entirely. The governments that have ruled the new, enlarged Romania since the First World War have endeavored to correct these cultural imbalances to the detriment of the Transylvanian nationalities, particularly the Hungarians and Germans. Naturally, the attainment of this goal was conceivable only as the result of a repressive and restrictive nationality policy. The extent of the destruction of the cultural institutions of the national minorities can best be measured by examining the gradual elimination of the minority school networks. It is a well known fact that during the interwar period the Romanian kingdom officially regarded state education as a means for assimilation of the national minorities.
Between the two world wars, the national minorities in Romania waged a hard struggle to save their centuries-old educational institutions. Three separate periods in this educational struggle, characterized by markedly different Romanian government policies, can be distinguished: 1919-1925, 1925-1934, and 1934-1940. The status of the minority schools changed as one government followed another. Perhaps the National Peasant Party could be said to have exhibited somewhat more tolerance than the Liberal Party. Nonetheless, all of the political parties which held power can be characterized as having been basically anti-minority.
Article 1, paragraph 3 of the December 1, 1918 Alba Iulia Resolutions stated: "Each nationality is to have education, administration, and the administration of justice in its own language, provided by members of its own group." Article 9 of the December 9, 1919 Paris Minorities Treaty provided that "those Romanian citizens who belong to a national, religious or linguistic minority" have the right "to establish, manage and supervise welfare, religious and social institutions, as well as schools and other educational institutions, at their own expense, the right to the free use of their own languages and the right to the free observance of their religions." This section of the treaty concerned state schools and private ecclesiastical schools, while Article 10 regulated the status of state schools for citizens belonging to alien nationalities. Finally, Article 11 ensured local autonomy in matters of religion and education for the Szé klers and Transylvanian Saxons under the supervision of the Romanian state.
Both the Resolutions of Alba Iulia and the Minorities Treaty were to some extent an internationally formulated basis for the regulation of national minority education in Romania. The Sibiu Romanian Governing Council (Consiliul Dirigent), the short-lived executive organ established by the Romanian government after the annexation of Transylvania, which had charge of education, honored these rights, but as soon as it was abolished, in the 1919-1920 academic year, significant changes began to occur, and from that time onward the situation gradually deteriorated. The network of state and ecclesiastical national-minority schools was soon to be destroyed by new legislation.
The fate of the ecclesiastical national-minority schools was determined by two new laws: the act of June 30, 1924,6 concerning general elementary education and the act of December 22, 1925, concerning private education7 up to the elementary and secondary level. Churches owning school buildings and other educational capital received the right to select a teaching staff and to provide for their financial maintenance. By the Concordat of May 10, 1927, the Roman Catholic Church secured for itself the right to establish ecclesiastical schools and to determine the language of instruction in them in accordance with the desire of the populations they served.
However, national-minority ecclesiastical education had already been seriously handicapped by two decrees enacted in the 1923-1924 academic year.8 As a consequence of these, one nationality school after another lost the right to provide public education and, consequently, the future of minority education became uncertain. One decree, relating to general elementary education called for the establishment, in areas with a majority of Hungarian inhabitants, of a so-called "cultural zone"9 whose obvious purpose was the expansion of the Romanian-inhabited areas along the Hungarian border and the Romanianization of the Szé kler region. In these "cultural zones" teaching in the Hungarian schools was done primarily by Romanian teachers sent there from the Regat, who spoke no Hungarian; their salaries were fifty percent higher than the salaries of the teachers outside the "cultural zone." Furthermore, they receive more rapid promotion, and the state provided them with plots of land to settle on.10 The same law also introduced the teaching of Romanian in the national minority state schools and decreed that the "national" subjects (history, geography, and constitutional studies) had to be taught in Romanian.
