A Short History
In March 1848, the European revolutionary fever passed though Vienna, Pozsony, and Pest, and rapidly reached Transylvania. Of the twelve Hungarian demands for liberty, it is the twelfth one that rang the bell: "Union with Transylvania". Initially, this was supported by numerous Romanians and Saxons, but public opinion quickly changed. An increasing number in their circle opposed it or would accept the Union only with extensive guarantees of their rights. The Court clearly expected that -- with Saxonia as a backstop -- it could mobilize the Romanian peasantry and thus surround the rebellious Hungarians. This not only strengthened the Transylvanian Romanians but it might also produce a strong attraction for the Transcarpathian Romanians to become integrated into the Habsburg Empire. This goal anticipated the present Greater Romania but, of course, strictly within the Monarchy.
There was no secret organization between the ethnic groups -- it was only the logic of the situation that was at work. The 1848 Eastern-Central European wildfire spread -- after some minor and insignificant manifestations. On May 11-12, 1848, the Slovakians presented their principal national demands at Lipótszentmiklós. The Serb followed on May 13-15 at Karlóca, and the Romanians at their national assembly in Balázsfalva, on May 15-17. This latter city was, at this time already an important center for Romanian religious and educational affairs, and the selection of this site was evidence for the major role played by the intellectuals.
On the eve of the last meeting, on May 14, a local professor of philosophy, Simion Barnutiu, gave a speech in the Balázsfalva cathedral. "This speech is the basic text for the Romanian national idea and the most significant expression of Romanian national consciousness since the Supplex. It emphasizes the right of the Romanians for self determination and states that every morsel cast to them from the table of Hungarian liberty is poisoned." (Samu Benkõ)
Just like the Transylvanian Hungarians, the Romanian intellectual elite looked more and more toward the western world. There was a discussion at Balázsfalva about the western European trends toward national states, which may have served as a model for the smaller states. Here we had the first mention of the later so popular concept of an "Eastern European Switzerland". The obvious Panslavism warned the non Slavs to get together. It did not happen here, but soon there was talk about a Danubian Confederation, with a forceful reversal of ethnic mingling and a massive exchange of populations. Is there anything new under the sun? This could well be a question raised by an observer today.
It comes as no surprise that all Transylvania was reaching for arms. Even though the ethnic groups did this in good faith and for their own protection, it was clearly the first step toward civil war. All it needed was a tiny spark, anywhere and for any real or imaginary injury. It will never fail.
In Hungary, the freeing of the serfs took place, although not without some injuries and some conflicts. How about Transylvania? Here the process was impeded by the different local civil laws. If, however, the Union was going to assure equal laws everywhere -- what was the problem? Unfortunately the legal and practical implementation of the Union was not a simple matter. It required multiple approvals in the Vienna-Pest-Transylvania triangle. The differing internal systems did not allow the mechanical extension of the Hungarian legal system. The other parties, and particularly the Romanian serfs, suspected that these were delaying tactics, tricks and sabotage on the part of the Hungarian nobility. This in spite of the fact that the last Transylvanian Diet, called without the approval of the Emperor, already freed 160,000 families at the end of March, and that most of these were Romanian. This is the stumbling block in every major change of system: the changes occasioned forcefully by the revolutionary enthusiasm stand on legally shaky ground and the legal process is necessarily slow. There is a period in all such changes when the old system is no longer functional, and the new system is not yet in place. A fact unfortunately remains a fact: in this confusion, the first fatal shots were fired by Székely border guards in a police action, with Romanian peasants caught in the middle, illegally using grazing land.
The Transylvanian Romanians were unsure about the serf problem, but this is not all. The revolution extended to their natural allies, the Romanians in the Regate. This was suppressed by Turkish-Russian cooperation. Bucharest was occupied. They wanted to get rid of their other potential ally, the Serbs. The reason being the strong influence the Serb Orthodox Church had on the Romanian Orthodox Church. There were thus obvious factors that should have promoted a consideration of Romanian-Hungarian cooperation.
When the fall of 1848 began, the Croatian troops of Jelai started their sneak attack against the Hungarian capital from the south and, in the east, Transylvania came to a boil. The establishment of the first army of the responsible Hungarian government required conscription. Even though shortly rescinded, this triggered a protest -- even among some Hungarians -- which then led to a new Balázsfalva assembly and encampment, this time of several weeks' duration. There was a demand that the very shaky, but established union be dissolved. It also led to the situation where the Austrian troops stationed in Transylvania, could very soon count on large numbers of auxiliaries in the form of substantial Romanian rebel troops.
