|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|
Early in the nineteenth century, movements of literary, political, and national revival emerged among the peoples who inhabited the multinational Habsburg Empire. One of the consequences of these movements was the awakening of a keen sense of national consciousness. Intense national rivalries developed in the course of the assertions of national pride among Hungarians, Rumanians, Slovaks, Croatians, Serbs, and others. An acute Rumanian-Hungarian confrontation emerged in the period after 1840 and reached its climax in political and military conflict in the Revolution of 1848.
Although these movements of national revival frequently encouraged national militancy, they should not be seen exclusively in that light. Essentially these movements represented highly diversified social, cultural, and political aspirations, of which national consciousness was one aspect among several. Furthermore, national feeling was not necessarily an element of discord. In fact, both before and after the Revolution of 1848, prominent Hungarian and Rumanian leaders sought to resolve national animosities and create the basis for durable cooperation. These initiatives proved to be partially successful in moderating national conflicts in the course of the nineteenth century.
As we survey the contemporary Rumanian-Hungarian controversy and its historical origins, it is instructive to reconstruct not only the divisive but also the conciliatory aspects of the Rumanian and Hungarian movements of reform in the nineteenth century. By doing so, the author of this essay seeks to contribute to a better understanding of a very crucial phase of Rumanian-Hungarian relationships and of the history of both peoples' national revival.
The Hungarian revival, developing from 1790 to 1848, consisted of a great variety of literary, intellectual, political, and public-policy aspirations. Their common focus was the recognition that Hungarian society and culture were in some manner underdeveloped and that it was therefore necessary to reform contemporary Hungarian society. The Hungarian revival not only proposed the ways of transformation, but sought to make specific contributions to an improved society.
One of the key tendencies of the Hungarian revival was the movement to develop a literate Hungarian language as the medium of cultural, social, and political life. Two distinct consequences of this movement can be observed. It resulted, first, in a nationwide opposition to the policies of Emperor Joseph II to introduce German as the language of Hungarian public life. Second, it encouraged other nationalities, such as the Rumanians, to assert their own language and to promote its development. The second impact proved to be of lasting importance, particularly because leaders of the Hungarian national movement went so far as to seek to establish through legislation and political action the dominant position of the Hungarian language in public life.
Another major concern of the Hungarian revival was the enactment of social and political reforms that would transform traditional Hungarian society into a modernized nation. At least three major public policies were involved in this aspiration. First, there was the intent to reform the social and political organization of Hungary in accordance with the equality of all persons before the law, individual and civil liberties, and a representative system of government. Another set of proposals concerned the political, constitutional, and economic relationships between Hungary and the Habsburg Empire. Third, Hungarian reform leaders increasingly recognized the need to consider the aspirations of non-Hungarian nationalities.
The Hungarian and Rumanian revivals had certain common elements, but also a number of contrasting features. One common element was that both movements derived their inspiration from the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment. For example, the Hungarian Ferenc Kazinczy, modernizer of the Hungarian language, was a faithful student of the French Enlightenment and of German classicism. Samuil Micu, the founder of modern Rumanian, was deeply influenced by the contemporary Austrian Enlightenment as a student at the University of Vienna. Other examples abound. It is conclusive that the common heritage of both movements included a keen assimilation of the Enlightenment and a strong desire to improve Hungarian and Rumanian society.
But equally significant are the differences. One of these was the dominant tendency of the Rumanian movement to concentrate on the development of the Rumanian language, the expansion of Rumanian education, and the social improvement of the Rumanian people. In contrast, the Hungarian movement had a much more complex and a much broader scope. It was strongly committed, as was the Rumanian movement, to national advancement and improvement, but in addition
it advocated programs of social and political reform, reorganization of the Habsburg Empire according to constitutional principles, and integration of emerging nationality movements into a modernized Hungarian society.
