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

Chapter V

Secondary, Higher, and Extra-Mural Education of Hungarians

At the time of the change in sovereignty in 1919 there were 62 junior high schools, 35 high-schools, 14 teacher's colleges, and nine commercial schools in operation in the Hungarian territories attached to Romania. These were all denominational schools serving the cultural aspirations of the Hungarians living in these areas. The number of public schools was less.

Since, as a result of the change in sovereignty, almost 200,000 Hungarians mostly members of the intelligentsia holding jobs as civil servants, were forced to leave the areas of Hungary attached to Romania. Most certainly some of the schools listed above had to be prepared for the loss of their student body. Indeed, the majority of these schools closed down, in a matter of a few years, mostly of their own accord. In most places, however, the Romanian government did not await this course of events, but intervened with a variety of aggressive measures to hasten the closing down of Hungarian denominational secondary schools. This process of facilitating closures characterizes the first chapter in the history of Hungarian secondary education under the Romanian regime.

Thus, partly as a result of a natural depletion of their student body and partly as a consequence of the aggressive measures introduced by Romanian educational policy, 39 Hungarian denominational junior high schools, that is 62.9% of the total, closed down in the period 1919 to 1937. During the same period seven of the 35 denominational teachers' training schools closed down. Four of the commercial schools, that is 44%, also closed down. Thus, in general over 50% of the secondary schools ceased to function. 1 These schools were as follows: the girls' Roman Catholic secondary at Dej, the girls' Roman Catholic secondary at Baraolt, the boys' Roman Catholic secondary at Brasov, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Bistrita, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Frumoasa, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Joseni, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Hateg, the boys' Roman Catholic secondary at Sibiu, the



boys' Roman Catholic secondary at Petrosani, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Cirta, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Medgyes, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Sighisoara, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Orastie, the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Gherla, and the coeducational Roman Catholic secondary at Sighetul Marmatiei. Among the Reformed schools the following closed down: the boys' secondary at Baraolt, the coeducational at Huedin [Banffyhunyad], the coeducational at Bistrita, the coeducational at Dej, the coeducational at Tirnaveni, the coeducational at Fagaras, the coeducational at Tirgu Secuiesc, the coeducational at Cluj, the coeducational at Ocna Mures, the coeducational at Cristuru Secuiesc, the girls' secondary at Odorheiu Secuiesc, the girls at Turda, the coeducational at Zalau; moreover, the Unitarian boys' school at Odorheiu Secuiesc, the Unitarian boys' school at Turda, the Evangelical coeducational school at Satulung, the girls' school at the same location, and the Evangelical girls' school at Cluj. The following high schools had to close down: the Roman Catholic girls' high at Arad, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Deva, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Tirgu Secuiesc, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Tirgu Mures, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Sighetul, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Carei, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Sibiu, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Oradea, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Satu Mare, the Roman Catholic girls' high at Satu Mare, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Simleul Silvaniei, the Roman Catholic boys' high at Timisoara, and the Roman Catholic girls' high at the same location. The following Reformed high schools closed down: the boys' high at Dej, the boys' high at Fagaras, the boys' high at Sighetul Marmatiei, the boys' high at Orastie, the boys' high at Odorheiu Secuiesc, whereas the Unitarians lost the boys' high at Turda. During the same period the Roman Catholic teachers' training school at Sumuleu, the Roman Catholic teachers' training school at Tirgu Secuiesc and the teacher's training school at Cluj also closed down. Among the Reformed teachers' training schools, the ones at Oradea, Aiud, Sfintu Gheorghe, and Satu Mare closed down. The following denominational commercial schools closed down: the Roman Catholic girls' schools at Deva and Timisoara, and the Reformed girls' school at Brasov, the coeducational schools at Tirnaveni and Orastic.

These high schools and junior high schools closed down under a variety of circumstances. The Romanian government took over the Roman Catholic girls' school at Sighetul Marmatiei with the excuse that it had been maintained by the Research Foundation, which was a state entity, hence was inherited by the Romanian state. The Reformed


secondary school at the same location, founded in 1542, was closed down on April 19, 1921, by telegraphic order, because its principal was charged in connection with a conspiracy. A court martial acquitted the principal of the charge and its consequences. Then the church authorities responsible for the school, assuming that the reason for closing down the schools was now moot, requested permission to reopen the school. The Romanian government, however, did not comply with the request, and the Reformed school of Sighetul Marmatiei closed down definitely. 2 The school-building was leased, by force, to the Romanian public high school. In 1937, at the behest of the Ministry of National Education, Onisifor Ghibu, professor at the University of Cluj, transferred the deed to the building to the Romanian state without further legal proceedings. 3

The Roman Catholic high school founded at Arad in 1845 was also taken over by the Romanian government in 1919. The excuse was that the high school had enjoyed the support of the Research Foundation. The building was turned over to a public school while the Hungarian school, with over one thousand students, had to continue to function on rented premises. The school was closed down in December 1921 because 22 of the students had been arrested on grounds of ,'conspiracy." The court martial found the students innocent and acquitted them of the charge. The school's accreditation, however, was denied, because its building and equipment were allegedly deficient. Within a year the Roman Catholic church had constructed a modern school building, but it applied in vain for accreditation. From then on the school was gradually depleted of students.

