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Alina Mungiu Pippidi**


'Having some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made
search among the books and maps of the library regarding Transylvania (...) one of the wildest
and least known portions of Europe(...) I read that every known superstition of the world is
gathered into the horseshoe of the Carphatians, as if it were the centre of some sort of
imaginative whirlpool'.

(Bram Stoker- Dracula)

Alina Mungiu Pippidi is a political psychologist and a journalist. Trained both in Romania and the
United States (Harvard University) she obtained her PhD in Social psychology from the
Univeristy of Iasi in 1995. She published in various newspapers and journals both in Romania
and abroad, among others in Government and Opposition, Transition, East European
Constitutional Review, La Nouvelle Alternative, Le Monde, Foreign Policy. Her book 'Romanians'
after '89' was translated into German by Friederich Ebert Stiftung-Intergraph Verlag in 1996 (Die
Rumanen nach '89). She also authored chapters on Romania on various books published in
Britain, Hungary and the US.
Queries concerning this book should be addressed to:
Alina Mungiu Pippidi, 15 A Bad Lascar Catargiu, Bucuresti 7111, Romania, tel(fax0 401-650
4473, e-mail


The career Transylvania made as a centre of 'some sort of imaginative whirlpool', while the
'wildest and least known portion of Europe' is well-known. The land 'beyond the woods' of
despots and vampires, of werewolves and all sorts of monsters completely occupied the
Western imagination to such an extent that attempts to show mediaeval Transylvania as an
enlightened place of religious tolerance, reform and learning was not even noticed, although it is
precisely this image inhabitants have of themselves. Disputed in the modern times between
Hungary and Romania without the conflict ever reaching the heights of conflicts in former
Yugoslavia, Transylvania survived all through the 20th Century as an ethnic mix of Romanians,
Hungarians and Germans. Gypsies are also there, but quite unnoticed; Jews used to be there,
but they were either decimated during the Holocaust, or they left during Communist times.
Encyclopedias show along time the changing image of Transylvania in the West as rooted in
frequent changes in its history, but also the endurance of the core facts. The Encyclopaedia
Britannica of 1911 carries echoes of Stoker's description of Transylvanian inhabitants as
'picturesque' except a few looking like German or French 'normal' peasants, when qualifying the
Germans as 'the most advanced section of the population'. Unfortunately they made only
233,019, while 'The Hungarians and the Szeklers together number 814,994', 'but by far the most
numerous element, though long excluded from power and political equality is formed by the
Rumanians, 1,397,282 in number, who are spread all over the country. The gypsies of
Transylvania (...) are estimated at 50 000)(...). Jews, Armenians, Bulgarians, Ruthenians and
Greeks are also represented in the medley of peoples'. The authors note Transylvania's
incorporation into Hungary since 1868, adding' since that time the Magyarization of the
principality has steadily been carried through, in spite of the bitter protests and discontent of
both Saxons and Romanians. A Hungarian university was founded at Kolozsvar in 1872; and
Hungarian is recognized as the official language'. Le Grand Larrousse encyclopedique of 1964
devotes more attention than the pragmatic Brits to the 'dark millenium' noting that so little is
known of Transylvania during that time that two versions of history, a Romanian and a
Hungarian one, can still present fundamental different points of view over the matter. The
French also record Transsilvania as a Romanian name for the region, not only Latin, as in
Encyclopaedia Britannica. Both acknowledge the existence of the Hungarian name, Erdely, also
used in Romanian pronunciation as Ardeal, and the German 'Siebenburgen'. Since 1911, many
things happened: Transylvania was reunited with Romania by the Trianon Treaty of 1920, then

northern Transylvania was granted again to Hungary by the Axis Powers in 1940, to return
again to Romania at the end of the war. Le Grand Larousse shows the usual optimism of
Enlightenment when stating in 1964 : 'A more liberal status granted to Hungarians seems to
have settled the matter forever (definitivement).' This approval towards the Communist solution
of the minorities problem is shared by the Encyclopaedia Americana (1998), which underlines
the 'more enlightened nationality policies by the Communist regime’. The 21,000 sq m reported
by Britannica, circumscribed by the borders of the Hungarian province of Transylvania since
1876 had become 39 372 square miles in the American Encyclopaedia, as other Romanian
contingent regions (Maramures, Banat) were added to the lands between the Transylvanian
Alps, Eastern Carpathians and the Apuseni Mountains. The fifteenth edition of Encyclopaedia
Britannica (1994 Micropaedia) sums in four lines this 'turbulent' history, saying: 'After forming
part of Hungary (11th-16th century) it was an autonomous principality within the Ottoman
Empire (16-17 century) and then once again became part of Hungary at the end of the 17th
Century; later it was incorporated into Romania. This edition also displays a beautiful 17th
century oriental rug under the title of 'Transylvanian rug'; together with many others this rug
made either in Turkey and imported or in some part of European Turkey once decorated a
Christian church in Transylvania. The American Encyclopaedia brings to date the demographics
of Transylvania, noting that from the about 7 million inhabitants of nowadays 65 % are
Romanians, 25 % Hungarians and 6 % German and other nationalities. The last inter-ethnic
clash did not make its way into Encyclopedias: it dates from 1990 and left eight dead and
hundreds injured in the beautiful old town of Tg. Mures, capital of the Szeklers (Szekelys)
region. The Szekelys are the people among whom Jonathan Harker was traveling: ' who claim
to be descended from Attila and the Huns', but nowadays see themselves as Hungarian. This
minor clash doesn't indeed seem noteworthy compared to other Balkan contemporary violent
disputes; it is however notable beyond the Transylvanian context, as the first inter-ethnic violent
conflict after the Liberation year, 1989.

I started to think about this research while on a Fulbright Fellowship at Harvard University in
1995. In between satisfying my need of political assertiveness by showing up at small rallies
where we protested against the UN policy towards Bosnia and the lectures of Samuel
Huntington on the ‘religious’ motives of the Bosnian conflict, I started to wonder on the reasons
of the so different approaches and understandings of the nationalism topic between us, East
Europeans with a communist experience, and our Western colleagues and friends, a difference

which is marvelously mirrored in the collection of essays by Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner
(1998). This is not to imply that we discovered something new in our experience: it is just that
our communist experience prevented us from forgetting some old truths, mainly on the human
nature. Most of us, East Europeans, were stricken with the truth of Fukuyama's famous essay
on the end of history from the first words- only to be the first to realise afterwards the
tremendous distance separating political theory from the real world. Political theorists have this
marvelous capacity of presenting ideas, at least in retrospect, as the sole responsible of events.
When reading Popper of Kedourie one really feels it was the fault of Hegel or it was the fault of
Kant- making one truly nostalgic of classic historical approaches, and mostly of the work of
economic historians. We have little means of ascertaining, while being once and for all made
sensitive by Marxism to the powers of ideas, how powerful were those ideas in producing actual
events. In fact I think Marxim-Leninism is so far the only proven case of ideology shaping
society. I suspect for the rest it is safer to assume ideology derived from social representations
held by society, and their influence on those social representations was a remote and late one.
The same goes today, when the validity of Fukuyama's theory has no immediate practical
importance. In theoretical battles, such as are unfold in journals and academic amphiteatres he
made a point so strong I think it cannot be essentially challenged. In the real life, however, we
should have known better than expect people in underdeveloped countries as my own to show
‘enthusiasm’ over market economy and institutional reforms - these abstractions whose
application mostly generate poverty and disorder in the short term. Once the communist regime
overthrown we were not to see ‘enthusiasm’ except for national causes anywhere in Eastern
Europe. From the rallies in former Soviet Republics in 1991 to the extraordinary mobilization in
the days of the Soccer World Cup in 1998 no other cause was able to generate popular
enthusiasm than national pride and solidarity, these not-at-all abstract, down to ground feelings.
This is not to say that Fukuyama is mistaken : he is not. He may seem so influential with the
present age in one hundred years as Hegel or Kant retrospectively seem to Popper or Kedourie.
This is not to say philosophers are innocent of the responsability attributed to them: this is to
say, however, that the importance of philosophy is exaggerated in our post-Marxist era, while
the importance of psychology- my own field- is underestimated.
So while liberalism remains the only legitimate doctrine at least for political theorists, people
remain the same as they have ever been : keen for a collective identity, not an individual one,
and lazy when it comes to choose between complex alternatives, so ‘cognitive misers’ (Fiske
and Taylor: 1984). Adding to theis the terrible impersonalization of Communist societies
(Inglehart and Abramson: 1997) there is little wonder the most basic need of people in East

Europe was identity, not freedom, and it was a lucky historical development these two could go
together in some places. Where they could not go together the need for identity was stronger.
While the need for identity prevails over the need for freedom, I think psychology prevails over
political theory. It is therefore such an approach that I shall take on my topic. I have, on all
accounts, little or no qualification for another.

The issue
In the rather ‘competitive’ area of East European ethnic conflict zones Transylvania was until
now luckier than Bosnia or Kossovo. Besides the violent outburst of 1990 in Tirgu Mures the
region was peaceful. Since 1996, in an experiment unique in Eastern Europe, the Hungarian
Alliance (DAHR), an ethnic party, became a member of the government coalition and enjoyed
seats in the Romanian government. However, the national theme dominated the Romanian
political debate since 1990 to our days, and is responsible for shaping a whole range of
domestic policies - some with little connection to the national one at first sight. But how can the
‘national’ problem in Romania be defined? Obviously, it means different things to different
political actors. To the nationalist Romanian parties, mostly post-communist parties, but partly
also anti-Communist, the national problem is the lack of loyalty and therefore the danger of
irredentism of the 1.7 million Hungarian community inhabiting Transylvania. For the Romanian
anti-Communist intellectuals the ‘national problem’ seems to be the regaining of some meaning
of the Romanian identity in a world so different from the one before the 2nd World War ,the last
moment said, -although little evidence supports this- to have presented such a clear identity. For
the Romanian Hungarian elite the problem is to find a political formula which can accomodate
their very distinct cultural identity. Finally, for the international community, the ‘national problem’
of Romania is seen only as the containment of the ethnic competition between Romanians and
Hungarians in the strict legal and administrative framework of Romania and Europe.
Analysts are also divided. Some believe there isn’t any national problem in Romania and would
rather consider it from the human rights angle, making it a problem of collective rights of a
minority (this is the aproach of human rights groups, most notably Romania's Helsinki Group).
This tradition draws on the Ceausescu years and has adjusted little to the new realities of post-
Communist Romania. Others, such as Tom Gallagher, point to the national problem as to the
main determinant of the political life and the main negative element preventing democratization
(Gallagher: 1995). The latter seems to imply that the main cleavage of the Romanian society is
the ethnic one, despite strong evidence against this assertion (both in the elections of 1990 and
1992 the public was divided on the communist-anticommunist cleavage line, a purely

ideological cleavage, with the Hungarians supporting for President the Romanian anti-
Communist candidate).
Time seems so far to side with the optimists. Since the brutal confrontation of 1990, despite
occasional increase in tension and constant hatespeech in a part of the Romanian press the
situation improved steadily. The conclusion in 1996 of a bilateral treaty between Romania and
Hungary led to the disappearance of the Hungarian theme in the electoral campaign of fall 1996
- and the democratic opposition, allied with the Hungarian Alliance, won elections - the first
democratic political alternance after the war, and only the second after the introduction of the
universal vote in 1918. After victory the Hungarian alliance joined the government with the
winning Romanian parties.
Despite these favourable developments, a majority of Hungarians keep perceiving a ‘conflict’
between Hungarians and Romanians. The immediate following of granting some self-
government in the Hungarian dominated area (the county of Harghita now has all only
Hungarian leaders, either government appointed or directly elected) lead to the intense and
bitter conflict of Odorheiu Secuiesc, where the local community instigated by the town council
brutally evacuated four Romanian nuns and prevented a Swiss Foundation to start an
orphanage on the grounds that this would change the ethnic composition of the region. The
legal amendments, meant to satisfy the long-enduring claims of the Hungarian alliance, also
had serious difficulties in passing through the Parliament, as members of the majority rebelled
against the political agreement between party leaders and sided with the nationalist opposition.
The electoral victory of Viktor Orban’s FIDESZ in the May 1998 Hungarian elections further
endangered the consociatonal experiment started in 1996 Romania. Orban had been attacking
the Romanian-Hungarian treaty during his electoral campaign and at summer camps at
Balvanyos he proved repeateadly to be an outspoken promoter of self-government for the
Hungarian communities abroad. During the February 1999 visit of Romanian Prime Minister
Radu Vasile to Budapest Orban insisted a separate all-Hungarian university should be created
for Romanian Hungarians. All these developments show that there is more to it than the
optimism of 1996 led us believe.
This should have not come as a surprise, either. Circumstances only cannot be relied upon to
solve a problem which is ill-defined and constantly marginalised. The consequence of the
presence of a strong ethnic Hungarian party lead to a total disinterest of the Romanian parties
for the topic of Hungarians. The post-Communist parties were in principle opposed to the policy
of revendications of DAHR, considering the Hungarians have already too many rights. The anti-
Communist parties considered that since DAHR is their ally it is to their concern only to bother

with Hungarians’ problems and simply tried to find the best strategic ways of solving their
punctual demands. No global vision was ever expressed by a Romanian politician, and no
national debate has ever taken place on this issue.

Outline of this work

The purpose of this book is to provide this better definition of the problem and describe the
alternatives for solving it. The author is therefore not interested in seeking some definitive
historical truth about Transilvania, as a historian would perhaps do, and the Transylvanian past
will be mentioned just to the extent that it shades some light on the present. I am not interested
here in the objective truth about the Transylvanian history, supposing such an objective truth
might be ever reached, but only in the present ‘subjective’ Transylvania. By this I mean the
current synthesis of collective beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and behaviors which, although
subjective, give shape to a psychological reality more objective than anything real in the world. It
is the belief of this author (as I shall show in Chapter 1) that it is ‘subjectivity’ which explains
nationalism much better than anything else, that is, the ‘political imagination: which turns cultural
entities into political ones. In order to exist, nations have to express their political subjectivity
(Jenkins & Sofos,1996 :19).
It is subjectivity that feeds the substance ethnic conflicts are made of. It is a subjective matter of
little practical consequence if the Quebecois have a constitutional mention as a ‘distinct society’
in the Constitution, if the Romanian Hungarians can study in Hungarian in a pure Hungarian
University or a multilingual one, if South Tyroleans have their parking tickets in Italian or in
German. Little should it matter also for the American Irish or the German Kurds or Kossovars if
their homelands are independant or not, since they no longer live there. However these abstract
matters can lead people to behavior which is often contrary to their immediate interests. The
mystery of nationalism, and its superiority towards all ‘isms’ lies in this capacity to generate such
disinterested behavior in the masses.
To conclude, this book will attempt to give a critical overview of the contemporary nationalism
theory, with a special focus on theories on East European nationalism and socio-psychological
theories (chapter 1) ; to describe and interpret the collected data on common social
representations of identity (chapter 2), history(chapter 3) and interethnic cohabitation(chapter 4)
in Transylvania; to outline the different trends in opinion, rhetoric and attitude among
elites(chapter 5); to establish if there is reason to talk of an ethnic conflict in Romanian
Transylvania and if so, how serious this conflict is(chapter 6) ; to discuss the possible solutions
and ways to deal with such conflict(chapter 7).

Methodological issues
Data for this study was collected between 1996 and 1998, in a two-steps strategy.
1. Qualitative interviewing
2. Survey (June 18-24 1998)
Inteviews conducted were both group interviews (14 focus groups in transylvania, plus a control
one in Bucharest with psychology students) and in-depth interviews with political leaders,
journalists, opinion leaders of both communities. The material recorded during focus groups was
the main basis for the questionnaire used in the survey. In order to gather the maximum amount
of significant material locations for the focus groups were selected after the conventional
division of the region in three areas, each with a different cohabitation experience, so to have a
region with a Hungarian majority (the Szekelys), a region with a Romanian majority
(Cluj/Kollosvar, the old capital of the whole region), and a a region with no distinct majority (Tg.
Mures, where the conflict broke in 1990 as ethnic supremacy is constantly challenged by the
two groups whose proportion is similar.)
This conventional division was not taken into account for the survey, however. The sample
covered all the Transylvanian counties : Alba, Bistrita Nasaud, Bihor, Brasov, Cluj, Covasna,
Harghita, Hunedoara, Maramures, Mures, Satu-Mare, Salaj, Sibiu. Counties of Banat were not
included.The sample was made of 597 persons older than 15 and is representative for the age,
sex, and ethnic structure of the region.
The six focus groups involving the Romanian population included :
Intellectuals (holders of some academic degree), two groups, one in Tg. Mures, one in Cluj;
Peasants, two groups, one in Viisoara (Cluj county),a region and a village where Romanians
make the majority. and the other in Livezi, a small village in the Szekely land (Harghita county),
where the Hungarians have the majority;
Workers, one group, Cluj;
Aged Greek-Catholics, Cluj.

The seven Hungarian groups consisted of:

Peasants, two groups, one in Covasna County (Sanziene), pure Hungarian area, one in Mures
county (Miercurea Nirajului), ethnically mixed area;
Intellectuals, three groups (Cluj, Tg. Mures, Sf. Gheorghe, Covasna);
Aged men, one group, Sf Gheorghe, (Covasna county);
Workers, one group,Cluj;

Lower middle class, one group, Miercurea Ciuc, (Harghita county).

One additional focus group interview was performed with a group of University Babes-Bolyai
students, 5 Romanians and 5 Hungarians. This was the only ethnically mixed group.
Interviews with the Romanian groups were conducted in Romanian. Interviews with the
Romanian Hungarian groups were conducted both in Romanian and Hungarian.
Unless specified otherwise, statements reproduced in the book met the approval of the whole
groups, so can de considered as stereotypical statements. As is it usually the case with
qualitative research our groups are not representative, but illustrative for the population and the
region under study. (Burgess 1996). Complementary use of focus groups and surveys were
used before quite successfully (Morgan : 1993: ch. 8) Each time we considered a statement
might be representative we included it in the survey questionnaire.
The region
Transylvania used to be an ethnic puzzle, with a mix of ethnic groups (Romanians, Hungarians,
Szekelys, Germans, Gypsies, Jews), and religious communities (Roman Catholic, Protestant,
Greek Catholic or Uniate, Christian Orthodox), united only superficially under the same political
leadership, but preserving each a sort of autonomy. This pattern was essentially changed during
the Communist regime : the Germans were at first deported to the Soviet Union in the Stalinist
years on grounds of having collaborated with the SS during the war, then were allowed to
immigrate to Germany in exchange for generous sums paid by the German state to the
Ceausescu regime. In 1990, when it became obvious Romania was slow on the road to land
restitution and creation of a new rule of law most of what was left of the Germans, even aged
people, emigrated to Germany. The Jews have been also submitted to persecution in Southern
Transylvania under the Antonescu regime and to the Holocaust in Northern Transylvania under
Horthy. In the seventies Ceausescu traded them with Israel, the same he did with Germans, so
their number decreased until their almost total disappearance. That left Transylvania to
Romanians and Hungarians, and the intermediate stratum between these historical rivals was
gone. Unlike Banat, where historically cohabitation was closer to the cosmopolitan type, in
Transylvania cohabitation was mostly of the inter-cultural type (Abraham, Badescu, Chelcea :
1994). This means that while in Timisoara, capital of Banat, and the surrounding border areas
people of various ethnic origins (including also Serbs, Aromanians,etc) have traditionally lived
together, keeping their cultural and national identity reduced mostly to the private sphere and
often engaging in transactional behavior, people in Transylvania lived alongside each other, but
not together, being separated in compact groups of different ethnic origins.

Communism, but mostly the blind modernization imposed by Communism changed
Transylvania enormously. One major change was the modification of its ethnic composition :
besides changes we mentioned above, Ceausescu's industrialization of the seventies led to
subsequent arrival of Romanians from the old Kingdom of Romania (Moldova and Wallachia) to
urban Transylvanian areas and to large numbers of Transylvanian peasants, regardless of their
ethnic origins, who too settled in urban areas. This urbanization was however a very superficial
one (Mungiu: 1995). Villages of Romania were deserted of the younger generations, while cities
and towns received a large number of peasants with a very different life style than the urban
Comparing Transylvania with other areas of ethnic conflict also calls for some specifications. I
saw fit for the present book to compare Transylvania only with other regions of the ‘first’ world,
although Transylvania belongs geographically to the second. More than one reason can be
summoned up to explain this, First, Transylvania had an organical development : nothing
happened in Romania after 1918, or in the rest of Eastern Europe to that effect that can be
compared to the mass scale social and national engineering of the former Soviet Union
(including genocides and mass deportation). Little ground for comparison can be found with
post-colonial countries, either. Attempts of assimilation of the other ethnic groups in
Transylvania had merely an administrative character, and they were not violent. Even in
Ceausescu's times the most aggressive state policy was to distribute jobs to university
graduates in areas far from their home - but even then it was not mandatory to accept these
jobs if one assumed the risk to seek a job by himself .Spontaneous violence between the two
groups, excepting the war times, is also lacking - the Tg. Mures case is the exception, not the
rule. There are no records of ordinary violence or confrontational behavior in bars, night clubs or
such - both groups behave peacefully. For these reasons I think it is only correct to compare
Transylvania to similar regions of the developed world, although Romania's current GDP falls far
beyond this category I tend to believe that for the study of ethnic identity and conflict a cultural
model as embodied in the political and institutional culture is far more more important than
economical statistics. And in this respect, Transylvania is undoubtely a European region : both
by its rich European past and by its present culture. There is also no party in Romania's today
Parliament not to have in its political program the goal of achieving the European integration of
One last explanation is perhaps necessary to justify our decision to discuss elites apart from
ordinary people. Post-Communist Romania has a limited extent of participant political culture :

the interest in politics is the lowest of the 43 countries reported by Inglehart in the World Values
Survey (Inglehart :1998). In these circumstances the political culture of the elites, of people
closer to the centers of political decisions matters enormously (Hague, Hartop and Breslin,
1992:51) and may differ substantially from the political culture of ordinary citizens. Social
representations of history (what Hallbwachs would have called 'collective memory') such as we
describe in Chapter 3 can be found at elites members as well. However we can easily
differentiate in elite members between the shared common representations, their own personal
cognitions organised by a logic closer to political opportunism and their political rhetoric, often
closer to the former than to the latter. What is internalized in an ordinary citizen and member of
an ethnic group is often a consciencious exercise of the use of common beliefs, representations
and images by an elite member, who may even have a distance from these views.
Can a work about a conflict fail to have a fate other than conflictual ? We doubt so. However, we
felt a local view was necessary in order to understand Transylvania better. George Schopflin
was right to warn Westerners that for many of East Central Europe inhabitants the hypothesis
their ethnic identities are contextual and not essential, artefacts of a cultural and nationalist
heritage and not inherent is unnacceptable.(Schopflin :1998:31). Psychologically, there are
good reasons for that, as I shall attempt to demonstrate. In practice it matters little the reason
for what people believe something, but the intensity of their beliefs and the personal risks they
would assume to protect them, be they rational or not. I chose a region in a moment of peace
only to show that fundamentals of the conflict are always there, and that what should be
adressed by policy-makers is not the acute attack but the disease itself, to the extent that such
diseases can find a cure.

The research for this book was generously supported by the European Commission (the
PHARE program), the Soros Foundation (Research Support Scheme Program), and NATO. I
am indebted to Sorin Ionita and Monica Botnaru for the survey data, to Alice Dumitrache,
Levente Salat, Teddy Sugar and Rafael Heckman for support with the focus groups, and to
Aurora Liiceanu for making me read Henri Tajfel when a doctoral student. Finally my gratitute
goes to my husband, historian Andrei Pippidi, who was the first reader and critic of this work
both in Bucharest and at Harvard.


2.1. Theoretical context of this study

If one looks the item called 'nationalism' in the Blackwell Dictionary of Political Thought
one will find out that, although it is still debatable if nationalism is a political ideology, it
is beyond doubt the most successful one ever. This contradiction in terms may alone
explain why such a vast literature of many scholarly fields have tried to explain
nationalism and nationalism: and why there is so little agreement to nowadays on what
this theory has produced that is valuable in creating a policy to manage national
conflicts, now that the frenzy of ethnic-or rather national- revivals seems to have moved
from the Third World to the old Europe.
This chapter does not mean to review the vast body of literature on the topic of
nationalism and ethnic conflict. Instead it will focus on the theories that most influenced
the present work and try to work out a typology of nationalism out of these theories, one
that would also provide a framework for East European nationalism as I see it. I shall
therefore challenge more than one of the current assumptions on either Balkan or West
European nationalism: and in doing so I shall draw more upon the work of social
psychologists than to the other students of nationalism. I agree, however, with Edwards
and Liebkind (in Breakwell: 1992) that nationalism cannot be approached from the
perspective of only one academic field, ignoring the others; and that anthropologists,
psychologists, philosophers and political scientists need to interact more in order not to
seclude the theoretical and empirical data within the boundaries of each discipline.
Reviewers of this huge body of literature agree there are two main trends within the
sociological and anthropological theory of nationalism: the primordialist and the
instrumentalist ones. Historians and political scientists, even when not attempting to
explain nationalism as an entity, but rather to coin its specific features in one society or
another are in their turn either influenced by or influential in providing arguments for one
of these two theories. The almost infinite number of cases and faces under which
nationalism displays itself prevents theories from providing a typology to encompass
them all (Smith: 1983. However one can find reliable knowledge on nationalistic
behavior of groups in a large body of facts historians, anthropologists and psychologists
managed to put together. Anthropologists are very influential and their mark on

nationalism theory is a strong one. Social psychologists are less so. The only
theoretician to acknowledge some social psychology influence is Donald Horowitz, who
was influenced by the Bristol school. Horowitz, in turn, provides important arguments for
a social psychological approach to ethnic identity and nationalism. Liebkind (in
Breakwell: 1992:181) was however right to point that : 'While social psychologists may
need to know more about research in ethnic identity within other disciplines, no other
discipline can do without the social psychology of ethnic identity'. My point goes even
further: I think it is social psychology that provides the in-between approach to
primordialism and instrumentalism, and I shall try to prove my point here.

