[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [HMK Home] THE NATIONALITIES PROBLEM IN TRANSYLVANIA 1867-1940

Chapter IV

Primary Education of the Hungarians

The Hungarians under Romanian rule were forced to defend their culture during the entire period. All the successive Romanian regimes after the signing of the Treaty of Trianon assumed a uniformly negative and forbidding attitude towards Hungarian culture. The Hungarians had to resort to complex defense mechanisms, for the Romanian regimes strove to repress Hungarian culture in roundabout ways, with the help of a variety of devices, because of foreign policy considerations. Thus there were many contradictory utterances and measures, as regards policies on education and other cultural issues, making it difficult for us to survey the cultural predicament of the Hungarians or to provide a clear outline of their cultural progress. Nevertheless, the basic principles involved are clearly identifiable; with guidance provided by what actually took place, we can offer a description of twenty years of cultural struggle and history of the Hungarians who came under Romanian domination in 1919.

Hungarian Denominational Schools: the Primary Schools

As mentioned, those in charge of the cultural policies of the Hungarian state in the period of the Compromise allowed the denominational schools to assume the leading role in education, whether in Hungarian or in some other language. Seventy-two percent of all schools in the areas which came under Romanian rule with the occupation of 1919 were either denominational or communal, and only 28% were public. As regards the language of instruction in these areas which we will designate as Transylvania, for short - 44.7% of all schools were Romanian, and 48.4% Hungarian. 1 The Romanians were at a 996 disadvantage, whereas the Hungarians had a 17% advantage in relation to the population ratios. In other words, in about 800 villages instruction took place in Hungarian, whereas in all the other villages instruction was in the local language. About 600 Hungarian communities had only a public school, but no denominational school.



Naturally, the language of instruction in the public schools of villages with a Romanian majority became Romanian when the new regime was introduced. On the other hand, on the basis of the principles advocated during the first period of Romanian rule, it seemed equally natural that instruction should take place in Hungarian in villages with a Hungarian majority.

Indeed, encouraging promises had been uttered regarding the future of Hungarian culture. The first important promise was contained in point 1 of section 3 of the decisions of December 14, 1918. The leaders of the Romanians who lived formerly under Hungarian rule declared through this point "that every nation was entitled to its own education... in its own language... to be taught by individuals chosen from its midst." It was this principle that prevailed in circular number 1 issued by Ladislau Goldis on December 29, 1918. As the chief of the education department of the Governing Council of Sibiu, Goldis informed the officials of the Hungarian churches "that in areas already united to Romania the ecclesiastic, educational, or cultural contacts of these authorities with the Hungarian republican government and the Hungarian authorities will cease." He requested the leaders of the churches to turn to the department of religion and education of the Governing Council in all matters affecting the schools. "We are determined," asserted Goldis, as a matter of basic principle, "to conduct these affairs in the most democratic and liberal spirit, as would be consistent with the decisions of the National Assembly of Alba Iulia.',

The above promise and application of the decisions of Alba Iulia was consonant with the opinions of the Romanian teachers and professors in the territories attached to Romania. The basic principles of Romanian cultural policies were set at the joint conference of these teachers and professors on December 2, 1918 and January 20, 1919 at Sibiu. 2 As mentioned, these basic principles were indeed liberal and democratic. Therefore, if these principles were to be carried out in practice, the Hungarians of Transylvania had nothing to fear as regards the future of their culture.

In the period of the Governing Council the spirit of the decisions of Alba Iulia did indeed prevail in most matters affecting the schools. Soon Goldis was replaced as head of the department of education by Valeriu Braniste. Braniate openly stated that the government intended to satisfy the cultural requirements of the Hungarian population by means of the Hungarian denominational schools. Accordingly, by his directive 15.673/1919 he agreed, at least in theory, that the Hungarian churches would establish new schools as needed, and where the premises


or equipment of the public schools can be spared these would be turned over for the purposes of the denominational schools.