The Roman Catholic high school of Oradea was closed down in 1923 on the excuse that it manifested "an attitude damaging to the interests of the state." The order noted that the closure took place "on the basis of paragraph 50 of Act XXX of 1883, still in force." According to this paragraph, if a disciplinary investigation taken against the faculty of some school determines that the institution and the teaching body are engaged in unpatriotic acts and did not carry out the directives, then, after observing the steps defined in the act (warning, investigation, etc.) the school may be closed down. But no investigation had been undertaken in the case of the Roman Catholic high school of Oradea, it had received no warning, the Minister did not explain what the unpatriotic acts had consisted of and what directives the school had not complied with; the closure resulted from a simple order from the Minister to that effect.

The Roman Catholic high school of Simleui Silvaniei, was housed in a magnificent new structure. The Romanian municipal housing office


settled residents into the building. In 1923 the school's accreditation was withdrawn on the ground that "private persons not connected with the school resided in the building." Later the authorities confiscated the entire building and transferred it into the custody of the Romanian high school. The Catholic high school continued to function for a while on rented premises but eventually the church itself closed the school down for lack of students. Octavian Prie commented on the fate of the Simleul Silvaniei school in his article already referred to, as follows: "The case of Simleul Silvaniei may serve as a memento to the church. If a peaceful solution cannot be found between church and state, the schools at other towns will follow." 4

The Roman Catholic high school at Satu Mare, founded in 1835, was confiscated by the government with all its equipment. The institution transferred into a rented building, but in 1923 the government closed it down for good on the grounds that it did not have an adequate building or equipment.

Two-thirds of the students at the Roman Catholic secondary school of Carei, were excluded by order of the Minister, since they were not Catholic. Later the school w as accused of irredentist ideas. All charges proved unfounded, but the extended harassment nevertheless led to the government's closing down the school and setting up a Romanian public school in its stead.

The Minister deprived the Reformed school of Zalau, the Unitarian school at Turda, and the Roman Catholic schools at Deva and Sibiu of their accreditation. Soon the Minister had the ones at Turda, Deva, and Sibiu closed down definitely. The college at Zalau could only be saved by its famous Romanian alumni, including Iuliu Maniu, from the fate suffered by the other secondary schools. The Roman Catholic high school at Miercurea Ciuc received a warning because the students sang the Catholic Church hymn about Saint Imre. The one at Cluj was warned because the students were not familiar enough with the Romanian national anthem. By directive 53.762 of June 1923, Anghelescu had the Jewish secondary schools at Oradea, Cluj, and Timisoara closed down because, according to the Minister, instruction in Romanian was for the sake of appearances only.

The most characteristic instance of the policy directed against Hungarian denominational schools was the closing of the Kocsard Kun boarding school at Orastie. The school had been founded in the 16th century and richly endowed in the 19th by the magnate Count Kocsard. Many a Romanian student graduated from the school during the Hungarian regime, including Aurel Vlad and Petru Groza who was to become the famous leader of the ,'Plow Front." The institution had a


secondary school, a boarding school, and a commercial school. In 1919 these were attended by over 500 students.

On September 20, 1922, the municipal housing office requisitioned the building of the boarding school, and the 183 resident students were forced to transfer to the building of the secondary school. At the same time, by its directive 18.997/1922 the Executive Directorate of the Minister of Education deprived the commercial school of its accreditation. Repeated requests by the officials of the church district were to no avail; finally, by order 27.438, the school received permission to operate as a private school. Further requests on the part of the church made no difference; what's more, by order 4756/1923, the Ministry of Education informed the church administration that, as of September 1, 1923, the commercial school could not even function as a private school. The general assembly of the church district "sadly noted, that the impatient policy of the government, which is not exactly in a spirit of understanding, once again sentenced one of our cultural institutions to death." 5

After the commercial school came the turn of the secondary school itself. In its directive 84.020/1923 the Minister of Education informed the Presidential Council that it would deprive the school of Orastie of its accreditation as of August 15, 1923. The move was justified on the grounds of irregularities such as cramped conditions, coeducation (even though this was general practice in Romania), smoking on the part of the students, sloppiness of the homework submitted by the students, etc. The general assembly received the relevant report of the Presidential Council once again "with great astonishment." The measure taken by the Minister, we read in the resolution of the assembly:

in some of its aspects, for instance, the one referring to cramped conditions when the entire dormitory and the gymnasium had been requisitioned for the purposes of a public high school, are completely one-sided observations; the ploy to take over the entire building for the purposes of a public high school and to deprive the Hungarians scattered in the provinces from their school can clearly be perceived. The general assembly of the church district resolves that it will seek its rights through every legal forum available and will bring even to the attention of His Majesty the issue of the school deprived of its accreditation. 6

But every effort of the church officials was in vain. At the end of the 1923-24 school-year the students at the school had to take their examination in front of a committee composed of Romanian teachers


unknown to them. The committee failed 96% of the candidates and, in the following year, failed all of them. Consequently, in 1924 the famous school which once boasted of over 500 students had but 73 students left. Then the church administration decided to close the institution temporarily and to use the premises for a girls' school and an orphanage. But before it could carry out this resolution the Romanian housing office requisitioned the beautiful, modern structure, handing it over to the new Romanian Vlaicu High school which had initiated the whole process.

The administration of the Hungarian Reformed church turned to the League of Nations on account of the requisition. The Romanian government, in the clarification handed in to the League of Nations, allowed a slip of the tongue. "This Hungarian school," wrote those detailed to formulate the explanation by Anghelescu,

was fated to perish in the midst of a great Romanian population. The church authorities, noting that the students of the institution decreased in number year after year, resolved to close it down of their own accord. While the buildings of the Reformed institution stood empty, without any specific function, the Romanian high school lacked premises. It was housed in an inadequate, rented building. Therefore the direction of the Romanian school turned to the housing office, which requisitioned the Reformed school, aware of the danger that unless it did so, it might not be able to continue to function.