Nation and nationalism are the key concepts of social theory. Ethnic or national identity
is the key concept of social psychology: when other theorists use it, as in Anthony
Smith's 'National Identity' they simply confuse 'nation' with 'national identity'. (Smith:
1991:: p 14). The same goes for the synonymous use of 'ethnicity' and 'ethnic identity' in
sociological literature. Smith defines both 'national identity' and 'nation' as a named
human population sharing an historical territory, common myths and historical memories,
a mass, public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all
members'. The difference between 'ethnie' and 'nation' is at the core of many polemics.
T.K. Oomen revised this literature in 1997 in a comprehensive study essentially focus on
the difference between nation, state and ethnie. According to Oomen, only the territory
seems to differ in the case of 'nation' and 'ethnie'. Removing a national group from its
territory, 'cleansing' it, as it is fashionable to say today, is to 'ethnificate' it, according to
Oomen, who blurs the distinction between national groups with some experience with a
state of their own and others who were never in possession of a state. Nowadays, when
so many groups with little or no previous experience of a national state -Bosnia, Ukraine,
Slovenia, Slovakia- actually got a state of their own the potential of every ethnic group in
becoming a nation seems very powerful. However the stress on territory of Oomen is an
exaggeration. Smith, like Anthony Giddens, emphasizes not so much the territory per se
as the political consequences of legally controlling a territory, that is, of having a state.
The definition of 'nation' and 'ethnie' seems however to have become more 'subjective'
lately, under the influence of the influential critique of authors like Walker Connor. In the
Smith and Hutchinson anthology on ethnicity the subjective elements prevail. Ethnicity is
therefore defined by:

1. a common proper name, to identify and express 'the essence' of the
2. a myth of common ancestry, a myth rather than a fact, a myth that includes the
idea of a common origin in time and place and that gives an ethnie a sense of
fictive kinship, what Horowitz terms a 'super-family' (Horowitz, 1985,;ch. 2);
3. shared historical memories, or better, shared memories of a common past or
pasts, including heroes, events and their commemorations;
4. one or more elements of common culture, which need not be specified but
normally include religion, customs or language;
5. a link with a homeland, not necessarily its physical occupation by the ethnie,
only its symbolic attachment to the ancestral land, as with diaporas peoples;
6. a sense of solidarity on the part of at least some sections of the ethnie's
population (A.D.Smith, 1986: ch.2).
What, then, about nation? Is the difference between the two as fragile as being an ethnic
Slovene in Yugoslavia and a national Slovene in independent Slovenia? To be sure, the
difference is fragile enough. It mainly consists in subjective elements, as Walker Connor
pointed out:

With but very few exceptions , authorities have shied from describing the nation as
a kinship group and have usually explicitly denied any kinship basis to it These
denials are customarily supported by data showing that most nations do in fact
contain several genetic strains. But this lines of reasoning ignores the dictum that
it is not what but what people perceive as is which influences attitudes and
behavior. And a subconscious belief in the group's separate origin and evolution is
an important ingredient of national psychology. (Connor :1994, 197)

Walker Connor is right to stress the failure of theory to explain the ethnic revival in
developed Europe. It is the minority nationalism in the West, not in the East, which rises
the most serious questions. Would nationalism be found entirely in the underdeveloped
world the instrumentalist theories would explain it all. Since, however, Wales, Scotland,
Corse, the Basque country and South Tyrol cannot be accommodated in the framework
described for the Third World by Benedict Anderson we have to look for another
explanation. Furthermore, we have to search for a single explanation, even if complex
and manifold, to explain nationalism in both worlds.

Since 'nation' is so disputed a term 'nationalism' has also at least two major different
contemporary interpretations. One is the definition employed by Gellner and Kedourie
(shared by Anthony Smith as well), which has the advantage of explaining historical and
contemporary nationalism as well. According to this view nationalism is the political
principle which states that the national and political units must be congruent. The other,
laid out by Brian Barry in Blakcwell's Encyclopaedia of Political Thought takes a rather
different approach:

What is central to a nationalist movement is that it claims to represent members of

the nationality in virtue of the material and the cultural interest that they share. It
calls on its supporters to subordinate the common interests (based on class,
religion or party, for example) that they share with their fellow citizens to those that
they share with other members of the national group (353)

Barry's definition either applies only to contemporary societies, or implies that there are
movements who seek to realize the confluence of political unit-national unit without
exercising this type of pressure- and others who do not. This brings us back to the 'good'
and 'bad' variants of nationalism, which I think is a theoretical failure. Rather I would see
nationalism as a single phenomenon in various shapes according to society/stage of
development upon which one can look as a 'negative' phenomenon (as Kedourie does)
or 'positive' one as Melluci (199). The main problem for the psychologist is not why
nationalists calls their supporters to subordinate interests they share with other fellow
citizens to the more basic national loyalty but why they succeed so often in this
enterprise. Walker Connor bridged the division between primordialism and
instrumentalism when answering this:

The first few manifestations of ethnonationalism within post-war Europe (among

the South Tyroleans, foe example) could be explained away as vestigial or
unique. But as ethnonationalism has become unmistakably evident on the part
of several peoples whose ethnic counciousness has hitherto been considered
nonexistent, or, at the least, political inconsequential, scholars have proffered a
variety of theories to explain this unanticipated transsocietal
phenomenon.(Connor: 1994: 168)

One explanation which comes close to the psychological understanding of nationalism is
one's bond with one's culture. We see the world from the perspective of our culture and
cannot see it differently. Our thought is shaped by culture- notably by language and
everything entailed by it. Geertz was right to assert that 'a country's politics reflect the
design of its culture':

'Culture, here, is not cults and customs, but the structure of meaning through
which men give shape to their experience, and politics is not coups and
constitutions, but one of the principal arenas in which such structures publicly
(Geertz 1973: 311-12)

Culture, is, however, achieved by socialization. Primordialism came under attack for its
understanding of 'culture' as a 'given' thing, as a 'primordial attachment'. (Eller and
Coughlan :1993)

'By a primordial attachment is meant one that stems from the 'givens'-or, more
precisely, as culture is inevitably involved in such matters, the assumed 'givens'-of
social existence: immediate contiguity and kin connection mainly, but beyond
them the givenness that stems from being born into a particular religious
community, speaking a particular language, and even a dialect of a language, and
following particular social practices. These congruities of blood, speech, custom
and so on, are seen to have an ineffable, and at times overpowering,
coerciveness in and of themselves. One is bound to one's kinsman, one's
neighbor, one's fellow believer ,ipso facto; as the result not merely of personal
affection, practical necessity, common interest, or incurred obligation, but at least
in great part by virtue of some unaccountable absolute import attributed to the
very tie itself. The general strength of such primordial bonds, and the types of
them that are important, differ from person to person, from society to society, and
from time to time. But for virtually every person, in every society, at almost all
times, some attachments seem to flow more from a sense of natural -some would
say spiritual - affinity than from social interaction.(Geertz, 1963, 1089-110)

Primordialism was strongly attacked for what was seen as a confusion made by
primordialists between something existing and something primordial, so without a
sociogenesis . For my purpose I think it is useful to purify the 'givens' of this
'metaphysical' origins and see them simply as 'psychological givens', acquisitions of an
early context that prove unshakable for most people during their lives. We can safely
assume these 'givens' will be the main identity-providers for most people, so their use or
misuse will be more influential and stronger than any later affinities or affiliations (as
political parties evoked by Barry). The focus of the debate, in my view, should not be not
on the innate character of the 'givens'. It is rather on the ethnic or national identity as
'given' or 'invented'. If we see the 'given' in cultural terms, as the only lens we can look
upon the world through and 'create order out of chaos' as in cosmogenesis reported by
historians of religion such as Eliade, then identity is more 'given' that 'invented'. It is
certainly 'learned' but learned does not mean invented. Everything is learned, including
knowledge about the self. The self is there before we learn about it: and identity is part of
the self, and is simultaneously personal and collective. Allport's concept of 'in-group' is
perhaps the most useful here:

'It is difficult to define an in-group precisely. Perhaps the best that can be done is
to say that members of an in-group all use the term 'we' with the same essential
significance. Members of a family do so, likewise schoolmates, members of a
lodge, labor union, club, city, state, nation. In a vaguer way members of
international bodies may do the same. Some we-organizations are transitory (e.g.
an evening party) some are permanent (e.g. a family or clan).' (Allport : 1954: 31)

The main thing is that members of the in-group tend to favor the in-group and stereotype
and discriminate against members of the out-group. Since this attempt to a definition by
Allport many evidence was gathered to explain this behavior. Here is where social
psychology, notably Henri Tajfel and the Bristol school make their important contribution
to the theory of ethnic and national identity, seen as a particular form of social identity in
general, social identity being originally defined by Tajfel as a person's knowledge of
group membership. The 'minimal group paradigm' added to this an important element of
social comparison, as Tajfel asserted that groups define themselves by comparison with
other groups. Compared to earlier experiments of Sheriff and Hovland who organized a
competition between two groups for an unique prize, Tajfel's experiments showed that

even when social membership is established arbitrarily (by a coin toss, e.g.) it
significantly influences behavior. Even when assigned randomly in a group Tajfel's
subjects displayed immediately strong in-group favoritism and out-group prejudice. This
behavior is also little influenced by the presence of an unique reward, so it cannot be
explained by a 'scarcity of resources' hypothesis. In one of the experiments, for instance,
the possible rewards are distributed between groups as follows: 1. in-group and out-
group profit combined is maximal 2. profit of in-group is maximal 3. difference between
in-group profit and out-group profit is maximal. Subjects tend to choose the third variant,
so they are more interested to have the superiority of their group maximal than earn
more in absolute terms. In order to illustrate this theorem Tajfel uses a Russian proverb
(which, by the way, in different variants, is extremely common in the Balkans as well)
with a benevolent God offering to grant a wish to Ivan 'but only you have to remember
your neighbor will get twice what you get'. After a long meditation Ivan asks God to
remove one of his eyes.
Developing this theory further, Turner (1994) increased the weight given to cognitive
aspects of identification. According to Turner social identities are defined as 'cognitive
groupings of oneself and some class of stimuli as the contrast to some other
class of stimuli’ (Turner at all: 1987: 44). Categorization is fundamental in our
understanding of identification. categorization is our main tool of 'make-meaning'. Allport
had already stated that we need categories, we even need stereotypes to put some
order in the world that would otherwise appear to us as an anarchical puzzle of
informations. Furthermore, people are lately seen by psychologists as 'cognitive misers',
so prone to give in to the easiest, effortless alternative when making a cognitive choice.
(Fiske and Taylor: 1984)
The fact that groups seek maximal differentiation lead Tajfel and his followers to the
elaboration of what is known as the social identity theory. Group strife for positive social
identity, and this is obtained via differentiation and competition among groups. (Tajfel:
1974). Tajfel also considered that social categories carried important affective meaning,
and he spoke of 'great heights of intensity that social identification may involve (1982).
For Tajfel affect operated primarily through self-esteem. Social identification is thus
desirable because it is seen as a source of self-esteem . Groups need to be high on self-
esteem, and members develop various strategies to cope with its scarcity., culminating
with deserting the group when everything else fails (Tajfel and Turner: 1979). Bat Chava
and Steen (1995, quoted by Kay Deaux) also found moderately strong correlation's

between ethnic identification and self-esteem that are consistent across age, sex, and a
number of ethnic groups.
Ethnic identity is quite an accessible form of social identity so we may reasonably expect
people to develop some form of it. We can further speculate that ethnic attachment will
be strong since ethnic groups are both accessible and have distinct cultural markers to
differentiate them from other groups. A 'cognitive miser' is therefore prone to be a happy
'ethnic' or 'national' group member. Walker Connor hit even more than he intended, I
guess, when he wrote the famous formula: 'Man is a rational national animal.' In this
perspective nationalism is 'natural'. Denying this truth will only lead to confusion and
errors of judgment. Accepting it does not mean, however, granting legitimacy to
discriminative behavior. Psychologists do not equate 'natural' with 'legitimate'. Quite on
the contrary sometimes.
According to Brown and Turner (1981, quoted by Liebkind) there are important
differences between the actions of individuals as individuals and their actions as group
members. The transition from personal to social identity is the psychological process
underlying the shift from interpersonal to inter group behavior, which implies interaction
in terms of group identifications. However, occasionally some specific social identify may
function nearly to the exclusion of all other identity dimensions (Turner, 1982, quoted by
Liebkind). Breakwell considers the whole dichotomy of social and personal identity to be
a temporal artifact, as social identity becomes personal seen across biography.
Ethnic identity may vary in definition and identity from group to group. However, self-
definition, a sense of belonging and pride in one's ethnic group seem to be the norm.
How does one, however, select one's ethnic group when more than one choice is
possible? Studies tend to look upon language as the main cultural marker. Language is
the main connection vehicle between personal and collective identity. According to
Lange and Westin (1985, qouted in Breakwell) there are five conditions promoting this
connection: 1. existentially language is very significant to the individual as an instrument
for naming the self and the world 2. essentially primary socialization is a matter of
linguistic interaction 3. social representations as the cognitive connection tissue of a
culture are expressed in language 4. language is the medium of the ethnic group's (more
or less) mythological conception of its common origin, and 5. of all ethnic markers
language is one of the most salient. (quoted by Liebkind, in Breakwell, 150). Fishman
also comments on why the language is such as salient dimenssion of a group's identity:

It becomes clear why language is more likely than most symbols of ethnicity to
become the symbol of ethnicity. language is the recorder of paternity, the
expresser of patrimony and the carrier of phenomenology. Any vehicle carrying
such precious fright must come to be viewed as equally precious, as part of the
freight, indeed, as precious in and of itself. (in Giles, 1977).
Furthermore, as studies by Giles and his colleagues prove, ethnic group members
identify more closely with someone who shares their cultural background. As Giles
(1977) puts it :
'For instance, Welsh bilinguals would consider themselves more similar to an
Englishman who spoke Welsh than to a Welshman who spoke English. It seems
that one's behaviour, and in particular one's language behaviour, is a truer
reflection of one's ethnic allegiance. '(326)
Now this sounds as old a truth as humanity. One's language is the main provider of
identity. It is based on the observation of this fact, however unsupported at the time by
scientific knowledge, that states forced their linguistic policies upon linguistic minorities
in order to obtain good subjects or good citizens. So when Kedourie puts the essential
question: why are groups based on linguistic difference entitled to states of their own ?
the answer is: for convenience. Humans seek convenience, and we tend to look upon
this as rational behavior. Again, is convenience enough to claim legitimacy? Certainly
not. But one should not disregard the force of a drive based merely on convenience-
seeking and be assured it will always prevail in front of more complex and more soliciting
types of motivation.
The theories of Tajfel and Giles go well together. Furthermore, there is evidence that it is
the exposure to another language which strengthens the feelings of identity and the
loyalty towards one's ethnic group or language. Weinrich (1974, quoted by Giles, 1977)

It is in the situation of language contact that people most easily become aware of
the peculiarities of their language as against others, and it is there that the purity
of the strandardized language most easily becomes the symbol of group integrity.
Language loyalty breeds in contact just as nationalism breeds on ethnic borders.

Chapman et al (in Giles, 1977) make the same point, quoting a study which shows that
the strongest feelings of language loyalty among the Welsh were in the English-speaking

counties of Wales. This induces the conclusion that exposure to the difference is actually
increasing nationalistic feelings, making one aware of the distinction between the self
and the others' group. Identity is seen in terms of social comparison: any element of
competition will only further differentiate and oppose the two groups. The vaguer the
borders, the greater the chances the two groups will interact in real-life competition, the
stronger the nationalistic feelings bred by the groups. No classification of nationalism or
ethnic conflict should ignore this factor of outmost importance.

2.2. Eastern and Western European Nationalism

One of the most important challenges for the theorists of nationalism is to create a
typology that would encompass all national and historic peculiarities. The further
challenge for an East European is to understand the difference between 'Western' and
'Eastern' type of nationalism. Indeed this difference is at the core of all nationalism
classifications. The review of the existing literature would prompt one to say that it is
Eastern Europe, beyond any doubt, which turned good 'Western' nationalism into evil
'Eastern' one. But things are indeed more complicated than that.
I shall insist here only on three of the large number of theories pointing to the differences
among Western and Eastern European variants of nationalism. One is the theory of
Hans Kohn, which focuses on the relationship between state and nation. The second is
the theory of Ernest Gellner, who sees a structural difference between the East and the
West. The third is the theory supported by students of political development, of which
George Schopflin gave, in my view, the best account and Peter Sugar the best typology.
I shall not delay in discussing theories focused on the genealogy of ideas, whose
brightest exponent is Elie Kedourie. For one thing, Kedourie is not so much concerned
with the difference between the two Europes: in fact he rightly stresses the uniqueness
of the principle at work here, which leads to different results according to the society
where it was tried. For another, the influence of one philosopher or another - notably
Herder and Fichte, whose writings are so unanimously considered the source of all evils-
matters less than one would think in the political development of Eastern Europe. To be
sure, EE elites copied the West and the moment where the 'Western' model simply
broke into the East was the 1848 Revolution. This pragmatic desire of bringing
independence and prosperity to their countries via a model already tried in the West was
the driving factor in the East: ideology was secondary. Ideology was built in order to

attract the masses into it: the development plans of the elites were otherwise too
abstract to have found any followers. The abstract doctrine of collective self-
determination, as derived from Rousseau and the French revolutionists was the main
inspiration source for modernizing elites in Eastern Europe. The nationalist ideology was
simply the initial propaganda coat for self-determination. Here comes the revivalist
ideology of the past, the historicism, the nostalgia for a golden age in the small East
European countries included in large absolutist multinational empires. Here lies the
major difference between them and Germany, where Kedourie's genealogy fits perfectly.
So it was a conscientious act of building an ideology for instrumental puposes, but those
who started it in the East- the Hungarian Kossuth and the Romanian Bratianu, to quote
only two names- were pragmatic men. No wonder they were seen in their countries as
'liberal'. They were liberals guided by a liberal idea, and to be sure it was an imported
one. Mill had not written yet his famous passage, but it was in the air since the previous
French Revolution:

It is, in general, a necessary condition of free institutions that the boundaries of

government should coincide in the main with those of nationality....Where the sentiment
of nationality exists in any force, there is a prima facie case for uniting all the members
of the nationality under the same government, and a government to themselves apart.
This is merely to say that the question of government is to be decided by those
(1872, in Principles of Representative Government)

Kohn's typology is based on a simple distinction. The nation precedes the state in the
West, but the state is precedent in the East. Nationalism in the West was therefore 'a
reality'; in the West it was based on myths and dreams.

Nationalism in the West arose in an effort to build a nation in the political reality
and struggle of the present without too much sentimental regard for the past;
nationalists in central and Eastern Europe created, often out of myths of the past
and dreams of the future, an ideal fatherland, closely linked with the past, devoid
of any immediate connection with the present and expected to become
sometimes a political reality. Then they were at liberty to adorn it with traits for the
realization of which they had no immediate responsability , but which influenced

the nascent nation's wishful image of itself and its mission...(Kohn, quoted by
Sugar 10)
Kohn is right to point at the differences of political development, although I think he
underestimates the role of the absolutists empires playing the little nationalities ones
against the other and preventing an homogenization process on the Western European
type to develop. He also overestimates the degree to which the nations were formed in
the West: more recent evidence, such as the works of Eugen Weber and Eric
Hobsbawn, point to the fact that nation-building was a task consciously assumed by
Western governments and elites as well. Where Kohn is undoubtedly right is when
attracting our attention to the 'wishful image of nation' created by these elites. Indeed
what might well have happened and it did happen was that these powerful
representations, elaborated by elites in the act of building an ideology, became
afterwards real mass representations, so powerful that they took over when the political
franchise was instituted.
The theory of Ernest Gellner is perhaps the best known. Gellner masterfully combines
features of political and cultural development. His final outcome, however, fails into the
classical image of the East which only perverted a Western idea: we feel all through the
work of Gellner the regret that the small Eastern states, deprived of any important
cultures, ever came to life as states, and the underlying opinion the world would have
had more to gain had Czechs, for instance, continue to write in German than in Czech.
Gellner is not, however, to be treated lightly, despite his Central European nostalgias. To
the theory of Kohn he adds a strong 'cultural' element and a finer delimitation of Europe
when writing:

Roughly speaking and allowing for certain complications Europe falls into four
times zones, resembling those global maps one sees at airports, which indicate
the different time in the various vertically defined stretches of the globe.
(...) The Westernmost time zone is that of the Atlantic coast of Europe. The point
about this zone is that from the late Middle Ages, if not earlier, it was occupied by
strong dynastic states, which roughly, even if only very roughly, correlated with
cultural areas. If nationalism requires the marriage of state and culture, then in this
zone the couple has been cohabiting long before their union was acclaimed by
nationalist Manifest Destiny.(...) Nationalism did not draw on peasant cultures so
as to invent a new literate one: rather it strove to replace peasant idioms by an

existing court or urban speech(...) Peasant had to be turned into proper speaking
nationals, but no national High Cultures had o be forged from peasant
The next zone to the East was different. far from possessing ready-made dynastic
states, it was an area of quite exceptional political fragmentation, endowed with
effective political units much smaller than the geographical extension of the two
locally dominant High Cultures. The major meta-political unit of the area, the Holy
Roman Empire, had long ago lost any effective reality, and by the time of the
coming of the age of nationalism had ceased to exist even in name. But if the
region lacked pre-existing political units ready for the nationalist requirements, it
was exceedingly well equipped with pre-existing, codified, normative High
Cultures.(...) So here was indeed a need for polity-building, though not for culture-
It was the next time zone to the East which presented the greatest problems from
the viewpoint of the implementation of the nationalist principle of one culture, one
state. (...)Many of the peasant cultures were not clearly endowed with a normative
High Culture at all. Some even had no name. High Cultures had to become co-
extensive with entire societies, instead of defining a restricted minority. Here both
cultures and politics had to be created, an arduous task indeed. Nationalism
began with ethnography, half descriptive, half normative, a kind of salvage
operation and cultural engineering combined. If the eventual units were to be
compact and reasonably homogenous, more had to be done: many, many people
had to be either assimilated, or expelled, or killed.' (115-117).

According to Gellner, we have therefore similar nationalism in Britain, France and Spain,
the first time zone- he admits independent Ireland was however a political novelty in the
area. We then have the German and Italian cases- a second time zone, and Eastern
Europe- the third. The fourth is Russia, with all the small nation enclosed first by the
Czarist Empire, then by the Soviet Union, seen as a successor.
The theory of Gellner is bright. He is right to notice the difference between the
widespread High Culture in the West and its confinement to a much smaller elitist group
in the West. He is right to notice both polity and culture had to be created in the East,
polity only in proper Central Europe, and only minor adjustments of the two in the West.

However, there are important points in which this theory fails to provide adequate
1. Gellner does not account for the strong recurrence of ethnic revival movements in the
West. he sees Ireland as an exception and notes with some satisfaction the failure of the
new Irish state to create a new culture as well. However, the Welsh, the Scots, the
Basques, the Catalans, the Corsicans are falling behind Ireland in their effort to find a
suitable political form to express their -perhaps minor- cultural difference from their
fellow citizens in the states they belong to.
2. Gellner fails to explain nationalistic behavior of British and French beyond the limits of
Western Europe, in, say, Transvaal, Algeria, Ireland.
2. Gellner's theory does not explain why the worst nationalism developed in Germany
and to some extent in Italy. We are left without a clue to that.
3. Gellner considers political models were lacking from the tradition of Eastern Europe. I
think he is again wrong to generalize this assumption. In South East Europe the
Byzantine model was a strong model all through the Middle Ages, as Bulgarians, Serbs
and Romanians tried to reproduce it in their own polities and even to expand it to the
neighboring areas under their political domination. I fail to see any notable difference
between the Byzantine model and Charlemagne's one depicted for Western Europe.
Only the Ottoman occupation confiscated this development. Poland also had a state
tradition before being partitioned between great powers, and a strong one, too.
The typology which comes closest to the grounds in Peter Sugar's. Sugar has a much
more nuanced version than Gellner's. He considers East European nationalism, for
instance, similar to the Western one due to its anticlerical, egalitarian and constitutional
approach. But the degree to which the model was pursued in Eastern Europe was
dependent on the development of EE societies. Sugar considers the Czechs came
closer to a Western version of nationalism- although not similar, labelling it 'bourgeois
nationalism'. Poland and Hungary lacked a middle-class as developed as the Czechs so
their nationalism couldn't be but aristocratic, and so it stayed until the end of the second
WW. In Romania nationalism was a state project, in fact a government one, and Sugar
sees it as 'the project' of the government, subordinating all the others. Romanian, Greek
and Turkish nationalism are coined as ;bureaucratic'. Finally, Serbia and Bulgaria, which
lacked an aristocracy, a bourgeoisie, and a state as well, developed a populist, mass
nationalism, animated by the low, peasant clergy and the small traders.