The Hungarian churches were most pleased by this directive. The Governing Council had declared, in principle, that the community and royal military schools will henceforth be considered state schools in which, in general, the language of instruction would be Romanian. Hungarian may be allowed here and there, but only temporarily and by way of exception. Hence Hungarian student bodies and teachers had to rely on the churches for their educational needs and for job placement.

Under the new circumstances the churches decided that they would once again set up denominational schools wherever they had surrendered the maintenance of schools in the period of the Compromise but had retained the right of ownership. Using Braniste's directive as a starting point it would be possible to use the school buildings for the new denominational schools. As we have seen, there were over 200 schools involved: in the period of the Compromise the Reformed Church had turned over 170 schools to the Hungarian state on lease and use, and the Unitarians had turned over 38. They had retained their clear right of ownership usually through a contract.

Braniste 's understanding attitude was soon to undergo modification. In the academic year 1919-20 he no longer allowed the use of these school buildings, and considered them Romanian state property. The difficulties affecting the denominational school began in that year 1919- 20. The number of schools open was well over the number in operation in 1918. On the basis of the directive of the Governing Council the Reformed Church had added 319 to their 322 primary schools, and the Unitarians had organized 23 in addition to their 26. Thus the Hungarian churches took advantage of the promises and permission of the Governing Council.

Certain points of the so-called Minorities Treaty signed on December 19, 1919, seemed to enhance the liberal policies of the Governing Council. Articles 9, 10, and 11 of this treaty ensured the establishment of schools and educational institutions with Hungarian as the language of instruction for the benefit of Hungarian-speaking Romanian citizens. In Article 11 Romania even allowed the Szekelys of Transylvania autonomy in matters of education.

Thus the Hungarians of Transylvania had every reason to look forward to 1920. On the one hand, because the imminent peace treaty was expected to put an end to the transitional period and, on the other hand, because both the decisions of Alba Iulia and their application in cultural matters, and the relevant points of the Minorities Treaty


reinforced the expectation that the cultural life of the Hungarians now under Romanian rule would encounter no difficulties. The leaders of the Hungarian churches and Hungarian public opinion all shared this expectation.

But 1920 brought decisive changes in Hungarian cultural affairs. For one thing, the Governing Council of Sibiu was dissolved by the Romanian government of Bucharest. Secondly, it was the beginning of the process by which the Romanian public schools were to multiply and the denominational schools decrease in number and encounter repression.

The Romanian government of Bucharest entertained entirely different principles as regards educational policies. These principles ~, entailed, first of all, an increase in the number of public schools and were unfavorable to the prospects of the Hungarian denominational schools. From 1920 the regimes in Bucharest did everything in their power to diminish the number of Hungarian denominational schools and to stultify instruction in Hungarian.

In the meantime, some Romanian leaders in Transylvania also turned about against the spirit of the decisions taken at Alba Iulia and the application of it by the Governing Council. This about-face focused primarily on the issue of Hungarian denominational schools, so central to Hungarian culture. A professor of the Romanian University of Cluj stressed in an article in the daily Patria that the Hungarian state had repressed the culture of the non-Hungarian ethnic groups and therefore, as regards cultural development, the Hungarians must wait until the Romanians are able to catch up with them. 3 In practice this thesis meant that the Romanian government must adopt measures to hamper Hungarian cultural development.

Once this demand had been sounded the objective of the Romanianization of the non-Romanian population soon began to appear. The end of the school-year 1919-20 signaled the end of the spirit of the Alba Iulia. In October even the Patria of Cluj began to stress the objective of Romanian assimilation in the schools.

The new school-year also has to confront the difficult task of embarking courageously and unhesitatingly to find the solution to the vital issues affecting our nation. Namely, the many heterogeneous elements which border so many areas of Greater Romania must be assimilated into a unified national sentiment, way of thought and speech. 4


The application of such an objective did not augur well for the Hungarian denominational schools.

