|Witnesses to Cultural Genocide|
1956 gave birth to changes in Rumania, too. It was not the policy itself that changed, rather the way it was implemented. Two events had a fundamental impact: the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Hungarian uprising. Reaction to the 20th Congress was swift and determined. Gheorghiu-Dej made it clear from the beginning: if others had cause for self-criticism, the Rumanian Party leadership did not. The demand for democratization perceptible in Rumanian intellectual circles was also quickly defused: an otherwise insignificant writer was prompted from above to come out publicly in the name of public opinion at a session of the Writers' Union, then the individual concerned was quickly expelled from the Writers' Union and from the Party as well. In this way they made it clear that democratization was out of question. Taking advantage of the often advertised but never realized Soviet principle of mutual equality between states, the Rumanian leadership cautiously began to put a little distance between itself and the Soviet Union. This policy of "independ- ence" was meant to forestall de-Stalinization from the very first: it was built on Stalinist methods, and it has not lost this function and content even to the present day. In a telling way, the careful and measured reapproachment with China also started at the time, when the Chinese Communist Party rejected Khrushchev's critique of Stalin.
The lessons drawn from the Hungarian uprising were of related significance, because they revealed for the Party leadership the dangers coming from the lack of internal support, and further, the possibility of a dangerous eruption due to latent anti-Sovietism. Contemplating the strength of national feeling, they also determined that external, Soviet support was on the one harnd insufficient for them, on the other hand, dangerous because of the requirement of de-Stalinization. The conclusion, drawn from al] this, was that policy must be reconstituted along a nationalistic line, so that it can assure an internal power base. and thereby preserve the present ieadership in power and maintain Stalinism which were one and the same thing. The nationalistic line that earlier denoted just one feature of national policy, i.e. the oppression of minorities was thus transformed into a general nationalistic policy. But its reality within the country, continued to be felt mainly in the oppression of the Hungarians and the Jews (then increasingly of the other nationalities). Externally, a subtle anti-Sovietism was added, and, these two synthesized into the glorification of Rumanian national greatness and self-reliance.
This change also had a direct relevance to the situation of the Hungarian minority. The Hungarian uprising resulted in considerable unrest in Transylvania, and this spread over to the Rumanian population. The extent of the tension was indicated by the fact that the Rumanian army was put on alert. It is thus understandable if the new policy line took a vigorous anti-Hungarian character from the beginning. Moreover, this was now officially confirmed at the highest level. In his January, 1957, speech at Marosvasarhely, Gheorghiu-Dej condemned the Transylvanian Hungarians as revisionists and counter revolutionaries.
As the first measure, the revival of terror was predictable. In Hungarian cities, and elsewhere where there was any unrest, arrests were made and trials organized - with carefully selected "criminals". They selected intellectuals who were well known enough for the sentence to be intimidating, but not famous enough to generate protests. They were convicted on charges of which any member of the intelligentsia, in fact anybody could be accused. The atmosphere of terror thus created, prepared the way for the emergence of the most brutal national oppression. The Rumanian nationalistic spirit was strongly fanned at the same time - this was the official policy after all. By 1959 the nationalistic mood had solidified sufficiently to give support to the actual anti-minority measurest as in the city of Kolozsvar where it provided the background to the forced unification of the Rumanian and Hungarian universities. With characteristic reasoning it was claimed that the existence of the independent Hungarian university provided a hot-bed of separatism, an obstacle in the path of brotherhood, and therefore served Hungarian nationalism. A whole series of nationalistic Rumanian mass rallies were staged and increasing pressure was applied to the leaders of the Hungarian university. Due to this pressure, and as a protest against the suffocation of this institution under the pretext of unification, four Hungarian professors committed suicide, among them the pro-rector and a well-known poet, Laszlo Szabedi.
It was characteristic of the atmosphere of intellectual-political terror permeating the unification conference that on the basis of conversations overheard in the lobby during a break, intellectuals opposing the merger were summoned to the open platform and humiliated by Ceausescu who was chairing the conference on behalf of the Party.
It was also characteristic that the unification document, which contained a list of existing departments, was never published in any form, lest it be possible to refer to it subsequently. Immediately after the unification, the curtailment and gradual elimination of Hungarian language instruction was started in several ways.