This excellent typology is highlighted further by George Schopflin's understanding of the
differences in political traditions between East and West Europe. Schopflin asserts
bluntly but orrectly the backwardness as the central feature of Eastern Europe, and
opposes the political development of the two Europes balancing the weight between
state and society, the city and the countryside, the intelligentsia, the bourgeoisie and the
peasantry. Autonomy and the separation of spheres is identified as the Western way of
development, discretionary power of the state over the society as the Eastern way. Rule
of the law and separation of powers, due to the initial opposition between the secular
and the religious rulers became the norm in the West; church subordinated to the state
the norm in the East. The cities were at the heart of the Western development -not only
economical, but political as well- with their entailed concept of citizenship, while the East
had no cities in the proper sense: the peasants and the peasant mentality continued to
dominate politics even after 1918, while states were the expression of a skillful
bureaucracy, able to survive thorough political change, but with little ability for anything
else. Schopflin goes into much more detail, and his application from country to country
is just: I consider however that the core elements mentioned here are enough for the
purpose of this work.
The key word here is development: development of the society, its economy and its
political institutions. Sugar and Schopflin provide such good theories because they point
at key issues of development. Gellner is right to stress this development is culturally
dependent. Sugar points out an essential external element in the political development
of Eastern Europe, more and more under evaluated nowadays: the 'external pressures
(German, Russian, Byzantine, Ottoman)' that 'never ceased' (p 35). He is then right to
notice that if initially this prompted local nationalism, it then turned to negative effects, as
all strangers were seen as threats (36). Other authors remarked nowadays how this
external factor, decisive in many cases, disappeared from the Western conscience. If
Balkanization was initially described as a fragmentation of cultures and polities in a
backward environment,' a prey to the machinations of the great powers' (Paul Scott
Mowers, quoted in Todorova 34) today's Oxford Dictionary dropped all allusion to the
historical role of autocratic powers so Balkanization is seen as a phenomenon entirely
entailed in some structural default of the people or the region- or both. However, as
political scientists know, for comtemporary emerging democracies the strongest
influencing factor is not an internal institutional or cultural one, but the external context.
The undemocratic turn of all Eastern Europe at the end of the 2nd WW was not entailed

in its history and not a consequence of its failure to attain a democratic regime: it was
the consequence of the influence first of Nazism, then of Soviet Russia, on these small,
in-between countries. I think the same can be said about historic Eastern Europe. The
decisive role in the evolution of these countries was played by Germany, Russia, the
Ottoman and the Habsburg Empires. The legacy of East European nationalism is to a
large extent their legacy, too. If one looks at the roots of conflicts between nationalities in
the Balkans, for instance, one will always find out the Ottomans manipulation of elites at
the heart of it. It is a grave delusion to indulge ourselves with the idea that these
empires were tolerant political entities struggling to keep peace among small savage
tribes (in all the Balkan wars infinitely less people died than in the massacre of
Armenians by the Ottomans in the same period). They were autocratic underdeveloped
states themselves playing divide et impera, encouraging conflict and political corruption
in order to dominate. Any British colony in the world received more in terms of a viable
political and social order model than East Europe got during its whole history of
subordination, even if an hierarchy of legacies can be sketched, with the Habsburgs on
top with some positive achievements as well and the Ottomans at the botttom.

The two criterias I underlined all along are the identity and the political development.
Perceived threats to identity are the source of nationalism. This factor tends to be
underrated, but it is crucial. It’s also impossible to change via policy- or almost. Political
development, seen in a full geertzian meaning (politics as an expression of culture) can
either ease or aggravate the perception of this threats and the answer to them. I tried
accordingly to range a few cases of nationalism, however as diverse as to include the
usually hard to classify ones, according to this two criterias in Figure 1. The combination
of the two criterias can make us both range with relative easiness the cases and predict
a certain type of nationalism and nationalistic behavior as well. In describing the types of
nationalism resulting I used both the Kohn and Sugar classifications. I also noted two
important elements: what is the social basis of nationalism resulting from this situations
(elite and/or mass/and/or state) and its resilience (expressed in the pair of opposites
transitory-lasting). The main advantage of this classification is that it ranges cases seen
in a specific historical moment. It is not enough to compare nations: one has to compare
nations in similar phases of development to make some sense of nationalism. Despite
the wide variety of cases, and the specificities of each case authors complain about
nationalism can be framed.

A national group can be roughly exposed to another group in four ways: either aliens are
living in neighbor states, or in another national group inside the same state, they can be
rulers or the dominating elite, or they can be the immigrants. According to the stage of
development of the respective society, this exposure leads to a pattern of nationalistic
behavior. In cases of advanced development and distance of any possible rival group
(situation 1) we deal with a national group high on self-esteem that can display only a
form of ‘civic’ nationalism. In case problems of development appear nations start looking
over the borders, but they obviously tend to settle when their problems are settled.
Having the others in another state is obviously the best situation-only history did not
provide many cases of the sort.
When groups are inside the same state the problems is the most serious, because it is
lasting. The third situation, of having foreigners as rulers, is usually a transitory one: a
war of independence will sooner or later come and relieve the group in an inferior
position. When, however, the group which is better-off is not made of foreigners, but of
locals, the conflict is terrible (the example of Hutu and Tutsi). Neither equality not
seggregation have proven to be great solutions so far. The situation seems to be
manageable only in conditions of advanced development and practice of
consociatonalism (the Benelux is a good example). Consociatonalism seems to have
worked in Liban, too, in difficult circumstances. Low development and territorial
separation leads from civil war to war among neighbors- so it is not a solution.
In the case of newly independent states, which used to be ruled by foreign elites, the
main type of nationalism is centered on state-building. A fair dose of insecurity in these
new states will persist for a while, so former ruling elites turned into minorities will be
discriminated against. As it looks this is just a historical phase that we witness now in the
Baltics, but it was experienced by the rest of the world as well in similar situations ( most
of eastern Europe, for instance, after countries became independent at the end of the
last century and beginning of this one).

Figure 1. Types of nationalism


West Europe: Neighbor states Advanced Civic nationalism
Modern and contemporary (liberal, based on
Britain, France citizenship)
Modern Germany,, Neighbor states Low State nationalism
Japan, Russia aggressive while
interwar Hungary underdeveloped;
contemporary Neighbor groups Similar/advanced Lasting elite
French Canada in one state nationalism focused on
Belgium symbolic grounds
Basques, Scots, Welsh,
Irish, Romanian Hungarians
-multiethnic postcolonial Neighbor groups Uneven/low Lasting mass ethnic
states in one state nationalism
-Hungary in the Habsburg
Empire, Croatia and Serbia
in former Yugoslavia
-Post-Communist, Russia,
Serbia,, Romania
Romania, Bulgaria,Greece, Alien rulers or Low Elite, then state nation-
under Ottoman rule; elites building; more or less
Poland, Czech, Croats, ethnic nationalism
Romanians under Germans, depending on the
Russians Hungarians exposure
Italy during Austrian Alien rulers or Advanced/even Elite, then popular
occupation; elites superior support for state
Baltics during Soviets nationalism directed
against former ruling
West Europe, US, Canada Homogenous but Advanced/more or Low support for
for immigrants less prosperous nationast
ideology/dependent on
the economic capacity
of absorbtion
Irish, Kurds, Albanians, Low development of Mild to important
Poles before the 1st WW diasporas the homeland
Jews Adcandec Mild to low
Italians development of the

2.3. Romanian nationalism and Hungarian nationalism: conclusions for the Year 2000
In the proceedings of a conference at the School for Slavonic and East European
studies dedicated to 'Transylvania and historians' the leading Hungarian historian
Domokos Kosary complained bitterly about the alleged parti-pris of the founder of the
school, R.W. Seton-Watson, for the Romanians. Kosary quoted a conversation he once
had with the British historian in which he accused Seton-Watson of making a difference
between 'good nationalism' such as the Romanian nationalism, and 'bad' nationalism,
the nationalism of Hungarians. Seton-Watson simply replied that, had Kosary been older
and acquainted with the Hungarian politicians around the years 1900 he could not have
failed to loathe them in the same manner, as they were the most terrible nationalists
ever. The reference to the 'aristocratic' nationalism made here by Seton-Watson came to
dominate in time the literature on Hungarian nationalism. Marxist Hungarian historians
complained, for instance, that Hungarian aristocrats monopolized for hundreds of years
the Hungarian nationalism, as they were the only group endowed with political rights :
'the political nation'(Frank Tibor,in Sugar: 1994). The Romanian nationalism was also
marked forever by the exclusion of Romanians from this basic Transylvanian chart
known as ‘The pact of three nations' (Hungarians, Szekelys and Saxons)- Unio Trium
Natiorum of 1438, which was never dissolved. The 18th century nationalism of
Romanians started in Transylvania and was built on the conscience of this
discrimination, as Romanians found themselves unable to account for their exclusion
otherwise but by some structural inferiority of their own. It was a tremendous effort from
the part of the emerging Transylvanian elites to endow this majority of peasants, clearly
a psychological 'minority' in the tajfelian sense (that is, a group with low self-esteem,
who internalized the negative image of themselves from the larger society) with a sense
of self-pride. Katherine Verdery was right to note that 'Unlike the Magyars and Germans,
who from at aleast 1800 on were using ethnic identification to exclude others and protect
privileges, Romanians built into theirs a yearning for inclusion, for equality and dignity
that implied admiration as well as resentment for those with whom they interacted.'
(Verdery: 1983: p.349) Although the Trianon Treaty and the inclusion of Transylvania in
modern Romania brought important changes and reshaped practically the nationalism of
both nations, one can still trace this fundamental Romanian inferiority and feeling of
rejection and this fundamental superiority and pride of Hungarians as the basis of
nationalistic feelings of today. To this respect the creation and consolidation of Greater
Romania, but even more the aggressive nationalist ideology of the Ceausescu times

played on this low self-esteem to build a paranoid vision of the world into a full blown
xenophobic nationalism, a massive change from the initial datum. Territorial losses,
constant siding with the losers of the two world wars and the terrible represion of 1956
alienated more and more Hungarians from the initial aristocratic nationalism: however it
did not change the character of this nationalism where it lasted. George Baranyi was
right in this respect to assert that the remarkable thing about the Hungarian nationalism
is that 'the more it changes, the more it remains the same'.(in Sugar: 1969: p. 259).
Hungarian nationalism was the only aristocratic-type of the area: former minorities in
Greater Hungary (Croats, Slovaks, Romanians) all presented a combination of state and
peasant nationalism, which favored the development and success of populist peasant
parties between the two world wars. Hungarian 20th century nationalism was built on the
idea that the Trianon Treaty is unacceptable, so it was revisionist in its essence. Baranyi
recalls how twice a day millions of children were required to recite, long with their prayer
before and after the school, the 'Magyar Creed':
I believe in one God,
I believe in one Fatherland,
I believe in one divine eternal Truth,
I believe in the resurection of Hungary. Amen' (in Sugar: 1969; p.288).
Communism appeased Hungarian revisionism in a large extent (although a simple
search of the word ‘Transylvania on the Internet produces more revisionist materials
than anything else). However, its echos were clear in the rhetoric of anti-Communists
who came to power after 1989. First Joszef Antall, Prime Minister from 1990 to 1994,
declared that he is the Prime Minister of all the Hungarians, including those living as
minorities in border-states, then Viktor Orban, the younger generation of conservatives,
made similar declarations in his electoral campaign for the 1998 elections that he won.
The policy of acting as an advocate of the Hungarian minorities rights and notably to
their right of self-government can be seen, in this respect, as a more liberal form of the
same nationalism. George Baranyi already noted that 'the issue of the Magyar minorities
may be more deeply interowen with the larger question of Magyar nationalism than is
generally assumed' (in Sugar: 1969; p.306).
There is, however, an important change in the Hungarian nationalism to be recorded, but
this is due to the major historical change Hungary undergone after the 1st WW. From the
absurd dreams of assimilating a population larger than its own ('Who is either naive or
stupid enough to believe that 9 million Hungarians are able to assimilate the other half of

the country?' asked Oskar Jaszi, the most liberal Hungarian politician ever, in 1912. (in
Sugar: 1984: 206), Hungarian nationalists turned to a dream of elaborating a network of
self-governed Hungarian minorities in the bordering countries which would make Trianon
superflous and come the closest to bring all the Hungarians again together without going
against Helsinki and requiring a modification of the borders. The most important
document, in this respect, is Professor Ferenc Glatz's (now President of the Hungarian
Academy) Guide for a Conduct towards Minorities (1993 for the English version quoted
here), a basic document created to endow Hungarian diplomats with a coherent
proposal at the European organizations. The essence of nationalism in this self-
government proposal, which is not otherwise deprived of all merit, is however the
insistence of having Hungarian an official second language and giving up the legal
obligation of all Hungarian minorities in learning the official language of their home
countries.It is significant this policy proposal did not originate in Vojvodina, or
Transylvania, or with a Hungarian minority, but came from a semi-official Hungarian
office in Budapest. This is revisionism in a well-mannered, polished contemporary
European form.
Romanian nationalism, as I already asserted, was much more changed- and it was not
a change for the better. The state nationalism after the formation of the Greater Romania
was directed towards builing the state and the nation and integrating together
Romanians who had belonged to different states and political traditions for hundreds of
years. It is unanimously considered to have been a clumsy policy, which alienated both
Transylvanian Romanians and Bessarabian Romanians, treated as second-ranked
Romanians. Minorities also received less than they had been promised in terms of self-
government, but they kept their cultural autonomy intact. This state nationalism was
however very close to the Western type liberal bourgeois nationalism: its stronger
accents were due to the backwardness of the political institutions and society both, that
the state desperately tried to solve in only one generation.
The Romanian elite, however, turned more and more from this design towards another
type of nationalism. We have both psychological and sociological reasons to account for
that, in the words of two famous nationalists of the interwar times:

The bourgeoisie used to be a pioneer of the whole nation, this is why nationalism
automatically had a bourgeois hue(...). Only later, in our times, nationalism
started to break free from the charm of liberalism and ceasing to be mingled with

the interests of liberal capitalist bourgeoisie stepped into its autonomous full
blown form which is totalitarian nationalism.
(Mihail Manoilescu, economist and theorist of corporatism, 1942)

Our xenophobia is reasonably grounded in the historical inequality between

minorities and us. Were we a formed nation, our fight with them would be less
dramatical in shape.

(Romanian born Emil Cioran, symphatizer of the fascist Iron Guard, later a
famous French essayst, in 1936)

Acknowledging the historical handicap of Romanians but surpassing it via an act of will
('Our nationalism has to start from the wish to revenge our historical sleep, from a
messianic idea, from the will to make history, wrote Cioran) was the basis of this 'new'
nationalism. It was to be as short-lived as the Hungarian 'neo-nationalism' of Count
Klebelsberg based on education. With the dissapearance of the bourgeois bureaucratic
state under the blows of first fascists, then Communists, the Romanian liberal
nationalism was gone forever. The Right was completely destroyed in prisons or its
representatives emmigrated as Mircea Eliade and Emil Cioran. The Romanian fascists
had also killed in 1940 the spiritual father of the Romanian nationalism, historian Nicolae
Iorga. Often portrayed as an anti-Semite and a fierce nationalist Iorga was in fact a
'nation-maker' character on the type of Masaryk. In his famous 1924 conference on
nationalism Iorga speaks more as a civic than an ethnic nationalist, declaring national
minorities have a right to their own culture, and asking for 'a political solidarity with
nations who live alongside us'. He actively opposed tearing down of Hungarian statues
and monuments in Transylvania, even when they comemorated characters who
allegedly played a negative role in the Romanian history. The simple fact that almost all
the Hungarian monuments survived shows that the main trend politicians of the interwar
times (Iorga was also a prime Minister and leader of a small nationalist party) weas still
closer to the bourgeois nationalism thant to the totalitarian nationalism decribed in 1942
as an emerging victor by Manoilescu.If one is to analyse this time one has to look at
facts more than at the rhetoric. A far-right xenophobic rhetoric is to be found in this
epoch (rasist Nichifor Crainic is its foremost exponent), but it never succeeded in
becoming a main trend, not even in the newspapers. However, this literature was a

source of inspiration for the Communist times new nationalists (veritably 'new', this time)
as Ketherine Verdery proved in another book.(Verdery: 1994)
One can easily imagine what happens to a young nation, formed mostly by peasants,
when submitted to the heavy repression and uniform education of the Communist age.
Previous research I did in 1992 and 1994 led to the surprising conclusion that collective
memory of Romanian peasants stops in the fifties, and the stalinist years are seen by
the survivors (who were usually speared by repression) as 'a golden age'. Ceausescu
seized the opportunity of winning this rather brain-washed population in the early
seventies, when his speechwriters started to quote Romantic 19th century nationalists
and invented an original ideology labeled afterwards as 'national-communism'. This
ideology presented the past in a simplified and mistified version, making the unity of all
territories inhabited by Romanians as the main goal of national history, something that
never was (Boia:1988) The success of Romanian sportsmen and women (Nadia
Comaneci is the most famous example), the independent stand of Ceausescu from
Moscow when Czechoslovakia was invaded in 1968 all led to the consolidation of this
'new' nationalism. Not to be mistaken, it was an 'ethnic' version, praising the values of
'Romanianess', presented as the historical 'exception' of a Latin Christian people who
defended the West from the Infidel Turk, resisting both the Hungarian nationalism and
the Slavic attempt to conquer it, an island of Europeannes among barbarians. Via
television, movies, and textbooks, this version prevailed over a tradition extinguished in
Communist prisons with the almost one million Romanians affected by the stalinist
repression. Current national social representations as displayed in the Romanian
contemporary mass-media belong with this tradition, not the old one Verdery is speaking
about. While the Hungarian nationalism changed to remain quite similar in essence, the
Romanian one was entirely reinvented and forged anew. This new ideology made
Transylvania from a central feature of the national theory the central feature as the
cradle of the Daco-Latin population. This accounts for the fierce nationalism concerning
the Transylvanian question both in Communist and post-Communist times compared to
the low interest and involvement in the Moldova (former Bessarabia) province, even in
1991, when chances were for a possible reunification. Gaspar Miklos Tamas, the
contemporary leading Hungarian political theorist went to the heart of the matter when
deacribing the 'etno-anarchists', the 'apolitical and anti-political' new type of nationalists.
His examples range from Milosevic to Moldovan politicians who came to say they are not
omanians, but a 'new' nation, to identify this breaking with the tradition and forging of

'new' nationalism. Along with communism this new ideology, equally created to suit the
purpose of an elite (namely the same) is only another particular form of what Tamas
sees as an incessant attack on 19th Century European Liberalism. (Tamas: 1996)
This is not to say that in the present-day Romanian and Hungarian elites only one type
of nationalism can be found. We shall discern many others in the chapter dedicated to
elites. We needed to trace, however, the most important trends in the 20th century
history of both nations in order to make some sense of the present day Romanian and
Hungarian nationalism.


The group interviews and the survey were concerned with answering a set of related
questions, such as: What is the ‘nation’ the Hungarians from Romania identify
themselves with? What geographic entity do they consider their country? Do they feel
closer to coregionals, or to conationals, regardless of the region? What stereotypes are
used to portray their ethnic group, and the others’ group?
This chapter will also challenge on one of the important assumptions made by a cultural
and political trend which considers Transylvania in itself a separate ‘society’, displaying
a culture which is different from the rest of Romania, and a separate identity of its
inhabitants - the ‘Transylvanian identity’. This hypothesis implies that nationalities living
in Transylvania, Romanians and Hungarians mainly, have more common than
distinctive features, that can be discerned in their current perceptions of their civilization
and behavior. In other words, this means Transylvanians tend to form an in-group with
other Transylvanians, regardless of their ethnic origin, towards the rest of Romanians,
and, respectively Hungarians.
The ‘separate identity’ hypothesis relies mainly on the different historical development
of Transylvania from the other Romanian inhabited regions. Romanian nationalist
politicians, but many scholars also, protested at the line dividing Transylvania from the
rest of Romania in Samuel Huntington’s ‘map of civilzations’ from his famous and
controversial essay on the clash of ‘civilizations’. No doubt Huntington was right, in
terms of development, to point at Transylvania as to a distinct region, closer to Central
Europe than to the Balkans. But the many ambiguities due to the way the concept of
‘civilization’ is used in this context show here. Tramsylvania is the homeland of at least
three distinct cultures (Hungarian, Romanian, German), with the Romanian Christian
Orthodox population enjoying a relative majority since at least the Emperor’s Joseph II
first census in the area (1791). This pattern is in fact a multicultural one, with the
Romanian culture closer to the Balkan Orthodox one, and the Hungarian and German
closer to Catholic and Protestant Central Europe. Due to the absence of geographically
clustered communities (except the Szekelys area), resulting in the very poor
segregation of ethnic groups (Romanians and Hungarians mingle inside the same
counties, cities, villages, blocks of flats even) we tend to look upon Transylvania as to

an unique society shared by various (mainly two) cultures. So what is perhaps true in
terms of historical development may be less so in contemporary social reality.

From the historic ‘cradle’ to the contemporary ‘margin’

The results of our survey show that Romanian Hungarians have a distinct national
identity (Hungarian), but acknowledge their contract as Romanian citizens with a large
majority and consider Romania is their country (Figures 2,3). After 80 years of being
incorporated in the Romanian State practically no Hungarian defines himself as
‘Romanian’. The 35 % Hungarians and 10 % Romanians who look upon Transylvania
as their ‘country’ are a restricted minority in the total sample. None of the respondents
indicated Hungary as their country. Since Transylvania has been the homeland of
Transylvanian Hungarians for almost a millenium, and they are outnumbered by
Romanians in the region ( the report is 3 :1) the result is hardly surprising. Transylvania
is a part of the Romanian state, but is their homeland also. Seton-Watson was right
when describing the situation in the seventies to point that the major conflict was that
the Romanian Communist state wanted in exchange for its liberal policies that
Hungarians admit they are Hungarian-speaking Romanians, and they would not,
considering themselves part of the Hungarian nation, altough they accepted their
Romanian citizenship as a fact (Seton Watson: 1977: 184)

Table 1 and 2 about here

To be a Transylvanian Hungarian means to share your loyalty between state and
country. It is not an easy life, with Hungary just across the border. However it is the
experience of the freedom to travel to Hungary after 1990, to an extent unprecedented
before, that plays an essential part in self and heteroidentification and stereotyping. As
focus group participants put it (each paragrapgh indicates a different speaker):
Until 1990 I lived in Romania as in a foreign country, until 1990-I thought I
belonged to the ethnic Hungarian minority, and that between Hungarians in
Hungary and myself there is no difference but in the past 6 years I realized there
is something else.
Even by saying that I’m a Hungarian from Transylvania I admit somehow that I
have less rights than Hungarians from Hungary, but that is a situation I share
with every citizen of Romania who is Hungarian. Since I am born and come from

a long line of ancestors in Transylvania I say I am a Hungarian from
Transylvania and that makes me very proud.
When I say Hungarian from Transylvania that says it all: the nation I belong, the
fact that I am a Romanian citizen and most of all to what part of Romania I
belong. (Hungarian intellectuals’ groups, Cluj and Tg. Mures).

I am Hungarian and all the other possible answers are not correct. The
Hungarian nation is only one. It has subdivisions, for instance we are Szekelys,
but mainly we are Hungarians, Magyars. (Hungarian old men group, Sf.
Gheorghe, Szekelys)
The old men from the Szekelys were considerably more nationalist than the intellectuals
from multicultural Cluj. For the latter, Romania is their country since Transylvania is a
part of it and Transylvania is their homeland, the historical ‘cradle’ of the civilization they
belong to. They feel close only to other Hungarians who share this specific experience,
that is, other Hungarians from Transylvania. For the old Szekelys, who evoked
nostalgically the short reunification with Horthyst Hungary during the war years, stating
a difference between Hungarians from Romania and Hungarians from Hungary was
politically incorrect, since the ‘Magyar nation is just one’. National identification is much
stronger than regional identification (for both ethnic groups), and national identification
is not however done with the country (Hungary), but with a national group (Hungarians).
What are the main determinants of self-ascription? First, the language.

Since I can hardly express myself in Romanian or in any other language then
the logical result is that I can't get dressed in that coat. Therefore I can be a
whole only when I am at ease in my language and culture. I think that says it all.
And if I feel Hungarian so I want to stay until my death.
I had two maternal languages, if you want, my father is a Romanian who came
from Timisoara here to the Szekelys area where 80 % are Hungarians, and my
mother is Hungarian and I spoke no Romanian at all until 12 when I started to
learn it in school, and I feel Hungarian, even my father learned Hungarian after
staying here so long. I don't know, if they have gone to Moldova instead now I
would be Romanian (workers, Tg. Secuiesc).
People interviewed in the groups stated it is extremely rare if not at all unlikely for
someone to have a double identification, even if it comes from a mixed family and is

bilingual. Everyone with a mixed background in our groups identified him/herself as
Hungarian. Religion is seen as important for ascription, mainly for the Romanian group,
but not essential, while other characteristics such as physical appearance are
disregarded, although there is some perception of a difference:

I had fun once with a colleague: we waited at the exit of the University trying to
guess who was Hungarian, who was Romanian. And in most cases we guessed
right (Hungarian students, Cluj).
People expressing this view were however just a few and isolated by the rest of the
groups. Lower educated groups especially insisted ‘all people look the same, it doesn't
matter what they are’.
A poll done in 1997 by the Babes Bolyai University showed that language was an
important element of identification for 79 % of the Hungarians, self ascription for 84 %,
‘having a Hungarian parent’ for 77% and being ‘close to the Hungarian culture’ for 78
%. Self-ascription was considered as important as the maternal language also on the
Romanian sample of the same poll (UBB; Research Center for Interethnic Relations:
The most common feeling associated with this identification is pride.

We here are the cradle of the Hungarian civilization.

We come from a very civilized region, with traditions in religious tolerance which
was unknown to Western Europeans.
Here is the place where freedom of religion was first legalized.
We speak a more pure Hungarian that Hungarians in Hungary, just as
Romanians from Transylvania speak the best Romanian language in Romania.

