|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|
The kingdom of Hungary under Matthias Corvinus (1458--90) was still a great power in East Central Europe, directly controlling provinces beyond its historical boundaries. By the coming of the Reformation, however, Hungary had come to mean only the traditional lands of Saint Stephen's Crown, including Transylvania, which had not yet become a separate political entity, and the associated triune kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia and Dalmatia. The medieval kings' traditional vassal territories, the banates (bánságok) that had served as Hungary's southern buffer, had already succumbed to the Turks.
As Martin Luther was uttering his historic defiance in Worms in 1521, "I cannot and will not recant anything," Hungary's frontier troops were under Turkish siege in the fortress of Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade), which finally surrendered on August 29. The Turks thus broke through Hungary's southern line of defense. Luther's rupture with Rome and the simultaneous Ottoman penetration of Hungary's underbelly prefigured the most striking developments in early modern Hungarian history: the interdependent Ottoman conquest of central Hungary, the propagation of the new faith, the emergence of Transylvania as a separate political entity, and the complete enserfment of Hungary's peasantry, the process known to historians by Engels's term "second serfdom."
TRANSYLVANIA'S IMPACT ON ROYAL HUNGARY IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
It was in the political and military interests of the Ottomans to secure the separation of Transylvania from Habsburg-controlled Hungary. In Habsburg hands, Transylvania would have served as a military base for offensives into the northern Balkans, where the main logistical and communications routes ran between Asia Minor and the Ottoman western Balkans. To deny the area to such military purposes, the Sublime Porte encouraged the creation of a separate Transylvanian state
and took it under Ottoman protection once the principality had come into being. The crucial event was the fall of Buda (Ofen) to the Turks in 1541, which was followed by the gradual expansion of Ottoman control over all of central Hungary around Buda. The expansion of Ottoman control into northern Hungary (modern Slovakia) severed the regular year-round communications of Vienna and western Hungary (Transdanubia) with Transylvania. As Ottoman military power was consolidated in central Hungary, Habsburg military control over Transylvania came to an end. The military circumstances that made possible the Ottoman policy of separating Transylvania from Habsburg-ruled Hungary secured the principality's existence as an individual state for a century and a half. Freed from the pressure of the Habsburg Counter- Reformation, Transylvania was now able to act on its own. A series of fundamental laws passed between 1550 and 1571 put Transylvania into the forefront of contemporary religious tolerance. In 1550, the diet of Torda (Turda, Thorenburg) granted freedom of worship to the Lutherans with the words: "Every man may hold to his God-given faith, and under no circumstances shall one religion interfere with another." Another diet in 1556 secularized the incomes and property of all the Catholic dioceses. A year later, the diet of Torda declared the Lutheran church an "accepted religion" (religio recepta). According to this act, "Every man shall receive unmolested the religion of his choice; his church shall be free to choose its own preachers and to decide how the sacraments shall be taken; no party shall resort to vengeance or violence in competing with any other." This act enabled the Lutherans to set up their own senior church hierarchy and to hold synods. In 1564, the diet of Torda made Calvinism an "accepted religion." Finally, in 1568, the Transylvanian diet itself declared universal and complete freedom of worship, stating that, since faith was a divine gift born of hearing the Gospel, no obstacle could be put in the way of preaching it. Transylvania, the united principality of three nations, soon became also the land of four established churches --- Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Unitarian, and thus the most tolerant state of its time in Europe. Such freedom was a beacon to the people of royal Hungary. Its borders open to refugees, Transylvania became a haven for Protestant preachers. To it they fled when persecuted by the agents of the Habsburg Counter-Reformation, and from it they returned to royal Hungary reinspired by the Transylvanian concept of freedom of conscience.
