|Witnesses to Cultural Genocide|
KAROLY KIRALY (born 1930) is a former high-ranking official, of Hurgarian origin, in the Rumanian, Communist Party. His positions included alternate member of the Politburo until he resigned in 1972, Central Committee member until 1975, and Vice President of the Hungarian Nationality Workers Council until March 1978 when he was deprived of that post. In the summer and early fall of 1977, Kiraly sent the three letters which appear here to two Politburo members and a Central Committee member respectively, complaining bitterly of Rumania's oppressive minority policies and recommending certain improvements. His proposals were ignored and in early October, Kiraly was subjected to a series of police-style interrogations. As a result, he consented to the publication of his letters in the West and, during the last week of January 1975, reports of his protests appeared in major newspapers throughout the world. The Rumanian government responded by taking emergency measures to suppress the growing discontent among Hungarians in Transylvanira. who had learned of Kiraly's activities through Radio Free Europe. Hundreds of troops were deployed in Kiraly's hometown of Marosvasarhely and house-to-house searches were conducted to uncover any remaining copies of his letters. Though Kiraly himself was threatened with death and pressured to disavow his letters, he held his ground and was consequently exiled in February to the small town of Karansebes. Despite instructions to the contrary, on March 1, 1978, he granted an interview to three Western correspondents, during which he reiterated his protest. Since that time, though permitted to return to his hometown in October 1978, Kiraly has been held in complete isolation, and he and his friends have been subjected to intense, ongoing police harassment. Having sacrificed his career and risked his personal wellbeing - and perhaps his life - Kiraly remains steadfast in his refusal to withdraw or moderate the protest contained in the letters which follow.
LETTER FROM KAROLY KIRALY TO ILIE VERDET
DATED JUNE 2, 1977
Honorable Comrade llie Verdet,
I turn to you as the individual in the Party leadership who is responsible for supervising the Workers Councils of the various nationalities living in our country.
The issue I wish to raise concerns the activity of those Councils - specifically that of the Hungarian Nationality Council.
In view of the fact that from the moment it came into being, I have been Vice President of that Council and have participated in its work, I am equipped with a thorough and complete knowledge of the subject. For two years I have also been a member of the Mures County Council and have therefore been witness to local developments and to the manner in which a county council operates.
I am thus in a position to make some observations.
During the past few years, the work of the Councils has become more sporadic and mostly formalistic in nature, and its effect on the working people and contact with them has greatly declined. To this very day, the National (Hungarian Nationality) Council and most of the County Councils have no headquarters and do not schedule office hours. The Council executive committees ("bureaus") on both the national and county levels meet very rarely - once every year or every two years. At council meetings, only subjects of a general nature are discussed, relating to submissions of various declarations of the kind expressing solidarity with government positions, especially on international questions. But even if certain questions of a concrete nature do arise, as for example education in the native tongue, cultural activities and instruction, etc., the ques- tions remain unresolved.
For the past three years, statements made during meetings have been prefabracated and censored by comrades in the countv leadership and by Central Committee officials. This practice has led to the passivity and lack of interest of the participants; in this way, lively debate has been replaced by formalism. It is characteristic that even at these County Council meetings, but on the national level as well, the materials under discussion are printed in the Rumanian language, and statements by the participants are also in Rumanian.
Under such conditions, the prestige of these councils in the eyes of the people has become practically nonexistent. This situation, I feel, does not serve the interests of the Rumanian Communist Party and that purpose for which these councils were created.
In light of these remarks, careful analysis of the role and effectiveness of the councils is necessary along the following lines:
In my view, the council's plrogram of activities mst be urgently revised; it no longer meets the current demands, it is overly narrow in scope and does not provide opportunities for viable activity among workers of nationality origin.
The new program must have a charter defining a mass, community organization of a broad and democratic nature, with joining members receiving membership cards and paying membership dues.