As Tajfel stated, self-evaluation is always made by comparison with other groups, and
the pride of being a Hungarian from Transylvania is reported to Romanians from
outside Transylvania, Hungarians from Hungary and even the ‘religious intolerant’
Western Europeans.
Alongside pride this identification is related to various frustrations.

Borders kept changing in this part of the world, this is not people's fault. I have
some friends in a Maramures village who never changed home, but during the
time they were in four different countries. (workers, Cluj)
However it is not the comparison with Romanians or the treatment they’re subjected by
Romanians which make Romanian Hungarians feel inferior. It is their relationship with
Hungarians from Hungary, which disturbs them:

When I was in Hungary I said ‘Hello’ to an old man who happened to know I was
from Transylvania. I saluted him in Hungarian and he answered me in Romanian.
Stupidity can be the only explanation for this, in my view.
When I was in Hungary I visited the fathers-in-law of a friend of mine. And they
were surprised I speak such a good Hungarian. I never felt so insulted in my life.
The most significant fact is that we're not even called Magyars, as they are, when
we go there. We're called Romano. And Romanians are called Wallachs, when
not dirty Wallachs. (Workers’ group, Cluj)
The conclusion of these negative experienced was very well synthesized by an
intellectual of Tg. Mures:
We, Transylvanians, sometimes feel like second rank Hungarians when
compared to Hungarians from Hungary and second-rank Romanian citizens
when compared to Romanians. We sometimes feel betrayed by both’
(Hungarian intellectuals, Tg. Mures).
What seems like an irreversible loss for Transylvania and is strongly resented is
Transylvania’s presence as a cultural, political, spiritual 'center'. Either from Bucharest
or from Budapest today’s Transylvania is a marginal region. Even the memories of old
men from the Horthyist times, otherwise seen as a golden age, display this frustration
Transylvania was treated as a margin and all the civil servants positions emptied by the
severance of Romanians were occupied by Hungarians from Hungary and not locals.
The 'Szekely' identity survived only as a ‘local’ identity. With one exception, the rest of
the ‘Szekelys’ we discussed with considered ‘it is the Romanian nationalists who say
Szekelys are anything else than Hungarians’. Due to their homogenous presence in
their areas, Szekelys are in fact less interested in cohabitation than other Hungarians.
The young ones ignore completely the fact that Szekelys have a different ethnic
background, and the older ones invented imaginative explanations in order to explain

the traditionally different way of writing which persisted until the 19th century saying
‘shamans only wrote like that’.
Romanians want to put this Szekely coat on us but anytime and to anyone we
Szekelys here we tell we belong to Hungary. If Romanians from Moldova and
Romanians from Romania are unable to unify, to put the same hat on their heads
as they should there is no need to put Szekelys coats on us.
There is a different tradition here, but is mostly social. Here we had no nobles
and no serfs, only equal people, warriors defending the border. That explain why
we are different form the rest of the Hungarians in Transylvania. (workers, Tg.
Secuiesc: old men, Sf Gheorghe).
Defenses built during the 80 years of Romanian domination make even intellectuals
deny the original ethnic background of the Szekelys was different (the writing was close
to Turkish) and consider the idea as ‘a propaganda thesis of Ceausescu’. When
confronted with the History of Transylvania edited by the Hungarian Academy (and
bitterly disputed by Ceausescu’s historians) they were stunned to discover this is not
propaganda, but history, and tried to explain it as a mistake, or a concession (interview
with Hungarian MP by the author).
Stereotypes of Hungarians from Hungary compared to Hungarians from Romania
develop easily:
They are more concerned with their jobs and their well being, while we are more
patriots than they are. Here the national feelings, the feeling that you belong to a
nation is stronger than in Hungary. We're not so open to the rest of the world as
they are, but this local patriotism, this love for these grounds are more intense at
us (Old men, Sf Gheorghe).
People from the homeland always feel superior to the rest of us. The same goes
with Romanians from Bucharest towards the rest of Romanians. (Hungarian
intellectuals, Cluj)
I was concerned for six years to understand why this treatment from their part.
And I think they are envious, envious because we work harder, we're more
persevering, we know more languages.
They had more liberties than we had in the past 20 years and they lived better
and that's why they know better their way around, but this is only because
conditions were different.

They're afraid we're going to take their jobs and to eat their bread so they
consider us a sort of strangers when we go there.
We worked harder than they to be what we are did, and even if we are
considered second class Hungarians in Hungary I know I am better than they
are. But immigrants from here don't feel at home in Hungary, where they get to
meet socially only other Hungarians from Romania. We speak the same
language for nothing if ideas are not common.
We're more communicative than they are. We learned that from the Romanians,
we're more welcoming, friendlier, more Latin, if you want, they are colder than
we are.
We're tougher than they are, because we had to survive more problems than
they did. (Cluj, Tg. Mures, all Hungarian groups).
To summarize, one of the major problems of the Hungarian identity for the Romanian
Hungarian minority is the treatment they are subjected by their fellow Hungarians from
Hungary. This is a widespread negative first-hand experience, since everybody either
tried to work in Hungary for more money in the past years or had a close acquaintance
that did. They felt unwanted, often because they volunteered for hard work for a lower
pay so becoming the unwanted immigrants who lower the price of the work. In the case
of Hungary, national solidarity was manifested occasionally only at the Department of
Foreign Affairs or by political parties such as FIDESZ, and not as a widespread attitude.
This lead to various attributions meant to explain Hungarians’ behavior, such as envy
towards their fellows from Transylvania. In fact, the perception of this ‘rejection’ lead to
an increase of group ties and ethnic solidarity and a strengthening of the ‘in-group’
feelings. The group identifies itself by comparison with other groups, so Romanian
Hungarians feel superior to Hungarians from Hungary (because they speak a more
‘pure’ language, allegedly) superior to the Romanians from outside Transylvania
(‘Transylvania is the cradle of civilization, it’s 100 yeard ahead from the rest of
Romania’) and superior to West Europeans, who allegedly have no such tradition of
‘religious tolerance’ as Transylvania enjoyed. However, the hard trials of the Romanian
Hungarians self-esteem did not push them closer to Romanians, but increased their
national sensitiveness. Since they are a small community, which recently discovered
they can not really rely on the other Hungarians from the mother country their need of
protecting their identity from Romanians and their sensitivity to appeals at group status
and prestige is even greater.

Not only Hungarians are defensive when they have to picture themselves as a group.
Amazingly, so are Transylvanian Romanians, although they are three times as many as
Hungarians. Romanians we talked to were preoccupied the interviewer could
misunderstand they are somehow not Romanians, so, if asked ‘Transylvanian
Romanians?’ they answered ‘No, just Romanians’ or ‘Are there more categories of
Romanians? I don't think so’. (Greek-Catholic, Cluj) or ‘Romanians will tell you they’re
Romanians. Ask Hungarians, they’ll tell you they’re Transylvanians’. Romanian worker,
Once established nobody is contesting them being Romanians, it comes out some
traces of regional identity exists, associated with a feeling of pride.
It's more honorable to be from Transylvania than from any other part of
When I am sometimes ashamed of being a Romanian I feel better when I think I
am from Transylvania (intellectual, Cluj).
The Romanian national group is mainly interested to make clear they are related to the
rest of Romanians. They would never allow their regional identity, however present, to
go against their national identity, since the fear of Hungarian irredentism is widespread.
However, when it comes to stereotyping Romanians from the rest of Romania their
representations are quite similar, although milder, to those of the Hungarian group, as
we shall see.

The Image of the Other

Stereotypes are politically incorrect. Amazingly, all the groups seemed aware of this,
peasants perhaps less than urban groups. Compared to a control focus group in
Bucharest with political science students with no previous acquaintance of any other
ethnic group all the groups in Transylvania showed extreme caution when describing
the others, including the usual negative-labeled Gypsies. The Bucharest students
characterized the Gypsy as ‘barbaric’ and the Hungarians and Russians as ‘enemies of
Finally, the stereotypical portrait of the Romanian from Transylvania as seen by a
Hungarian mixes positive and negative traits: it is a ‘warm’ and ‘communicative’ person.
The Germans and us learned from the Romanians to sit in front of the gate to
speak with passers-by. And we still don't do this enough. The Hungarian once

returned home shuts the gate and starts working without further delay
(Hungarian peasants, Mures County)
Romanians are also perceived by Hungarians as ‘patient, more peaceful, they endure
more’. ‘They are more obedient towards authorities’, while Hungarians are ‘more
impulsive’, ‘colder’, ‘less patient’, and ‘tougher’. Both are perceived as hard working,
although Hungarians feel Romanians get more out of their work, and the Szekelys tend
to feel they work harder than anyone does. Hungarian teachers in our groups
complained Hungarian students are less ambitious, and while Romanians learn two-
three languages, they are happy if the Hungarians at least learn Hungarian well.
Hungarians see themselves as more ‘civilized’, but only when compared to Romanians
from outside Transylvania, as they like to point out. Both Hungarians and Romanians
from Transylvania are perceived as superior to the Romanians outside Transylvania,
seen as a ‘backward’ group: ‘We here are prouder people’. Many Hungarian
respondents apologized when asserting the civilization in Transylvania was at least one
hundred years in advance compared to the civilization in the Kingdom of Romania (Tg.
Secuiesc, workers).
The difference between the elite and the ordinary people was bigger at
Romanians than at Hungarians. The Romanians aristocrats were all right, but
they were just a handful, and the people were much less civilized than the
Hungarian people (Ciuc, Hungarians, and middle-class).
The explanation for that is ‘because we are closer to the West, people are more
civilized as they are closer to the West’. This geographical attribution is more popular in
low-educated groups. Romanians from outside Transylvania are therefore seen by
Hungarians as ‘uncivilized’, ‘speaking too loud’, ‘intolerant’ ‘vulgar’, and ‘crooks’.
Everybody, Romanians and Hungarians, seemed to agree ‘Southerners’ are faster and
noisier. Romanians, however, point out this is just a different life style.
When I go to Bucharest I keep asking myself ‘What are these people arguing
about?’ and then I realize it's just their way of speaking.’(Cluj, Romanian

Peasants travel so little they can hardly have enough material to create stereotypes, so
they tend to generalize usually one experience (a wedding they attended or any other
single trip) and the generalization is either positive or negative, as the experience. The
overall image of both groups is that Romanians are warmer, more communicative, while

Hungarians are more serious, distant, proud. An interesting problem with both
Romanians and Hungarians is that in low-educated milieus ‘nationalist’ is a positive
attribute. When asked ‘Who is more nationalistic, Romanians or Hungarians’ the
answer was ‘We both are…. We all care about tradition here in Transylvania’. The ‘bad
nationalists’ are in fact called ‘extremists’ and both sides agreed they can be met
among Romanians and among Hungarians as well. ‘There is no garden without its
weeds’(peasants, Miercurea Niraj, Mures county).
Romanians envy Hungarians for their stronger national awareness:
Wherever one of them is born he is a Hungarian, and he will be a Hungarian in
200 years still.
Romanians have less personality, they're more conformist, and they don't stand
like Hungarians. (Romanian workers, Cluj; peasants, Livezi-Harghita)
Hungarians agree with this view, both workers in Tg. Secuiesc and old men in Sf
Gheorghe mentioning the case of Romanian Moldovans ‘who no longer admit they're
Romanians’. For the Romanian Greek Catholics this is extremely shameful and
Romanians in Hungary were assimilated. Look at the Romanians who go to
United States, they become American, while the Hungarians are still Hungarian.
It's the same with the millions who were Greek Catholic when Communists
forbid it and who became Orthodox without any problem.
The Greek Catholic group displayed the attitudes of a minority persecuted group, which
despised Romanians (with an intensity close to self-hate) and resented and feared
Hungarians. They complained the Orthodox Church (which is in fact the state church,
and was close to the Communist regime), in order not to give them back the churches
confiscated in Communist times, was spreading rumors of them as being ‘Hungarians’.
One more reason to be nationalist: to differentiate themselves from Hungarians. A very
difficult and psychologically uncomfortable position.
Not only Southerners are considered ‘uncivilized’ by Transylvanians, especially by
Hungarians. So are newcomers, who are blamed with all the interethnic problems and
intolerance, both in Cluj and Tg. Mures, towns where Romanians were a minority in the
19th century and which have now an important Romanian population (70 % in Cluj, 50
% in Tg. Mures).
These newcomers who were brought here to shut us down when factories were
built in the seventies. They know nothing of our history, our common history. They

don't understand why streets carry so many Hungarian names. They've lived only
among Romanians so when they hear us speaking Hungarian with our children in
the streets they feel insulted’ (Cluj, Hungarian workers).
The temptation to blame it all on newcomers ‘people who were not raised here, in the
spirit of Transylvanian tolerance’ (Hungarian intellectuals, Tg. Mures) is indeed very
great, and academic milieus such as the Babes Bolyai University faculty members tend
to endorse this very simple explanation despite any lack of evidence. Our experience
points to the contrary: old inhabitants of Transylvania, therefore locals, tend to be more
intolerant and distrustful towards the other ethnic group, regardless if they are
Romanian or Hungarian. Both our third age groups (Romanian Greek-Catholics, Cluj,
and Hungarians, Sf. Gheorghe) displayed fierce nationalism, having their personal
memories to support their prejudices.
Hungarian intellectuals believe in a sort of Transylvanian ‘identity’ or at least
‘specificity’, although they admit this is not crosscutting the much stronger national
We people here changed states and were alternatively majorities and minorities,
we're more used to the ‘otherness’.Ciuc, middle-class).
But there is also a dark-side of the Transylvanian identity.
We here have a permanent feeling a danger, while people in Hungary never
think they have to preserve their language, their culture, their identity. Also the
West got there before getting here, we're here in a sort of province, protected by
Western influences’ (Tg. Mures, intellectuals).
Both groups tend to consider the cohesiveness of the other group as superior to their
own. Romanians are actually scared of the fact that ‘Hungarians are more united’, while
Hungarians perceive that ‘Romanians care about each other more, they help each other
more than we do’.
There are actually two different types of ‘unity’ perceived here. What Romanians fear is
the political cohesiveness of the Hungarian group, much superior in fact to the
Romanian group? For instance, in Tirgu Mures, although the two groups are equally
numerous the mayor is Hungarian because Hungarians vote according to the ethnic
criteria with the Hungarian Alliance (DAHR), while Romanians divide their votes
politically among several Romanian parties (Nationalists, Socialists and Christian-
Democrats mainly). The distinctive group conscience of the Hungarians as a minority
scares the Romanians, who, although they form the majority, are not organized as a

self-conscious group. The few constituents of ‘Vatra Romaneasca' ('The Romanian
Cradle') the Romanian national preservation association are attracted on the basis of
this fear. Their mobilization is a reaction against the Hungarian mobilization, and is
constantly used by Romanian nationalist politicians. In simple words, here is a
description of this ‘mirroring’ mobilization mechanism in the words of a Romanian
peasant from the Cluj County:

I have this good neighbor and friend of mine, Hungarian, and we get along fine,
only she says: ‘You, Mariutza, I can understand everything except one: why is
your husband in the Vatra. Then I tell her: you go with my husband to Vatra and
I'll go with yours to DAHR.
As a physician from Tg. Mures told this author back in 1990, a few weeks before the
violent clashes in Tg. Mures:

You people from the South don't have to worry since the pattern in Transylvania
goes as follows: once Hungarians start to organize Romanians follow behind.
The ‘unity’ of Romanians as perceived by Hungarians is very different. It is mostly a
form of sociability, an increased participation to the others’ life, which is perceived as
unity. A majority which is divided and has no clear direction is weaker than a
homogenous, goal-oriented minority (Moscovici : 1982) and somehow Romanians
perceive that, and that makes them feel , in their own words ‘complexes’ towards the
Hungarian group.

They never give up.

They pursue their goal like we're not around. (Romanian peasants, workers,
When the Hungarian classes wanted to separate the school and to send us,
Romanian classes, to some building to be found, Hungarians from my class who
had learned in Romanian until then, sided with them, although we have been
colleagues for years, we were in the same basketball team and they would have
to leave with us. (Romanian student, Babes University, Cluj)
Other Romanians interviewed pitied the Hungarians for this ‘unity’ which they perceived
as a perpetual state of mobilization.

It is tiresome to always respect the commands you are given in church, the
place where all the important commandments for the Hungarian community are
given. It's tiresome to go to a show, which you don't understand. It's an effort to
be in a constant state of mobilization. The unity of Hungarians is imposed from
upside down and it needs a lot of effort to keep It.(Romanian intellectual, Tg.
This exceptional state of mobilization is confirmed by Hungarians. Here is an
impressive statement from the Hungarian intellectuals’ group in Tg.Mures, a comment
on the violence outburst of 1990, which ended with dozens of severely injured people :

In a way I’m glad it happened, since back then in 1990 there was a lot of trust in
the development of the Romanian democracy among Hungarians, People were
confident and off their guard,for the first time Romanians were a positive
example, and I am sure a fast assimilation would have followed. When the
assimilation is not forced, it’s more dangerous. (Tg. Mures, Hungarian
On the other hand, Romanians cannot admit Hungarians keep their distance from fear
of being assimilated (see demographic statistics below) and complain of constant
rejection :

Instead of having a Hungarian girl marry a Romanian boy the parents would
rather see it dead.(Viisoara, peasants).
Hungarians stick together at work and after work, and by speaking only
Hungarian they exclude the Romanians. (Cluj, workers).
Table 3 about here

The Romanian students at Babes-Bolyai were concerned Romanians and Hungarians

will become two totally separate groups with the separation of universities and, as they

We won't even go for a drink together. It will happen what happened with
schools : Hungarians in mixed schools where Hungarian-taught classes coexist
with Romanian taught-classes know more Romanian and have Romanian

friends, while Hungarians in pure Hungarian schools have no Romanian friends
at all.

The concern of losing ties with the Romanian community was not present at the
Hungarian students of the Babes-Bolyai University, who considered nothing will change
if they separate the universities completely (students' group, Cluj, May 1997).
Communication seems to be the main concern of Romanians, while fear of being
assimilated is the main concern of Hungarians. Mixed families are an exception in this
picture of the two ethnies living alongside each other without any real communication
between, but mixed families also tend to get separated along ethnic lines :
My brother is a Romanian Greek-Catholic priest and he married a Hungarian.
They have two children, one is a Greek Catholic after his father and the other
one is Romano-Catholic after his mother. On the New Year night, the father with
the Orthodox child watches the Romanian program on one TVs, while the
mother with the other watches DUNA-TV (the Budapest satellite channel) in
another room, all night long’ (Cluj, workers).
Asked if they would approve a mixed marriage the peasants in Viisoara said 'Oh, yes,
only they wouldn't be happy, families will make them split apart sooner or later'.
As paradoxical as nationalism is the perception of the others' religious behavior. In low-
educated Hungarian groups Romanians were perceived as ‘more religious’ because,
allegedly, of the more impressive rituals of the Orthodox Church. However, in the same
Hungarian groups some members considered the Orthodox religion as ‘more recent’
than Catholicism and ‘more primitive’. In the group of intellectuals we were told
‘Romanians look more religious than us, because our religion is so much simpler than
theirs (meaning rituals)’. In the Romanian groups, however, Hungarians were
considered more religious, because they ‘do what they are taught at the church’ and
because of the large number of associations connected with the church, non-existent in
the Orthodox Church. Romanians feel their religious participation is more formal,
although many told us they disagree that in Hungarian churches ‘they do so much
politics, priests tell them whom to vote and even raise money for DAHR’ (workers,
peasants, Cluj). Peasants are, on the contrary, inclined to say Hungarians are less
religious because they work on holidays, when the Romanians take several free days
(for instance, on Easter). Romanians don't work even during Hungarian holidays, while
the opposite doesn't happen frequently.

More interesting than stereotypes of each other are stereotypes of the difference
between the two groups.
When my granddaughter upsets me I'm able not to talk to her for two days.
Romanians are not so, they do not keep anger long.(Hungarian intellectual, Tg.
Romanians need less than we do to feel satisfied. They watch TV and they feel
happy, while we are concerned by one or by other and we can't get over it so
easy. We Hungarians are so deadly serious. (Miercurea Ciuc, middle-class
The importance of this perceived difference of character and its impact on the normal
social competition was excellent put by a Hungarian trainer of a handball team in
Miercurea Ciuc :

The evening before the match with the Romanian team I send my boys jogging
and then put them to bed early stressing the importance of the next day match.
The Romanian team occupies the porch of the hotel, smokes a little, drinks a lot
of beer, dances in the near-by disco, goes to bed at two in the morning and the
next day we are better than they but they win.
The ‘objective' disadvantage of belonging to a minority group is here transformed into a
‘subjective’ disadvantage, perceived as already internalized in the behavior of the two
groups. This exemple highlights the Hungarian usual perception that Romanians do
better with less effort, that Hungarians receive less gratifications than they deserve and
fortifies the drive to create a separate society where competition with Romanians is
excluded for ever and Hungarians will no longer be cheated of what is rightfully theirs.
The most telling fact is, perhaps, that a social representation of nations living like a
family within Romania is simply missing, so difficult it is to imagine an in-group including
both Romanians and Hungarians. When asked ‘Were Romania a family, how would it
look like’ most Hungarian groups told us they cannot conceive it as a family ‘or we
would be the intruders' (intellectual, Miercurea Ciuc). Even Romanians had difficulties.
‘It would be like a mother-in-law with the daughter-in-law’ (classical image of conflict in
the Romanian folk-stories) (peasants, Cluj). At the other extreme is this beautiful
representation of a young Romanian student in Cluj:

The father should be a German, the Hungarian the cook and the Romanian
should take care of the house. Now it's not working because the father is
Romanian, not German.
Germans are the most admired by Romanians of all national minorities (IMAS: 1996).
Group participants also stressed the difference they perceived between Germans and

Germans never push like Hungarians. It's a terrible pity they left (Romanian
intellectual, Cluj).
Germans are loyal, unlike Hungarians. Watch their German show on Romanian
TV. It's fairly decent, while at the Hungarian show they say one thing and they
translate another( Romanian workers, Cluj)
In the same time we should not forget the modern dinasty of Romania was of German
(Hohenzollern) descent. Although far from perfect, the life of different nationalities in the
kingdom of Romania is viewed retrospectively with some nostalgy by both groups, as
showed mainly in our low-educated participants to group interviews. The King is seen
as an arbiter who kept balance and peace. Such an arbiter seems to miss today,
although in polls both communities agree President Emil Constantinescu is the political
character who did most to improve relations among the two groups.

To conclude, Hungarians of Romania emerged from the post-Communist period with a

national identity enforced by the comparison with Hungarians in Hungary (they see
themselves as ‘better Hungarians’ than those) and frustrated because of the lack of
national solidarity among the ‘unique Magyar nation’. The exposure to an enlarged
communicational environment only increased the group’s desire ‘to preserve its
separate identity, and this is further reinforced by an interaction between the ‘inside’
and ‘outside’ attitudes and patterns of social behavour’ (Tajfel: 1981 :315). National, not
regional identity seems to be the main concern of Romanians also, as they are
preoccupied with the alleged Hungarians lack of openness towards them and loyalty
towards the Romanian state.). Romanians and Hungarians from Transylvania do try to
see each other objectively: but the harder they try, the more they notice their difference.


