|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|
The Revolution of 1848--49 was the most complex and tragic episode in Transylvania's recent history. It was also the most exhilarating. It was a time when romantic poets and bombastic politicians heralded the coming of equality and fraternity; a time when priests of various denominations beseeched the God of their nationality for special consideration; a time when national flags fluttered over the heads of teeming, exultant mobs; a time when thousands were killed in the name of equality, fraternity, and nationality. Not since the Turkish and Tartar invasions of the seventeenth century had Transylvania known so much suffering; nor would it suffer worse agony until the end of the Second World War.
The historic outlines of this extraordinary year have been treated extensively in other studies; therefore, this author will not try to narrate the actual course of events but will attempt to ask and to answer a number of questions that are on the minds of all those interested in the fate of this fascinating province.
With the possible exception of the Horea-Closca revolt in the late eighteenth century, Transylvania had known no ethnic conflict before 1848; in other words, people were not attacked and harmed because of their nationality. Why then did such a terrible development take place during the Springtime of the Peoples? Could the nationality conflict have been avoided? What were the major forces operating during the civil war, and to what ends was the war fought? Who profited from the struggle, and who were its true losers? How did the revolutionary year affect later Transylvanian developments? These are the questions that the author will try to answer here, but first it may be worthwhile to enumerate a few facts.
Not to be confused with that much larger area that is today commonly referred to as Transylvania, the historic Transylvanian province had been for many centuries one of the most important possessions of the Hungarian crown. Over these centuries, Transylvania had known
long periods of political greatness and virtual independence, as well as long periods of abject subservience to a foreign power, yet her constitutional affiliation with the Holy Crown of Saint Stephen remained uncontested. But, and this is an important "but," ever since the end of the seventeenth century the Habsburg monarchs had treated Transylvania as an administrative entity completely separate from the kingdom of Hungary, also known as Inner Hungary. The Habsburg emperor-king was also grand duke of Transylvania and, as such, he was served by a Transylvanian Chancellery in Vienna and a Vice-Royal Council, or Gubernium, in Transylvania. Compare this with the status of Croatia-Slavonia, which, although legally a sovereign kingdom, was in reality governed by the Hungarian Chancellery in Vienna and the Hungarian Vice-Regal Council in Budapest. Croatian and Slavonian deputies attended the Hungarian Diet at Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava); Transylvanian deputies sat in their own diet at Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). Unlike Croatia, Transylvania had its own administration, its own legal and judicial systems, and its own very peculiar society and economy. This separateness, under the constitutional umbrella of oneness with Inner Hungary, constituted a fundamental contradiction in the status of Transylvania before 1848 --- a contradiction that the reforming leaders of Hungary and Transylvania attempted but failed to resolve either before or during the revolutionary year.
Territorial unification was, of course, not only a Hungarian goal; it was also the goal of Germans, Italians, Poles, Ukrainians, Romanians, Serbs and Croats, Czechs and Slovaks, Greeks, and others in nineteenth-century Europe. Still, a sharp distinction must be made here between those peoples, such as the Italians, who aimed at unification on the basis of nationality, and those peoples, such as the Germans, the Poles, or the Hungarians, who combined their claim for national self-determination with their insistence on constitutional-historical rights. What complicated matters enormously was that the liberal reformers, those contemporary champions of national unification, saw nothing incompatible in the two different claims. They viewed territorial unification as a God-given right, as the sine qua non of national survival, and as the starting point for modernization and prosperity. They conceived of territorial disunity as inherently harmful and reactionary and of territorial unity as universally beneficial and progressive.