There was a profound difference between religious freedom in Transylvania and in western Europe. In the West, the idea of religious freedom was determined by the Treaty of Augsburg of 1555 and refined
by the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648. Their provisions did not amount to much more than that a sovereign had the assured privilege of deciding his state's official religion (cuius regio eius religio), and that those who confessed religions other than their monarch's might emigrate elsewhere rather than risk being burned at the stake. The Anglo-French Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 went a step further by stipulating that France was to free Protestants imprisoned solely for religious reasons, but the treaty was rather exceptional. International treaties in western Europe usually specified the rights of religious minorities only when the confession of the inhabitants of ceded territories differed from that of the annexing power. The Treaty of Oliva between Sweden and Poland in 1660, for instance, guaranteed the religious freedom of the Catholic inhabitants of Livonia after its cession to Sweden by Poland and of those of Pomerania after its cession to Sweden by Brandenburg. The Treaty of Nijmegen of 1678, by which Louis XIV of France restored Maastricht to the Netherlands, preserved the religious freedom of the city's Catholics. Catholics' rights were one of the provisions of the Treaty of Ryswick of 1697. Catholic religious freedom was again guaranteed when Prussia annexed Silesia from Austria as a result of the Wars of Austrian Succession (1740--48) and in the Prussian acquisitions at the first partition of Poland in 1772. No international treaties in western Europe, however, guaranteed the religious freedom of individuals, and this was the essential point of distinction between Transylvania and western Europe. The Transylvanian concept and practice of freedom of conscience secured the rights of individuals both in Transylvania and, by international treaty, elsewhere in Hungary. This was far in advance of western European theory or reality.
Under Ottoman protection the Transylvanian state flourished. Besides the establishment of freedom of conscience and the constitutional freedoms of the estates, the economy grew and a fairly modern Transylvanian army was organized. The existence of the Transylvanian army also made a palpable contribution to the political development of royal Hungary. Its radius of military action extended beyond the river Leitha, the historic boundary between Hungary and Austria. The geopolitical significance of this to Transylvania was demonstrated during the reign of Prince Gábor Bethlen (1613--29). Bethlen intended to go to the aid of Bohemia in its struggle against Habsburg dominion. While his main army was too late to help the Czechs at the fateful Battle of White Mountain on November 8, 1620, his light horse skirmished with the flanks and rear of their victorious foes, the imperial army. Bethlen also twice invested Vienna, though neither siege was successful. Protected by distance, terrain, the reach of its army, and the interposition
in central Hungary of its suzerain power, the Ottoman state, Transylvania functioned as a guarantor of constitutional and religious freedoms in Habsburg-ruled royal Hungary.
The first time Transylvania fulfilled this function was during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II (1552--1612) as King Rudolf I (1576--1608) of Hungary. Intent on reimposing Catholicism on the Hungarians, Rudolf in 1604 provoked their first popular insurrection against Habsburg rule. The insurrectionaries found a leader in István Bocskai (1557--1606), prince of Transylvania in 1605 and 1606, who fused the popular forces with his own army. Already at war with the Turks, the Habsburgs now faced an uncompromising civil war. A threefold settlement was finally forced on the dynasty: the Treaties of Vienna and Zsitvatorok of 1606 and the legislation of the Hungarian diet of 1608. Together these secured for Hungary religious freedom, constitutional autonomy, and the right of habeas corpus.
The Treaty of Vienna of 1606 extended complete freedom of worship to all barons, magnates, nobles, royal free towns, and Hungarian soldiers in fortified frontier areas. It secured Hungarian autonomy by stipulating that the palatine was to be elected by the Hungarian diet, and "with his Hungarian counsellors shall have plenary power and authority in all matters deemed necessary to preserve the kingdom of Hungary and the tranquillity and well-being of its inhabitants." Not counting Hungary's brief periods of independence, under Ferenc Rákóczi II (1676--1735) from 1703 to 1711 and under Lajos Kossuth (1802--94) during the revolution of 1848--49, this guarantee of the Hungarian government's administrative independence from all imperial institutions, won by the Hungarians with Transylvanian aid, was the greatest prize they extracted from the Habsburgs until the Ausgleich of 1867. The third accomplishment of this remarkable treaty was the right that "no one shall be punished who has not been indicted and convicted according to the law."
The treaty provisions were ratified by the estates of the Habsburg hereditary provinces and underwritten by the Sublime Porte in the Treaty of Zsitvatorok. Hungary's religious, constitutional, and personal liberties thus became elements of the international relations in the Danube Basin.