4.1. Motivation; Theoretical assumptions

Nationalism would be unconceivable without history. Perceptions of the common history by
nationals feed national identity, pride, solidarity, and attitudes towards other national groups.
If history is invented or not it matters little. What is important is that the need for a historical
identity is there, as a part of a need for a positive social identity. History is positive social
identity that already passed the most difficult test: the test of time. It is not the sequence of
particular events, however outstanding they might be, which makes a nation, but the
perception by nationals that something specific to their group endured along history, during
times of hardship and golden ages as well. In other words, it is not the American Revolution
in itself that makes Americans feel proud, but the inherently American values people perceive
were at stake then. It is not Kossovo as a specific event or location- historically Kossovo was
a defeat, and demographically Serbs are no longer a majority for more than one century- but
the whole self-image of the Serbs as defenders of Christianity that makes Serb people so
enraged over the autonomy of Albanian Muslims in that territory. Defending a specific version
of history is seen as enraged nationalism, but in fact it is rational behavior: people defend the
consistency of their identity, of their self-image. Individuals may see themselves as
unimportant or even as failures, but few people see their nation and history this way: usually
national ideology has some convenient explanation- historical, of course- if that particulate
nation is not doing very well at the time. Positive social identity compensates for low
individual self-esteem, so people really feel the need to have one. In any event, history and
national identity are so deep interacted that telling them apart is difficult sometimes. Let us
take, for instance, Hutchinson and Smith's definition of ethnicity, and we shall see that at
least three of the six elements are strongly related to history, that is:

1. A myth of common ancestry, a myth rather than a fact, a myth that includes the idea of a
common origin in time and place and that gives an ethnie a sense of fictive kinship (Horowitz,
1985: chapter 2)
2. Shared historical memories, or better, shared memories of a common past or pasts,
including heroes, events, and their commemoration

3. A link with a homeland, not necessarily in physical occupation by the ethnie, only its
symbolic attachment to the ancestral land, as with Diaspora peoples. (Smith and Hutchinson:
1996; 7)

History is directly connected to these three, but has some connection to the other elements of
this definition such as the common culture and the sense of solidarity as well. It is oral history
which preserves and shapes in the collective memory of ethnies the social representations of
common ancestry, founding myths, homeland, and makes an essential contribution to the
widespread feelings of sharing a common culture and experiencing solidarity in the present
on the model of the past. Written history, as an instrument of national self-awareness or even
nation building is equally important, as studies of Eugen Weber (1976) and Eric Hobsbawm
(1983), among others, proved brilliantly. Ethnicity is essentially ‘oriented to the past, to the
origins and ancestors of the community and its historical formation, including ‘its golden age’
(Hutchinson and Smith, 1996: 7) History is therefore an essential element of socialization in
the framework of a national culture.
I shall discuss here social representations of the history and the past. My choice of terms
needs some specifications. Scholars and journalists use commonly Maurice Halbwachs’
notion of ‘collective memory’. In Hallwachs’ (1992) theory memories are said to be formed
and organized in a collective context. Radley had furthermore added that people’s way of
remembering the past should be dependent of their relationship to their community (Radley:
1990), while classical psychoanalytical theory considers people repress inconvenient
memories. While I consider these theoretical foundations essential for the understanding of
this research, I however use the notion ‘collective memory’ a bit differently, in order to be able
to distinguish both the source of recollections and their sharing by the group. Therefore I
make a distinction between ‘social representations of history’ and ‘collective memory’, and
another between ‘past’ and ‘history’. I mean by ‘past’ here only events from the recent
history, which were experienced by the subject directly and have in the same time enough
social relevance to have generated a social representation. By ‘history’ I mean that period
placed out of the reach of subject’s experience, and known to him only via other sources,
either ancestors or other more or less specialized persons. Social representations of history
have a double source: on one part the authentic experience of a community propagated by
collective memories of families or larger groups, on the other hand representations and
beliefs acquired in the socialization process (school education, mass media, cinema). To
preserve some collective memories in a community it is necessary that the family and the

group can survive in the same environment through social and political change and
discontinuity. Where this failed to happen (as in the case of deplaced populations, immigrants
from rural to urban areas) it is very likely social representations will be influenced more by
outside sources and the public discourse on history. A previous research in Romanian
villages of Muntenia showed Communist modernization, and especially the process of ‘village
systematization’ managed to ‘erase’ collective memory, now reduced and confined to the
Communist years (Mungiu: 1995)
It is already evident that by ‘collective memory’ I mean here not the whole set of
representations on the past shared by the members of a community, but only the
recollections socially reconstructed on the basis of some direct experience of the community
on the length of two generations at outmost (living memory). Social representations of the
past and mainly of history are, however, due more to sources other than the family/group,
being shared by large collectivities such as ethnic group/nation. We are not in any event
interested in their original ‘authenticity’ or lack of it: we are interested in their instrumental
aspect mainly, that is, their role in forming and maintaining current attitudes and behavior.
The topic of history is constantly absent from sociological and anthropological research in
Transylvania, with a few notable exceptions (Verdery: 1983; Mitu: 1997). It is quite natural,
since anthropologists are less concerned with actual history, historians, even historians of
mentalities, limit themselves to documents and do not go into field research, while
sociologists are bound by clients and tend to measure only present and future-oriented
In our group interviews participants considered discussions on history a natural and organic
part of the larger Romanian-Hungarian topic. In the everyday discussion frequent historical
themes are invoked, such as continuity of Romanians in Transylvania, injustices suffered by
Romanian in the Austro-Hungarian empire, historical injustice done by the Paris Treaty to the
Hungarian nation, and so on. Some of those themes, such as treatment of the ever-changing
minority group by the ever-changing majority ethnic group during the 2nd World War feed
continuously historical propaganda on each historical anniversary, mostly on the Romanian
but also on the Hungarian side. Appealing to historical resentments to blame difficulties of the
transition during the past seven years was a constant policy of the Romanian post-
communist governments (Gallagher: 1995; Mungiu: 1995). The 1990 violent clashes of Tg.
Mures were also fueled, among others, by the Romanians discontent with the mass
celebration by the Hungarians of the March 15 1848 anniversary, date considered by the
Romanians as frustrating for their history.

4.2. Two versions of history
It is perhaps not uncommon for a territory claimed by two or more countries to have a
disputed history. Transylvania is however an unique case: the historiography of both
countries was dedicated in modern and contemporary times primarily to the task of
proving the legitimacy- or lack of it – of Transylvania’s belonging to one state or the
The Romanian history, starting with Enlightenment, considered the Romanians as direct
heirs of the Roman colonists in Dacia and of their mixed marriages with the native
Dacian population. The homeland of Daco-Romans, the Latin-speaking population
resulted from the Roman occupation, was Transylvania, where the two capitals, of native
Dacia and Roman Dacia are to be found. The Roman emperor Aurelian (276)
abandoned Dacia, which had become a difficult position to keep in front of barbarian
invasions. The Romanian historiography claims that soldiers and clerks only left with the
official retreat, colonists, farmers, and families with children remaining in Dacia. There is
little archeological evidence to support this assumed presence of Daco-Latins, at least a
massive presence, in Transylvania, but there is little trace of them south of Danube
either. Linguistic arguments are richer, but some are also interpretable in various ways.
The fact is that the first census in Transylvania made by Emperor Joseph II (1791)
discovered the Romanian ethnic group to be the largest. In the other two provinces
Wallachia and Moldova Romanians also formed a large majority.
By 1791 Transylvania could almost qualify as an ethnic-ranked society. Feudal lords
were, with few exceptions, only Hungarian. The urban middle class was formed by
germans (Saxons). Szekelys were free landowners, performing a military function
(defending the border) Almost the entire Romanian population and some Hungarians
were serfs.
Romanian historiography claims that Hungarians arriving in the eleventh century as a
migratory people defeated the local scarce chieftains, who were Romanians, and
became for almost 900 years the upper class. Bloody peasants' revolts combined during
Middle Ages this social and ethnic element. At the end of the First World War, a war in
which Romanians sided with the winners, Transylvania was occupied by Romanian
troops; some of them made of Transylvanians who deserted the Austro-Hungarian army.
The popular assembly of Blaj proclaimed the unification of Transylvania with Romania
after the consent of German and Hungarian communities was asked and granted under

certain conditions. By that time Romanians made of Transylvania's inhabitants more
than all the other ethnic groups taken together (2.830.040 of 5.263.602, 53, 8 % in 1910
– source Livezeanu: 1994: 135). The Trianon treaty ratified the unification of
Transylvania with Romania. In 1940, after more years of Hungarian official revisionist
policy, and the defeat of France, fascist Germany and Italy decided to return to Hungary
northern Transylvania in a decision which was labeled by the Romanian historians as
the ‘Vienna Diktat’, and is mentioned by the Hungarian historians as the’ First Vienna
Award’. Romanian historians also claim the take over of Northern Transylvania created
the opportunity of massacres of Romanians in several villages, as some proof was
The Hungarian historiography tells, of course, a different story. According to the majority
of Hungarian historians, Hungarians, at their arrival in the 11th Century found a
Transylvania that was mostly uninhabited except by small groups of Slavs. They started
to colonize it, imported Germans and Szekelys to build cities and guard frontiers and
created the Transylvanian civilization. Romanians, originally very few and living in the
mountains, started to come in large numbers crossing the Carpathian passes from the
13th Century. When Hungarians fell defending their country and Europe in the Mohacs
battle against the Turks in 1426 the Hungarian State ceased to exist for almost 150
years and the cradle of the Hungarian civilization remained the autonomous
Transylvanian Principality, subordinated to the Ottoman Empire. After that the
demographic situation started to change quickly, due to the continuos immigration of
Romanians, to their reproductive capacities, and to the great number of Hungarian men
who died in the war against Turks. Hungarian historians do not claim Romanians came
from the south of Carpathians, but from the South of Danube, where, allegedly, all Daco-
Romans retreated after Aurelian's decision to leave Dacia. Evidence consists in
predominance of Slavic names of rivers in Transylvania, scarcity of archeological proof
showing Romanian presence during the ‘dark millennium’ in Transylvania, and presence
of ‘Wallachs’, who are also called ‘Aromanians’ in small ethnic groups scattered all over
Balkans, in Macedonian, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and so on.
With few exceptions, historians in both countries built cohesive versions of history,
carefully leaving out all that could contradict or leave some doubt on their theories. Few
attempts were made to bridge the gap and even recently an attempt of the Open Society
Institute to create a common ‘History of Transylvania’ failed. In both countries

Transylvania and its history is considered a central issue in the national formation
Revising the two versions, Hugh Seton Watson concludes:
These rival theories are of course inspired by nationalist motives, and neither can be proved by
adequate evidence. It seems more probable that considerable numbers of Latin-speaking people
remained throughout the centuries in these lands than that they all disappeared and a completely
new lot took their place a thousand years later. This does not of course exclude the probability that
there was large-scale immigration also at the later date. In any case, certainty will never be
attained. What concerns us in this work is that already before 1400 people speaking this language
formed a majority of the population in Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania, and that from them
emerged the Romanian nation. (1977: p 175-176)
The American anthropologist Katherine Verdery humorously complained about the
difficulties of doing some ‘value-free’ work in Transylvania, since most topics touch the
explosive Romanian-Hungarian dispute. As she puts it:
Transylvania’s history is one of the most politically explosive topics in any
conversation with Romanians and Magyars (Hungarians) because both countries
claim or have claimed rights of sovereignty over the region. The more I have read
on Transylvanian history, the more convinced I have become that an objective
rendering of this history is almost impossible.
I am not concerned to whether Transylvania ‘really belongs’ to either Romania or
Hungary – a point I have had to argue with countless people, from Romanian
villagers to Budapest writers to Hungarian car salesmen in Baltimore. (Verdery:
1983: p.19).

Neither am I.. But it is not easy, as we shall see.

4.3. Social representations of the founding myth; moderates, exclusivists and pragmatics
This absolute division between the two national schools of history was perfectly mirrored by
our focus groups. First, regardless of the knowledge of history people assess or actually
have, their opinions on history are nevertheless strong. After an initial defensive reaction met
in most of the groups ‘History is the business of historians’ or ‘let's leave that to historians
and politicians, we know only what our parents told us’ everybody was aware of the core of
its national theory. This is not surprising for Romanians, because in Ceausescu's last years
national indoctrination rivaled Communist indoctrination to be finally synthesized in an unique

doctrine (see Verdery: 1978). But this good knowledge is rather surprising in Hungarians,
who, even in Hungarian schools, learned history from Romanian Communist textbooks. An
exception can be made for the counties that were part of the Hungarian Autonomous Region
from 1949 to 1964. A separate Hungarian history textbook circulated in this area and
allegedly it carried some of the Hungarian version of history. During that period Romanians
were also compelled by the Soviet Union to accept what was called ‘the Roller theory’ which
claimed Romanians are, in fact, Slavs, therefore a part of the big Slavic family. The theory
corroborated well with the Hungarian claim that it were Slavs, not Romanians that had been
found by the first Hungarians at their descent in Transylvania The excellent knowledge by
Hungarians of their dissident theory shows the effectiveness of a parallel socialization
process, helped by the proximity of Hungary (Radio, and more recently Hungarian Television
can be received almost everywhere in Transylvania).
All the Hungarians in our group, with one notable exception (a worker in a group in Cluj
immediately singled and labeled as ‘traitor’ by two more radical members of the group)
consider the Romanian founding myth a ‘pure myth’ and Hungarians the first to have
settled in Transylvania. This belief is expressed in various ways, according to the degree
of education, and displays several nuances as well. As group participants stated
(different paragraphs indicate different speakers):
The conviction of the Hungarian intellectuals is that the Daco-Roman theory is
wrong, the immigration theory [of Romanians] is the best of two. We believe that
in 17th-18th centuries the number of the two was balanced, but afterwards, from
various reasons, the number of the Romanians grew faster and more than
Hungarians. We believe more Hungarians than Romanians lived in the Middle
Ages in Transylvania and it is very strange the Romanian official version of history
doesn't accept that. We also believe Hungarians were the first settlers here,
although none of the two theories has enough proof’ (intellectuals, Sf. Gheorghe,
county of Covasna).
Everybody agrees about the date of our arrival, only the arrival of Romanians is
controversial. What matters is to bring some light here, especially for the
Romanians, who had only a source for their history, while we had two.
(Intellectuals, Cluj)
What I know is that the history of the Romanians which was taught to us in the
school is not true and I think this is a punishment for the Romanians not to know
their real history, that is what I think.

Hungarians came here first, when here was a desert, an empty large space. Burial
grounds show that, nothing is older than 11th century, each village has its history
on who carved the first stone, and it is always Hungarians who did.
The first wave of Hungarians came here three centuries before Jesus Christ, the
second around the year 400 and the third after the year 900. (Workers' group,
Tg. Secuiesc, county of Covasna).
The latest myth is not original, but is a theory, less important and accepted, of a Hungarian historian,
somehow picked by this low-educated member of our group, who couldn't recall where he first heard it.
The other members of this group, although some looked skeptical, did not argue with him on what even
when asked if they share this view. Attributions tend to have quite a complex elaboration on this matter:

I think Romanians don't know their history because they didn't want to know it. They invented their
whole history, which is a fake, in order the hide something shameful connected with their birth
And what might that be? (Moderator)
The Romanians come from Romans convicted and deported to live here, their ancestors were
criminals, no wonder they fake their history. (Lower middle class, Ciuc, County of Harghita).

This is another minor theory of a Hungarian writer. The woman who told us that slightly disapproved by
other members of the Hungarian group, was the only one in the group to believe Romanians were the first
settlers, but only under these dubious circumstances. The story was consistent with her own traumatic
history: born in the Szekelys area, she decided to leave this homogenous Hungarian region and ‘to
mingle’. She went to school to Cluj where she enlisted to the Romanian-English Faculty. She had serious
problems with her Romanian language that was faulty and she claims professors constantly told her she
should have tried the Hungarian section instead. She was unable to graduate, returned to the Szekelys
region and took a job she despised in the private sector because she didn't own a university diploma. She
expressed bitter frustration for having tried to ‘become Romanian’ and having failed. Her attribution was
constructed as a defense. She initially ‘had bought’ the idea that Romanians are heirs of Romans, a noble
people, nobler than Hungarians - but after feeling rejected by them she could not reject it altogether: so
the ‘good Romans’ became ‘bad Romans’- convicts of the Roman Empire. The rest of the group, partisans
of the ‘classical’ Hungarian theory, listened skeptically to this person.
Mobilization against the Romanian theory was spontaneous and almost general in all our group
interviews. The basic idea of the Hungarian group is that not only is it the first to have settled, but also
were the only civilized population until the import of German settlers.

I know when Hungarians became Christian; I don't know when Romanians
became Christian.
We have a saying about that, put the man on the tomb of his grandfather and
you'll find out who was here earlier.
Why are so few Dacian words in the present Romanian language? How could a
Dacian mother fail to teach her children the Dacian language? (Hungarian group,
intellectuals, Tg. Mures)
Romania should have been called Dacia if the Romanian theory were true.
Romanians are not Dacian descendants. The Dacians were assimilated by the
Romans and left this country. They are descendants of Slavs, Romans and
Romanians came here around 1700, in villages around Huedin the first
Romanian names appear after 1700. (Hungarians workers, Cluj)

Romanians, on the other side, are strong believers in the ‘Daco-Roman theory, although
they are persuaded ‘Hungarians will never accept it’. In the Cluj urban groups, opinions
were far more nuanced.

It looks like Romanians were here forever. We are 21 millions, they are less than
2 million. (Cluj, Romanian intellectuals)
If you learn Romanian history you will say Romanians are the first settlers, if you
go to a Hungarian school, they'll tell you Hungarians. (Romanian Workers, Cluj).
This ‘relativism’ disappears in lower educated groups:
History says the Thracians were the first, than the Dacians. We were born here
from Dacians; we didn't immigrate. We grew up here; we never attacked anyone.
The Hungarians attacked us, together with Russians and Germans. They were a
migratory people and invaded Panonia, not us. And now they want it all.
Romanians were the first. Then came the migratory peoples and attacked them,
shamed them. (Romanian peasants, village in the Cluj county)
Why should we have left Dacia and returned later? And would they let us in like
this, without a fight? All their theory is nonsense. (Romanian workers, Cluj).
Before discussing the importance the groups attribute to their historical theories I’d like to point out a few
things. First, we should notice the self-assurance and superiority of Hungarians when it comes to this
topic. They ‘feel sorry’ for Romanians who don’t know their real history, unlike them who do and have

evidence to support it in their immediate environment (such as tombstones). We did not fall upon any
image of the Romanian as ‘immigrant', despite the overspread belief in this theory among Hungarians. On
the contrary, Romanians have largely shared images of Hungarians as invaders:
They came on horses and they brought a lot of illnesses, because people who
travel a lot usually bring illnesses they take from all places. (Romanian workers,
peasants, Cluj)
Regardless the historical truths, Hungarians display more confidence than the Romanians, who react
defensively and tend to distribute their group in the role of the victim.
We can consider both representations are actually attributions, trying to 'give a meaning'
to the Middle Age hierarchy, turned into contemporary prejudices. Hungarians try to
avoid the guilt of their superior status by invoking their previous settling and their
'civilization'. Romanians try to justify their inferior position implying they were violently
forced into it by ' migratory barbarians '.
In our poll Transylvanian Romanians and Hungarians could choose one of the three
1. Exclusive nationalism (whoever settled first has more rights and the others have to
play by his rules (first two answers)
2. Moderate nationalism (they consider historically proven their group was the first to
settle, but that group rights should be equal
3. Pragmatism (they rule out any association between the moment of the settling and the
group rights).
Figure 4 (cahart) comes about here
1. Only 23% of Romanians and no Hungarians chose this alternative. Almost a quarter
of Romanian Hungarians therefore considers they should have superior rights to other
ethnic groups due to their first arrival. In other words, this group sees itself as a first-
class category of citizens and the others as 'lesser rights' groups. Hungarians although
so articulate in focus groups about their historical theory chose overwhelmingly the
alternative 3. Since they have been numerically inferior in Transylvania for more than
two hundred years they do not dare to challenge the Romanian superiority.
2. 32 % of Romanians and 15 % of Hungarians are convinced their theory is just, but do
not think this should affect the rights of the other groups. 9% of the Hungarians and
almost no Romanians (1.5-%) accept the other group's historical theory.

3. 71.8 % Hungarians and 39 % Romanians (the relative majority) refuse to associate in
any form the national birth theory with the distribution of rights, choosing the alternative
that rights should be equal regardless of when the settlement took place.
To sum up, only a quarter of the Romanian population in Transylvania identifies with
nationalist slogans such as 'Hungarians are tolerated by the hospitality of Romanians in
Transylvania'. Another third might feel provoked by Hungarian nationalistic slogans that
Hungarians are the first and the founders of the Hungarian civilization. The Hungarian
community feels disadvantaged by the use of this topic under any circumstances so they
choose the most defensive alternative, although group interviews suggest many more
are strong believers in their theory.
The displayed attitudes in group interviews towards the importance of the national birth
theory were either denial or minimalism. Common sense was the prevailing attitude:
What matters now is how to make a happier life for our children, either Romanian
or Hungarian, than we had ourselves. (Workers’ group, Romanians, Cluj).
Our main problem now is that we get poorer and our managers get richer daily by
stealing, regardless if they are Romanians and Hungarians. (Workers’ group,
Hungarians, Tg. Secuiesc).
This is a very primitive manipulation of politicians who want us to get at each
others' throats; I'm not interested who came here first. (Tg. Mures, Hungarians,
Mobilization appears immediately, however, when the other group uses the argument:
When I am told: speak Romanian, because you are on Romanian land I get mad
(Ciuc, Hungarian middle class group)
It is important only when we're told we are the immigrants or guests here, and
that Romanians were here forever and we came later. This is as much my
homeland as it is for Romanians (Cluj, workers, Hungarians)
I hate being told my ancestors came from Asia. All right, if this is the case, then I
am proud they survived as a nation after such a long way. (Ciuc, Hungarian
group, middle class).
I am not interested who came here first, or only to the extent that I consider
myself at home and somebody might consider me a stranger. (Ciuc,
This comes up only when a group wants to stripe the other of its rights’
(Hungarians, Tg. Mures).

The logical sequence of thought in both Romanian and Hungarian 'pragmatics' runs as
1. It doesn't matter who settled here fist, we're all people, now we're here together, so
we have to make the best out of this, only politicians like to make a big fuss about this
2. However we were here first and the others migrated here, then managed somehow
(by higher reproduction rates, Hungarians on Romanians; by imposing themselves as
masters and making the rule, Romanians on Hungarians) to become stronger than we
3. That's why it matters we are not immigrants here, but natives, so we do not have
lesser rights
4. So when I see it matters to the others then it starts to really matter for me too.

Both groups seem today to resort to their national theory not in order to dominate the
other group, but to protect themselves- they were tried so hard and so often on the basis
of this argument. They become immediately defensive when it comes to it. Although both
groups deny the national theories are important, both are reluctant to admit it was not
their group to settle first and their theory is as relative as the other group's. The only
outspoken groups on the matter were Romanian Greek-Catholics and peasants of
Viisoara, Hungarian old men and partly workers in Tirgu Secuiesc.

How can it not be important who settled first, dear lady? It's like you stay in the
house and you have to share the house, and the person you share with, it is
important who is he, what is his culture, his behavior, if you can get along with him
by the same rules. (Worker, Tg. Secuiesc).
It is very important because we were the first here. (Greek-Catholics)
It is important because who came first has more rights and decides what rights to
share with the newcomers. (Hungarian old men, Sf. Gheorghe)
The topic is in fact a major producer of discriminative representations and attributions
even among pragmatics. The way the two theories are built they can hardly fail to be
discriminative. Representations of this type can be grouped in four major recurrent
1. The reproductive potential of Romanians
Do you know that saying? The smarter people are fewer children they have. The
Hungarian overlord had only one heir, while the Romanian serfs had ten, and this

is how Romanians ended by outnumbering us in Transylvania'. (Tg. Secuiesc,
Hungarian workers)
My old man told me they believed in this booklet which used to circulate in the
forties that Romanians multiply as rabbits. (Hungarian intellectual, Tg. Mures).
The issue of the Romanians higher reproductive potential came spontaneously in every
conversation with the Hungarians. More educated Hungarians, however, tend to blame
themselves rather than Romanians.
It is our fault, we don't have enough children, that's why our number decreased
by the years (Hungarian intellectuals, Cluj and Sf Gheorghe)
2. The lack of 'civilization' of the Romanian group
Hungarians tend to think of their culture as superior. Some apologize when stating that,
others see no need, but it is an overspread belief their civilization in Transylvania is older
and better, a belief enforced by the scarcity of Romanian monuments when compared to
the Hungarian ones.
I somehow understand the Romanians; we have so many tombstones and
churches to show while they have nothing. (Hungarian intellectual, Cluj)
Here in town we have a 14th century church made by a Romanian grof ('lord')
who married a Hungarian, but that's about it. If I look around in Transylvania,
what do I see? Castles in Deva, in Arad, in Hunedoara, everywhere. In Hungary
and Austria they have even more castles, as you go towards West, is it? But
south of Carpathians, in the other Romania, there are no castles. I know
Romanians say Turks tore them down, but the fact remains.
The old men in Sfintu Gheorghe synthesized this argument perfectly:
We are the first because there is overwhelming evidence of this fact, but even
assuming we are not we're the only state-building nation in Transylvania and had been
the only civilization for centuries.
3.Hungarians as oppressors
This is a widespread stereotype among Romanians, inside and outside Transylvania as
well, since history textbooks and major Romanian literature pieces by Transylvanian
authors such as Liviu Rebreanu promoted this image. Romanians resorted to it as the
obvious defense when discussing about the large number of monuments Hungarians
have in Transylvania.
The Romanian civilization was ‘a wooden one’, as old churches in Maramures still
show. Where Romanians were richer they built stone churches, like the one in

Densus, made of old Roman carved stones and older than Hungarian churches.
Romanians were serfs at the Hungarian lord (grof). How could Romanians build
stone churches?
Romanians weren't allowed to live in cities, they weren't allowed to build churches.
No wonders there are few.’ (Romanian intellectuals, Cluj).
If Hungarians do have more monuments, Romanians claim this was done at the
expense of Romanians, with their work and on their land. Historically, the Romanians
claim that they are the only natives in Transylvania developed in a time when they were
deprived of elementary rights (The Romanian Orthodox Church did not enjoy an equal
status with the other denominations in Transylvania, being considered an inferior
4. Hungarians as invaders
The stereotype of Hungarians as invaders, who came from Asia and conquered
Transylvania, is also due to Romanian history books. Therefore it is widespread among
Romanians and provokes strong defense reactions in Hungarians. The group of peasant
women in a village near Cluj still remembers they told their Hungarian neighbors the
second day after the Tg. Mures violent clashes in 1990 ‘You should go back to Hungary
or wherever you came from and let us leave peacefully here’ and they were surprised to
be answered ‘Why should I go to Hungary when my ancestors are buried in this land’.
Two other observations deserve to be made concerning the topic:
1. Hungarians are extremely defensive and reserved when it comes to this topic and the
interviewer had to spend time to persuade them they can tell whatever they want
regardless of consequences. This is reflected in the large share of pragmatics, but also
in the following sequence of a group interview (Interviewer's interventions are in Italics):
This is a political game...
I'm persuaded the Hungarians were here fist, and all the rest came after them (...)
Who ever is first comes up as an argument to criticize somebody's domination...In
the last 8o years, it was the domination of Romanians...And to persuade you don't
have equal rights...
Why, who came later has less rights?
Some think so. That's why Funar digs all around Cluj to find trace after trace...
Funar has been mayor of Cluj for 5 years only; this is an older argument...
Diggings (archeological) were made all over Transylvania in the past 20 years.
Some consider they can dominate this way...

They're looking for proof.
If we answer to these we would walk into a trap. We would allow ourselves
insulting affirmations...
Well, I meant only...
That's how we see it, that's how we live this, that it can turn against us.
2. Everybody, Romanians and Hungarians included, seems to be aware it is politically
incorrect to consider the first settlers have superior rights. This prompts group to be
cautions and defensive. However people have strong views despite that fact and the use
of discriminative stereotypes derived from the national 'history' theories is common
practice. Both groups are defensive and do not even need the other group to trigger
defense mechanisms, since nationalist politicians and the media do the job almost daily.
Ordinary people have to face the consequence of these provocations, immediately
converted into behavior: the Romanian women in Viisoara fought with the Hungarian
women after seeing on television the Tg. Mures conflict, although they had a peaceful
coexistence until the conflict.

