|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|
Of the Magyars of Transylvania, some 70 to 80 per cent are cultivators of the soil, so that the land question is one of their principal problems. The origins of this go back to the Garofild land reform of 1921, just after the first world war. From the social point of view this reform was justified and might have had the effect of promoting economic and social progress if it had been carried out in a spirit of social and national justice. Its object however was expressly to weaken the position of the Magyars in Transylvania and the strengthening of the Roumanians of the province.
When the Groza Government came to power, the small farmers and peasants of Transylvania believed that they might hope that a Roumanian Government which represented true democracy would see that their claims were met.
Unfortunately their justifiable expectations proved illusory. The second Roumanian land-reform act, which appeared in the official gazette for March 22nd, 1945, and the decree for putting it into effect, combined with a crop of abusive practices in its execution, in fact brought fresh burdens to the Magyars with its injustices, and only a very small amount of land.
At first sight, the land-reform of the Groza Government does not appear to contain any discrimination against the nationalities. In fact however there is very serious discrimination, in that paragraph C. of
Clause 3 of Section II. states that the land of all those who took refuge abroad in countries at war with Roumania, or left after August 23rd, 1944, is to be confiscated as a whole. Paragraph D. goes even further by saying that the agricultural property and equipment of "absentees" is to be confiscated.
These two points in the Roumanian land-reform act affect an approximate number of 300,000 Magyar landowners in Northern and Southern Transylvania, most of them the holders of small farms or a few acres. It is generally known that in the autumn of 1944 the Hungarian Government then in power in agreement with the German military authorities ordered the complete administrative and civil evacuation of Northern Transylvania, and removed the Hungarian population, especially from the Székely country, and also from other parts, by force, and often by brutal methods and threats. Again, between 1940 and 1944 some 200,000 Magyars were forced to flee from Southern Transylvania under the chauvinistic terrorism of the Antonescu regime, most of them again being farmers. A very large number of them were deserters who did not want to help Roumania's campaign against the Soviet Union.
On the intervention of the Union of Magyars in Transylvania, a promise was given in Bucharest that the instructions for the putting into effect of the law would remedy the points to which exception was taken. Instead however of remedying the two points which formed the grievance, the apparently innocent point a. of the fatal Clause 3 was interpreted to the effect that any landowner of Hungarian nationality was to be considered as a "collaborator" and have his property confiscated who had left the country with German or Hungarian troops. To the greater glory of the principle of equal rights for all, the same instruction stated in definite form that this did not apply to Roumanians who had been called up for home defence work and taken to Germany or Hungary. Later, the Central Land-Reform Committee in their circulars of April 21st, May 13th and July 12th, attempted to make this a little less severe on the Magyars, but unfortunately the local authorities whose duty it was to put the decree into effect took no notice. The abuses during the course of the execution of the law were so widespread and so serious that they endangered the basis of existence of the Magyars.
The protests of the Union of Magyars had no effect. There were hardly any Magyar members of the local land-reform committees, and if there were occasional Magyar members of the local organs, naturally there was not a single one on the Central Committee of 9 members in Bucharest. There is no legal or political control of the composition of
these committees, so that even notorious members of the Iron Guard can be in influential positions in them. The prefects are generally unwilling to interfere in these matters, and it often happens that Hungarian properties are confiscated by committees among the members of which are persons who have been sentenced for thefts committed on the very owners of the property confiscated.
The main source however of the anti-Hungarian excesses is the process of expropriation. The conception of land which can be expropriated covers all kinds of property, without regard to its purpose. People are considered as refugees if they were bombed out of their homes or left for other reasons connected with the war but returned as soon as circumstances permitted; the land even of Magyars who are doing military service with the Roumanian army is confiscated, and even that of disabled men, sick persons, those under medical treatment, in fact everyone who is a Magyar and for any reason is not permanently on his property. The land of Roumanian citizens of Magyar nationality who are in Hungary with a regular passport is taken. It is a regular practice that if any Hungarian property cannot be considered as belonging to a refugee, it is considered as being that of an "absentee". Land has been taken away from many small farmers in Southern Transylvania because their permanent domicile is in Northern Transylvania, where they were sent by order of the Roumanian Government in the autumn of 1940.
