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The Press

The national-minority press and publishing industry in Romania should be examined first of all as an aspect of nationality policy in general, and secondly, in terms of their influence in shaping intellectual, social, and economic life in socialist Romania.

According to the official formulation, press and publishing are among the institutionalized forms of intellectual life guaranteed to the Romanian national minorities. In fact, however, both the press and publishing are state monopolies and as such are under the control of the Romanian Communist Party and serve as instruments of ideological and political propaganda.

Since 1945, the functions of the press and publishing have been constantly changing: the different phases of this process can be closely correlated with the general development of party policy.

It is well-known that the oldest and most venerable publishing traditions in Romania are those of the Transylvanian Germans and Hungarians. The first printing press in Transylvania was established by Transylvanian Saxons in 1528 in Hermannstadt/ Nagyszeben/ Sibiu. This is where the first Transylvanian printed book, the Latin grammar of Thomas Gemmarius, Libellus Grammaticus, was published in 1529, which was, however, not preserved. The first printed book in the Romanian language, Luther's Catechism, was published in 1544. That press also issued, in 1546, a Slavonic-Romanian (Old Bulgarian) evangelic book (Tetraevangheliar)1. The second printing press in Transylvania was founded in 1539 in Kronstadt/ Brassó/ Brasov, by one of the outstanding figures of the Transylvanian Reformation, the Saxon Johannes Honterus (1489-1549). Gáspá r Heltai (Kaspar Helth 1490 or 1510-1574), a Hungarianized Saxon cleric, printer, and publisher, also established with Georg Hoffgreff a printing press in 1550, in Kolozsvár/ Klausenburg/ Cluj.2


A century later, the Hungarian Miklós Kis Tótfalusi (1650-1702) founded a printing press in Kolozsvár, where he published about a hundred books. The first Transylvanian journal, Theatral Wochenblatt, began appearing in Hermannstadt in 1778; in 1784 it became the Siebenbü rgische Zeitung (later Kriegsbote, then Siebenbü rger Bote, and, after 1971, Hermannstä dter Zeitung). The first scholarly journal in the country, Siebenbü rgische Quartalschrift, was established in 1790, as was the newspaper Erdé lyi Magyar Hirvivö (The Transylvanian-Hungarian Messenger), later Erdé lyi Hiradó (Transylvanian Advertiser).3 In 1814 Gábor Döbrentei published the first Hungarian-language scholarly journal Erdé lyi Mú zeum (Transylvanian Museum). The Archiv des Vereins fü r Siebenbü rgische Landeskunde, a more significant scholarly publication, began appearing in 1853.4

After the annexation of Transylvania to Romania, the survival of the ethnic press, theater, and educational institutions was possible only through the support of members of the minorities. Cities such as Cluj, Oradea, and Arad, with their overwhelming Hungarian populations and centuries-long Hungarian traditions and, to a lesser extent Brasov, became more important as cultural centers because of their isolation from Hungary. At the same time, Sibiu, Timisoara, and Brasov had the same importance for Germans.

As a result of the suspension of censorship between 1928 and 1933, a new stimulus was provided for the development of a nationality press and literature in Romania. After 1920, 330 newspapers, journals and other periodical publications, as well as 50 literary series in the languages of the national minorities were being published in Transylvania; 243 of them were newly founded. The political press of the nationalities was represented by 18 daily and 53 weekly newspapers.5 During the interwar period, the journals published in Transylvania in Hungarian-language included: Erdé lyi Helikon (Transylvanian Helicon), a literary and critical periodical which appeared between 1928 and 1944; the Marxist literary journal Korunk (Our Age), published between 1926 and 1940, which reappeared in 1957;


sztortü z (Shepherd's Fire), another literary and critical journal published between 1921 and 1944; Erdé lyi Irodalmi Szemle (Transylvanian Literary Review), which appeared between 1924 and 1929 and was later merged with the scholarly journal Erdé lyi Mú zeum (Transylvanian Museum); Magyar Kisebbsé g (Hungarian Minority), a special journal dealing with minority questions; and the cultural-affairs periodical Hitel (Credit), published between 1936 and 1944. Among the more important Hungarian-language dailies were Brassó i Lapok (Brassó Papers), Ellenzé k (Opposition), and Keleti Ú jsá g (Eastern Journal), published in Cluj.

