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By Gyorgy Lazar

GYORGY LAZAR is the pen name of a prominent figure in Transylvania who prepared the study which follows and had it smuggled to the West. Breaking a silence of many years, this document was the first to emerge directly from Rumania and provide an authentic, expert assessment of Rumanian minority policies since World War II. Its existence was revealed on April 17, 1977 in a news article published in the London Sunday Times. The full Hungarian text subsequently appeared in the emigre periodical IRODALMI UJSAG (Literary Magazine, Paris, March-April 1977) and in the book ERDELYBOL JELENTIK (Reports from Transylvania published by American Transylvanian Federation, New York, 1977, pp. 25-75); an abbreviated French text also appeared in the journal ESPRIT (March 1978, pp. 68-80). Beyond its importance as the pioneering work of its kind, this study remains unparalleled in the breadth of scope, wealth of hard data and depth of analysis it offers. A restrained, objective tone prevails as the author furnishes a thorough, well-informed account of political developments after World War II and their impact on the national minorities. Hitherto tightly guarded statistical evidence and intimate details about the factors which dictate Rumanian minority policy are used to present a clear picture of the minorities' current situation. The document concludes with a theoretical analysis of the social, economic and psychological factors which combine to shape - and to stifle - the national identity of minorities in Rumania.


Among self-styled unitary states, Rumania is the least such. It is more proper to call it a multi-national state, on the basis of the number of proportion of its nationalities. Minorities comprise around 15 percent of the total population of the country, according to official statistics, which tend to underrepresent their number. Most numerous is the Hungarian minority, which is followed by the German (Saxons and Swabians), then by the Serb minority. There are also Ukrainians, Lipovans, Slovaks, and other groups of Slavic peoples.

To understand the situation, one must take into consideration the fact that the decisive majority of the nationalities lives to the west of the Carpathians, in Transylvania taken in a wider sense (that is, in historic Transylvania and in the Banat), on territory that earlier was part of a Hungary that belonged to the Hapsburg Monarchy. This restriction is not artificial, because the different historic parts of Rumania have not really fused to- gether yet, on account of the relatively late emergence of the Rumanian nation and national state. Moldavia, Wallachia, Oltenia, etc., are not just geographical units: their cultural level differs, and the socio-psychological features of their population show noticeable differences. Especially striking is the difference between the two parts of the country lying to the West and East of the Carpathians. One of the causes of this is the fact that in the West - Transylvania - the nationality problem is a fundamental question, and therefore the history of this part of the country has shaped social relations differently than elsewhere.

The geographic distribution of the population in Transylvania is such that it is not possible to determine rational boundaries via ethnicity, which would make possible a territorial solution to the national question. The only "solutions" possible would result in the creation of minority status for large numbers. The reason for this is partly the high degree of dispersion and partly the fact that the largest homogeneous block of Hungarians lives in the eastern part of Transylvania, at the foot of the Carpathians.

According to official statistics, in 1966 (when the total population of the country was 19,103,000), of the 6,719,000 inhabitants of Transylvania, 4,613,000 were Rumanian, 1,598,000 were Hungarian, and 378,000 were German. It is important to realize, however, that no data from any census in Transylvania is trustworthy, because both the Hungarian and the Rumanian state have distorted the figures during their respective rules. At the same time, as a consequence of the annexations and reannexations of this part of the country, large numbers of people have always moved to Transylvania from other parts of Hungary, or from other parts of Rumania - and the bulk of these left Transylvania again at the next change of power.

The distribution of the two most numerous minorities is as follows: of the Germans, one large group (18th century settlers, mostly Swabians) lived in the Banat, while the other (the Saxons, settled in the 13th century and forming a closed community) lived in the southern part of Transylvania. The number of the latter may be put at 250,000 - at least according to official statistics. The pre-war number of Saxons was double this figure.

