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Chapter VII
Hungary and the Hungarians of Romania

For seven decades now the Hungarians of Transylvania have been Romanian citizens. They have been livilig in a social, politicat, demographic, and linguistic-cultural environ nent that differs from that of Hungary. This set of circumstances, along with the historical factors mentioned earlier. has led to the development of some distinct identity traits. Yet, what is decisive in their relationslup with Hungarians living in Hungary, is not this distinct identily factor but, rather, the elements of similarity and common identity which still bind them to one another. The fact is that, in the broader linguistic, cultural, and historical sense, Transylvanian Hungarians feel themselves to be part of the Hungarian nation. The mutual attachment which they feel for one another is a naturaJ and common relationship which exists between most national minorities and their mother nations. The minority remains a part of the whole of the original national community from which it has become separated by political developments and legal redefinitions of status. However, owing to its cultural, linguistic, and ethnic characteristics, the minority continues to be an active element of that national community.

Today's Romana, in line with its national drive for assimilation and homogenization, denies the right of minorities to dual loyalty on the basis of citizenship and nationality. The ideal of a "unified socialist Romanian nation" absorbing the minorities has become part of the of ficial ideology. Within this context, there is no longer any room for Hungarians, or Germans, or "others" in Romania; officially there are only "Hungarian-speaking Romanians" or "Rornanians of German ethnic origin." Consequently, even scholarly references to obvious historical, linguistic, and cultural links with the Hungarian nation are automatically branded as "nationalist" and even "irredentist".

Political practice parallels these ideological commitments. It also aims at isolating the Hungarians of Romania from the outside world. above all from Hungary and from other Hungarian communities within neighboring countries. Separated from its mother nation and other Hungarian cultural communities outside Romania, renders the minority defenseless against forced assimilation. Furthermore, it becomes more difficult for the minority to inform international public opinion about discriminatory acts and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The normal development of relations between a minority and its mother nation requires the openness of frontiers to all citizens, a suitable passport and visa policy, and adequate customs and currency regulations. Romania belongs to those states on the European continent which generally restrict external contacts and anempt to cut off their citizens from the influences of the outside world. [98] Romanians are permitted to travel abroad (including to Hungary) as private citizens only once every two years. (Exceptions are made rarely and then only for cases involving extraordinary individual considerations). However, the possibility for foreign travel every two years exists, in most cases, only in principle, i.e., as a formal legal right. Police authorities frequently fail to act on travel requests, often for months on end, and subject applicants (especiaily those desirous of going to the West or to Hungary) to gruelling interrogations, inquiring in great detail into their destination and foreign connections. In recent years, the authorities have also tried to deter men of military age from going to Hungary, by calling them up for military (mostly labor) service for several months. Those who present their request for a passport, are immediately targeted for active military service. Yet another obstacle to travel abroad is that travellers have no legal right to exchange their money for foreign currency . Furthennore, the range of commodities which can be taken out of the country and sold for money has been considerably reduced. [99]

Visits to Romania by people from Hungary and other countries have been made extremely difficult in the last decade. Every year hundreds (in 1985, more than one thousand) Hungarians possessing valid travel documents have been arbitrarily refused entry into the country by Romnian border guards. [100] Another effective way of discouraging travel into Romania (especially by Hungarians) is the imposition of long delays at bordercrossing points. Visitors to Romania sometimes have to wait several hours, even entire days, to get permission to cross the border. Thus, the isolation is achieved via control over border-traffic in both directions.

With respect to customs, the routine method is now the body search by customs officials. This applies particularly to searches of Hungarians, Yugoslavs and Western travelers. Hungarian-language publications, books, periodicals, records and tape cassettes are virtually prohibited from crossing tbe border into Rornania, although no list of such embargoed items has ever been issued A de facto ban is also imposed on the importation of religious ceremonial objects and printed maner without regard to the language involved.[101] Until the middle of the 1980s, it was still possible to mail a limited number of censored periodical publications to relatives and acquaintances in Romania on a subscription basis from Hungary. All indications are that this possibility has become drastically reduced

Newspapers from Hungary, including Nepszabadsag (People's Freedom). the central organ of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, cannot be found at newsstands in Transylvanian towns. [102] As opposed to this, between the two world wars Budapest newspapers, which were often openly hostile to Romanian policies, could still be purchaed in Romania.