The first great difficulty confronting the Hungarian denominational schools was the matter of finances. As discussed, during the Compromise period the churches maintained the primary schools partly out of their own resources, partly thanks to government subsidies. Government subsidies applied equally to Hungarian and Romanian schools. The majority of the primary schools administered by the Romanian churches received government subsidies, the faithful contributing only minimally towards their maintenance. Hungarian schools also enjoyed state support until the very end. In 1920 it seemed that the Romanian government would take over this tradition established by the Hungarian government. At the time the Averescu government allotted 20 million lei for assistance to denominational schools, some of which went to the old Hungarian secondary denominational schools. New denominational schools established after 1918, and primary schools received no assistance. The financial situation of the churches at the time made it clear that if the Romanian government did not continue the Hungarian government's policy of subsidies, the maintenance of the denominational schools of the Hungarian churches would run into the greatest difficulties. All the more so, as the Hungarian churches could no longer maintain their schools from their own financial resources since most of their estates had been confiscated on the grounds of land reform.

The realization of the objective of converting the denominational schools into public schools began already under the Averescu regime. At the beginning the Minister of Education, D. Negulescu, targeted the Romanian denominational schools of Transylvania. The leaders of the Romanian churches rejected these initial attempts with contempt. Then Negulescu resorted to economic reprisals, refusing requests to subsidize these schools. Then the teachers at the Romanian denominational schools called a grand assembly and brought about a resolution requesting the conversion of the denominational schools into public schools. This issue was debated by the ministerial council meeting held on November 3,1921. At the proposal of the Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, Octavian Goga, they decided to set up a commission whose charge would be to propose a law regarding the nationalization of schools. The eventual nationalization, based upon this proposal, took place under the regime of the ministry of Anghelescu.

Soon after the conversion of Romanian denominational schools into public schools, measures were taken to diminish the number of Hungarian denominational schools. "There are quite a few Hungarian


schools in Transylvania," noted Octavian Prie in this connection, outlining Romanian educational policies. The former under secretary took up the cudgels in favor of nationalization in a series of articles. According to him the state should make it difficult to maintain denominational schools, and the easiest way to do this would be to deny subsidization. Should the Hungarian denominational schools be denied subsidies they would fold up everywhere except in areas with a Hungarian majority. In those villages where the Hungarians were in a minority they would not be able to muster sufficient financial power to maintain their schools, which would gradually decline and be replaced by Romanian public schools. 5

Indeed, very many Hungarian denominational schools closed down as a result of the denial of state subsidies; yet the Romanians were not satisfied with the number of schools closing down for financial reasons. Then Anghelescu, who was to become the notorious Minister of Education from the Liberal Party, promoted various measures to initiate a further decrease in the number of Hungarian denominational schools. On the one hand, he limited the number of students by decreeing that the denominational schools could not register students from a different religion or a different ethnic group. On the other hand, the schools were forced to close down because of the serious financial problems confronted by the teachers, and by the strictest application of the rules regarding the adequacy of the equipment at the schools and the condition of the school-buildings. Where no legal excuses could be found, he ordered the schools closed down without an explanation. Thus hundreds of Hungarian denominational schools had to close down in 1923 and 1924. The Reformed schools at Ghirolt, Somcuta Mare, Sardu, Riu Barbat, Taga, Lisnau, Delureni, Arduzel and 30 other localities were closed down because of insufficient enrollment. Everyone knew, however, that this insufficiency came about because in these communities the children were forced to transfer into Romanian state schools. On the other hand, the school at Aranyoscsopolyan was closed down because it had too many students who could not be accommodated in the school classroom. At Tusnad the Roman Catholic school was refused permission to continue to operate because originally its building had been rented from the community. The schools at Dumbravioara Brad, Zimbor, Rascruci, Tulla, and Tibou were found wanting without explanation. At Iliora the school was ordered closed because of inadequate equipment. At Nicolesti and Birzava the schools were closed down because the teachers were accused of anti-Romanian irredentism. The schools at Arinis and Razbuneni were closed down because the instructors were clergymen. Closing down the schools at Ocna Mures, Baraolt, and Tirnaveni was


justified on the grounds that they were coeducational. According to the report of the Presidential Council of the Reformed District of Transylvania on education in 1923, many of the schools were closed down during the summer vacation or at the beginning of the school- year. The government did not even bother to justify these closings.