This was however only the first assault against the Hungarian educational system. In the second phase it was the turn of the high schools. The method was identical: to merge Rumanian and Hungarian schools into a single school with two sections. This way it became possible to partially or completely abolish the Hungarian sections with little fanfare and to reduce Hungarian instruction to the minimum. An especially widespread method was to pressure Hungarian parents to enroll their children in Rumanian language schools. The Party (for members) and the place of employment provided outlets to pressure the parents and other administrative obstacles and incentives were also utilized. The argument was that insistence on instruction in the mother-tongue was nationalism, "aloofness", lack of civic loyalty, contempt for the official language, and so on. The proper milieu in the schools was assured by always having a nationalistic Rumanian as principal, while only servile Hungarian teachers were appointed as vice-principals. At about the same time all Technical instruction in Hungarian was eliminated including trade schools.
Finally, by reorganizing the elementary school system they cut elementary-level Hungarian-language instruction by half.
The object of these measures was to prevent both the reproduc- tion of the minority intelligentsia, and of the elite of the working class. In other words to deprive the minority of its leading strata and to weed out the more militant elements of the working class, so that the younger workers could not be helped to develop class consciousness.
The policy of forced unification was continued. Cultural centers as well as theaters were merged and the formerly independent Hungarian institution thereby became a section only. This way they usually reduced the possibilities of the institution by half (like number of performances, etc.) and brought them under total control preventing them from becoming a forum for any sort of self-defense. It was thus possible to assure the domination of the official Rumanian nationalistic spirit over these institutions. Village folk choirs were merged so that the bulk of their programs would naturally become Rumanian - even when they operated in a purely Hungarian region. Similarly the existence of a Hungarian group or institution provided a pretext to estabish Rumanian sections even where they had not existed before - in purely Hungarian communities. Thus it was possible to put these cultural institutions into the service of Rumanianization, the wave of which soon reached the Szekler region.
To the extent that the Rumanianization of Kolozsvar and other cities outside the Szekler land progressed and the obliteration of their Hungarian character succeeded the wave of repression turned gradually toward the Szekler land itself. The next step became the Rumanianization of this area. The first target was Marosvasarhely, and here the settlement of Rumanians began; then came the turn of the southern part of the Szekler land. The territorial-administrative reorganization of 1968 was the main tool of this policy. The counties were gerrymandered in such a way that the Hungarian Maros and Kovaszna counties were detached from the former autonomous region and by a suitable addition of territory were given a mixed population, the latter even a Rumanian majority (252,O00 Hungarians, 280,000 Rumanians). Thus, the disintegration was started on the two fringes. The nucleus of the Szekler land, Csik and Udvarhely counties, were merged into a single county, Hargita. The tactic was the same as it was in the establishment of the Hungarian Autonomous Region, that is to isolate the core and to denationalize larger and larger slices around it. (The Hungarian population of the territory corresponding to the Hungarian Autonomous Region was 643,000 in 1967: the Hungarian population of Hargita County was a mere 250,000.) To give an example for the composition of leadership in this reconstituted administrative units, among the Party secretaries of Maros county only one was Hungarian, the rest, including the first secretary were Rumanian. On the basis of the reorganization the leadership declared that in Rumania there were no minority regions, only regions with mixed population. Although as fact this was not true, it was an adequate summary of the goal of the official policy.
In the policy of Rumanianization, industrialization was always an important tool. We saw how it was used to settle only Rumanian workers in the cities outside the Szekler land, to create Rumanian majorities in them. Now, Rumanians were settled in the capital city of Szekler land, Marosvasarhely. At this time, the policy of Rumanianization had two aspects that are important to mention. One was that mixed marriage was generally and officially encouraged, with the aim of assimilation. A strong propaganda campaign began, and those opposing mixed marriages were accused of the time-tested charge of nationalism. This charge was clearly directed at Hungarian efforts to preserve their identity. For a long time now there had been no fight against any other nationalism but minority nationalism. This step, a new aspect of the country wide terror, merits special attention, because with it, the terror now entered private life as well. Te other aspect that must be mentioned is connected with publishing policy. This policy in effect suppressed authentic Hungarian literature. By subtle manipulation, the publishing of translated Rumanian works was made secretly the primary task of Hungarian book publishing in the country, naturally at the expense of original Hungarian works as the publishing houses operated under a restricted budget. The aim of this policy was to reform the intellectual and cultural attitude of the minorities, in such a way as to sever them from the culture of their own nation and in its stead implant the spirit of Rumanian culture in their own consciousness, thus altering their mind. The complete isolation from the publications and the press of Hungary thereby acquired a new, import. Denationalization finally invaded the innermost world of the individual, under the guise of the otherwise noble goal of cultural exchange between nationalities.