The number of Hungarians (according to authors who have compared the various statistics and have made smaller or larger adjustments), may be put at two million in the entire country. Of these, 200,000 live to the east of the Carpathians - in Bucharest and in Moldavia (the latter are the Csangos). The above authors put the number of Transylvanians at 200,000 more than the official statistics, and this can be considered realistic. The most numerous group - around 680,000 - lives along the Hungarian border; the Szeklers[15] form the most homogeneous block, at The foot of the Carpathians - 670.000; approximately 2l0,000 live in a smaller, more or less contiguous area in the region of Kolozsvar. Around 100,000 live in the southeastern part of Transylvania, and the rest in scattered groups and various cities.


The social differences among the nationalities had a peculiar in- fluence on the history of the region. The Transylvanian cities were founded in the 13th century, almost all of them by Saxons. Some of these have become Magyarized from the 14th century. A stronger urbanization started among the Hungarians in the 17th century, but this continued only in the 19th century. Bourgeois culture and in particular the school system of the Saxon and Hungarian population was established (essentially) in the 16th and 17th centuries. On the other hand, the Rumanian school system and Rumanian culture started to develop more significantly only in the second half of the 18th century .

The social composition of the Saxons was characterized by the following: they provided the earliest urbanized stratum, a powerful bourgeoisie developed. The peasantry practiced the most advanced agricultural production in Transylvania. Aworking class barely existed -the artisans became bourgeois rather than proletarian. There were only a few craftsmen. There existed a small proletariat only among the Swabians.

The other nationality comprising the urban population was the Hungarian. The bourgeoisie was less numerous; but they had a powerful intelligentsia. The Hungarian peasantry was of much more varied composition than that of the Saxons, because besides the Szeklers, who were - like the Saxons - of free smallholder origin, there were also peasants of serf origin. A good part of the Transylvania working class was Hungarian, as were most of the craftsmen.

The peasantry comprised the bulk of the Rumanian population, and the clerical-intellectual stratum has been the force for bourgeois development beginning with the 18th century. Between the two World Wars a significant part of the bourgeoisie moved to the larger cities. The Rumanian working class also developed at that time - mainly in state-run enterprises, such as railroad shops.

There are three major historical factors that require emphasis. First, both the Transylvanian Rumanians and the Hungarians not only take it for granted that they are an organic part of their respective nations, but both of them played an especially important role in the formation of those nations. In the 17th century, when Hungary proper was under Hapsburg and Turkish occupation, Transylvania filled the role of a Hungarian state, and that was precisely the time when the first forms of bourgeois culture in the national tongue started to develop. The movement to awaken a Rumanian national self-consciousness also began and was developed in Transylvania, in the 18th Century. Thus both nations have regarded Transylvania as the foundation-stone of their existence as a nation.

Secondly, considering the whole of Rumania, it was precisely the Transylvanian working class that was the most militant between the two World Wars. The most violent strikes and rebellions took place here, and the trade union movement here was the strongest and the best-organized. In all this, however, Hungarian workers played the decisive role.

Thirdly, and finally, it is important to take into account that this area belonged to Hungary until 1918, thereafter to Rumania until 1940, and that between 1940 and 1944 the northern and eastern part were Hungary's, while the southern part was Rumania's. In 1945, the partitioning Vienna Diktat was set aside, and the Trianon Diktat was again enforced, which took ethnic boundaries into consideration just as little as any other "solution". This means that both nationalities have experienced either side of the reality of minority oppression and, moreover, have done so twice. This may be a source of good, because it may stimulate understanding and solidarity; but it may also be a source of evil, because it may encourage a spirit of revenge. Moreover, the great powers used this disputed status of the area as a tool in dominating both countries.

Up to 1944 neither of the nationalities had experienced either cooperation or patience. Neither had they developed a democratic form of life, in general or in their relations with each other.

On the other hand, the winter of 1944-45 signified a special period, when North Transylvania was under Russian military rule. It was introduced in the fall of 1944, against chauvinistic excesses of Rumanian authorities, after irregular troops marching into North Transylvania butchered Hungarians in several regions. Under military rule a sort of democratism unknown earlier in this region came into existence. Although it was not representative democracy, still it was genuine, especially in the development of local self-administration. Local democratization, on the other hand, also signified minority self-government in the administration of the daily life of the population. The Hungarians, who once again became a minority, enjoyed a significant degree of freedom as a nationality. In this period the Hungarian university was reorganized at Kolozsvar (Cluj), as were several other colleges and cultural institutions. The practice of bilingualism was universal. In 1945, with the end of military rule, this administration was taken over by the Groza[16] government.