The legal limits are respected only in exceptional cases in procedures for expropriation. Not only the land is taken away, but also the dwelling-house; big estates, on the other hand, if the owner happens to be a Roumanian, are left alone.
The committees, in general, do not issue written verdicts. No legal remedy is granted.
From the way in which the land-reform has been put into effect so far one can only draw the conclusion that almost everything has been taken from the Magyar proprietors, while those of the proletariat who would be entitled to receive land have so far received nothing.
One of most serious grievances of the Magyars of Transylvania in the economic field is the Roumanian decree No. 645, which appeared in the official gazette for August 14th, 1945 and which nullifies certain agreements made during the period of Hungarian rule.
This law states that transactions done between August 30th, 1940
and October 25th, 1944 are to be cancelled, for various reasons, among which are if the plaintiff suffered loss amounting to 50 per cent, if he fled or was deported and suffered a loss amounting to 25 per cent, if a custodian of his assets was appointed and he suffered loss amounting to 25 per cent, and further if the transaction was made as a result of anti-democratic persecution, under compulsion or under the influence of threats. If the plaintiff suffered loss amounting to 25 per cent, it is assumed that his consent was obtained under duress. Clause 4 of the decree makes it possible to annul expropriations. In Clauses 6--11 of the second part the decree discusses the consequences of annulment, and states that the annulment is effective as regards third parties even if the property has been conveyed by entry in the land-register.
The consequence of the annulment of a transaction is that the object concerned is restored to its original owner. The plaintiff is only obliged to return the purchase price which he received at the time of the transaction.
This decree affects a very large number of Hungarians, and especially "small" men. There were very frequent exchanges of property between Magyars who left Southern Transylvania as a result of persecution by the Antonescu regime and Roumanians who left Northern Transylvania. These exchange agreements can now be attacked by the Roumanians under the decree; they can retain the property they obtained in exchange in Southern Transylvania, and, as prices are at present, recover their former property in Northern Transylvania for a ridiculously low price, a mere fraction of the original purchase price. Since there was no definite scale laid down for price-relations, the establishment of 25 or 50 per cent less depends entirely on the authorities, and as the law does not permit revaluation, small Hungarian farmers are deprived of their very existence. Promises for the repeal or alteration of this decree with its anti-Magyar discrimination, have remained merely promises.
The system of administrators is a serious grievance of the Magyars, and they see in it another attempt to ruin them economically. Administrators are appointed to the commercial and industrial undertakings of citizens of Magyar, and only Magyar, nationality, to banks in which Hungarian capital is interested, to cooperatives and even to agricultural concerns, and they can interfere in the business of the concern of any kind, and collect large sums for their work. It should be emphasized that the origin of these administrators goes back to the Antonescu
regime, when Roumanians from Northern Transylvania were given remunerative sinecures with Hungarian firms. The new regime took over the system with Decree No. 448 of October 6th, 1944 and decrees Nos. 644 of December 19th, 1944 and May 29th, 1945 which amplified it. No reply has so far been received to petitions for the suspension of a system which is detrimental also to Roumanian national, political and economic interests.
In the period before the war the Roumanian fiscal authorities imposed a triple and even quintuple tax on shop-signs etc. or commercial books in Hungarian. This definitely anti-democratic arrangement which conflicts with the basic principles of the equality of nationalities, and whose object was again to weaken the economic position of the Magyars, has been retained in Groza's Roumania. It need hardly be emphasized that this arrangement too is in direct contradiction to both the letter and the spirit of the nationality law passed in Roumania, and is characteristic of the fact that it remains merely on paper.
Roumanian taxation policy proved in the past one of the most reliable methods of impoverishing and dispossessing the Magyars. There has been no change in this. With the introduction of Roumanian administration to Northern Transylvania a new system of taxation was brought in, and the basis of assessment for the Magyars was revised and put at a much higher figure than that for the Roumanians. The Roumanian system of taxation divides taxpayers into three categories, and Hungarian taxpayers, especially in Southern Transylvania, are consistently placed in the highest category. Thus it can be understood why for example a Hungarian manufacturer pays five times as much in taxes as his Roumanian neighbour who may have a bigger turnover.