4.4. Social representations of history

4.4.1. ‘Social, not ethnic conflict’

The Middle Ages was a dark time indeed for our respondents. Knowledge of history,
excepting some intellectuals - especially Hungarians - lack on a large scale. People
even refuse to discuss history, and say it was not a topic in their families. They prefer to
stick to what fathers and grandfathers told them about more recent times. The only
exception seem to be the Romanian Greek-Catholics, from two main reasons: the
advanced age of this group (corresponding to the national character of this aging group),
and the past of this denomination, closely associated with the national emancipation of
Romanians in Transylvania. It was the Greek Catholic more than the Orthodox Church,
perhaps also in need to justify its own unity to Rome, which fought for the revival of
Romanians' conscience as a Latin nation. Therefore, it is not surprising this group has a
higher interest and knowledge of history, displaying stronger prejudicial attitudes towards
For the mediaeval history of Transylvania can hardly fail to be other than traumatic for
Romanians and it can easily provide the basis of frustration and prejudice? Deprived of

any political rights Transylvanian Romanians could climb the social scale only by ethnic
assimilation, abandoning their ethnic ‘losing’ group and joining another. Such was the
case of Iancu de Hunedoara, a Romanian born noble who became regent of Hungary
and is claimed as self by both national groups.
This is the ‘objective’ basis for frustration. Both groups try to shape it in order to fit their
general system of beliefs. Hungarian intellectuals, since ordinary people have little
knowledge or interest in the matter, choose to believe that the Transylvanian mediaeval
ranking system was purely social and not ethnic. Hungarian intellectuals, with minor
differences among them (groups in Ciuc, Sf Gheorghe, Cluj, Tg. Mures) also consider
the big riots of Romanians peasants during feudal times were predominantly ‘social, not
national’ and consider these cannot be made a part of the conflicting Romanian-
Hungarian history as official Romanian history puts it.
Do ordinary people perceive it so? Indeed they do. Although 18th century peasants
barely defined themselves as ‘Romanians’ and bore no national ideal but rose only to
fight for elementary social-not even political- rights- popularization of the riot of Horea,
Closca and Crisan got roots in the Romanian public opinion. A favorite theme of the
national communist school of history, which used this superimposition of cleavages to
blame it all on the Hungarian feudal lords, the riot and its bloody repression remains the
first traumatic moment of direct confrontation. Its contemporary portraying in movies and
TV series endorsed this image as well. This memory generates a very simple
representation -and therefore a very powerful one - which is also consistent with the
whole history of the Romanians in the Habsburg Empire - as they see it - with
Hungarians the exploiters and Romanians the exploited, although there were also
Hungarian serfs on the side of the rioters. Simple, even rudimentary representations are
stronger since they respond to the need of people of attributing a clear explanation to
complex historical backgrounds. Overall, the riot of Horea raises more emotion in
Romanians, while the 1848 moment meets more the feelings of Hungarians.
Another mediaeval issue completely erased from the collective memory is the fact that
Szekelys were a different ethnic group from the Hungarians. The official history of
Transylvania edited by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences assumes Szekelys were a
tribe of Turkish origin who came together with Hungarian tribes but had a separate
language and conserved for centuries a separate alphabet and writing. Szekelys were
finally completely assimilated by the Hungarians, but the mere mention of this fact
provokes nationalist angry reactions, even from the part of intellectuals.

The fact that Szekelys are not entirely Hungarian is a thesis of the Communist
Szekelys were always Hungarians; we Hungarians didn't assimilate anyone.
(Hungarian politicians, Bucharest)

4.4.2.‘The Habsburgs played each against the other’

The next important moment is the 1948 Revolution, with its failure of bringing a historical
agreement between the Hungarian revolutionary bourgeoisie and the Romanian one.
The level of knowledge on this matter would probably scare a history teacher. Although
details are scarce, the general overview is of a national emancipation war than of a
social revolution – of the Hungarians against Habsburgs and of the Romanians against
Hungarian lords. The whole story finished with a blood bath after Austrians were skillful
enough to play nationalities fears and frustration over the Hungarian domination against
emancipated Hungary and asked the Czar's troops in. The compromise that was
eventually reached later between Austria and Hungary, creating the Hungarian national
state allowed unprecedented displays of Hungarian nationalism on behalf of minorities,
namely Slovaks and Romanians.
Hungarians honor Kossuth, the leader of the Revolution, although admitting half-heartily:
‘He started to realize minorities should be a part of all these only when it was too late’
‘When Kossuth met with Balcescu it was already too late’.’Kossuth would have granted
minorities more rights later, now it was important for the Hungarian Revolution to win’.
Hungarians in our groups, even the less educated ones, had more idea about the 1848
moment, due also to the fact that Hungary's National Day is the anniversary of March 15,
1948.They also had the recent opportunity to reconsider this historical moment due to
the Romanian nationalist mayor of Cluj, Gheorghe Funar. Funar raised in 1993 in the
middle of the town, now 70% inhabited by Romanians, in 1848 almost a pure Hungarian
town, the statue of Avram Iancu, the military leader of the Romanians in 1948, with an
inscription saying forty thousands Romanians were killed during those battles (of course,
by Hungarians). This provoked huge protest from the part of Hungarian political
organizations. Romanian democratic parties also blamed this ‘provocation'. Our
respondents were still furious remembering this.
In the whole revolution there were 40000 deaths, including Hungarians and
Austrians, and all these are regular troops, not civilians, as Funar is implying’.

The only ones to blame are the Austrians; they promoted the usual Habsburg
policy of ‘divide et impera’. The Romanians were victims of this policy, they
helped kill the Hungarian revolution, and in the end they gained nothing’ (Cluj,
Ciuc, Sf Gheorghe, Hungarian intellectuals).
‘The Romanian participation in 1948 was actually a counterrevolution. We can't
blame Kossuth he didn't give much thought to the national topic, nowhere in
Europe at the time the national topic wasn't yet discussed...He didn't understand
until it was too late what a danger was lying here. He didn't understand that
nationalities within Hungary, Romanians, Slovaks and Croats, reached, however
late, the formation of the bourgeois nation. The Hungarian nation had formed
earlier while in the Austrian Empire’ (Sf Gheorghe, intellectuals)
Less educated Hungarians freely interpret facts to their advantage.
At the time there were two Romanian Principalities: Moldova and Wallachia. And
when the Romanians of Transylvania gathered at Blaj and shouted ‘We want to
unite with the country’, what country could they have meant? Hungary only.
Avram Iancu, when finding out he was manipulated by Austrians to turn against Hungary got mad.
Recent clichés borrowed from the TV analysis of the December 1989 revolution are applied to the 1948
It was a spontaneous revolution well organized with the Romanians manipulated by the
Austrians...Unfortunately it ended by the defeat of the Revolution...(workers, Cluj).
Old Greek-Catholic Romanians consider the 1848 Revolution just one more episode in
the long history of rejection of Romanians by Hungarians.
Romanians in 1948 saw the major danger in Hungarians. The two Romanian
churches and Avram Iancu thought them better to become allies of the Vienna
emperor against Hungarians, who were in a period of nationalism. The politics of
Kossuth excluded order nationalities, that is why Coats and German were also
against Hungarians’. ‘Romanians tried to reach a common view with them,
Balcescu tried, but they couldn't succeed because of the Hungarian position of
dominant nation.
There were also Romanians on Kossuth's side, who hoped they could change his
orientation but failed. Hungarians have this pride of a small nation, a people
which always keeps towards others, at least Romanians, a distance.
This rejection feeling is very common in the Romanians' version of the common history.

Hungarian peasants in Covasna and Mures were the least informed, knowing only about
the celebration of March 15, considered the birth of the Hungarian national state.
Students in Babes Bolyayi University in Cluj, both Romanians and Hungarians, showed
not only ignorance but total lack of interest to the matter, and they were unanimously
blaming Funar for giving the city ‘such a poor statue, looks like shit’ (Romanian students,
What then is keeping the participation rate in the March 15 Hungarian celebration so
high? 45% of the Transylvanian Hungarians say they attended it in 1990, and 36 %
attended it in 1997(UBB poll). This former official national day in Hungary is still
respected in Transylvania and gives birth to popular holidays in every village and town,
although few people know what actually happened on March 15 1948.
One explanation is the opportunity it gives to Hungarians, especially in the Szekelys
area, to use this traditional moment to display their national flag and reassert their
separate identity. This explains why the sudden decline in 1997, the first year when the
Hungarian Alliance (DAHR) was participating to government, so the need for identity
politics dropped. On the other hand, the strong participation of the Hungarian elite can
account for this massive participation: not only are the church and the local governments
associated in organizing the event, but high-ranked Hungarian politicians from Romania
and Hungary attend it. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Geza Jessensky used to come on
a regular basis, and so was current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In 1990 the
celebration in Tg. Mures fueled the rising tension in the city, Romanians considering
insulting the pompous celebration of a revolution which failed to grant them the right of
being recognized as a nation. Many Romanians share the view ‘freedom of Hungarians
in 1948 meant only further enslaving of Romanians’ (worker, Cluj).
Hungarians, in their turn, dislike the Romanian National Day, the 1st of December, the
day when in 1918 the Romanian popular assembly at Alba Iulia decided the unification
of Transylvania with Romania, therefore cutting Transylvanian Hungarians from their
mother country.
This national holiday excludes us. Romanians should have chosen another day.
Each year when politicians make speeches about the unification they never think
what the unification meant for us. (Sf Gheorghe, intellectual).
These mutual exclusive holidays, in fact celebrations of national victories on the behalf
of the other nation or nations, are however quite different when it comes to popular
participation. The Hungarian celebration is a community celebration: civil society is

involved to a similar extent as politicians. The Romanian celebration is an official, ‘state-
lead’ holiday, generating no widespread popular emotion, although Romanian politicians
as pretext for nationalist speeches constantly use it. Romanian Television displays on
such occasions only official speeches and ceremonies, and even the traditional
celebration from Tebea in Transylvania is more and more organised by officials. In
December 1998 President Emil Constantinescu organised the first military parade of the
post-Communist era on this occasion. None of these can compensate the fact that
December 1 is not a popular celebration turned into a national one, but an official
national one, with little or no involvement of the public and the civil society.
4.4.3.‘Romanians were no worse than the rest of peasants...’
Coming closer to our times, recollections of family histories recreate for Romanians the
picture of an oppressive rule, close to a colonial vision of Transylvania.
My grandmother told me how they were working for the grof. They were very poor.
The grof's children never played with the other children, who were Romanian; they
didn't even know Romanian. (Romanian intellectual, Cluj).
In all Transylvania there were only two Romanian high schools and there were
2.7 million Romanians. (Romanian, Greek Catholic, Cluj).
Hungarians do not share this view, their bottom line being ‘it was bad, but not as bad as Romanians
After all, Slavici (Romanian writer from Transylvania), when in prison for anti-
Hungarian articles in his newspaper was allowed to visit his wife who was giving
The education law passed by the Hungarian government was bad for minorities,
but it was never applied as such. (Tg.Mures, Hungarian intellectuals).
It was a time of economic development, road were built. In the rest of Romania
they built such roads only after the fifties.
Romanians were not promoted easily. But they could study at Budapest or in
Vienna. (Cluj, Hungarian intellectuals).
Sources of these recollections for the two groups remain quite different. Romanians quoted mainly what
parents and grandparents told them about the distant past (therefore the collective memory), while
Hungarians (intellectuals only, since the rest knew nothing, except that ‘it was better for the Hungarians’)
quoted mainly books and written history.
The essential attribution of the Hungarians is that Romanians were discriminated on social, not ethnic

They were no worse than the Hungarian serfs (Sf Gheorghe, intellectuals) were
It was a region like any other that lived a normal life.
Problems that afterwards surfaced in the Balkans were under control. Problems started only after
1918, although perhaps it was not the best way of solving them even then... (Tg. Mures,
I think it was up to individuals, if the grof (landlord) was treating serfs well or not (Hungarian
intellectuals, Cluj).
I could not find any trace of collective guilt from the part of the Hungarian intellectuals over the harsh
discriminative treatment Romanians and other nationalities suffered under the Hungarian domination,
especially after 1867 when Hungary became a sovereign state and equal partner in the Dual Monarchy.
There is not even a recognition of the situation, so how could any guilt be found? Mixed families were the
only ones with a bilateral vision.
I think Hungarians perceive those times only for their bright side and they cannot understand what
did they not directly experience. I suspect minorities were persecuted to the last degree. It's the
same to when we are explaining Romanians who do not understand why we suffered more during
Ceausescu than they did. (Cluj, Hungarian intellectual, from a mixed family).
Romanians complain Hungarians look upon these times as a golden age. Nostalgia with
the Habsburg Empire is deed present:
You could travel without a passport from Brasov to Kiev and from Krakow to was an empire, but the area experienced more problems after the
empire was over. It was somehow the United States of Europe...and it is
interesting how states resulting from it went to pieces after 1990...
Hungarians complain the fact that Romanians remember these times as times of
national oppression, and feel pointed at even if they were not born at the times.
When I go here Tg. Mures in the Orthodox Cathedral I see the picture of Christ
who is whipped by Hungarian hussars and beyond it says ‘Poor Bishop’ (the
picture represents probably Sava Brancovici, an Orthodox Bishop who was
persecuted for refusing to convert to Catholicism). Do you think I like that?
‘(Hungarian intellectual, Tg. Mures)

A golden age for some, a terrible time for the others. Two perfect opposites. Only
oblivion and ignorance are common, but they are constantly disturbed by nationalistic

‘‘For us it is not the Trianon treaty, but the Trianon Diktat’

The next crucial moment in the collective memory of both, but mostly of the Hungarians,
is the Trianon treaty, which after months of negotiations and military operations
acknowledged Transylvania as a part of the Romanian Kingdom. Here the two versions
collide more than ever. But Hungarians remember it better; it was more a topic in their
families than in the Romanian families. Trianon is remembered in Transylvanian
Hungarian families as a major disruption, a change of all the societal norms.
It was a big disaster then, and promises made to us were not kept.
What felt the Romanians when Russians took Moldova (actually Bessarabia, our
note.)? It was the same we felt then.
It started like a good thing, like a rapprochement of nationalities, but...(Tg.
Secuiesc, Hungarian workers).
Hungarians were punished because they lost the war (Hungarian workers, Cluj).
It was a catastrophe, the end of the world. (Hungarian peasants, Covasna
county, village of Sanziene).
It was the original tragedy; all our troubles originated then (Hungarian
intellectuals, Tg. Mures).
The catastrophe described in low-educated groups has quite an elaborate
representation in high-educated ones. Hungarian intellectuals see in Trianon a twofold
act of treason: treason of the West, which punished Hungary for losing the war and was
unable to make agreements on minorities’ treatment respected, and treason by
Romanians, who promised at Alba Iulia a different status of minorities.
We can't however say it is justice only if you belong to your national state. Then it
would imply it was very unjust what happened to the Hungarians in 1918 and it
was only justice in 1940. But I think the problem should be seen under a different
angle. Our problems originated into a certain policy. It was the policy of the
Romanian government at the time, but we can't make, I don't know, some
metaphysical connection between Romania in general and that particular
government (Hungarian intellectual, Tg. Mures).
Educated Hungarians' recollections present important differences compared to less
educated ones. For the present Hungarian politicians, as to the nowadays-Hungarian
intellectual living in Romania, Trianon means mostly the breaking of the trust between
the Hungarian minority and the Romanians. This was embodied in the so-called ‘Alba-

Iulia statement’ which granted ‘national autonomy’ to Transylvanian nationalities. The
Romanian Constitution of 1923, the first official act, however, defined Romania as a
The truth is the Romanian national state, 40 years only after its independence and
having to cope with the difficult problem of integrating three new regions, each with its
minorities, was too insecure to be able to promote a federal form of government and
respect entirely the promises made to minorities by the Romanian National party, swept
from power already by 1923. The ‘Alba-Iulia Statement’ promised nationalities exactly
the same rights Romanians had been asking unsuccessfully from Hungary for the past
50 years. Some of it was granted, but not, as the leader of the Romanian National Party
put it later, the ‘national autonomy’, and only the ‘cultural autonomy’. Once Greater
Romania was formed Romanian politicians pursued as political ideal the Western nation-
state on the type of France or Britain, Romania's allies in the 1st World War.
Romanians are not aware of the importance Hungarians attach to the Alba-Iulia
statement. Two major representations of Alba-Iulia shape even today the attitudes of
Hungarians towards the Romania State.
1. Alba Iulia as the first moment of the Romanian-Hungarian relationship
For most of the Hungarian politicians in nowadays Romania, the situation of the
Romanian majority in pre-war Transylvania is not an issue, although it was the
determining factor of the Romanian policy in the area after Trianon. The Alba Iulia
statement is considered the starting point of the common Romanian-Hungarian history,
therefore a starting point with Hungarians being frustrated by the Romanian state. The
Hungarian politicians complaining back in 1924 did not forget to add this touch of
bilateral approach, assuming Hungary’s guilt as well: this is over today. The unilateral
reconstruction of the past is necessary in order to build a strong demanding policy, while
a more complex approach would certainly mine the aggressive touch of this frustration-
based policy.
2. Alba Iulia as a broken contract
Alba Iulia is seen as a contract broken by the Romanians, therefore freeing Hungarians
from their obligation to be loyal towards the Romanian State.
Romanians broke their word. First, in the 1923 Constitution they put it that
Romania was a nation-state. Then, the Angelescu education laws reduced
almost all the Hungarian schools to confessional and religious schools. (Old
Hungarians, Sf Gheorghe).

Intellectuals and ordinary people both have two traumatic recollections connected to the
event. One is the massive exodus of Hungarians leaving for Hungary.
Hundreds of thousands of Hungarians left Transylvania then and most of them
never came back. The number of Hungarians therefore decreased, to the loss of
everyone. (Sf Gheorghe - Intellectual).
The second is the fact that public servants had to swear loyalty to the Romanian State in Romanian, a
language. Hungarian intellectuals recall those moments:
They asked them to swear even before the Paris Treaty and they refused since they still had some
hope the treaty will give Transylvania to Hungary. And afterwards they were fired.
My grandfather learned enough Romanian to keep his job for a while, than he was
finally replaced with a Romanian, and with a Southerner, not even a Transylvanian.
We consider those times as times of colonization. Relations between Romanians
and Hungarians then started to degrade. We were forced to accept building of
orthodox Churches, even here, in the Szekelys area, where there were almost no
Romanians, on the grounds that Romanians had no means to build churches
before. (Intellectuals, Sf Gheorghe).
The agrarian reform also hit the Hungarians harder, since they had more land.
(Hungarian old men, Sf. Gheorghe)
Romanian old men (Greek Catholic) tell a different story.
The professors of the Hungarian University in Cluj refused to swear a fidelity oath
to the Romanian State; that's why the University had to be shut down.
But for most of our low-educated Hungarian respondents, besides the 1918 disruption
the inter-war time was a good one, superior to the present times, economically and
It was a time of economic boom, especially for the peasants, and my grandfather
told me all would have been good had the times stayed the same as then’
(Hungarian intellectual, Cluj).
Would there have been a better solution? Of course, here all Hungarians agree the
solution chosen by the Big Powers was the worse. The ‘ideal solutions’ indicated by our
respondents vary from an ‘independent Transylvania’ and a ‘Transylvanian state’ to a
‘federal Romania, like Switzerland’. Another controversial issue is which of the two
ethnies made the majority back in 1918. Only some educated Hungarians acknowledge
it was a Romanian majority in Transylvania. For the rest of the Hungarian respondents,
except that man in Cluj singled out by the group, the Hungarians were the majority in

1918. That firmly grounded conviction makes the injustice even greater in their eyes and
their loss even harder to endure.

4.4.4.‘There were times of hate, of revenge, there were evil times then’

The most serious traumas undergone by the two communities originate the 2nd World
War. Nothing in the collective memory can compete in terror with the 1940-1944 period
for the Transylvanian Romanians, and to a less extent to the end of war for the
Hungarians, as northern Transylvania was first occupied by Hungary, than reoccupied
by Romanian and Soviet troops. Personal recollections are still present, and so are the
defenses in remembering a version of the past, which would make one guilty.
The situation is further complicated by two historical facts: the support Hungarians
received from the Soviet Union after 1945 to build an autonomous region, and the strong
national communist campaign during Ceausescu's times - and even after - which
concentrated on the commemoration of the year 1940. These two events affected the
personal recollections and attitudes of people. Romanians associate, for instance, the
Communist Hungarian Autonomous Region with Communism, even Soviet Communism
and hate its memory, while Hungarians reject any criticism of the Horthyist regime in
Transylvania because they were so indoctrinated with it during Ceausescu. Very few
cared to comment on the issue; most of them underlining that even if some atrocities
really happened they were greatly exaggerated by the Romanian propaganda. Very few
Romanians -almost none- also accepted the idea that in 1944 some Romanians,
organized in paramilitary groups, tried to revenge what happened in 1940. However,
some Romanian intellectuals, both in Cluj and Tg. Mures showed critical distance
towards recollections of other respondents, such as: ‘That's what your grandfather told
you, you had no means of checking’. But overall none of the groups is prepared to
accept a bilateral view of the events.
Romanians evoke the ‘Vienna Award’ when Germany and Italy decided Northern
Transylvania (including Cluj) is to return to Hungary and the consequences for the
Romanian population.
I was a student in the high school in Nasaud, which was the only high school with
Romanian as a teaching language. In a few months, all teachers were replaced
with Hungarian teachers who didn't know Romanian. The only Romanian teacher

left was the teacher who taught Romanian language, who was an assimilated
They changed names into Hungarian names, even today in the Cluj phone book
you can find 40 names of Szylagy, spelled Romanian (Silaghi) with Romanian
first names.
I went to high school in Oradea during that time and at the admission they didn't
record me as Glodeanu, but as Glodeyan. After 1947 it was still difficult to
change those names, since most Communist authorities here in Cluj were
Hungarians and refused to change names.
We cannot succeed in a hundred years to do something similar to the
Hungarization they did in four years only. (Greek Catholics, third age, Cluj).
Everything was done and written in Hungarian language only, Hungarians were
appointed in every position, administration, health, and education. (Romanian
workers, Cluj)
We had to pack everything and leave town in only a few hours, while Hungarian soldiers guarded
the house. When we left they told my mother ‘Don't leave the dog behind, because he's also a
Wallach (Romanian intellectual, Cluj).
My grandfather lived in a Romanian village, which was separated from town by a
Hungarian village. And one night the Hungarians attacked them and he was
wounded with an axe to his head, and he died later because of the blow. They
always carried some arm when having to cross that village at night. After '89 the
same happened, because you still have to cross this Hungarian village to get to
Tirgu Mures (Romanian priest, Tg. Mures).
The Greek-Catholic Romanian school was closed. The Hungarians surrounded
the Theology School, they broke in, and they beat the Rector.
The Greek-Catholic Bishop was asked to come the next day to the bishopric, The
crowd was gathered when he got there, and a Hungarian broke the policemen'
ranges and spat in the face of the Bishop, then turn away and fled. (Greek-
Catholics, Cluj).
My grandfather was a priest and they made a hole under the living room table and
hid him there until a neighbor told Hungarians he's there, and then they took him
first to Sighet and then to Cluj and then he succeeded to evade and to cross the
mountains on foot to Romania.

They were after priests and teachers, especially, Lawyers, too. (Romanian
intellectuals, Cluj).
The difference between these recollections, most of them personal or family inherited to the social
representations of the Romanians who did not actually lived through the events is spectacular. Collective
memory was organised by national Communist propaganda to a large extent. Not only the television
popularized the atrocities of the Horthyist army, but also Cluj students remembered that their schools used
to organise yearly trips to Ip and Traznea, the places of events, in order to educate children.
At Traznea soldiers stabbed pregnant women with their bayonets, old people
from the village told us when we were there. (Romanian peasants, Viisoara)
I've seen a poster reproduced in a book, soldiers were told to kill the Romanian
children in their mother’s' belly’ (Romanian intellectuals, Cluj).
Hungarians poured gasoline on the Romanians and they put them on fire.
Hungarians were throwing priests into holes full of paint. (Romanian peasants,
These social representations are often to be found outside Transylvania in the other Romania as well.
Although we do not doubt events were indeed terrible, it is easy to tell apart the real, experienced traumas
from these ‘legendary’ pictures, having all in common the idea of total, symbolic destruction of the other
ethnic group: unborn infants killed in their mothers’ belly, people put on fire. Hungarians have similar
images from the end of the war.
The Romanian army gave bazooka to the children and taught them to burn
Hungarians (Tg. Mures, Hungarian intellectuals).
Who did it? Recollections are unclear and contradictory. For the Romanians, it was
mostly ‘the Horthyst army’, not locals. It is true Communist propaganda blamed it all on
Horthy and Hungarian fascism. For the only survivor of one of the famous massacres in
Ip, it was a part of the local Hungarians who killed all the Romanian inhabitants, women
and children included. He even recalls that a week later, after order was reinstated and
he was able to leave his hiding place he heard a Hungarian soldier from Hungary telling
a villager ‘I don't know what could these Romanians have done to you for you to hate
them so.’(Reported by the Romanian news weekly Expres/no12/1994). This version,
different of the Romanian official one is shared by many middle-aged Hungarians but is
strongly opposed by the old Hungarians:
All the troubles were due to personal rivalries. Whoever had something to
revenge took that opportunity and they did it immediately after the retreat of the

Romanian army and the coming of the Hungarian one, since they knew that
afterwards anarchy will no longer be possible. (Sf Gheorghe)

The story of the only survivor from Ip is also worth telling for something else. In many of
these tragic stories about ethnic hatred and violence human understanding and solidarity
makes, strangely, a part of the same story. Hungarian neighbors warned the family of
the Ip survivor that something bad was about to happen. They didn't leave the village,
having no other place to go. The man himself, only a small boy then, witnessed the
savage killing of his brothers and sisters from the barn of a Hungarian neighbor who
helped him hide. Another Romanian remembers his father, a railroad clerk, was
protected by a Hungarian friend. Hungarians in Ciuc also recalled that after Trianon the
Romanian peasants told a Romanian grocer who refused to help a Hungarian child who
didn’t know Romanian they would boycott his grocery if he behaves this way. A
Hungarian in Cluj recalled how his father protected a Romanian priest from an
aggressive Hungarian gang. Hungarian students at Babes-Bolyayi remember that when
a furious Romanian came to their block after the 1990 Tg. Mures violent clashes asking
Romanians to ‘go after Hungarians’ who shared the same block it was a Romanian who
sent him away.