The Hungarian Diet of 1608 codified these guarantees and extended them. It granted freedom of religion to all communities, not just the royal free towns. It freed Protestant churches from the tutelage of the Catholic bishops. It required the king to nominate two Protestant and two Catholic noblemen from among whom the diet would elect the palatine.
Thanks to Transylvania's influence, Protestantism won an unconditional victory in Hungary. The solidity of this victory and the reality of Hungarian autonomy were dramatized on May 15, 1618, when Ferdinand, to assure his ascent to the Hungarian throne, signed a covenant containing sixteen conditions that he had to fulfill to be elected king. These conditions, which were in essence guarantees of the diet's laws of 1608, were embodied in the coronation oath he swore as King Ferdinand II in 1622. The existence of the Transylvanian state was such a potent force in the affairs of the Habsburg rump kingdom that the same ruler who almost completely eradicated Protestantism from Bohemia and the Alpine provinces stood surely for it in Hungary.
THE DECLINE OF TRANSYLVANIAN INFLUENCE IN ROYAL HUNGARY IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
The golden age of Transylvania as a state with its own Hungarian princes extended from the Bocskai insurrection (1604--06) to the death of Prince Gábor Bethlen in 1629. By his use of Transylvania's military and political potential, Bocskai made Hungarian constitutional and religious issues a factor in the East Central European balance of power. Bethlen raised them, for a while at least, into a general European question. During the second half of the seventeenth century, however, continual struggles for the princely throne among various pretenders who appealed for armed Ottoman assistance exhausted Transylvania's resources and diminished its sway over royal Hungary. The most serious harm done to Transylvanian power and influence was the result of the adventurous foreign policy of György Rákóczi II (1621--60), prince of Transylvania from 1648 until his deposition in 1657. In defiance of Habsburg hostility and Ottoman proscription, he concluded alliances with the Cossack hetman Bohdan Khmelnytzky (1595--1657) and with King Charles X (1622--60) of Sweden. In support of the Swedes, he led his troops into Poland in the winter of 1656--57 with an eye to gaining the Polish throne for himself. After some initial successes, including the occupation of Warsaw and other Polish strongholds, Rákóczi was suddenly abandoned by his allies and forced to retreat in disarray, his army decimated by Polish and Crimean Tatar forces. Deposed on orders from the Sublime Porte, Rákóczi twice launched armed attempts to retake his throne, occasioning intervention and occupation by Ottoman and Crimean Tatar troops and the ruin of the principality's prosperity.
Transylvania's decline encouraged the Habsburgs to step up their absolutist efforts in royal Hungary. At first the Hungarian estates had
to meet this new threat to the kingdom's religious and constitutional liberties on their own, but before long Transylvania was able to give them some aid and comfort, despite its weakened state. The absolutist inclinations of young King Leopold I (1657--1705) were enough to arouse the Hungarians, discontent, but the Treaty of Vasvár signed by the dynasty and the Sublime Porte on August 10, 1664, caused a political uproar all over Hungary. The Hungarians in general, and in particular the prominent military theoretician and patriot Count Miklós Zrínyi (1620--64), were convinced that the Ottoman army was on the point of collapse and the empire tottering. Had the Habsburgs continued the war, they believed, Hungary could have been liberated from the Turks. The dynasty's readiness to make peace was seen as clear evidence of its lack of interest in the Hungarian cause. Nourished by Hungarian resentment of increasing Habsburg absolutism and dismay at the dynasty's uninterested foreign policy, a major Fronde took shape with the support of the highest dignitaries in the kingdom, including the palatine, Count Ferenc Wesselényi (1605--67), and the lord chief justice (országbíró), Ferenc Nádasdy. In 1671, Miklós Zrínyi's brother Péter (1621--71) organized an armed uprising. It was foiled, however, and its leaders were arrested and executed. Without Transylvanian help, this first round between dynastic absolutism and Hungarian constitutionalism ended in the defeat of Hungary's political elite.