1. In terms of structure, the principle of democratic centralism should be utilized with local chapters in villages and communities operating under the direction of committees and executive bureaus in cities and municipalities, whose leaders are all elected from the bottom up.
2. All of the governing bodies should be elected.
3. The Executive Committees should meet every month and the Councils every four months. Elections for council seats should be held every 4-5 years, and every five years a National Conference should be held. The subjects to be discussed should be freely selected by each local Council according to problems which arise in the course of everyday life, and those subjects should also be part of the schedule of activities issued every four months.
4. The councils should have a single charter approved by the National Conference. The existence of the entire program should be guaranteed by the Rumanian Communist Party leadership.
5. The councils should have offices operating in a continuous fashion.
6. The councils should have newspapers and periodicals of their own.
7. The councils should be allowed to organize public gatherings and cultural and sports events.
8. In accordance with the ultimate objective of the Rumanian Communist Party and in conformity with its program to build a socialist and communist society, the National, County and Local Councils should consider it their responsibility to mobilize workers of the various nationalities to accomplish their duties and objectives in the economic, social, cultural and athletic areas. Authorized by the Party, they [the councils] should keep constant watch to determine how the nationality policies of the Rumanian Communist Party are practically applied in the fields of culture use of the native tongue in administrative offices and public institutions, and in other areas. They should follow the progress of education in the native tongue at all academic levels. They should contribute in every possible way to the development of the spiritual welfare of the coinhabiting nationalities.
9. The councils should be given power to participate in the selection and promotion of leaders ("cadres") at all levels of the social and political structure.
10. The councils should participate, with their own candidates, in elections of legislators to the Grand National Assembly and in Peoples Council elections. They should be allowed to form a group from among their Representatives, which would have the power to introduce legislation.
11. The creation of a Nationality Statute can no longer be postponed (a Statute of this sort actually existed until 1948).
12. I believe that it would be desirable and practical for the National Council to maintain international contacts as do other public and patriotic organizations which are also part of the National Unity Front.
During the 10 years since these Councils came into being profound changes have occurred in the political and social life of the country. Every aspect of life has undergone significant transformation in terms of both quality and quantity, and accordingly, all of the basic documents of the State and Party have been duly modified.
The organizational charter of the Party has changed. Improvements have been made in certain provisions of the Constitution.
Some laws have been supplemented or repealed and in their place other. completely new ones have been enacted. Improvements have been made in the program of the National Unity Front, its organizational structure being revised to create the community councils.
It is therefore all the more difficult to comprehend why it was precisely the structure and program of the Nationality Councils whose improvement was not justified. Personally, I am convinced that the chief reason for this lies precisely in the passivity of these Councils. because their activity has sorely lagged behind the realistic demands of life and they have not kept pace during the past decade with the great and profound transformations which have occurred in the area of material and spiritual well-being. This is the reason they were unable to truly serve the development of unity and brotherhood between the Rumanian people and the coinhabiting nationalities.
Naturally, other problems also exist which need to be solved, but a prior solution of the above items would guarantee the proper organizational framework for viable, creative efforts and would serve to increase the prestige of these organizations, deepen confidence in the nationality policies of the Rumanian Communist Party, strengthen the trust of the national minorities and regenerate unity and brotherhood between all the workers regardless of nationality differences, a!l along the lines of our Party's Marxist-Leninist practical solution of the nationality question.
In recent times however, we have unfortunately been ever more often witness to cases where workers of varied nationality origin mistrust our Party's declarations of principle concerning solution of the nationality questions in our country. The peole expect practical measures serving the advancement of material welfare and above all the spiritual vitality of the coinhabiting nationalities, in harmony with those great changes which occurred in our socialist society in the material and spiritual welfare of the Rumanian people.
Untortunately in the practical reality of everyday society and politics, animosities abound and doubts are often expressed over the sincerity of certain Party and State officials because of the manner in which they solve the individual problems of the nationalities especially with respect to their cultural and educational affairs and use of the native tongue in Party offices, at Party conferences and at gatherings of a patriotic or public nature .