It got worse. The Kossuth people wishing to mobilize the Székelys for participation in the civil war, gathered about 60 thousand armed Székelys in Agyagfalva on October 16, 1848. The fact that here the emphasis was placed on Hungarian affairs rather than on the revolution, that the goals and agenda were not sufficiently clarified, and that some of the Székely leaders starting from Agyagfalva were more interested in creating confusion than in anything else, were the causes that made the Transylvanian tragedy of the fall of 1848 resemble an avalanche. The people of Balázsfalva and Agyagfalva and many other Transylvanian communities, groups and associations, stood face to face. It was a miracle that the Austrian military leaders, indecisive and misunderstanding the local situation, could not take greater advantage of this conflict.
The Hungarian Diet and government -- engaged in a life and death struggle -- were unable to, or delayed in, issuing ordinances that could have calmed and pacified the nationalities. Many of these were of the opinion anyway, that the attack of Jelai was going to be victorious, and that they may just as well stand on the winning side. This opinion was shared by the Saxons, who were becoming increasingly aware of their German blood ties.
In this difficult situation -- and as we have seen, without adequate thought -- the Hungarian government did not limit its mobilization to the militarily experienced Székelys. A national guard was being organized throughout Transylvania, but the Hungarians were reluctant to attack. They could expect nothing good from a general civil war. After the Balázsfalva and Agyagfalva assemblies, there were already wide-spread clashes and retributions that caused considerable damage to both sides. All in vain. the Austrian General Puchner, the military commander of Transylvania, ordered his troops and their Romanian auxiliaries to disarm the Hungarian national troops. This did not take place without much bloodshed and much damage and destruction to civilian and public property.
The upsurge of long suppressed hatreds and the murderous heat of the moment made the map of Transylvania into a bloody mosaic. In October and November of 1848, clashes here, battles there and in some places even massacres decorated the map. It appeared that this region was lost. Finally, only Háromszék held out, but this made it impossible for Vienna to take the central Hungarian forces into a pincer movement. In many areas the anti-Hungarian cooperation began to yield rewards and a new, essentially Romanian administration was being established.
At this time it was no longer the post-revolutionary government of the steadfast and sober Lajos Batthányi which was in charge "over there". It was the much more radical Committee of National Defense which now governed the country forced into a national fight for freedom. The center of gravity of the events was shifting toward the East. The capital on the Danube was first threatened and then lost and the new capital was moved to Debrecen. The armament factory of Pest was moved to Nagyvárad. Kossuth appointed a new commander in chief for Transylvania. He was the Polish József Bem (1794-1850), whose name we consistently spell in the Hungarian way. Considering the forces and means at his disposal, he fought a very successful winter campaign and reconquered almost all of Transylvania. >From whom? Primarily from the armies of the Austrian General Puchner who also had a new commander-in-chief. The family had removed the incompetent Ferdinand V (1835-1848) and replaced him with his young nephew, Francis Joseph (1848-1916).
It would take too long to follow Bem's Transylvania campaign in detail, during which this romantic and daring revolutionary and military commander made several, almost desperate attempts on his own authority to win over the nationalities. It must be mentioned, however, that the Russian intervention into the Hungarian civil war began here and now. On Puchner's plea for help -- he claimed that the Romanians were responsible for this -- a 3,000 member Tsarist army entered Transylvania across the Southern Carpathians in February 1849. Bem chased them and their Austrian hosts back to the Havasalfõld. Tsar Nicholas I now, at the beginning of May, decided to save the House of Habsburg, and in the middle of June sent a 200,000 men Russian deluge from the north, across the Dukla Pass into Hungary. All the rest was just a question of time.
In the meantime, the "Olmütz Constitution" of Francis Joseph declared that Transylvania was an independent province. This was countered by the Debrecen Declaration which deposed the House of Habsburg. A desperate measure which scared many previous supporters away from the civil war which was considered to be a constitutional battle when viewed from the Hungarian perspective. The declaration was issued jointly in the names of Hungary and Transylvania as a matter of course.