Fifteen schools in the county of Trei-Scaune were ordered closed by a decree with the following text:

We respectfully inform you that the Minister has decreed by his directive 90127/1927 that the denominational schools in the following communities be closed immediately: Eresteghin, Moacsa, Dalnic, Covasna, Pachia, Bratesti, Tufalau, Bita, Sfintu Gheorghe, Reci. The right of the parishes to maintain schools i6 hereby withdrawn.

Since these communities were located in the purely Hungarian Szekely region, the official ecclesiastic publication commented: "The objective of the school administration, to stifle and annihilate our denominational schools, especially in the purely Hungarian areas, becomes clear from this directive." Purely Hungarian communities in other areas suffered a similar fate as well. The report makes special mention of the case of the school at Turea [Ture]. This school was recognized by the Cluj office of the Ministry of Education by its directive 10,644/921, and its operation authorized. At the same time the school premises were confiscated for the purposes of a Romanian public school. Therefore the church was forced to temporarily close the denominational school in the school-year 1921-22 until it was able to secure a building permit from the school authorities, construct a new building, and equip it for school purposes. After the construction was completed the church authorities tried to open the denominational school, but the state made this impossible. "Sheriff, inspector, and mayor intervened jointly against the school, as a result of which the school is still in recess to this day." 6

At Ratin the school had to be closed down because the school- building was confiscated along with the lot of land. At Varsolt the district sheriff took over one of the classrooms of the denominational school as an office space, upon written instructions from the prefect. At Cernatu de Jos [Alsocsernaton] the house of the teacher was requisitioned by the gendarmes. It also happened that the premises of a Hungarian denominational school were taken over as a dance hall. Gusztav Majlath, the bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Transylvania, received directive 89,477 on September 26, 1924,


regarding Roman Catholic schools of Ciuc. The Minister ordered the church to build new schools at Casinunou, Cetatea Ciceului, Siculeni, and Tolgyesrecefalva. It also ordered the retirement of the teachers at Toplita-Ciuc, Ditrau, Cetatea Ciceului, and Casinu Nou. Moreover, the bishop was ordered to hand over the schools at Cirta, Cetatea Ciceului, Simleu, Csomahaza, Santimreu, Singeorgiu, Dragu, Sinsimion, Paiesii de Jos, Cetauia, Lazarea and Hodosa, to the state. 7 As in the case of schools of the county of Trei-Scaune, Anghelescu did not feel obliged to justify the measures regarding the schools in Ciuc. On the other hand, in Tufalau, the presbiter of the Reformed District of the county Trei- Scaune, learnt by the order of the superintendent of education number 1165, received on January 13, 1924, that the president of the school district ordered the school closed "because it does not meet the requirements." In many other cases, in response to the complaints filed by the Anglo-American church committees, the Romanian government justified closing down the schools on the grounds that the state already had a school with a Hungarian section. Whatever the justification, the objective was always the closing down of Hungarian denominational schools.

Further Hungarian schools were closed down on the basis of the well-known legislation initiated by Anghelescu in 1924-25. Later, when the Liberal regime was succeeded by other regimes, schools were closed down less frequently. Then it became more a matter of hampering the operation of existing schools and rejecting requests for the establishment of new schools. From 1933 to 1937, at the time of Anghelescu's second ministership, the number of Hungarian denominational schools diminished once again. The clique around Anghelescu oppressed the Hungarian schools with even greater zeal and ordered them closed down on various excuses. The most obvious such episode was the closing down of the Roman Catholic primary school at Ghelinta, in the county of Trei-Scaune. This school had been built on a lot which the administration of the community had ceded to the Catholic diocese "forever" for the sake of building a Catholic school. The building had three classrooms, an assembly hall, a teacher's residence, and various annexes. The Roman Catholic parish had always maintained the school out of its own resources. In these well-maintained classrooms some 280 Roman Catholic pupils received instruction. But the Romanian governor of the county of Trei-Scaune came to the conclusion, in 1934, that the population of the community was of Romanian origin, and therefore activities aimed at re-Romanianizing the population had to be undertaken without delay Then the administrative conspiracy to close down the Catholic school got underway.


