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DOCUMENTS - Part Two: Frontiers of Hungary - Chapter II. Proposals and Remarks to the Subcommittee on Territorial Problems

Document 8

Secret T Document 248

February 18, 1943



The Szeklers inhabit an area in the southeastern corner of Transyl- vania, covering approximately 13,000 square kilometers and consisting of the three counties of Háromszék (Trei Scaune), Udvarhely (Odorhei) and Csík (Ciuc), together with a part of the county of Marostorda (Mure). Their origin and the time of their ancestors' arrival in this region is uncertain. They are apparently of Turanian stock, closely akin to the Magyars, although they have probably assimilated a considerable Rumanian element in the course of some ten centuries of residence in this area. They speak the Magyar language and are strongly Magyar in national sentiment.*

The Szeklers number about half a million and make up the overwhelming majority of the population in the above-named districts. The Hungarian census of 1910 and the Rumanian census of 1930 both report over 85 percent of the inhabitants of the three Szekler districts as Magyar-speaking.1


* The origin of the Székelys (Szeklers) is still a question of historical debate. The chronicles of the Middle Ages hold them to be the descendants of the Huns, i.e. of Attila's people. Over the years, this conjecture became folklore. Various 19th and 20th century historians have related them to the Pechenege, the Jazygians and the Kabars. Many believed, and still do, that the Székelys came to the Carpathian Basin with the conquering Hungarian tribes at the end of the 9th century, and had always spoken Hungarian. According to a more recent hypothesis, which is gaining ground, the Székelys are descendants of the Hungarian-speaking Avar tribes which arrived in the Carpathian Basin already in the late 6th, or early 7th century and which, as a matter of coures, joined the other Hungarian tribes when they arrived at the end of the 9th century.

1 The census of 1930 gives the Magyars only 85 percent on the basis of declared nationality. These figures give some support to the Rumanian contention that a part of the Magyar-speaking total consist of Rurnanians who have adopted the language of the surrounding majority, although part of the difference is represented by Magyar-speaking Jews and Gypsies. The Szeklers occupy the upper valleys of the Maros (Mure), Nagy Küküllõ (Trnava Mare) and Aluta (Olt) Rivers. The more thickly settled parts of the area are comparatively flat; other parts are hilly and some are mountainous, since these districts lie in the great bend of the Carpathians.


For many centuries, both when Transylvania was under the Hungarian Crown and when it was independent, the Szeklers enjoyed the privileges of self-government in these districts, as did the Saxons in the areas where they were settled. The Magyars, the Szeklers and the Saxons were the three "recognized nations" represented in the Transyl- vanian Diet. However, the Szeklers gradually lost most of their ancient privileges and became entirely assimilated to the Magyars, the dominant element in Transylvania. The Act of Union of Transylvania with Hungary in 1867 abolished all special national privileges and proclaimed the equality of all Hungarian citizens.


The Minorities Treaty signed by Rumania and the Principal Allied and Associated Powers on December 9, 1919, provided that Rurnania should "accord to the communities of the Saxons and the Szeklers in Transylvania local autonomy in regard to scholastic and religious matters, subject to the control of the Roumanian State." This vague obligation had little meaning in practice, and the Szeklers did not press their rights under it since they wanted to avoid any split with the rest of the Magyars of Transylvania.

The Szeklers, while under Rumanian rule, were subjected to a certain amount of persecution by officials on the ground that they were really Magyarized Rumanians who should be "re-Rumanized," by force if necessary. Some were compelled to change their names or their religion. In the matter of education, the Rumanian Education Act of 1924 provided generally for teaching in the language of each particular community or sufficiently numerous linguistic group, but made an exception in the case of "citizens of Rumanian origin who have lost their mother tongue"; these had to send their children to schools where instruction was exclusively in Rumanian. The Szekler districts were included in a special "cultural zone", in which many new Rumanian schools were created, although in general the Szeklers enjoyed the use of their language in school and church and in village administration. IV. ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS IN THE EVENT OF THE


1. Removal of the Szeklers to Hungary

The removal of one-half million Szeklers to western Transylvania or to Hungary proper would be a tremendous and difficult undertaking because of their numbers, their attachment to the region they have inhabited for centuries, and the problem of finding an area in which they could settle without great dislocation of their established mode of life. It is doubtful if they would leave their homeland voluntarily, and a compulsory exchange of populations would involve great hardship.

2. Autonomy within the Rumanian State

To be effective, a guarantee of autonomy for the Szeklers would have to be more specific than that which was embodied in the Minorities Treaty of 1919. In view of the solidly Magyar character of the popula- tion of the Szekler districts, this autonomy would have a territorial basis, with local self-government in a specific series of matters such as education, policing, public welfare, and so forth.

The success of such an experiment would depend largely on the satisfactory solution of two other aspects of the Hungarian-Rumanian problem: 1) the Rumanians would have to abandon the idea of forcible assimilation of the Szeklers and respect their rights both as citizens of Rumania and as citizens of the autonomous area; 2) there would have to be a fundamental solution of the conflict of claims to Transylvania which would remove the possibility that the Szeklers might become involved in a new campaign of Hungarian irredentism.

As an alternative to autonomy on a territorial basis, there is a possibility that the language, religion and customs of the Szeklers could be protected by the existence of a Magyar national cultural association (open on a voluntary basis to all Hungarians in Rumania), which would have jurisdiction over education and similar matters. The success of such an arrangement would be doubtful in the absence of certain fundamental changes in the modes of political thought and action which have been characteristic of Eastern Europe since the rise of nationalism. The Rumanians would have to accept the limitations which this arrangement would impose upon their conception of Rumania as a national state. The Szeklers and other Magyars left within Rumania would have to abandon the idea of using their cultural organizations as a means of working for territorial revision in favor of Hungary. Either one of these types of autonomy for the Szeklers would certainly require international guarantees and a workable method of making those guarantees effective.


Box 62


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