history

Eastern_Europe

Romania   

 

 

 

Transylvania's people

by Kristina Montgomery

 

 

...It is 6 AM in the village of Abasfalva. The bottle of Polinka (the Hungarian answer to vodka) stands between us like a judge separating two fighters in a ring. I am determined to say no, the grandfather is determined to not listen to me.......

 

One of the greatest injustices against national minorities in Eastern Europe is the treatment of the native Hungarians by the Romanian government in the region of Transylvania

From the end of the ninth century to the beginning of the twentieth, Transylvania was an integral part of Hungary. However, at the end of the First World War, Romanian troops occupied Transylvania, the Banat region and part of the great Hungarian Plain.

On June 4, 1920 the Hungarian Government was compelled to sign the Treaty Of Trianon which annexed the territory of Transylvania, making it part of the Romanian province of Dacia and making the Transylvanian Hungarians one of the largest minorities in Europe.1

 

Transylvania's territory totals 24, 027 square miles and it is surrounded by the Eastern and Southern Carpathian Mountain ranges, also known as the Transylvanian Alps.2 As part of the Hungarian Kingdom, Transylvania became the center of the Hungarian culture. The very first student whose name became officially registered at the University of Oxford in 1193, was Miklos of Hungary, a nobleman of Transylvania. The first book printed in the Hungarian language came off the press in Kolozsvar( today Cluj) in 1527. Also, the first Hungarian theater was established in Kolozsvar/Cluj in 1792. During the time when wars between Catholicism and Protestantism divided the European continent, in Transylvania the Hungarian preacher and philosopher Ferenc David persuaded the Congress of Toroda to declare, for the first time in human history, the freedom of religion and established the Unitarian Church in 1568.3

 

Thus the nation who led the way in lifting oppression in 1568 became oppressed in 1920. Within weeks of Romanian occupation, all geographical locations were renamed. Street markers were replaced and the streets themselves renamed. The Hungarian Transylvanians had to change their home addresses to new ones, in a foreign language they did not even know how to pronounce. Ignoring article 47 of the treaty of Trianon which stipulated that Romania pledges itself to protect the interests of those citizens who differ from the majority of the population in respect of race, language or religion, huge signs went up all over Transylvania "VORBITI NUMAI RUMUNESTI!" (Speak only Romanian).4Rigid censorship toward all publication in Hungarian was established with a single state-owned publishing house to "serve the Hungarian cultural needs" based in Bucharest, which was allowed to publish only government-approved material, mostly translations from Romanian and Russian. According to the law, the presence of two Romanian children in any given school sufficed to have the language of instruction changed from Hungarian to Romanian. Under Ceausescu, violations against the Transylvanian Hungarians continued. In Kolozsvar/Cluj, tombs and crypts of famous Hungarian families in the Medieval Hazsongard cemetery were allotted to recently dead Romanians.5 Overall societal discrimination of Hungarians permeated Romanian society. The Hungarians became the "black sheep" of Romania.

 

With the fall of Communism, the situation has improved on paper. However, the reality of the Hungarian minority has not changed significantly at all. Hungarians are subjected to daily harassment, discrimination in entrance to universities and denied government and foreign loans.

Romanians still wish to assimilate them into the majority culture. Meanwhile, the economy of Transylvania has suffered serious decline under Romanian occupation and the state of its underfinanced agriculture is in very poor condition, with one tractor per two or even three villages. But despite all these obstacles, the Transylvanian Hungarians continue to persevere and hold true to their culture.

 

....... My Hungarian is nonexistent and unfortunately, so is his Russian. I quickly loose the argument. The only thing left for me to do is smile and clink my glass with his. He smiles back, having successfully upheld the rules of hospitality ........

 

Endnotes

  1. The treaty of Trianon and the Dismemberment of Hungary http://www.hungary.org/~hipcat/trianon.htm

  2. History of Ethnic Domination http://web.ucs.ubc.ca/szeitz/books/wass1/history.html

  3. Contemporary Romanian Policies in Transylvania http://www.hungary.com/corvinus/transy20.htm

  4. The Hungarians of Transylvania http://www.hhrf.org/rmdsz/hungint.htm

  5. Contemporary Romanian Policies in Transylvania http://www.hungary.com/corvinus/transy20.htm

 

 

 

 

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