The complaint filed with the League of Nations did have the result that the Romanian government decided to buy the building. Finally, the Reformed church was compelled to sell the beautiful building of the almost 400 year old college for a sum well below its true value.

As the instances enumerated above indicate, in very many places the Romanian government did not bother to await the voluntary closing of the secondary schools as a result of lack of students and of the repatriation of the masses of Hungarian intelligentsia. Where the newly formed Romanian secondary school needed it, the government closed down the Hungarian secondary school with aggressive measures and illegal procedures, to avoid dangerous competition. Most of the time the procedure's aim was to take over directly the targeted Hungarian secondary school with all its appurtenances. If this maneuver did not succeed on the first try, they nevertheless carried out their intentions in some manner or other in subsequent years. During the first phase they closed down several of the schools of Hungarian


orders of monks, but did not dare take away the buildings. After 1934, however, during Anghelescu's second ministership, the government was no longer so timid. Empowered by Anghelescu, Onisifor Ghibu transferred the buildings of the Piarist high school at Timisoara, the Minorite high school at Arad, and at Simleul Silvaniei in the name of the Romanian state; all real estate of the high schools of the Piarist order of Sighetul Marmatiei and the Reformed Church suffered the same fate. 7

After the closing of schools, in the second decade of the Greater Romanian regime, the following Hungarian denominational secondary schools were still functioning: 23 junior high schools, ten high schools, seven teachers' training schools, and four commercial schools. These schools were still in operation in 1936-37 and their numbers did not change thereafter.

By location, these schools were as follows: among the Roman Catholic schools: Brasov (girls), Gheorgheni [Gyergyoszentmiklos] (girls), Sibiu (girls), Reghiu (coeducational), Tirgu Mures (boys), Tirgu Secuiesc (boys), Arad (girls), Lugoi (girls), Oradea (girls), Oradea Saint Vincent, (girls), Oradea Ursuline (girls), Satu Mare (girls), Simleul Silvaniei (girls), Timisoara-Belvaros (boys), Timisoara-Gyarvaros. Among the Reformed schools we find: Brasov (girls), Tirgu Mures (girls), Oradea (girls), Sfintu Gheorghe (girls), and Satu Mare (girls). In 1935-36 the following Hungarian denominational high schools were operating: the Roman Catholic at Arad for boys, the Roman Catholic at Brasov for boys, the boys' high schools at Miercurea Ciuc, Alba Iulia, Cluj, and Odorheiu Secuiesc, and the girls' high school at Cluj. Among the Reformed schools we find the boys' and girls' high schools at Cluj, the boys' high schools at Tirgu Mures, Aiud, Sfintu Gheorghe, Satu Mare, and Zalau, moreover the Unitarian boys' high schools at Cluj and Cristuru Secuiesc. But ten high schools remained after 1936-37. In the same academic year the following teachers' training schools were functioning: the Roman Catholic colleges at Tirgu Mures, Oradea, and Satu Mare. The Reformed church operated the teachers training schools at Oradea, Aiud, and Odorheiu Secuiesc. Among the commercial schools still in operation in 1935-36 we find the Roman Catholic school of Cluj, the Roman Catholic girls' school at Sibiu, the Reformed boys' school at Brasov, and the Reformed girls' school at Satu Mare. In addition to these high schools there were four winter courses providing continuing education for Hungarian farmers: the courses sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church at Tirgu Secuiesc and Iernut, the course sponsored by the Reformed Church at Cimbrud and the course sponsored by the


Unitarians at Cristuru Secuiesc. It was only during the last years of the regime that these schools were able to obtain accreditation.

The School Budgets

Some of the Hungarian secondary schools were maintained by the dioceses, whereas the centuries-old high schools were maintained by the central administration of the churches. The junior high schools required smaller budgets, covered mostly by the occasionally remaining funds of the dioceses or by the local parishioners. The upkeep of high schools caused serious difficulties. Before the war each of these was maintained mainly by contributions from the state, although there were some, such as the Calvinist boarding school of Aiud and certain Roman Catholic high schools, which owned enormous foundations and did not request state support. After the war the greater part of these foundations were expropriated as a result of the Romanian land reform. The 26,538 cadastral holds of estates owned by the autonomous institution providing for the Roman Catholic secondary schools, the Status of Transylvania, became subject to confiscation; it was able to retain a mere 3,251 holds, in other words, it lost 87.74% of its estate. 8 The Calvinist boarding schools of Cluj and Aiud suffered a similar fate. A total of 1440 yokes holds of the 1,521 yokes estate of the Calvinist boarding school of Cluj, were expropriated and 8,137 of the 10,884 hold estate of the Calvinist boarding school of Aiud were also confiscated. 9 The other boarding schools did not own large estates, hence they had to rely mostly on tuition fees and state subsidies.

