Hungarians of Székely Land
Székely Land (Szeklerland) is a historical region of Kingdom of Hungary and a present region of Roumania. Geographically Székelyland lies in the Carpathian Basin. The Székely are a Hungarian group that settled in Transylvania during the first migration round 400.a.d. The Magyars (hungarians) invaded this part of Europe in the begining of the 9th century. At the time the Székelys had already been there, since 400 A.D., as the leftover remnants of the Huns of Attila. Székelyland was a part of Kingdom of Hungary untill 1920. At the end of World War I, as part of the Treaty of Trianon 1920, the Allies annexed Székelyland from Hungary to Roumania.
At the end of the 13th century, in a chronicle called Gesta Hungarorum, the notary of Hungarian King Béla explained his beliefs about the conquest of Hungary about 280 years earlier. According to this chronicle, the Hungarians and Székelys had common roots. The invading Hungarians, led by Árpád, according to legend a descendant of Attila the Hun, met the Székelys, who also used to be the people of Attila the Hun, in Southern Hungary. The Székelys then joined the Hungarians in fighting together against the enemies of Árpád. The chronicle was written centuries after the described events and are considered to be very accurate by Hungarian historians. The Székely have historically claimed descent from Attila's Huns, and feel that they played a special role in shaping Hungary. After the Magyar tribes settled in Pannonia, they believed that they had special rights to that land as an inheritance from Attila. Székely people, when asked, are always proud to their Hungarian identity.
The map of Székelyland
in the Kingdom of Hungary untill 1920
The Székely (pronounced [seikej]) or Szekler people (Hungarian: Székely, Romanian: Secui, German: Szekler, Latin: Siculi), are a Hungarian-speaking ethnic group mostly living in the counties of Harghita, Covasna and Mures, in Romania, with a significant population also living in Tolna, Hungary. Based on official 2002 Romanian census numbers, approximately 1,434,000 ethnic-Hungarians live in Romania, mostly in Transylvania. Of these, about 665,000 live in the counties of Harghita, Covasna and parts of Mures, with a Székely majority (65%). The Székely therefore account for a significant part (45%) of the Hungarian minority in Romania. When given the choice on the Romanian census between ethnically identifying as "Székely" or "Hungarian," the overwhelming majority of Székely choose the latter. Note that they were not allowed to choose both of them. Therefore, on the last Romanian census (2002) only 150 persons declared their ethnicity as "Székely".
The Székely Sun and Moon
The Sun and Moon are the symbols of the Székely, as can also be seen in the coat of arms of Transylvania and on the Romanian national coat of arms. The Sun and Moon symbols represented proto-Hungarian gods, but after the Hungarians became Christians in the eleventh century, their importance became purely visual and symbolic. Their religious significance was lost. The Székely have largely succeeded in preserving their traditions to an extent unusual even in Central and Eastern Europe. The most comprehensive description of the Székely Land and traditions was written between 1859-1868 by Balázs Orbán in his Description of Székely land.
Population by county
The Székely live mainly in Harghita, Covasna and Mures, counties. They form a majority of the population in the counties of Covasna and Harghita.
|County ||Székely ||% of county population ||% of worldwide Székely population
The relatively small and isolated Székely population on the border of Cluj and Alba counties (former Aranyosszék) assimilated more significantly during the 20th century than inhabitants of the compact Székely areas. They can be estimated to be less than 20,000 today. The Székelys of Bukovina form a culturally separate group with its own history.
Székelys in the Hungarian Kingdom (10-16th centuries)
Székely people in the Kingdom of Hungary
In the 10-11th centuries, most Székelys lived in the Bihar area and in border regions of Hungary. Later, possibly by the order of the Hungarian kings, they gradually settled in the area today known as Székely Land. Information about their original settlement areas can be deduced from place names and from some original documents. Certain Transylvanian territories given to the Teutonic Knights and Saxons in the 12th century, were earlier inhabited by Székely tribes. Székelys lived in present-day Transylvanian regions like Saschiz, Gârbova, Sebes,, or Medias,. The reason behind the relocation from Southern Transylvania could have been that the Byzantine Empire became stronger in this period and the Teutonic Knights were considered to be better in resisting the Empire. At the same time, Székely light cavalry was better in fighting against nomadic peoples, like Kumans, or Tatars in the East. The last group of Székelys were relocated from the Saschiz area and were awarded the Aranyosszék region by Stephen V of Hungary in around 1270. (Saschiz was called "Kézd" in contemporary Hungarian. Another group of Kézd Székelys already moved to Southern Székely Land earlier and settled in the area known as "Kézdi Seat".)
Territorial and administrative organisation
Administrative division of medieval Transylvania, with Székely Land in blue
Székelys, similarly to Transylvanian Saxons were organised in Seats (Hungarian: szék, Latin: Sedes). Seats in medieval Hungary were autonomous territorial units. After the final settlement in Székely Land in the 12-13th centuries, seven Seats took shape, possibly following the tribal structure of the Székelys:
* Udvarhely Seat
* Csík Seat
* Aranyos Seat
* Maros Seat
* Orbai Seat
* Sepsi Seat
* Kézdi Seat
The latter three seats were united in the early 17th century, and have been called Háromszék (Three Seats) since then.
Székely Land was not part of the Hungarian county system, and was, as a single territorial unit, led by the Count of the Székelys (Latin: Siculorum Comes), a representative of the king. The Count of the Székelys was chosen by the king usually from Hungarian aristocrats, but never from the Székelys. John Hunyadi was the first Voivode of Transylvania to assume this position. Since then, the Transylvanian voivods (later princes) had the rank of Count of the Székelys along with their other titles. Issues concerning the whole Székely Land were discussed by the Assembly of Seats, where all free Székelys had the right to participate. The assembly usually took place in Udvarhely Seat. Udvarhely Seat was also called the Principal Seat (Latin: Capitalis Sedes), however, the other Seats always jealously maintained that all seats were equal.
On the Diets of Hungary and of Transylvania, they were represented as one of the nations, or estates. (Estates in those times were called nations.) Székelys joined the Union of Three Nations, an alliance of Transylvanian estates formed in 1438.
With their autonomous territorial, judiciary, administrative and military structures, the medieval Székely society was following the pre-feudal democratic tribal patterns. Judges and all of their leaders were elected directly (except for their Count, who was appointed by the King of Hungary). Common land was redistributed on a regular basis. If a Székely died without inheritors, his land became part of the common lands and any free Székely was entitled to take it over. (The same time, in the feudal county system, the king, or the landlord would have been the heir in this case.) No more land was allowed to be taken out from the common lands than the amount a family could cultivate. If a plot remained uncultivated for a longer period, it was also subject to occupation by other Székelys. The heritage rules restricted poverty, also prevented the settlement of non-Székely people in Székely Land for centuries.
Autonomy Aspirations of Szekely Land
Services provided to the King of Hungary
The Székely light cavalry fit perfectly into the medieval Hungarian military forces, supplementing the army of armoured knights. They were especially effective against nomadic invaders from the East, using similar fighting methods and strategies. One of their first recorded military victories is from 1285, when Székelys of the Aranyos Seat attacked and partly destroyed the Tatar army returning back to Moldova packed with loot. But Székelys were not only defending Transylvania, they took part in campaigns abroad, too. In 1499, when armed clashes with the Ottoman Empire and its vassal states became regular, a diploma issued by King Vladislaus II (II. Ulászló) reaffirms the conditions under which the Székelys provided military services:
"When the King personally leads his army towards the East, against Moldova, each one of the Székely cavalrymen and infantrymen are required to be under arms, go before the Royal Army and wait for the battle abroad for 15 days on their own expense. Also, on the way back, they shall go behind the Royal Army. When His Majesty sends his personal deputy to the East, half of the Székelys should accompany him as described."
In a similar way, half of the Székelys supported the king during his campaigns against Wallachia and 1/5 of them if the army was only led by a deputy. Common Székelys did not participate personally in wars with Western and Northern countries, however, they were obliged to hire mercenaries and send them in battle under the leadership of Székely captains. Resulting from the military services they provided to the king, Székelys had equal rights to the Hungarian nobles. They were exempted from paying taxes and, when visiting the feudal noble counties, even the poorest of them were treated as free people. As the diploma of King Vladislaus II explains: "Therefore the Székelys, as nobles by rights granted by glorious Hungarian Kings of the past, are exempt from any tax or other duties, and are free." There was, however, a kind of tax the Székelys paid: following an old tradition, every landed household gave an ox as a present to the king when he was crowned, when he got married and when a child was born in the royal family.
Changes in the Székely social structure
Although most of their privileges and pre-feudal customs remained untouched, there were some gradual changes in the Székely society over the centuries after their final settlement. Three classes evolved, based on the status they had in the army, which was also in close correlation to the wealth they possessed. Originally senior commanders (Latin: primores) were the richest class of the society, the elite and later the aristocracy of the Szeklers. Horsemen (lófo"k in Hungarian, literally "Horse Heads") were the second, still wealthy and influential class and finally those, who were not able to finance a horse for themselves served in the infantry and were called the common Székelys. The best Székely commanders sometimes received feudal estates from the king in the neighborhood of Székely Land. Wealthy members of the society gained territories by deforestation outside of the common lands; these were later not subject to redistribution by the community. They were also able to obtain and cultivate larger pieces from the common lands. Soon, primores attempted to follow the example of neighbouring feudal noble counties and tried to obtain serfs for their lands. The poorest common people were sometimes unable to purchase weapons and couldn’t participate in military campaigns without the financial support of their leaders. This group, along with non-Székely immigrants, soon became subject of the efforts of primores who were looking for servants. Kings, especially Matthias Corvinus took measures to stop this process because they were afraid that otherwise the number of free common people in the infantry decreases. They could not save, however, those commons from becoming serfs, who were not able to participate in the military forces. This group lost their rights and were not part of the Székely Nation any more. In 1499, King Vladislaus II (II. Ulászló) exempts those poor Székelys from military service who live on other people's land as servants, or whose movable property is worth less than 3 Forints. They lost their noble rights by the same regulation. After the 15th century the Székely assembly became monopolised by the first two class. In 1511 and in 1519, common Székelys revolt against the oppression by their own Primores. Székely freedom was also decreased when royal judges were appointed in the Seats, who gradually took over the duties of elected Székely judges, but the members of the jury were still elected locally. In spite of these unfavourable processes, most commons retained their freedom and rights.
Székelys in the Principality of Transylvania (16-17th century)
After the Ottoman occupation of Central Hungary in 1526, the Eastern parts, including Transylvania were ruled by the Zápolya Family, pretenders of the Hungarian Throne. In the second half of the century, the independent Principality of Transylvania came into existence. During this period, Székelys almost lost their freedom.
Due to the frequent armed clashes, Székelys were often called to fight by John Zápolya, later by his son, John Sigismund. The same time, financial burdens of the wars also forced the rulers to put an end to the traditional system of exempting Székely Land, a significant area of their country, from taxes. According to the acts passed in 1554, while keeping the Primores and Horsemen tax-free, Infantrymen were requested to pay. Consequently, common people were burdened both by taxes and compulsory military service. This unfavourable situation led to an armed revolt in 1562, which was destroyed by John Sigismund. After the revolt, he abandoned traditional Székely offices like the elected judges, or the positions of elected Seat Captains. A governing captain was appointed by him instead, with an office in Udvarhely, the principal seat. Two fortresses were built to control the Székelys, one in Udvarhely, and another one in Háromszék. Insensitive to traditional rights, he granted whole Székely villages as feudal estates to his supporters.