The Hungarian claim for national self-determination was clearly inadequate in reference to Transylvania. No one on the Hungarian side denied that Transylvania was a multinational province with an absolute majority of Romanians. Juggling statistical data was to be a privilege
of later generations. Contemporary Hungarian statistics showed that in Transylvania 830,000 Hungarians (more than half of whom belonged to the Székely nation) shared the province with 1,200,000 Romanians, 200,000 Saxons, and some 70,000 Gypsies, Armenians, Serbs, and Greeks. Yet these demographic data in no way disturbed the Hungarian liberals in their drive for Hungary's unification with Transylvania. They believed, as did liberals all over Europe, that an enlightened nation had the right --- nay, it had the obligation --- to lead other, less enlightened nationalities on the path of reform and prosperity. In turn, the liberals asserted, the less enlightened nationalities had the duty to recognize the dominant political position of their guide and savior. This was the view that the German liberals held toward the Poles, the Polish liberals toward the Ukrainians, the Czech liberals toward the Slovaks, and the Hungarian liberals toward their own Slavs and Romanians. In all of Louis Kossuth's pre-1848 writing and speeches on Transylvania, there is no mention of the problem of nationalities, only of the problem of Transylvania being a backward province. Kossuth worried about the possible harmful effect that unification with politically, socially, and economically undeveloped Transylvania would have on the more progressive institutions of Hungary; he did not fear the possible opposition of Romanians and Saxons to the union. As for the radicals to the left of Kossuth, they were even more firmly convinced that the Magyar nation was entitled to guide other nations on the path to democracy. This was the position of Petõfi, Táncsics, and Vasvári toward the Slavs and Romanians in Hungary and Transylvania, as it was, incidentally, of Marx and Engels toward the Czechs and Poles in Germany.
The universal rise of liberal nationalism did not alone insure the coming of a civil war in Transylvania; other factors worked toward that end also. As it is well known, only the Hungarian nobility in that province, plus the Székely and the Saxon nations, enjoyed full political rights; ennobled Romanians simply assumed membership in the Hungarian nobility. Moreover, severe legal distinctions separated the religious denominations of the above-named three political nations from the religious denominations of the other nationalities. The new Romanian middle class of priests, merchants, and intellectuals possessed the money and the know-how, but not the legal authorization, to exercise full political rights. Székelys in Saxon territory or Saxons in Hungarian Transylvanian territory remained second-class citizens, because Transylvanian law distinguished not only between estates, denominations, and nations, but also between national territories; the law offered each political nation considerable privileges within, but not outside, its own territory. Finally, Transylvania was one of the poorest
provinces in the Habsburg Monarchy, where industrial development had barely begun before 1848, where landowners lacked capital for investment, and where Maria Theresa's urbarial ordinances had never been fully implemented. The distinction between the lord's demesne and the peasant's own allotment remained obscure; the serfs' labor obligation increased significantly before 1848, and seizure of servile lands by the landowning nobility was a far more common occurrence than in the Hungarian kingdom. All this led to a series of peasant disturbances that had to be forcibly suppressed. It is a historical truism that before 1848 Transylvania was a gravely troubled province with unsettled political, social, and economic conditions.
Small wonder, therefore, that when the news of the European Spring revolutions arrived in Transylvania it created both enthusiasm and consternation. At first, all seemed to go well as youthful Hungarian and Romanian demonstrators marched arm in arm in the streets of Transylvanian cities, hailing fraternity and reform. But then all the old problems came to the fore, together with a host of new problems. It soon occurred that the landowners of the province were as reluctant to emancipate the peasants, whose robot labor they could not possibly spare, as the peasants were anxious to end forced labor, to recuperate their lost allotment, and to stop paying taxes and dues. The idea of union with Hungary, so strongly demanded by the radicals in Budapest on March 15 and more cautiously pursued by the Diet at Pozsony, was accepted by most of the educated Transylvanians; but while the Magyar nobles wanted union first and domestic reform later --- under the tutelage of the Hungarian state --- the Romanian political leaders wanted domestic reform first and union only at an unspecified later date. The Saxons wanted no union at all, because it would have inevitably put an end to their extensive privileges. Here, then, were the seeds of civil war, and civil war came all too soon.
Would it have been possible to avoid the bloody conflict? Yes, if moderation had been exercised by all. But moderation was not a respected virtue in 1848, and the few moderates were soon shunted aside. Within a short time, there arose in Transylvania a number of power centers, each very active and each expressing the interests and desires of a particular group. Let us now attempt to categorize these power centers according to their beliefs and the methods they employed.