Naturally, in this situation the Hungarian community was quite active politically. It forcefully supported the Groza government; in the Communist Party, it saw the guarantee of a more liberal minority policy. This was particularly so as at that time minority policy in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary meant in practice the transfer of population. (In the case of Hungary it was forced by the Allied Powers. Ed.)


THE BEGINNING: 1945-1952

Between 1945 and 1952 nationality policy changed only within the framework of general political transformations; it did not have an independent role yet. Nonetheless the circumstances and clandestine efforts produced some specific results within the process to eliminate democracy.

North Transylvania was slowly reintegrated into the whole state, and as a consequence, the composition of the administrative personnel started to change. Hungarians were forced out, and at the same time the roles of Rumanians settling in North Transylvanian cities increased. This, however, the tension it created notwithstanding, was still a natural process, as in the political conflict-situation characterizing 1946, national conflicts and class-power conflicts were interwoven. The reactionary forces of the bourgeoisie tried to use the Rumanians to

acquire a role again, which the Hungarian workers resisted the most resolutely. (The worker-student clash in Kolozsvar was of this sort.) To the extent that the situation of the government and the regime solidified, however, these conflicts slowly abated.

Stalinization, on the other hand, had a greater impact on the formation ot nationality policy, especially with respect to the immediate task of transforming the composition of the Party.

Around 1945 according to official estimates, the Rumanian Communist Party had approximately 1000 members. The decisive majority of them were Hungarian or Jewish. This was also reflected in the composition of the top leadership, as the leading personalities of the Rumanian Communist Party were Anna Pauker (Hungarian Jew) and Laszlo Luka (Hungarian), both returning from Moscow. From the home front of the Communist movement two Rumanians joined them, the intellectual Patrascanu and the worker Gheorghiu-Dej. For obvious reasons the latter became First Secretary. Thus arose (with the two Muscovites) the leading triumvirate. Moreover, the number of Party members with minority background grew steadily after the liberation because relatively fewer Rumanians joined the Party. This situation was altered by a formally secret policy-line of the Rumanian leadership which nonetheless, was consistently carried out. It called for the increased entry of Rumanians into the middle and upper Party echelons in the minority regions. In Rumanian regions, on the other hand, Rumanian Communists took over a majority of the positions in the public administration. As an added benefit, this policy made it possible for Gheorgiu-Dej to build up his personal power base, to place his own men in key positions, and step by step to gain control over the whole apparatus.

Another general change with relevance to nationality relations was the fact, that Rumania, like every People's Democracy, increasingly isolated itself and its citizens from foreign countries. The obstructing of contacts and the elimination of the freedom of movement especially affected the nationalities, because they cut their natural contacts with the mother countries. This weighed most heavily on the Transylvanian Hungarians, because they among the nationalities had maintained always the closest connection with their mother country.

In the chronological order of changes the next came in 1949, in the wake of the Rajk[17] trial in Hungary. This was a new opportunity for Gheorghiu-Dej to strengthen his position: his only real rival, Patrascanu, was arrested at this time. But the Rajk affair also provided an opportunity for the first direct attack on the nationalities. Rajk was of Transylvanian origin, and often visited the Szekler region. During his vacations he regularly met with all the better-known Hungarian leaders. When, as a result of the Rajk trial, there were arrests in Rumania as well - though the real wave was yet to come - it included almost all the better known leaders of the Hungarian People's Alliance, which formed part of the government coalition, strongly supported Groza and enjoyed a large mass support. This meant the smashing of the most courageous and independent group of this minority organization (which was the only such organization of the Hungarians and which in effect could be regarded as a political party). The pretext was the assertion that the Hungarian People's Alliance followed the Rajk "line", and that it included branches of the "spy-gang". Thus the attack against the leadership became also an attack against a progressive nationality policy.