By 1968, therefore, the system of national oppression and cultural strangulation had been fully established. No bourgeois regime has ever produced anything like it. Nationality was to be restricted to mothertongue, deprived of any other content. A telltale sign of this goal is provided by the official terminology which speaks of "Hungarian speaking Rumanian writers". This term is again a fiction, but at the same time an exact formulation of the goal. In spite of repeated efforts the term has not taken root yet.
CONSOLIDATION: FROM 1968
1968 again brought a change, but only in the methods of carrying out the nationalistic line.
The preceding period was characterized by growing alienation from the Soviet Union, a sort of relative autonomy. This was a time of vigorously promoted national self-assertion in the name of autonomy, independence, and rapid economic development. These ideas fired the thought of national greatness, they provided the emotional stimulus to mobilize the majority nation. The initially covert anti-Sovietism became, in due time, official and overt. Occasional, more spectacular, conflicts kept it alive and stirred it up again and again. Remarkably, however, it always remained within bounds that did not harm the Soviet Union's more substantial interests. It remained essentially within the framework of press debates.
In 1963, however, when Rumania kept out of the invasion of Czechoslovakia and sharply condemned it, a somewhat new situation arose. No doubt it created a broad national consensus, and it increased the personal prestige of Ceausescu. At the same time, these steps made the position of the Rumanian Party leadership delicate, if not exactly dangerous. There existed the danger that they had overstepped the bounds acceptable to the Soviet Union, and that the response might be intervention in open acceptance of the challenge. The fact, however, that the fear of intervention ultimately proved groundless even emboldened the leadership. They broadened and consistently followed the policy, only in a much more circumspect way. More "autonomous" gestures were always followed and counter-balanced by suitable declarations and gestures of loyalty. And to a greater extent than previously they were careful not to actually harm the interests of the Soviet Union in any way, or to seriously disrupt its policy. This alternating tension with relaxation was ultimately paralleled by an increasing caution in internal policy.
One reason for this caution was that by the spring of 1968, nationality oppression (in spite of all the deprivation and defenselessness, indeed precisely because of it) finally sparked signs of resistance in the Hungarian minority. Passive resistance began to change to active forms, and definite tensions were perceptible in various regions of Transylvania. There were spontaneous demonstrations in several Transylvanian cities, and dissatisfaction began to be openly audible on other occasions as well. Lists of demands were formulated at various occasions, and Hungarian flags appeared in Szekler villages. Suggestive hints were dropped occasionally in public speeches. The situation was indeed beginning to become dangerous, and this was impermissible for the leadership, especially in the context of the international situation at the time. It could serve as a pretext for Soviet intervention. To defuse this danger and to shore up the internal base of the system, nationality policy would become more cautious Although they retained the methods, they transformed the elimination of the minorities from an immediate into a long-range goal. Instead of increasing the tension any further, they turned to the policy of alternating tension and relaxation here too. They granted concessions, then they revoked them, then reinstated them - this became the characteristic pattern. The level of oppression and deprivation was at least maintained or rather slowly increased. It is also true however, that the leadership became sensitive to pressures and to more determined protest actions - whether internal or external. Concessions were granted as a response, always in secondary matters, of course, without touching the fundamentals.
Due to internal pressure, they established Hungarian trade schools, then abolished them, then established them again. But they always carefully selected the trades where they were willing to offer some opportunity, and made sure that these schools functioned in an atmosphere of insecurity, to discourage parents from sending their children to such schools. A series of events in 1976 was characteristic of the effectiveness of external pressures. In the spring of that year, Hungarian Americans organized a demonstration in New York, and also tried to put pressure on American legislators, shortly before they were called upon to renew the "most-favored-nation!' tariff status for Rumania Its renewal was highly irnportant for the Rumanian leadership. not on1y for economic reasons but for reasons of prestige as well. As a resuit they granted concessions in the minority policy. They quickly nominated Hungarian rectors to the head of several institutions. This was a good opportunity to replace the chauvinistic nationalist, anti-Hungarian rector of Kolozsvar (Cluj) University who overplayed his hand in a recent press debate over Bessarabia that strained relations with the Soviet Union. If, however, they nominated a moderate to head a major institution, his deputy was sure to be one of the most spineless, servile Hungarian professors.