From right to left on the political spectrum, the first category was made up of remnants of the Ancien Regime: conservative landowning magnates, high functionaries of the Gubernium, and commanders of the Imperial-Royal Army stationed in the province. These men, best represented by the head of the Transylvanian Army General-Commando,
General Baron Anton Puchner, were opposed to all the national and social movements then agitating Transylvania and, as a consequence, were soon reduced to almost total political impotence. But these conservatives were made of resilient stock. They did not give up; rather, they slowly came to understand the need to go to the masses in revolutionary times. In order to save the old social order and the Habsburg Monarchy, they concluded the most unlikely alliances with, among others, such people as the Saxon burghers and the Romanian revolutionary peasants. As a result, the conservatives emerged victorious at the end of the war.
A second category was made up of such moderate nationalists as Hungarian Royal Commissioner Baron Miklós Vay and the Romanian bishop Andreiu saguna, who, although they pursued opposite political goals, were united in their hostility to radicalism and their loyalty to the throne. It was such moderates who could have done the most to prevent a civil war, but, as they lacked the strength and the courage to prevail over the militants of their own nationality, they failed completely.
A third category was formed of such true liberal nationalists as the Kossuthist government commissioner László Csányi and the Romanian newspaper editor Simion Barnutiu, who feared social unrest no less than the conservatives but whose national enthusiasm caused them to mobilize the very peasants they feared. These politicians bore a main responsibility for the bitterness of the civil war.
In a fourth category could be classed such democratic popular leaders as the Romanian guerrilla chief Avram Iancu and the Hungarian free-corps commander Imre Hatvani, who knew little restraint in the pursuance of their radical political and social goals and who, although ideologically almost identical, ended up as bitter enemies of one another. When, in the spring of 1849, Avram Iancu finally consented to negotiate with the Hungarians, it was his fellow democrat Imre Hatvani who launched a sudden attack on Iancu's forces, thereby causing the end of the negotiations and the Romanian murder of Kossuth's Romanian delegate to Iancu.
Aside from these easily identifiable groups of people, we find many other groups or important individuals who pursued particular interests during the conflict. There was the Polish General Józef Bem, who led the Hungarian army in many victorious campaigns, but who willingly offered amnesty to his Saxon and Romanian opponents in the hope of mobilizing all the Transylvanians for the liberation of his Polish fatherland. Or there was Ioan Dragos, the Romanian political leader from Inner Hungary, who tried conciliation between Iancu and Kossuth
in order to ameliorate the lot of Inner Hungary's 900,000 Romanians and who was murdered by Iancu's partisans for his pains. Or we can turn to Nicolae Balcescu, the revolutionary liberal from Wallachia, who attempted to arrange a truce in Transylvania so that Romanians and Hungarians together would fight his enemies, the Russians. Finally, we must mention the peasants, who, whether Magyars, Székelys, or Romanians, had almost identical economic interests, but who nevertheless ended up fighting and dying for national goals they barely perceived themselves.
In the final analysis, there were only two camps: the camp of Kossuth and that of Kossuth's enemies. In the first camp were Hungarian noblemen, burghers, and peasants, almost the entire Székely nation, Polish legionnaires, a remarkable number of Romanians, and such soldiers of the Habsburg army who had chosen or had been compelled to fight on the Hungarian side. The other camp was made up of Romanian border guards, burghers, and peasants, Saxon merchants and artisans, as well as imperial-royal soldiers of every conceivable nationality, including many Hungarians. It would be useless to ask which camp had justice on its side, or which was more progressive. Such a question might make sense in the context of Inner Hungary's struggle against the Austrians; in the context of Transylvania, both sides were right and wrong at the same time. The Kossuth camp upheld the great liberal reform ideas of the period; it also upheld the interests of the Hungarian noble landowners. The other camp upheld the right of oppressed nationalities to a free development; it also upheld the right of the Habsburg Monarchy to dominate all the nationalities. On the Austrian side, conservative generals and old-world aristocrats incited illiterate Romanian peasants to rape and murder Hungarian families. On the Hungarian side, liberals and democrats incited Székely soldiers to burn down prosperous Saxon towns and to hang Romanian peasants. In the course of this mad war, the original noble goals of the Springtime of the Peoples were gradually forgotten. National unification, civil and political rights, emancipation, and national autonomy became empty slogans. Instead, Habsburg officers fought for a Great Austria, Hungarian politicians for a Great Hungary, and Romanian leaders for a Great Romania.