Another highly significant difference was the divergent social status of those who advocated the Hungarian and Rumanian movements. The Rumanian movement was led by members of the Uniate clergy who had studied in Rome, Vienna, and Transylvania. As a result, the leadership of the Rumanians had very limited opportunities for political action. In contrast, leaders of the Hungarian movement were predominantly noblemen involved in political activities, local governmental administration, and public discussions. The Hungarian leadership was very much an active political elite, strongly influenced by public-policy, economic, and political issues. These divergencies between the Hungarian and Rumanian national movements suggest an additional factor for the emergence of potential animosities between the leadership of the two national groups.
The Rumanian-Hungarian controversy emerged at a time when the Hungarian revival advocated programs to reconstruct traditional Hungarian social and political institutions. An important element of these programs was the proposal to make the Hungarian language dominant in all aspects of public life. Unfortunately, influential leaders of the Hungarian revival sought to implement that proposal in such a way that it provoked the justified concerns of non-Hungarian national groups. An example of the national discord aroused by this issue was the enactment of legislation by the Hungarian Parliament in 1844 declaring Hungarian the official language of the kingdom of Hungary, extending to all aspects of public life. Another matter of great anxiety was the frequently expressed intent of prominent Hungarian reformers to restrict the role of minority languages in Hungary through legislation and educational assimilation.
While influential Hungarian leaders held these views, it is equally important to note that several prominent representatives of the Hungarian revival rejected them. Ferenc Kazinczy and Ferenc Kölcsey, two pioneers of the Hungarian literary revival, believed in the inherent value of each national language as a source of culture and enlightenment. Count Stephen Széchenyi, the father of Hungarian reformers, criticized these views in his public addresses of 1841 and 1842. In addition, the Hungarian revival advocated the introduction of reforms that sought to attain the advancement of all social and ethnic groups in Hungary. All these examples illustrate that the Hungarian revival comprised significant elements of a social and political modernization
program that was potentially acceptable to Hungarians as well as to non-Hungarian nationality groups.
The Revolution of 1848 witnessed the first important clash between the Hungarian and Rumanian national movements. But this clash was not at all predetermined. In fact, at several points during the revolution, initiatives were undertaken by both sides seeking a political compromise. At the beginning of the revolution, the Rumanian leadership of Hungary expressed its support for the Hungarian cause. Rumanian leaders endorsed the union of Transylvania with Hungary, which was an important objective of the Hungarian national movement. In Transylvania, the question of union with Hungary became the subject of extended discussions among Rumanians. While it is true that the Rumanian national assembly of Balázsfalva (Blaj, Blasendorf) expressed its opposition to union, it is also important to note that influential elements of the Rumanian population in Transylvania were prepared to accept union and would have done so if other social and national demands had been seriously considered by the Hungarian leadership.
Among the several complex problems that surfaced in the Revolution of 1848, one of the principal causes of the conflicts between Rumanians and the Hungarian leadership was unquestionably the inadequacy of the reform measures incorporated into the Hungarian April Laws of 1848. This legislation established the constitutional basis for social and political reforms in Hungary. Although these laws expressed the principles of a representative political process, a modernized social system, and the constitutional protection of civil, political, and personal liberties, they failed to meet the expectations of the Rumanians in Transylvania in several important respects. The April Laws failed to secure peasant ownership of land, they preserved the position and influence of the Hungarian nobility both at the local and national levels of government and they designated the Hungarian language as the mandatory language of public life. Nor did they make provisions for the protection of minority nationality rights.
The history of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and especially its failure, illustrates well that the inadequacies of the April Laws played a significant role in the Rumanian-Hungarian confrontation. Two problems were particularly crucial. First, peasant uprisings throughout the revolutionary period showed that the reforms of 1848 failed to satisfy the needs of the peasants. Although members of the Hungarian Parliament pressed for a modest program of peasant land allotment, the revolutionary leadership opposed its enactment. Second, the Rumanian military opposition to the Hungarian revolutionary
cause demonstrated that nationality rights had not been addressed in a satisfactory manner.