After Bem's triumphs, Transylvania was almost completely in Hungarian hands during the spring and summer of 1849. What was then the situation? Would magnanimity or Draconian severity triumph? Would the earlier collaboration be overlooked or revenged? Bem covered the past deeds with an amnesty, but the future was going to be judged by the court-martial set up by Kossuth's local governors. Morality apart, this was not a wise thing to do, even if there had been something to avenge. Burning the great center of learning, Nagyvárad, together with its library, for example, took many lives to make its point. The rapid deterioration of the military situation made all of these issues moot, including a last minute attempt at Hungarian-Romanian conciliation.
The capitulation at Világos on August 13, 1849 did not affect Bem's troops, but the consequences were entirely beyond their control. The time came when it was impossible to tell the difference between the punishment that the deliriously victorious Vienna meted out to the Hungarians and the benefits they bestowed on the other nationalities in Hungary. It was certain that already early in September the Austrian commander-in-chief issued an order for the dismissal of the Romanian auxiliary troops. The loyal Saxons got their unpleasant surprises a little later. The Saxon lands were dismembered and their autonomy was revoked.
As it happens not infrequently, regardless of what the reactionary forces may do for their own gratification after the victorious termination of a civil war, many results and consequences of the civil war remain. There could be no question of the re-establishment of serfdom or of a complete reconstruction of the old cast system of society. In a paradoxical way, some of the things that were done against the central Austrian power, turned out to be to its benefit. The modernizations promoting the development of a bourgeoisie , which was a vital interest of the House of Habsburg, was much easier to implement -- even forcefully -- at this time. The evolutionary processes, that begun under Maria Theresa and Joseph II, and were sustained under the Reform Age came to their inevitable fruition at this time. There was an opportunity to introduce and implement "from above" without there being an opportunity to resist "from below". Needless to say, this was a painful process, which took place under foreign officials and executors, under a tight military occupation.
The Bach Era, universally condemned in Hungary, actually had both good and bad features. The new administration, legal system, law enforcement and their executive apparatus were foreign, but although oppressive, they granted a number of advantages in the non-political arena. Public safety was much improved and, more importantly, numerous economic innovations were introduced and the bases for economic development were stabilized. Yet, this was the period when in our region, and with a fatal intensity, there appeared a permanent opposition to all governments and to the legal system of all administrations. All this, of course, was disguised as an absolutely patriotic endeavor. This kind of "civil disobedience" is well known from Northern Ireland to the Basque country, but is fortunately unknown in most of Western Europe.
The entire Hungarian political situation -- which was supposed to enlighten and instruct the frightened and confused Transylvanian Hungarians -- was now increasingly under the influence of Ferenc Deák (1803-1876). Known as the "Sage of the Fatherland", he was patient, he opposed the Debrecen Declaration deposing the Habsburg dynasty, and he was willing to wait until a way was found toward a compromise. Until then, he favored passive civil resistance and a prudent retrenchment.
The Deák inspired wisdom and passivity in "high politics" was reduced at the "popular" level to the avoidance of taxation, of duties and of income tax, and even to the escape from military service, by any means ingenuity could devise. This was not only considered to be not shameful, but it was a glorious thing to do. The people, by the Grace of God, had learned during the centuries of serfdom, how to mislead its masters, to avoid the foreign armies exacting tribute, to hide itself and its goods. It was now using this accumulated wisdom against the detested Bach officials and against the Austrian soldiers quartered on them. Unfortunately, they maintained this mentality even when they became the citizens of their own national state. They considered it a virtue -- and do so even today -- if they could take advantage of a to them "foreign" administration.
The country was full of mutterings rather than with useful activity, and there were many Hungarian underground, hole and corner groups. The most important anti-Austrian organization, after 1849, took place in Transylvania, It was naive and nurtured the image of an ambitious new beginning. Its leader was a Colonel József Makk, who lived in Bucharest and who was going to arm the Székely rebels with weapons obtained from Moldavia. The anticipated, new European wave of revolutions on which they pinned their hopes did not materialize. The Viennese spies were watchful and the conspirators were careless. The movement, that actually reached as far as Vienna, collapsed after its leaders were arrested. Even though the institution of serfdom was legally abolished in Transylvania during the summer of 1848, by the declaration of the Diet of that year, and a law was enacted about universal taxation, the effective freeing of the serfs was made very difficult by the complicated ownership and legal conditions, the numerous tacit individual arrangements, based on common law, and the virtual impossibility of assessing the value of the socage, for the loss of which the landowners were supposed to receive compensation. Much bad feeling was generated by a discussion about the disposition of the jointly and freely used forests -- which were considered to be inexhaustible.