The physician of the district visited the community at the head of a committee and determined that the classroom did not meet the health requirements, hence had to be closed down. In fact, he had the entrance sealed right away. The administration of the school and the representatives of the church all protested against the absurd decision. Then a fresh committee was dispatched, which also found much to criticize. The superintendent of schools proposed that the school be closed, although he made no mention of health hazards in his report. The head physician of the county, who came to visit the school later, determined officially that there could be no fault from a hygienic point of view. Nevertheless, the school was closed down. The officials appealed the illegal closure and the teachers began to register pupils at the beginning of the following school-year, but the gendarmes intervened, barred the teachers from the school, and the prosecutor's office initiated proceedings against the Catholic principal for having violated the seal placed on the school entrance. The Romanian court absolved the principal. The land registry authorities launched a suit against the school regarding the usufruct of the land, and requested the deletion of the right of usufruct. Before the suit came up for trial the Romanian chief county official issued an order to raze the building to the ground. Ten days later the school-building, appraised at 270,000 lei, was destroyed, the materials and the equipment sold for 10,000 lei. The local Romanian public school purchased 79 benches for its own pupils. The case was criticized at the meeting of the council of the Roman Catholic diocese by Elemer Gyarfas, member of the Senate, who added that unfortunately this was not an isolated incident. The general assembly of the diocese:

learnt with deep sorrow and astonishment of the excesses of certain lower authorities which hurt the prestige of the church, endangered public safety and was contrary to law; the obvious aim of these excesses being the gradual elimination of denominational primary schools. 8

In 1936 and 1937 many schools in the Szekely region were closed down completely illegally, on various excuses. The Unitarian school at Maiad, in Mures county, was closed down by directive 22,668 in 1938, simply because it exhibited "an inappropriate attitude" towards the state. This charge stemmed from an interesting incident. The school at Maiad did not have accreditation hence, at the end of the school-year, Virgil Barbulescu, the local Romanian teacher, administered the examinations, in accordance with Romanian law. Eronim Puia, the


Romanian superintendent, witnessed these examinations. When the results were announced, it turned out that five students had failed. The leadership of the Unitarian school took cognizance of the fact. But a month and a half later the examining entities issued a fresh report according to which, contrary to their earlier determination, not five but eighteen students had failed. Everyone in the community was aware that the true purpose of this maneuver was to deprive the denominational school of students. Therefore the administration of the Unitarian School registered the students who had been flunked the second time around for the new school year, considering that the revised results were illegal. This was the incident that elicited the order to close down the school.

The above measures taken by various regimes resulted in a considerable decrease in the number of Hungarian denominational schools. Thus, of the 1104 Hungarian denominational schools operating at the end of 1920 there remained but 818 in 1928, and further decreases occurred in subsequent years. According to the reports from the deacons there were 39 schools in the purely Hungarian Odorheiu county in 1919-20, whereas there remained but 15 in 1928 - in other words, a decrease of 61.6% in eight years. The decrease in the number of schools in the Szekely counties exceeded by far the decrease in other areas. In the entire Szekely region as a unit, the number of Reformed schools decreased from 153 to 101 and of Catholic schools, from 128 to 92 in the 1922-37 period. Twenty-one of the 45 Unitarian Schools closed down in the same period. Roughly speaking, about 600 Hungarian denominational schools were closed under the Romanian regime.

The Students

The number of students attending Hungarian denominational schools diminished proportionately to the number of schools. This decrease was also due to the measures brought about by the educational authorities. Freedom of instruction for Hungarian children in Romania ceased as a result of the directives issued between 1922 and 1924, the Act on Primary Education in 1924, and the Act on Private Education of 1925. Pupils could be admitted to Hungarian schools only within the narrow limits set by these legal measures. Even before the law on primary education was adopted in 1924 Anghelescu obtained, by means of special measures, that the Hungarian denominational schools could admit only students who were considered to be of Hungarian back- ground by the Romanian authorities. Paragraph 8 of the Act on Primary Education states that "those citizens of Romanian background