On the positive side, however, one should note that there was a recognition on the part of Hungarians and Rumanians of the importance of reaching a political understanding. Based on that recognition, the Rumanian-Hungarian controversy in 1848 could possibly have been resolved. This potential is particularly evident from the negotiations toward an understanding between Hungarian and Rumanian leaders. In response to Rumanian demands, the Hungarian government drafted a bill on nationality rights just prior to the defeat of the revolution. Nicolae Balcescu, a prominent leader of the Rumanian revolutionary movement, encouraged this initiative and was prepared to establish political cooperation with the Hungarian government. These efforts came too late to have any impact in 1848--49. Yet it is worthwhile, in the context of this discussion, to recall the Hungarian-Rumanian negotiations and particularly to consider the analysis of the Transylvanian problem as stated by Balcescu in 1849.
It is not legitimate, useful, or possible to suppress the non-Rumanian population of Transylvania, which constitutes almost a third of its population. Extended settlement has established definite and undeniable rights even for very small nationalities. The rights of any nationality are sacred and should be respected. The way of nature supersedes historical rights, since man possesses the earth and not the earth man. The solution to the problem of Transylvania should not be sought by the domination of any one of the people that live there, but by establishing equal rights for each individual and each nationality, in order to establish harmonious cooperation.
Following the failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, an important phase of the Rumanian-Hungarian relationship began. In the period from 1860 to 1870, a series of political initiatives were undertaken, designed to reexamine the nationality conflicts of 1848 and to develop effective approaches to their resolution in a spirit of mutual understanding. To a large extent, the initiators of these approaches had been prominently involved in the revolutionary events of 1848. Painfully aware of the failure of their efforts, they attempted to address the question of nationality rights from a new perspective. For these reasons, the postrevolutionary period provides one of the most significant historical experiences for understanding not only the nineteenth century, but also the contemporary Hungarian-Rumanian controversies relating to Transylvania.
One should note, by way of historical background, that the Rumanians of Transylvania made significant social, cultural, and political progress as a result of the Hungarian revolutionary legislation of 1848.
As provisions of the emancipation of serfs were implemented in the 1850s, a total of 173,781 Rumanian peasant families, constituting approximately fifty percent of the Rumanian population of Transylvania, acquired land amounting to an average of ten acres and became independent landholders. This development made possible the establishment of a Rumanian landholding class in Transylvania. The city of Brassó (Brasov Kronstadt) in southern Transylvania became a thriving center of commerce, benefiting primarily Rumanian commercial establishments. Over 100 Rumanian commercial firms operated in the city in the 1850s. But the most important Rumanian attainment was in the field of cultural and educational development. Both the Rumanian Orthodox church and the Rumanian Uniate church attained autonomous status and the right to establish their corporate organizations, including educational institutions. As a result, over 300 new Rumanian Orthodox schools were established in the period after 1848.
Starting in 1861, serious discussions of the nationality question surfaced again. The occasion for these discussions was the convocation of the Hungarian Parliament in 1861 to draft a response to imperial governmental initiatives for restoring Hungarian constitutional self-government. One element of the Hungarian response was to recognize, during the session of the Hungarian Parliament in 1861, the importance of protecting the rights of national minorities in Hungary.
The principal spokesman for such a Hungarian position was the prominent Hungarian reform leader, József Eötvös. Eötvös proposed to the Hungarian Parliament of 1861 the selection of a parliamentary committee to prepare a report on the protection of nationality rights. Eötvös was delegated chairman of this committee and was responsible for the majority report, submitted to the Hungarian Parliament in June, 1861. This report is one of the most important documents in the evolution of the postrevolutionary initiatives to define and protect the rights of national minorities in Hungary. Therefore, a review of its recommendations is crucial to an understanding of the Rumanian-Hungarian confrontation in the nineteenth century.
Eötvös's report outlined a solution for the protection of nationality rights that was based on the free exercise of personal and political rights within a decentralized constitutional state. Since the 1840s, Eötvös had advocated reforms of Hungarian political and social institutions, based on the protection of civil and political liberties within a representative constitutional order. To a large extent, the April Laws reflected the program developed by Eötvös and his associates on the question of constitutional procedures. Eötvös approached the protection of national minority rights in 1861 on the basis of the same principles,
arguing that the assurance of civil liberties was the cornerstone of any lasting program to safeguard national minority rights. His position is stated in an earlier essay on nationality rights:
"If we seek the guarantee for the exercise of nationality rights in the freedom of the individual, then the existence of the diverse nationalities in the state will become the guarantee of individual and simultaneously of political freedom."