The purges carried out at the time of the forced merger of the two workers' parties brought a new opportunity for altering the nationality composition of the Party. But it was also a device for changing the composition of the public administration in minority regions, and especially, for the weakening of the cultural institutions of the minority. Accordingly, they purged the Bolyai University of Kolozsvar - from which guest professors from Hungary had already been expelled earlier - in such a way that the quality of instruction sank to the highschool level.

All this occurred still within the framework of general Stalinization, and the elimination of democracy. But all these elements gained their true significance only after the turn of 1952, when they were fitted into a new political line.

THE FORMATION: 1952-1956

The spring of 1952 brought a fundamental turn-about in

Rumanian power relations, and in the policy of the Communist Party. Gheorghiu-Dej, exerting his control over the Party apparatus, ousted Anna Pauker and Laszlo Luka from the leadership and assumed total power. To justify his step to Stalin he argued that the tlvo prevented a "Rajk-trial" in Romania, and at the same time he played on Stalin's anti Semitic and nationalistic feelings, which reached their peak at this time. Being a woman was also a factor against the Jewish Pauker. It is also characteristic that up until that point the Rumanian press spelled the other Party Secretary's name as Luca (the Rumanian way) but from then on as Luka, to emphasize his Hungarian nationality. At the same time Groza was removed from the prime ministership. People of a relatively more tolerant, more democratic line had to yield their places one after the other to devotees of a more terroristic policy. A wave of arrests followed against the members of the old leadership, concentrating on the Jews wherever possible. The leading strata of the Hungarian community suffered relatively the most severely. The increasing terror was given a nationalistic flavor.

The first step of the new nationality policy was the unificiation of the counties of the Szekler area, having a solid Hungarian majority, under the name Hungarian Autonomous Region. This took place within the framework of the installation of a Soviet-type administration system. The Autonomous Region in no way differed from other regions that were created, and did not receive any sort of autonomy. The statute for it was never even drawn up. The region was, therefore, Hungarian and autonomous in name only. Even so, it had great significance in the nationality policy, but in an entirely different connection.

A subsequent event of significance was Gheorghiu-Dej's declaration of January, 1953; he proclaimed that the nationality question in Rumania had been solved. This statement has been regarded as an axiom of Rumanian politics ever since. As a consequence, realistic or comprehensive discussion has been prohibited on the situation of the nationalities ever since. It is also forbidden to formulate any demands whatsoever. The task is simply to combat nationalism, to eliminate the "trouble makers". Every claim, demand and grievance has been regarded as an expression of Hungarian nationalism. and handled accordingly. Further, from this time on nationality policy became Two-tiered" because alongside of public regulations and measures, a more and more substantial role was played by secret instructions. These comprised the actual policy, and these provided the guide for the interpretation of the public documents. It also became a practice for the most sensitive instructions to be communicated only verbally to the organs responsible for carrying them out.

The first implementation of the nevv policy and a preparation for further steps was the dissolution of the Hungarian People's Alliance in 1953. All political organizations of the minorities were abolished at this time. Even so, that of the HPA did not go smoothly. Once again, the leadership had to be replaced, and by open violation of the rules, puppets appointed, who were ready to carry out "self-liquidation". The Hungarian minority - and, in a similar way, the other nationalities - were deprived of any organization able to defend them. As a result nationality rights themselves became an empty shell per se. From then on, the people could relate to the rulers in every instance only as individuals, and could possess nationality rights only as individuals. Nationality rights, however, are essentially collective rights, and do not exist in any other way, because the nationality is a form of communal existence. The restriction of these collective rights to individual rights meant practically the deprivation of the nationalities of any rights. This measure, within the framework of the general lack of remedy for official abuses made any kind of minority selfdefense illegal. This is proven further by the fact that nationality organizations were declared "forums of isolation" and "hotbeds ot nationalism". The dissolution of independent organizations was thus given theoretical underpinnings and this would later become the main tool and principal of forced denationalization in other areas as well.

Finally, the measures to establish the limits and conditions of minority existence was completed by the endeavor to sever the connections - by now only cultural - linking the minorities to their mother countries. in l954 the importation of books from Hungary was curtailed to a decisive extent. At the same time the government put an end to the unrestrifted sale of newspapers from Hungary, and it limited subscriptions to a minimum, too. Subscriptions were conditional on official approval, and in turn the officials routinely rejected 80-90% of the applications not only from individuals but also from schools, institutions, and libraries. The new cultural import quotas represented only a fraction of the previous importation, and this remained in force ever afterwards.