The Habsburg response to the Fronde was to strengthen the German garrisons in Hungary, raise taxation, and intensify the Counter-Reformation. The dynasty's excesses finally drove the hard-pressed peasantry to rise up in a so-called kuruc rebellion. (Kuruc is derived from the Latin word crux [cross] from the symbol of György Dózsa's great peasant rebellion of 1514, originally planned as a crusade against the Turk.) After an amazing initial victory over the dynasty's professional troops, the kuruc insurgents were defeated in the fall of 1672 and put to flight. Scattered remnants of them escaped from Habsburg territory and regrouped either in Ottoman Hungary or Transylvania. If the principality was too weak to come to their military aid, it could still offer sanctuary to those fleeing Habsburg despotism.
Encouraged by its success against both the Fronde and the kuruc insurgency, the dynasty on February 27, 1673, flouted the Hungarian constitution by appointing Johann Ampringen, grand master of the Teutonic Order, to administer royal Hungary through an unconstitutional institution known as the gubernium. Further growth in taxes and the size of the German garrisons was accompanied by even more brutal measures against Protestants. The authorities arrested 730 Protestant ministers and gave them the choice of conversion to Catholicism or
death. Those who refused conversion were finally spared the executioner and sentenced instead to be galley slaves. Their survivors were eventually freed by Dutch Admiral Michiel de Ruyter on February 12, 1676. The bloodiness of Habsburg administration took little time to alienate any remaining sympathy for the dynasty. This and an opportune international situation soon gave Transylvania, feeble though it was, a new chance to help in the defense of Hungarian liberties.
In the Transylvanian town of Fogaras (Fagaras) representatives of King Louis XIV of France and the leaders of the Hungarian malcontents signed a treaty on April 28, 1675. Polish adherence to the compact raised the Hungarians' liberties, with Transylvania's help, into a European issue. The agreement was reaffirmed, this time without the Poles, by French and Hungarian plenipotentiaries in Warsaw on October 10, 1677. A 2,000-man Franco-Polish army in Louis XIV's pay was dispatched almost at once to Hungary to join the rebels. At the same time, a second army of French, Polish, and Hungarian kuruc volunteers was formed in Transylvania under French officers. One of the volunteers was young Count Imre Thököly (1657--1705), who was soon appointed to command the insurrectionary forces with the endorsement of Mihály Apafi I (1632--90), prince of Transylvania from 1661 till his death. The insurgents launched a remarkably successful campaign into northern Hungary.
A French observer of their success, the Marquis de Feuquières, correctly saw that the driving force behind the Hungarians' protracted rebellion was the essential ingredient of any war of liberation: a high degree of motivation shared by a large number of fighters, motivation rooted in sociopolitical doctrines, interests, and goals. Feuquières noted that the Hungarians were fighting for their country's constitutional prerogatives, which their Habsburg rulers had tried to suppress by "Poison, Dagger, and Murder of the [Hungarian] Grandees." In his opinion, "the Hungarian cause was just" because the Habsburgs had violated their obligations as sovereigns, obligations that included prudent government. General sedition was the mark of a policy that inflamed large sectors of the population, and this was what had happened under the Habsburgs in Hungary. "If the Emperor had not distressed the Protestants and the Grandees of Hungary..., if he had not subverted the Privileges of the whole Nation..., this Commotion would not have been so general as it proved."
The treaty signed by Leopold I and Louis XIV at Nijmegen on February 6, 1679, deprived the Hungarians of their valued French ally. The kuruc insurgents now found themselves between the Habsburg devil and the Ottoman deep blue sea, a choice between two evils, as
has so often befallen East Central Europeans. Their forces marching from one victorious engagement to another, however, saved them the immediate necessity of making that choice. Intimidated by their success, the Habsburgs, who had always bowed more graciously to armed resistance from their subjects than to peaceful demands for their rights, now decided to offer concessions. The Hungarian diet was convened in Sopron on April 28, 1681. The result of this consultation between crown and estates was a compromise modeled on the Treaty of Vienna of 1606 and a precursor of the Habsburg-Hungarian compromises that were to culminate in the Ausgleich of 1867. The Sopron compromise did away with the gubernium, restored Hungary's administrative autonomy, put an end to the German garrisons, marauding, and curtailed the excesses of the Counter-Reformation by reaffirming freedom of religion, albeit on a lesser scale than that enacted by the Diet of 1608.