The imperialist struggle came to an end when the Russian army intervened and restored order in the province. Now, finally, began the work of painful restoration.
If one asks who were the real winners in the conflict, one could hardly point to the militarily victorious Russians or Austrians. The Russians went home immediately after the war, having gained nothing
for their effort but international hostility and Austrian ingratitude. The Austrian empire was allowed to continue, but with somewhat impaired prestige and without the ability either to restore the Ancien Régime or to create a lasting new construct. The Saxons had fought a war of self-defense in 1848; they remained on the defensive until 1867, when they lost the last remnants of their historical autonomy. Paradoxically, it was the Transylvanian Hungarians who had won the war. Militarily they had been defeated in 1849; but, as the victorious Russians and Austrians had failed to make a revolution from above, the Hungarian nobles were able to keep their extensive possessions and, hence, in the long run, also their political influence. It would not be wrong to say that the Russian and Austrian armies had saved the Hungarian nobility. Within a few years, the Transylvanian administration fell back into Hungarian hands and, in 1867, Transylvania was reunited with then triumphant Hungary. The real losers of the civil war were the Romanians. They had suffered enormously in 1848--49, and politically they had gained nothing from the conflict. Under Francis Joseph there was to be neither a Great Romanian Empire, nor a sovereign Romanian Duchy under the Habsburg crown as the Romanian National Committee had planned. There was not even to be a Romanian autonomous territory in Transylvania.
Yet, ultimately, even the Romanians profited from the revolutionary upheaval, if not politically, then socially and economically. Without the great Hungarian reforms of March, 1848, without civil rights, extended suffrage, religious equality, and peasant emancipation, modernization would have come even later to the province. Transylvanian progress and prosperity in the second half of the nineteenth century and the rise of the organized Romanian political movement were the direct consequences of the laws that the Hungarian Diet had adopted at Pozsony. Thus, even though ethnic antagonisms and mutual fear continued, the Transylvanian balance sheet was not entirely bleak.
A great deal of gratitude is due to the authors of the foregoing essays for their clear, concise, and thought-provoking presentations dealing with a topic that is generally acknowledged to be extremely difficult and complex. Indeed, the objectives of each essay are carried out so well within the brief formats established by their authors that the bulk of the following remarks are of a supplementary or alternative nature enlivened only occasionally by differences and reservations.
The most pronounced reservations and suggested modifications center on Professor Held's article on the 1784 Rumanian peasant revolt in Transylvania, which consequently receives the lion's share of the attention in the ensuing pages. Professor Held rightly notes the "tentative nature" of his conclusions, for he has necessarily touched on some of the most difficult problems in modern Hungarian history. Moreover, he has done so in a straightforward, admirable, and even courageous fashion. However, although his statements provide truth and insight, the reader is left with two general impressions that are too extreme. First, there is the impression of Joseph II working to liberate the serfs and being opposed by the Hungarian nobles who "sabotaged every and all attempts at reform," and who were presumably motivated solely by a reactionary desire to preserve their privileged position. Second, there is the impression that the Rumanian peasant revolt was a rather reasonable affair whose participants eventually demanded well-thought-out objectives compatible with Joseph's Enlightenment rationalism --- "political equality," "land reform," and "equitable taxation." In order to present some very necessary modifications of these impressions via additional information and views, it is perhaps logical to deal at some length, first, with Joseph's "peasant policy" in Hungary in general and, second, with the unique, even bizarre, nature of the 1784 Transylvanian rebellion.
