|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|
In the twentieth century, Transylvania has been under Rumanian jurisdiction for most of the time. As the essays of the previous section demonstrate, international events and the shifts of power both regionally and globally have enabled Rumania to retain its hold over this area. In the present section, Andrew Ludanyi, Elemér Illyés, and Bulcsu Veress present and discuss some of the implications of Rumania's control over the destiny of Transylvania's inhabitants.
The three essays focus on Rumanian control as it has manifested itself since 1945. Although each of these studies deals with a different overall theme, all of them examine Rumanian nationality policies as these have evolved in a Communist-controlled setting. In a sense, the studies examine the extent to which a Communist regime has overcome or failed to overcome the legacy of the "bourgeois nationalist" regime that preceded it. In Rumania, as in other socialist states, the claim has been made --- just as the promise was held out before the seizure of power --- that the persecution and oppression of national minorities has been terminated. The Rumanian Communists contend that they have overcome the negative nationalist excesses of the past by conscientiously implementing Marxist-Leninist nationality policies.
At the heart of Marxist-Leninist nationality policy is the claim that all real problems are a reflection of class conflict. It is even maintained --- although in recent years with less conviction --- that national and nationality conflicts are merely a ploy of the ruling classes to keep the proletariat divided and to ensure their continued exploitation. The interwar treatment of Rumania's minority nationalities is even held up as the epitome of "reactionary chauvinism," but it is claimed that the abuses and oppressive policies of the reactionaries were swept away with the last bourgeois caretaker government and the abdication of King Michael.
Three areas in which the interwar Rumanian governments have been extensively --- and rightly --- criticized by their contemporary successors are those of minority education, minority political rights and participation, and the unequal status of minorities within the legal order. The three essays that follow examine these sensitive questions and evaluate the performance of the present regime. Although the analyses make reference to the abuses of the past, their main concern is to
present Rumania's contemporary policies, which define the existence of the "coinhabiting nationalities" within a socialist setting.
The study by Andrew Ludanyi focuses mainly on the present Rumanian regime's self-definition. His study describes the Daco-Roman state-myth and points out how it has been adapted to the new ideological commitments. At the same time, it sheds light both on the pervasive role of the state-myth for the nationalist legitimation of the current Rumanian leadership and on the extensive effort on their part to propagate it. Finally, the study analyzes the impact of the prevailing state-myth on the minority nationalities.
Elemér Illyés examines a specific aspect of the second-rate citizenship of the minorities, their educational opportunities or lack thereof. He traces the pattern of Rumanian policies from the interwar years to the end of the 1970s, describes the different phases in Rumanian minority education policies, and provides an effective summary of the process of Rumanianization.
Bulcsu Veress sets out to examine not only the status of minority educational opportunities, but the whole area of minority rights in contemporary Rumania. His approach is to examine the existing international legal order's definition of basic human, civil, social, economic, and political rights and to compare these rights to the conditions of the minorities in Rumania. He contends that violations of these rights are a day-to-day phenomenon and that within a state controlled by the principles of Lenin's "democratic centralism" it is inconceivable that the government would not be the major culprit.
Although the following essays provide a very pessimistic profile of Rumania's contemporary minority policies, they may also contain a glimmer of hope. If after so many years of overt pressure the Hungarians, Germans, and other minorities are still conscious of their identities and unique destinies, then perhaps even a state based on democratic centralism is incapable of permanently "solving" the nationality question.
In his collected essays on Rumanian-Hungarian relations, Zoltán I. Tóth provides a concise summary of the dangers and the promises inherent in the settlement patterns of these two peoples. Tóth writes:
If we examine a topographical map of Eastern Europe, our attention is immediately drawn to the imposing curve of the Carpathian mountains. If on the other hand, we turn our examination to an ethnographic map of Eastern Europe, we will be struck by the mixture of colors which designate the different nationalities. The large sploches of color which stand for Rumanians and Hungarians respectively are linked by a zone in which the colors representing the two peoples are extensively intertwined. Inadvertently the question comes to mind: surely these two peoples must have many things in common, they most certainly have many more related concerns than is the case with peoples who live in compact settlements separated from one another by clearly distinguishable ethnographic frontiers. It would seem that nature itself has predestined these two peoples to a common destiny. Hungarians --- primarily the Csángó Hungarians --- can be found living east of the Carpathians, in Moldavia. Rumanians, on the other hand, may be found even west of Transylvania on the periphery of the great lowlands, beyond the present Hungarian-Rumanian state frontiers. What would be more natural than to expect these two peoples --- living side-by-side, and even intermingled --- to appreciate and to respect one another, and that peace, understanding and a spirit of good will would prevail between them?