who had lost the usage of their mother tongue must nevertheless send their children to public or private schools where the language of instruction is Romanian." 9 On the basis of these measures tens of thousands of Hungarian children were forced to attend primary schools with Romanian as the language of instruction, hence freedom of instruction ceased to exist for them. As it soon turned out, the provisions of this paragraph proved a valuable tool in the hands of adept Romanian faculty for the closing of denominational schools and forcing Hungarian children into Romanian schools, inasmuch as it lay within the purvey of the principal of the local Romanian public school to determine who was or was not of Romanian background. According to paragraph 19 of the Act, parents who wished to send their children to private schools recognized by the state were required to state their intention to this effect, in writing, to the local school authorities. In practice this requirement meant that the principal of the public school had to determine the ethnic origins of the child concerned. If the principal felt that the ethnic background of the child concerned was questionable from a Romanian point of view, he could refuse to issue the certificate that would enable the parents to register their child in a denominational school. The difficulties in obtaining this certificate, the so-called Dovada, often became insurmountable. Yet without it a Hungarian child could not be registered in a Hungarian school, because if the parents did that, the principal of the public school would declare the child truant and the parents would be obliged to pay a heavy fine in accordance with the stipulations of the law.

One of the greatest fears experienced by the Hungarian students during the Romanian regime was that the principal of the public school would decide that they were not of Hungarian background and then would force them to attend a public school. Indeed, the name analysis carried out by the public school authorities always took place according to the needs of the local school. If the public school did not have sufficient enrollment then, according to the confidential instructions received from the superintendent, the denominational school had to be depleted of students and the majority of Hungarian children, in spite of all proof to the contrary, would be declared of "Romanian ethnic origin." This name analysis was applied particularly in the case of Roman Catholic children but, after 1933, it was applied to children of all religions in the Szekely areas. For instance, the Borbat, Farkas, Kovacs, Kadar, Beke, Molnar and other families were declared of Romanian background. The children of these families were not allowed to register at denominational schools.


For a while the parents concerned tried to ensure freedom of instruction for their children via the courts. Thus the court was called upon to determine their Hungarian ethnic background. So it happened in the case of Gergely Borcsa, Roman Catholic teacher at the high school of Miercurea Ciuc. 10 The Romanian superintendent Ghirca, barred Borcsa's daughter from the denominational school since, according to him, she was of Romanian background. Her father appealed to the Minister of Education, while at the same time challenging the ministerial measure in a suit in front of the court of appeals. In the suit he referred to his hereditary title obtained in 1700. The court of appeals took the side of Borcsa, as did the Romanian Supreme Court. 11 But their decision, which had theoretical significance, did not entail a halt to the practice of name analysis.

When the Hungarian children could not be declared of Romanian background by any stretch of the imagination, the principals of the Romanian schools resorted to other means for barring Hungarian children from the denominational schools. According to the prescriptions the parents had to declare their intention of sending their child to a denominational school during the period September 1 through 10. It often happened that during this selfsame period the principal of the public school was not at home, or stayed away from home until September 11. At that time, of course, he could no longer issue a certificate allowing the child to register at a denominational school. In other instances the principal was at home, but refused to issue the certificate using various excuses. For instance, he would expect, instead of oral declaration, a statement written in Romanian. Of course, the parents could not write in Romanian, so they had to leave and ask some acquaintance to help them out. But they may have forgotten to paste a stamp on the statement, while, as the Reformed Presidential Council noted, from 1934 on the Minister of Education "under directive 152.150 required that the declaration and the Dovada be provided with a fiscal stamp." Then the parents left again to purchase the stamp, but by the time they returned the principal had closed shop, for his office hours were over. Thus the reporting procedure sometimes required 4 or 5 days during the busiest autumn season, and it may have been to no avail because the principal refused to issue the certificate as a consequence of his analysis of family names.

