[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [HMK Home] Stefan Pascu: A History of Transylvania

Chapter 10.


Prelude to the Revolution p. 182 - 191.

Pascu p. 182:

Linguistic unity is evident in the fact that Romanian has been a single language ever since it developed, in the seventh and eighth centuries, in the entire area inhabited by the Romanian people. It never had dialects in the strict sense of the word, but only slight local variations...

The 7th and 8th centuries belong to the period of Late Latin. New, Romance languages, different from Latin, appeared later, after about 800 A.D. Common Rumanian (româna comuna) was quite unitary up to around 1000 A.D. After that period, two main dialects developed: 1. Northern Rumanian (Daco-Rumanian), with Istro-Rumanian, and 2. Arumanian, with Meglenitic. The cause of this must have been the separation of the speakers of Common Rumanian - a part wandered southward: the Arumanians, and another migrated towards the north-east: the Northern Rumanians. The sub-dialect of Northern Rumanian, Istro-Rumanian, is now spoken in a few villages on the Istrian peninsula. Pascu ignores the dialects and writes only about Northern Rumanian. It is this dialect which shows a remarkable unity, having only what may be called sub-dialects. 175 Pascu's description of the prelude to the revolution, i.e., of the two decades before 1848 is one-sided; it refers almost exclusively to the development of the Rumanians' demand for more rights and, finally, the creation of an independent Rumanian state. But the revolution of 1848 in Europe was something else. The uprising in Paris in February 1848 (Pascu p. 191) started a series of uprisings throughout Europe. People wanted freedom from imperial suppression, etc.

The reformist movement started in Hungary in 1825, when emperor Franz I convoked the Hungarian diet and opened it with the following words: Animi meo carissimi Hungari! Iuncti fuimus, iuncti sumus, et iuncti semper manebimus, donec mors nos separabit. 176 These solemn words uttered by the emperor served to captivate the young Hungarian reformist generation.

The Hungarian count István Széchenyi wrote several books about the need of reform in most of the sectors of society: not only politics, but also economics and education needed thorough reforms, and Széchenyi showed the way of achieving this. He also offerred large amounts of money of his own for example to the establishment of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, he took the initiative of building bridges across the Danube in Budapest, etc. His ideas were widely spread in Hungary; in Transylvania, Miklós Wesselényi worked in a similar way, followed by Ádám Kendeffy, János Bethlen, the teacher at Nagyenyed, Károly Szász, Dénes Kemény and others. 177

These (mostly young) people were active at the county meetings - they had the right to speak in the county in which they possessed an estate, but in many cases, villages or private persons bestowed some land upon them, and in this way, they were able to extend their activities to larger areas (they were called "wandering patriots"). These people struggled not only to alleviate actual grievances but also and particularly for the abolition of serfdom and for agrarian reform, the union with Hungary and the replacement of German by Hungarian as the official language. They fought for the cause of the Constitution against absolutism and for the cause of the Hungarian nation. The absolutist state, represented by Metternich, tried to neutralize these activities; Metternich sent in 1833 baron Ferenc Wlassics to Kolozsvár (Cluj) as a plenipotential royal envoy. Some of the Transylvanian lords wanted to boycott Wlassics, but János Bethlen proposed to entertain contacts with him. The result was that Wlassics finally sent a memorandum to Vienna, in which he stated that the only way to secure peace in Transylvania was to keep the constitution and convoke the diet. He was therefore recalled by Vienna. A series of clashes between the Hungarian population and the representatives of the Emperor followed. Lastly, the diet was convoked in 1834. On this diet, the Liberal party and the Conservative party represented themselves; the debates were on the same high level as those on the diet at Pozsony (German Pressburg, Slovakian Bratislava). 178 However, the discussions in the diet were not, as in other democratic countries, made public. In order to amend this, Wesselényi published mimeographed news bulletins of them, but the authorities confiscated his printing office. In 1835, the diet was dissolved. The Rumanian population did not take part in the politics of these times; they developed mainly education and culture. The Hungarian reformist movement had no counterpart among the Rumanians living in Transylvania.