Unfortunately certaln Party and Steate officials of nationality origin also help to maintain this kind of unhealthy atmosphre. It does not serve the cause of unity and brotherhood when some of these ofiicials deny or avoid the expression of these sensitive questions which occupy the minds of workers of nationality origin.
In some cases, first secretaries, first vice-presidents, county secretaries in municipalities and cities and vice-presidents in the People's Councils, though of nationality origin themselves, use only the Rumanian language in their contacts with workers of nationality origin, letting them know in this way that perhaps someone prohibited them from using the native tongue and thus performing a disservice to the Party and the cause of unity and brotherhood among workers of different nationalities.
The people are justified when they accuse such officials of opportunism, insincerity, lack of courage and responsibility, and when they distrust them. Personally, I doubt that an individual who lacks the confidence of the nationality to which he belongs can be an effective Party or State official. It cannot be permitted for certain officials ["cadres"] of nationality origin not to know their own native tongue and nationality culture.
Not one nationality will tolerate someone else to speak for it simply because he declares himself to belong to that nationality but at the same time does not even speak their language either because he does not know it, or because he refuses to use it. As a consequence, he cannot feel, he cannot think as they do, because he shares no common spiritual bond with them.
Unfortunately, even at higher Party and State levels there are such officials, who, when they are sent to completely Hungarian-inhabited regions to explain certain aspects of Party or State policy, cannot do so for the above reasons and are therefore unable to complete their assignments.
It is my conviction that serious thought should be given to this situation, because life has indeed been deeply enriched with not only accomplishments but with unresolved problems as well.
It should be a great error to belive that all problems of this nature have solved themselves forever. Such a view would also be inconsistent with the Marxist dialectic.
Just as in connection with other, economic and socio-political problems of life, in solving the nationality question we must begin with the fact that even in this field there is room for the "still better", that grave deficiencies already exist and that solutions must be sought, requiring much sensitivity, tactfulness, skill in political judgment and good faith.
National sentiment is a sensitive question which must be treated with special attention; it is a question which relates to the quality of the nationality, and its solution cannot be measured in percentages as can industrial progress and results. National sentiment is equally powerful in all peoples, regardless of how large or small, once they possess their own national identity.
Honorable comrade Verdet, the raising of these questions and the search for solutions is always difficult - it calls for courage and responsibility. One who articulates these problems can be sure that his intentions will be misunderstood, especially under currently prevailing circumstances. He can count on being accused, indeed, on being called a variety of names, particularly at the time when these sensitive and specific questions are raised.
I am turning to you in the trust and belief that my intentions will be understood, especially because these problems are real and they are of concern to hundreds of thousand of people.
In light of the fact that the Hungarian nationality in Rumania is the largest nationality in our country - indeed, the largest in Europe - I believe that it should be treated with the care it deserves, so that this nationality (along with the other nationalities) will feel itself at home. Those principles must be consistently imp]emented which Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu stated in his March 1971 speech before the joint plenaris session of the Hungarian and German nationalities and which at that time, elicited widespread reaction and approval.
Unfortunately, this speech is seldom remembered today. On the contrary, there is continuous repetition of the proposition that the nationality question in our country has been finally, once and for all, solved. This proposition, from a practical standpoint, is not true and, from a theoretical standpoint, is anti-scientific and anti-dialectical. To support this thesis, industrialization and the guarantee of employment without regard to nationality differences are constantly cited. I completely agree with this, but only with this much, because the nationality question is a spiritual, and not only a material one. The primary aspect is the material, but it can only complement and enrich, not substitute for, the spiritua!.
To the extent that material well-being becomes increasingly enriched and more fully realized, social consciousness will grow and prosper accordingly. This applies equally to the consciousness of the coinhabiting nationalities in Rumania.
