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The Cultural Policy of the 1970s

A return to a rigid, dogmatic cultural policy resembling that of the 1950s came with the proclamation of the "Little Cultural Revolution," in July 1971. One aspect of this "revolution" was a re-emphasis on the didactic role of literature and the arts. The new measures began to be implemented after the May 1972 Writers' Conference and the analysis of it issued by the Council for Socialist Culture and Education, and they were given concrete form in the principles and guidelines drawn upon the basis of the resolutions of the Eleventh Congress of the RCP (November 24-27, 1974). Plans for the ideological and political transformation of all of Romanian intellectual and artistic life took on final form in the program of the June 1976 Congress of Political Education and Socialist Culture.

The phases of this campaign for intellectual and ideological transformation can be traced through the various decrees, secret directives, and resolutions of various conferences issued after 1972. Unlike the proletarian internationalism of the 1950s, the guiding principle of the cultural revolution was emphatically nationalist -- a total identification with the Party's and the nation's goals.


The "Little Cultural Revolution" heralded the creation of a "new man" and the transformation of all aspects of intellectual and artistic life in order to create a "mass culture," a "socialist culture," and although it was met by opposition from several well-known artists and writers,25 it soon began to have an impact on the cultural scene. The press, the publishing industry, and mass media became weapons in the proclaimed campaign of ideological and political education: "The press, radio, and television, and all means of mass communication must in the future increase their activities . . . these means of communication must be imbued with . . . more firmness, with a more militant, committed spirit, with a greater intolerance for error."26

In 1972 the relationship between the ideological imperatives of the "Little Cultural Revolution" and artistic freedom had not yet been clearly defined.27 However, there was increasing concern over a growing climate of dogmatism and its potentially crippling effect on artistic creativity. There were explosive debates in the press, a kind of trial of strength between the party and the representatives of the arts.28 As a result, in November 1972, the Council for Socialist Culture and Education submitted the recalcitrant artists to critical rebuke. Henceforth, free expression was increasingly restricted. The statutes passed by the May 1972 Writers' Conference were openly aimed at the non-conformists among the younger generation of writers.29

Before proceeding to a brief analysis of the cultural and artistic development of Romania during the 1970s, it should be noted that the operations of the press, book publishing, radio, television, and film-making were, until 1977, regulated by the 1965 Constitution, the 1974 press law, and a decree outlining the activities of the Committee on Press and Printing (Comitetul pentru presa si tiparituri).30

The first Romanian press law, issued after the Second World War,31 was drawn up under the direction of party leader Ceausescu. According to Article 1, Paragraphs 1 and 2, of that law, "the press carries out its activities under the direction of the RCP." In essence, this law represented a radical reorganization of the press, with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of the latter as an educational and propaganda tool. It emphasized, aside from Marxist ideological content, the promotion of a nationalistic point of view. According to Article 4, for example, "workers coming from the ranks of the co-inhabiting nationalities have the opportunity to obtain information and express their views through press organs published in their own languages . . ." but only so long as such publications are "in complete harmony with the interests of the Party and the state."


Thus, the freedom granted was merely illusory, since it assumed a total obedience to the Party. The law further required journalists to commit themselves fully to the realization of the social, economic and cultural goals prescribed by the Communist Party (Articles 39-57). The strict observance of these regulations was to be ensured by the Committee on Press and Printing. This was a party and state organ whose tasks included coordinating public informational activities and overseeing the implementation of the laws regulating the press and book publishing. Censorship was one of its main tasks. The membership of the committee included leading representatives of newspapers, journals, radio, television, and artists' associations.

The press law of 1974 further restricted the import and sale of foreign publications. These restrictions applied particularly to Hungarian and Western literature. The exclusion of the latter was justified by the party leadership on the grounds of its "subversive influence on Romanian youth."

The resolutions of the Central Committee of the RCP of May 7, 197432 contained new measures modifying the structure of the press. Various publications were merged, changes in content were introduced, and censorship was increased. This measure was accompanied by mass dismissals of editorial personnel. Those viewed as "liberal" were replaced by conformists: retaining one's job was based on one's "loyalty," and the degree of governmental control over the press was thereby increased.

The program of the Eleventh RCP Congress, held between November 24 and 27, 1974,33 reinforced these trends and laid the basis for a cultural and literary policy that was militant and propagandistic in spirit. The Party program reflected Marxist orthodoxy on one hand and nationalistic tendencies on the other.

