|TRANSYLVANIA AND THE THEORY...|
These are excerpts from a press review article, entitled ''At the Danube," published in The New Hungarian Quarterly (Winter 1978).
In two consecutive Sunday issues, (Christmas 1977, and New Year 1978) the Budapest daily Magyar Nemzet printed a long article by the septuagenarian poet Gyula Illyés, entitled Válasz Herdernek és Adynak (A Reply to Herder and Ady).
His starting point is a statement by the Prussian preacher, poet and evolutionist philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), who was among those who helped shape the young Goethe's mind. In his four-volume Ideen zur Philo- sophle der Geschichte der Menschheit (''Ideas toward a Philosophy of the History of Mankind''), first published in 1791, Herder, then a highly fashionable and widely read author, declared: ''Of the Hungarians, small in number and wedged in between others, not even the language will be de- tectable as the centuries pass." The prognosis, Illyés points out, soon reached Hungarian intellectual circles. The effect, Illyes adds, did not, contrary to what most literary historians think, act as an incentive. It actually worsened the condition of a nation already seriously ill. After a century of ruthless Habs- burg domination -- in the wake of the 150-year Turkish occu- pation of the largest, central third of the country that had ended in 1686 -- Herder's judgement came at a time, Illyes points out, when the leaders of an anti-Habsburg Jacobin con- spiracy were being publicly beheaded in Buda in 1794. And it reverberated down the l9th century, seeming to justify and strengthen the feeling of doom expressed in marvellous poetry by the romantic poets Kölcsey, Berzsenyi and Vörösmarty. And again, after the failure of another, but this time large-scale anti-Habsburg uprising, the 1848-49 revolution and war of independence, when, in the wake of the 1867 Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich, despite all the economic boom it had produced, one-and-a-half million impoverished, despe- rate Hungarians emigrated to America.
He then goes on tracing the impact of Herder's prophecy a hundred years after it had been made. Endre Ady, one of the greatest poets Hungary has ever produced (1877-1919) felt he was "the last surviving Hungarian." Illyes explains why in detail. The Hungarian nation was doomed to extinction, Ady believed, unless a real revolution occurred. He saw the catas- trophic nature of the Great War long before it started and was fully aware of its inevitable consequences. He died in early 1919, fully vindicated by history, but what soon followed in terms of long-range suffering and deprivation on an unpre- cedented scale, redrawing the maps and cutting deep into the flesh of the nation, surpassed even his worst expectations. "For not even he had prophesied the kind of darkness that he saw approaching with his dying eyes," Illyes says. We have to realize this, otherwise "how could we perceive the light of hope of which we would like to talk at the end of these thoughts?"
Herder would not recognize the Hungarian nation today, Illyes goes on, standing once again on its feet after so many trials and tribulations. We have a firm social and economic order, our intellectual life also shows signs of healthy develop- ment, our situation may even seem enviable to many. But only two thirds of the fifteen million Hungarian-speaking people live within the frontiers of this country. That means that "one Hungarian in three, not knowing or, learning with great dif- ficulty, the official langue completely alien to his own in its very structure, struggles with many and hitherto not sufficiently recognized difficulties. The basic reason for this being that in the face of the national irritability that sprang up in this century with such unexpected force, and chiefly of the impatience that is directed against national minorities, even the kind of humanism that socialism professes is ineffective."
There are no international agreements to protect the rights of national minorities, Illyes reminds us. "Peace Treaties, taking them for granted, relegate them among the human rights of the individual."
A Hungarian-speaking population exceeding a million (about 2.5 million --Ed. ) and living in minority status has been deprived of its university where the language of tuition used to be its own. No other institutions of higher education in the language exist there any longer and soon there will be no secondary schools teaching in Hungarian either. As a conse- quence, young people will soon be unable to learn a trade in their own language. "In elementary schools small children are taught in their own language that their ancestors were barbarian invaders, inferior devastators . . . architectural masterpieces built by their ancestors are described as proof of their guilt." More than twenty percent of the children of the largest national minority in Europe are not even taught the alphabet in their own language. It often occurs that doctor and patient, who speak the same language, are compelled to communicate through an interpreter, thereby reducing the standards of medical service to a "jungle level". Young profes- sionals, who want to retain their language, are often forced to take jobs far from their language territory, while alien-speak- ing individuals are posted among Hungarian-speakers. Ministers are not allowed to preach to the faithful in Hun- garian.
"A national minority or another -- just like nations -- will lose the race nowadays by falling behind in the number of off- spring it produces. That is, if the individual fails to receive from the community of his people the feeling of assurance that he will get protection for his offspring: a kind of community for which each can make a sacrifice and with no worries: with faith in the future.''
Under the title "Huns in Paris," Luceafarul, the weekly of the Rumanian Writers' Association' printed an article by Mihnea Gheorghiu, a writer, Chairman of the Editorial Board of the paper, in its May 6th 1978 issue. After summarizing briefly Illyes's introductory remarks as "a bizarre mixture of Hegelian dialectics and the echoing of Herder supplemented with some local lyrical motifs, "the Hun- garian poet, according to Gheorghiu, goes on "to construct a whole scaffold out of expiations based on totally subjective and imagined facts." Illyes reaches the conclusion, Gheorghiu says, that the treatment of national minorities in Rumania amounts to apartheid on a South African scale and, if not to ethnocide, then to definite ethnic oppression."
He adds that, on the occasion of the American visit of the Rumanian President, even Barbara Walters, the TV com- mentator, was told that "it would be highly desirable if the national minorities of the world would enjoy at least as many rights as the national minorities of Rumania do."
Not satisfied by this, Gheorghiu says, Illyes then declared as reported in a Reuter dispatch from Budapest that he was willing to take full responsibility for exposing the conditions of the Hungarian minority in Rumania.