Since the sums paid in compensation for the expropriated estates were insignificant (one-fifth of the actual value, and even that, only ten years later, in government bonds at 20% of their face value), the budget of the secondary schools represented an enormous burden on the churches concerned. In 1920 the Romanian government did provide some assistance, but thereafter, with the exception of the year 1929, Greater Romania was adamant about providing help. Therefore the secondary schools had to rely on the financial contributions of Hungarian society and on tuition fees. It is easy to imagine the poverty they had to endure and the meagerness of the salaries they were able to pay their faculty. Most schools attempted to make ends meet by selling their remaining real estate, including houses and lots of land; but throughout the Romanian regime these schools had to cope with utmost poverty. The officials of the churches did occasionally come up with smaller sums to help the teachers living in misery, but since most of the faithful also became impoverished, these occasional contributions


were rare indeed and did not amount to much. It is fair to assert that Hungarian high school and elementary school teachers formed the most impoverished stratum of Hungarian society under Romanian rule; they became typical representatives of the intellectual proletariat whose poverty had become proverbial.

The Situation of the Teachers

The situation of the teachers at Hungarian schools was determined by the provisions of the oft-mentioned Act on Private Education. Even before the law was adopted Minister of Education, Anghelescu, issued his ordinance number 100,090; which deprived the Hungarian denominational secondary schools of the autonomy granted them by erstwhile Hungarian laws. Beginning September 1,1923 this ordinance made the curriculum of the secondary schools of old Romania, including the end of the year comprehensive examinations that had been customary in those schools, compulsory everywhere; moreover, it required that geography, history, and government be taught in Romanian. It prohibited the admission of students of a different religion or ethnic background, as well as coeducation; it subjected all students to the disciplinary measures prescribed by the Ministry. Even before the ordinance was issued the Hungarian school authorities had been notified that Hungarian denominational teachers could not travel on the railways at a discount. In vain did the chief officials of the church request that the privilege enjoyed during the Hungarian rule be reinstated; the Ministry of Education rejected the request, under number 94,041/1922, with the argument that "the faculty at denominational institutions may not enjoy privileges on Romanian railroads under any circumstances.'' 10 The general assembly of the church district "painfully took cognizance of the rigid decision which shows no appreciation of cultural work, and it instructed the Presidential Council to keep the issue alive and to seize every opportunity to regain the privilege." The government, however, continued to remain rigid, and the teachers at Hungarian schools remained deprived of the privilege to the end. Their complaint was all the more bitter as they were well aware that only teachers of Hungarian ethnic background were deprived of this privilege, for Romanian and Saxon denominational faculty continued to benefit from it.

Ordinance number 100,090 required that only those teachers may teach the Romanian language, history, geography, and government who have been certified to teach these subjects. Since there was no such


faculty among the Hungarians the ordinances forced the Hungarian denominational schools to employ teachers of Romanian ethnic background. These received far higher pay and functioned basically as spies in the schools. The above ordinance also prescribed that all professors had to be familiar with the Romanian language and had to undergo an examination between August 15 and September 1, 1924, in Romanian language and literature, as well as in Romanian history, geography, and government. The ordinance specified that textbooks had to be approved by the Ministry and required that report cards, course catalogs, registries, schedules of classes, statistics, and yearbooks all be prepared in Romanian.

These prescriptions were fixed in the form of law by the proposals regarding private education. This Act extended the prescriptions applied to primary schools to the secondary schools as well. It decreed that the four subjects be taught in Romanian in every secondary school. It also required the so-called "absolving" (comprehensive) examination at the completion of the fourth year. It limited the rights of the entities in charge of the school in the same way as in the case of primary schools. Secondary school teachers could only be employed after obtaining a license. They had to pass the Capacitate, a state examination, to obtain tenure. Without this examination not a single teacher could be tenured, even if he or she had completed studies at a Romanian university and had obtained a license. The Hungarian teachers, whose salaries were meager compared to those earned by their Romanian colleagues, thus got into a deplorable situation. They received no state subsidies. If they managed to complete their studies at some Romanian university and find employment in a denominational school, they had to apply to the Ministry for permission to teach each and every year. Hence their post was not permanent, their appointment had to be renewed each year. At the beginning, a few teachers did succeed in passing the Capacitate, especially if they happened to know some of the professors on the examining committee from their university days. Later, however, not a single member of the teaching corps of Hungarian background was able to pass the examination, particularly in the so-called Romanian national subjects. The reason for this was the pressure exerted by the increasingly extremist and chauvinist Romanian public opinion after 1935. The Romanian organization of secondary school teachers held a congress at Timisoara in 1936. In a resolution adopted at this congress, the Romanian professors demanded the dismissal of non-Romanian instructors and the complete Romanianization of public education. A leading personality of the association of Romanian teachers, Valeriu Grecu, turned to the examining teachers in the daily


Universul on the occasion of the proclamation of the Capacitate examination in 1937, calling upon them not to allow a single minority professor to pass the examination. In this article he referred to the resolution adopted at Timisoara in which the professors demanded the Romanianization of education in the following terms:

It is absolutely necessary that the task of educating future

generations be entrusted only to Romanians. Similarly, it believes [i.e. the Congress] that if the children of minority groups want to stay in Romania, they have to undergo schooling by Romanian professors, in a Romanian spirit, and in Romanian language. 11

Anghelescu himself attended the congress at Timisoara, and the importance of the resolution above is also indicated by the fact that the leading periodical in education printed its text.