At the Congress of Political Education and Socialist Culture, held between June 2 and 4, 1976, the approximately 6,000 party functionaries present drew up ideological, educational, and cultural guidelines expressed in the form of resolutions. The Congress called for the total realization of the ideological resolutions of the Eleventh Party Congress -- extending to every sphere of public and private life -- and the goals of the 1971 cultural revolution; this was aimed at the creation of a "socialist culture" -- a decisive factor in cultural development in Romania in the 1970s. That meant the systematic and dogmatic return to the 1950s.


At the end of 1976, a session of the Council for Socialist Culture and Education formulated the so-called "National Epos," which was intended to further the party's program in literature, the visual arts, music, and dance; in essence, it represented a "mythical, heroic" vision of the Romanian past and socialist present.

Among the consequences of the new press law were changes in personnel and the imposition of restrictions on the use of paper.34 This restriction, which was made on the grounds of an alleged need to limit the use of paper, applied to both Romanian and national-minority press and book publishing. Most of the national-minority papers were reduced in size by half, some dailies were changed into weekly publications, and some papers were abolished altogether. However, a few of the Romanian papers were later permitted to appear again in their original size, but this opportunity was not made available to any national-minority papers.35 Discrimination against the minorities can be observed in the remuneration of writers as well; because of the smaller number of books printed, the authors of works written in the languages of the national minorities receive a smaller amount of royalties than do Romanian authors; the amount of remuneration received by writers is also less in the case of national-minority newspapers and periodicals. Romanian publications often provide three times as much in royalties as do national-minority publications.36 Thus, the low numbers of national-minority books and publications printed doubly handicap writers belonging to those minorities: not only do they have fewer opportunities to publish their work, but they must suffer greater financial hardship as well. Here, as elsewhere, every new measure has meant a new step toward destroying the cultural unity of the national minorities.

Before the new censorship system was introduced in 1977, every text intended for publication was subjected to repeated checks from various points of view and could not be published without permission from the Committee on Press and Printing. All manuscripts had to be submitted to an agency of the committee, the so-called "Organ de Sinteza," which acted as a preliminary censorship body to determine -- even before regular censorship -- whether or not a given text was "suitable" for publication. Political, ideological, and nationalistic considerations had at least as much weight as other considerations in evaluating the "suitability" of literary works.


Manuscripts intended for publication in the languages of the national minorities were submitted to special scrutiny, on the basis of a secret directive. Initially, the principles of censorship were at least clear and definite: the authorities determined which subjects could or could not be written about, which points of view could or could not be adopted, and which words could not be uttered. These guidelines were formulated in secret directives sent to editorial boards and publishing houses in a monthly circular. Not surprisingly, editors and publishers were forbidden to publish these directives or even to mention them, and care had to be taken at the time of typesetting to conceal the omitted parts. The new censorship system, however, brought about important transformations in information and cultural policy. The Committee on Press and Printing was abolished, and the responsibility for censorship was taken over by the Council for Socialist Culture and Education.37 According to the official statement, this meant that instead of the hitherto existing censorship and control commissions, editors and publishing houses would exercise "self-censorship," thus putting censorship on a "democratic basis." In reality, however, the reorganization of censorship represented further control over the work of editors and publishers. At the same time, all decisions and criteria for pre-censorship and post-censorship, and thus the "ideological responsibility" for the press and publishing as a whole were placed in the hands of the party functionaries of the Council for Socialist Culture and Education.

After the introduction of the new censorship system, contradiction and uncertainty reigned supreme in the cultural sector. In contrast to the situation prevailing under the old censorship system, editors and publishers were forced to change and to mutilate texts already prepared for printing; texts of all kinds were banned without explanation, and even the editors were kept in the dark about the reasons for such actions. The aim was to keep publishers in a state of constant uncertainty so that they would not even consider trying to outwit the censors.

As a result of the above developments, the national-minority press and literatures have declined sharply in terms of quality since 1975: their existence has become increasingly formal, and they have come to differ little from Romanian publications except insofar as they are written in a different language.