The December 22, 1925 law concerning private education turned national-minority ecclesiastical schools into public (state) institutions, taking away their autonomous rights, and introduced the principle of "name-analysis" (Articles 35 and 47). This meant that members of the national minorities who had Romanian-sounding names -- particularly Hungarians -- were declared to be of Romanian origin. (It should be noted here that the bulk of both Hungarian and German pupils attended ecclesiastical schools, and only a small group went to state schools.)
New laws and decrees of this type were issued practically every academic year, with the result that, for example, within a short space of time, the number of Hungarian schools had been reduced everywhere between 62-93 percent, depending on the type of school involved: between 1919 and 1924, the Romanian government either Romanianized or closed down 2,070 of 3,025 Hungarian rural elementary schools (68 percent), 123 of 151 lower-grade secondary schools (82 percent), 46 of 65 secondary schools (70 percent), 23 of 29 teacher training colleges (78 percent), and 27 of 29 commercial colleges (93 percent).11 The introduction of the high school graduation (baccalaureate) law of March 7, 192512, was another setback for minority education. According to this law, students henceforth had to take their final examinations not from their own teachers but rather from a committee composed of Romanian teachers, who spoke none of the languages of the minorities.
This meant that 70-80 percent of the pupils in the national-minority schools failed to pass the graduation examination, and that the supply of new intelligentsia for the national minorities was thereby threatened. At the same time, 51.9 percent of the pupils from the Regat succeeded in passing these examinations.13
In the 1933-1934 academic year, during the premiership of C. Angelescu, still more schools providing instruction in the national minority languages were closed; only 20-25 percent of Hungarian children of school age, for example, were able to attend Hungarian ecclesiastical schools. Furthermore, in 1935, the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades in German-language state schools were completely Romanianized, and in many localities, so were the lower classes;14 independent German-language education (as opposed to programs offered in Romanian schools) ceased to exist completely.15
As a result of the Romanian state's closings of Hungarian-language schools and its closing of the Hungarian university in Cluj, out of the 2,641 Hungarian-language schools in 1918 there were only 1,040 in all of Romania in 1924, only 875 in 1932, and only 795 in 1938.16 According to different data from another source, during the decade following the First World War, the Romanian authorities closed down 472 Hungarian-language ecclesiastical schools in Transylvania.17
The situation of national-minority education in Romania seemed to improve in 1937, but this was merely temporary. On December 15 the government sanctioned minority-language education in those parishes where there were at least thirty minority children of school age, but the Constitution of February 27, 1938, failed to make any reference to the rights of the national minorities contained in the Paris Minorities Treaty. Finally, with the introduction of the so-called Minorities Statute in 1938,18 genuine measures were taken to facilitate education in the languages of the national minorities; these measures, however, were merely a reflection of concern over the impending world war and the fear of a possible revision of Romanian frontiers.
After the Second Vienna Award of 1940, dividing Transylvania into two parts, the pre-1918 Hungarian educational system was re-established in the territory of Northern Transylvania, annexed by Hungary, but in Southern Transylvania, which remained under Romanian rule, the fate of the Hungarian-language schools continued to be uncertain.
The political organization of the German Volksgruppe in Romania, breaking with the age-old tradition of ecclesiastical education endeavored in the 1940s to take upon themselves the task of providing education in German. Given the new political orientation of the Romanian state, this endeavor of the Volksgruppe was supported by the Decree of November 8, 1941;19 for the time being, however the Evangelical Church resisted these tendencies. Finally, on November 20, 1941, the Church gave way to pressure from the Volksgruppe, and the latter henceforth exerted control over all the German-language educational institutions in Romania. The Catholic Church of the Banat did not hand its German-language schools over to the Volksgruppe until March 1942.