Centrally enforced isolation is extended also to personal contacts. Its legal basis is the previously mentioned 1974 decree on accommodations. This decree has adverse consequences primartly for Hungarians and Germans and serves as a brutal reminder of existing limitations of personal freedoms in this corner of Europe. [103] Other methods are also employed to prevent Romanian citizens from contacts with Hungarians and other "foreigners." A confidential directive of 1985 requires that all employees meet foreign citizens only in a room specifically designated for this purpose on the premises of their workplace. After the meeting they must prepare a wrtten report on the substance of their conversation. Such reporting is obligatory for all Romanians coming into contact with foreigners. [104]

The efforts lo isolate institutions from relations with foreign institutions are much easier to control centrally. For example, even a formal interstate culural agreement between Ronania and Hungary, has gradually been crippled by the Romanian side. Proposals submitted by Hungarian cultural, social, religious, and economic organizations (e g , universities, theatres, churches, enterprises to Romanians equivalents) are either nipped in the bud one after the other or terminated after some initial steps have been taken for their implementation. Leaders of Hungarian churches in Romania, for example, cannot maintain any contact with sister churches in Hungary, and even the long-established West European connections of the Calvinist and the Catholic churches in Transylvania have been restricted to a very narrow circle. The regime only allows and appoints people who enjoy its confidence. when it negotiates with foreigners on matters of religious policy and other international issues. This applies both to the leading dignitaries of both the minority churches and the Romanian majority church.

Even economic relations, regarded as neutral from the perspective of the nationality problem, come up against official obstacles. Whenever a more enduring kind of organized cooperation seems to develop between a Hungarian firm and a Romanian enterprise in the western boundary zone of Romania the relationship runs into opposition from central authorities. In a hypercentralized and basically autarkic economic system like the Romanian economy the interest of economic units in border areas excludes any independent right to external trade. If ailowed any expression at all, sooner or later it is necessarily subordinated to another will, the cenlral will, which is largely guided by polilical rather than economic considerations. At present, this factor essentiaily detennines the limits of borderzone economic contacts and other institutional cooperation between Hajdu-Bihar, Bekes, and Csongrad counties in Hungary and Bihor, Arad, and Timis counties in Romania. Such cooperation has now either been terminated or been reduced to a few formal visits by top executives.

Notwithstanding the obvious complementary interests and needs of the populations of Romania and Hungary, as well as the social and diplomatic initiatives of Hungary, cultural cooperation between the two countries has sunk to an all-time low. Until the mid-1970s, Hungarian students from Romania could study at Hungarian universities at their own expense. Furthermore cultural specialists (teachers, ethnographers, historians, folklorists) could join study tours or attend extension training courses, workshops and conferences in Hungary. Today this kind of institutional cooperation has become a thing of the past. For more than fifteen years now. Hungarian educational establislunents have had no scholarship holders from Romalnia and for years there have been no Romania participants in summer universily programs in Hungary. In fact, Romanian Hungarians who had been invited to attend an international ehnographic conference held in Vienna in 1986 had to turn down the invitation at the last minute because they were refused the necessary travel documents. Similarly, scholarly replesentatives of Romanian Hungarians were prevented from attending conferences held in Hungary in 1986 for Huligarian histonans and natural scientists from abroad.

The Romaian government's policy of isolation aimed at forced assimilation is injurious also for the 20,000 people of the Ronanian minority living in Hungary. While until the middle of the 1980s, they still had the opportuluity to send students to Romanian unversities and their teachers and librarians were allowed to attend professional training in their mother tongue in Romania, this is now no longer the case. The Romanian government fears reciprocity and therefore has increasingly limited Romanians from Hungary from attnding training opportunities in Romania.

In 1977, a summit meeting was held in Debrecen and Oradea between Hungary and Romania. The Romanians signed at this time a series of agreements which might have promoted the development of better cultural-educational relations. Most of these plans, however, have failed to materialize because of lack of good faith. For example, Romania does not intend to fulfill the proposal for Hungarian and Romanian cultural institutes in the two capitals. These were to engage in the selling and lending of books and periodicals. Romania's rigid stand on this proposal has stalled the simultaneous opening of the two cultural institutes to the present.[105]

Since the Romanian government strives to bar Hungarian access to outside printed Hungarian materials and personal contacts with foreigners it has also reduced the avenues for the institutional preservation of Hungarian culture in Romania. This dramatically reduced access has enhanced the role of Hungarian television and foreign (both Hungarian and Western) radio programs. These play an important role in upgrading public information in the mother tongue and in providing for the cultural needs of the minority. However, the opportunities for receiving such broadcasts are limited by distance and geography in a lot of places. Those viewing or listening to them are furthennore branded as disloyal citizens by authorities. [106] A typical example of official efforts to block broadcasts in recent years was the removal of receiving antennas from homes at Zalau (Zilah). These aerials were removed because they were capable of receiving television traulsmissions from Budapest.