"Down below", this affected the Romanians most of all. They were numerically the largest group that felt itself to be despoiled during their serfdom and who were most dependent on their pastoral privileges and on the free use of the forests. The landowner group was equally impoverished, since it was paid only the already minimal compensation. The payments were made in devalued Treasury bonds, and the compensation was further reduced by the War Tax imposed by Vienna at the time of the Crimean War. With the exception of the officials and the men in the repressive organizations -- mostly Austrians, Czechs and Moravians -- almost everybody considered himself a looser.
While the Hungarians are fond of mentioning the key strategic role of the Carpathian Basin in Central Europe, we must not forget the geopolitical power held by whoever controlled the historically so drafty passage between the Carpathians and the Black Sea, including the estuary of the Danube. This area was both a bridge and a divider between the northern Slavs and the southern Slavs. At the foot of the Alps a strong German wedge was driven between these two groups and in the Carpathian Basin a Hungarian wedge was inserted at the time of the Conquest. To the east of the Carpathians the Romanians settled who came north from the Mid-Balkans and from Macedonia, speaking a Neo-Latin, much more Thracian than Dacian, and strongly intermingled in their new home with Cumanians, Pechenegs, Slavs and others. They left behind themselves small groups at the Albanian -- Macedonian -- Greek borderland, in Thessalonika and in the Istrian Peninsula. These groups, while decreasing steadily, are still recognizable today by the language they speak. The strongest, northeastern group of the Romanians slowly and against massive opposition, reached an area along the lower Danube and reached a status just short of forming a nation. This had been mentioned above, in passing.
In 1853, Tsarist Russian troops marched along the foothills of the Carpathians, this time against the Turks. This led to the above mentioned Crimean War and to a crushing Russian defeat. Austria, forgetting its indebtedness to Nicholas I, occupied the Moldavian and Havasalfõld Romanian principalities for several years. Finally, and in order to maintain the balance of power among the distant major European powers, Turkey irretrievably lost control over this area, but neither Russia nor Austria could acquire it. Moldavia and the Havasalfõld, recently enlarged, first became independent and then formed a personal union in 1859. The ruling prince, Alexandru Ion Cuza (1820-1873) now got in touch with the 1849 Hungarian emigrés. In exchange for future assistance, he asked for military support for himself to conquer all of Bessarabia, and he naturally also asked for an expansion of the rights of the Transylvanian Romanians, Even the possibility of a triple Romanian-Serb-Hungarian confederation was raised, which in the dreams of Kossuth became the Romanian-Serb-Croatian-Hungarian Danubian Confederation. All this was put on hold by the general European realignments. Austria lost both territory and power in Italy and in the Prussian War but this could be used against her only later. Even then the beneficiaries were Deák and his followers and not the Kossuth group.
The icy grip of the Bach Era began to thaw. There was an inevitable, cautious liberalization from above with a partial re-establishment of Parliament. It was a bitter lesson for the Hungarians that this narrowly defined census-based election resulted in a Romanian majority in the Transylvanian Diet. "The 1863 summer elections -- during which the government is alleged to have spent 800 thousand Forints to influence approximately 70-89,000 voters -- 49 Romanian, 44 Hungarian and 33 Saxon candidates received a mandate. The Hungarian liberal camp got the mandates in all of the Székely széks and in all the Hungarian cities, but in the counties which were considered to be the ancient, fundamental units of political life, they suffered a disastrous defeat. Of the 38 county representatives only 2 were Hungarians. The king nominated 11 "men of substance", or officials, from each nationality, assigning to them a balancing function which in other countries was performed by an Upper House. In the final count there were 60 (later 59) Romanian, 56 Hungarian and 44 Saxon representatives with a seat in the Diet." (Zoltán Szász).
Opting for absentee obstruction, only three Hungarian representatives showed up. This effectively neutralized the organization about which the above writer said: "This was the first -- and also the last -- Transylvanian Diet in which the Romanians were present as a national block and even represented a majority." -- And something else. While the legitimacy of this parliament was debatable and its effectiveness in view of the Hungarian boycott was limited, it was this organization which made the three Transylvanian languages, Romanian, Hungarian and German, of equal legal standing.