Pascu, p. 182:

Linguistic unity is evident in the fact that Romanian has been a single language ever since it developed...

Pascu, p. 183:

It is therefore only natural that the Romanian people should also exhibit cultural unity, which is seen in popular songs, poetry, and tales and in educated lay and clerical writings...

Pascu, p. 184:

Romania's territorial unity, a reality throughout the ages, should not be understood as some sort of geographic determinism.

1. The pretended linguistic unity of Rumanian was discussed above, p. 112.

2. The basis of a considerable degree of cultural unity was the Orthodox faith. The Reformation movement had no success among Rumanians and also the conversion to the Uniate Church, initiated in Transylvania by the Habsburgs, was of a limited significance.

Between the speakers of the southern dialects and those of Northern Rumanian, there is a great difference in culture since the history of these two branches of the Rumanians was quite different during the last millennium.

Within Northern Rumanian, those living in Transylvania as well as in Moldavia have their own, distinct characteristics, as also those living in Muntenia and Oltenia. It may be mentioned that in Moldavia and Muntenia, people from Transylvania were as late as in the 19th century called Ungurean and even the most typical Rumanian folk poem, the Miorita, designates the shepherds differently, according to their origin: muntean, moldovean, ungurean (those from Transylvania). In the course of history, Moldavia was exposed to influence also from Poland and Russia; Muntenia mainly from the Balkans. The Rumanians living in Transylvania, for centuries within the Hungarian state or independent Transylvania, and in more or less close contact with Hungarians and Saxons, show traces of the influence from these peoples. They also have passed over to their brethren living in the extra-Carpathian territories the considerable influence of the Hungarian language upon Northern Rumanian.

3. The voivodates of Muntenia and Moldavia united in 1859: the new country was then called the United Danubian Principalities. Its status as a kingdom was granted by the Congress of Berlin after the Russian-Turkish war in 1877-78. The political concept of "Rumania", the Rumanian kingdom, exists only from this date on, and consequently, one cannot talk about the "territorial unity of Rumania" before the end of the 1870's . Not even the notion of "Rumania" did exist before the 19th century; it was, as also mentioned by Pascu (p. 189), first used some years before the 1848 revolution. From the 14th century on, voivodates existed, initially as vassals of the Hungarian kings: Ungro-Vlachia (Muntenia) and Moldavia (Moldova). These voivodates became later vassals of the Turkish Empire. One may assert the territorial unity of these voivodates.

The geographical unity of present day Rumania is a fiction. The Carpathian mountains were, during the centuries of Rumanian infiltration to Transylvania, no obstacle for the movements of the shepherd population, but today rather divide than unite the country. In the South, the Danube may be considered a natural border; the river Pruth in the East in a much lesser degree, and in the West, there is no natural frontier at all - the plains to the west of the Transylvanian Alps (Muntii Apuseni, in Hungarian: Erdélyi Érchegység) continue imperceptibly into the Great Hungarian plain.

4. Economic unity is also questionable in these circumstances. Trade was in most of the time primitive, barter was used; and while the two Rumanian voivodates had economic connections, such connections were in general more intense with their respective neighbours: with Russia, Poland, the Turkish Empire etc. Brasov was a center of trade not only between Transylvania and Muntenia but also between Transylvania and South-eastern Europe.

Pascu, p. 187:

The unifying traits of the Romanian nation were clearly drawn, and it should not be surprising that the revolutions in the three Romanian countries in 1848 were very similar.