Romanian authorities also endeavor to hinder individual channels of communication between the minority and Hungary via postal censorship and the refusal to construct direct, long-distance telephone links between Romania and Hungary. Both countries already have established such communication links with most other European countries. In the final analysis, however, long distance calls are a possibility for Romanian citizens only in principle. The rules in force allow calls to foreign countries only once every three months and those who infringe this rule are obligated to pay a puntive extra charge.

The Romanian government holds the Hungarian minority hostage. It is a means to blackmail the Hungarian government in their interstate relations The character and timing of each anti-monority measure leaves no doubt that it was intended to be an unfriendly gesture towards Hungary. On the eve of April 4, l988, Hungary,s national holiday, for example, the Romanian government decreed that henceforth the minority publications must print all place-names only in their Romanian form This provision is not only anti-Hungarian in nature but it also discriminated against publications issued in German, Serbo-Croatian, and other minority languages.[107]

As a result of the above and other aforementioned restrictions, contacts between Hungarians in Romania and in Hungary have fallen to an all time low. In the Hungarian-Romanian border zone area. this regression is incontrovertible even in comparison with the far from ideal conditions that prevailed during the inter-war period. [108] If we compare the inter-war regulations in force concenong frontier traffic of both private persons and printed publications with the present-day situation, we can clearly note degeneration The contrast is even sharper if we take as the basis for comparison the promising developments in Hungarian-Romanian relations that took place for a couple of years following World War II. Aside from a short period of improvement in the late 1960s (also reflected in the external relations of the minorities) Romanian policy towards the nationalities grew more oppressive. At present that slight improvement now lives only in memory and cannot be freely discussed in Romania

These deliberate efforts to reduce relations between the Hungarian minority and their co-nationals in Hungary contravenes the basic norms of intemational law. It also violates the obligations which Romania has accepted in various general and regional conventions or declarations, among them in the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Thus, when we see the need for fundamental changes in the situation of Romania's Hungarians with respect to their external relations, we are comparing it not only to positive European examples of relations between minorities and their mother nations (ranging from international conventions concluded after 1945 for the protection of minorities, e g, between Italy and Austria, Denmark and West Germanyy, Great Britain and Ireland), but to specific agreements on cultural cooperation and other matters (e g , the Hungarian-Yugoslavian agreement on cultural cooperation and direct border-zone contacts). Romania's policy of isolating its citizens, above all its minority citizens, from the outside world violates the principles of civilized behavior in the relations between states. This policy and its objectives must be resolutely countered by Hungary and all other state signatories of the Helsinki Final Act. The various sectors of Hungarian society and all international democratic forces must also stand united against these abuses.

The rapid deterioration of the minority's situation raises the question of Hungary's responsibility for its co-nationals in Romania. After World War II, people in Huligary were hopeful and looked forward to real improvements in the situation of the Hungarian minority in Romania. By signing the Paris Peace Treaty, Hungary officially broke with all forms of irredentism. Leaders and official institutions of the two neighboring states repeatedly emphasized that a radical improvement had begun in Romanian-Hungarian relations. In this improvement they expected the Hungarian people of Transylvania to play an important role in the positive development of relations between the two countries. During those years, it appeared the two peoples had finally put behind them the suffering and the tragedies. However, the subsequent era of Stalinism gave rise not only to the nationalization and centralization of society, the economy, and culture but also to an ingrained intolerance toward the various minorities. It also led to an unprecedented antagonism between the countries concerned. This period witnessed an intensity of antagonism that had been inconceivable earlier. In this time of perpetual hostility between the two states, during the period from 1949 to 1955, even personal contacts were broken and citizens were barred from visiting each other's country.

The question of Hungarians living in neighboring countries was declared taboo by Hungary's political leaders during the Rakosi era. This stance was also encouraged by the prevailing viewpoint regarding internatiolial law and politics which, after World War II, submerged minority rights into the category of universal human rights. This relegated the matter of minorities, with few exceptions. to the exclusive domestic jurisdiction of individual states. From the end of the 1940s, the Marxian interpretation of internationalism in Hungary reckoned less and less with the nationalities, and regarded even the mere existence of Hungarians beyond the borders as nationalistic pleadings. Consequently, the issue of Hungarians living in neighboring countries became a topic about which it was inadvisable to speak in public. [109] In their criticism of earlier Hungarian nationalism and irredentism, Hungary's Stalinist ideologues and propagandists frequently adopted the anti-Hungarian arguments of the nationalists in the neighboring countries.