Their role as transmitters of the cultural heritage of the national minorities has been considerably reduced. Just as the total literary and artistic sector of the country was subordinate to the party's ideological demands, as well as to the promotion of the personality of Ceausescu and to expressions of loyalty to "socialist patriotism", so did the press publishing industry become an instrument of the nationalities policy which aimed at merging the ethnic minorities. Through the monolithic machinery of unification the content of letters and press publications has been reduced in large part to hackneyed political speeches and translations of works by Romanian authors. In this way, too, the intellectual life of the national minorities has been forced to conform with Romanian socialist intellectual life, with complete disregard for peculiar national characteristics.38

The editors of periodicals must devote particular attention to articles, reviews, and commentaries published in Scinteia, the organ of the Central Committee of the RCP. These commentaries and reports reflect internal party decisions, and it is possible to deduce the contents of unpublished resolutions from a study of them. Such a study reveals a discrepancy between a proclaimed press policy of "liberalization" and a de facto continuation of adherence to traditional party dogma.

There are no signs of change within the foreseeable future in this situation, an outgrowth of the Romanian "cultural revolution" which has left its mark on the entire Romanian intellectual scene. Ultimately, this radical "homogenization" is certain to lead to a complete stifling of the cultural life of the national minorities.

Official statistical data on newspapers, periodicals, and books published in the languages of the nationalities do not reveal the real inadequacies and limitations of the intellectual life of the national minorities in Romania today. On the other hand, publishers' lists provide a basis for the concluding that the nationalities lack independent cultural institutions. In 1975, for example, 27 of the 30 Hungarian-language periodical publications were issued by the RCP or organs directly subordinate to it; two were Hungarian-language papers published by the Romanian Writers' Association; and one was a publication of the Romanian Apiculturists' Association. Eighteen of them were sociopolitical publications; two were illustrated magazines; one was a cultural journal; two were literary journals; four were, in part, specialized scholarly publications; one was a Hungarian-language version of the official gazette; and two were church periodicals.39


Book Publishing

At the beginning of 1970 the Ministry of Education reorganized the book publishing industry in Romania:40 some publishing houses were abolished and new ones were founded. Henceforth, the majority were centered in Bucharest.

Until 1970 national-minority book publishing was concentrated chiefly in the hands of two institutions: the Literary Publishing House and the Youth Publishing House. In 1970 the Literary Publishing House was incorporated into the Kriterion Publishing House, which now has Hungarian, German, Ukrainian, Serbo-Croatian and Yiddish departments. Several other Romanian publishing houses also publish books in minority languages, albeit on a much smaller scale: altogether, eleven publishers print books in Hungarian,41 and at least five publish German-language books, about a hundred titles per year.42 However, a high proportion of these books are translations of works by Romanian authors. The directors and editors of the publishing houses which deal in books published in the languages of the national minorities are in part Romanians and in part members of the minorities. In principle, the relative numbers of publications printed in each language are determined by ministerial decrees laid down in the organizational statutes of the publishing houses; these decrees, however, are generally ignored.

The Kriterion Publishing House, the main publisher of books for the national minorities, puts out mostly literary works in the minority languages. It publishes approximately eight or nine books in Hungarian and four or five in German every month. The Dacia Publishing House, located in Cluj-Napoca, has a Hungarian and a German department; it publishes literary and popular scientific works, four or five of them per month, on the average, in languages of the national minorities.

The various phases of nationality policy can be traced precisely in the development of national-minority book publishing. This is best illustrated by the number and content of national-minority publications, as well as by the various genres of books published. For example, after the Hungarian Revolution, from 1957 to 1964, the number of books published in the languages of the national minorities was reduced by half, from 917 titles to 519.43 It was during the same period that the schools of the minorities were merged with the Romanian schools, and the remaining national-minority institutions were placed in the service of the Romanianization process. Part of this new publishing policy involved more translations of Romanian books into the national-minority languages and an intensified promotion of Romanian literature.44


At the same time, the minorities were isolated from their own national literatures: the import of books from Hungary was reduced, the free sale of Hungarian newspapers ceased, and there were increasingly fewer references in the Hungarian press in Romania to Hungarian literature or the literature of the Hungarian minorities in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