This way conditions are established under which it is possible to mold a nationality policy that would utilize the existence of the Hungarian Autonomous Region in order to attain more direct goals. The Autonomous Region was declared the vehicle of nationality existence, so that in turn, outside the Szekler area they could freely engage in efforts to deprive Hungarians of their national character. In these other areas repression was more and more overt. As only 33 percent of Hungarians lived on the territory of the Hungarian Autonomous Region, two-thirds found themselves subjected to increasing discrimination. The efforts at Rumanianization at the time were focused on the cities, and among these, primarily at the most significant center, Kolozsvar.

The elimination of bi-lingualism had started. Bi-lingual signs and inscriptions disappeared, advertisements and announcements ceased appearing in two languages. Gradually, on]y Rumanian-language petitions were being accepted in public offices, where Hungarian speaking clerks began to disappear from posts having to deal with the public. Bi-lingualisrn was also stopped at Party meetings, and at every sort of conference, discussion, and in any official communications the use of the Hungarian language became practically forbidden. Characteristically, at this time the Hungarian press began to be compelled to write the names of Hungarian cities in their Rumanian form, like Cluj instead of the Hungarian Kolozsvar.

The satisfaction of the cultural needs of the minority also began to decline rapidly at this timee It was harder and harder to obtain Hungarian books; the Kolozsvar University library. for example denied the public access to the bulk of its Hungarian holdings. The dearth of Hungarian-language teehnical books also became felt at that time. The gradual expulsion of Hungarians from scientific institutes began. Wage discrimination against the nationalities was also characteristic. Payment for the same work was less at the Hungarian Bolyai University than at the Rumanian Babes University - a librarian's monthly pay at the Rumanian university was 580 lei, at the Hungarian 420. In book publishing, the situation was similar. On the pretext of the smaller number of copies, author's royalties for books written in the Hungarian language were less than for those in Rumanian, and author's fees at Hungarian newspapers and periodicals were also smaller.

Rumanianization also ensued in the more important administrative organs. In the national institutions minorities could occupy none of the more significant positions. The Interior Ministry and the state security apparatus under it was the first to follow this pattern. Next, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and the officer corps of the army were purged of minorities. Then came the replacement of the leading officers and administrative personnel of the economic agencies and enterprises - of those, that is, where the minorities still had a role. Often they simply liquidated certain enterprises, then a short time later reorganized them without rehiring the minorities. Qualifications became secondary, and, as it was to be expected, the functioning of the institutions deteriorated. When this happens with the leadership of economic enterprises, the result is a decrease in productivity and a deterioration of quality. Two viewpoints determined the number and composition of the minority personnel remaining: as many could remain as were necessary for still maintaining the pretense of "equality", and those who remained never had decision-making power. To remain, one had to be ready to do anything and serve anybody. Henceforth the above became the main criteria in the elite recruitment among the nationalities. Two examples taken from different places serve as an illustration: among five judicial officials (judges. prosecutors) of Kezdivasarhely - a Hungarian city in the Szekler area - three knew no Hungarian at all; at the Kalotaszeg region, where 300 Hungarian and ten Rumanian families live, the majority of both the policemen and the village officials were Rumanian.

Parallel with the attack unleashed against the intellectuals, they began to weed out the minorities from the higher strata of the working class. Shop foremen, master craftsmen and even ordinary skilled workers fell victim, chiefly in those cities whose Rumanianization was an immediate goal. It is possible to generalize on these examples by observing that the elimination of these marked social differences was achieved not by the education of the historically backward Rumanian masses, but rather by the acceptance of the uncultured rural masses as the standard of suitable social amelioration. To eliminate the leading strata of the minorities they were willing to undermine general progress.