When Professor Held states that Joseph II "was determined to end serfdom as an institution altogether," he joins some eighteenth-century contemporaries and a subsequent line of historiography that
very likely far overestimated what Joseph did and what he intended to do for the peasant. In his famous Serfdom and Buying-In Patents of November 1, 1781, which were applied to Transylvania in 1783 and to Inner Hungary, in unified form, in 1785, Joseph did prohibit the use of the term "serf." But since serfdom in its extreme form of being bound ad personam to a lord generally existed neither in Hungary nor elsewhere in the monarchy, and since contemporaries were objecting to the term "serfdom" as too onerous, Joseph's prohibition was more psychological and symbolic than substantive. Actually, "subject" rather than "serf" more accurately reflected contemporary conditions, and the Patents were largely an updating of his mother's urbarial regulations of 1767. Moreover, the contents of the Patents and of his preparatory edict to the central administrative authorities in Buda in August, 1783, were for Inner Hungary mostly rights that were well-grounded in earlier and constitutionally formulated Hungarian laws, viz., the facilitation of the subject peasant's free migration, marriage, apprenticeship, and, above all, land tenure, together with the ability to defend it at law. The factor that Joseph had hit upon as constituting his abolition of serfdom, namely, his striking down of the necessity of the lord's permission for a subject to migrate, could in practice only be exercised by subject peasants who were solvent and had fulfilled all their obligations. Indeed, those who have been so struck by Joseph's abolition of serfdom as to assume he intended to turn the subjects into free men have overlooked paragraph five of his Serfdom Patent, which restated the subject's obligation to perform robot, to make payments in cash and produce in return for the use of his holding, along with the concluding phrase: "subjects are bound to render obedience to their lords in virtue of the existing laws."
As some of Joseph's later actions in Hungary show, he was hardly a social revolutionary. Rather, his object was, as he himself wrote, to establish throughout the monarchy a uniform and efficient system of hereditary subjection. His desire for increased revenues led him to advocate reenforcing the subject peasant's legal land tenure and to support the prosperous peasant's legal status vis-à-vis his lord. Yet, though it was unknown among the peasantry who helped historians create the legend of "the Good Emperor," Joseph's Enlightened Absolutism had greater interest in the prosperity of the well-to-do peasant than in promoting the landless or poor peasant who cultivated only a few hold (1 hold = 1.43 acres). It is often overlooked that most of Joseph's Patents restate the rights of the lord as well as those of the subject. Paragraph 47 of a 1786 edict provided heavy penalties for subjects who migrated illegally to escape the traditional urbarial obligations
or more modern contracts. In October, 1786, Joseph wrote that the well-to-do peasant was the most useful to the state, and he differentiated between the good, landholding peasant and the poorer cotter. In 1788, he issued a proclamation that made the granting of credit to a subject dependent upon the landlord's permission and prohibited the easy exchange of holdings among subjects from one village or county to another, and he expressed notable concern that harvest, wine, and livestock records be secured in the interest of tax collection. In a decision of 1786, which was of lasting importance to a healthy agrarian economy but did little for the poorer peasantry, he opted for the "inalienable and indivisible" inheritance of peasant holdings by one heir.
To support our case further --- without subscribing to the overdone hostility of much of recent Hungarian Marxist historiography toward the Habsburgs --- let us point to an excellent study by É. H. Balázs, upon which we have relied for the above information and which reveals in some detail a whole series of petitions by poor Hungarian peasants in 1782. It records the negative responses by Joseph and his bureaucracy in favor of the revenue-generating holdings of the richer peasants. Given this knowledge of the forward-looking but essentially conservative nature of Joseph II's peasant policy, it will subsequently be seen that it was far less likely to be compatible with the demands of the Rumanian peasants in the 1784 Transylvanian rebellion than Professor Held's study indicates.
The only really revolutionary innovation of Joseph's peasant policy was a tax plan and Hungarian land survey announced on February 10, 1789, subsequently postponed, and finally dropped entirely. This tax, mentioned by Professor Held as "an imposed tax of thirty percent on peasant incomes in lieu of former feudal obligations," proposed raising the entire contributio, or war tax, on the basis of a uniform levy on all land. The rate was to be fifteen percent of the gross yield with no deduction for seed or expenses, plus an additional eighteen percent from the urbarial peasant to the lord for church, school, and community maintenance. Joseph claimed that it would help the peasant, but an increased revenue was surely his major objective. Moreover, there is some question if it would have lightened the peasant's burdens; in some areas it may have meant his retrogression.