Although most of the Hungarians we talked to deny almost everything considering it

‘heavy exaggerations’ the point they make is very similar to the point of the Romanians.
The people from outside did that, not the locals. Hungarian intellectuals in Cluj put it like
Each change of regime, either it was Romania which took over, or Hungary, was
bad for the locals, both Romanians and Hungarians, each of them were replaced
from their positions with people brought from the mother country, who were each
time considered better and smarter.
It seems, in fact, that people prefer to believe it was outsiders who did it all, because this
helps them cohabit further with their neighbors. The same mechanism goes for the 1990
Tg. Mures clashes, as Tg. Mures inhabitants blame politicians, Ceausescu’s secret
police, villagers from outside Tg. Mures, everyone but locals.
Anyway, if ever a settlement was a disaster, so was the Vienna settlement which made
the Romanians from Northern Transylvania -which went to Hungary- flee to Romania in
massive numbers, and the Hungarians from Southern Transylvania flee to Hungary. The

memory of this one more exodus is well remembered by both. The only lucky ones
where those who happened to be in the right country, as the old Szekelys from Sf
Gheorghe who pictured a golden Horthyst time:
We must understand the year 1940 from the perspective of what had happened in
the inter-war times. At Vienna Germany and Italy made the right decision to return
Northern Transylvania to Hungary. I'm not a doctor in international law, but I think
that mediation was a just one. When the radio announced it here in Sf Gheorghe it
was a real euphoria the taking over by Hungarian authorities was made
peacefully. The Romanian was compulsory in Hungarian schools during
Horthy...Reprisals against Romanians were only in the vacuum of authority,
between the departure of Romanian troops and the arrival of Hungarian troops,
because the Hungarian administration couldn't stand disorder. Violence was the
work of private persons, who had their own vendettas.
They broke the windows of the Romanian doctor, several times. And they beat an
old, retired Orthodox priest...As for the army, what we know is that the army was
met with machine-guns fire, a lot were killed, that's why the population was
afterwards decimated.
Anyway, what happened was not in this area, because here there are only a few
A lot was built during these four years. Railroads, roads, streets. The food supply
was very well organized; everybody had food tickets for bread, sugar, and so on.
Those four years are remembered by everyone as years of order, discipline,
tidiness, and punctuality. The local administration had an orderly style; it was the
rule of pedantry even. Culturally speaking, children learned songs, which the 50
following years were unable to make us forget. Children were told even in a
Romanian village now order is coming after 25 years of Balkanism.
We felt well because we felt as first rank citizens, that is it.
The evaluation of the Horthy times was totally uncritical in this group. Asked if they still
think there were good times considering what happened to the Jews they answered
Germans, not Hungarians, deported Jews. Obviously this did not make them see those
times less as a ‘golden age’.
The reoccupation of Northern Transylvania by Romania is also remembered differently by Romanians and
Hungarians. For Romanians, it was liberation, but not a joyful one: Soviets were there and an uncertain
future. Nobody from the Hungarian groups had a first-hand recollection to tell. But they were well

documented to tell about abuses Hungarians suffered, perhaps because they had to reply for years to the
Romanians stories about the 1940 abuses. Most of the stories about the paramilitary Romanian troops
(the so-called Maniu's guards) and their abuses in 1944 were therefore second-hand memories, except for
the old men in Sfintu Gheorghe, who remembered without any visible emotion that ‘they cut off the heads
off of two boys ‘. A woman in the Hungarian working class group in Cluj remembered their mayor in a
village near Blaj, a Gypsy who tried to ‘Hungarize’ a Romanian village and in the end was killed by
women. She recalled her mother and the rest of women ‘ hit him with the spoon in the head until he was
dead because he had humiliated us too much’.
The sequence of violence as perceived by the Romanian intellectuals in Cluj, a group
that was perhaps the most tolerant and trying to be objective, goes as follows:
Hungarians say in 1944 the Romanians paid them back dearly, the Maniu guards killed
people...What have you heard about that in your families?
There were no actual murders in 1944, more like putting fire to barns, scaring,
threatening the Hungarians...
Vandalism, like a vendetta, sort of, it wasn't the army; they were villagers, people
who had lost someone.
Their only excuse although there can never be an excuse to behave aggressively
is the fact that they were reacting to what had happened previously to them.
So it was the Hungarians who started it?
Yes, but you can never tell how far the revenge goes.
The Hungarian armies started it all in 1940, that are not theory, that's fact.
So there were some debts to be paid, see.
It's a big difference. The Hungarian army met in villages a population which was
almost entirely Romanian and they did what they did, and when the Romanian
armies came thousands of people took revenge on Hungarians, but there were
fewer cases, because the guilty Hungarians left, they retreated with the Hungarian

Women in Viisoara rejected angrily the suggestion some Romanians paid it back to
Hungarians in 1944 and declared it was all a Hungarian lie, an invention. Some of the
stories look quite unlikely, even stories told by intellectuals: ’The Romanian army gave
guns and bazookas to children and taught the children to shoot Hungarians... That is
why Stalin suppressed the Romanian administration in Transylvania and took over.’
(Hungarians, Tg. Mures).

Hungarian peasants in the Mures County knew little about the events, but had a fair
opinion on it:
The Hungarians came and killed children and then the Romanians came and
killed in revenge, but that's not nice and it should be blamed by the ones and by
the others’ (Miercurea Niraj)
Frustration with the others along history is important today, even more important than
today’s competition. It is on this theme that nationalist propaganda plays more often. Our
survey tried to measure frustration and coping with it. Respondents had to three
alternatives to choose from:
1. unilateral attribution of guilt (either one group, or the other had a prejudicial
attitude and wronged the other group) (A,B)
2. bilateral attribution of guilt (C)
3. positive reconstruction of the past with elimination of the guilt (D)
Chart 5

Distribution of the answers went as follows:

1. 41.8 Romanians compared to only 3.8% Hungarians considered their ethnic group
was persecuted during history by the other group. Frustration of Transylvanian
Romanians and blame of the Hungarians for past wronging has important
dimension. Whatever the reason –personal recollections or nationalist
indoctrination the figure is high. This group associates history and past with a
negative affect and is prone to experience fear and defensive attitudes which can
de mobilized either by Hungarians campaigns of national assertiveness or by
Romanian nationalist propaganda.
2. 2. 9.8% Romanians and 20.8 % Hungarians agree the two groups wronged each
other during history.
Assuming guilt is difficult. However these Romanians and Hungarians admit their
own group id wrong towards the other. A higher figure of Romanians would be
indeed surprising, since both Romanian history and propaganda present a
unilateral view of the events. Hungarians were in fact subjected to the same history
and propaganda themselves, as they had been Romanian citizens for the past 80
years, with limited access to alternative sources.
3. rejection of guilt and positive reconstruction of the past

77% of the Hungarians in the sample and 44 % of the Romanians choose to reorganize
the past by eliminating conflicting elements and retaining of those favoring a peaceful
cohabitation. This population is probably avoiding to meet conflicting evocations and
expresses frustration when those are forced upon it (such as the endless sessions of the
Romanian Parliament commemorating the Vienna Award).

4.4.5. A time of common enemies

Soviet authorities thought proper to regulate the Romanian-Hungarian relationship by

creating an autonomous Hungarian region. This included the homogeneously populated
Szekelys areas, but also heterogeneous areas with many Romanians living within. The
Hungarian autonomous region failed to satisfy Hungarians, since ‘it was Communists
who run it’ or ‘it was called autonomous but it was run from Bucharest like everything in
Communist times’. It created rather traumatic memories to Romanians, old Greek-
Catholic complaining about the fact that Hungarians would not answer if said ‘Hello’ in
Romanian and that public signs were in Hungarian only.
The important presence of Hungarians apparatchiks in the structures of this region also
contributed to the Romanians’ impression that ‘Hungarians were more Communist than
Romanians’. (Workers, Greek-Catholics, Cluj).

The times of Ceausescu are perceived differently again. For the Hungarian intellectuals
it was a disaster, as the Communist government reduced Hungarian classes in high
schools, replaced high bureaucrats in the party and administration of Hungarian descent
by Romanians, and forced university graduates to take jobs outside their native area.
Romanians, excepting some intellectuals in Cluj, refuse to accept the last years of
Ceausescu's rule had this particular nationalist touch directed against Hungarians, and
complain this is just lack of solidarity from the part of Hungarians.
Together we were queuing for food, together we suffered the lack of heat and
electric light, and Hungarians always claim it was them alone who suffered, they
even imply we made them suffer, when it was Ceausescu who made everybody
suffer (Workers, Cluj).
Romanian graduates were also forced to take the mandatory jobs offered at the
end of their university studies. This was the same for everybody. (Romanians

intellectuals, Tg. Mures). They lived better than Romanians did, they has relatives
in Hungary who sent them provisions. (Tg. Mures, intellectuals).
Chart 6
In fact, only a fifth (21%) of our small Hungarian sample consider Hungarians were
worse off during Ceausescu than Romanians. Only 5 % of Romanians admit
Hungarians had a even harder time, while 80 % of Romanians think Romanians
suffered more. The results are not surprising: people react more to economic
deprivation in times of severe hardship than to symbolic issues. Even today the
hierarchy of needs expressed by both groups look very much the same (IMAS poll)
In fact, Ceausescu’s times seem to have been beneficial for ethnic cohabitation, since the
majority of Romanians and Hungarians consider their relationship degraded after 1989.
Freedom allowed resentments and claims to surface, leaving behind the good times the time
when Hungarians and Romanians had a common enemy to busy with. When Hungarians
and Romanians had a common enemy to busy with.

4.4.6 On history
History raised a lot of interest in our groups, except in the young generation. Even if
knowledge is scarce people display not only interest but also strong prejudgments. Although
we constantly pointed to them it is not the historical truth we are after, but their personal
memories and impressions discussions turned into real debates immediately and a lot of
controversies occurred. Everybody agreed writing of a common history of Transylvania is
necessary, Romanians more skeptical than Hungarians. In one group the idea of a common
history written by Hungarian and Romanian historians came up spontaneously. We display
this part of the interview entirely, since it is relevant for the chances of such a history to be
written and accepted (Interviewer's questions are in italic)

So, in your view, who were the first settlers? Your personal opinion, you needn't quote
anything or anyone...
Yes, here's the debate, but I don't think it is still very influential on people's lives as it
used to be, we got used to such discussions. This was never a topic in lower circles,
such as my family, this is a topic of higher circles, they try to provoke us with
that...Well, and since borders change, it's obviously a political debate.

I'm not interested in the topic either, but I think a history should be written by
Romanian and Hungarian historians, a history which would be accepted both by
Romanians and Hungarians.
Oh, and what would history tell at this point to be accepted both by Romanians and
It should tell the reality as it is. Romanian and Hungarian historians should write it.
What if you would write it, what would you write in this chapter?
Each stands by his ideas.
A Hungarian lady, teacher in Ciuc put it bluntly:
I can't see why my children should learn the Romanian history at all, at least not in
any detail. Every nation should learn its own history, and just a few basic things
about the history of others.
The same lady showed a lot of objectivity during the earlier interview, contradicting the
others and telling them Romanian villages in Hateg are at least as old as Hungarian villages.
She was objective towards the cohabitation: only she was not interested in it.

The way it looks today the Romanian and Hungarian histories can only be sources of
prejudice and frustration towards the other national group. The idea, which circulated lately
to teach minorities separately the history of their own group, is not the best, either. The
difficulty is to address the Romanian-Hungarian relationship and not to build separate
histories, which are a part of the problem as they are and would be only false if they avoided
the topic. An ideal version, accepted by everyone is impossible. But one to show theories,
not absolute facts, wherever the two versions collide and to try to teach bilateral thinking
instead of unilateral one might be possible. Until the time such a history is written Romanian
and Hungarian children find out more often about the conflict from the school or the media
than from their direct experience with neighbors and colleagues.


5.1. On sharing

The major problem of Transylvania is that territory is shared among ethnic groups.
Excepting villages that are pure Romanian, Hungarian or German, the pattern for most of
the Transylvanian villages and towns is intricately mixed. Romanians and Hungarians mix
inside neighborhoods, streets and blocks of flats. The intermediate national group - the
Germans -left so massively before and after 1990 that in many places their retreat is visible,
as an open wound. In many cases in the place of the Germans left Gypsies were settled,
following a policy initiated by Ceausescu, but which only generated more conflict. The
presence of Gypsies doesn't somehow matter for Romanians and Hungarians, often united
in their resentment and contempt for them. 'When a Roma shows up and starts with their
tricks we immediately unite with Romanians against him’ (Hungarian student, Cluj). Roma
'simply don't matter’ (Romanian villagers, Viisoara). The retreat of the Germans left
Transylvania a field for ethnic competition between Romanians and Hungarians. Sharing of
physical space between the two groups has a twofold signification: symbolic, as
Transylvania is the 'cradle' of both groups, and geographical, as in this example:

Our land is uphill and theirs is downhill. The houses are, however, next to each
other, and we often cross to their gate if we run into some need. But at church and at
the fields, when we're more than one, we stick with ours and they stick with theirs'.

(Villagers, Viisoara, 1996)

To understand cohabitation one has to understand at first this territorial disposition. It has its
advantages, like in this example of nowadays-natural economy, where it fosters exchange
based on complementarity:

We here in the hills can grow only potatoes; we have to cross the mountains to
Moldovans and change potatoes for corn and others. All my business partners are
Romanians from across the mountains' (Szekely peasants, Sanziene, Covasna

It has disadvantages where people are not separated into different villages, but compelled to
share the same village:

The Hungarians have the better lands. They never sell any land, even if we have
money to buy it, they sell only to Hungarians. They hire Gypsies to work their lands.
(Romanian peasants, Viisoara)

In this type of situation competition and envy from the part of whoever feels is losing the
economic and social competition is likely to occur. The same happens in the cities, where
competition is fierce. One of the most troubled political problems, the issue of school
separation (Hungarian oppose mixing inside the same school of Romanian and Hungarian
classes and demand to have separate Romanian and Hungarian schools, as the tradition
used to be) is in fact a competition for scarce space:

Our children are 35 in one classroom, while the Hungarians are only 15. Why do they
want their old schools back, now that there have so few children left? If they take the
old high-school back they'll have two classes to fill while Romanians won't have
where to learn. (Cluj, Romanian workers)

The competition also turns ethnic when it comes to employment:

If one manager decides to lay off 100 workers in a mixed factory he will say usually:
half Romanians, half Hungarians, to be equitable, that's the rule. Only Hungarians
may be half of the workers in that particular factory but since they are less than
Romanians are their shares of unemployment from the total will be much greater.
(Retired economist, President of the Association of Hungarian workers, Cluj)

Distribution of economic gratifications also gets an ethnical interpretation:

Since it's the state that runs everything even here in the heart of Szekelys auctions
and privatization are arranged from advance. My wife and I were among the first
workers since this factory was built. Now they're privatizing it and we won't be able to
get any shares, people from Bucharest will help their friends take everything; they
will push Hungarians out legally and even with finesse. (Worker, Tg. Secuiesc)

Romanians don't understand why most of commercial spaces, shops and others in
the center have Hungarian owners and managers. That's because Funar is a
nationalist only in words, when it comes to business whoever gives him a larger
share takes either the license or the space. (Hungarian workers, Cluj).

But the most visible competition is the one for social power and recognition:

Hungarians used to complain they suffered more than us during Ceausescu but if
you looked around in Tg. Mures all directors and managers were Hungarian
(Romanian intellectuals, Tg. Mures).

There's not one Hungarian manager in a former state factory in Cluj left and if you
ask the government they'll tell you appointments are done based on competence
only, like that's not one competent Hungarian to be found to run Romanians
(President, Association of Hungarian workers, Cluj)

We know that there are positions we will never be granted access to. I can be very
good, I can be better than any Romanian, he will run the Telephone Company, I may
eventually rise to be his deputy. (Hungarian intellectuals, Cluj).

There are several Hungarian Professors in the faculty, there is even a Deputy Rector
who is Hungarian, but they cannot run things entirely their own way, that's why they
want a separate University (Romanian intellectuals, Cluj).

It doesn't bother me we shall always have a Hungarian mayor, since Hungarians are
united and we're not. What bothers me is that people do not vote taking into account
competence, but ethnic criterias only (Romanian intellectuals, Tg. Mures).

Exceptionally people take into account competence above ethnic affiliation, as happened in
a community in Ciuc, including several Hungarian villages and one small Romanian one
(Livezi). In this environment where all local councilors are Hungarian (Hungarian was the
language spoken by local authorities already back in 1996 when this was still not legal),
Hungarians overwhelmingly voted a Romanian as mayor in June 1996 elections since he
had the reputation of being a good organizer. Romanians in the small village of Livezi were
flattered, but remained cautious. Like most of the Romanians we talked to, except
intellectuals, they resented the fact that DAHR presented a candidate for the office of
President of Romania in 1996, although the candidate spoke perfect Romanian and he had
been for year a representative of the Parliament of Romania at the Council of Europe. 'They
dare too much' we were told. Intellectuals were more liberal, some confessing they would
vote for a Hungarian candidate who proved better than a Romanian (some even did), but

Romanian peasants and workers admitted they would never vote for a Hungarian as
President were he better than any Romanian, because 'here is Romania, not Hungary'.

5.2. On traumas

The years of the Second World War- between the Vienna Award and the entrance in
Transylvania of Soviet and Romanian armies - had the highest traumatic impact on

'We did the school years - in a Hungarian high-school - mostly in the hall, because
each time the air was bad it was the fault of 'stinky Romanians' and we were all sent
outside' (old man, Greek-Catholic, Cluj).

For Hungarians, the same effect was produced by Ceausescu’s last years, when he started
to cut Hungarian schools and classes, replaced Hungarians from leading positions with
Romanians and shut down all the radio local stations, a decision which left the Hungarian
community without its Hungarian-language radio programs. But the most traumatic act was
the forced work placement of Hungarian graduates in all-Romanian Moldova, while
graduates from the main Moldavian University were sent to Hungarian areas. Romanians,
excepting a few intellectuals, usually fail to grasp the intensity of the threat the Hungarians
perceived on that occasion and the extent to which their present behavior is based upon this
traumatic experience. The insistence of Hungarians to separate the schools completely in
Hungarian and Romanian schools is partly based upon this negative experience (once a
mixed school Hungarian classes could be downsized easily). But since Romanians do not
fully comprehend what Hungarians experienced during Ceausescu they tend to attribute this
request to bad intentions such as separatism or disdain towards Romanians.
The Revolution of 1989 brought times of shared traumas. The ethnic cohabitation, at least
as perceived by Romanians, seemed to have been better during Communist times, since
Communism, on one hand, was everybody's common enemy, and on the other hand, it had
its own policy of affirmative action. Both Romanians and Hungarians agree ethnic
cohabitation deteriorated after 1989, which is confirmed by the IMAS survey (IMAS: 1994
and 1995). This happened because of 'that air of liberty'; each national group attributes to
the other the responsibility for the deterioration.

Hungarians rushed to require too much without caring what would happen to others.
They asked their schools back before knowing if Romanian children have another
place to go to'. ( Cluj, intellectuals).
The days of the 1989 ‘revolution' as lived in the Szekelys area seem to have been more
traumatic than elsewhere in Romania. The Romanian nationalist propaganda tried to
exaggerate and distort them: the Hungarian official version tried to deny this exceptional
character altogether. However, there it was, a social and national uprising combined, unlike
the rest of Romania, where the majority of the population was made of Romanians. In these
Hungarian dominated areas of the Szekelys the representatives of the Communist political
order had been Romanians, notably the policemen. The superimposition of the ethnic
difference on the political one certainly mattered. For weeks all the elements of social and
political order seemed to have disappeared forever all around Romania, and the same went
for the national order in some Hungarian dominated counties, where Hungarian flags were
displayed on official buildings, Romanian policemen and Securitate officers were beaten and
some savagely killed. DAHR claims they were identified as symbols of the Communist
persecution and killed on political, not national, grounds. However, if policemen had to flee
in the rest of the country, too, they were killed only in the Szekelys. Romania's nationalist
former government turned this into a demonstration of Hungarians' intolerance and
irredentist behavior, and a booklet was printed to prove Romanians were chased from the
Szekelys area after 1990, although evidence is pointing people who left were graduates who
had been compelled previously to take jobs in the area. Anyway, the climate at the
Revolution was confusing and dangerous, no doubt about that, and this contributed to the
state of mind inhabitants of Tg. Mures had in March 1990 when the tension finally turned
into violence. Permanent inhabitants of the area, who of course did not flee with graduates
at the first chance, as the peasants from Livezi, reconstruct by their recollections 'the days of
the Revolution' in the Szekelys:

We were hiding in corners of the trains...We didn't dare speak Romanian until

They revenged themselves on policemen...

Was it serious ?

Well, isn't enough a few policemen were killed ?

The policemen had to leave, because groups of hooligans attacked them,

they threw them out of houses with children, with everything. We hid them,
gave them civil clothes so they could leave, they took a train and left, they
were from Bistrita...

Had they been really bad, these policemen ?

Well, they didn't treat them worse than they treated us. They destroyed
everything those people possessed...

And after they revenged themselves on policemen they took on to


What did they do ?

Well, if there was a Romanian school director, they made him leave...And in
factories, all Romanian managers were dismissed...

I come home one night in '89 and I find my wife fully dressed. I say 'Where're
you going '? And she says 'Don't undress, Hungarians will come to kill us
tonight' Finally we stayed...But wild rumors went around, Romanians were in
panic, if these rumors had not stopped a disaster could have happened..

I have telephone, I was speaking with someone from Mihaileni (the near
village) He called me because he had heard Romanians are on their way to
them. He called to ask what's going on because rumors in their village said
people from Livezi are coming to put Mihaileni on fire. I told him to mind his
business, because we knew they were coming at us to put fire. He told me a
group of drunkards were shouting in the street Let's go to Livezi to make
justice. But more serious people told them to stop, because they would only
seek trouble coming here. I told him to let them come, we have 12 hunters in
this village. The operator heard the conversation, she had a son who had
already devastated the police headquarters, and after that conversation
everything calmed down...

I was at work at Reghin and heard the bells tolling at noon, and they told me
'Romanians started killing Hungarians'.

They had courage, in Ciceu they put they Hungarian flag and it stayed for
weeks on the railroad station, nobody dared to get it down, including

It's their blood, you can't help that. They couldn't stand even during
Ceausescu not to sing their national hymn on News Year's night...

And did that bother you ?

Actually it did, A little common sense, what is the point in singing the
Hungarian hymn at midnight when we were half and half, what, do I start
singing 'That's the Romanian way'(popular song in Transylvania)?

That's their character, I don't know what Romania means for this people.

This story from Livezi is very telling for the mood in the Szekelys region during the
Revolution and the traumas it left behind, which were afterwards used by nationalistic
leaders and the government. Livezi, a 16th century village, has less than 100 houses and is
isolated among hills. Since it is close to an important railroad crossing men work mostly at
the railroads. Being state owned, the Railroad Company traditionally hires Romanians in
that area, to help them survive, they told us. This was true even before the war. Inhabitants
of Livezi know Hungarian quite well, since local authorities are Hungarian. Besides them as
old inhabitants, only few Romanians live there, those considered by the Szekelys
representatives for the state of 'occupation' : policemen, army officers, a few bureaucrats
and clerks. In 1989, after Ceausescu's discriminative policy there is no wonder all these
people were replaced. For weeks workers all over the country were 'democratically' electing
their managers, and since here most of the workers were Hungarians, naturally Romanians,
and representatives of the Communist establishment were chased. But what was in the rest
of Romania a revolution against Communist establishment in the regions where Hungarians
had the majority turned into a revolution against the Romanian domination as well, took on a
national character so Romanians felt threatened. Romanian peasants are especially known

for their patience and submission to authorities and were particularly frightened by the chase
after policemen, although the Communist policemen were universally hated.

5.3. On violence

Nobody is guilty of violence. No violence could happen in one's community where everything
goes so well. It is surprising how reluctantly people let themselves be reminded that, despite
the alleged instigation of the Securitate it was however ordinary Romanians and ordinary
Hungarians who actually did the fighting in 1990 at Tg. Mures. Local people point to the fact
that it was Romanian peasants, brought from the nearby villages, mobilized by priests and
transported in official buses and Hungarian Gypsies who fought savagely. 'There was no
inhabitant of this town there' insisted blindly the intellectuals in Tg. Mures, both Romanians
and Hungarians. However, a day before, on March 19, Romanians, always instigated,
attacked the headquarters of DAHR and hurt people, while Hungarians won the 'battlefield'
by their savagery on 20. Even today outside the intelligentsia circles some macho pride

'It is true there were more Romanians hurt finally than Hungarians, but we didn't start
it, they started it' (DAHR leader, Tg. Mures)

'Romanians learned their lesson, they didn't have courage to go to town or to cross
our village for months after', (Hungarian peasants, Miercurea Nirajului).