The compromise satisfied the estates, who now deserted the kuruc rebels. At the head of only disenfranchised elements of the population, with the limited support Transylvania could afford, and now perforce in alliance with the Sublime Porte, Thököly continued the struggle against the Habsburgs, remaining virtual ruler of northern Hungary.
When in 1683 Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Köprülü led the last major Ottoman offensive in East Central Europe to the very gates of Vienna and laid siege to the city, Thököly, as a result of his tragic but indispensable alliance with the Turks, found himself among the auxiliaries of the Ottoman army. The relief of Vienna eight weeks later by the combined Polish army of King Jan Sobieski III (1624--96) and the imperial forces led by the duke of Lorraine (1643--90), set in motion the sixteen-year War of the Holy League. The main theater of operations was Hungary, which was left depopulated and devastated by the prolonged contest between its German liberators and Ottoman occupiers. With Ottoman blessing Thököly succeeded Mihály Apafi I as prince of Transylvania when the latter died in 1690, but it was but a shadow sovereignty. The invasion of Transylvania by Habsburg forces in the fall of the same year forced Thököly to flee, his ephemeral reign a mere footnote to Transylvanian history. The imperial forces soon occupied all Transylvania's fortresses and strongholds, and became the only effective power in the principality. Independent Transylvania, the guarantor of Hungary's liberties, ceased to be.
THE FORMER GUARANTOR OF HUNGARIAN LIBERTIES BECOMES A HABSBURG MILITARY BASE AGAINST THEM
The imperial troops' occupation of Transylvania diametrically changed its role in Hungarian affairs. The Hungarian estates' hopes
that, after the liberation of all the lands of Saint Stephen's Crown, Transylvania would be reincorporated into a unitary Hungarian state as it had been before the Ottoman conquest proved illusory. Rather than restore the entire Hungarian kingdom, the Habsburgs preferred to keep Transylvania separate. Leopold I had not recognized the election of five-year-old Mihály Apafi II (1676--1713) as prince of Transylvania during his father's lifetime in 1681, and in 1693 had him brought to Vienna. An absolute ruler over the rest of his realm, Leopold made a conciliatory exception of Transylvania. Barely had the imperial forces taken control there than he issued on October 16, 1690, the Diploma Leopoldinum, which affirmed the autonomy of the principality's administration, respect for its laws and institutions, and the freedom of its four accepted religions (Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Unitarianism). The Transylvanian diet was happy to accept such concessions to the principality, surrounded as it was by a sea of absolutism, and on February 7, 1691, took the oath of loyalty to Leopold. On May 14, 1693, Transylvanian representatives in Vienna subscribed to the Resolutio Alvicziana, which permanently separated the Transylvanian Chancellery from the Hungarian Royal Chancellery, severing Transylvania from the Hungarian body politic for almost two centuries to come.
The encirclement of royal Hungary by the establishment of imperial military bases in Transylvania was supplemented on September 8, 1698, by the creation of the Serbian Military Frontier in the south of the Banat. The Serbian Military Frontier together with the contiguous, already existing Croatian Military Frontier set up a military cordon loyal to the Habsburgs all along the southern border of the Hungarian kingdom. The dynasty had no intention of letting the Hungarians out from under Habsburg rule.
The last time Transylvania played any part in support of Hungary's religious and constitutional liberties was during the War of Independence of Ferenc Rákóczi II (1703--11). This war fused two movements into a single struggle: the nobility's resistance against the unconstitutional tyranny of the Habsburgs and the popular kuruc insurrection. It was the first time in Hungarian history that the tradition and experience of opposition by the noble estate joined forces with a popular struggle for the social and economic betterment of the masses. The combination of the two gave the broadest possible social backing for action against Habsburg absolutism.