In 1919-1920, the first academic year after the annexation of Transylvania by Romania, the following Hungarian-language state schools were in operation in Romania:20
1,686 primary schools
62 lower secondary schools and junior grammar schools
65 grammar schools (lycé es)
14 teacher training colleges
9 commercial colleges
In addition, the following Hungarian-language ecclesiastical schools were in operation:
1,086 primary schools
58 lower secondary schools
34 grammar schools (lycé es)
17 teacher training colleges
7 commercial colleges
The distribution of German-language educational institutions of the Transylvanian Saxons after the annexation of Transylvania during the 1919-1920 academic year was as follows:21
250 primary schools
8 lower secondary schools
3 junior grammar schools
6 grammar schools (lycé es)
2 girls' combined grammar school and commercial colleges
2 teacher training colleges
1 nursery school teacher training college
In the Romanian Banat during the 1934-1936 academic year the following German-language schools were in operation:22
115 state primary schools
65 ecclesiastical primary schools
16 ecclesiastical secondary and post-secondary schools
1 state lycé e
In the Satu Mare region (Sathmar Swabians) there were during the 1930-1931 academic year:23
22 primary schools (14 ecclesiastical, 7 state schools and 1 private school).
By comparison the number of German-language educational institutions in the whole of Romania -- except Northern Transylvania which was part of Hungary -- in the 1940-1941 academic year included:
457 primary schools
17 secondary schools
10 post-secondary schools
4 teacher-training colleges
1 nursery school teacher training college
These schools were attended by 62,731 German pupils; the number of teachers was 1,669.
After the annexation of Transylvania by Romania, the educational system of the Jews there found itself in a situation similar to that of the Hungarians and Germans: the Romanian government had hindered the development of Jewish education through the closing of schools. In the academic year 1921-22, 29 of the 32 pre-war Jewish elementary schools were in operation. There were also 4 Jewish lycé es with instruction in Romanian in Oradea, Timisoara, and Cluj.
National-Minority Education After 1945
Between the two world wars the oppression of the national minorities had involved a more or less open struggle; the nationalities had their defenders and also -- even if only to a limited extent -- the means to defend themselves. They had found support not only in their political, social, and cultural organizations, but, to a significant extent, in the minority school network as well.
After the Second World War, the national-minority ecclesiastical schools were ultimately nationalized by the Decree of August 3, 1948: thus the role of the churches in defending and encouraging the development of the nationality cultures and languages was undermined. Since the introduction of the state monopoly in education, the school system ceased to be a means of protection of the minorities and become a means of denationalization. Since the schools today provide an education for a much broader section of the population than they did between the wars, they have become an even more effective tool of denationalization.24
The Romanian national-minority educational system has become what it is today as a result of a complicated series of changes in the laws and decrees issued since the Second World War, which, while appearing to make concessions, actually introduced further restrictions and a state of permanent uncertainty. The negative repercussions, however, were not immediate: in the immediate post-war period official educational policy did not aim as yet at a forced equalization of the level of education, in the more developed Transylvanian school system and the less developed system in the Old Kingdom: the educational development of the national minorities in Transylvania was not yet curbed in favor of the Romanian population.
During this early period, the state organized a national-minority school network extending to every level of education and gave a free hand to the churches. At this time the class point of view rather than the national was still paramount in the shaping of educational policy. With the abolition of the granted rights of the German Volksgruppe, the Transylvanian Saxon Evangelical Church as well as the Catholic Church in the Romanian Banat once again took charge of those German-language schools which had not yet been expropriated by the Romanian authorities or been turned into Romanian institutions.25 During the 1946-1947 academic year, following the purges, a certain degree of improvement in the condition of German-language education could be discerned. A portion of the German teachers were able to return to their posts once again. However, the plan to have German teachers in all German-language schools by the end of 1947 was not realized. In most parishes only four-year German-language schools were opened, with teaching staffs that were at least partly Romanian.26
The deportation of much of the German population of Romania at the beginning of 1945 also had serious consequences for education in the vernacular. The decline of the German population can best be measured by the sudden drop in the numbers of children of school age.