During the next period, with the increasing predominance of books with political-ideological themes and literary works translated from Romanian, the number of books published in the national-minority languages increased, although it still remained below the levels of the years between 1949 and 1957.45 This tendency is best illustrated by data on the output of the Kriterion Publishing House over a period of two years: as opposed to 150 books in 1971, Kriterion published 177 books in Hungarian in 1972, whereas the Literary Publishing House had published only 67 titles in Hungarian in 1962.46 In 1975, a total of 216 works in Hungarian were published by Kriterion, and in 1976, 223.47 In 1973, 96 works were published in German. According to a difference source, 158,000 copies of German-language books were published in 1970 and 290,000 in 1974.48 During the first 10 months of 1975, more than 200 works were published in German.49

Through an analysis of the development of publishing houses among the nationalities, it can be determined that a sound picture can be obtained only through an attentive consideration of the official statistics. The relatively high number of publications and the continuing growth of their numbers do not necessarily indicate an improvement in content or in the intellectual opportunities which they provide for the national minorities. On the contrary, while the number of works published in the languages of the national minorities has increased since the reorganization of the publishing industry, the number of copies of books which are interesting from a nationality point of view has not increased proportionally. Such works are sold out within a few days and the small number of copies printed cannot begin to meet the demand of the reading public. Moreover, a very high percentage of the works published in the languages of the national minorities are political or ideological works, collections of official speeches, or translations of books of Romanian authors; another large group of them are works containing general information, and only a very small proportion consists of works dealing with nationality culture, mainly literature and linguistics.50


A predominance of literary works and an insignificant number, if not complete absence, of scholarly works has been characteristic of national-minority publishing almost from the very beginning. Works on literary history, sociology, history, art, philosophy, natural science, or economics are hardly ever published in the languages of the minorities. Only in 1972, for example, were any Hungarian books on the history of music published, while works on the visual arts in Hungarian have only recently begun to be published (in very small editions) and many scholarly manuscripts in Hungarian have been awaiting publication for decades. An absence of books on history is most striking. Works dealing with the Hungarian role in the history of Transylvania or with the historic role of the Germans there are only rarely published, and where they do appear, they are much abridged and written from the perspective of Romanian historiography. Between 1949 and 1962, a total of 13 popular books on scholarly topics were published in Hungarian; in other words, one per year. In 1971 none was published. The ratio of such works to works of literature was approximately one to ten. In 1971, only one original Hungarian novel for young people was published.51 This paucity of works in minority languages is the result of a conscious publishing policy, not the result of any lack of national-minority authors.

The publication of specialized technical works is another highly revealing indicator of the state of Romanian nationality policy. Characteristic of the area are the applied practices of the state: literature for every specialized training in the minority languages is either unavailable or does not supply the demands of a society aiming at modern industrialization, thereby eliminating the nationalities from this process.

Although the national minorities have often raised this issue at official gatherings,52 the authorities have refused to consider importing such works from Hungary or the Federal Republic of Germany. In light of these facts, it must be concluded that the promises and resolutions of 1971 have had no real results. On the contrary: since 1977, for example, the number of natural science and popular books on scholarly topics published in Hungarian language was reduced by half. 53


The supply of the nationalities in Romania with imported books and publications, a vital factor for the preservation of their cultural and ethnic existence, is stifled, when not completely stopped, by the current political leadership through extraordinary restrictions. This even applies to imports from socialist states within the East bloc, although there is a cooperation agreement between Hungary and Romania for exchanges of books and between publishing houses. According to the bilateral agreement, the two sides have committed themselves to importing equal numbers of books, newspapers and films. A telling example of the one-sidedness of this agreement is the fact that while on the Hungarian side, the full quota of books to be imported from Romania is made use of, the Romanian state imports books from the neighboring country only in restricted quantities. While Romanian book exports to Hungary average between 11,000 and 12,000 books each year, imports from Hungary are never more than 1,300-1,400 books per year.54 It should be noted that, while Romania has about 2.3 million Hungarians, the Romanians in Hungary number 12,600. Since the meeting of the Congress of Political Education and Socialist Culture in June 1976, books considered for import from abroad are subject to even more stringent controls, based on ideological considerations.

In 1974, the system of book publishing was reorganized and new restrictions were introduced. The partial decentralization carried out in 1970 was reversed and direction was taken over by a newly founded organ, the Central Publisher (Centrala Editoriala). Its functions include, among other things, the compilation of publishers' plans and regulation of the size of editions in line with the cultural policy of the RCP and the state.

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