[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Endnotes] [HMK Home] Bela K. Kiraly: The Hungarian Minority's Situation in Ceausescu's Romania

Table 3

The Number of Hungarians in Romania as Estimated on the Basis of Religious Affiliation (1987)

Religious Affiliation

Number of Parishoners
Roman Catholics
Roman Catholics of Hungarian mother tongue in the Iasi diocese (Csangok)
Roman Catholics of Hungarian mother tongue in the Bucharest diocese
Other Protestants
Former Greek Catholics unregistered in the records of parishoners

Under such conditions, economic units (enterprises and production cooperatives) enjoy no freedom to pursue local objectives either in respect to development or profit utilization. They are strictly dependent upon the decision-making center, which is, in most cases, geographically remote. It controls contacts between economic units by issuing administrative ordinances. Thus, the central planning system, coupled with control over the locating of industrial projects, has proven to be a useful means of hindering closer cooperation and integration between Hungarian-inhabited regions. Control over transportation and communication on both the individual and communal level has reduced contacts among minority settlements to a minimum.

State-control over the location of industry has dispersed compact ethnic settlements. The central policy of "relocating" specialists, has also brought a substantial change in the ethnic composition of Transylvanian cities, notably those of Cluj (Kolozsvar), Timisoara (Temesvar), Oradea (Nagyvarad), Brasov, Tirgu-Mures. (Marosvasarhely). An important result of the territorial and social fragmentation of the Hungarian population in Romania is that a large part of the Hungarian population is being scattered. While Hungarians, along with Germans and Jews, comprised the overwheiming bulk of the population in Transylvanian cities before 1945, now they have become minorities even in those urban centers.[17]

In Romania citizens are not guaranteed the right to freely choose their places of work and residence. Consequently the minority population is helpless in the face of govenmental policies that seek to disrupt their unity and traditional settlement pattems. The origin of these policies date back to Romania's considerable territorial aggrandizement following World War I, although some elements of it were already visible in Romanian politics at the turn of the century.

Migration from Romanian-inhabited territories - mainly from the pre1920 royal Romanian provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia - to Transylvanian towns and industrial centers began to increase in 1948, the year of the establisment of the totalitarian regime. However, the migration sharply accelerated after 1975. Romanian professionals who are willing to take up residence in districts inhabited mainly by Hungarians receive benefits and incentives. For example, they may apply for a so-called resettlement allowance of l5-30 thousand lei.[18] The immigration of other social strata is encouraged by additional economic measures. Parallel to this process, Hungarian intellectuals and professionals from Transylvania, upon completing their studies, are assigned to Romanian-inhabited districts, far from their place of birth. This strictly centralized system of work assignment provides the authorities far-reaching opportunities for manipulation. Consequently, fewer and fewer Hungarian teachers, physicians, agronomists, and other professionuls can find jobs in Hungarian-inhabited areas.[19]

This practice undermines the cohesion of the national minority and infringes on the fundamental rights of individuals. It increasingly deprives great masses of people of doctors and nursing staff familiar with the local minority language. Such govenment measures are not only inhumane but also violate the professional ethics of the medical profession. We could enumerate other examples demonstrating the brutal results of this internal colonization process which results from the rapid rate of mass immigration of Romanians. It worsens the opportunities in employment, education, social welfare, and other aspects of the daily existence of the minorities. They are helpless in the face of these state directed abuses.

The authorities are radically transforming the national character of the towns and sub-regions of Transylvania by controlling the geographical location of industrial investments, the creation or elimination of jobs and workplaces. There is restriction of employment opportunities and the use of a discriminatory quota system. Certain cities are "closed" to Hungarians. Hungarians also experience the deliberate manipulation of permits for resettlement, the discriminatory allocation of housing, as well as the practice of "zoning," the preferred development of some settlements and the hindering or destruction of others. The government's strategy, in short, is a dual one. On the one hand, it seeks to ensure a Romanian majority in all areas while, simultaneously, dispersing the Hungarian minority, particularly the intelligentsia, throughout the country, forcing them to move to rural areas or to remote regions having no ethnic Hungarian inhabitants. As a consequence of these policies, Hungarians are being increasingly pushed to the periphery, in both the geographical and social sense of the term.