Let us examine the demographic basis of the 1863 election results. We may get the best lead from the religious statistics. In 1850, in Transylvania proper, without the Partium, the numbers were as follows: Greek Orthodox 32.3%, Greek Catholic 29.2% (together 61.51%), Reformed 13.6%, Roman Catholic 11.4%, Evangelical 10.5%, Unitarian 2.4 %, and Jewish 0.6%.
It must be noted that the religious affiliations change little until 1910 or until the beginning of World War I The major change was the decrease of the Greek Orthodox to 29.6%, while the number of Jews increased to 2.4%, due to increased immigration during the second half of the last century, and to the large number of children in their families. Thus, the fraction of the almost exclusively Romanian Greek Orthodox decreased and the number of children became a factor with the Jews and not with them. Contrary to popular belief, in the time span under discussion, namely 18511857, the increase in Transylvanian Lutherans was practically zero (0.12%). The increase of the other two Protestant denominations was 0.7% and the same number applies to the Greek Orthodox. The increase in Roman Catholics was 0.9% and in Greek Catholics it was 0.57%. It is interesting that the one and two children families were most prominent among the Saxons and the Svabians in the Banate, the former of whom were Lutheran and the latter Roman Catholic. Among the peculiarly local Unitarians the birth rate was so low that it practically amounted to a denominational suicide.
Two additional set of data. The first one comes already from the turn of the century, and states that while the total percentage of the Roman Catholics was 13.3%, they represented 25.9% of the urban population. Among the Reformed, the total was 14.7% while the urban percentage was 23.4%. Among the Lutherans these numbers were 9% versus 16.1%. Among the Jews 2.1% versus 6.3%. The situation was reversed among the Greek Catholics whose percentage of the population was 28%, while they represented only 11.6% of the urban population. Among the Greek Orthodox, these numbers were 30.3% versus 15%. Thus, the majority of the latter two groups was rural and they represented only a small percentage of the urban population. This had to give rise to substantial speculation both for the present time, and also for the foreseeable future.
Returning to the mid-century, let us examine the distribution on the basis of native language. In Transylvania proper, in 1850, 58.3% were Romanians, 26.1% Hungarians, 10.3% Germans, 4% Gypsies, 0.6% Yiddish, 0.4% Armenians, and all others 0.2%. Those who assume that there was a Hungarization during the following half century, naturally at the expense of the Romanians, must be reminded that in 1900, those who claimed to have Hungarian as their mother tongue increased by 6.7% to 32.8%, while the Romanian speakers decreased by 1.75 to 56.9%. The increase in Hungarian speakers must be attributed to the fact that in 1850 there were 4% who claimed to have the Gypsy language as their mother tongue. In 1900 this category no longer appeared in the list. It can be assumed that at this time the entire Gypsy ethnic group was included among the Hungarian speakers.
One additional item. According to one estimate, at the turn of the century Bucharest had 200,000 Hungarian inhabitants (ethnic?, or Hungarian speaking?). At the same time there were very many emigrants to America, but also to Germany. This drained primarily the Székelyfõld. It seemed to prove the frequently made allegation that the group making up the majority of the participants in the "classic" emigration were not necessarily those who came from the most miserable circumstances. Rather, they came from groups that had already achieved a certain level of prosperity, but who were stuck there and who because of their family and national traditions wanted more and better things. It was not the multitude of solo flute playing, mountain shepherds who struck out toward the New World, but the Jack-of-all-trades, skilled Székelys who made up the bulk of the emigrants.
When forging the Compromise of 1867, one of the Hungarian demands was the re-establishment of the 1848 union. But, as we can recall, the union did not have the enthusiastic endorsement of the two principal Transylvanian nationalities, the Romanians and the Saxons, and therefore the new Hungarian state, now an "integral partner" in the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, decided to proceed cautiously. Thus, Transylvania was not immediately integrated into the motherland.
On the other hand, already in 1868 a Nationality Act was passed which was extremely progressive by the standards of the time, and which was much more meaningful at the periphery of the country than in its central parts. This act could serve as a model even today since it accepted the use of the mother tongue in both official and other applications, permitted separate schooling and the establishment of separate national organizations in each "civilian society". It also granted collective rights, and not just individual ones. It can justly serve as a basis for reference. As far as its implementation was concerned, the picture is less attractive.