The consequences of the resolution were soon to be felt. At the Capacitate examination organized in Iasi in 1937, all the candidates of Hungarian background were failed even though there were some among them who had graduated only a few years earlier from a Romanian university with "magna cum laude." Those concerned were aware of the reason for the peculiar treatment. They were familiar with the resolution adopted at the congress of secondary school teachers at Timisoara and with the call for action by Valeriu Grecu. Romanian educational authorities soon banned individuals of other than Romanian ethnic background from even the possibility of presenting oneself for the Capacitate examination. The ordinance modifying the Act of May 15, 1928, on secondary schools was published in issue number 23 of January 29,1938 of the Official Bulletin: "Only persons of Romanian ethnic background may present themselves for the Capacitate examination in Romanian language, literature, and history.'' 12

Thus, as regards the national subjects, the replacement process by minority teachers became definitely impossible. They had to resign themselves to the fact that if they taught these subjects, they would never be granted tenure in their own schools.

Thus the young Hungarian teachers lived under most uncertain conditions, not only financially, but from another point of view as well. Their chairs were advertised each year, and they had to undergo the anxiety of reappointment each and every time. In addition to the state, the church authorities could also hire or fire them yearly. These procedures rendered their situation insecure and tragic. These untenured teachers were the proletarians of the profession. They could


count on no sort of indemnity. Their pay was 40% less on the average, sometimes even 50% less than that of the regular teachers. The church might have granted them tenure, but this entailed certain financial risks which the Reformed and Roman Catholic Churches were unwilling to take. The Unitarian Church, which for a long time had been granting tenure as well as equal pay to its teachers, seemed the most understanding. After 1937 the general assembly of the church district granted the young teachers employed by the Reformed Church personal indemnity commensurate with their age after eight years of service, under certain conditions.

The humiliating predicament of young teachers at denominational schools did not improve during the Greater Romanian regime. At the time of the Vienna Arbitration Treaty (Award) in 1940 the change in sovereignty found teachers who had been contracted annually at the same post for ten of fifteen years without having received tenure. The insecurity of their situation had its impact on the work of Hungarian high schools, all the more so, as their state of mind differed considerably from that of teachers belonging to the older generation. In general the younger ones were more church-oriented, their social conscience more highly developed, their Hungarian outlook deeply introverted. Most of them had crossed the surf of social movements, hence the working class and the peasantry were organic parts of their concept of the Hungarian. The great intellectual triad composed of the poet Endre Ady and the novelists Dezso Szabo and Zsigmond Moricz had a determining influence on their spiritual makeup. It is clear, therefore, that only the work of these young teachers had the potential for launching a renaissance within the Hungarian schools. Unfortunately, their insecure situation, and at times their own ecclesiastic superiors who exhibited little understanding of this situation, had dire consequences. In many cases these pressures led to a neglect of punctuality and responsibility, to a certain superficiality, or even to a cynical attitude. These traits undoubtedly derived from disillusionment and, most of the time, were in stark contrast to the conscientious punctuality and thorough sense of responsibility of the older generation of Hungarian teachers.

The older generation of teachers also had their particular set of problems to confront. Most of them returned to occupy their chairs after the war, wounded in soul or body. They returned to misery and want. The position which they had attained under Hungarian rule changed radically in every respect. They had to fit in the framework of Romanian educational system. They had to pass their first examination in Romanian language in 1924. They were given a mere year to familiarize themselves with the language even though, as we have seen,


the Romanian teachers had not had to take their examination until the seventeenth year of the Hungarian regime, in 1884. The language examination of 1924 was administered in a relatively humane manner. Their diplomas were recognized as valid and they were granted tenure. But soon a second, and even a third language examination followed. According to the Act on Private Education they had to take their next examination within five years, and only professors who had attained their 55th year were exempt. If in the course of an inspection the government inspectors were to conclude that a given teacher was not sufficiently familiar with the language, he could be required to take a language course. Although this ordinance prescribed merely a compulsory course, in his 1934 law on secondary education, Anghelescu ordered a further set of examinations. In spite of all protests, the teaching corps was indeed once again required to face the committee of examiners. Teachers aged 45 to 50, and even 55 were now standing in front of the examination committees. The university professors who chaired these examination committees often felt embarrassed when questioning the gray-haired candidates. According to Anghelescu's law, those who failed, had to give up their posts. Indeed, many failed. But because of vigorous protests by Hungarian leaders, Anghelescu was finally satisfied with organizing language courses, and after many an anxious moment the older teachers at the Hungarian schools were able to remain at their post which ensured them at least a meager living.

The attitudes of the older generation of Hungarian teachers could be described as identical with the ante-bellum Weltanschauung of Hungarians in general. They represented conservative Hungarian views; only exceptionally did they demonstrate a social conscience or a sociological perspective. Most were rationalists, lovers of culture, but with only slight interest in matters affecting the community. Their punctuality and sense of responsibility were exemplary. In most cases they performed their pedagogical tasks well. Their predicament also became insecure as a result of the language examinations, even though more opportunities remained to them financially speaking, than to their younger colleagues. After protracted discussion, the Romanian government finally recognized their right to a pension. They were the ones to represent the schools in teacher's organizations or ecclesiastic bodies. They were for the most part careful and reasonable individuals who, in several cases, were able to save their schools by their wise behavior, the serious difficulties that befell Hungarian institutions after the introduction of the Anghelescu laws not withstanding. Teachers of the older and younger generations both played an enormous role in preserving Hungarian general culture during the Romanian regime.


The Students

Enrollment in the secondary denominational schools varied according to the enrollment in the primary schools. Before the introduction of the Act on Private Education and the law on the graduation examination, there was no lack of students at these schools. As a result of the new laws their numbers began to decrease rapidly.