In the report of 1861, Eötvös specified several types of guarantees to protect nationality rights. First, all citizens would have the right to address municipal, county, and state officials in their native language. They would also be entitled to receive communications from these authorities in their native language. Second, all municipalities and counties would be assured the right to determine their official languages of communication to be used in public deliberations and official communications. At the same time, they would be obligated to use second and third languages if requested by minority populations. The only restriction on the choice of languages by these jurisdictions was the rule proposed in the report that all counties should communicate with the central Hungarian government in the Hungarian language. Third, the report outlined the rights of associations, schools, churches, and nationality organizations. Each church parish would be free to determine its official language of communication and the language used in school instruction. Each church would be entitled to establish primary and secondary schools and to determine for those schools the language of instruction. Each association and organization would be free to establish educational, cultural, and social institutions and to promote their development according to their charters of organization.
Several characteristics of Eötvös's proposals should be noted. First, their underlying principle was that individual and minority rights should be safeguarded by the guarantees of the rights of citizenship, which were exercised by all citizens regardless of their ethnic identification. As a result of these guarantees, civil, political, and minority rights would be protected by a commonly accepted constitutional process. Further, Eötvös provided for an uncommonly free choice of language usage by individuals, municipalities, counties, educational institutions, and private organizations. His most farreaching proposal was the controversial provision to allow counties the choice of their official languages. In addition, the report reflected Eötvös's conception of a pluralistic and autonomously organized political structure, in which a variety of ethnic, religious, political, and cultural loyalties could be sustained without fear of repression or persecution. Given the complexity of ethnic relationships in Hungary and Transylvania, this conception
represented possibly the most realistic approach to a political system capable of protecting minority nationalities in a constitutional and representative governmental process.
In sharp contrast to Eötvös's program on nationality rights stood the approach advocated by national congresses of Serbian and Slovak intellectuals in 1861. The aim of their proposals was to organize autonomous national territories, separated from each other by linguistic boundaries, in which one nationality exercised supreme political control. The Serbian congress proposed the creation of a Serbian territory, to be governed by a Serbian national assembly and a Serbian national executive. Within that territory all political affairs would be conducted in the national language, but each township would have the right to determine its language. The Slovak congress proposed a similar approach, with the added requirement that only the Slovak language would be used in school, church, and political affairs.
Of great interest is an intermediate proposal, prepared by two Rumanian members of the Hungarian Parliament of 1861, Louis Wlad and Sigmund Popovics. They were the authors of a minority report on nationality rights submitted to the Hungarian Parliament in 1861. Their recommendations agreed substantially with Eötvös's definition of linguistic rights for individuals, governmental jurisdictions, and organizations, while extending the right of counties to use minority languages in communications with the central Hungarian government. The Rumanian report also accepted Eötvös's recommendations on the cultural and educational autonomy of churches, associations, and educational organizations. The principal difference from Eötvös's draft was the declaration that all peoples inhabiting Hungary and Transylvania should be recognized as nations with equal rights, particularly in regard to their use of languages.
Two significantly divergent approaches to the protection of nationality rights can be distinguished as they evolved in the 1860s. One based nationality rights on the coercive power of one linguistic majority, dominant within a specific territory. This conception sought to establish the equivalent of a unitary national state and intended to suppress or assimilate national minorities. Within such a system of government, national minorities were not permitted to exist. The approach developed by Eötvös was designed to safeguard, within a decentralized and representative political process, the rights of minority and majority nationalities at all levels of governmental jurisdiction. Such an approach was anchored on the protection provided by a common constitutional system and common rights of citizenship.