Later, princes of Transylvania followed this attitude, but also made use of the Székely military traditions. Stefan Batory, Voivod of Transylvania and King of Poland deployed Transylvanian, mostly Székely mercenaries in the Livonian War against Ivan IV of Russia.
Gabriel Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania, Lord of Parts of Hungary and Count of the Székelys
Sigismund Báthory, Prince of Transylvania, who needed their support in the Wallachian Campaign in 1595, promised that their old rights would be restored. As a result, 23,000 Székelys joined the Transylvanian army led by Stephen Bocskay, providing essential support to Michael the Brave in fighting the Ottoman army. The next year, Sigismund Báthory withdrew his promises and brutally suppressed the revolting Székelys. In 1599, when Michael the Brave attacked Transylvania, Székelys joined Michael during the Battle of S,elimba(r. With their support, Michael the Brave scored a victory over the troops of Andreas Báthory. The escaping prince was later captured and killed in Székely Land. As a reward for their support, Michael restored their old freedom. Székelys also destroyed the royal fortresses that were built on their land by John Sigismund. Princes of Transylvania learnt from these events and the returning Sigismund Báthory, then Stephen Bocskay, later Gabriel Bethlen reinforced their freedom, also restored traditional offices like elected Seat Captains and elected judges. Even serfs were exempted from paying taxes in Székely Land.
During the 17th century Székelys continued to be one of the most important components of the Transylvanian army. They could be mobilised quickly, and were under arms in a couple of weeks, at the disposal of the Prince. While the rights of the three classes in arms remained untouched, the social processes of the earlier centuries continued and the number of serfs within their society continuously increased. To maintain the number of infantrymen in the army and prevent them from choosing a more peaceful life as serfs, Transylvanian princes later re-introduced the taxation of Székely Serfs.
Habsburg rule, Grand Principality of Transylvania (18-19th century)
After their military successes in Hungary against the Ottoman Empire in the 1680s, Habsburgs extended their influence to Transylvania, too. Habsburg troops took control of the Principality and Leopold I issued his Diploma Leopoldinum, the new constitution of Transylvania in 1691. The Diploma did not radically change the Székely privileges. In spite of this, taxation was soon introduced and villages had to accommodate troops of the Emperor. The Székelys paid the taxes and provided services, as they declared, on a "temporary basis" and "on their own will".
During the Rákóczi Uprising between 1703 and 1711, Székelys supported Francis II Rákóczi, the last elected Prince of Transylvania. When the Habsburgs took control of Transylvania after the uprising, Székelys were disarmed and their military services were no longer wanted. The offices of Seat Captains were wound up but the traditional demoratic Székely institutions, like their judiciary system, remained unharmed for decades to come.
Traditional Székely Land
Setting up the Székely Border Guard
In 1762, Empress Maria Theresa decided to set up border guard troops on the borders of Transylvania, based on the Military Frontier system already in place on the Ottoman border area. Mostly Romanians were recruited in the Southern Carpathians (Fogaras area) and Székelys in the Eastern Carpathians. The drafting was organised partly on voluntary, partly on compulsory basis, and resulted in conflicts in many places, especially in Székely Land. The Székelys requested that instead of the imperial officers, they have their own leaders according to the traditions, and that they are not ordered to go in action abroad. As the negotiations failed with the army, Székelys openly protested and some of the Seats contacted each other to start co-ordinated actions. As the drafting was only partly successful, the chief officer responsible for the recruitment gave up his plans and ordered that the so far distributed weapons are returned by the Székelys. They, however, gave back only part of the equipment and kept the rifles as a compensation for the weapons confiscated after the Rákóczi Uprising.
The next, already violent attempt by the imperial officers to recruit Székely border guards culminated in a tragic event, the Mádéfalva Massacre, commemorated until today. In December 1763, the men sought refuge from drafting in the mountains, at Mádéfalva (Romanian: Siculeni), some of them equipped with weapons. On 7th January, 1764, an army unit of 1300 soldiers, with two cannons, attacked the peaceful crowd and massacred hundreds of them. The drafting in Székely Land was quickly and easily completed after these events. Border guard troops were set up in every Seat except for Udvarhely and Maros Seat.
After the Mádéfalva Massacre, many Székelys crossed the Carpathians and escaped to Moldova. Those who stayed in the Moldavian Voivodate, became one of the subgroups of Csángó people. Others moved to the Bukovina Region and founded their final settlements with the help of General András Hadik. This group retained their traditions and are regarded to as the Székelys of Bukovina.
The Military Frontier Organisation put an end to the autonomy of the Székely Nation in some respects. The self governance of the settlements was seriously hurt by the border guard commanders. They interfered with the election of judges, the local agriculture and schooling, also with the every-day life of the Székely guards. Property transactions or weddings could be done only with the permission of the officers. In local communities, however, many of the traditions were kept, the Székely pride and their strong desire for freedom remained. They organised their own life, set rules for the building of roads and bridges, also for the election of their leaders and jury members. (Most of these issues were decided by landlords in the noble counties.) The ancient system of redistributing common lands was still a practice by the end of the 18th century, but ceased to exist in a couple of decades. By the 1820s, only a couple settlements practiced the yearly land redistribution. The last examples include the capital of Aranyos Seat, Felvinc (today: Unirea).
The 1848 Revolution
During the turbulent period of the Revolution and War of Independence in Hungary in 1848-49, Székelys supported the liberal parties pressing for full freedom of serfs and equal taxation for everybody. The Assembly of Udvarhely Seat (later followed by other Seats, too) decided already on 3 April 1848 that they would give up their remaining tax reliefs. Serfs in Háromszék were ordered by Székely border guards not to provide the traditional feudal services to their landlords. The decisions of the Seats were reinforced by the last Transylvanian Diet in June 1848.
Székelys also supported the decision of the Transylvanian Diet about the unification of Transylvania with Hungary. When the Habsburg Army, under the leadership of General Puchner, tried to take control of Transylvania, Székelys were the only serious resistance to his efforts. However, not equipped with artillery, they were quickly defeated. Maros Seat was occupied, Udvarhely Seat surrendered, Csík Seat declared neutrality. In this situation, the resistance was re-organised in Háromszék. On the assembly of the Háromszék in November, Áron Gábor, a former artillery officer, convinced the delegates that instead of surrendering, they should try to manufacture canons locally. In a couple of weeks, the first canons were ready and were successfully deployed. During the following period, dozens of canons were manufactured and used by the Székely Army. Half of the Transylvanian troops of General Puchner were engaged in fights with the resisting Háromszék. This prevented him from attacking the Várad Fortress (today: Oradea) in a decisive moment and from opening a second front in the Hungarian military theatre.
By the end of 1848 - beginning of 1849, Székelys joined the army set up by General Józef Bem and took part in his successful campaigns driving out Habsburg troops from Transylvania. The successful campaign was finally crushed when the imperial Russian army intervened in Transylvania following a request from the Habsburg Empire.
Union with Hungary
In 1867, an agreement (Compromise) was made between Austria and Hungary about the creation of the Dual Monarchy. According to the Compromise, Transylvania was united with the Kingdom of Hungary. A decade later, a new county system was introduced in the Kingdom, which put an end to the long tradition of Székely Seats.
1920 Treaty of Trianon - Hungary torn apart
Following World War I, with a disintegrated Austrian-Hungarian army and socialist and communist revolutions taking place in Budapest, Hungary could not resist the Romanian armed forces acting on behalf of the winning Entente powers, and gradually lost territories, including Transylvania, during 1918-1919.
The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy fell apart after the First World War. Despite Hungarian protest, the Romanian National Assembly proclaimed the joining of Transylvania and Székelyland to Romania, in the declaration of Alba Julia on December 1, 1918. In response, the Hungarian General Assembly of Cluj reaffirmed the loyalty of Transylvanian Hungarians to Hungary on December 22, 1918. In 1919, the intervention of the Romanian army put an end to the communist republic led by Béla Kun and thus to Hungary's intention of regaining Transylvania. The Allied and Associated Great Powers confirmed the declaration of Alba Julia and anexed Transylvania and Székelyland to Romania by the Treaty of Trianon, 1920 (June 4, 1920 in Versai, France), were Hungary was punished as none state in Europe before.
Hungary dissmembered by the Treaty of Trianon 1920
Unwillingly and under enormous pressure, on 4th July, the Hungarian delegation has been forced to signed the "Peace Treaty" which dismembered the 1000 years old country grounded by Saint Stephen (Szent István), the first hungarian King. 2/3 of Hungary's territory had been given to those surrounding countries, which actually occupied it.
The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her Hungarian-speaking population. Add to this the loss of up to 90% of vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure.
When the Trianon agreement was signed after the 1st World War 1919-20 Hungary lost 2/3 parts of its area to Roumania (Transylvania and Székelyland), Yugoslavia (Vojvodina), Croatia, Baranya and Slavonia, Slovakia (Felvidék), current Ukraine (Transcarpathia) and a small part to Austria (Burgenland). Compared with the former Kingdom of Hungary, the population of post-Trianon Hungary was reduced from 20.8 million to 7 million and its land area decreased by 72%. After 1918, Hungary did not have access to the sea, which it had had directly through the Rijeka coastline and indirectly through the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia.
Demographic consequences of The Treaty
The peace treaty was the most hardest treaty ever signed by a single state. The Kingdom of Hungary which had over 325.000 square km was reduced by 232.000 square km, or 71,4 % and remained on 93.000 square km.
- 61,4 % of its cultivation land
- 88 % of its forest,
- 62,1 % of its railways,
- 64,5 % of its roads,
- 83,1 % of its annual iron pruduction,
- 55,7 % of its industrial facilities and companies,
- 67 % of its financial and credit companies
- 100% of its gold-, silver-, copper och salt production.
Roumania alone got 102.000 square km land from Hungary (the whole Transylvania with Székelyland), it means a bigger part than Hungary itself remained on 93.000 square km.
Székelyland was now the part of the newly established Greater Romania, which profit was the highest by the end of I w.w. with receiving the biggest area from Hungary. Treaties contained clauses that clearly described and guaranteed fundamental human rights to minorities, as the right to use their language, teaching in schools and governmental authority, the right of free expression on its own language, publicly and in newspaper and radio, but this was never respected. They signed commitments and obligations by the Treaty of Trianon related to the fundamental human rights of minorities were never respected by the States that "grew" territorial on Hungary's expense.
Newly established states of Yugoslavia, Checkoslovakia and Greater Roumania considered themselves as national states and were only interested in their own national targets. As an example, untill the year 1913, under Hungarian rule, in Transylvania, there were 5032 public schools, of which 2482 were Hungarian, 2230 Roumanian, 282 German (sach) and 58 of other nationalities. In 1931, under Roumanian rule, had primary schools number dropped to clear Hungarians disadvantage. By 4292 public schools were now only 1248 Hungarian and Roumanian number increased to 2978, only 67 were German (sach) and 2 by other natinality.