Hungarian cooperatives developed on a large scale in Transylvania. Today there are about a thousand of them, with one main consumers' and one credit organisation. The Roumanian Government has introduced changes in their statutes which are so anti-democratic and so much in conflict with the cooperative spirit, and has taken such other measures as have almost completely crippled the operations of these
Magyar cooperative societies. They have restricted the sphere of transactions of the central organisations, and forbidden the establishment of school cooperatives in the interests of cooperative education; the Hungarian cooperatives do not get a share of the goods of prime necessity which are blocked by the Government and only distributed by Roumanian cooperatives. When the taxes of these societies, which suffered enormous losses through the war, are assessed it is on the basis of their pre-war working capital, and not one of the Magyar credit cooperatives has received so far a single leu of the millions and millions which have been put at the disposal of the Roumanian societies. Administrative principles which cannot be put into practice are prescribed for the Magyar cooperatives, which have the effect of undermining them completely.
A new Roumanian cooperative law is now being drafted, in the preparation of which, in spite of the promises that have been made, none of the Magyar cooperative leaders have been asked to participate. This is comprehensible in view of the fact that the news which has leaked out is to the effect that the centres of the Magyar cooperatives are to be abolished.
The Treaty of Trianon made the acquisition of the rights of citizenship dependent upon permanent domicile (pertinenza). In 1924, when the Roumanian authorities were instructed to compile a register of citizens, without regard to how long they had resided in Transylvania, they omitted from the register all those who were unable to prove their permanent residence or pertinenza by means of documents.
Thus the names of about 200,000 persons of Hungarian nationality have not been entered in the registers of citizenship. The question of citizenship of these persons is now pending unsettled for over 26 years.
A new decree of citizenship was published in the Roumanian Official Gazette of April 4th, 1945, paragraph 2nd of which provides that those inhabitants of Northern Transylvania shall not be regarded as Roumanian citizens who
a) from August 30th 1940 up to the date of above decree opted for a foreign citizenship, further those who
b) voluntarily joined any military formation of a State at war with Roumania, or served in any foreign military or half-military formation.
The provisions of this decree affected the interests of hundred thousands of Hungarians of Transylvania, for several hundred thousand
persons asked for Hungarian citizenship since August 30th 1940, after the re-transfer to Hungary of those territories, because the granting of that citizenship was formally necessary to occupy positions in general and especially in economic life and, apart from this, a very great number of Hungarian men had to perform compulsory military service in the Hungarian army, or in half military formations. Apart from the directly interested Hungarians of Northern Transylvania, about 200,000 Hungarians were forced to take refuge in Hungary or to opt for Hungarian citizenship in consequence of the persecutions of the fascistic Antonescu Government.
The executive decree of the law concerning citizenship, published on August 17th 1945, expressly provided that all those persons shall lose their Roumanian citizenship, "who, on the occasion of the retreat of the enemy army, voluntarily left Northern Transylvania, thus making common cause with the enemy". It is thus absolutely left to the interpretation of the authorities, who out of the several hundred thousands of Hungarian refugees of Northern Transylvania may retain their citizenship, because it is very difficult to prove whether the departure was voluntary or not, and therefore ample opportunity is offered to the chauvinistic Roumanian authorities arbitrarily to convict a great number of Hungarians.
Further measures were taken to deprive the Hungarians of their rights by the Roumanian Minister of Justice, Patrascanu, who issued the decree No. 104.005/1945 of October 10th addressed to all Law Courts of Northern Transylvania. The Law Court of Kolozsvár registered that decree on October 13th 1945 under No. 1.879. Its text is the following:
"Those inhabitants of Northern Transylvania who, making common cause with the German and Hungarian enemy army, retreated to Hungary, shall lose their Roumanian citizenship under the provisions of the Law of April 4th 1945. Therefore if those persons should return to Roumania they shall be considered as enemy citizens, and if their property should fall under the provision of Chapter 8th of the Armistice Agreement (CASBI), the Roumanian authorities shall not be entitled to meet any requests of those persons concerning that property; the legal authorities may therefore do nothing to restitute the immovable or movable property of those persons, or to help them to occupy their dwellings again."
Patrascanu thus deprived hundreds of thousands of Hungarian refugees of all legal remedies by the aid of which they could have defended themselves against the arbitrary actions of the authorities.