In the case of such legislation, it is customary that initially there is a strong "customer resistance" which weakens over time. Here the reverse occurred. While the Compromise was a success in the economic sphere, the Hungarians of the Monarchy vigorously pursued what they considered to be the most precious part of their existence, namely, Hungarization and the acceptance of Hungarian supremacy, both of which they considered to be their lawful aspirations. The hopes and aspirations generated by the favorable Nationality Act of 1868 decreased rather than increased with time, learning the Hungarian language became compulsory in all schools, and the nationality schools could no longer accept foreign contributions. Since the counties were usually the bastions of conservatism, the extension of the county system to Transylvania -- to the detriment of the Székely and Saxon legal traditions -- was a regressive development.
We must add one thing about the 1868 Nationality Act, linked to the names of Ferenc Deák and József Eõtvõs (1813-1871). This legal document, significant even by general European standards, was based on the concept of the French nationality-state and emphasized in its introduction that "according to the fundamental principles of the Constitution, and in a political context, all citizens of the country together constitute a single nation, an indivisible, unified, Hungarian nation, of which every citizen of the country, regardless of national affiliation, is an equal member, having the same legal rights."
What is wrong with it? It contains the terms "political context" and "equal rights"...Yet, the passage was condemned in the strongest terms by the authors of a Romanian memorandum in 1892, who wrote, " In other words, every human being living in Hungary, be they Romanian, German, Slavic, etc., belong to a single nation, the Hungarian. It goes without saying that we view this introduction as an overt assault against our national existence and against the national existence of our other non-Hungarian fellow citizens." This was the official position of the Romanians from 1868 until 1918, when the die turned in precisely the opposite direction. This is in effect to this day and the Hungarians and Székelys in Transylvania, must (should) declare and consider themselves as Hungarian speaking Romanians and members of the Romanian national state.
The electoral system of 1848, while expanded on the basis of property, education, and other criteria, was still quite restrictive and not uniformly applied. In the more backward Transylvania, amendments were necessary. In spite of this, at the beginning of the 1880s only a quarter of the Transylvanian Saxons, a fifth of the Hungarians, and barely a tenth of the Romanians had the vote. This was not the sole determinant factor. Because of their large numbers, the Romanians had a majority in some electoral districts. It was a different issue that -- due to certain circumstances discussed below -- it happens that these districts, with a Romanian majority, provided the safest seats for the government, even though the government's nationality policy hardly deserved this.
The forty years following the 1868 Compromise were not the golden age in everything, not even economically, even though east of the Lajta the advances were dynamic. The greatest stimulus for this upswing was the capital pouring into this area. It did not stop at a new water barrier, the Danube, or at Budapest, which was increasingly openly competing with Vienna. Yet the railroad initially only extended as far as Temesvár, Arad, and Nagyvárad. Its further extension was slow, partly because of the increasingly difficult geographic conditions. The situation was similar in the area of road building. The large unified customs area of the Monarchy had much to offer, but the more backward peripheral areas could take only limited advantage of this for their own advancement.
For Transylvania, the most important issue was the trade with Romania -- we must finally admit this. Export and import were the keys, but the Monarchy got embroiled in such a customs battle in the east that these very dynamic relationships were severely curtailed. There is no chapter in the picture book of Hungarian economic and industrial developments that was not enriched by spectacular Transylvanian contributions. The strikingly executed art and the beautiful creations in wrought iron document not only past developments and virtues, but are also eloquent witnesses of to human diligence, inventiveness, care, and abundance of talent.
While the basis for the struggle were the Hungarian -- and Romanian and Saxon -- national identity issues, the ideological and political factors also carried considerable weight. When, with the 1868 Compromise the Hungarian search for a national identity achieved its objectives and gained momentum, this momentum was obtained simultaneously by various nationalities and shifted the center of gravity of the dualistic Monarchy. Let's put it this way. In the struggle for political and economic strong points, the latter became the more important ones. The Hungarian Cultural Association of Transylvania (EMKE), as its name clearly indicates, was not exactly established for this purpose, but it quickly recognized the trend, albeit perhaps not the full weight of the trend. It originally started with nationalistic and educational aims, but rapidly shifted toward the establishment and protection of commercial enterprises. The Transylvanian Economic Association (EGE), established in 1844, was active in the same area.