Alongside the concessions, other steps were taken to pretend the existence of minority rights but which - at a closer look - proved to be without significance. It was, however, possible to hold them up, as examples. Institutions came into existence with the purpose of averting disquiet by make-believe activity. The Council of Workers of Hungarian Nationality (A Magyar Nemzetisegi Dolgozok Tanacsa) was of this sort (as were the similar ones of the other nationalities). This organization has only a consultative character; it has no power and no right of decision in anything. In 1971 this council was permitted to come forward with public recommendations. It did put forward some, such as for bilingual signs, the teaching of certain subjects in the mother-tongue (history, geography, etc.), the supplying of technical books in Hungarian, and so on. Not a single one of them was implemented.
Every actual measure proves unambiguously that it serves only the purpose of window-dressing and manipulation.
By this time, the core of the Szekler land was also coming under attack, with the proven method of industrialization. Here there had scarcely been any industrial development previously; now they started it in Hargita and Kovaszna counties, and machine industry appeared alongside of timber and textile industry. And - of course - the massive influx of Rumanians. The alteration of the townscapes also continued. Several buildings were erected in Kolozsvar that broke the architectural harmony. In Kovaszna County they resumed the construction of the Rumanian (Eastern Orthodox) cathedral in Sepsiszentgyorgy that had been broken off in 1940. Moreover, they viewed this as a local task of national importance. Public contribu tions were solicited, and it is characteristic that the editor-in chief of the local Party paper was the first to make a donation, in the spirit of militant atheism: 2000 lei.
In 1972-73, Rumanianization was strictly enforced in Kovaszna County, with the help of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Rumanian priests pressured the Szekler peasants to convert to the Orthodox faith. Also very characteristic in this campaign was the fact that the leaders of the Orthodox Church prepared a comparison between the number of their believers in the county in 1938 and in 1972. They attributed the decrease to forced Magyarization. In fact, the difference was the result of the departure of the Rumanian administrative personnel in 1940. On the basis of this, a state (and not church) task force was formed, with the aim of collecting data. On the same occasion they let everyone in the 88 percent Hungarian county know: only Rumanian was to be spoken in offices, and the provision of the Constitution concerning language rights referred only to private life. They mobilized and blackmailed the principals of the Rumanian schools, saying that it would be neglect of duty on their part if the Hungarian families did not register their children in Rumanian schools.
All this hardly went beyond the adoption and utilization of classic bourgeois methods. Nevertheless, this national oppression (even in this period of a more cautious policy) used other methods, many times cruder and harsher than the classic bourgeois oppression.
One of the characteristically "socialist" methods was the innovation introduced at that time to sever almost completely the connections of minority individuals with their mother-country. An earlier method was to reduce foreign travel of Rumanian minorities by and means at hand. A Rumanian citizen had the right to travel abroad only once in every two years, whether to the West or to neighboring countries. The granting or rejection of requests, however, administered this "right" in such a way that citizens never knew why or when they would be granted or denied a passport. Often, for instance it was simply not possible to apply because the necessary forms were not available. This, however, was only a partial solution. The contacts still remained lively for Germans came freely into the country, and entry was, moreover, completely unhindered from neigh boring Hungary. Chiefly to put a stop to the latter, they in troduced the rule that foreign residents could stay only in hotels, or with the most immediate relatives - not with friends or more distant relatives. They started to enforce more rigorously the rule that every citizen who spoke with a foreigner had to inform the authorities of the content of the conversation.
The police, however, did not strive to punish violations - they did not want tensions - they were much more concerned with prevention, with ensuring observation of the rules. They also took care that foreigners, especially Hungarians did not visit at all such sensitive areas as, for example, the region of Moldavia inhabited by Hungarians. It was no coincidence that a folk-music researcher, who discovered abundant Hungarian traditions in this very region, was put in jail: on the fabricated charge of homosexuality!