Gheorghiu draws the conclusion that there must be some- thing or someone "interested in heating up the gunpowder keg again, and in putting the bourgeois-nationalist apple of dis- cord back into the basket of timeliness." Certain vile interests direct some people to fan "the cooling embers of ethnic rivalry" and "enemies of the working class" revive the slogans of re- vanchist nationalism and chauvinism.
In Élet es Irodalom' a Budapest literary weekly' for July 8th 1978, Zsigmond Pál Pach, the historian, head of the In- stitute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. and Vice- President of the Academy, tells of a conference of social scientists from the socialist countries held in Buda- pest in April 1978. The Academy of Social and Political Sciences of the Socialist Republic of Rumania had sent a large delegation, and Professor Pach gained the impression that they shared his views on the character of the conference, and the type of discussion needed. His surprise was therefore all the greater when he read an article in Luceafarul -- the weekly of the Rumanian Writers' Association -- "Huns in Paris" by Mihnea Gheorghiu.
Mihnea Gheorghiu includes Gyula Illyes amongst those who "regret that the lording of the lordlings came to an end with the victorious new social order;" as one who "as the enemy of the working class reaches a stage where he evokes the blood and hatred provoking slogans of revanchist nation- alism and chauvinism;" who supports the fascist gospel of vivere pericolosamente, "full of nostalgia for a dualism whose sun has set and the memory of the admiral without a fleet," feeling a "gut-hatred" for members of other nations; doing all that in the "hope that the wheel of history might turn back, perhaps to the wheel on which Horia was broken." I will not go on quoting similar, perhaps even rougher, unspeakable abuse.
Can one insinuate that this Hungarian writer is full of nos- talgia for the Dualist and the Horthy age, for the memory of the admiral without a fleet? -- asks Pach. A Hungarian writer who calls on the 1514 Dozsa peasant rebellion, jointly honoured by Hungarians and Rumanians, and the "blood thirsty laws" of the noble national assembly that followed its suppression to bear witness in his work. amongst them those laws which "over and above seizing every one of their human and even animal rights even keenly prescribes how they must be executed in any given case"? After all Gyula Illyes had fled West to Vienna, crossing the frontier illegally, in 1920, after the suppression of the 1919 Republic of Councils of Hungary, going on to Berlin, and later to France. There he not only met the most outstanding representatives of modern French intel- lectual and artistic trends, cooperating with them, but as a revolutionary poet he so to speak as a matter of course, parti- cipated in the socialist labour movement.
Like most of the great Hungarian poets Gyula Illyés as well has been thrilled by world literature and that of the neighbouring countries, an attitude that has never flagged. This is not a mere artistic test in his case either, but a conscious endeavour to familiarize others with the values of other national cultures, and to further the coming closer to each other and the friendship of the nations. Illyes has done much to interpret Rumanian literature as well. He transmitted not only the ballad 'Miorita' (Lambkin) to his Hungarian readers, but he turned another masterpiece of Rumanian balladry into a shared treasure of Hungarian literature. One could go on with George Cosbuc's famous "In the mountains" and Tudor Arghezi's "Testament" and "Secret psalm," these pearls of Rumanian literature which thanks to Illyes sparkle in the Hun- garian in a manner worthy of the original. This then is the 'lair' which according to the author of the Luceafarul article gave a home to Illyés's 'nightmarish hostility to Rumanians?"
"What I am inclined to say rather here is the recognition that one must make a final and radical break with every kind of pretty and poisoned thinking and nationalist discrimina- tion. Hungarians, Rumanians, Slovaks, Germans, Ukrainians, Serbs, and Croats must and can only live like this here 'At the Danube' in these regions of East Central Europe that drag such a heavy historical burden."
Pach goes on to point out how opposed nationalism grap- pled with each other in the Danube area between the Wars. As regards the relationship between Hungarians and Ruma- nians "a trend of political journalism became dominant, calling the tune on both sides, polluting and poisoning public opinion, presenting its own demands and grievances as absolute rights, and those of the other side as absolutely without justification . . ."
"And what was the result? Both countries turned defence- less against the Third Reich, becoming part of its Lebensraum and the satellites of German fascism. Hitler knew how to ex- ploit the opposition between Hungarian and Rumanian nationalism. Northern Transylvania was "awarded" to Horthy, and Antonescu was helped to power in Rumania. They were used to keep each other in check," . . . "Com- munists and progressives, Hungarians, Rumanians, and members of other nations, suffered together whatever side of the frontiers of the time they lived on. They sat next to each other in the dock, facing the judgement seat of state-power, be it Hungarian or Rumanian."
"Even as hunted game they fought together against every form of fascism, for social progress and national liberation Those who tried to renew the traditions of Hungarian and Ru- manian peasants who had fought together, of the true patriots who had attempted real unity in 1848/49, . . . were the pioneers who sowed the seeds of fraternal friendship between the two countries."
As Professor Pach points out however the realisation of this is not easy "as we thought", and even when the forties turned into the fifties. We fed on confidence at the time, and imagined, that the socialist transformation in itself would, as it were automatically, solve the national problem in the Danube region . "
"We see things more realistically today. The minefields thrown by the centuries cannot be cleared in one sweep. National problems accumulated over a long period cannot be made to disappear from one day to the next. One cannot ignore them, or their remnants, perhaps applying temporary innovations, merely by referring to the friendship between the two nations."
As far as Hungarians are concerned, Professor Pach concludes, "we want to do all we can in the interests of cooperation between our nations. We are conscious of the fact that the internationalist road of strengthening confidence and friendship between the countries and nations of the Danube region is the only one that leads to the future."
|TRANSYLVANIA AND THE THEORY...|