Indeed, in addition to the Act on Private Education the situation of Hungarian schools was determined by the provisions of the law on the graduation examination. Even before the promulgation of the law ordinance 100.090 of 1923 was in effect: it prescribed that, in addition to the Romanian language, Romanian geography, history, and government also had to be taught in Romanian in every secondary school. Thus the secondary schools became bilingual, much like the primary schools. But the law on graduation examination, promulgated in 1926, increased these difficulties considerably. It forced the students at secondary schools to undergo two major examinations, the first one upon completion of the fourth year, as an entrance examination into the fifth year. This examination was also referred to as ,'absolving" or minor graduation examination. The subjects on this examination included the geography, history, and government of Romania, Romanian and French, as well as mathematics. If the school had accreditation, the members of the examining committee were selected from the faculty of the school, under the chairmanship of someone appointed by the Minister. The examination took place in Romanian. No student could enter the fifth year without having passed.

The graduation examination was administered after the final examinations in each subject had been passed in the eighth and last year of secondary school, in front of a committee appointed by the Minister. This committee was appointed a few weeks before the examination and consisted of teachers from the public schools. The basic principle was that the students should be examined by teachers with whom they were not acquainted. Each committee was chaired by a university professor. The examination was in two parts: oral and written. Those who failed the written part were barred from the orals. The subjects on this examination were Romanian language and literature, the history, geography and government of Romania, a modern language, and two natural sciences to be selected by the candidates from the minority schools. Apart from the last two subjects the minority candidates could not take their examination in their mother tongue, but in Romanian, in front of Romanian teachers they had never met. 13


In spite of all the protests by those representing the interests of the Hungarians, the regime adopted the above law at the end of 19Z5 and carried it out immediately. The students took their examination according to the new system already in 1925. The results were truly depressing. There were 258 Roman Catholic, 200 Reformed, 71 Unitarian, 286 Evangelical, and 84 Jewish minority candidates in 1925. Of these, 28% of the Roman Catholics, 22.7% of the Reformed, 25.3% of the Unitarians, 44.4% of the Evangelicals, and 29.796 of the Jews were able to pass. On the average, 76% of the Hungarian candidates failed. The results improved somewhat in 1926, when 33% of the candidates were successful. In 1927 the results got worse again: only 8.5% of the purely Hungarian Unitarian candidates were allowed to pass, the remainder were failed by the Romanian teachers, 76% of the Roman Catholic candidates failed. At the same time 51.9% of the candidates in the old kingdom of Romania were able to pass; clearly, the Romanian candidates taking the examination in their own language had an advantage over the Hungarian candidates who could not take their examination in their mother tongue. 14

In 1934 Anghelescu made the law on the graduation examination and its application even stricter. Consequently Hungarian students were failing to graduate in large numbers once again. In June 1934 there were altogether 85 candidates graduating from the six Calvinist high schools, but only 13 of these were allowed to pass; in other words, the Romanian examiners flunked almost 85% of the Hungarian Calvinist candidates. For instance, not a single one of the 19 students at the high school of Tirgu Mures was successful, whereas only four of the 23 candidates from the Calvinist boarding school of Cluj were allowed to pass. The situation hardly improved during the Fall examinations; 87.5% of the candidates from the boarding-school Cluj and 66 and 1/3 of the candidates from the girls' high school at Cluj failed. At the same time, all the candidates from the Calvinist boarding-school at Zalau failed on the examination. The following year, 92.3196 of the candidates from the boarding school of Cluj, 90.196 of the candidates from the Calvinist boarding school at Tirgu Mures and 90% of the candidates from the Calvinist boarding school at Sfintu Gheorghe failed. 15

The Hungarian school authorities concerned fought a constant struggle against the law on the graduation examination. They pointed out the absurd pedagogical notions behind the law, the practically insurmountable difficulties the minority students had to face, the biased attitude of the state examining committees, all to no avail. Even Romanian public figures supported the Hungarian arguments. Iorga,


Ghita Pop and others repeatedly intervened against those provisions of the law which affected the minorities negatively, but their intervention had no more effect than the utterances by Hungarians concerned. Even the experiences gleaned from the first examination astounded the more serious Romanian experts. "What was the graduation examination like?" asked one member of the committee at Brasov, in the columns of the Romanian daily Patria.

It was parody. There was one member on our committee who knew a little bit of Hungarian, and another one who knew German, and this committee was in charge of examining candidates from eight Hungarian and one German schools. When the committee found out that the students were incapable of answering in Romanian, they used a professor as interpreter to translate the questions and the answers. Can there be any doubt that such a committee is totally unfit to examine these students? 16

The chair of this same committee, Gheorghe Popa-Lissenau, a professor at the University of Bucharest, also expressed an opinion to the effect that the examinations could only be meaningful if the candidates were examined by someone familiar with their mother tongue. ,'If the professor does not know the language of the candidate well, or at all, the answers cannot be correct and the judgment of the examiners cannot be accepted even if they do use an interpreter." 17

These objective observations were in vain, for they elicited no echo. The despair of the Hungarians grew as the years passed. They demanded the use of the students' mother tongue in articles, essays, and interventions in parliament. Their demands remained without effect to the end. Even the National Peasant Party that came to power in 1928 made no change in the basic principles of the graduation examination, even though the already mentioned expert of the Party, Ghita Pop, consistently denounced the system. In 1929 in a statement to the Keleti Ujsag, he made a direct comparison between the former Hungarian system and the Romanian system under Anghelescu and concluded that:

while formerly under Hungarian rule Hungarian language was taught only as a subject in the Romanian and Saxon secondary schools, all other subjects except the history of Hungarian literature were taught in the language of instruction of that school in the last two years of high school.