The German-language press was also represented during the interwar period in Romania by a large number of newspapers, journals, and other periodicals. Among the most important periodicals were the cultural journal Ostland (Hermannstadt, 1919-1921 and 1926-1931) and the literary journal Klingsor (Kronstadt, 1924-1939). Among the leading German-language newspapers were the daily Kronstä dter Zeitung, established in 1849 (Kronstadt, 1849-1944); the leading Transylvanian Saxon conservative daily, Siebenbü rgisch-Deutsche Tageblatt, established in 1874 (Hermannstadt, 1874-1944); Banater Deutsche Zeitung (Temesvár); and another Temesvá r daily, Tageszeitung.6 With the rise of the National-Socialist movement, the two great papers Siebenbü rgisch-Deutsche Tageblatt and Banater Deutsche Zeitung were merged to form dostdeutsche Tageszeitung (1941-1944). A cultural-affairs monthly, Volk im Osten, similar to Klingsor, began appearing in this period as well.

The Hungarian and German-language publications listed above all fell victim to the change of regime at the end of the Second World War, except for the Marxist Korunk (Our Age) and the Hungarian-language left-wing daily Igazsá g (The Truth), established in 1940.

The publishing of books in the languages of the national minorities during the interwar period in Romania developed rather freely as a result of the abolition of censorship between 1928 and 1933. Of all the publishing houses in Transylvania, 61.8 percent produced publications in Hungarian and 10.5 percent in German, while only 27.7 percent produced publications in Romanian.7


Development Since 1945

In the immediate post-war period the Hungarian and German press and publishing industry in Transylvania continued to be of importance. During this period of political conflict and transition to a communist regime, the national minorities in Romania still retained their autonomous cultural institutions. Out of a total of 2,417 books published by state publishing houses in 1949, 770 were in languages of the national minorities, while in 1950, 953 out of a total of 2,921 books were in minority languages. This ratio was to change dramatically during the ensuing decades. (In 1956 only 519 of 3,168; in 1974, 666 of 4,406; and in 1978, only 554 of 3,774.)

In fact, several new Hungarian and German newspapers and journals were founded during these years. These included the following Hungarian-language publications: pi Egysé g (Unity of the People), established in Brasov in 1944; Vilá gossá g (Light), which began publication in Cluj in 1944; Szabad Szó (Free Word), founded in Tirgu Mures in 1944, and Erdé ly (Transylvania), Utunk (Our Path), Falvak Né pe (People of the Villages), and Romá niai Magyar Szó (Hungarian Word in Romania), all published in Cluj. Postwar German-language newspaper publishing began in 1949, with the appearance of Neuer Weg, which was followed by other periodicals, such as: the literary magazine Kultureller Wegweiser, the journal of the German writers' association, Banater Schrifttum, published in Timisoara; Temeswarer Zeitung, a Banat newspaper, which appeared in Transylvania as well under separate title, and later as Neue Literatur, published in Bucharest beginning in 1956. Die Freiheit was the organ of the Social Democratic Party. Neue Welt, a German-language illustrated magazine published by the Romanian-Soviet Society, also appeared in the postwar period, as did Volkszeitung, published in Brasov, and Die Wahrheit, published in Timisoara.8

During the period of transition to a communist regime the newspapers and journals published in Romania became instruments of communist party propaganda. They owe their continued existence only to this fact. The consolidation of the regime and the general political and social transformations which accompanied it and which had such a decisive effect on nationality relations also exerted a significant influence on the press and book publishing in general.

Soon after the establishment of the People's Front of the Groza Government (March 6, 1945), a decree, issued on May 4, listed those literary and scientific works published between 1917 and 1944 which were considered "subversive" according to the new cultural policy. By 1949 the number of forbidden works had reached 8,000.9 Censorship was also intensified. In accordance with a new decree,10 the publication of all literary or scholarly works required preliminary approval from the Ministry of Arts and Information.