It is for this reason that I steadfastly adhere to a thorough, attentive, comradely and responsible examination of the question; in my opinion, we cannot do otherwise if we wish to avoid the serious headaches it will cause later on.
I have addressed these few thoughts to you with full confidence in the Rumanian Communist Party and its vise leadership and without the fear that their expression will result in undesirable consequences for the person who expressed them.
June 2, 1977
Most respectfully yours,
Karoly Kiraly National Vice President,
Nationality Workers Council in Rumania
LETTER FROM KAROLY KIRALY TO JANOS FAZEKAS,
WRITTEN IN AUGUST 1977
Dear Comrade Fazekas,
I herewith enclose a copy of my letter to Comrade Ilie Verdet. This letter contains my observations concerning the manner in which the nationality question in our country has been handled, together with my recommendations on the ways in which the activity of the different nationality council could be improved.
It is common knowledge that these councils were created at the initiative of the First Secretary of the Rumanian Communist Party, Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu for the purpose of serving the brotherhood and unity of the workers of various nationalities, as well as the building of socialism.
It is an unfortunate fact that in recent times the activity of these councils has declined to zero.
Many errors are committed in the practical handling of the nationality question.
a. This year again, opportunities are being constantly restricted for children of national minorities to study in their native tongue; this breeds anxiety and deep dissatisfaction;
b. The concept of restrictive quotas ["valachus numericus"] is utilized with respect to personnel problems; in fact, employment opportunities for nationalities are being restricted in certain institutions;
c. Unpardonably extreme methods of intimidation are employed against those who dare to ask for permission to speak in the interest of having the nationality question handled legally and in accordance with the Constitution.
As you know, there was also violence and torture; the harassment of Jeno Szikszai, the eminent professor from Brasso, drove him to commit suicide. It is unbelievable that even after the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Rumanian Communist Party in 1968, when the state security organs condemned the atrocities committed against Patrascanu and others, the same kinds of negative incidents are allowed to reoccur, and the offenders are allowed to walk about freely without so much as being asked to account for their actions. I have mentioned only one example, though unfortunately, many more could be cited. I cannot believe that all this occurs with the knowledge of the Party leadership.
I greatly regret having to do so, but I must state that an entire series of incidents, facts and activities exists which have nothing in common with Marxist-Leninism, the principles which form the basis of the Rumanian Communist Party's programs.
What is most distressing is the fact that local Party and State organs try to cover up, to gloss over the facts, as if they were completely lacking in sensitivity toward such thorny problems as the nationality question or the national sentiments of the coinhabiting nationalities.
I am turning to you, because you are active in the highest levels of Party and State leadership, and I ask that you be so good as to call these problems to the attention of the Political Executive Committee .
Hungarian Nationality Council of the
Socialist Republic of Romania
LETTER FROM KAROLY KIRALY TO JANOS VINCZE
DATED SEPTEMBER 10 1977
To Comrade Janos Vincze,
Member of the Central Committee,
Rumanian Communist Party
My Dear Friend,
Anxiety and concern compel me to write to you about the manner in which the nationality question has been handled in our country of late, and how the Nationality Workers Councils on both the national and county levels are performing their work.
More than three months ago, I wrote to Comrade Verdet concerning various aspects of the nationality question, and, as you know, I raised the problem at the most recent meeting of the Central Committee, as well as the Spring session of the Maros County Council. In addition, several members of the Central and County Councils have also voiced their observations, criticisms and proposals. As for myself, it has been more than a year since I asked to be heard by the Supreme Party Leadership.
To my deep disappointment, neither have I been granted a hearing, nor has my letter been answered in any manner whatsoever .
I would like to share with you some of my thoughts and concerns with regard to this subject.
First I would mention the problem in connection with these Nationality Councils, which consists of the manner in which they perform their activities. It is well known that the Party resolution adopted ten years ago to establish these Councils was accepted and greeted enthusiastically by millions of workers of the various nationalities in our country. They considered it a well thought out and responsible act which would serve the preservation of their national identities, provide an organizational framework through which they could voice their various problems and complaints, and advance the development of their social, material and intellectual well-being.