The Saxon fear of the oppressive Dual Monarchy was much relieved when it became apparent that their age-old, characteristic economic activity and influence would not be affected. In fact the economic revival favored those who already had an earlier start. It is true that among the Saxons a new political orientation began which turned away from the Austrians and pointed toward a "Greater Germany". At this time and in contrast to the Hitler era, the Saxons received little encouragement from this direction. For the Wilhelmine-Bismarckian Germany good relations with Austria and Hungary were much more important than a possible separatist tendency among the now 200 thousand strong Saxons.
While the Saxons were becoming increasingly resigned to the union, the Romanians were becoming increasingly hostile. They realized that if Transylvania were to become autonomous, their numerical superiority would become decisive. Their interests were not identical everywhere. The Romanians living outside Transylvania in Hungary tried to get ahead in that country. The Transylvanian Romanians were more "fundamentalists", and selected passivity as one of the options in the all-or-nothing game of political resistance. This tactic is difficult to justify fully, and goes a long way to explain why the government had such an easy time of it in the primarily Romanian electoral districts. At this time, the number of those who demanded an autonomous Transylvania or who turned toward the extra-Transylvanian Romanians was negligible. The majority of the Romanians had little understanding for this policy. They voted indifferently for whoever seemed to represent a power base, or from whom they hoped to gain some advantages, a decrease in harassment, a road, a small bridge, etc. This was offered most effectively by the existing government. It is noteworthy that when in 1881 a unified Romanian National Party was established, a certain Partenie Cosma was elected president. He was a lawyer, employed by a large bank. The importance of banks as a source of capital was increasing in the peripheral areas as well.
What was happening in the meantime in the area beyond the Carpathians? Moldavia and the Havasalfõld increasingly fused into a personal union and formed a principality under the leadership of Cuza. Since 1861 it was called Romania, and very soon Bucharest became the capital of the principality. Cusa's gentrifying, liberal "forward-looking" laws produced a violent reaction. In 1866 he was expelled and the still evolving but inchoate country looked abroad for a new ruler. This was not entirely strange and there were many historic precedents. It was strange, however, that while the Neo-Latin speaking Romanians were oriented toward Paris and were linked in their higher ideals -- other than to antiquity -- to the French cultural circles, the new ruler was a Prussian Hohenzollern.
The beginnings of Charles I (1866 or rather 1881-1914) were fortunate. When in 1877-78, the Russian Tsar again tried to limit the Turkish area of influence, the Romanian troops commanded by him participated successfully in the Russia campaign. This then irrevocably eliminated any danger that the age-old and detrimental Turkish influence might have held for the fledgling Romania. The fact that at this precise moment some Hungarian circles developed a Russophobe and Turkophil attitude distorted the picture and did little to promote Hungarian-Romanian relationships. Apparently the memories of 1849 were more vivid than those of the much earlier Turkish occupation. This went to the point where a small volunteer group was being formed which wished to fight on the side of the Turks in this conflict. When a Romanian counter-force was being developed, the Hungarian government quickly stepped in.
In the Peace of San Stefano, the declining Turkish sultanate was forced to recognize the independence of Romania, which changed its form of government in 1881. Nota bene, the new Romanian kingdom, under the same Charles I, proved to be just as ungrateful toward Russia as Austria had been. Having gotten rid of the Turkish influence, it very soon did the same with Russia, by turning to Vienna and Berlin and by forming a secret alliance with these countries. This turn of events moderated Bucharest's attempts to incorporate Transylvania. Initially such an attempt was foremost among the plans of the new kingdom, and was based on the often stated Daco-Roman Continuity hypothesis . The moderation was only partial and temporary. The economic driving force of the Compromise was still unbroken and may even have reached its peak, but the euphoria was gone. Furthermore, it was 1896 and the approaching millennium of the original conquest created an enthusiasm in Hungarian public opinion that made it impossible politically to handle even the moderate requests of the nationalities with understanding. One can imagine the reaction of the Orthodox Romanians to the ordinance that made Hungarian mandatory in religious instruction. It was of no consequence that ordinances, like the one just mentioned, or the one forbidding the multilingual posting of the name of a community, were never really enforced. This did little to mitigate the insult. It should have been a warning when Serb and Slovak attorneys were retained for the defense in a trial of the distributors of a Romanian memorandum about minority rights of which, initially, neither the Vienna Court nor the Hungarian government took official notice. The prosecution was started, after considerable hesitation, in Kolozsvár in 1882. The choice of attorneys showed a definite and demonstrative cooperation.