Joseph's plan to impose unilaterally such an important tax on Hungary actually threatened the country's independence. It attacked the constitutional principle that fundamental change --- in effect the exercise of sovereignty --- in Hungary could only be introduced by agreement between the monarch and the noble political nation in a legally convoked diet. The nobility had protested heartily enough at the issuance
of the earlier peasant Patents but had perforce accepted them. However, presented with the tax plan, the county assemblies redoubled their demands for a Diet to negotiate the matter. Joseph replied that as absolute ruler he had no desire to discuss a tax at any diet. Instead, he pushed the land survey and tightened the screws of the imperial tariff system that kept Hungary an economic colony. The nobility argued that even if they acquiesced and their cooperation brought an end to discriminatory tariffs the nation would still have no control over the assessment and expenditure of taxation controlled by an absolute monarch.
One may be inclined to condemn the Hungarian nobility's opposition to Joseph's efforts to modify and perhaps improve the subject peasant's condition. But it would be both inaccurate and unjust to overlook his coeval attempts to seize, on the back of the peasant, so to speak, unrestricted power in Hungary. The Hungarian noble nation was aroused at least as much by his unconstitutional methods as by the substance of his reforms. In opposing him, the nobles preserved not only their own privileges but also the nation's rights, constitutional structure, and separate existence.
As is well known, Joseph's policies brought the nation to the edge of a "feudal revolt," and he was stopped on all fronts prior to his death at 5:30 A.M. on February 2, 1790. The nobility could barely refrain from rejoicing, but in the compromise with his successor, reestablishing the status quo, the Hungarian Diet did legalize his Serfdom Patent in the form of Laws XXXV and XXXVI of 1791, though pointedly basing them on earlier Hungarian laws.
In retrospect, one is inclined to agree with Friedrich Walter's negative view of Joseph's "all or nothing" tactics, and with the judgment that Joseph's peasant policy was "a mere gesture and not very promising in its realization." In Hungary as well as Transylvania, where paradoxically the influence of the Habsburg bureaucracy was the strongest, his policy failed most miserably. Whether under the Serfdom Patent of 1781 or the laws of 1791, it was rare in that age to find a subject peasant who was both solvent and motivated to exercise the right of migration. This right had little meaning or appeal as long as economic diversification and opportunities were limited by Vienna's discriminatory tariff toward Hungary. The great majority of subject peasants stuck tenaciously to their holdings even when their lord tried to move them. Similarly, the authorization of free apprenticeship and marriage had little effect in Hungary, where the lords' intervention in such matters was never a major issue. In all probability, Joseph II's Enlightened Absolutism never intended to raise the subject peasant to
complete equality before the law or to give him legal title to his former urbarial holding as true landowner. In contrast to impressions that might be derived from Professor Held's essay, these were to be the accomplishments of the Reform Era and the Hungarian April Laws of 1848 --- both in Inner Hungary and in Transylvania.
In searching for the origins of the 1784 Rumanian peasant revolt in Transylvania, Professor Held is correct in pointing to the arbitrary nature of lord-subject relations and to the increasing demands on the subjects by the petty nobility. This phenomenon occurred in Inner Hungary as well during the eighteenth century, but it was more intense in Transylvania, whose socioeconomic condition was habitually fifty years behind that of central Hungary. But there were additional causes for the revolt, perhaps equally significant, which Professor Held left undeveloped or omitted altogether.
The actual source of the revolt was on the Habsburg Imperial Treasury estates of Zalatna (Zlatna) and Felsõbánya (Baia Sprie) in Zaránd County in the southwestern corner of Transylvania. On these estates nearly 10,000 Rumanian serf families held only 10,500 hold (15,000 acres) of very poor hillside ploughland that was subject to erosion and early frosts that devastated their corn crops. In addition, the eighteenth-century interest in the improvement of agricultural methods, then affecting Inner Hungary, was as yet unknown on these estates, and the subjects' holdings produced barely enough to feed a third of the total of about 45,000 individuals. They supplemented their income with wood handicrafts and, especially, by working in the Imperial Mines. Yet frequently they had only scraps to eat.