It was a regular practice in this system of hedging on concessions, that every general measure was always given some sort of anti-minority cutting edge. Alluding to paper shortage they reduced the size of newspapers in 1974. Later, some of the Rumanian papers were returned parts of their allocations, but not the minority, the Hungarian papers. At the same time, they dismissed parts of the editorial staffs, and the selection was done on the basis of their degree of loyalty. This again strengthened the control. To increase the degree of control, the censors introduced a new type of intellectual terror. The previous standard was clear: permissible and prohibited subject matters were clearly defined, as were the opinions worthy of expression or silence and even the detailing of exact words that were forbidden to print. Now, however, they randomly rejected the most diverse articles without any justification: the editors were never able to find out why, what was permitted and what was not. They were kept in perpetual insecurity, prevented even to invent clever evasions and refined double talk. The result was that in 1975 everything that was interesting, that was good writing, disappeared from the minority papers. The minority papers thus began to lose their material function: their existence became more and more of a formality. Only book publishing still provided some balance.
The significant curtailment of the tour possibilities of the minority theaters may also illustrate the practice of cultural deprivation. Here, too, the basis of the deterioration in recent years was a general measure: the policy of economizing. The theaters were permitted to go only on tours that could at least break even. But in order for accommodation, transportation, and daily expenses to be met, 4-6 full houses were necessary. It was not possible to go where this could not be expected. Therefore, the more isolated Hungarian-inhabited communities, smaller towns like Medgyes, Segesvar were completely deprived of Hungarian theater culture. It is natural in itself that the application of a general provision always has to be modified according to the peculiarities of the nationality's existence. This was done in this case, as always in Rumania, not to the benefit of the minority, but to its detriment. In this way they took away the Kolozsvar theater's truck in 1975, so that it had to use rented transportation, with reduced gasoline ration - at the same time, they increased the gasoline ration of the Rumanian theater of neighboring Torda by exactly as much as they cut it back for the Hungarian theater.
To complete the picture, it is worth mentioning some data con- cerning libraries. In 1973, the Hargita County Hungarian newspaper wrote about the situation of libraries in the village of Gyergyoalfalu. The most recent handbook on agriculture was from 1953, and the library was not able to obtain any kind of specialized texts despite repeated requests. That this was not an isolated situation is similarly supported here by some data taken from the 70's. In the center of the region of Kalotaszeg, inhabited by Hungarians, of the library's 30,000 volumes, 5,471 were Hungarian; of the 7,531 volumes of the library in Torocko (1800 Hungarian, 133 Rumanian inhabitants), 3,228 were Hungarian. According to national statistics, with respect to the number of libraries, Kovaszna County was next to last (with 93 libraries), and it was last with respect to the number of volumes.
Regarding nationality policy as a whole, the objective of eliminating the various nationalities started just at this time to be equipped with a consistent strategy. For the Germans, this was "permission" to emigrate. The steady increase of oppression generated sufficient number of applicants. This was then used to gain material advantages from the Federal Republic of Germany. They would permit the emigration of the Saxon and Swabian population in proportion to the economic aid received. In reality, this was extortion, profiteering from the emigration of the nationality. International manipulations also played a role here - relations with Israel and the Soviet Union. But here too, the essenee of the po]icy was to have the Jews emigrate, to make the country "Jew free" and even profit from it through the imposition of a "head-tax". This policy was not a new invention: Hitler's Germany also let Jews out in return for a substantial ransom.
They tried this method on the Hungarians too. They would have gladly allowed them (especially the intelligentsia) to resettle in Hungary. However, as in consequence of the oppression, the demand for resettlement grew among the minority, Hungary refused to admit them, and thus this "solution" became impossible, as far as the Hungarians were concerned. There remained, however, the long-range policy of forced assimilation, keeping the pressure high enough to promote acquiescence but avoiding sudden tensions and the emergence of resistance.
As we have mentioned, Rumanian nationality policy in its efforts to liquidate the nationalities, went beyond the forms of oppression developed by bourgeois society. In order to break the solidarity and cohesion of the minorities, they sought, on the one hand, the elimination of the intelligentsia and the leading strata of the working class and, on the other, the dissolution of compact communities of the minorities. These two fundamental goals were served by both educational and economic policies.
|Witnesses to Cultural Genocide|