Sober Romanian observers noticed an old trap: the divisiveness within their ranks and the excessive impatience were less harmful to the cause of the Romanians than the benefits they gained from the fundamentalism of the Hungarian power elite which had become their unwitting ally. There was much they could refer to when they took the injuries of the minorities from the Hungarian to the European stage. The above mentioned ordinance was promptly translated into half a dozen leading European languages. It was at this time -- and unfortunately not entirely without foundation -- that a picture was painted of the Hungarians for the benefit of the European community which would have been more accurate for a conquering-adventuring Scythian robber band than for the citizens of a country which since 1868 had made every effort, economically and politically, to model itself on the rest of western Europe. The attempts of the Czech Tomas Masaryk (1850-1937) and of the Romanian Ion Bratianu (1867-1927) to use this distorted caricature of the Hungarians in their efforts to dismember the Monarchy received an irresponsible assist from a very odd individual, the well-known British historian, Seton-Watson, known under his pen name as Scotus Viator. His increasingly prejudiced works clearly influenced the misinformed decision makers of the desperately unfair peace treaties at the end of World War I.
After the turn of the century, Hungarian politics became increasingly involved in prestige fights rather than rational controversies and these for all practical purposes rendered the Dual Monarchy impotent. We once again see the collusion between the Court and the nationalities in the expansion of the franchise by imperial fiat rather than by legitimate parliamentary action. Even greater weight was given to this situation by the tragic death at Mayerling of Crown Prince Rudolph. Rudolph liked the Hungarians and, had he lived, might have become a more progressive ruler than Joseph II. He particularly liked Transylvania. One of his faithful friends was the strange Transylvanian magnate, Count Samu Teleki, the hero of a celebrated African expedition. Rudolph frequently hunted on Teleki's Sáromberk estate. The sentiments and views of the new Crown Prince, Francis Ferdinand, were diametrically opposed to those of Rudolph, who wrote liberal articles under a pen name. Francis Ferdinand wanted to rely on the nationalities to create a strong counterbalance against the Hungarians. Not knowing how long Francis Joseph would continue to live, he instigated numerous cabals, feeding the hopes of his initiates. It is one of history's ironies that it was a Serb nationalist who shot him down in Sarajevo in 1914.
The most influential Hungarian politician during the decade and a half, following the turn of the century, was the deeply conservative but yet pragmatic István Tisza (1861-1918), a highly manipulative party leader and twice prime minister. The center of gravity of political infighting was now located in Parliament, as it was in most modern states. In this arena the representatives of the nationalities were necessarily a small minority, entirely at the mercy of the benevolence or caprice of the majority nationality. With increasingly destructive obstructionist maneuvers, the opposition paralyzed and re-paralyzed the life of the Parliament. Tisza, reviled by many, used every trick, ruse and force to maintain the country's ability to function. He even had enough energy left to attempt a reconciliation with the Romanians, if necessary, at the price of suppressing the Transylvanian Hungarian representatives. He realized that to achieve some compromise solution, the support of Bucharest, representing all the Romanians, was more important than the support of the Transylvanian politicians who had become inflexible in their self-serving local interests. His offer was necessarily limited by the Hungarian political situation and by his own way of thinking. This offer was also in opposition to the one made by Francis Ferdinand, who at this time lacked any authority for so doing. According to the nationalities, if they had to live under a monarchy, this had to be multipolar rather than the dualistic monarchy that in the past had granted the Hungarians too much authority.
Very shortly all of this became tragically meaningless by the obligation to adhere to the German goals and by an Austria filled with new imperial ambitions that not only participated in the Balkan punitive campaign -- soon to become expanded into World War I -- but actually initiated it by the coarse and insulting ultimatum to Serbia, which in fact was a co-conspirator in the Sarajevo outrage. Only a few more days, and the troops hoping to return home "by the time the leaves fall", marched off toward the grave of the Dual Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Much more is buried in that grave than the frequently condemned, but later even more frequently missed governmental system of Central Europe.
A Short History