According to the 1956 census, the German nationality in Romania amounted to 2.2 percent of the total population; by contrast, during the 1956-1957 academic year German children of school age born between 1946-1950 accounted for only 0.87 percent of all the children of school age in the country.27
National-minority education in Romania was first regulated during the post-war period by the Nationality Statute issued on February 6, 1945. This, however, represented only a temporary stage before the final integration of Northern Transylvania into the Romanian educational system. Thereafter the use of the mother-tongue in national-minority schools, where all subjects -- including history and geography -- could be taught in the languages of the national minorities, was regulated by the Decree of March 15, 1946, issued by the Groza government. The Groza government partially ensured the continued operation of the existing Hungarian school network and facilitated the foundation of more schools, colleges and cultural institutions. During this period, the Catholic Church still represented a considerable force; Hungarian Catholic ecclesiastical schools were given state subsidies to permit their continuing operations.
The 1946-1947 academic year was characterized by two developments in the sphere of educational policy which were seemingly contradictory but which, in fact, organically complemented one other. On one hand, Romanian administrative organs were compelled for reasons of external and internal politics to make concessions in favor of the Hungarians on the level of higher education while, on the other hand, on the lower and local levels a free hand was given to Romanian nationalism.
An old demand of the Hungarians of Romania was realized in 1945, when the government issued a decree establishing the Hungarian-language Bolyai University in Cluj with faculties of philosophy, law, economics, and natural sciences. In addition to this new university, there were several other Hungarian-language higher educational institutions, namely, an agricultural college, a college of visual arts, a college of music, a college of dramatic arts and the Institute of Medicine and Pharmacology.
The Hungarian People's Alliance was given an important role in developing Hungarian-nationality educational policy; the educational authorities took notice of its recommendations. The work of schools offering instruction in Hungarian was initially directed by two educational-district chief directorates in Cluj/ Kolozsvá r and Brasov/ Brassó , and by six inspectorates for primary schools in Cluj, Timisoara/ Temesvá r, Tirgu Mures/Marosvá sá rhely, Odorhei/Szé kelyudvarhely, Sfintu Gheorghe/Sepsiszentgyö rgy, all of which were headed by Hungarians.
In 1947-1948, there were 2,071 Hungarian-language kindergartens and elementary schools in Romania, with approximately 4,200 teachers; there were 184 Hungarian secondary schools. This period can be said to have laid the foundations for a Hungarian-language school network proportionate in size to the number of the Hungarians in Romania and to have begun a development toward equal rights for the nationalities in the sphere of education, with the establishment of minority-language educational institutions on all levels, including the university.
National-Minority Education in the Romanian People's Republic
The first constitution of the people's democracy, enacted on April 13, 1948, and the August 3, 1948 Decree28 on educational reform, brought about a radical change of direction in Romania's educational policy. In the pages that follow, an attempt will be made to analyze, in as great a detail as possible, the history of national-minority education from 1948 to the present, in the light of the laws and decrees, the educational system as a whole, and the various types of schools within it. The frequent and contradictory changes in nationality policy and the misleading nature of available official statistics pose significant difficulties for an analysis of this kind. (In Romania, every statistic is considered to be a state secret unless it serves the purposes of propaganda.)
Article 24 of the first people's democratic constitution, published on March 6, 1948, and ratified by the Grand National Assembly on April 13th, guaranteed the "free use of the mother-tongue for all the 'co-inhabiting nationalities,' as well as the organization of education in the mother-tongue."
The law on educational reform enacted on August 3, 1948, which was worked out by the Central Committee of the Worker's Party, and which changed the principles of the previous 1942 Education Act, represented a departure from democratic principles. The law, like the Constitution, was based on a Soviet model; it laid down the ideological foundations for the future development of the educational system. It consisted of two decrees,29 the first of which dealt with the nationalization of school properties, administrative questions, modifications in the syllabus and guidelines for teachers.
The second decree prescribed, among other things, the nationalization of all ecclesiastical and private schools, and "¼ the expropriation of the landed and other properties of the churches, congregations, and religious and private organizations which provided for the maintenance of such educational institutions" (Article 35). This measure of the decree finally destroyed the link between church and school that had traditionally played such a great role in the education of the national minorities in Romania. The law created an absolute state monopoly in the sphere of education.