As pointed out above, Transylvania was not a Rumanian country. The revolutions in the two Rumanian countries, Moldavia and Muntenia, were similar, but the aims of the Rumanians in Transylvania were not the same as those of the Hungarians. The Hungarians in Transylvania fought for the same aims as those in Hungary - in fact, it was the same revolution. Idealistic elements predominated here, such as world freedom; it was the revolt of the common people against absolutism, people wanted more power to decide over their lives, etc. These ideas were widespread in Europe in that period. The Hungarians had to fight specifically against the Habsburg rule, for self-determination. In the decades preceding the 1848 revolution, two ways of thought struggled in Hungarian society: According to one, the Hungarians must modernize all aspects of life: develop science (the Hungarian Academy of Science was founded in this period), build up industry, modernize agriculture, build roads and bridges, etc. The chief protagonist of this opinion was count István Széchenyi. According to another view, the country should first liberate itself from the rule of the Habsburgs and then, all the above activities would be much easier. In the circumstances of the period, with revolutions in several European capitals, this last mentioned opinion won the support of the masses in Hungary. The leader of this battle was Lajos Kossuth.

The Hungarians had to struggle for centuries with the Habsburg kings and in this connection, a very important circumstance must be pointed out here: Hungary had an ancient feudal constitution: the Aranybulla, the Golden Bull [bulla] of Hungary, 1222, and Werboczy's Tripartitum. (The English Magna Charta preceeded the Aranybulla only by eight years.) It contained the paragraph of entailment and that of resistance - the king was no absolute ruler but could only rule together with the nobility. On the basis of this ancient constitution, the Hungarians demanded that Hungary and Transylvania should not be treated as other territories within the Habsburg empire. The common king was considered a provisionary solution, until the right to elect a king was returned to the Hungarian feudal nation. The war waged by the Hungarians against the Habsburgs in 1848 - 49 showed to Vienna that this claim must be fulfilled, i.e., that the Habsburgs must come to terms with the Hungarians. This is the cause why the Hungarians (collectively) were often accused of defending an old system, opposing progress. The ideas which dominated almost the entire Europe of the period - abolition of absolutism, etc. - were represented in Muntenia and Moldavia by the Rumanian revolutionaries; in Transylvania, by the Hungarians. There, the Rumanians fought on the side of the absolutistic Habsburg empire against the revolutionary Hungarians. Thus, a more adequate description of the situation would be to say that the activity of the Transylvanian Rumanians in 1848 - 49 was very different from the revolutionary activity of those living in the two Rumanian countries.

Pascu, p. 191.

The revolution of 1848

Moreover, the Romanian serfs were further threatened by various decrees made by the Hungarian-dominated diet in 1842 and 1847. These called not only for the forced introduction of Hungarian in all Romanian schools and, after a certain time, in Romanian churches as well, but also further usurpations of peasant land and an increase in feudal- style obligations.

On the diet of 1842, a proposal for the extension of the use of Hungarian was made. It was directed against the central power and some old-fashioned elements of the feudal system; the aim was to replace Latin with Hungarian in the juridical system and other areas in which it has been used since centuries. There were also proposals that in a near future, the Orthodox priest-seminars should use Hungarian as the teaching language. However, after the protests of the Rumanians, as well as on the advise of several Hungarian liberals, these proposals were not taken up in the definitive proposals, sent back to Vienna. 179

Two decades later, Gheorghe Baritiu, who was one of those Rumanian intellectuals who took part in the debates, could write the following:

[...] we should acknowledge, without regard to nationality, that the fight with the pen was justified [...] and natural, the fight of human nature for existence. Such chivalrous fights, mind against mind, will always, as long as the world exists, win their worthy value and award. 180

Pascu p 192:

In the three Romanian countries, the winds of freedom also were blowing. Events were discussed in large meetings and plans for the future were forged. This does not mean that the revolution was, as it were, borrowed. Rather it was expanded; internal conditions were primarily responsible for preparing the way, but there were certain outside influences.

Rregarding the revolution in Transylvania, Pascu gives an idealised picture about the activity of the Rumanians. He does not mention that the people were incited by a small number of Rumanian chauvinists: priests of the Orthodox Church, and some intellectuals. These people fostered massive hatred against all non-Rumanians, particularly against the Hungarians. The result was that masses of uneducated peasants were indiscriminately massacring Hungarians, killing women and children (for example in Abrudbánya [Abrud]), setting fire onto entire villages and towns (for example Nagyenyed [Aiud] and Zalatna [Zlatna]) (cf. Pascu p. 204). The Austrian army and the authorities killed also Rumanians, but, as it also appears from what Pascu says, their victims may be reckoned in dozens, while the Rumanians killed several thousands of Hungarians.