The war demonstrated the Hungarians' considerable potential for resisting Habsburg might by force of arms. They were aided by the fact that large parts of the Habsburg armies were tied down in Italy,
Germany, and the Low Countries by the War of the Spanish Succession, which was raging at the same time. As the War of the Spanish Succession neared its end while the hostilities in Hungary were still dragging on, the major question came to be whether the Habsburg armies, through with action in the west and Italy, and concentrated in Hungary, would be able to bring Rákóczi's War of Independence to a speedy conclusion. Rákóczi was as alive to this question as anyone and moved to resolve it in his own favor. While he was negotiating for a new alliance with Czar Peter the Great (1672--1725), he laid plans for a strategic withdrawal and permanent defense in the northeast corner of Hungary based on fortresses and fortified towns. The first steps in this strategy and logistical preparations for a protracted area defense began in 1710. The most reliable commanders were placed over key defense establishments, the most important of which was the recently modernized fortress of Munkács.
Historians differ over the concluding phase of the war. Some, such as Imre Lukinich, claim that the going was so hard for the imperial forces that a systematic offensive and sieges were beyond their capacity. Field Marshal Count János Pálffy (1663--1751), the imperial commander in chief, they argue, was simply in no position to launch the assault. Although it would have been only a matter of time before the Habsburgs would have brought the war to an end by force, it would have taken three or four more years of fighting, longer than the dynasty could have afforded.
Wise for once, the dynasty realized that most of the nobles in the kuruc camp were ready for a compromise. A speedy compromise seemed to offer greater advantages than a longer drawn-out war, which might well have alienated those nobles. The dynasty's smartest move, however, was to include in its compromise offer a key stipulation assuring the privileges of the "warrior estate" (vitézlõ rend). This won over these combatants, the backbone of Rákóczi's army, to a settlement, since it made continuing the war seem unnecessary. The Treaty of Szatmár (Satu Mare) was therefore signed on April 30, 1711, and endorsed by the regent, Empress Eleonora, on behalf of her son, King Charles III (Emperor Charles VI) (1685--1740). The treaty reestablished Hungary's autonomy and the privileges of the estates, assured the Protestants' freedom of conscience, and made free men of even the non-noble warriors who had fought for Rákóczi's cause. In return, the Hungarian estates acknowledged the Habsburgs' hereditary right in the male line to the Hungarian crown. The treaty, in fact, reinforced the dualist system by which Hungary continued to be governed separately from the dynasty's hereditary provinces. Neither the famous
compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867 nor the dual system it set up were new phenomena in Hungarian-Habsburg relations; rather they were the quintessence of that relationship --- to no small degree because the Hungarians had time and again taken up arms in defense of their rights and autonomy.
While the Szatmár compromise secured much of what the estates had been fighting for, it also reaffirmed Transylvania's new status as a province ruled directly from Vienna and separate from the Hungarian realm. The dynasty was too fearful of the military potential of a united Hungary including Transylvania, which the Rákóczi War of Independence had so clearly demonstrated. As a preventive measure, the imperial garrisons in Transylvania were strengthened. The principality in Hungary's rear was no longer the guarantor of Hungary's liberties, but became instead a check on Hungarian political ambition and a guarantor of Habsburg power over royal Hungary. As an imperial base, it would place Hungary between two fires if the Hungarians were to rise up against the Habsburgs again. Hungarian insurgents would have had to face Habsburg forces from Transylvania to the east as well as those from the provinces to their west, no small reason for Hungarian docility during the eighteenth century. Only when Joseph II (1780--90) felt that his absolutism was so firmly entrenched in royal Hungary that he no longer needed military bases in Transylvania to secure Hungarian loyalty was the grand principality, as it had by then become, briefly reunited with the kingdom of Hungary. The ferment of the Hungarian feudal revolt of 1790--92 threatened Habsburg absolutist rule, however, and convinced the dynasty that Transylvania needed to be kept as a separately ruled brake on Hungary. After barely five years they were parted again.
This restored the Habsburg military cordon around Hungary, which had been completed by the first partition of Poland in 1772. Galicia and Bukovina in Habsburg hands with military bases at the dynasty's service reversed the role of the northern Carpathian Mountains. Even after Transylvania's loss to the Habsburgs, the passes through the Beskids and Tatras had served the Hungarians as a route to a friendly nation. Hungarian dissidents could find a haven in Poland as they once had in Transylvania. The first insurgent contingents of Ferenc Rákóczi II had entered Hungary from Galicia. The partition of Poland changed this frontier from a friendly one into a hostile one. Now Galicia and Bukovina were staging grounds for Habsburg aggression against Hungary. They served this function during the Revolution of 1848--49, when the Habsburg troops of General Count Frantz Schlick (1789--1862) and Colonel Christian Götz (1783--1849) invaded Hungary from Galicia in
the fall of 1848. The major Russian offensive against Hungary in June, 1849, also came from there. The eighteenth century thus saw a fundamental transformation of royal Hungary's position within the Habsburg domains.