The following year the parents would undertake the difficult task of securing the Dovada with the help of their previous experience. They took along their statement, written in Romanian and provided with the fiscal stamp. But the principal was resourceful once again. He would accept the statement in a friendly manner, but ask who was responsible


for its preparation in Romanian? The parents would naively admit that the Reverend had helped them. Then the principal would reject the document and insist that they write it out anew in front of him, otherwise he would not issue the certificate. The parents often departed in irritation and had to register their children in the public school. As for the clergymen involved, often action was taken against them for having rendered such services, on the grounds of "agitation against the public school system.'' 12

Hungarian church officials constantly requested that the analysis of family names be abandoned and the freedom of instruction reinstated. For a long time their requests went completely unheeded. As mentioned, the courts may have sided with the parents, but it made no difference. The Romanian authorities continued to determine the ethnic origins of the children. In 1938 and 1939 two legal measures were adopted which might have put an end to the practice of name analysis, and could have guaranteed freedom of instruction. The already- mentioned so-called Minorities Statute issued under the autocratic regime of the King included, according to paragraph 5 of the cabinet meeting minutes of August 1, 1938,

that only those persons who were legally responsible for the child's education (father, mother, or guardian) were entitled to determine the ethnic background of the child, and they retained the right to register their children in a denominational school, a public school, or the school of any other denomination. 13

Under the impact of the same statue the procedures for issuing the certificate were prescribed to the principals of public schools in detail. According to a directive distributed to the superintendents of education, the principals of schools were required to remain at their school office in the period September 1 through 10 in order to accept statements from parents and to issue the Dovada. These documents did not require franking. "The principals or their deputies may not reject the statement if these are in due form and within the prescribed period.'' 14

The new law on primary schools published in the Monitorul Oficial number 121 of May 27, 1939, did not include the provision requiring Romanian children to attend schools with Romanian as the language of instruction. Thus, from 1939, freedom of instruction was introduced, even for Hungarian children, in theory. But in practice this freedom did not exist. In certain cases the children of parents who claimed to be Hungarian were forced to register in Romanian schools, and when the parents turned to the court for remedy, the court of Tirgu Mures, in its


decision 12/939 of June 5, 1939 declared that forcing the child of the suitor to attend a Romanian school was legal. 15 Thus the provisions of the minority statute were in vain, especially as regards the right of the parents to determine their own ethnic belonging; the new law on primary schools omitted the provisions regarding name analysis in vain, for the practice that prevailed over a decade and a half was not abandoned, and freedom of instruction did not exist for Hungarian children even in the last few years of the regime.

Consequently, the number of pupils attending Hungarian denominational schools diminished year after year. According to the most meaningful school reports provided by the Reformed Church in 1920, out of 70,462 school-age children belonging to the Reformed Church, 43,161 or over 60% attended a Reformed school. In the period 1930-35 it was 25,633 out of 63,200, in 1934-35 it was 23,396 out of 70,218, in 1936-37 it was 22,163 out of 73,211, in 1937-38 it was 21,807 out of 73,482 and in 1938-39 it was but 21,785 out of 73,610. In 1938- 39 there were 51,367 school-age children who belonged to the Catholic Church, but only 14,897 attended a Catholic denominational school. 16 In the case of the Unitarians the number of those excluded from denominational schools was even greater. In the last years of the regime only about 20 to 25% of Hungarian school-age children were able to attend Hungarian denominational schools. The remainder were forced to attend Romanian public schools.

The Predicament of Hungarian Teachers

The situation of the Hungarian teachers changed radically when Romanian troops occupied Transylvania in 1918-19. The state subsidies to teachers employed at denominational schools were not disbursed. The churches could not guarantee their pay since the foundations that served to support the schools were no longer viable, and their estates were confiscated under the guise of land-reform. Thus it became extremely difficult for the teachers to earn a living. Some felt compelled to leave and return to Hungary. Others listened to the enticing words of the Romanian authorities and entered state employ. The remainder accepted deprivation and constant harassment.

From 1922 on the regulations issued by Anghelescu made their livelihood even more difficult. Anghelescu deprived them of the privilege of half-fare on national railroads. He did not recognize their right to a pension. He also did not recognize their diplomas and insisted that they obtain certification from the Romanian government. Such a certificate was issued upon successfully passing examinations in


Romanian language, government studies, and the geography and history of Romania. Thus the Hungarian teachers had to pass an examination in Romanian already in the fourth year of the Romanian regime.