Thus, the Rumanians in Transylvania considered the 1848 revolution as a new opportunity to attack the Hungarians. This hostile attitude was not, however, an inevitable necessity. The historical records from the first decades of the 19th century tell us about a friendly atmosphere between Rumanians and Hungarians in Transylvania. Most of the Rumanian intellectuals followed with sympathy the Hungarians' struggle for reforms; they read, in Rumanian as well as in Hungarian schools, the writings of Széchenyi, Wesselényi and other reformists. 181 Széchenyi gave economic help to the first Rumanian periodical. Many Rumanian intellectuals studied in Hungarian schools, learned the Hungarian language by their own will and also used it. In the late 1820-s, Hungarian was in vogue at the Blaj school, in spite of the fact that Latin was to be used in the schools. Also the Orthodox priests used extensively the Hungarian language. The extent of this is shown by Bogdan-Duica, a literary historian, who after the first World War wrote an article entitled "The Hungarisation of Blaj." 182 G. Baritiu called this custom "the disease" (morbulu) of the Hungarian speech. It was usual that Rumanians - priests and laymen - wrote their letters to the bishop in Hungarian and many church protocols were written in Hungarian. It must be emphasized that all this happened without any external pressure. A century later, the fact that bishops corresponded with the government in Hungarian, was called "intellectual nullity" (nulitate intelectuala).

This situation changed gradually, beginning with the 1840s. Among the causes of this change, there is the fact that after the appearance of the weekly magazin Gazeta de Transilvania, created by Gheorghe Baritiu, Baritiu and later also other young Rumanian intellectuals, many of whom had attented German schools (Gheorghe Lazar and others), get in close contact with the political leaders in Muntenia: Barbu Stirbei, later voivode, Eliade Radulescu, Ioan Maiorescu, Ioan Cîmpineanu etc. From 1838 on, these leaders spent their summer holidays regularly at health-resorts in eastern Transylvania, together with local Rumanian intellectuals. 183 They discussed all aspects of an anti-Hungarian policy both within and outside the Parliament. Mostly upon the influence of their Transylvanian brethren, many of whom also settled in the Rumanian kingdom, Cîmpineanu and others started an irredentist movement, whose aim was the unification of all Rumanians in a single, independent, Rumanian state. This movement gained then momentum and strength also in Transylvania. The resolution of the meeting at Blaj on May 15, 1848, (cf. Pascu p. 196 - 197) was brought about by the pressure from these irredentists and written in a way which was totally unacceptable by the Hungarians; it was intended as a provocation.

The Hungarians considered that they had the right to use their language instead of Latin and German in the entire Hungarian state. This was opposite to the three hundred years old policy of the Habsburg government; Metternich used the different ethnic groups with the aim of fighting the use of Hungarian. In Transylvania, it was not difficult to make the German-speaking population of the Saxons allies in the struggle for German cultural supremacy in Eastern Europe. 184Stephan Ludwig Roth published in 1842 the pamphlet Der Sprachkampf in Siebenbürgen in which he summarized the demands of the Saxons, giving a German character to Saxon politics. This was not new, because the Saxons have always had lively contacts with Germany and Vienna was a natural link in these contacts. In 1844, a juridical high school was opened in Hermannstadt (Nagyszeben, Sibiu). The professors of this institution taught in a German-Austrian and anti-Hungarian spirit. This academy played an important political role; it contributed significantly to the attitude of the Saxons: the majority of them turned against the revolution in 1848.