The Hungarians also demanded that the referendum would be held on the territories which the Alied powers wanted to remove from the kingdom, but the referendum was not allowed to Hungary.
About 197,000 Transylvanian Hungarians fled to Hungary
About 197,000 Transylvanian Hungarians fled to Hungary between 1918 and 1922, and a further group of 169,000 emigrated over the remainder of the interwar period. Among those who departed were destitute agricultural laborers, disheartened aristocrats, disillusioned intellectuals, workers and their families searching for better opportunities in Hungary or in some cases, overseas. In 1921, the Popular Hungarian Party and the National Hungarian Party were founded. In 1922 these political parties fused to form the Hungarian Party of Romania.
The new regime's objective became to effectively Romanianize Transylvania in a social-political fashion, after centuries of Hungarian rule. The regime's goal was to create a Romanian middle and upper class that would assume power in all fields. The Hungarian language was expunged from official life, and all place-names were Romanianized. In the land reform undertaken in 1921, Transylvanian aristocrats (most of them ethnic Hungarians or assimilated as Hungarians from other ethnic groups) were dispossessed of large landed properties, with the land being then given (in smaller plots) to peasants (the majority of whom were ethnic Romanians). This move, approved by Romania's King Ferdinand I, changed the ethnic distribution of land ownership.
The Magyar population complained about the insufficiency of schools in their language and the pressure to send their children to Romanian-language schools. In the private economy, the dominant social position of Hungarian, Jewish and Saxon business people was somewhat eroded, as the Romanian government tried to improve the relative position of businesses owned by ethnic Romanians by adopting preferential, protective measures. Higher education was completely Romanianized, except for a chair of Hungarian Literature at the University of Cluj. On the other hand, the minority's cultural activities were barely obstructed by Romanian official policies.
The Treaty of Trianon and its Consequences 1919-1937
THE MINORITIES: POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE CONDITIONS
No Romanian Government has considered giving any minority an effective
share of political power. During the first few months the Transylvanian
Romanian ‘Directing Council’, backed by the Regat troops, exercised a national
dictatorship, leaving the Saxons, within limits, to manage their own affairs, but
keeping a tight hold over the Magyars. The Parliamentary system was then
introduced, but with a single Parliament in Bucharest, in which the Romanian
parties have always formed an overwhelming majority. The unitary and national
character of the State is emphasized by the Constitution, which also states
specifically that minorities, as such, are not recognized as forming corporate
bodies. They are, however, permitted to form associations, and Romania, like
Czechoslovakia but unlike Yugoslavia since 1929, has allowed the minorities to
form political parties on a national basis. All the chief minorities have done so.
The Germans led the way, simply carrying on with their old organization from
Hungarian days. The Magyars, with few exceptions, refused to recognize the
existence of enlarged Romania until after Hungary had ratified the Treaty of
Trianon. They then formed two parties, which in 1922 fused into a single body,
the ‘Magyar National Party’. The Jews followed suit some years later; even the
Serbs founded a tiny party in 1932.
The Magyars suffered considerable obstruction, intimidation, and even
violence in the early years. At the first elections, for example, 30 of the 33
candidates, which they put up, were disqualified and only one elected. Their
claim to represent the Moldavian Csángós has also been consistently rejected.
Apart from this, the minority parties have enjoyed a reasonable degree of
freedom, measured by local standards, in drawing up their programs, establishing
their organization, and conducting their propaganda.’ The surveillance exercised
over them by the political police has probably been no stricter than that from
which the Romanian opposition parties have suffered (and far less effective,
owing to the inability of the honest Romanian gendarmes to understand what the
Magyars are talking about). In elections, they have usually held their own and
returned to both Chambers in Bucharest a certain number of representatives,
partly because the Germans always, the other parties occasionally, have formed
cartels with the Romanian parties before the elections. These arrangements, however, have related to elections only, and no
minority party has ever been represented in the Government.’ It is worth noting
that the minorities only once (in 1927) formed a cartel between themselves. The
constituencies are not ‘weighted’ against the minorities, although the system
(lists by Departments) is unfavorable to the scattered Germans and Jews. It is
favorable enough to the Magyars, with their solid blocs of population.
The meager representation which the centralized Parliamentary system
allows them is naturally regretted by the minorities, and all of them wish for
decentralization, which would give them proportionately a much larger voice in
affairs. What weighs on them more heavily still is the curtailment of their rights
and powers in local government. Under the Romanian system the old autonomy
of the County (Departmental) and Municipal Councils has, in any case, been very
largely reduced, since the real power in the Departments rests in the hands of the
Prefects, who are appointed by the Government and are, without exception,
Romanians. The burgomasters of the larger towns with ‘municipal rights’ are
also Government nominees, while the Prefects appoint the notaries who, in
practice, are the autocrats of the villages. I have been in villages where the entire
population belonged solidly to one single minority, except the notary, his clerk,
and the gendarme. In others, these three lonely Romanian officials are reinforced
by the Romanian teacher of a State school (whose pupils all belong to minorities)
and the Orthodox priest of a church without a congregation.
The elected Councils are also reinforced by nominated members who, again,
are nearly always Romanian. In Sighisoara, for example, the municipal elections
of 1934 gave 14 elected members to the Saxons and 14 to the combined
Romanian-Magyar list. There were 9 nominated members; 8 of these were
Romanians, and 1 a Saxon. On top of this, Transylvania has passed much of its
time since the War under a species of martial law, during which the elected
Councils have been suspended and local affairs have been conducted by so-called
‘Interim Commissions’, nominated by the Government, which has always
ensured a Romanian majority. In the Magyar-Jewish city of Arad, for example,
the Council in 1934 was composed of 8 Romanians, 2 Magyars, and
1 Jew, the Burgomaster being a Romanian. Târgu Mures (Maros
Vásárhely), which is 75 per cent. Magyar, had only 2 Magyars against 6 Romanians; in the Department of Tréi Scaune (Haromszék)
(87.6 per cent. Magyar) 5 Romanians and no Magyars were appointed, &c.
The Saxons were for some years more indulgently treated, but they, too,
have been gradually driven out of the municipal government of their ancient
cities. One Saxon burgomaster after another has been replaced by a Romanian. In
1933 there were still three left; in 1934 the last survivor (the burgomaster of
Bistrita) disappeared. The loss was very bitterly felt, for the Saxons have always
taken a keen interest in their local self-government, and Hungary had respected
their rights. To be without a single burgomaster of their own nationality was an
experience which the Saxons had not undergone during their 8oo-year history,
and many of their cities, such as Sibiu (Hermannstadt, Nagy-Szeben) had been
ruled by Saxons uninterruptedly since their foundation. And the grievance is not
only sentimental, for the Romanian régime is not only one-sided in its national
policy, but in many cases quite patently less efficient and less honest than that
which it has replaced. Thus the abolition of the system of Interim Commissions
and the restoration of a wider measure of departmental, municipal, and
communal self-government are among the demands most commonly voiced by
the minorities, and with the greatest justification.
The national question in the administration has become very acute in recent
years, and is at the time of writing one of the foremost problems. The higher
political grades of the administration were Romanized quickly and thoroughly,
the old county and communal bodies being dissolved, and the old Hungarian
Foőispáns removed, as early as January 14th, 1919. I know of no higher political
officer of non-Romanian stock holding office in Romania to-day, although one or
two may possibly be tucked away in some remote corner of the Dobrudja or
Bessarabia. With the subordinate officials, State and local, Romania behaved at
first more generously than either Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia. Like both those
countries, she exacted from them an oath of fidelity to the new régime before it
had any legal existence, and expelled many of those who refused to take it, as
also those who put up any sort of resistance (there was a certain amount of
sabotage, although no such widespread movement as the Slovak postal and
railway strike). There were also, undoubtedly, excesses and acts of individual
injustice. Generally speaking, however, those officials who wished to remain and
who took the oath were allowed to remain in the State service. Some were
transferred to the Regat, but most simply carried on in their old posts.
Incidentally, Romania behaved comparatively generously over the vexed question of pensions to the retired ex-Hungarian officials who had refused to take
the oath of allegiance. After dragging on for several years the question was
regulated in 1928 by M. Maniu, who accepted the argument that the oath had
been required before this was legally justified, and even allowed pensions to
officials who took the oath some years later.
The reason for this comparative leniency need not perhaps concern us. The
Romanians ascribe it to their own sense of justice; the minorities suggested that
they never expected the annexation to be permanent and were afraid of provoking
retaliation. But the most reasonable explanation seems to be that there were
simply no alternative candidates for the jobs; for the Romanian, unlike the Czech,
is no born rond-de-cuir, and the Regat had no stock of ex-Austrian officials
flocking back from Vienna and looking for re-employment. Thus, until the
educational system had been Romanized and reorganized, and the first generation
of students passed through it, there was no alternative but to carry on with the old
In any case, for ten or twelve years (about the time required to train up the
new generation) the position did not change in any important respect. As
minority officials died, retired, or were ‘hinausgeekelt’ (this expressive German
word has no exact English equivalent)’ their places were quietly filled by
Romanians, but the survivors were left in peace. About 1932, however, a
systematic drive against them set in, in consequence of which large numbers of
them were dismissed with more or less of formality and their places filled by
Romanians. The pretext given was political. It was alleged that the Magyar
officials, in particular, were behaving as though the annexation had never taken
place, openly deriding the Romanian State as a flimsy contraption bound to fall
to pieces sooner or later—and the sooner the better; treating the Romanians in the
old style as an inferior race and bidding them, with oaths; to speak Magyar; and
themselves refusing to take the trouble to learn Romanian.
The minority officials had already (in 1929) been examined in the Romanian
language, but consequent on this agitation, an order was issued in 1934 to reexamine
all non-Romanian officials, the order applying not only to officials in
the strict sense, but to technical and auxiliary personnel. After each examination,
which, for the higher officials at least, includes questions on Romanian history,
geography, and institutions, a proportion of unfortunates is ploughed and
dismissed the service.
This question has caused intense feeling on both sides. The Romanians argue that
the question is a political one: that the State has a right and a duty to require of a person claiming to receive from it a
salary and a pension that he shall, in the course of 12 or 14 years, have mastered
the elements of the official language; particularly as that language is an easy one,
which every waiter, hotel porter, prostitute, or other person whose work brings
him or her into professional contact with different nationalities, speaks fluently as
a matter of course. The examination, they say, is not at all searching, every
consideration being shown to elderly or uneducated persons. Persons who do not
pass the examination, they say, are either so stupid or so hostile to the Romanian
State as to be no fit servants of it,
The minorities reply that the question is not political at all, but economic.
The examinees of to-day have been doing their duty faithfully enough for many
years, and are being thrown out now simply because a horde of hungry exstudents
of the Universities want their jobs. The examination, they say, is a mere
pretext and a farce, any person being foredoomed to failure whose job a
Romanian happens to want.
It is difficult to judge between the two theses, for each side can substantiate
its argument with some irrefutable examples. There have certainly been some
cases (although not, I think, many) in which minority officials have behaved with
singular disregard of the altered map of Europe, and some where the examination
has been lenient enough. Nor can the justice of Romania's general argument be
denied. On the other hand, there have also been many cases of great individual
hardship and injustice. Men who have done their duty for years, without giving
cause for complaint, and have perhaps already passed an examination, have been
called up again and deprived of their work. In other cases, searching tests have
been applied in cases where no more than an elementary knowledge of Romanian
seems necessary, e.g. for employees in railway workshops.