The prescription issued by Anghelescu was not applied to teachers from other ethnic groups, and this made it seem even more discriminatory. The privileges enjoyed by Saxon, Romanian and other teachers during the Hungarian regime were retained. They continued to receive state subsidies, to enjoy half fare on the railroads, to receive pension. The Saxons were only expected to pass an examination in Romanian, there were no other restrictions on the validity of their license. But the prescription of Anghelescu that denominational schools may only employ personnel approved by the Minister applied to the Saxons as well.

The Act on Private Education, passed in December 1925, codified all these measures. This law also determined the situation of teachers. Teachers at denominational schools could practice their profession only if previously authorized by the Minister. They were not certified unless they knew Romanian. At the teacher's colleges maintained by the churches they now had to study, in addition to the Romanian language, the history, geography and government of Romania in Romanian. If the government agents sent out on inspection tours should determine, at a later date, that these graduates of the teacher's colleges did not know enough Romanian, or were not successful in teaching it, they would have to undergo a language examination, whereas their school would receive a warning, and would eventually be ordered closed.

On the basis of the law on private instruction, Hungarian teachers were subjected to the arbitrary decisions of the Romanian school authorities during the entire regime. Their situation was inferior to that of teachers at public schools. They received no state subsidies, whereas their own church authorities could provide them only with very meager salaries. Even this salary was often disbursed only in part, because the members of the diocese were poor, whereas the estates that served to support these schools had been taken away in the course of the land reform. Unlike the Hungarian state in former times, the state did not assist administratively in ensuring the collection of the salary and thus, these teachers often performed their task without pay, in rags, on a starvation diet. They had to pass an examination in Romanian already in 1924, that is only four years after the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, not only in the language, but in geography, history, and government studies as well. Further examinations followed: ten years later, in 1934, they were subjected to another language examination as a consequence of a new law promoted by Anghelescu. The Romanian


language courses designed to prepare the teachers for the examination took place over several summers, depriving them of their vacation period. Moreover, the teachers were required to participate at their own expense. The examinations were administered in an entirely arbitrary manner; some committees were understanding, not expecting a perfect knowledge of the Romanian language after only four years of Romanian rule. There were other examiners, however, who subjected the candidates to tortures. If they passed the examination, this was tantamount to a recognition of the validity of their license, but did not result in any improvement in their financial condition. The government required a knowledge of Romanian, and the instruction of four subjects in the denominational schools exclusively in that language, yet did not feel obliged to provide any subsidies. It provided such assistance only in 1929 and in 1939, as a one-time measure. On the whole, during the entire regime the teachers at Hungarian denominational schools had to rely exclusively on the meager salaries they received from their diocese. This salary amounted to about one third of the salary received by public school teachers, and to about one-tenth the pay which the denominational teachers of Romanian background had at one time received from the Hungarian state by way of complementary pay. Nor did the Hungarian teachers have the right to a share of the revenue of the communities and municipalities. Although according to the law the Hungarian denominational schools were to benefit from the 14% cultural tax collected by the communities, this did not prove to be the case in practice. 17 The teachers at denominational schools did not benefit from discounts on train fares, did not receive pensions from the state and, after 1933, could only serve in the military as enlisted men, because they were not allowed to pass the officer's candidate examinations.

Thus the teachers at Hungarian denominational schools lived as paupers, in a constant state of insecurity during the Romanian regime. They did not play a significant role even in their community, because only public school teachers were appointed ex officio as members of the community council. Under the Romanian regime, especially after 1934, what had occurred in the Romanian villages under Hungarian rule namely that the village was led by the famous triumvirate of the teacher, priest and notary belonging to the majority population of the village was not the case. After 1934 the Hungarian denominational school teachers were entirely subordinated to their colleagues at the public schools, being far inferior to them in matters of pay, but also because, over half of the denominational schools lacking accreditation, their examinations had to be administered by public school teachers as


well. Thus the condition of the Hungarian denominational school teachers during the last years of the Romanian regime became completely hopeless; only after 1938, as a consequence of the Minority Statutes did their lot improve somewhat.

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