Eötvös's approach is particularly significant as a response to the
Rumanian-Hungarian confrontation in the 1860s. Prominent Rumanian spokesmen supported Eötvös's position, as developed in his parliamentary statements and the Report of 1861. Ioan Faur, a Rumanian member of the Hungarian Parliament of 1861, stated the position of Rumanian moderates in his parliamentary address of June 10, 1861, approving the proposal of Eötvös that Hungary could best fulfil the needs of national minorities by recognizing and implementing minority rights through extended rights of citizenship. A comparable position was developed in the minority report of 1861, prepared by Wlad and Popovics. Unfortunately, Eötvös's recommendations never became law. In 1867--68, when his proposals were seriously considered by the Hungarian Parliament, a storm of nationalist opposition blocked their enactment. At that time, Eötvös's approach was again supported by moderate Rumanian groups, particularly the Rumanian political journal Concordia. During the final discussions in the Hungarian Parliament on the nationality bill, Eötvös's position was strangely vindicated by Louis Wlad, when he proposed in his parliamentary address of November 26, 1868, that Eötvös's report of 1861 be used as the basis of a Nationality Act that would guarantee the rights of all national minorities. Significantly, Wlad accepted the provisions of Eötvös's original recommendations of 1861 as a fully satisfactory solution for the protection of the Rumanian minority. He made the following comment in the course of his address:
I wish to observe... that the majority bill dispenses privileges because it determines that the official language of counties will be the Magyar and permits exceptions only in so far as officials are ignorant of Magyar. This provision clearly contradicts the bill of 1861 prepared under the direction of the minister of public instruction, which permitted the free use of languages by townships and counties.
Though Eötvös's recommendations on the protection of minority rights were not accepted by the Hungarian Parliament in 1868, he did exert considerable influence on Hungarian policies of education that substantially contributed to the extraordinary educational and cultural development of Rumanians in Hungary and Transylvania in the four decades after 1868. As Minister of Public Instruction from 1867 to 1871, Eötvös's major achievement was the preparation, enactment, and substantial implementation of the Elementary Education Act of 1868. This law assured organizational autonomy and self-government to all churches, associations, and school systems, with particular guarantees of freedom of choice in the language of instruction and religious education. The law also authorized townships to establish tax-supported public schools, where all children would receive instruction in their
native language. Eötvös was also instrumental in the enactment of legislation guaranteeing the corporate self-government of the Rumanian Orthodox church, a policy that he believed essential to the cultural and educational growth of the Rumanian nationality.
These policies enabled the Rumanians of Translyvania to establish and conduct their own system of education in private, religious, and tax-supported public schools. They were guaranteed the free use of Rumanian as the primary language of instruction and the free exercise of their religion. The progress of Rumanian education can be evaluated by a brief survey of the educational development of the Rumanian Orthodox schools in the period after 1870. There were 1,294 Rumanian Orthodox schools in Hungary and Transylvania in 1870. Forty years later, in 1919, their number was 1,238. In the intervening period, Hungarian governments sought to weaken Rumanian schools, but largely as a result of the charter of autonomy secured by Eötvös for Rumanian education these policies proved ineffective. By comparison, Slovak Catholic schools declined from 1,236 in 1870 to 253 in 1910.
Joseph Eötvös prepared the way for a judicious approach to the protection of national minorities that has application even in our own day. He demonstrated that the protection of national minority rights is possible only in a political system based on self-government and the free exercise of rights of citizenship. Even though his approach to nationality rights was not implemented in pre-World-War-I Hungary or in contemporary Rumania, his recommendations for resolving conflicts of nationality suggest a sane and humane policy for twentieth-century political practice. The basic premise of his approach can be summarized on the basis of his major political treatise, The Influence of the Ruling Ideas of the 19th Century on the State, published in 1851:
If the absolute sovereignty of the majority is recognized, then every majority --- especially in the age of national aspirations --- will employ its power for the suppression of minority nationalities, so as to make the state identical with the concept of nationality. If the absolute sovereignty of the majority is not recognized, then each nationality will be guaranteed certain inalienable rights which are independent of the sphere of state sovereignty.
|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|