Since the process of elimination of minority officials is now in full swing,
there seems little point in giving statistics of the relative proportion of Romanian
and minority officials, particularly as these are extremely hard to obtain, and any
figures given by either side are immediately queried by the other. A recent writer
from the Romanian side gave some 1934 figures which seemed to show that at
that time the proportion of minority officials was still above their percentage of
the population: thus, in the postal and telegraphic services in 14 towns, the
percentage of Romanians was never higher than ~, and in 5 towns 25 or under.
In the three chief Székely Counties, 470 Magyars were still employed in the
administrative services, against 98 Romanians, &c.1 These figures are, however, attacked by the minorities as misleading if not inaccurate.’ I myself
have heard innumerable generalities from both sides, but have only very
occasionally obtained figures, which I could regard as accurate. I obtained,
however, the religious statistics for the city of Arad, which show a much less
favorable picture than the above figures. In the city administration, 273 officials
were Romanian Orthodox and 10 Uniates (283 Romanians), 11 Serbian
Orthodox, 70 Catholics, 9 Protestants, and a Baptists (81 Magyars and Germans),
and 2 Jews. In the upper judicature the senior judges were all Romanians; of the
junior magistrates, about two-thirds Romanians; of the lower staff, all
Romanians. The only service with at all a high proportion of minority officials
was the financial administration, where all the senior officials after the two
heads, and about half the clerks, were Magyars or Germans. In another office I
saw a framed photograph of the cadets who had passed through the gendarmerie
college in a certain year (I think 1927). Four of these bore German names, 2
Bulgarian, 1 a Magyar, the remaining 40 odd were all Romanian. This was in the
summer of 1934, when the new examinations were just beginning. In January
1936 the German leader, Dr. Roth, stated that over 580 German officials had lost
their jobs through the examinations. The losses of the Magyars must have been
In any case, there seems to be no question that it is next door to impossible
for a member of a minority to enter the Romanian public services to-day. Here
and there may be an exception: a skilled workman might get some technical post
for which no Romanian could be found—a Bulgarian might get into the gendarmerie,
a Saxon might be given a small post in a purely Saxon district. Family
influence might even place a Magyar in some corner where the Romanian
nationalist press did not notice him. But broadly speaking, the younger
generation of the minorities must renounce all hope of a State career.
The Romanians usually contend that the present exclusive preference given
to Romanians will go on only until the balance is reduced and the Romanians
represented in the public services in proportion to their numbers. It seems more
likely that the end will be the establishment of an administrative service exclusively
Romanian, with only a few very rare exceptions.
Romania has no comprehensive legislation regulating the use of the
different local languages in local government and administration. The
Constitution lays down simply that Romanian is the official language of the
State, but provides that the existing law in the different provinces, where it does
not directly conflict with the Constitution, should remain in force until harmonized therewith. Occasional
attempts have since been made to draft more detailed laws, but with small effect.
In 1928 M. Maniu, when he took office, sent M. Popp, one of his followers,
abroad to study minority questions with a view, it was understood, to drawing up
an up-to-date comprehensive law. If, however, M. Popp’s foreign studies bore
any fruit, it rotted un-gathered. Again, in x 931, when Professor Jorga created the
post of Under-Secretary for Minorities and appointed Dr. Brandsch, the Saxon
leader, to it, a general Minorities Statute was expected, but again the expectations
were disappointed. Dr. Brandsch passed from office spiritually intestate, and
under his successors the post seems to have lost much of its significance. Its
present occupant is a Romanian.’ Meanwhile, the position remained vague.
Characteristically, the Romanians attached more importance to putting a lick of
paint on the outside of the building than to making laborious alterations in its
structure. Thus all the names of towns and villages were Romanized and all street
names laboriously adapted to the Romanian Valhalla, medieval or modern—a
measure, it may be remarked, which has entirely failed to alter the habits of the
local population. If you ask the way in a Magyar town, you are invariably told to
cross the Kossuth Tér, go down the Vorosmarty utca and turn left into the
Szabadság Ut, and it is left to your native genius (if any) to divine these timehonored
names under their present guises of the Piata Uniriei, the Strada Carmen
Sylva, and the Calea lui Vintila Bratianü. Letters are, however, only delivered (if
at all) to Romanian addresses. Government notices and communications are
almost always issued in Romanian only, even in solidly minority districts, and
the population, in its written communications with the authorities, has to use
Romanian, paying, if necessary, for translations. The oral use of minority
languages in local administration and self-government depended, however,
largely on the whim or the linguistic acquirements of the local officials, and
oscillated madly from one extreme to another. During the short-lived period of
decentralization in 1930, the Governor of Transylvania forbade the use of any
minority language in Departmental or Communal Councils, and in 1931 the
Director of State Railways forbade his employees to answer travelers in minority
languages, even if they understood them. All railway stations and post offices are
plastered with notices enjoining the public to ‘speak only Romanian’. On the other hand, the minorities officials, of course,
gladly spoke to the public in their own language, and some knew no other. In one
town which I visited, although the official notices were all in Romanian, the town
crier went about the streets chanting German and Magyar translations. During the
first years, at least, it was usual for members of minorities to be able to use their
own languages in all Councils, Departmental, Municipal, &c., Romanian being
the exclusive language of Parliament.
Only as we write, preparations are being made to regulate the use of
minority languages in local government. The first draft of the Bill provided that
in all Departmental, town, and communal Councils, Romanian should be used
exclusively in discussion and the keeping of records; that only persons able to
speak, read, and write Romanian should be eligible for election to such Councils;
and that if any person used a language other than Romanian, the body in question
should be immediately dissolved. In response to protests from the German
minority leaders, some of these Draconian provisions were modified. Minority
languages may be used in the rural communes, and persons able to read and write
their own mother tongue are eligible for election. Even so, the provisions are
ungenerous, the Czech legislation being far superior. No steps have yet been
taken to give any minority language an official status in administration; this is
clearly a considerable hardship. It must not, indeed, be assumed that no Magyar
or German will ever be able to speak his mother tongue to an official, but the
practice is certainly growing more strict and serious grievances may easily
develop. The facilities provided in the Courts of Law are also inadequate. A
defendant has no legal right that any part of the proceedings shall be conducted in
his mother tongue. I was informed that interpreters were usually provided, but
this question seems one of those where legislation, on liberal lines, is most to be
The use of minority languages in unofficial intercourse has never been
restricted, with the sole exception that the Romanian names of towns must be
used in newspapers, &c., the local name being added, if desired, in brackets.
Recently, too, a surtax of 12 per cent. on the tax on trade and industry has been
imposed on firms keeping their books in any other language than Romanian, the
pretext being that the books are to some extent official documents, since they are
subject to the control of the Inland Revenue Authorities. In general, however,
Romania is right when she claims that she does not interfere, directly or
indirectly, with the use by the minorities of their own language among
themselves, i.e. outside official intercourse, and outside the schools which, as
will be seen, are not always what they should be.
GENERAL CULTURAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL QUESTIONS
The general principles guiding Romanian cultural policy have already been
discussed. It remains to consider their application, and in doing so one must
emphasize once again the overwhelming importance of the Churches in the
national-cultural life of Romania. The separate existence of each local nationality
is very largely bound up with that of its particular Church or Churches, and even
identified therewith. ‘Lutheran’ and ‘Saxon’ are, for example, almost
interchangeable terms. Such exceptions as still existed in 1918 were of the sort
which proved the rule, for the Serbians—the one important national minority
which had no Church of their own—were fast losing their nationality for that
very reason. Moreover, the Church is not merely the symbol of each nation’s
existence, but also its most important cultural institution. Up to the middle of the
nineteenth century, all education had been exclusively denominational. After that
date the State began to intervene, in increasing measure as time went on. The
State institutions were always purely Magyar; and thus the situation arose that,
while such education as the minorities still retained was solely denominational,
Magyar education was about equally divided between State and denominational
establishments.’ The latter were, for the most part, those situated in Magyar
districts, rural or urban; the former existed as much, or more, for the benefit of
the non-Magyars as of the Magyars. They comprised the higher establishments
which served the needs of the country at large, and the primary or burger schools
established in non Magyar districts for purposes of Magyarization. They
included, however, also a number of Magyar schools, formerly denominational,
which the State had taken over under various complicated arrangements. A high
proportion of the social and charitable activities of each nationality is also
traditionally conducted by its national Church, the freedom and security of which
is thus vital to the nationality in question. On the other hand, the vast political
power which lies in the hands of the ecclesiastical leaders must cause the State
concern, if it is not sure whether that power will be loyally used.
The Romanian legislation on the Churches represents a compromise, which
each party thinks unduly favorable to the other side, between the claims of the
Churches and the State. Roughly speaking, the position obtaining up to 1918 is reversed. Under the Romanian
Constitution, the Orthodox Church becomes ‘the predominant Church in the
Romanian State’, while the Uniate Church, as the second Romanian Church,
‘takes precedence over the other Churches’. The special privileges of the
Orthodox Church are not very numerous, except that the Royal Family must
belong to it. The two Romanian Churches, however, enjoy an important political
advantage over all others in that all their bishops sit, ex officio, in the Senate,
while only the heads of the other denominations enjoy that privilege, and then
only if their congregations number at least 200,000 adherents.
The Constitution guarantees liberty of conscience, and equal freedom and
protection for all cults consistent with public order and morals. The position of
the minority Churches is regulated in detail by the Law on Cults of 1928, which
repeats these guarantees, but also lays down a number of restrictions limiting, not
liberty of conscience, but the freedom of action of the Churches. Religious belief
cannot exempt any person from the obligations imposed upon him by the law.
Political organizations may not be formed on confessional bases, nor may
political questions be discussed within ecclesiastical corporations or institutions.
A Church may not be subordinated to any authority or ecclesiastical organization
outside Romania, except in so far as its dogmatic or canonical principles require.
Churches and religious associations are forbidden to receive any subsidies from
abroad, directly or indirectly, without informing the State. Members of the clergy
and ecclesiastical authorities must be Romanian citizens and must not have
received any sentence involving the loss of civil rights. The heads of the
Churches must be approved by the Crown and take an oath of loyalty to the
Crown and obedience to the Constitution and the law. All instructions and orders
from ecclesiastical authorities to their subordinates must be communicated to the
Ministry of Cults, which can veto them if they are contrary to public order,
morality, or the law, or endanger the security of the State.
The Statutes of each Church, again, must be submitted to Parliament, to see
that they contain nothing contrary to the Law on Cults. The State retains a control
over the expenditure of the subsidies granted by it, and the education given by
the Churches in their schools must fulfil certain requirements, notably, the
curriculum must include instruction in the Romanian language, literature, history,
and constitution. The limits of dioceses may not be altered, nor new ones created,
without legal authority.
Within these limits the Churches enjoy considerable freedom. A Church as
such has no legal personality, but its constituent bodies (metropolitan and
Episcopal Sees, Chapters, Orders, Corn munities, &c.) have such personality. The Churches administer their internal
affairs and their property of all kinds in accordance with their own Statutes. They
have the right to found and maintain schools, charitable institutions, &c., subject
to their compliance with the general requirements of the Law. They can collect
from their congregations the sums necessary for their expenses. It is the members
of each Church who are responsible in the first instance for its maintenance, the
State furnishing only certain subsidies.