Transylvania had always been an integral part of Hungary ever since the Hungarians had settled in the Danube Basin within the great arc of the Carpathian Mountains. A Transylvanian state separate from the Hungarian kingdom was created not in response to an inner, organic necessity but to satisfy outside, alien interests. The Ottoman conquest of central Hungary physically separated eastern Hungary --- that is, Transylvania --- from the western, Habsburg-ruled part of the kingdom. This physical reality was compounded by the Ottomans' policy of barring control of eastern Hungary to their mortal enemies, the Habsburgs. It was thus the Sublime Porte that promoted the creation of the principality of Transylvania and secured its autonomous existence. Statesmen of both royal Hungary and Transylvania considered the division of the kingdom and the principality to be only a temporary phenomenon. The intention remained through the centuries to reunite Transylvania with the rest of Hungary. Whatever the status of Transylvania, it continued to be regarded in principle as a part of the lands of Saint Stephen's Crown.
Geographically, Transylvania is an integral part of the Danube Basin, separated from the Balkans by the Carpathian Mountains, which in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were quite an effective barrier between the two areas. Trade between Transylvania and the Balkans was negligible. The lines of Transylvanian commerce followed the rivers that flowed into the river Tisza on the Great Hungarian Plain (Nagy Alföld) to the west.
Culturally, Transylvania was an integral part of western civilization, in the sense that western civilization has certain unique and peculiar characteristics that distinguish it from any other. These characteristics are the Hebrew heritage (the moral principles embodied in the Ten Commandments), the Roman heritage (the universality of man and the rule of law), and the Christian heritage (the fraternity of man). More specifically, western civilization originates in Rome and has evolved through medieval Catholic Christianity, the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment. This was the path of the cultural development of Hungary, including Transylvania. The Rumanian principalities (Moldavia and
Wallachia), on the other hand, developed according to the Byzantine tradition, which is built on the Hebrew heritage, the Roman heritage of the Eastern rather than the Latin empire, and the Christian heritage of the Orthodox churches rather than Catholicism. It is an evolution that excluded the Protestant Reformation and the scientific revolution. The Enlightenment penetrated the principalities only belatedly in the nineteenth century. Hence the vivid contrast that still exists between Transylvania, a part of western civilization, and the Danubian provinces with their Balkan heritage. No one with scholarly pretensions can or should claim that one is superior to the other. The only historical fact is that they are different. This distinction between civilizations is reflected in stone and brick along the line of the Carpathians. The easternmost examples of the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles of the western heritage are to be found among the Hungarian and Saxon churches, houses, and monuments of Transylvania all the way to the western slopes of the Carpathians. Beyond the mountains to the east are the beautiful but strikingly different buildings of Byzantine civilization and style in Moldavia and Wallachia.
In human, physical, and economic terms, Transylvania has been an integral part of Hungary culturally, geographically, and, until the end of World War I, politically also. The accident of the great upheaval of 1914--18 rather than any objective factor bound it to an alien environment. Yet Transylvania should not be a source of friction between Rumanians and Hungarians. Rather, with its multiethnicity, it should serve as a bridge between the two nations. Lasting bridges are built on peace, however, not on conflict. Interethnic strife benefits neither Hungarians nor Rumanians; it can serve only foreign interests. Interethnic peace in turn requires certain preconditions, foremost among which is an ironclad guarantee of the right of each ethnic group to develop its language and culture freely. Transylvania could become a province in which the nations, as in the past, live together in peace and fraternity. Rivalry between them --- and competition, after all, is a basic human urge --- need not be wrong. Confined to cultural and scientific excellence and economic advance, competition could be a positive force. Only dominance is reprehensible. If we could but learn from history, this would be the lesson of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Transylvania.
|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|