As state serfs, they were very much under the thumb of the imperial bureaucracy, which extended from estate and mine officials through the central Transylvanian governmental institutions to Vienna itself. Their direct petitions for relief to Vienna date from 1778 in accordance with a practice authorized by Maria Theresa, much to the annoyance of landowners in general and of the Imperial Chancellery itself. Horea's name first appears among these Zalatna petitioners in 1780, and again in 1783, and then in the spring of 1784 when he apparently spoke before Joseph. At least Joseph mentioned him by name in a subsequent letter, though Henrik Marczali states that the future leader of the rebellion made no greater impression on the emperor than numerous other petitioners.
The imperial bureaucracy was notoriously slow to act on anything, but it excelled in the languor with which it treated peasant petitions. On October 6, 1784, the Imperial Treasury referred what was apparently
the original 1780 petition back to the central administrative institutions in Transylvania. In his correspondence with his brother, Leopold, Joseph himself blamed the Imperial Treasury for delay in the Zalatna case. He complained that even after his personal intervention and appointment of a special committee, a report arriving in March did not come before the Treasury until November, and that "the Zalatna Treasury Lands, which are under the Mines, Treasury, have officials who especially excel in all sorts of abuses and oppression." Here, in Joseph's own words, is a significant underlying cause of the revolt. In the same vein, historian László Makkai laconically observed that the Imperial Treasury "had never been a kinder lord to the serfs than the Hungarian or Saxon landlords." He further observed that the restriction of liquor licensing, referred to by Professor Held as innkeeping rights, raised the cost of a drink. This resulted in a mob attack on two Armenian licensees at the Topánfalva (Cîmpeni) market fair on May 24, 1782. Apparently Horea was one of the leaders of the rioters. But he escaped arrest, and his 1783 trip to Vienna was prompted on behalf of those who were still incarcerated. The disposition of this case also was still hanging fire within the Viennese bureaucracy as of 1784.
Hence, just as Transylvanian conditions were generally somewhat worse for the subject peasant than those existing in Inner Hungary, so it seems that the condition of the state serfs in Zaránd County may have been worse than that of the subjects of Hungarian and Saxon lords in Transylvania at large. Henrik Marczali even stated that blaming the Hungarian nobility in Transylvania for the Rumanian eruption "would not be just" since "the greatest abuses which directly caused the outbreak were not carried out under the power of the Hungarian lords, but on the lands of the Imperial Royal Mines," the German officialdom of which lacked the patriarchal nature of the private estates, and made the system "unbearable."
László Makkai, rather than finding the chief cause of the revolt in lord-subject relations of any type, saw the causes in the more general context of "injuries to the Orthodox religion, social misery, and a primitive race hatred." And perhaps modern historians do overlook the strong religious feelings in this revolt too easily. Transylvania led all Europe in 1571 by establishing legal equality among Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, and Unitarians within a single political structure. However, the Greek Orthodox faith continued to be a "tolerated" rather than a "received" religion, albeit with a bishopric at Gyulafehérvár (Karlsburg, Alba-Iulia). Under Habsburg pressure, this see accepted the essentials of Catholicism in 1698, thus creating the Uniate or Greek Catholic, church, but it failed to attract the majority of Rumanians,
who remained Orthodox. Maria Theresa relented in 1761, and, although retaining the Uniate bishopric, which continued to be favored by the state, she appointed an autonomous Rumanian Orthodox bishop for Transylvania only. Not only did the state continue to discriminate officially against the Orthodox church, but members of this faith by definition did not have legal access to offices or certain trades. Religion was habitually regarded as a virtually interchangeable badge of nationality, and the other peoples of Transylvania regarded the Orthodox Rumanians as alien and suspect, a reaction reinforced by the uneducated lower Orthodox clergy who lived on the level of the lowest ranks of the peasantry. In sum, religious feeling explains part of the fury of the revolt, especially if one considers that the application of Joseph's 1781 Toleration Patent to Transylvania was more or less sabotaged by his own appointees. This situation was actually worsened by the tone of his imperial orders.
|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|