Following the 1948 educational reform, class considerations became paramount, and workers and peasants were given preferential treatment. Thus, the change of regime meant the opportunity for more education for groups that had been hitherto barred by financial circumstances from schools above the primary level. On the other hand, the real aims of the law were the introduction of Marxist ideology into the new school system, the development of a new intelligentsia acquainted with Marxist-Leninist ideas, and an end to the influence of the churches, the traditional protectors of the national-minority ecclesiastical schools. The state endeavoured to achieve these objectives by dismissing a large group of teachers, the ideological re-education of the remaining teaching staff, and the introduction of a completely new syllabus. Purges and "organizing work" among the students were part and parcel of this process of re-education.
The decree guaranteed the education of the nationalities in their mother-tongue from the primary to the university level. However, the 1948 educational reform had two other striking implications for the national minorities: the introduction of the teaching of Romanian in all educational establishments, including the Hungarian university, and the radical reinterpretation and rewriting of the history syllabus. The negative Hungarian reaction in Transylvania led the party leadership to claim that these measures served the cause of "Hungarian-Romanian fraternity."
Since the history syllabus had been reinterpreted and rewritten, the history books published for the 1948-1949 academic year caused unprecedented confusion, particularly since not even the Romanian historians could develop a uniform official interpretation. Some of them continued to support the Daco-Roman continuity theory,30 while others, under the guidance of the party leadership and Soviet influence, placed emphasis on Slavonic elements in discussing the origins of the Romanian people. The new history books were silent about the Hungarian history of Transylvania and about the important historical role of the Transylvanian Saxons and primarily emphasized the role of the Romanian people in the history of Transylvania.31
On the basis of the 1948 act, a compulsory seven-year system was introduced in the primary sector; in the 1963-1964 academic year this was raised to eight, and in 1969 to ten years. A later decree introduced an eleventh and a twelfth year to prepare pupils for higher education. The secondary schools, in the original meaning of the term, thereby lost their special role, and, consequently, the role played by the universities in the creation of the intellectual stratum was increased. Critics of the 1948 act complained about the neglect of technical training in secondary education; now, just as later, at the very time when technology was growing in importance, no provision was made for national-minority education in this area.
On the basis of the decree of July 21, 1948,32 foreign schools in Romania were closed and their staffs had to leave the country. At the same time Romanian schools operating abroad were also abolished, and ties with foreign institutions were broken off.
National-minority education did not show any great decline immediately following the 1948 education reform, at least not in numbers. During the first years of the Romanian People's Republic, the authorities avoided all cruder forms of interference, in order not to frighten public opinion.
The first real step was to be the purge and "re-education" of teaching staffs, from the lowest level up to the universities. This was necessary in order to destroy the "bourgeois" school network and to abolish traditional subjects and departments, replacing them with new ones. Key positions generally went to teachers selected by the party, not so much on the basis of academic ability as on the basis of "political reliability." By the middle of the 1950s, the number of teachers whose primary task was "ideological education" had almost doubled.33 In effect, then, the language of instruction was the only element of nationality education to be preserved, since the entire educational system had been redirected to serve the realization of proletarian internationalism. At the same time, moreover, in the course of nationalization a large number of national-minority institutions became Romanian institutions (i.e., with predominantly Romanian student bodies and with instruction chiefly in Romanian).34
There was no separate decree providing for this; the expropriations were carried out by the local authorities.35 In such localities if there were large numbers of national-minority pupils, national-minority sections in Romanian schools were established in place of the expropriated institutions; in villages where national-minority children of school-age were not present in sufficient numbers, the schools were filled with Romanian refugees from Bessarabia. This occurred particularly in the Szé kler region.36 It was not in the interest of the people's democratic regime to cultivate and further develop the cultural heritage of the national minorities; the weakening of the cultural institutions of the national minorities began with the de-emphasis which proletarian internationalism placed on the particularity of national cultures. The authorities attempted to carry out this policy in large part through the 1950 reform measures relating primarily to education in the arts, which were aimed at institutions of higher education.