The Law adopts the old Hungarian idea of ‘received religions’, and
enumerates the following cults as ‘received’ or ‘historic’, besides the Greek
The Greek Catholic (Romanian Uniate).
Catholic (of Latin, Greek, Ruthene, and Armenian rites).
Mosaic (various rites).
Other cults can only become ‘received’ after fulfilling certain conditions.
The Baptists have now become ‘received’.
The position of a minority ‘cult’ is thus not wholly unfavorable, although it
suffers by comparison with the autonomy enjoyed by the
A various Churches in Hungary before the War.
The various minority Churches have gradually succeeded in drawing up their
Statutes and agreeing them with the Government. The Lutheran Church (i.e. the
Saxons) remodeled their previous Statute without much difficulty. The Church
now includes the German Lutheran communities from the other parts of
Romania. The tiny number of Magyar Lutherans have organized themselves
separately. The Calvinists, Unitarians, Serbian Orthodox, Baptists, and
Armenians have all established their own organizations, while the Jews have
three bodies: Orthodox, Neologs, and Sephardim. The chief difficulties arose,
naturally, with the Catholic Church, the hierarchy of which was purely Magyar,
or Magyarized, in 1918, and which from the first adopted an extremely militant
attitude towards Romania. The position of this Church was very peculiar, for the
Catholic Church in Hungary, unlike any other important Church in the country,
was not autonomous, its position in the State being too commanding, its relations
with the State and the Apostolic Crown too close, to make autonomy either
practicable or, in the eyes of many of its adherents, desirable. In Transylvania,
however, there existed a special body, partly clerical, partly lay, the ‘Status Catholicus’, which enjoyed a
sort of de facto autonomy and administered the local Church property. Neither
the Hungarian Government nor the Vatican was ever willing to grant it full
autonomy. The Status has not had a smooth passage since the War, having been
involved in conflicts both with the Romanian Government and with the Holy
See. By an agreement of 1932 between the Government and the Vatican
supplementing and interpreting the Concordat, it has now been recognized as
‘Council of the Catholic Diocese of the Latin Rite of Alba Julia’, and has been
allowed to administer all the property formerly belonging to the Status.’ The
Roman Catholics of Transylvania are further protected by the Concordat
concluded in 1927 and ratified after the adoption of the Law of Cults in 1929.
The Concordat, incidentally, regulated in a manner favorable to the Catholics a
question which had been hotly disputed: the indemnity for the large estates of
which the Hungarian Government had assigned the usufruct to the Catholic
Church, while retaining the ownership. These lands have been expropriated, but
the Government consented to pay the indemnity to the Church, and the fund thus
constituted is now administered, under the name of ‘patrimonium sanctum’, by
the Council of diocesan bishops. The Government has also ceded to the Church
its rights of property in the buildings, &c., owned by the Hungarian Crown in its
capacity of Patron. In both these cases the Romanian State renounced important
funds to which it could probably have made good its legal claim.
Although the minority spokesmen opposed the Law on Cults as a
‘retrograde step’, on account of the control which it allowed the State over the
Churches, the application of it seems to have given rise to few well-grounded
complaints. Were it possible to separate genuinely religious questions from
national, and national from political, it would probably be found that the
minorities had to-day few genuine and purely religious grievances. The
Romanian is naturally indifferent in religious matters, and the Orthodox Church,
as such, is not a proselytizing body. Unhappily, since every Church regards itself,
and is regarded, as a national institution, political quarrels over apparently
religious questions have been frequent, and the minority Churches and their
representatives have had to undergo assaults which are in reality part of the
national struggle, but which have made their position less favorable than that of any other religious
minority with which this work deals. In the early years there were numerous
cases’ in which Catholic, Calvinist, and Unitarian pastors were maltreated and
their congregations hindered in the exercise of their devotions. Some of these
outrages were assuredly not unprovoked, since the Catholic clergy, in particular,
was openly hostile to the Romanian State and refused to take the oath of
allegiance to it until 1931. After this had been regulated, ‘the systematic personal
persecutions ceased’. Membership of a Romanian Church is, however, a strong
advantage to any one desiring governmental favor, and there have been a
considerable number of cases in which the Orthodox or Uniate religion has been
forced on members of minorities. The mission sent to Romania in 1927 by the
American Committee on the Rights of Religious Minorities reported a number of
such cases, particularly in connection with orphanages, and in recent years there
have been a good many cases of conversion under duress among persons of
supposedly Romanian ancestry. The chief sufferers have been the Székely, and
the Church chiefly affected has been the Unitarian (which has lost some hundreds
of ‘converts’); the Calvinist Church comes next, the Catholic Church being little
affected, the Lutheran not at all. The victims are usually Government employees,
who are blackmailed into apostasy by the threat of losing their posts.
In certain cases, also, official pressure has been used (contrary to the law) to
ensure that the children of mixed marriages shall be brought up only in the Greek
Another edict against which the minorities have protested is one passed in
September 1936, that no lay person shall give religious instruction. It is claimed
that this law, although in appearance equal for all religions, in effect bears much
more heavily on the non-Romanian Churches. Reference is made elsewhere to
the compulsory training of juveniles on Sundays which hampers their religious
Perhaps more serious, at any rate more systematic, have been the
encroachments on the material position of the minority Churches, which have
suffered enormous losses. The agrarian reform deprived the Lutheran Church
alone of 35,000 yokes, the Hungarian Protestant Churches of 36,000, the Roman
Catholic Church of 277,000 yokes, not counting the estates of parish priests and the school endowments.’ In each case the losses amounted to by far the
greater part of the wealth of the Church in question. According to the law, 32
yokes should have been left to each parish, but of the 240 Saxon parishes only 42
received their full quota. One hundred and nineteen Catholic parishes were left
without any land at all.
The Orthodox Church which, by contrast with the vast endowments of the
minority Churches, had only owned 1,012 yokes of real property in Transylvania
before the War,4 naturally escaped almost scot-free under the agrarian reform.
Even though the endowments of the minority Churches had come, not from the
Hungarian State, but from the piety and self-sacrifice of their own members
throughout past generations, a certain equalization of this vast difference in the
material position of the different Churches was inevitable and perhaps desirable,
and even to-day the minority Churches are still richer than the Romanian. On the
other hand, both in the application of the land reform and in other ways, the
Romanian Churches, particularly the Orthodox, have been forced upon the
people in a way which has caused much dissatisfaction. There have been several
cases in which the parish endowment of a minority Church has been given, in
whole or in part, to a Romanian community with a smaller number of adherents
than its previous owners. The commonest and most conspicuous grievance has
been in connection with the building of Orthodox churches. In towns and villages
in which the overwhelming majority of the population belongs to minorities,
building-sites have been allotted to the Orthodox Church from requisitioned land,
or in public parks, &c., and churches erected on them. Thus a huge Orthodox
Cathedral has been built at Cluj, which had in 1910 only 1,359 Orthodox
inhabitants (it is true that the number has greatly increased with the influx of
officials from the Regat).
Târgu Mures, again, where the Romanian population numbered under 10 per
cent. of the total of 1910, is now dominated by an enormous Orthodox church,
which clashes hideously with the surrounding architecture. These are not isolated
instances; I have myself passed dozens of new Orthodox churches, many of them
in purely minority districts. The minority population has a double grievance in
such cases, for, apart from the national-political-religious aspect of the question,
the churches are usually erected either out of taxation, of which the minorities pay the lion’s share, or else by
‘private’ subscription, which is collected under strong official pressure.
In 1935, then, the Government decided to introduce a new method of
calculation and to take into account the ‘private resources’ of the clergy. As the
minority Churches still possess larger endowments than the Romanian, this
meant that very large cuts were made in their subsidies. But the point which
evoked the chief complaints was that among these ‘private resources’ was
reckoned the special tax which each Church is entitled to levy on its adherents,
and which the State, if required, collects for it. The minorities complained that
this method of calculation penalized those Churches which imposed sacrifices on
their own members for the benefit of those which allowed the State to do
everything. The argument will probably go on for some years.
As regards the State subsidies to the various Churches, each side declares
the other to be unduly favored, but the budget figures seem to show that in fact,
during the earlier years, the Orthodox Church received smaller subsidies per head
of the population than either the Uniate or the minority Churches (except the
Jewish, which has always been left almost entirely to its own resources). The
proportions have, however, steadily been changing in favor of the Romanian
Churches. Thus, taking Transylvania alone, the share going to the Orthodox
Church rose between 1930 and 1933 from 30.1 per cent. to 388 per cent., that of
the Uniate Church from 313 per cent, to 33.46 per cent., while that of the Magyar
Churches sank from 33.9 per cent. to 24.5 per cent., chiefly owing to drastic cuts
in the Calvinist grant. This is the more painful to the Magyars because the
subsidies granted by the Hungarian Government before the War to the various
Churches were very fairly apportioned. Thus in the fiscal year, 1914/15, the
‘Magyar Churches’ of Transylvania, with a membership of 1,665,805 persons,
received subsidies (excluding school subsidies) of 1,748,603 gold crowns (1.05
gold crowns per head), while the ‘non-Magyar Churches’, 3,446,327 strong,
received 3,552,349 gold crowns (1.03 per head).
As an interesting sidelight on Romanian cultural policy, it may be
mentioned that of the three Roman Catholic dioceses in the ex-Hungarian
territories, only that of Alba Julia, whose See consists of historic Transylvania,
still possesses a Magyar as bishop, and his coadjutor, appointed ‘cum jure
successionis’, is a German. The dioceses both of Timisoara and of Oradea-Satu Mare are in the hands of German
bishops, and in the lower grades of their hierarchies, particularly in the Banat, the
Magyar priests are being gradually replaced by Suabians. The little Armenian
Catholic community has also been removed from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of
Alba Julia and given its own spiritual chief.
THE MINORITIES: EDUCATIONAL QUESTIONS
The educational system again represents a compromise, which each party
considers to be too advantageous to the other. Romania, whose own educational
system in the Regat had been (and is) exclusively State-owned, took over for the
State all the Romanian confessional schools in Transylvania, and also, in her
capacity of legal successor to the Hungarian State, all the establishments
maintained by that body. The higher educational system was made as completely
Romanian as it had formerly been Magyar; for the elementary schools, the
Directing Council at first adopted the principle of allowing the population
concerned to choose the language of instruction for itself. Thus some of these
schools became Romanian, some were left Magyar, others were taken over by the
Suabians or by smaller minorities. The non Romanian confessional schools were
left, for the time, untouched.
The State elementary educational system was reorganized under the Primary
Education Act of 1924. This provides that a State school shall be established
wherever there are 6o children of age to attend classes 1—4, with a second room
and teachers for 40 children of classes 5—7. The language of instruction is, in
principle, the mother tongue of the children, and where the numbers of children
of any one language are insufficient to justify the maintenance of a whole school,
mixed schools may be set up with parallel classes for the different nationalities.