With the establishment of the communist regime (December 30, 1947) all cultural institutions came under tight state control and were made instruments of "progressive" culture. At the same time, freedom of the press was abolished. Literature lost its original function and became a mere political tool for furthering the ideas of "class struggle" and "revolution." While Western writers in the years after 1945 were preoccupied with the psychological problem of man shaken by war, writers in East Central Europe were pressured to choose themes that were more propagandistic and agitational in tone. Much of prewar literary tradition fell victim to these new endeavors.

It was easy, under the guise of the ideological struggle, to carry out against the bourgeois regime a policy whose aims included the progressive erosion of the cultural and literary heritage of the national minorities. This began with the dispersion of ethnic cultural centers. In order to solidify central control, not only the majority of publishing houses but also most of the newspaper editorial offices were moved to Bucharest. In 1957, both the Hungarian and the German writers' associations were abolished, and the membership was incorporated into the Romanian Writers' Association, centered in Bucharest. A considerable proportion of the national-minority press and publishing industry was also moved to the capital. At present, ten Hungarian weekly and monthly journals, as well as the largest Hungarian-language daily in Romania, are all edited and published at the Romanian press center in the Scinteia Building in Bucharest. These include: A Hét (The Week), Munká let (Workers' Life), Dolgozó (Working Woman), velö dé s (Education), Tanü gyi Ú jsá g (Education Journal), Falvak Dolgozó pe (Working People of the Villages; formerly Falvak-Né pe -- People of the Villages), Ifjú munká s (Young Worker), bará t (Good Friend), szet Romaniá ban (Bee-Keeping in Romania), Matematikai Lapok (Mathematical Papers), and the daily Elö re (Forward, formerly Romá niai Magyar Szó ), established in 1953.11

The German-language daily, Neuer Weg,12 the chief organ of the Germans in Romania, has been published in Bucharest since 1949. Since that year, a popular-scholarly periodical, Volk und Kultur. and Neue Literatur, a monthly literary journal publishing the works of German writers and scholars, have also been published in Bucharest; the biannual scholarly periodical Forschungen zur Volks- und Landeskunde is published in Sibiu. Other nationality-language periodicals published there include the Armenian weekly Norghiank, the Ukrainian bi-monthly Novii Vik (New Time), the Serbo-Croatian biannual Knjizevni Zivot (Literary Life), and a Yiddish newspaper.


In addition to the periodicals listed above, ecclesiastical journals in the languages of the national minorities are also published. These include two Hungarian journals -- the bi-monthly publication of the Reformed and Evangelical Churches, Reformá tus Szemle (Reformed Church Review), and the quarterly of the Unitarian Church, Kereszté ny Magvetö (Christian Sower, Cluj, 186l-1944, and 1971-) and the German-language monthly of the Evangelische Landeskirche A.B. in Rumä nien, Kirchliche Blä tter.

In addition to the major minority-language literary and sociopolitical journals and other periodicals published in Bucharest, there are a number of provincial and local newspapers published in Hungarian and German.13 The Hungarian-language sociopolitical and philosophical journal Korunk (Our Age), for example, which was the leading periodical of the interwar left-wing movement is published in Cluj-Napoca. It contains general, abstract studies and specialized professional articles which are dogmatic in their approach and are, with a few exceptions, irrelevant to the real concerns of the Hungarian national minority in Romania. The leading Hungarian-language literary journal, Igaz Szó (True Word), is published in Tirgu Mures, and the literary weekly Utunk (Our Path), founded in 1946, appears in Cluj-Napoca. The German-language cultural weekly Karpatenrundschau is published in Brasov, and the sociopolitical weekly Die Woche,14 in Sibiu.

In the 1960s the local papers of the national minorities firmly established themselves in the cultural life of the province and to some extent could fill the place of the missing specialized journals; their institutionalized uniformity, however, led to a decrease in variety. Although restricted to their respective counties, their officially limited editions were not sufficient to fill the needs of their readership. It must be noted here that while the local Romanian papers were published in editions averaging between 20,000 and 30,000 copies, the Hungarian papers, for example, were published in editions of only 5,000 in Covasna and Harghita Counties which had overwhelmingly Hungarian populations.

In the next period of improvement, it was soon obvious that the local press, like all the mass media, owed its existence and was subordinated to the propagation of the ideological tenets of the communist party.