Although from the very beginning the organizational structure as well as the rules of operation of the Councils proved narrow and inadequate, encouraging signs did appear in their activity: at meetings it was permitted to speak freely and openly; of the numerous proposals raised a good many were considered; there were also some plenary sessions which were attended by Comrades Ceausescu and Maurer, and so on. The speech given by Comrade Ceausescu at the Spring 1971 joint plenary session of the Nationality Councils was met with lively enthusiasm and deep satisfaction. Unfortunately the satisfaction and the hope were shortlived.
In practice it became clear that these beautiful speeches, incor- porating so many sound principles, were not made for our sake, but to serve the purposes of propaganda, especially propaganda directed abroad.
It is commonly known that real truth becomes manifest in its lasting vitality, in the total harmony between words and deeds. We are compelled to state that the chasm between theory and practice is vast and that in reality, while one thing is said, entirely different things are done.
We were promised new secondary vocational and technical schools in which studies were to be conducted in the languages of the nationalities, but in reality we have witnessed a decline in the number of these schools. Each year there are fewer and fewer of them. Children cannot study in their native tongue; compulsory instruction in the Rumanian language has been introduced even at the kindergarten level. In 1976 a decision was born to eliminate Hungarian institutions of higher education. After the "Bolyai" [already largely denationalized] University in Kolozsvar came the Institute of Medicine and Pharmacology at Marosvasarhely, and then, by special order from above, a Rumanian section was established at the Istvan Szentgyorgyi School for the Dramatic Arts, thereby liquidating in effect the last island of higher education in a nationality tongue; and - just to eliminate any remaining doubt concerning the latter move - of the six Hungarian graduates of the School for the Dramatic Arts, only one was appointed to a Hungarian theater, while the remaining five - whether they liked it or not - were placed in Rumanian theaters.
It is no secret of course that the Hungarian State Theater of Marosvasarhely has a Rumanian director who does not speak Hungarian. In the same way, it is nothing new that in cities where the majority of the population is Hungarian - such as Nagyvarad, Marosvasarhely, Szovata, etc. - Rumanians who speak no Hungarian are being appointed as mayors.
Use of the native tongue is severely restricted at meetings of the Party, the Young Communists League, the trade unions, and in the various workers Councils; indeed, use of the native tongue is prohibited even at meetings of the Nationality Workers Council.
Signs identifying institutions, localities and so on in the native tongue of the local inhabitants have almost completely disappeared. In 1971 when I was First Party Secretary in Kovaszna County, we posted bilingual Rumanian and Hungarian signs there, in accordance with a decree of the County People's Council. But their existence was shortlived. The signs were simply removed, and by 1975, not a single locality was identified in Hungarian.
Nationalities cannot use their native tongues even in State offices; after all, most of the officials are Rumanians who do not speak the nationality's language, either because they do not know it or because they refuse to use it.
With regard to the question of personnel, the replacement of Hungarian officials (where there still are any) with Rumanians is being carried out with incredible persistence. This applies equally to the politico-administrative apparatus and to the various economic and industrial enterprises. In Marosvasarhely at the "I.P.L. August 23" works, or at the Chemical Factory - to mention only two examples, not a single director or deputy director is Hungarian; in spite of the fact that measures had been initiated "to improve the nationality composition of the personnel". I don't even wish to think of such cities as, for example Nagyvarad, where there is not a single Party secretary of Hungarian nationality.
It is clear from only this much that a multitude of factual realities violate the Constitution, the founding Charter of the Party and the fundamental principles set down and provided for in Party documents. What is occurring in practice is not in harmony with the principles in these documents - indeed, what is more, it completely contradicts them - and has nothing in common with Marxist-Leninism, fundamental human rights, humanism, or ethical behavior and human dignity; that is, all that which is trumpeted far and wide in the most varied kinds of propaganda.