There is, however, one very important qualification to the equality which the
minorities enjoy under this law: under Article 8 of the Act, ‘citizens of Romanian
origin who have lost their mother tongue may not send their children to any
school, public or private, other than a school in which instruction is given
exclusively in Romanian’. A second qualification provides that special treatment
is to be accorded to a so-called ‘cultural zone’, which comprises the Székely
districts and some of the mixed Departments on the western frontier. In this zone,
in which many new Romanian schools have been created, the teachers are given
additional pay and other inducements to encourage them in their uncomfortable
In State schools, the State contributes the teacher’s salary, the commune
being responsible for all other expenditure. In non-Romanian schools, the Romanian language is taught as a subject for at
least one hour a week during the first two school years, and at least two hours a
week thereafter. Instruction in Romanian history and geography is given in
The diplomas issued by training colleges existing in 1918 have been
recognized and the colleges allowed to continue, but all teachers in State schools
have to pass an examination in Romanian, and those teaching Romanian history,
geography, and institutions must also qualify in those subjects.’ The teachers’
examinations have acquired a dismal notoriety comparable to that enjoyed by the
examinations of officials, and, as in the latter case, a tragically large number of
examinees has fallen by the wayside—sometimes, no doubt, by their own fault,
but assuredly not always.
By what Romania regards as a considerable concession, State education was
not made compulsory. The status of the former Confessional schools was
regulated in 1925 by a further Act which lays down that children may be
educated, if their parents prefer, in ‘private schools’, or at home. ‘Private
schools’ may be established either by individuals, who must be Romanian
citizens, or by juridical personalities, which must not be dependent on foreign
organizations. The right of the Catholic Church to found and maintain schools
out of its own resources is specifically guaranteed under the Concordat, and the
same right is enjoyed by the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Unitarian Churches. The
minimum number of pupils required is 20 for a primary school or an average of
10 pupils per class for higher establishments.
The authorities establishing a ‘private school’ are free to determine what its
language of instruction shall be, but Romanian history, geography, and
institutions must always be taught in the Romanian language. Pupils may only be
admitted whose mother language is the language of instruction in the school in
question. Thus, not only ‘persons of Romanian origin who have lost their mother
tongue’ are excluded from minority private schools, under the 1924 Act, but a
German or Jewish child is debarred from attending a Magyar school. If he cannot
find a school of his own language, he must attend a Romanian State school.
For primary schools, the State syllabus is obligatory. Secondary schools
may draw up their own syllabus, but if they wish to rank as ‘public schools’, i.e.
to have their certificates and diplomas recognized by the State, they must, besides
fulfilling certain other requirements, adopt the State syllabus. At the end of the
school year the children are examined by a State inspector, and before obtaining the higher certificate for admission to a High school they have to pass
the ‘baccalaureate’, an examination re-instituted in 1925 in imitation of the
French model. The subjects required for this examination have been changed
several times, but they always include an oral examination, conducted in
Romanian, in the language, history, and geography of Romania. This
examination is particularly dreaded by the minorities, and there have been many
complaints that it has been made a simple pretext for excluding the minority
students from the Universities, and thus damaging their chances of State and
professional careers. In fact, the examination seems to have varied greatly in
severity in different years, although it is safe to say that a Romanian student
stands the rosier chance of satisfying the examiners. In any case, however, under
present conditions, the value of a university degree is less than it was, since a
member of a minority, whatever his degree, can hardly hope to enter Government
The Romanians in 1926 possessed 3,611 elementary schools, 44 burger
schools, 40 lycées and gymnasia, and 10 commercial schools, besides the
University of Cluj.ą In 1932 these figures had risen to 675 kindergartens, 4,100
elementary schools, and 199 middle schools.
The difficulties of drawing reasonable conclusions from school statistics is
notorious. To compare the number of Magyar establishments in 19x8 with those
of to-day would be misleading, since many of the former were pure instruments
of Magyarization. One should not even quote the number of confessional schools
which have been closed without remembering that as soon as Romania took over
the State schools, the Magyars created an enormous number of new Confessional
schools, often in districts where there were hardly any Magyar pupils, and many
of these afterwards faded away without any official pressure, simply from lack of
money and pupils.
In favor of Romania, one must grant her ungrudging retention of the
Confessional school system as the general rule in the annexed territories,ł and
also the comparatively high degree of liberty which those schools enjoy. The
amount of compulsory instruction in Romanian required is not unreasonable, and
is less than the Magyar instruction which Hungary introduced under the Apponyi
Act of 1907.
On the other hand, it would be easy to draw over-optimistic conclusions
from the statistics of the numbers of minority schools, both State and private.
Quite a high proportion of the Confessional Secondary schools have either never
received, or have gradually lost their public status. All of them are carrying on
under much harder material conditions than before the War, owing to the
impoverishment of the Churches under the land reform, and the currency
devaluation and the increased taxation. The State subsidies do not even begin to
make up for these losses. 5 Moreover, many difficulties appear to be placed in the way of the Confessional schools.
Apart from the provisions already quoted, forbidding pupils of one language to
attend the schools of another, there are restrictive laws and practices. Parents
whose children attend Confessional schools have to produce certificates (stamped
at a cost of 27 lei) annually that their children have passed the due examinations.
Children are forbidden to attend primary Confessional schools outside their own
communes; children who have begun to attend State schools may not change
over to private schools; Confessional schools are closed or taken over by the
State on trivial pretexts, &C.
It is also very often, and I believe very credibly stated, that the State schools
of the minorities are only minority in name. They probably vary greatly, but in
more than one place I was assured that only religious instruction is given in them
in the minority language. In an official complaint from the German Party to the
Government in 1935 it was stated that in the State German schools the 5th, 6th,
and 7th classes were entirely Romanized, and, in many Communes, the lower
classes also.2 The teachers are said often to be Romanians who know little of the
minority language; in some cases, nothing at all. Some of them seem to conceive
their duties to be simply that of Romanizing their pupils, by fair means or foul. It
seems quite certain, in any case, that these schools are less genuinely ‘minority’
than the Confessional schools. I have heard many circumstantial tales of pressure
being brought to bear on parents to send their children to the State minority
school in villages where both State and Confessional schools exist; and of
excuses being sought to close the latter. Unless (as seems improbable) the
Romanian Government is actively desirous of spending money rather than saving
it, there is no point at all in this, unless the State school is more Romanian than
the Confessional. Certainly the large number of schools which the official
statistics allege the Magyars, in particular, to possess, is partly due to the fact that
many villages possess both State and Confessional schools, where there is really
only room for one; but neither party will leave the field clear for its rival.
The independence of all education, and also the religious instruction of
minority children, have further been seriously affected by a recent decree
(September 1936) which compels all young people to spend the mornings from
7.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. of twenty-six Sundays in the year in semi-military, semireligious
training (gymnastics, &c.). This training is carried out under State
supervision, and the object is to ensure that the children grow up ‘good Romanians’. This further
interferes with the Sunday schools of the minority churches, which had already
been laboring under difficulties.
If we come to consider the positions of the different nationalities, we find
the Magyars, as was to be expected, the chief sufferers, and that even if we
discount their ‘shrinking pains’ and measure their possessions only by their
present requirements. Their numbers and social structure would justify them in
claiming a considerable amount of higher education, but they have been left only
with a single Chair of Hungarian Literature at Cluj. Moreover, Romania, like the
other Successor States, does not recognize the degrees given by Hungarian
In secondary education they are better placed, but here, too, they have to
struggle with great difficulties. In primary education, the western districts seem
to have been reasonably well served, at least until recently, but apart from the
fact that in the numerous cases of doubtful nationality the benefit of the doubt has
always been given to the non-Magyar language, they have genuine grounds for
complaint in the way in which the children of many families, which had been
completely and honestly Magyarized, have been forced to attend Romanian
schools on the pretext of their real or alleged Romanian ancestry. The pressure
has been particularly strong in the Székely districts.
It is impossible to give accurate statistics; but I have heard it estimated that
as many as 20 per cent. of the Magyar children in the ‘cultural zone’ have
recently been obliged to enter purely Romanian schools. The result, incidentally,
is not to Romanize these unhappy mites, but to leave them complete
analphabetes, for they quickly forget their Romanian and never learn Magyar.
Even outside this zone, a not inconsiderable number of Magyar children have to
attend Romanian schools.
An inquiry conducted in 1934/5 by the Magyar minority leaders resulted in
the conclusion that instead of 271 State schools and zi8 sections with Magyar
language of instruction (as shown by the Ministry of Education for 1933) there
were in reality only 55 such schools and 57 sections. The remainder ‘did not
function’, had been closed, or were staffed entirely by Romanian teachers. Some
of the last named may perhaps keep up a pretence of giving Magyar instruction,
but the reality is clearly far from what the official figures paint it 211 teachers
had died, retired, been dismissed or transferred, and 161 had been appointed, the
new appointments having in every case been given to Roumanians.ą The German position is different. The Saxons have to-day almost exactly the
same number of establishments as in 1914, and if the upkeep of them has called
for far heavier sacrifices from the population itself, this is partially compensated
by the more genuinely national character of the instruction which they can now
The Suabians, on the other hand, are very large gainers on balance. Under
Hungary, their German schools had been melting like snow in spring. In 1879/80
the Germans of the Banat had possessed 124 primary schools with exclusively
German language of instruction, and 174 bilingual schools; in 1913/14 the mixed
schools had vanished altogether, and the German schools had been reduced to 34.
To-day the Banat has 115 German primary schools or sections, ii kindergarten, 2
lycées, 1 training college, and several other schools.
The case of the ‘Szatmár Germans’ requires special mention. Their schools
had been reduced under Hungary to two, and the population had been almost
entirely Magyarized, although many of them, even when speaking no word of
German, still described themselves as Suabians. The Magyarization was,
moreover, sincere, for when Romania took the new census, with its rubric of
‘ethnic origin’, quite a number of them insisted, in the face of all pressure, on
putting themselves down as Magyars. Orders given to introduce German into the
Confessional schools were boycotted by the local clergy, who carried through
three unofficial ‘plebiscites’, all of which resulted in favor of Magyar. The
German local organization protested, and in 1927 German was at last introduced
into all the Suabian primary schools of Szatmár and Salai, while in 1929 a
German section was opened in the State Lycée at Careii— another ‘national gain’
for the Germans which they value extremely highly, as they now possess an extra
30,000 sheep which they had thought strayed for ever from the Germanic fold.
Where the issue has lain, not between German and Magyar, but between
German and Romanian, the position of the Germans has been less satisfactory,
and certain complaints have been heard from the Banat, especially as regards the
kindergartens. As, however, few Romanian families had become Germanized
under Hungary, collisions in this field have been rare. The analysis of names has
not, so far as I know, been applied at all against Germans.
In higher education, the greatest loss incurred by the Germans of Romania
has been the Romanization of the University of Cernauţi (Czernowitz). This does
not, however, greatly affect the Germans of the ex-Hungarian districts. No
obstacle seems to be placed in the way of Germans receiving higher education
abroad. On the whole, therefore, the German cultural position is much more satisfactory
to-day than it was under Hungary.