The new executive decree of the citizenship law, which was issued
in December 1945, contains certain mitigations by providing that nobody shall be deprived of his Roumanian citizenship under the title that, as inhabitant of Southern Transylvania, he opted for Hungary on the basis of the Vienna Award, or that as inhabitant of Northern Transylvania, he asked for a Hungarian certificate of citizenship. But it is a great fault also of this decree that it leaves wide scope for arbitrary actions of the authorities. And it is just in the line of the execution of the decrees that Hungarians had the worst experience in the past and even in very recent times.
After its one year rule the Groza Government is undoubtedly in a position to point to certain measures which prove that somewhat more consideration was shown to Hungarian instruction than before 1940.
The Hungarians of Roumania would be much satisfied with these measures, if only they would not cover grave and apprehensive facts.
There are no legal securities behind these favourable measures, thus the entire Hungarian instruction in Roumania is characterised by a legal uncertitude. The gravest of all is that no new public instruction law refers to Hungarian instruction. Consequently Anghelescu's ill-famed private instruction law of 1925 is still in force, under which it would even today be possible to close hundreds of Hungarian schools.
The Royal decree No. 406 was issued as law on May 29th 1945, providing that all Roumanian schools which fled from Northern Transylvania in 1940 shall return to their former domicile. Consequently most of the Hungarian secondary schools were forced to cede their premises to the Roumanian schools, quite irrespective of the proportional number of the Hungarian inhabitants of the respective district.
It is one of the gravest offenses that, up to the end of the last year, the Hungarian teachers received only quite inconsiderable advances, which we could hardly even call starvation wages, while the Roumanian teachers got their full salaries. The payment of the differences is now in course, but --- compared to April 1945 --- the depreciation is 3-fold. Regular payments of the salaries are not ensured even today.
The position of the Hungarian University is also a very serious question. In autumn of 1944 the Hungarian University did not obey the evacuation order of the military authorities and continued its work.
Later --- after the return of the Roumanian University from Nagyszeben --- the Hungarian University was at once ready to share with them, in a friendly manner, all buildings, clinics, scientific institutions in its possession. An agreement was arrived upon, on April 16th--18th 1945 concerning the two Universities, according to which the Hungarian University kept its full equipment, obtained since August 1940, but --- with the exception of two clinics --- had to leave all other establishments where it was working up to that date.
On May 26th 1945, about one month and a half after the above agreement, a Decree-Law was issued concerning "the establishment of a State University with Hungarian language of instruction" which, contrary to the provisions of the mentioned agreement, greatly reduced the status of the Hungarian University. According to this Decree the Hungarian University must leave all the 50 buildings of University District and must accept the premises of a former girls' college.
Since that time a new plan was realised, according to which the medical faculty of the Hungarian University has to move to Marosvásárhely, occupying there the public hospital and the building of a military school. The Ministry of National Defence however refused its consent to this arrangement as far as the military school was concerned. If we consider that three Roumanian medical faculties will work in Transylvania, i. e. those of Nagyszeben, Kolozsvár and the newly-established one in Temesvár, we can feel only bitterness in view of that national expansion and oppression which is hardly ready to grant even one medical faculty to serve the health of the one million and a half of Hungarians in Transylvania. The furnishing of the University and its professors is the worst we could imagine. A large scale collection was started amongst the Hungarians of Transylvania to offer some relief to the University, but some results could only be attained if the Government would consent to the collected funds being used for the purposes of the University. The Government did not, however, grant this consent up to now, probably out of propagandistic considerations, fearing that the Hungarians would assert that they have established their University by their own means.
The laws and measures taken by the authorities mentioned above show to what degree those high-sounding and democratic declarations of single members of the Roumanian Government and especially of Prime Minister Groza himself are in fact being realised. These laws, decrees and measures deeply affect the life of the Hungarians, gravely endangering their economic existence, and so it is not to wonder if the
Hungarians of Transylvania see no difference, between the national policy, concerning the settlement of their vital problems, of the reactionary Governments of the past 22, respectively 27 years, and that of the new Government, established since the liberation of the country, bearing high-sounding democratic slogans on its banner. No wonder that --- in spite of the promising words, newspaper articles and radio declarations --- the Hungarians are unable to find even under the present new rule any effective guarantees for the securing of their democratic nationality rights.
|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|