Unfortunately during the past two centuries, in an age of extreme nationalism, peace and understanding, respect or appreciation in general have failed to prevail between these two peoples. Nor do such sentiments prevail between them at present. Instead, they are divided from one another by suspicion, misunderstanding, jealousy, and on occasion even by military confrontation and struggle, which has too often resulted in bloodshed, destruction, and mutual recriminations. Although outside forces incited, nurtured, and played on these animosities, the sources of conflict must be sought also in the cultural realm, in the mutually exclusive self-definitions of these two peoples.
The nationalist orientations of the past two centuries have provided justification for the establishment and exercise of monopolistic and exclusivistic "nation-state" hegemony. The present exploitation and oppression of the Hungarians in Transylvania is based on this same nationalist orientation. Rumania's assertion that Transylvania is the communal property, sphere of interest, and inheritance exclusively of the Rumanian people makes the existence of Hungarians and other minorities an inconvenience that must be overcome in some fashion, via emigration, assimilation, exclusion, or deportation.
Today, Transylvania is part of the Rumanian Socialist Republic. The objective of this paper is to discuss the present Rumanian national self-definition in terms of its evolution to the present and its consequences for the Hungarian and other minority nationalities of Transylvania. This analysis requires an examination of the official state myth of Rumania and the socialization process that the state utilizes to preserve, develop, and propagate it. The questions that need answers: What is the official Rumanian Kulturpolitik? What is the official state myth? What is the origin and content of this myth and what are its consequences for the national minorities? (The goal is not to prove or disprove the accuracy or validity of the state myth. The latter task is the responsibility of historians.)
Every self-conscious political community has myths that are basic to its self-definition. A myth, at least as the term will be used in the present study, is a world-view that explains political and social existence and justifies activities and struggles central to a particular community. A people or community derives self-consciousness and self-definition from such a world-view. Therefore, a myth is, as it were, a script that defines the roles and objectives of a group, community, people, or state and determines its relations with the outside world. A myth may be naive or fictitious, grounded in extant facts and images or consciously manufactured in part or whole. The myth may be significant whether it is naive or fictitious (or both). Its political significance is that it strongly influences the functioning of political systems; it molds the relationships and guides the behavior of members of the community who adhere to the myth, and it also affects that community's relationship with and behavior toward other communities.
The content of a myth-system, however, is rarely admitted to be mythical; instead the system is called an ideology, or political philosophy. Here it is important to distinguish carefully the mythical patterns of thought from the actual ideological modes of self-definition. The latter are usually rational and logically consistent interpretations of social, economic, cultural, and political relationships. The myth
system and its corresponding thought-processes, by contrast, are composed mainly of irrational, mystical, and, in large part, emotional elements. Otherwise, the function of both is basically the same, to provide a world view that establishes guidelines for behavior and that outlines and explains the major goals of the community. Both are basically social and political "maps," or "blueprints," to give a community a sense of purpose and direction.
The concern of the present analysis is to examine how the Daco-Roman theory has been transformed into a state myth-system. In this context it is useful to restate the difference between theoretical thinking on the one hand and mythical or ideological thinking on the other. Theory stands for an abstract model. It is an explanation, or a frame of reference, that provides a guide to the systematic collection and analysis of political or other data. Ideology and myth are also, of course, guides to behavior but on a different level; examples might be the research work of nationalist or Communist groups. What distinguishes the theorist is the tentativeness of his assumptions, his willingness to discard hypotheses that prove fruitless or false after conscientious examination. The theorist also attempts to maintain a dispassionate stance toward the subject of inquiry, unlike the ideologist or myth-maker, who claims that his basic assumptions are proven gospel.
This mythical game plan, or myth-system, is manufactured and propagated by the political leaders of a particular society. The manufacturing and socialization process used to instill it in the masses is what can be called Kulturpolitik. The French "mission civilizatrice," the Soviet "proletarians of the world unite," the American "manifest destiny," or "make the world safe for democracy," the English "white man's burden," and the German Third Reich's "Übermensch-Lebensraum," myths are examples. In Rumania's history, the Daco-Roman theory occupies a similarly central place as a national myth. What are the roots and major assumptions of this myth?
Elemér Illyés, in his study "Rumanian Historiography," notes that "The later a nation acquires political, economic and cultural independence, the later it becomes a national state with a developed national consciousness, the more pronounced will be the nationalist character of its historiography." The less developed, the less politically mature, the more likely is nationalist assertion to become a cover for a sense of uncertainty or even inferiority. The above observations can be amended by pointing out that the quest for a "great" historical past is in part due to frustrations and failures within a national context. The relatively young United States of America has a record of success that obviates the need to focus on a semimythical past. Rumanians and
Hungarians, on the other hand, for different reasons, seem to make a habit of escaping into the past.