The way the economy was organized offered wide possibilities for this policy from two aspects. As a result of exclusive ownership of enterprises, the state could freely transfer individuals, and at the same time create restrictions - even if by secret instructions - whereby minorities could be denied access to entire careers. On the other hand state control over settlemen in the cities became an especially effective means of Rumanianizing the various cities. The establishment of controls resulted from the fact that the development of the infrastructure did not follow the rate of industrialization. This, however, made it possible to close these cities completely to minority influx and to fulfill the manpower requirements of industrialization exclusively by the settlement of Rumanians. Around this time the primary targets were Kolozsvar and other major cities outside the Szekler land. In these cities Hungarians could not settle under any guise, yet the swelling bureaucracy and the construction of new factories required people. But instead of hiring Hungarians and Saxons from neighboring villages, who often possessed skilled-worker qualifications, they brought in unskilled Rumanians from distant regions.

The most flagrant form of Rumanianization of these cities, and especially Kolozsvar, was the effort to transfer cultural institutions attempted ln 1953. First, they transferred a literary yearbook to Marosvasarhely where it would become the single Hungarian literary journal. Similarly, they transferred the Academy of Dramatic Art. Arrangements were made for the transfer of other academies of art and of Hungarian-language book publishing. By this time, however, opposition was becoming quite fierce. There was widespread protest against the establishment of a "cultural ghetto", and as a result, no further transfers occurred. Contributing to this state of affairs was the fact that other measures - with by and large identical aims - were met by bitter opposition as well. There were plans to alter the historical townscape of Kolozsvar, that had been formed during centuries and is said to have a Hungarian character. The construction of "modern" student hostels amidst a part of the city, full of Gothic structures was to be the beginning. It is characteristic that the local Party organs were willing, upon the protests of the population, to bring construction to a halt; nevertheless, they had to continue it under central party instructions. Yet the renewed protests eventually reached the highest levels, and thus the construction was finally called off. Later, of course, they brought up the plan again, and it was precisely with this idea that they launched the dissolution of historic Kolozsvar.

The fact that official policy backed down at this time at the face of mounting minority protest may in part be attributed to the general sense of insecurity that pervaded the country after the death of Stalin.

Yet this backing-down did not mean a change in the nationality policy, merely that the two most spectacular efforts for denationalization had failed. Concurrently with the above events other minority cultural institutions were simply abolished. At this time the teaching of philosophy and psychology was temporarily suspended at Kolozsvar University. On the other hand, Hungarian-language teaching was permanently abolished at the Agricultural College of the same city. The examination of this event throws an interesting light on the means employed. In the spring of 1954 two agronomists were accused of embezzlement. and they defended themselves on the grounds that they did not understand the instructions clearly - because of language difficulties. They were finally cleared, and the whole matter was referred to the central leadership of the Party. (In reality, the affair was fabricated from above.) The elimination of the Hungarian-language section was done with reference to a Politburo resolution but later, one of the members of the Politburo at the time, Mogyoros, did not remember even a debate on such a problem. The decision was announced to the faculty as final in the summer of 1955, and the Minister of Education himself signed the letters of termination, allegedly without the knowledge of the city leaders. Everything was done in such a way, therefore, that the possibility of protests was precluded. At the same time, as an ap- peasement, they promised courses in the Hungarian language, and the use of Hungarian at the entrance examinations. Both promises remained unfulfilled, however. The means were somewhat more circumspect: they expected resistance. The entire policy was more subdued at this time, by 1955 the assault abated and the pressure decreased.

In characterizing the practice of minority oppression at this time, it is important to mention that, although it had a nationalistic character, it was still not part of a general comprehensive nationalistic policy. The trend certainly pointed in that direction, but it was not yet allencompassing and did not even affect every minority equally. It struck the Hungarians the hardest, partly beeause they were the largest minority, and partly as a reaction to political changes in Hungary proper after 1953. Pressure weighed much less on the German population, while it was especially strong on the Serbs, on account of the fight against "Titoism". As a matter of fact, besides anti-Hungarianism, only anti-Semitism developed as an organic policy: from 1952 on, they saw to the more and more rigorous enforcement of an unwritten numerus clausus against the Jew on every level.

The halting of the tirst assault, however, signified only a temporary preaution and lasted until 1957

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