The Jews have less cause for rejoicing. Like the Germans, they are excluded
from the Magyar schools, since they are never allowed to count Magyar as their
mother tongue; nor may they give instruction in their own schools in either
Magyar or German; these languages may not even be taught as subjects. The
Jews are thus thrown back, if they wish to go to schools of their own, on Hebrew,
a language which very few of them wish to learn at all, and one which is, in any
case, utterly useless to nine-tenths of them. There remains the Romanian school,
which the Jew is in theory free to attend; but owing to the anti-Semitic tendencies
of both students and professors, his admission is in practice difficult, especially
to a University; and if he does get there, he is subjected to innumerable
vexations, if not to actual persecution. Jews thus find it difficult to obtain any
higher education whatever, and what they get is of doubtful use to them, or has at
best to be supplemented by strenuous private study, since the business life of
Transylvania (and a Jew cannot hope for any other career) is still largely transacted
Of the remaining minorities, the Serbs passed through some years during
which their educational system practically broke down, owing to the migration of
teachers and priests after the disputed Banat frontier with Yugoslavia had been
fixed. Only twenty-two teachers remained at one time. Attempts were made as
early as 1921 to reach a settlement on the question of educational facilities for
Serbs in the Romanian Banat, and Romanians in the Yugoslav Banat, but these
were many times delayed by political and other difficulties. At last in 1933 a
Convention was signed between the two States providing that each of the
minorities concerned should receive instruction in its own mother tongue, with
certain subjects taught in the language of State, and arranging for a supply of
qualified teachers.’ The Serb schools are Confessional, and seem adequate for the
needs of the population.
Another minority which has benefited, rather unexpectedly, is the tiny group
of ‘Craşovani’, who converted their half-dozen schools to the local dialect in
1919 and have since been left undisturbed, perhaps because the Government is
unwilling to do either Serbs or Bulgars the favor of endorsing their claims to this
little people. The Armenians have got in on the de-Magyarizing program, the
Czechs and Slovaks as allies. The Ruthenes and Bulgars seem, however, to be
It will be observed that neither the Saxon nor the Székely ‘communities’
enjoy the autonomy promised them in the Romanian Minorities Treaty. The fault lies partly in the loose wording of the Treaty, for if
the Saxon ‘University’ might fairly claim to represent the Saxon ‘community’ or
‘communities’, no corresponding Székely organization has existed for centuries
past. The Magyars have from time to time made courageous efforts to convince
the world that the whole Magyar population of Transylvania should be included
for this purpose under the term Székely. If, however, the authors of the Peace
Treaty meant this, they did not say so, and the name Székely has a perfectly
definite, although unofficial connotation. By no stretch of imagination can it be
stretched to cover the Magyars of Crişana, nor even of the Cluj area. The
Romanians are, therefore, on absolutely sure legal ground in rejecting this claim.
They might conceivably grant the Székely, in the strict sense of the name, a
certain limited autonomy, but if so, they would certainly use this concession as a
means of driving a wedge between the Székely and the remaining Magyars; and
being clear sighted enough to see this, and anxious to avoid a national split, the
Székely themselves have refrained from pursuing their claim. As for the Saxons,
they have on the whole inclined in the past to accept the Romanian claim that the
Statute of the Lutheran Church gives them all the autonomy which they could
expect under the Treaty. In recent times they, too, have been unwilling to weaken
their new national unity with the other Germans of Romania by pressing their
The general cultural life of nearly all the minorities in Transylvania is lively.
Two general points must be said in Romania's favor: she has been less pedantic
than either of her allies in the matter of literary and cultural associations, and she
has in theory an extraordinarily liberal Press law, which contrasts very favorably
with that in force in Transylvania before the War. This law has often been
partially suspended under the martial law which has so long prevailed, but even
during these periods, the Press has enjoyed considerable freedom—compared to
many countries of the Continent—in its political utterances and almost complete
liberty in other fields.
The cultural life of the Germans is probably more active than at any time
during their long history. Among the Saxons it has experienced a renaissance,
after its visible decline during the last decades of Hungarian rule, while among
the Suabians it is almost a new birth. The importance of this very vigorous
movement, which has found its expression in a host of literary, educational and
social publications, societies, &c., can hardly be exaggerated, and it should be
emphasized that Romania has encouraged it strongly, only intervening very occasionally against extreme manifestations of Nazi ideas.
The Magyars have not been encouraged like the Germans, but they have, on
the whole, been allowed pretty well to go their own way. Romanian authors are
able to point to some impressive figures. Thus the Magyars of Transylvania
possess to-day a large number of periodicals, most of which are new since the
annexation. It is true that this pullulation of local growths is due largely to the
fact that the great Budapest dailies, with very few exceptions, can no longer enter
Transylvania; nevertheless, the figures are quite impressive, the more so when it
is recalled that they represent the genuine voice of the Magyars themselves, since
none of them are subsidized Government publications. The Magyars have 255
bookshops, 147 printing-presses, and 6 regular theatrical companies, and between
1919 and 1933, 5,000 literary and scientific works appeared in Magyar—more
than were produced during the whole period 1807—1918. Most of the big
literary and cultural societies date from before the War, but one extremely
interesting society, the ‘Helikon’, has been founded since the War, and has
become the rallying-point of the new Magyar Cultural movement, reflecting the
new political outlook to which we shall return, which is turning more and more
to a specifically Transylvanian outlook not necessarily hostile to the local
Romania has also been the most generous of the Successor States in
allowing Magyar literature to cross her frontier. Up to 1926 the restrictions were
severe, but they were then greatly relaxed. Thereafter, on an average, Romania
received over 50 percent of Hungary’s total exports of printed literature, while
between 8o percent and 90 percent of her own total imports of books and
newspapers came from Hungary.
Hungarian Autonomous Province in Roumania between 1952 and 1968
The Hungarian Autonomous Province (Romanian: Regiunea Autonoma( Maghiara(, Hungarian: Magyar Autonóm Tartomány) was an autonomous region in the Romanian Peoples' Republic between 1952 and 1968. It comprised ten districts of the territory inhabited by a compact population of Székely Hungarians. The total population of this province was, according to the 1956 census, composed of: Hungarians (77.3%), Romanians (20.1%), Gypsies (1.5%), Germans (0.4%) and Jews (0.4%). The official languages of the province were Hungarian and Romanian and the provincial administrative centre was Tîrgu Mures, (Marosvásárhely).
Map of the Hungarian Autonomous Province
Its status laid out in the 1952 Constitution, the Region encompassed about a third of Romania's Hungarians, the rest living either in more Romanian areas or along the border with Hungary, where an ethnic-based region might have stoked fears of irredentism and security concerns. In practice, the region's status differed in no way from that of the other sixteen regions and it did not enjoy autonomy of any kind–laws, decisions and directives from the centre were rendered compulsory by the very constitution that created it, and the State Council of the Autonomous Region was merely a façade. The Region's only distinguishing features were that most of its officials were Hungarian, the Hungarian language could be used in administration and the courts, and bilingual signs were put up on public buildings. Moreover, the specifically Hungarian wing of the Romanian Communist Party was abolished in 1953, ending any mechanism for defending of the Hungarian minority's collective rights.
In December 1960 a governmental decree modified the boundaries of the Hungarian Autonomous Province. Its southern part was attached to Stalin Province, which was later renamed Bras,ov County. In place of this, several districts were joined to it from the southwest. The province was no longer called the Hungarian Autonomous Province but the Mures,-Hungarian Autonomous Province, after the River Mures, (Maros). The ratio of Hungarians was thus reduced from 77.3 percent to 62 percent.
In 1968, the Romanian government put an end to the administrative division of the country into regions and re-introduced the judet, (county) system, still used today. This also automatically eliminated the Mures,-Hungarian Autonomous Province and replaced it with counties that are not identified with any nationality. The three new counties formed on the majority of the territory of former Hungarian Autonomous Province are Mures,, Harghita and Covasna.
In two of these counties, Harghita and Covasna, Hungarians form the majority of inhabitants. The Romanian law enables the usage of the language of an ethnic minority which forms at least 20% of the population of a municipality in relation with the administration, and the state provides education and public signage in the language of the respective ethnic minority.
Székelyland hungarians want self-governing Autonomy within Roumania
Ever since the abolition of the Hungarian Autonomous Province by the Ceausescu regime in 1968, some of the Székely have pressed for their autonomy to be restored. Several proposals have been discussed within the Székely Hungarian community and by the Romanian majority. One of the Székely autonomy initiatives is based on the model of the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia. A major GRAND SZÉKELY ASSEMBLY was held in 2006 in favor of autonomy.
Szekler National Council
The Szekler National Council (Hungarian: Székely Nemzeti Tanács, SZNT; Romanian: Consiliul Nat,ional Secuiesc, CNS) is the main political organization representing the Székely of Székelyland.
The Council was founded on October 16, 2003. Its first president was József Csapó, who served until autumn 2006, when he resigned. Until the Council held a new presidential election in February 2008, in which Balázs Izsák emerged victorious, the president ad interim had been Imre Fodor, the former mayor of Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mures),.
The goal is Autonomy for Szekely Land
The Council wants to obtain self-government for the Székely Land. It looks to the historical fact that the Székler Seats were the traditional self-governing territorial units of the Transylvanian Székelys during medieval times. (Saxons were also organised in Seats.) The Seats were not part of the traditional Hungarian county system, and their inhabitants enjoyed a higher level of freedom (especially until the 18th century) than those living in the counties. Their autonomy was granted in return for the military services they provided to the Hungarian Kings.
The Council also claim the rights of Székelys to self-determination, as guaranteed by the Treaty of Trianon. Officially, the treaty was intended to be a confirmation of the concept of the right for self-determination of nations.
The SZNC hopes to obtain self-determination for the Székely Land on the Catalan model.
Presidents of Székler Seats and the members of the Standing Committee (SC):
Presidents of Seats
* Marosszék: Imre Fodor
* Udvarhelyszék: Béla Incze
* Csíkszék: Csaba Ferencz
* Gyergyószék: Zsolt Árus
* Bardoc-Miklósvárszék: Miklós Szabó
* Sepsiszék: Barna Benedek
* Orbaiszék: Botond Ferencz
* Kézdiszék: László Bakk
Members of SC
* President: Balázs Izsák
* vicepresidents: Emo"ke Benko", Géza Borsos, Csaba Ferencz, Imre Fodor, József Gazda, Ádám Kónya, Jeno" Szász, Attila Tulit, Csaba Farkas, Imre Fazakas
* Rapporteurs: Pál Nagy, Árpád Andrássy, Lajos Dancs, Aladár Bod, Dávid Veress, Imre András
The Szekler National Council has 156 members and is a member of the Hungarian National Council of Transylvania.  To guarantee the representation of every Szekler settlement, every settlement which has under 1500 Székely inhibitants can nominate one deputy. The Szekler settlements which have over 1500 Székely inhibitants can nominate one-one deputy for every 3000 Székely inhibitants.
Referendum in Szeklerland
In April 2004 the Szekler National Council initiated official local referendums regarding the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland, because the referendum, as the direct instrument of the democracy is the most authentic form of the expression of the will of a community. Before this the competent body of the Romanian Parliament refused the draft law on the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland arguing – among others – that according to the article nr. 20. of Law nr. 215/2001 on Local Administration, the borders of the administration units can be changed only after the population of the affected territories was consulted by a referendum.