The Hungarians, particularly the Szeklers, wanted the union with Hungary, because in this way, a stronger country could oppose Vienna. 185 Also, the menace against both Hungarians and Saxons from the large number of Rumanians was pointed out. The Saxons were divided - in Kronstadt, they were for the union, but the other party, in Hermannstadt, which was against it, won. The Rumanians opposed the union, although not unanimously; the Gazeta de Transilvania argued that the union with Hungary made possible for the Rumanians of Transylvania to have closer contact with the Rumanians living in eastern Hungary. 186 It was Simion Barnutiu who, under the influence of the Saxons of Sibiu, turned the attitude of the Rumanians against the union with Hungary. (Barnutiu showed also later loyalty for the Habsburg dynasty.)

It is significant that on both sides, there were moderate personalities, who thought in wider aspects and realized that peace between Rumanians and Hungarians was a historical necessity. They considered that - even if they did not formulate it in this way - the two peoples are historically dependent upon each other, the result of objective circumstances. Cooperation could strengthen both peoples and make them richer, while hostility only weakens them. An early Rumanian transylvanism could have emerged; but, unfortunately, the adherents of the opposing concept, that of confrontation and striving for exclusive power for the Rumanians were stronger. Only the Viennese Camarilla realized the fact that a cooperation between Transylvanian Hungarians and Rumanians would be dangerous for Austria and acted accordingly.

Pascu, p. 199:

A large number of Hungarian and Saxon serfs mingled confidently with their Romanian counterparts at Blaj...

There were practically no Saxon serfs. The Universitas Saxonum, going back to the Andreanum, treated all Saxons as belonging to a political order. Also the number of Saxon peasants was very low, and these were mostly wine-growers. The overwhelming majority of the Saxons were town-dwellers and worked with the trades.

In the description of the development of Rumanian national consciousness, Pascu does not mention the influence from outside, which was very important, if not decisive, in this process. A very narrow social stratum introduced from above ideas which they received in several western countries.

The description of the 1848 revolution does not belong strictly to the theme of this book, but an important aspect should be mentioned. The most ardent fighters of self-defence and for independence from Austria were the Szeklers, especially in Háromszék, where furnaces and other factories were in a short time changed to produce guns, gunpowder and ammunition. This was led by Áron Gábor, who also directed his guns in battle (he died in a battle on July 2, 1849). In the face of the common danger, the nobles, the free soldiers, and the bondsmen (who were promised liberation) decided to act together. They also explained to the Saxon and Rumanian populations living in south-eastern Transylvania that they did not want to fight them; to the contrary, all nationalities shall be freee and equal. The Szekler regiments fought many successful battles against heavy odds.

175Du Nay 1996, pp. 119 - 131.

176 My beloved Hungarians! We were united, we are united and we will remain always be united, until death will separate us.

177 Jancsó, 1931, p. 248 - 249.

178 Ibid., p. 252.

179 One of the liberals, Dénes Kemény declared on the diet: "We do not want to compel the Rumanian nation to use our language, but we want to make them possible to learn it, as the language of state administration." Beszédtár. Záradékul az 1841/2-ik országgyulési Jegyzokönyvhöz. II. Kolozsvár, 8. l. 1842. január 27-i ülés Collection of Speeches. Additional Clause to the Protocol of the Diet of 1841-1842. Kolozsvár, p. 8; session on January 27, 1842 . Quoted by Erdély története The History of Transylvania , red. B. Köpeczi, Budapest, 1986, III, p. 1300.

180 G. Barit, "Limbile oficiale" The Official Languages , Gazeta de Transilvania , 1860, Nr. 32; quoted by Erdély története red. Köpeczi, 1986, p. 1302.

181 István Kocsis, Történészek a kereszten. A magyar-román viszony elmérgesedésének története Historians on the Crucifix. The History of the Embittering of the Hungarian-Rumanian Relation , Budapest, 1994, p. 315.

182 Ibid., p. 316.

183 Ibid., p. 317.

184 Jancsó, 1931, p. 258.

185 Ibid., p. 263.

186 Ibid., p. 265.

 [Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [HMK Home] Stefan Pascu: A History of Transylvania