Then he sharply condemned the measures aiming at the imposition of the Romanian language and the law on the graduation examination as formulated by Anghelescu.

I am in favor of the baccalaureate, of a graduation examination as advocated by Anghelescu, only we must change its application so that the candidate is enabled to take the examination in his or her own school, in front of his teachers and in the language of the school, of course, under state supervision. 18

A few weeks later he delivered a speech in the Romanian parliament in which he demanded legislation to modify the baccalaureate system of graduation examinations. His speech once again referred to the differences between the former Hungarian system and Anghelescu's Romanian educational system.

I too have studied under the former Hungarian regime in a Romanian high school, but I took my graduation examination in all subjects in Romanian except for Hungarian language and literature. It is inadmissible that we should grant our minority less than the rights we were allowed under the Hungarian regime. 19

Unfortunately, these Romanian declarations led to no results. Neither the National Peasant Party regime, nor the Iorga regime which came to power in 1931 changed the law on the graduation examination. In fact the intentions of Prime Minister Iorga to change the law resulted in further restrictions of the opportunities still available to minority students. For one of the most frequent complaints in connection with the graduation examination was that even in those two subjects which the minority candidates were free to chose (natural science, chemistry, and sometimes philosophy), the examiners were Romanians asking questions in Romanian. As mentioned the more objective Romanians themselves admitted that there were tremendous obstacles when none of the members of the examining committee could speak the mother tongue of the candidates. Therefore, one of the most consistent demands of Hungarian representatives and school-supporting organizations was that members who understood Hungarian and could ask questions in Hungarian in these subjects on the graduation examination be included on examination committees.

In 1931 Iorga who, on several occasions, had condemned the graduation examination law promoted by Anghelescu, presented a


proposal to the committee of parliament to the effect that the minority candidates be allowed to take their graduation examination in their mother tongue in all subjects except Romanian language and literature. The committee of the parliament not only rejected the proposal, but went so far as the to add restrictions to the measures been formulated by Anghelescu. According to their formulation, the "student may also use the language of instruction of the school" in those subjects they study in their mother tongue (natural sciences, philosophy). In practice, this meant that the use of the mother tongue was left up to the good will of the teachers concerned; and since after 1931 the ultra-nationalist and extreme right-wing Romanians increasingly dominated Romanian public opinion, fewer and fewer professors appointed to the examination committees were willing to take into consideration the difficulties experienced by the candidates in using the Romanian language. During the second ministership of Anghelescu it became impossible to use the Hungarian mother tongue on graduation examinations. From then on the young men had to be prepared for the examination in Romanian in all subjects in the minority schools and this, of course, increased the difficulties minority students had to face, almost unbearably.

These difficulties of the graduation examination were one of the principal causes of the decline of the number of students attending Hungarian secondary schools. After 1925 there was a steady decline in enrollment at all Hungarian denominational schools. According to the reports from individual high schools from the years 1919-20 and 1935- 36, the number of students declined in those sixteen years as follows: from 774 to 140, at the Roman Catholic high school of Arad from 307 to 233, at the Roman Catholic girls' school high of Brasov, at Miercurea Ciuc from 400 to 212, at Alba Iulia from 468 to 248, at Cluj from 6S6 to 417, at the Roman Catholic girls' high school in Cluj roughly in the same proportions, at the Roman Catholic boys' high school in Odorheiu Secuiesc from 652 to 359, at Tirgu Mures from 50B to 382, at Aiud from 508 to 211, at Sfintu Gheorge from 551 to 214, at Satu Mare from 1049 to 236, at Zalau from 593 to 178, at the Unitarian boarding school of Cluj from 425 to 171, at Cristuru Secuiesc from 364 to 114. The steep decline in enrollment becomes even more striking if we look at the overall numbers for the largest secondary schools of the largest Hungarian church. Enrollment in the secondary schools of the Reformed Church declined by almost 75% within 20 years. In 1920 the Reformed high schools had 8.230 registered students, in 1923 only 5838, in 1926 no more than 3139, 2,427 in 1930, 2,516 in 1934,2635 in 1937, 2,603 in 1938, and 2,634 in 1939. The decline was almost as pronounced in the Roman Catholic secondary schools, and even more pronounced in


some. Thus enrollment declined by 75% in the Hungarian denominational schools, as a whole, as a consequence of Romanian cultural policies. 20

The decline was the result of financial restraints and aggressive intervention from the outside. Of course, the Hungarian denominational schools, deprived of their estates and lacking state subsidy, could not omit charging tuition. The discounts and rebates so common in former times could now be offered to deserving students only in very limited form. Thus many a Hungarian student was left out of high school on account of poverty. Moreover, very often certain strata of Hungarian society refrained from sending their children to Hungarian denominational schools for extraneous reasons. Those members of the Hungarian intelligentsia who were under the influence of government agencies in one way or another did not dare send their children to Hungarian schools. In many cases, government employees of Hungarian ethnic background were told directly by their supervisors to send their children to a public school with Romanian as the language of instruction. Hungarian civil servants who still retained their government jobs were jeopardizing their position by sending their children to Hungarian denominational schools, especially after 1930. Often their supervisors were content to have them transferred, at which point the Hungarian children had to be registered in a Romanian state public school of Dobrudja or Bessarabia.