Thirty Hungarian-language publications and eight German-language papers are published in Romania today (1980). By contrast, between the two world wars, a total of 288 such publications appeared in Romania, 181 of them in Hungarian (112 newspapers and 69 journals) and 107 of them in German (77 newspapers and 30 journals).15 Most of the nationality publications in Romania were established in the second half of the 1940s and 1950s, but the papers serving the area with the largest concentration of Hungarians, the Székler region, and almost all Hungarian-language student papers began to appear only at the end of the 1960s.

The editing and publishing are not always done in the same locality, a situation which makes the coordination of these tasks complicated and difficult. With the exception of the Dacia Publishing House in Cluj-Napoca and a few insignificant provincial publishers, the publishers of the books in the languages of the national minorities are all located in Bucharest.

In the analysis that follows, an attempt will be made to consider the political and cultural aspects of the stages in the history of the national-minority press and publishing industry in post-war Romania. The most significant turning points in Romania's cultural policy since the Second World War are as follows: 1948, with the consolidation of the communist regime; the beginning of the 1950s, with the triumph of "socialist realism" in the arts and letters; the middle of the 1960s; and, finally, 1971 and 1976. Each of these dates can be closely correlated with significant changes in the tone of literature and the press. A periodic loosening and tightening of restrictions and successive periods of liberalism and repression have helped breed confusion and tension in the cultural field.

The Dogmatic Period

As was mentioned, the period of proletarian internationalism in the 1950s inevitably left its mark on the national-minority literature and press as well. By the second half of the 1940s, the minority press had lost a great deal of its specific nationality character and had become a tool of mass propaganda. It became monotonous, colorless, and superficial. There was a real lack of serious writing relating to the fundamental issues of minority life. The literature of the mother countries of the national minorities was also excluded, for all practical purposes, from the Romanian press, as was most world literature.


The literary works published during this period were of poor quality, not only in terms of content, but in terms of their external appearance as well. The content of the press and literature were determined almost exclusively by the politics of "class struggle." Writers were obliged to choose topics dealing with workers or peasants, and their works had to be imbued with the spirit of agitation and propaganda. Literature became stereotyped: the written word was made little more than a weapon of dogmatic "proletcult" propaganda. The voices of important Hungarian and German authors were muted in isolation, but not even the best writers were able to avoid having to manifest their political commitment.16 "Russifying" influences, especially during the Zhdanov period, led ultimately to a rewriting of Romanian history and to official support for a theory proclaiming the Slavonic origin of the Romanian language. Ironically, however, it was this very same anti-nationalist cosmopolitanism which was soon to give rise to a new emphasis on nationalism.

The Desatellitization Process -- Liberalizing Trends

Soon after Stalin's death in March 1953, an important transformation of Romanian domestic policy, representing a departure from the strict, dogmatic approach of the early 1950s, could be noted. At the same time, a certain assertion of independence and efforts at emancipation from Russian tutelage were apparent. Characteristic of the new political phase were a kind of controlled liberalization, a certain regeneration of the intellectual life, the return to the literary heritage of the past, and, finally, an opening of the country to Western influences, all, however, carried out within a framework of Marxist-Leninist principles.

Decisive factors in the further development of Romanian cultural policy during the 1960s were the election of Nicolae Ceausescu as the party's First Secretary (March 22, 1965), the Ninth Congress of the RCP (July 1965), and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (August 21, 1968). Initially, signs of a more liberal -- even if strongly nationalistic-cultural policy could be observed, although the hegemony of the communist party was never put in question. Just as the literature of the 1950s was marked by revolutionary class struggle, so the guidelines of cultural policy in the 1960s were set by patriot-educational and ideological commitment. As is characteristic of the East-bloc mentality, cultural liberalization only meant freedom to criticize the immediate past, which, in this case, meant a condemnation of Stalinist excesses.