Not even after 1956 did the opportunity present itself for establishing contacts between Hungarians living on both sides of the border. Nor was it possible to inform public opinion in Hungary about the life and culture of Hungarians in Romania. The basically unaltered official position was that Hungary had nothing to do with the Hungarians of neighboring countries. Accordingly, press and educational establishments also remained silent about the issue. Even the sports celebrities and artists who were ethnic Hungarians had their names printed in the Hungarian press according to the rules of Romanian spelling (e.g., Jolanda Balas, Stefan Ruha), and Budapest newspapers employed the Romanian designation for centuries-old Hungarian settlemenis and towns of Transylvania. Terms relating to the nationality problem were simply omitted from the vocabulary of Hungarian politics and ideology. In a manner unique to Central Europe, the criticism of nationalism was focused only on the castigation of Hungarian natiomlism. [110] The unfavorable consequences of such an extremely negative and one-sided image of Hungarians were that it made it difficult for a healthy self-criticism to evolve in Hungary and also conserved fallacious views and misinfontsation. At the same time, this excused and even indirectly encouraged the anti-Hungarian natiomlism in some of the neighborig countries.

During the course of his 1958 state visit to Romania, Janos Kadar declared in Tirgu-Mures., the chief town of the still existing Hungarian Autonomous Region, that Hungary had no territorial claims against Romania. However, he failed to voice Hungary's concern for the ethnic survival of Hungarians in Romania. In fact, when in 1962 a few Hungarian intellectuals protested at intentational forums against the merger of the Hungarian auld Romanian universities of Cluj, the protesters were found guilty of violating state interests by a court of law in Budapest. [111]

The increased tourist traffic between countries of Eastern Europe in the early 1960s made it easier to strengthen family relations and friendship ties between Hungarians living in Romania and Hungary. Still, the existence of the more thall two million strong Hungaria minority in Romania remained a taboo topic in Hungarian public discussions. Representatives of official (mainly cultural) policy maltifest not only indifference but vehement opposition to any consideration of the problem. In the early 1970s, a political journalist even wrote that the relationship of Hungary and Transylvania resembled the relationship between France and Algeria, as if the fonner were a form of colonial dependence.

From the middle of the 1960s, on behalf of Hungarian literature, a number of Hungarian writers demanded that more attention should be devoted to the Hungarian culture of Romania. Initial progress was made in this area in some literary reviews, which from time to time published the writings by Hungarian authors of Romania. In March l 968, the literary criticism section of the Hungarian Writers, Association formulated its view on Hungarian literature abroad. It pointed out that responsibility for such literature rested with both their own country and with the representatives of Hungarian literaoure in general. In other words, that they had dual loyalties. In addition. there was a gradual increase in the number of sociological publications concerning Hungarians outside Hungary (including Romania), although initially such publications appeared as individual ventures and not as works sanctioned for researchers affiliated with some institution. [112]

During the above period, an official reassessment began in Hungary regarding the problems of inter-ethnic and inter-natiolialily relations. A change in official policy can be noted from l969, when a working group of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party recognized, in an unpublished position paper, that cultural relations must be developed with Huligarias living in the neighboring countries. Like it or not, the numerical size of Hungarian minorities, running into the millions, demanded the attention of Hungary.

In the 1970s. Hungary gradually incorporated into its official foreign policy statements the role of national minorities as bridges uniting different peoples. [113] The Hungarian press also began to publish more reports on the life of Hungarians in Romania. In their public statements at home and abroad, responsible statesmen sometimes broached this matter as a problem. While they recognized that it was essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of Romania, they also pointed out that Romania's policies in this area would have an effect on Hungary. After all a considerable part of Huligary 's population had relatives living across the border in Romania

Nevertheless, dunng the 1970s and even into the 1980s, official Hungarian policy still reflected a great deal of hesitancy and uncertainty It did not develop consistent principles on this issue and failed to fonmulate possible courses of action Measures that were taken were often of an 17d hoc nahire Furlhennore. those who demanded a more assertive policy were of len regarded with suspicion.[114] Moreover, young people who regularly traveled to Transylvania faced the prospects of harassment by the authorilies.

Hungarian diplomacy began to be more clearly defined around the middle of the 1980's as evidenced by Hungarian representatives calling for the safeguarding of miinority rights on an internalional level at international conferences and meetings. [115] A statement by Matyas Szuros, the Secretary for International Affairs of the HSWP Central Comrninee in January, 1988, marked an important new development. The statement referred to the Hungarian minorities living in the Carpathian basin as part of the Hungarian nation. It also outlined some elements of a more coherent Hungarian policy toward the minorities. [116] A publication issued by Imre Szokai and Csaba Tabajdi (leading officials of the foreign affairs department of the HSWP), in February, 1988, asserted in still more detail the principles and practices of the new Hungarian policy conceming the maner of the minority question.[117]

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