The other reason for the decline in enrollment at Hungarian high schools was the well-known restrictions. As mentioned, only students of Hungarian ethnic background, and members of that denomination could enroll in a Hungarian denominational school, according to the Act on Private Education. Thus children of Jewish or other religions could not enroll in a Hungarian denominational school. Moreover, the educational inspectors resorted to the method of name analysis throughout the Greater Romanian regime. Whenever they detected names on the roster of students which they deemed to be non-Hungarian on account of their sound, they immediately decreed the transfer of said student to a school with Romanian as the language of instruction. This complete lack of freedom of instruction contributed to the decline in enrollment of the Hungarian denominational high schools and often elicited a tragic situation. The Roman Catholic high schools were particularly victimized by the process of name analysis. In vain did the parents insist that they were of Hungarian background and belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. The opinion of the Minister was "that he could not accept the principle according to which the parents themselves could decide their children's mother tongue.'' 21 Subsequent petitions,


parliamentary interventions, dispatch of deputations were to no avail. The process of name analysis continued uninterrupted until 1938. In 1938 the Minorities Statute guaranteed the parents' right to decide their children's mother tongue and nationality, at least on paper. Unfortunately, as already mentioned, the Romanian courts found the process of name analysis and the forced transfer of Hungarian children into Romanian public school legal, in spite of the provision of the Minority Statute. Thus freedom of instruction did not exist after 1923, the year of the first measures introduced by Anghelescu, and throughout the regime.

How tragic were the consequences can be gathered from an article published in a Catholic weekly. The article refers to an incident at Miercurea Ciuc.

It happened at Miercurea Ciuc. A poor widow registered her talented son at the high school of Miercurea Ciuc. She intended to have her son raised as a priest who will then preach the word of Our Lord to poor and rich alike. The poor widow was also hoping that her son would be her support and keeper in old age. Since she was extremely poor, she could not come up with cost of an education. There was nothing she could do but pray with her good soul for those souls who would enable her son, by means of their donations, to embark on a career as seminarian in a Catholic institution. The name of the poor Csango boy was Gyorgy Gyutto (Gheorghe Ghitiu). The whole village called him Gyutto from the beginning. The Romanian registration official wrote it as Ghitiu Gyutto on the birth certificate. Then came the inspector: on the grounds that Ghitiu is a Romanian names was the name of his companion Peter Kadar registered as Petru Dogar, as well as student in the 4th and 5th years whose parents claimed to be Hungarian and Roman Catholic, a claim no one had ever challenged the inspector demanded that they be transferred immediately from the school with Hungarian as the language of instruction to a Romanian-language school. In vain did they refer to Article 36 of the Act on Private Education which explicitly permits students with Hungarian as their mother tongue to register in schools with Hungarian as the language of instruction: in vain did the parents make statements in front of two witnesses to the effect that they are Hungarian and of Roman Catholic religion; nor did the inspectors consider the official certificate issued by the Roman authorities which certified the Hungarian background and


Roman Catholic religion of all four students. The four boys had to leave. Had Minister Anghelescu and executive director Rusu been there in person, and had they witnessed the sobs and cries of the four boys, perhaps they might have relented. Not only the boys, but even the principal had to give up his position at the Hungarian school, for failing to carry out the orders of the inspector immediately and for having listened to the dictates of his conscience, of the certificates, of the law, of justice, and of his supervisors.

The doors of Catholic and Hungarian institutions may never open again to admit Gyorgy Gyutto and his companions, even though they are Catholic and Hungarian. All hope for the future dissipated for Gyorgy Gyutto. The earnest expectations of his mother turned into bitter disappointment. She went to the small church of the Csango community, not minding the crowd gathered for the Mass, joined her hands in prayer and raising them to the skies cursed that and all those who ruined her beautifully conceived dream. And her little boy, who could never again think of becoming a priest of the Lord Jesus and step to the altar, became an apprentice cobbler. Will he ever forget all those indignities and injustices he had to suffer: the blind chauvinism which treads across all divine, natural, and human laws? But the curse of the mother has already been uttered, it floats in the air, it has penetrated as far as the throne of God of justice, and woe to him who is struck by it! Not all curses are valid, but that of the unjustly tortured mother certainly is! 22

Thousands of similar cases prove how difficult it was for many Hungarian children to be admitted to Hungarian denominational schools. It is obvious that such devices did not turn the children concerned into Romanians, but it did exclude them from Hungarian schools. And the device of name analysis, as already mentioned, never ceased throughout the whole period.

Those Hungarian children who managed, in spite of all obstacles, to become pupils at Hungarian schools, although in decreasing numbers, had to study four subjects in Romanian. Their opportunities for self-improvement were also limited since the Minister of Education had closed the study groups of Hungarian high school students. It did authorize so-called literary conferences which, however, were hardly a substitute for the study groups. The Minister also made sure that high school students would not get to read newspapers. The reading of


political dailies by high school students was banned very early in the game, under severe penalties.

In the school the students were under the supervision of the teachers, and out of school by other state authorities. The police and the gendarmes were instructed to ask all students who misbehaved or got involved in some kind of protest for identification, and enter their observations in the control books in their possession.

Consequently Hungarian students had the impression of being in jail. Only within the thick walls of their school, where they were among themselves or with their teachers, could they feel at peace and protected to a certain extent. A family spirit in which the students felt very much at home prevailed at many of the Hungarian denominational schools.

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