Thus the Szekler National Council asked the local authorities of the Szekler counties and the local municipalities of Szeklerland to organize opinion-giving referendums regarding the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland having a fourfold strengthened basis: the right of the expression of the will of a community, the values of the democracy, the right assured by the law and a Romanian state authority.
In its appeal to the local authorities in Szeklerland the Szekler National Council asked the adoption of decisions for organizing referendums with the following question: Does the people of a given locality want, that Szeklerland should become an autonomous regional administrative unit by an organic law and the given locality to belong to it? The local self governments of eleven Szekler settlements decided to hold referendum but these decisions were sued in the administrative courts by the prefects (the representatives of the central government at county level) and achieved the overruling of these decisions mainly with reference to the prescription of the article nr. 1, paragraph (1) of the Constitution. Two local self governments appealed to Strasbourg, to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Romanian authorities deprived the inhabitants of Szeklerland of their basic rights to express their opinion, and for this the Permanent Committee of the Szekler National Council decided to ask directly the members of the community: Would they like Szeklerland to achieve a territorial autonomy, an autonomous status?
395.008 people with the right to vote from 254 Szekler settlements had the opportunity to vote on the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland between December 2006 and February 2008. The members of the Szekler National Council reached 209.304 of these people and 207.864 of them voted for the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland. 1.108 voted against and 300 votes were invalid. So, 99,31% of the voters said Yes for the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland, 0,52 were against and 0,14% of the votes were invalid. The detailed results of the referendum are here enclosed.
The Szekler National Council rates that the referendum was successful and states that:
The result of the referendum proves clearly: the Szekler people, the citizens of Szeklerland want to use their rights to self determination and claim firmly the creation by law of the Autonomous Region of Szeklerland (the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland).
In the history of the aspirations for autonomy of Szeklerland a period - the era of the initiatives and path searching, the time of the organization of the community and the expression of the common will- is closed. Until now it was necessary to make visible and to show clearly to the world that unique and common vision of our future which sets us together and what can be described with these two words: Autonomous Szeklerland.
Now the task is to vindicate the expressed will of the community! The common will expressed during the successful referendum creates new tasks not only for the members of the Szekler National Council, but it is a moral obligation of all people of Szeklerland.
From now on the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland becomes an unavoidable question for all actors of the public life, candidates in the local elections, future mayors and councilors in the local administrations, future candidates from Szeklerland for the Romanian and European Parliament. Every of them has the moral obligation to take into consideration the vindication of the expressed will of the Szekler community and to introduce in their programs those concrete steps which serve the materialisation of the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland.
The local self governments of Szeklerland have to create a strong and coherent institutional system which
* is unanimously committed to the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland
* fully supports the draft law of the Szekler National Council regarding the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland submitted to the Romanian parliament
* undertakes the organization of official local referendums referring to the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland and if the Romanian authorities impede the realizations of the referendums is ready to go to the European Court of Human Rights
* undertakes to use consistently the Szekler symbols
* undertakes that the local self governments in Szeklerland subordinate every step and every form of self organization to the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland
The Permanent Committee of the Szekler National Council has the mandate to prepare and to present within six month to the Szekler National Council all those concrete steps, which are necessary, in order to vindicate the commonly expressed will of the Szekler people from the Romanian authorities, and the international forums. ( Sepsiszentgyörgy 23.02.2008. The Szekler National Council)
THE GRAND SZÉKELY ASSEMBLY was held on March 15, 2006 in Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc)
Székely Land based organization, the Szekler National Council held a relatively large (10,000 people took part), peaceful Grand Székely
Assembly in Odorheiu Secuiesc on March 15, 2006, in favor of autonomy. Five days before this, President Traian Ba(sescu met with Jenő Szász (the mayor of Odorheiu Secuiesc and also president of the Hungarian Civic Union), who assured the president of the peaceful character of the March 15 ceremonies and also briefly presented the UCM's vision on autonomy. On March 16 Ba(sescu visited the town and met with local and county officials. Basescu declared that the Romanian administrative system should be more decentralized, but only in a symmetrical way, with no more autonomy given to the Székely Land than to any other region in Romania.
On February 12, 2007, Hungarian President László Sólyom visited Romania and met Basescu. The discussions included the controversial topics of minority rights and autonomy. Basescu has pointed out that the situation of the Székely in Romania is in full compliance with the standards of the European Union. He also mentioned that a referendum for territorial autonomy would be illegal and characterized the Székely initiative not as a test of the public opinion, but as a test of Romanian laws. Romania's Interior Ministry has said that organizing an informal poll is actually not illegal.
Territorial autonomy for the Székely Land was supported by the former People's Action Party, headed by former president Emil Constantinescu.
Article 1 of the Romanian Constitution defines the country as a "sovereign, independent, unitary and indivisible national state." It has often been argued that, as a result of this provision, any ethnic-based autonomy, including that of the Székely Land, would be unconstitutional. It is important to note, however, that the Constitution does not explicitly define "national state" in ethnic terms; neither does it contain provisions against the devolution of power. The United Kingdom, for example, remains a unitary state even though it has asymmetrically devolved power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Resolution of the Székely National Assembly in Ditró Székelyudvarhely, June 18, 2006
The Resolution by all Székely people on sub-state self-government of the Székelyland
makes public the principles of the sub-state self-determination of the Székely People
I. The National Assembly of all Székelys, who, through their representatives, gathered in Ditró on 18 June 2006, declares the Székely People's right to self-determination, and, based on this right, demands the sub-state self-government of the Székelyland.
II. The Székely National Assembly deliniates the provisional borders of Székelyland, incorporating the traditional Székely széks (Latin Sedes, or sel-governing territorial units) of lands as indicated in the Statutes adopted by the Székely National Council and layed in Romania Parliament.
III. Concurrently, the Székely National Assembly determines the following principles concerning the sub-state self-government of Székelyland:
1. Full and real freedom and equality for all peoples of Székelyland. Every people has the right to govern itself through representatives elected from its own ranks, to preserve its national identity, to have access to supplementary measures in protection of its identity, and to have educational, cultural and administrative institutions, as well as decision-making, executive and judicial bodies of its own, according to its numerical ratio.
2. A region representing an appropriate level of subsidiarity and real self-government, which must be respected, by a country participating in European integration as a basic principle of its special internal organization.
3. A regional power which has a democratically established decision-making organization, a wide-ranging autonomy in the democratic practice of functions, and is in the possession of the means necessary to fulfill its duties.
4. Equality for every recognized religions denomination.
5. A social-political order characterized by the rule of law in all walks of life. Full direct and indirect democracy.
6. Guarantee of private ownership, of free enterprise, of equal opportunities in the economy, and solidarity in economic development. A social market economy. Economic and financial autonomy. 90 % of the taxes should remain in the Székelyland.
IV. The Székely National Assembly demands:
1. Demands that in Romania, norms practiced in the European Union be observed, and that the Székely People, similarly to the autonomous communities of the European Union, experience the self-government of Székelyland.
2. The President, the Parliament and the Government of Romania immediately start negotiations on the establishment, by law, of Székelyland autonomous administrative region with the Székely National Council, the representative body of the Székely autonomy aspirations, in order to sign an agreement on the guarantee of the autonomous status of the Székelyland, not later than September 30.
3. The Assembly calls on the Székely National Council that, in case this agreement fails for materialize, it convene in autumn 2006 a Székely National Assembly to decide on the ways and means of the enforcement of the Székely People's right to self-determination, to demand of the Great Powers signatory is the Trianon Peace Treaty that they remedy the denial of rights of Transylvanian Hungarians in the past 86 years, and to demand of the UN and the EU to garantee, by international agreement, the autonomy of the Székelyland as the recognition of its right to self-determination.
4. We ask the Hungarian government to provide support and protection for the Székelyland autonomy aspirations.
V. The Székely National Assembly commissions the Székely National Council to represent the will of the Székely People, to ensure the self-organization of Székely society and that of Székelyland, and to represent Székelyföld abroad and within the country alike.
Self-determination for the Székely People - Self-government for Székelyland
Edited by HUNSOR HHRW
C. A. Macartney: Hungary and Her Succersors
"The History of Hungary"
by Dominicus Kosáry
professor in History on Eötvös-Collegium in Budapest
with preface by professor Sven Tunberg,
published and printed in Stockholm 1944
in cooperation with Johannes Lotz and Dominicus Kosáry
> Dr.Csapó József: The Manifest Of The Grand Székely Assembly - March 15.
> Dr.Csapó József: The Székelyland Autonomy
> The Gross Report: - The positive influence of Autonomy
> István Lázár : - Transylvania, A Short History
> Autonomy Aspirations of Hungarian national communities abroad
Ungarn, das reich der Stephanskrone, im zeitalter der reformation und konfessionalisierung
av Marta Fata
Munster: Aschendorff Verlag. 2000. Pp. ix
History of Hungary
av Dominicus Kosáry
professor i Historia vid Eötvös-Collegium i Budapest
med förord av professor Sven Tunberg,
trycktes och utgavs i Stockholm 1944
i samarbete av Johannes Lotz och Dominicus Kosáry
The Ottomans in Europe
av Geoffrey Woodward
Trianon 1920 jun 4
Hungarian and Transylvanian Maps, Images & Resources
Nobel Prize Winners and Famous Hungarians
Resources on Transylvania
Human Rights Developments in Romania: The Romanian Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH)
APADOR REPORT: 1993 - 2003
Gabriel Andreescu, STRASBOURG OMBUDSPERSONS FOR NATIONAL MINORITIES:
SHADOW REPORT: OCTOBER 1999
IHF - International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights:
» 2005 REPORT on situation of Human Rights in Romania
Separating Myths and Facts in the History of Transylvania
Available as a PDF file.
Bandholtz, Harry Hill:
An Undiplomatic Diary
by the American Member of the Inter-Allied Millitary Mission to Hungary 1919-20
Available as a PDF file.
The Nationalities Problem in Transylvania
Nándor Bárdi, László Diószegi, András Gyertyánfy:
Hungarians in Transylvania between 1870 and 1995
National Minorities in Romania
Holocaust in Roumania
Available as a PDF file
Council of Europe preliminary draft report:
The Csángó Minority Culture in Moldavia
Available as a PDF file.
Du Nay, Alain and Du Nay, André
The Transylvania - Fiction and Reality
Du Nay, Alain
Hungarians and Roumanians in the Torrents of History
Du Nay, André
The Origins of the Roumanians
Genocide in Transylvania - Nation on the Death Row
Facts Against Fiction: Transylvania
Kazar, Lajos - Makai, János:
Transylvania in Search of Facts
Available as a PDF file.
The Daco-Roman Legend
Daco-Roman Legend. Christian Cultic Places in Transylvania
Available as a PDF file.
Cronicle of Cruelties - Romanian Mistreatment of the Hungarian Minority in Transylvania
Available as a PDF file.
Transylvania - A Short History
Available as a PDF file.
Lote, Louis L. (Ed.):
Transylvania and the Theory of Daco-Roman Continuity
Magyarody, S. J. (ed.):
The Tsangos of Romania: The Hungarian minorities in Romanian Moldavia
Available as a PDF.
Witnesses to Cultural Genocide
- First-Hand Reports on Roumania's Minority Policies Today
/HUNSOR Monitoring/ © HUNSOR
more information and facts on Transylvania