These facts give rise to many questions which are not at all difficult to answer; what is difficult to understand however, is: who benefits from all of this?
Will such measures truly contribute to the unity and brotherhood of the peoples living in this homeland? Is this not a policy of chauvinistic provocation? There can be but one reply: all of this in no way benefits either the Rumanian people or the coinhabiting nationalities.
Has the lesson of history been so soon forgotten that a people which oppresses other peoples cannot itself be free? Experience and history teach us that coercive measures do not lead to the solution of problems.
The tendency to forcefully assimilate nationalities living in Rumania is - this cannot be denied - also revealed by the press at times, and this creates total distrust in nationality policies; indeed, it casts doubt over the sincerity of all policies in general, and for millions of citizens, it destroys their confidence in Socialist Society.
What concerns me the most at this time is the obstinacy with which this problem is ignored by our Party organs; from the lowest level to the highest, they act as if they were totally unaware of it. My own personal efforts, as well as those of others, to draw their attention to it, have thus far remained fruitless. And the situation continues to deteriorate, to the detriment of the prestige of our Party and Society.
I am writing to you with a deep sense of responsibility, as I am one of those Communists who is convinced of the truth of our ideals. I have fought for these ideals since my tender youth, and later, as a member of the Supreme Party and State Leadership as well.
The nationality question is a touchstone of democracy; it is an intrinsic element of the democracy which exists in the society as a whole. Without the just and real, not only verbal, solution of the nationality question, democracy in general cannot exist, and the new Society, the Socialism which we all want cannot be built up.
Our Supreme Leadership must analyze these problems very seriously. Unless it does so, the Leadership itself will make the entire existence of democracy within our Party and our society, questionable
It is not society which is bad, nor is it the socialist system which must be faulted, but the methods used by the Leadership. It is necessary to illuminate the grave errors which are being com- mitted in the interpretation of Marxist-Leninism and in the ap- plication of the fundamental principles established by the Party.
We must renounce policies based on demagogy, the personality cult and the capricious application of Marxism. Only in this way can we achieve a proper, just and democratic solution of all those questions which reality has created in our Socialist Society.
As it has been proven, at no time and in no place has the personality cult ever led to any good. On the contrary. it has heen the source of great sufferlng and pain. as well as the cause of political abuses, because the masses have always rejected it, re- gardless of the masks it wore or the excuses made for it.
My dear Comrade Vincze, I ask you to forward the enclosed letter, which I had addressed to Comrade Ilie Verdet and intended for the Supreme Leadership, to the members of the Politburo. It would be very useful if the Politburo discussed the issues raised in the letter, because, perhaps in this way, our Surpeme Leadership would wake up to the truth and take the appropriate actions.
We nationalities - Hungarians, Germans, Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and so on - feel a deep respect for the Rumanian people and wish to live in harmony with them.
I personally have thousands of friends and relatives of the Rumanian nationality; my son-in-law is Rumanian, and I love him just as much as my other relatives and friends with whom I have worked, shoulder to shoulder, for the building of the new Society. I want our common home to develop, grow strong and prosper, and it is for this reason that I am writing to you with such sincerity and courage. It is my conviction that this matter is common to us all, that it is the duty of every one of us to critically examine the negative phenomena, and that such phenomena cannot be viewed through rose-colored glasses, regardless of whether they are of an economic or social nature, or even if they derive from the co-existence of workers of the various nationalities. It would be a pity if all that would collapse which we, Rumanians and the other nationalities, built up with hard work in the decades following the Liberation. After all, this country is the common home of all of us, and we love her as a good mother. We must do all we can to prevent her from becoming a cruel stepmother to any one of her children, regardless of his nationality.
Marosvasarhely; Szeptember 10, 1977
|Witnesses to Cultural Genocide|