Rumanian national consciousness and its Daco-Roman justification emerged in Transylvania in the seventeenth century in the writings of Uniate Catholic priests. The three outstanding individuals representing this national awakening were Samuil Micu, Petru Maior, and Gheorghe sincai. Although they did have one or two predecessors who discussed the theory, these three developed its foundations systematically and made it into a doctrine that could be used for instilling pride of the Rumanian past into the masses. According to Emil Niederhauser, all three were:
Vatican educated with a broad European perspective, whose education in Latin enabled them to recognize the Latin origin of the Rumanian language and that the ancient past of the Rumanians was in some way linked to the Roman Empire. They reasoned that if their language ties the present-day Rumanian language to the Romans, then obviously this also determines the question of origins: the Rumanians are the descendants of the ancient Romans. For the Rumanian intelligentsia living in Transylvania --- and barred from political life --- this naturally meant that their people were directly descended from the Roman inhabitants of ancient Dacia, therefore making them the oldest among all the inhabitants in Transylvania. They were, in other words, the ancient and indigenous inhabitants of this area. This trio with the help of other intellectuals --- now no longer drawn just from priestly ranks --- exerted a great deal of effort and enthusiasm to prove the Roman origins and character of the Rumanian people. They began the process of renewing the vocabulary of the Rumanian language which had borrowed extensively from other languages. To emphasize the Latin origins of their language the reformers abandoned the Cyrillic alphabet inherited from the Orthodox Church and now began to use the Latin alphabet. They compiled dictionaries and through them they popularized the new Latinized words. They also wrote historical studies to prove the Roman origins of their people.
The results of this work were so successful that by 1791 they turned to Leopold II, Habsburg emperor, in the Supplex Libellus Valachorum for the recognition of their equality with other nations in the empire. In this Rumanian petition, they already referred to the Daco-Roman theory to back up their request for equal treatment by the emperor.
In terms of content, the Daco-Roman theory ties the Rumanian people to a glorious Roman and Dacian past. Through this theory Rumanian historians since Micu, Maior, and sincai, have focused primarily on three themes: (1) the origin of the Rumanians as Transylvania's "autochton," or indigenous and ancient inhabitants; (2) the uninterrupted and continuous settlement of Transylvania (the center of the ancient Dacian kingdom) by Rumanians; and (3) Rumanian priority of
settlement in Transylvania as opposed to the "later" settlement of Hungarians and Saxons.
Briefly summarized, during the course of the reign of Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98--117) the Romans conquered the Dacians after two bloody wars (A.D. 101--02 and 105--06). From this time until c. A.D. 271--75 Dacia remained under Roman control. These 165--170 years are the basis of the Daco-Roman theory. These years of Roman rule allegedly resulted in the "Romanization" of the native Dacian population. Rumanian historians contend that the Romans settled many of their own people and people from the Roman provinces on the newly acquired Dacian territories together with the Roman legionnaires. Between the Romans and Dacians this led to rapid intermarriage and amalgamation. Earlier explanations also stress that the Dacian menfolk were, for the most part, exterminated in the two bloody wars fought against Roman expansion. Between the widowed Dacian women and the Roman legionnaires physical and not merely cultural mixing took place. Furthermore, this intermarriage made the remainder of the Dacians so Romanized that when the Romans were forced to evacuate Dacia between A.D. 271--75, the population was already a homogeneous people who became the ancestors of present-day Rumanians. This people, "in spite of adversity, oppression and conquest" remained in its areas of settlement and survived the rule of all "foreign" peoples, until between 1859 and 1918 they finally achieved their national independence and finally united all the "Rumanian countries."
This theory was popularized and even forged into a dogma by Nicolai Iorga, one of the most prolific of Rumanian historians. His work contributed immensely to the gains made by the Daco-Roman theory even on international forums. Iorga's influence is everywhere in evidence even in Western works on Eastern Europe. Thus, the Daco-Roman theory has been successfully disseminated on the international level and in many cases has even been adopted by some Western historians.
Iorga's historical legacy was temporarily abandoned when the Communist-dominated Rumanian People's Democracy was brought into being after World War II. As in the other Eastern European states, an attempt was made to eradicate nationalist elements from the country's history. From 1947 to the middle of the 1950s, Rumanian historians stressed only the "progressive," "revolutionary," and "workers' movement" aspects of history. The content of their writings was always supposed to be guided by the principles of Leninist-Stalinist nationality policies. Accordingly, class solidarity would overcome national antagonisms, which were simply the remnants of bourgeois efforts
to turn Rumanians, Hungarians, and other nationalities against one another. Therefore, the purpose of historians was to reveal the common struggles of all exploited peoples, without regard to nationality, against their exploiters. In this scheme of things, the "coinhabiting nationalities" were always at the side of the Rumanian people in combating reaction. This perspective enhanced the importance of the great peasant uprisings (Bábolna [Bobîlna], 1437; Dózsa, 1514), the strike of workers at Grivita, and above all else the "switch in time" of August 23, 1944, which belatedly linked Rumania's destiny to the anti-Axis coalition.
|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|