These purges reduced the Hungarian Bolyai University in Cluj -- which lost its right to self-government already in March 1945 and, from which visiting professors from Hungary had already been expelled -- to the level of a secondary school. At the beginning of the 1950s, an attempt was made to remove Hungarian cultural institutions and the university from Cluj to insignificant provincial localities37 as part of the program to Romanianize the towns and cities of Transylvania in general, and Cluj in particular. This process began in 1953. The Hungarian-language monthly, Irodalmi Almanach (Literary Almanac) was moved to Tirgu Mures. Similarly, the College of Dramatic Arts and the university medical faculty, which later became the Institute of Medicine and Pharmacology, were also moved. Due to resistance by the intelligentsia, however, further steps were not taken. (Nonetheless, the Hungarian-language publishing house was later moved to Bucharest.)
At almost the same time, other nationality cultural institutions were simply abolished. Already, during the 1948-1949 academic year, the Ministry of Arts had abolished -- under the guise of a temporary measure -- the Hungarian School of Music and Dramatic Arts in Cluj and replaced it with a Hungarian Institute of Arts with three Hungarian faculties and one Romanian faculty. At the same time, however, the Ministry organized a Romanian Institute of Arts, which also had four faculties. In place of the Hungarian music faculty of the old School of Music and Dramatic Arts, the Romanian Gheorghe Dima Conservatory was created, including a Hungarian faculty. In the same way, the Romanian Ion Andreescu School of Plastic Arts also had a Hungarian faculty organized within it.
The faculty of choreography of the old School of Music and Dramatic Arts was abolished entirely, and in its place a so-called lycé e of dancing arts was established, which had no Hungarian faculty. Also about that time, the teaching of philosophy and psychology was discontinued -- for a time -- at the Hungarian university of Cluj, and teaching in Hungarian was finally discontinued at the College of Agriculture in Cluj. The history of how this was done throws interesting light on the methods and the situation. In the spring of 1954, two Hungarian agronomists from the college were accused of embezzlement; they defended themselves by arguing that they had not understood their instructions correctly -- for linguistic reasons. Actually, this whole affair had been fabricated higher up with the aim of abolishing the Hungarian section. The decision was announced by the Politburo, thus precluding the possibility of protest. At the same time, as a concession, Hungarian courses and possibility of using Hungarian in the entrance examinations were promised. Both measures, however, failed to materialize.
The regime used this period of reshaping and reorganization to carry out purges of the teaching staff and the student body. After the abolition of the youth organizations in 1949 and the general political reorganization, mass political organizations for young people were established under the names "Young Pioneers"38 and "Union of Working Youth" (Uniunea Tineretului Muncitoresc); the former was for pupils in the general schools and the latter, for students in secondary schools and institutions of continuing and higher education (90 percent of Romanian pupils and students currently belong to these organizations). Both were designed to serve as extracurricular instruments of the cultural policy of the regime. The proportion of school textbooks devoted to the revolutionary movement and to ideology also increased enormously; thus, for example, the history of the Romanian Communist Party became compulsory reading.
We have only incomplete and somewhat unreliable data on the number of national-minority schools during the post-war years. According to a report published in the Bucharest German-language paper Neuer Weg on March 28, 1949, there were at that time 441 German-language general schools (113 of them seven-year schools) and five German-language secondary and post-secondary schools in Romania; on December 25th of the same year the Neuer Weg spoke of only 396 general schools. In August 1950 there were, altogether, 361 general schools, two pedagogical schools, and ten occupational and technical secondary schools providing instruction in German in Romania.
|Elemér Illyés : National Minorities in Romania|