In early 1988, the Romaluan government announced a program aimed at the "systematization of settlements." Under this scheme, the govemment plans to liquidate some eight thousand villages on the pretext of "modemizing agriculture" and setting up new "agro-industrial centers." The authorities attribute the poor output of agriculture to the scarcity of arable land and not to the inefficiellt system of economic management. Their answer is to increase the area of cropland by razing "prospectless settlements" in large numbers. The radical reduction in the number of villages and the concentration of population in new senlement centers will apply to all counties. This forced relocation of population not only violates the fundamental human rights of all persons, without regard to nationality, but will also result in the destruction of local communities, architectural treasures, and ancient monuments. The destruction of the traditional settlements of Hungarians, Germans (Saxons of Transylvania and Swabians of the Banat), South Slavs (Serbs and Croats), Slovaks, Ukraimans, and other nationalities is aimed at forcibly ending their communal and cultural solidarity. The conception of "systematization of settlements" demonstrates how the most extreme measures of Hitlerian and Stalinist despotism are still employed on our continent in the l980s. If the scheme is implemented, it is bound to obliterate even the memory of smaller nationalities and will also deal an irreparab1e blow to the historical and cultural identity of the large community of Transylvanian Hungarians. As a result, hundreds of settlements having a majority or a considerable number of Hungarian inhabitants will disappear from the map, particularly in Harghita, Covasna, Cluj, Bihor, Mures, Alba (Feher), and some other counties. [20]

Until the end of World War II, Hungarians living in the territory attached to Romania in 1920 were part of a complex and stratified society. The different classes, strata and groups, ranging from the upper middle class and the aristocracy to the proletariat and the peasantry composed a unified social order of their own. Over the past forty years, however, Hungarian society in Romania has been reduced to a bipolar social order. Standing above its bulk, which is composed of utterly pauperized masses of industrial and agricultural workers, is an ever thinner stratum of the intellectual elite. This change, which has followed the overall pattern of Romanian and East European trends, has led to a massing on a lower level. This has been an incalculable loss for the minority population because destruction of the middle strata has eliminated their most important preserver of national identity. This mutilation of the social structure has also led to a mutilated language. Hungarian language use related to different economic, technical, cultural, political, health and other activities has declined and has been replaced by the menacingly divisive dichotomy of the literary language, utilized by few, and the vernacular, which contains increasingly more foreign elements.

The l966 census provides the latest breakdown of the Romanian population by nationality with respect to education. At that time, Hungarians in the lower school categories (and, among these, the partly Hungarianlanguage, specialized secondary and industrial schools) were somewhat above their proportion of the population, but they were under-represented among university and college graduates. In fact, there has been a steady decline in the ratio of Hungarians in intellectual professions since 1956. The reasons for this tendency is discrimination in university admission policies and the almost complete suppression of mother-tongue instruction in higher levels of education. Also important as a contributing factor is wholesale emigration.

The distribution of professionals also reflects manipulation by the state. While a larger proportion of Romanians than Hungarians or Germans lives in villages, the ratio of university graduates among Romanians is smaller thaln in the case of the other two nationalities. However, due to the above mentioned state policy of assigning and relocating specialists, the situation in Transylvanian towns is different, there the Hungarian and German intellectuals are under-represented. [21]

A measure promoting the centrally directed weakening of the minority population is the replacement of their leading cadres. This has been going on for decades in the Romanian party and administrative organs, in economic management. and in the armed forces commmand. Now in the 1980s the process has sharply acceleraled. This means that city and county party secretaries, leading members of people's councils, and enterprise managers of Hungarian natioliality, as well as Hungarian officers in the army, police, and state security service have been replaced by persons of Romanian nationality. Romanianization among headmasters of Hungarian-language schools was drastically speeded up in the mid-1980s; between 1984 and 1987 half of the school principals of Hungarian nationality were dismissed and replaced by Romanians. Persons of Rornanian mtionality with no knowledge of Hungarian were appointed to head Hungarian-language cultural institutions (e g , theaters). These events complete the trend started already in the 1950s and 1960s, which - with the merger of Hungarian and Romanian educational institutions from university level on down to the primary school - applied the rule that the head of the merged institutions must be Romanian, while his deputy might be of Huligarian nationality.[22]

The unrealistic and immoderate rates of development envisaged by Romanian economic policy, together with its obvious failure, have been harmful to the entire population of Romania, but have proved particularly detrimental to the Hungarian minority of Transylvania. The steadily deteriorating economy, grappling with difficulties encountered in exports and on the domestic market, is generating a rapid rise in unemployment According to reliable sources, the number of unemployed in Transylvania is estimated at 3o0 to 400 thousand. the majority of them being 18 to 26 years of age. with Hungarians constituting a very high proportion. Owing to the shortage of energy.,raw materials, and orders, the output of factories has generally declined, Consequelitly, under the new wage regulations. workers receive only a part of their salaries, In 1985 and l986, in several enterprises the loss of income was compensated for by the payment of special premiums, but very few Hungarian workers received this extra allowance. [23]

The general trend of pauperization is evidenced also in the outward appearance of Transylvanian villages. Romania still lives in an era of Stalinist-type agrarian controls. Authorities often confiscate food reseves and apply other measures to curtail production for the market. With this policy, the government creates a new administrative obstacle to those economic and human contacts which existed as a matter of course between villages and towns of Hungarian-inhabited regions. These might still exist today if circtmistances were more favorable.

 [Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Endnotes] [HMK Home] Bela K. Kiraly: The Hungarian Minority's Situation in Ceausescu's Romania