The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 helped usher in a new period of controlled liberalization in Romanian cultural policy, which in turn meant a renewal of the national-minority literatures and press in Romania. The tone of the press became more democratic and liberal; writers belonging to the national minorities were given encouragement to manifest their own national spirit. This period was marked by a vigorous struggle between the leaders of the party and those writers who supported a liberalizing trend of the Czechoslovak type.17 Journals published foreign literature more regularly, and there was a significant improvement in the material quality of publications. The number of publications in all areas -- with the exception of the Yiddish press -- also increased as compared with the 1950s.18

Between 1968 and 1971 the literature of the national minorities in Romania developed to a greater extent than it had during the preceding twenty-five years. It was during this period of two or three years that the most outstanding works of postwar national-minority literature were published.19 However, "liberalization" never went so far as to permit a realistic depiction of contemporary problems. Thus, many creative writers sought refuge in historical fiction, using it as a means for discussing problems of the present. This approach has given rise to a whole series of historical plays and novels.

This phase of the renewal bought the Hungarians and Germans in Romania important cultural journals as well as significant county newspapers; some of the daily and critical literary magazines gained manifoldness and a more significant content.

The subsequent hardening of the ideological line, however, showed clearly that the process of liberalization was only a tactical move and was limited. Control over cultural activities also came increasingly into the hands of the Central Committee of the party during this period. Moreover, the primary function of nationality publishing and the nationality press came to be seen as the translation of Romanian works into the languages of the national minorities. Naturally, this has had a markedly negative effect on minority scholarship since publishing houses and press organs can publish only a limited amount of material. The aim of this unvoiced but clear policy has been the reshaping of the patterns of minority intellectual and cultural life, separating the minorities from their own national cultures and implanting the spirit of Romanian culture in their consciousness.


This policy has resulted in the creation of a hybrid national consciousness, whose only national characteristic is language. This cultural policy has employed a whole battery of devices -- censorship, limitations on the size of editions, material and moral incentives, propaganda, etc. -- in its efforts to force national-minority writers to develop a particular form of "nationality" literature. This "nationality" literature should, according to the official view, preserve as little of the traditions of its own classical national literature as possible and, preferably, be completely isolated from the influences of contemporary European literature. Furthermore, it should depict the history of the national-minority and Romanian peoples in accordance with official views, particularly with regard to the development of Transylvania, and last, but not least, it should contain a positive evaluation of present-day nationality policy. Naturally, these principles have never been officially expressed but there can be no doubt about their real significance for the makers of Romanian national-minority policy.

The press and publishing are coming to be weapons of a general nationality policy aimed at the merging of the various national groups in Romania through "homogenization" and uniformization.20 Thus, for example, the official view, which states -- contrary to fact -- that there are no compact Hungarian areas in Romania, must be reflected in Hungarian nationality literature, through the compulsory inclusion of Romanian as well as Hungarian characters; writers who do not comply cannot have their work published unless it is rewritten by the censors.21

All the major national-minority literary journals have been publishing translations of Romanian works to an increasing extent. In and of itself, this would not be objectionable, so long as it took place on a reciprocal basis, within the framework of a fair and truly effective cultural exchange aimed at the unity of national cultures. However, in fact, Romanian literature, literary history, and literary events are given incomparably more space in the national-minority press than materials on national-minority literature receive in the Romanian press. Moreover, the nationality press cannot even publish articles dealing with its own national history unless they are presented in terms of "mutual fraternity," i.e., from the point of view of official Romanian historiography; even then, minority history must be portrayed as secondary to Romanian history.


By contrast, the nationality press must devote a great deal of space to articles on Romanian history. Thus, nationality policy has turned a rightful demand for mutual understanding into a weapon of intellectual enslavement and has played a role in transforming the "national" development of the minorities into a deformed "nationality" development. The national-minority press publications serves in the realization of the same policy. For example, the chief newspaper of the Hungarian minority, Elö re (Forward), or the German-language Neuer Weg, in their leading articles and political commentaries publish, word for word, material from the two leading Romanian dailies, Scinteia (Spark) and Romania Libera (Free Romania). It is therefore not surprising that national-minority papers offer the same articles as Romanian papers, aimed at the distortion of historical consciousness22 and the promotion of the idea of Romanian national supremacy.23 Since the Western press has begun to devote more attention to the problems of the national minorities in Romania, the Romanian party leadership has ordered so-called "refutations," articles denying alleged discrimination against the minorities. In general the persons selected for writing these rejoinders are high-ranking party functionaries and other privileged supporters of the regime belonging to the national minorities.24

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