We did not provoke the fight, but we won it' (Miercurea Niraj).

In Tg. Mures, considered a city 'deeply hurt' both Romanian and Hungarian intellectuals
refuse this approach: 'We all lost.' Hungarians are especially frustrated because later on
police started to summon for investigation Hungarians who allegedly took part at the rally on
March 20, 1990. The only few people convicted were Gypsies, and DAHR lead a long
lasting and obstinate campaign for the release of the only Hungarian who suffered a longer
imprisonment, a man who savagely kicked a fallen old peasant, while filmed by a television
crew. The image went all around the world as one of a Romanian beating a Hungarian and
two days later when everybody was identified it proved to be the other way round. The
victim suffered serious trauma, not entirely recovered until today, and was popularized as 'a
victim of the Hungarians' by the Romanian State television until saturation. DAHR, on the

other part, filled several complaints to European organization asking for the release of the
aggressor on the grounds that he only kicked the fallen man so he was not really the author
of the damage. When finally released, the 'abused' man was met at the prison door by his
lawyers, who were also DAHR MP.

'No big deal. Cofariu (the victim) shouldn't have been there in the first place.
Czeresnyes wore sport shoes, he only hit him twice with his foot, he saw he was not
moving and went further There's no point for him to be in prison, when all the friends
of Ceausescu were released in a few months'. (Intellectual, Sf Gheorghe, approved
by the rest of the group).

Although everybody denies Tg. Mures could happen again or that it could have happened in
his or her town, a few doubt and fear the future

'If once again they bring from outside, people who were trained to hate, we don't know
what will come out. Because we have our extremists, Romanian have theirs and if
these people get face to face we do not know what will happen'. (Cluj, Hungarian

Others saw the good part of Tg. Mures, like another Hungarian intellectual, from Tg. Mures
this time, who ranked the value of Hungarian identity a lot above the desire of having
Romania a democratic state or avoiding the violence of Tg. Mures:

In a way I'm glad it happened [Tg.Mures], since back then in 1990 there was a lot of
trust in the development of the Romanian democracy among Hungarians. People
were confident and off their guard, for the first time Romanians were a positive
example, and I am sure a fast assimilation would have followed. When the
assimilation is not forced, it's more dangerous'

In the Szekely area this feeling of mobilization is widespread:

'If Romanian extremists like Funar ever try to start something here, we're ready for
them. I know Sf Gheorghe well; nothing will start here, but if somebody from outside
comes God preserve him. I think my colleagues will approve when I say that here it
couldn't have happened what happened in 1990 when miners came to Bucharest; no
miner would have left alive. We wouldn't stay like people in Bucharest with our arms
crossed to look while they butcher our children’ (old man, Sf Gheorghe)

Tg. Mures tore Transylvania apart, in a way. Nobody tried to discuss it with Romanian or
Hungarian friends, apparently. People took refuge in their own camps and blamed it all on
the others, then on the government, Securitate, whoever except themselves, of course.
There were few, if any attempts to discuss the events with the other group, even with good
friends belonging to the others. People attributed the guilt to the government (37 %
Hungarians and 25 % of the Romanians blamed 'Ion Iliescu and his government'), 18 %
Hungarians and 9 % Romanians believe that Romanian local government authorities are to
blame, and 23 % Romanians and 7 % of the Hungarians blame Hungarian local government
(the mayor of Tg. Mures was a Hungarian) 13 % of Hungarians blame Romanians compared
to 19 % of Romanians who blame Hungarians. 20 % of Romanians and 23 % of Hungarians
display a more bilateral attitude, blaming both ‘Romanians and Hungarians’. The majority of
each national group, however, blames it unilaterally on the other group: either directly on the
people, or indirectly on the administration identified with the others' culture.

Figures 7 and 8 about here

People consider it is the business of the state to contain violence, which is normal. A little
more than 60 % of each national group consider it is the state who should intervene in
events like Tg. Secuiesc. About 5 % of each group think that in similar situations citizens
must take justice in their own hands while 25 % think it is wiser to give up. This about a
quarter of each population is probably able of having a bilateral view of the situation.

The experience of Odorheiu showed incidents similar to Tg. Mures can actually happen
again. In pure Szekely area, even in the town (Odorheiu Secuiesc) where the most radical
autonomist wing of DAHR is based (a wing which is in minority but provoked serious
discussions opposing mixed marriages or asking for the organization of a regional poll to
decide about autonomy) a serious incident occurred, covered by nationalist Romanian
press extensively. The City Council granted the permission for a Swiss charity to build an
orphanage. Versions clash if the orphans were supposed to be only Hungarians, as the city
council claims, or simply orphan, as the Swiss charity pretends. Anyway, the orphanage
was built with considerable expense, a few Romanian nuns, Greek-Catholic were installed
there, when the mayor heard orphans are going to be from all Romania instead of just
Szekely area. After a stormy meeting the local government claimed back its land and, what
is worse, the building. A court in Mures ruled in favor of the Swiss charity, but that didn't
prevent the council members from inciting the population to chase the invaders, accused of

wanting to ruin the ethnic composition of the region. A mob went to the orphanage,
evacuated by force the nuns and seized the building. DAHR officially disapproved the
incident, but local Hungarian councilors remained firm on their position. The local press
intoxicated the public opinion with rumors claiming some hidden design was behind the
orphanage. It was written that the Swiss charity is only laundering Ceausescu's money, that
the plan was to bring Romanians in the pure Hungarian Odorheiu town, that they envisaged
bringing in criminal youth and Romanian whores, and so on. The scandal that followed only
strengthened the locals in the idea trouble was brought about by foreigners and that the
mistake was made when granting the first license, not when deciding to take it back. This
1997 incident shows that, despite opposite opinions, Tg. Mures could happen again. Had
Odorheiu Secuiesc had also Romanian inhabitants, they would have probably run to the
defense of the nuns and confronted the Hungarian mob. Despite the fact that pictures were
published showing the evacuation and the Hungarian minister of Minorities, Mr. Gyorgy
Tokay, said it is shameful this could happen and never in their history did Hungarians
treated women and nuns so badly, the inhabitants of the town are mostly on the mayor's
side than on Mr. Tokay's. Attitudes towards the incident fitted well the pattern of
‘Romanians as invaders’ of the Szekelys.

'People next the border with Hungary know better Romanian than some people from
the Szekely area, who are in the middle of Romania...The Szekelys kept their identity
by isolating themselves from everything around, sometimes including the nearby
village. Those who do not work in some other place don't even know Romanian’
(Hungarian intellectual, Tg. Mures).

Cohabitation in the Szekely area is viewed differently than in the rest of Transylvania,
especially in towns, since at the countryside there are almost no Romanians except one
policeman per village. Town-dwellers consider Romanians as occupants, who want to
change the demographic status quo,

'Each officer comes here with his family and they get a higher pay to come here
because we're considered dangerous here. Then they give jobs to the relatives of
the officer, then houses and so they settle. An officer married a Hungarian girl here
and his children speak only Hungarian but he doesn't know a word of Hungarian' (Tg.
Secuiesc, workers).

One of the rumors still going on is about the supplementary pay policemen in the Szekelys
is allegedly receiving for working in a 'risk area'. This seems to be a main concern both for
ordinary Hungarians and for opinion leaders in the area. After discussing with Romanian
police officers that denied it we finally met a Hungarian police officer who volunteered to
show us his receipts to prove it is just a rumor. Such rumors, however, keep people

5.4 On communication

Complaints about misunderstanding from the others occur often, although the meaning of
misunderstanding is very different from Cluj, a true multicultural city, to traumatized Tg.
Mures or isolated Szekelys region. Intellectuals attribute it to the little knowledge the two
national groups have of each others' culture.

'Why should we learn the history of Romanians, while they know nothing of our
history or of the other minorities?’(Hungarian teacher, Miercurea Ciuc)

'The truth is we're not very curious to understand the Hungarian culture' (Romanian
playwright, Tg. Mures).

The situation is, however, more paradoxical. Not only ethnic conflict is grounded in
misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, but ethnic peace as well. Such is the case of
many intellectuals who are strong promoters of a reconciliation without understanding
nothing of the essence of the conflict...Most of the Romanian liberal intellectuals never read
a Hungarian history book: while rejecting the nationalists propaganda they do not try to
supplant this biased information with some first-hand knowledge. There are real differences
in the approach of Romanian and Hungarian intellectuals but they are not even known
reciprocally, mutual understanding being based on the total ignorance of the others' views.
Romanian liberals -most of them- build their friendship for Hungarians on the hate for the
common enemy -the national-communists - and choose to ignore the problems and
aspirations of Hungarians in Romania cannot be all satisfied keeping Romania as they
know it, even with them in power. On the other hand, Hungarian leadership rarely tried to
make it explained.

The most telling fact is, perhaps, that a social representation of nations living like a family
within Romania is simply missing, so difficult it is to imagine an in-group including both

Romanians and Hungarians. When asked 'Were Romania a family, how would it look like'
most Hungarian groups told us they cannot conceive it as a family 'or we would be the
intruders' (intellectual, Miercurea Ciuc). Even Romanians had difficulties. 'It would be like a
mother-in-law with the daughter-in-law' (classical image of conflict in the Romanian folk-
stories) (peasants, Cluj). At the other extreme is this beautiful representation of a young
Romanian student in Sibiu:

'The father should be a German, the Hungarian the cook and the Romanian should
take care of the house. Now it's not working because the father is Romanian, not

Germans are the most admired by Romanians of all national minorities (Kivu and Galat

'Germans never push like Hungarians. It's a terrible pity they left' (Romanian
intellectual, Cluj).

In the same time we should not forget the modern Kings of Romania were of German
(Hohenzollern) descent.

5.5. Fear of extinction

The most mobilizing issue of the ethnic politics in Romania as made by DAHR in recent
years - and by several Hungarian NGO's and lobby groups inside and outside Romania - is
the danger of extinction.

'In 50 years no word in Hungarian shall be heard in Transylvania, or at the most it will
be spoken only in the back rooms of the houses' (DAHR President, Attila Zonda, Tg.

This catastrophic prediction seems as least strange considering the fact that in the last 50
years the Hungarian community resisted quite well, and is now doing better than ever.
There are no facts to suggest assimilation is under way -by any means - and the slight
decrease of the population after 1990 can be attributed to immigration to Hungary or to
Western countries. Low fertility rate is invoked as hurting the Hungarian community only,
even though after 1995 Romania on the whole presented a negative natural growth, due to
poor economic and social conditions. However, Hungarians imply that this will lead to a

demographic catastrophe sometimes in the future, a pattern perfectly similar to the one
experienced by the French community of Quebec.(Breton; 1988; 93-102) Bishop Laszlo
Tokes also went on speaking of 'cultural genocide' as in Ceausescu's times even after
1990, especially when abroad, but also at the famous Cernat meeting of September 1998.
The evolution of the number of Hungarians since the unification of Transylvania to Romania
is shown in the following figure:

1930 : 1.353.276

1956 : 1.587.675

1966 : 1.619.592

1977 : 1.705.810

1992 : 1.624.959*

• Data from 'The Hungarians in Romania' edited by the Center for Transylvanian Studies, Cluj-
Napoca, 1944

The irrational core of this belief that Hungarians are 'disappearing' is shown in its
coexistence with the belief the number of Hungarians is underscored in official census
figures. Hungarians thus saw the presidential elections of 1996 as an opportunity to know
'their real number' assumed higher than the 1992 census' figures. Votes in legislative
elections are difficult to trace, since Hungarian independents run beside DAHR, which has
usually around 7 % of the total vote. Having a unique presidential candidate was seen as
the only opportunity to do a 'honest census' (peasants, Miercurea Niraj), but the results
were deceiving, Hungarians are no more than the figures of 1992, the only good news
being a few Romanians voted the Hungarian candidate as well.

The danger of extinction is invoked especially associated with exclusionist demands, such
as school separation, as it is common in all similar cases and therefore supports Horowitz
explanation it is projection-based ((Horowitz : 1985; 80). In other words the repression of
the idea that what the Hungarian community really needs is the whole space for itself in
order to survive leads to the transfer of this desire to the Romanian community, accused of
assimilationist policies, of an overall attempt to chase and eliminate Hungarians from

5.6 On language

The language and the linguistic difference lie at the heart of the Transylvanian problem. In
the same way territory prompts communication between the two groups the language
seems to be pushing apart Romanians and Hungarians.

Language is the main instrument of self-ascription, as we have seen. It is also the key to
convenience: support for language policies derive from what seems to be the determination
of each group not to learn another language but have all possible facilities in itw own.

The DAHR campaign to allow Hungarians to use their own language in administration and
justice is however not entirely grounded in functional reasons. As it is it is fully justified.
However, weight is attached also to the demonstration that the Hungarian language is not
inferior to the Romanian one (so based on prestige grounds). My experience confirms the
theory of Walker Connor that fighting for objective issues such as the use of the language
in administration is explained by the need for self-identification and political affirmation of a
group of people who consider themselves to be different (Connor, 1972).

Language is then the crucial vehicle of ethnic mobilization (Ross, in Giles: 1992). The fist
squabble in Tg. Mures in 1990 started from the fact that a Hungarian pharmacist wanted to
replace the Romanian sign with a Hungarian one. In 1995 DAHR was able to gather 420
000 signatures for their project of amending the Education Law. Even peasants we talked
to knew by heart the demands of DAHR 'The government must give us the language'. And
when asked what do they mean by that, since in their village (Miercurea Nirajului) a large
one, there were a few schools, all in Hungarian, and even a Hungarian high-school, they
answered 'Yes, but history and geography are taught in Romanian. We want everything
taught in Hungarian, otherwise our children, who don't know Romanian, learn by heart and
then forget everything they learn'

The objections DAHR made to the Education law had this twofold legitimization. We can
describe as functional the objections referring to the possibility of having vocational
education in Hungarian or having a full education cycle (from elementary schools to
graduate studies) in this language. We see as 'symbolic objections' those which are
concerned with the creation of an equal status of Hungarian with the Romanian official
language. These types of objections are directed towards the elimination of the superiority
of the Romanian language, seen as depreciation in itself of a Hungarian language.

‘Second-ranked language, second-hand citizens who speak it’ this is how it runs the logical
sequence behind this political attribution. DAHR claimed that the article specifying that
education in the native language of all minorities regardless the level will be provided is
'canceled' by the existence of the previous article specifying that in every town a class in
Romanian should be organized (Professor Szylagy, unpublished paper), insisting
Romanian children should not be favored under any circumstances and that in places
where there are not enough Romanians to form a class (at least 15) they should learn in
Hungarian.(The Ciorbea government accepted the modification of this article as proposed
by DAHR in 1997). Even in this line of argument one can notice it is not the securing of the
rights for the Hungarians that make the major concern, but the care to prevent the
Romanian language, the only official one, to enjoy any special status.

The origin of symbolic issues in the language campaigns is twofold. On one hand, as
Walker Connor noticed, it is an attempt of self-assertion. On the other, it is based on a post-
traumatic logic. That class of Romanians shouldn't exist even as a legal possibility because
when a nationalist government will come he might force Hungarians to enroll ; schools must
be separated in pure Hungarian and pure Romanian because otherwise, as already
happened during Ceausescu, the number of classes taught in Hungarian will be reduced
sometime in the future, while in a pure Hungarian school they will survive even with less
students ; and so on. This post-traumatic logic is not meaningless, albeit an attempt to
search for rational grounds of symbolic behavior makes no sense. One idea springs
forward: that for DAHR and for most of the Hungarian elite in Romania education has one
supreme task : to preserve the national identity of children. All the other roles education
might and should have become secondary or subordinated to this one, and they consider
the communication and interethnic socialization, not only as subordinated objectives, but
actually as threats to the Hungarian identity.

'The Romanian language always wins in the schoolyard or in corridors, regardless if

classes are taught in Hungarian. That's why we need to separate the schools'
(DAHR education advisor).

'During Ceausescu you couldn't write in the literature textbook Hungarian names
without their Romanian translation in a parenthesis. I said for instance Nagyvarog,
but you had to put 'Oradea' next, like we did not know this was the same town. It was
very humiliating' (Miercurea Ciuc, middle-class),

'Why should our children learn Romanian denominations ? They won't remember
them, for them it's like birds language...They'll learn them later if they will need them,
at school they should learn geography in Hungarian, with Hungarian denominations'.

Romanians, on the other hand, have their own complaints:

'The Hungarian Television, when showing the weather, gives a map without borders
and all the names are in Hungarian, names in Transylvania, in Yugoslavia, and so on,
like everywhere it's Hungary. And when our Department of Foreign Affairs complained
about this they claimed Hungarians across the borders watch Hungarian television so
it's normal to put the names in Hungarian'.(Romanian intellectuals, Cluj).

'Mr. Frunda (the Hungarian candidate for presidency) repeatedly stated that he knows
Romanian the same as English and French and he is sorry he does not know the
Gypsy's language for he would speak it also...This type of internationalism wants to
reduce the importance of the Romanian language.'(Romanian intellectual, Cluj).

'They always compare Romanian to any language and say : what do you care if we
learn or not, it's not your concern, who needs it will certainly learn it' (Romanian
student, Babes-Bolyayi University).

One objective problem is, indeed, the fact that Hungarian names for places are entirely
different than Romanian and Serbian ones. This makes the issue of studying geography in
Hungarian such a political issue, and this lead to the bizarre specification when liberal
amendments to the Education law were proposed by the Ciorbea government that
geography shall be taught in Hungarian except for denominations which will have to be
given the Romanian version also. The problem is indeed a political one: should the official
language be compulsory, or should it be left to the free will of citizens to decide if to learn it
or not? Both ordinary Hungarians and political leaders are against the former and endorse
the latter.

'I want a separate Hungarian state university run by Hungarians with Hungarian
teachers. This doesn't imply Romanian should not be taught at that University. I want
to learn Romanian, as I want to learn English or German, it's useful to know
languages'(Hungarian student, Faculty of Journalism, Hungarian section, Babes-
Bolyayi University).

'We think the person should make the decision if he wants to learn the Romanian
language or not, not to be compelled to learn it' (Tamas Sandor, Hungarian MP,
advisor to Laszlo Tokes, President of DAHR)

The autonomy to decide if one should or not learn the official language is the framed in the
general philosophy of 'subsidiarity', meaning in this specific circumstance that the majority
cannot decide for the minority in any matter concerning language and education (Anton
Niculescu, comments on 'Pentru o democratie transetnica',unpublished paper). But in
practice, learning Romanian is not seen as one of the duties implied by the Romanian
citizenship, although the Romanian state, as any state, could raise this legitimate claim
(Neier :1996). DAHR fights to eliminate any form of testing the knowledge of Romanian,
because they say

'If there is an exam in Romanian, the admission to University, the degree, or

anything else parents will send their children to a Romanian high-school because
they fear children won't otherwise pass the exam' (DAHR MP, Bucharest).

'Somebody who graduated after 12 years of Hungarian school does not stand a
chance to go to the Law School where competition is fierce because he doesn't know
Romanian enough, so having a Hungarian Law School is the only way for me to
become a lawyer'. (Hungarian student, Babes-Bolyayi University)

This is why the DAHR insisted for having every possible discipline taught in Hungarian in
state universities (including Law, although laws are not issued in a Hungarian version also).
However, the fact that a few parents, even if they have the alternative close, will choose a
Romanian instead of a Hungarian form of higher education is a constant fear of DAHR and
many radicals consider this a form of national treason. In our 1998 poll the two communities
were split over this issue: the majority of Romanians (78,9%) thought some test of
Romanian knowledge should be undertaken by Hungarian, compared to 38 % Hungarian.
The majority of the Hungarians (56 %) were however against it.


In the present system Romanian is in fact learned only outside the education system, the
few hours of Romanian in the Hungarian schools being highly ineffective.

'Children from Szekelys learn Romanian in the army. They learn there in one year
more than they learned in 12 years of school, because they live among Romanians'.
(Miercurea Ciuc, Hungarian teacher).

'I admit textbooks of Romanian might be too complicated and should be simplified
but I do not agree with DAHR's demand Romanian should be studied as a foreign
language in Hungarian schools' (schools' inspector, Miercurea Ciuc).

'My daughter made this summer two Romanian friends, and now she's interested in
learning Romanian, but at school she used to hold her hands on the ears saying 'it's
too difficult' (Ciuc, middle-class Hungarian group).

If schools are to be totally separated and conscription waived if Romania joins NATO the
Hungarians in Romania would be pushed to live even in a closer ethnic community than
they do now since they would have no opportunity to learn Romanian from their
environment. DAHR disregards this danger, consider the survival of their minority language
is more important. And indeed it is: only we can't compare Hungarian in Transylvania,
spoken by at least 2 million Hungarian and Romanians, with several private and state-
supported magazines and newspapers, broadcasting programs, and numerous contacts
with neighboring countries with extinct languages such as the Basque or the Welsh which
had to be revived. The linguistic policy of DAHR is rather inspired with the policy of the
seventies pursued by Le Parti Quebecois, a fight to have bilinguism official, to have the
equality between the two languages officially granted. Transylvanian Romanians are aware
of this and act defensively, considering the language Romanians in fact lose rights won by
Hungarians. Younger people tend to look favorably upon the introduction of bilingual signs,
but old people like the Greek Catholic in Cluj feel threatened:

Do you think Gheorghe Funar has the right policy towards Hungarians ?

He exaggerates. He understands problems, but makes serious mistakes.

If it hadn't been for Funar the last four years here...a catastrophe would have
happened. We would have now every sign in two languages...

Let's not exaggerate.

What if the signs are written in two languages ? Why does that bother you ?

We can't admit that now, with the present relations between Romanian and
Hungarians...Maybe in 10 or 20 years...Hungarians provoke us permanently.
And we don't know how to react...

They want this only to earn grounds for a future territorial separation...

How could the 20 % Hungarians in Cluj hope that ?

They can, from bilingual signs they would pass to signs in Hungarian only.

I saw in Brasov they put signs in 3 languages and all is fine...

Germans never contested the Romanian State, Germans are loyal...

Look at minorities shows on Romanian television...The German one is

decent while in the Hungarian one they say one thing and they translate

But how come in Brussels they can have everything in two languages and
nobody cares ?

But what about Hungary, they don't have signs in two languages.

Bilinguism is dangerous.

Do you fear this is the step towards something else ?

Yes, it feeds ideas and feelings...

We have an official language they should have signs in this language only.

If we would have two languages in Cluj postcards with Cluj will disappear,
we would have only Kollosvar...

Automatically they compel you to learn Hungarian.

Romanians oppose and fear bilinguism on the grounds that : i. is a step to territorial
separation ii. Hungarians will not content themselves to that and they will afterwards force

Romanians to learn Hungarian, since they will hire only people who know Hungarian if it's up
to them.

'They will obtain that the Romanian language should be completely chased from
administration...Now we speak Romanian from time to time, then we would not be
able to do so...And they will care that no work is available for who is not Hungarian'
(Romanian peasants, Szekelys area).

Even Romanians who know Hungarian well, such as a group of three doctors we discussed
to in Tg. Mures who approve bilinguism have a negative perception towards the language
problem :

'My experience as a doctor, especially a Hungarian speaking-doctor, in face of

Hungarian patients is quite sad...I have colleagues who do not know Hungarian and
they were accused by patients they do not know it'.

'Many Hungarians refuse to speak the Romanian language even if they know it. I
know a few Hungarian words and I am not ashamed to use them' (Romanian doctors,
Tg. Mures).

What scares Romanians so much is not even the history of Transylvania, is the Hungarian
determination and constant offensive, which is strange for the 'laissez passer' life style of
Romanians. This fragment from the group interview with Romanian workers in Cluj (who
approved bilinguism) says it all :

Who in the group thinks Hungarian may have their cultural autonomy ?

No problem, if they make a contract with the government and then respect
it...If everything is...

If everything is clearly specified.

They can have all they want, the Hungarians, but in each of us persists the
doubt : are they not going to grab Transylvania ?

Do you think they could ?



That would be a mistake.

We would have to speak only Hungarian then.

Could they grab it ? Think.

I keep thinking, I had this baby sitter, Hungarian, but she spoke good
Romanian, I left the child years with her, she didn't teach him a word of
Romanian. At 10 years he knew almost no Romanian, only Hungarian...

Maybe that's not bad, now he can learn Romanian and he knows two

Yes, but I was paying her and I asked her...

People who want Transylvania are in minority even in Hungary.

If they do not give us complexes...

Can the 1.6 million Hungarians make the 4 million Romanians of

Transylvania acquire complexes ?

I think they can.

If in the seventies you asked somebody in a crowded bus 'Do you get down
at the first station?' the answer was 'Nem todo Romano'.

And as we hear these times are coming back...

We'd feel bad if they had so many liberties.

Why is that ?

They never consider people's feelings, they go their own way without looking
around. They want always to impose their point of view.

Paradoxically, although Romanians have a comfortable majority they still fear Hungarians
will finally eliminate the Romanian language and have only the Hungarian. Also a paradox is
the fact that even if historically Hungarians were the culture with the highest assimilation
potential (Verdery :1982), today their policy is justified by the fear of being assimilated. But
this is only a part of the story: what runs deeper is the need to have the two languages
equal, to end the supremacy of the Romanian language.

'When the President of Romania will be able to speak Hungarian I shall stop feeling
as a second-rank citizen' 'Our number decreases daily while the number of the
Romanian grows, and that's a threat to our language and thought. I have a 2-years

old kid and when I think I might send him to a Romanian school I am terrified'(middle
class group, Ciuc).

'During the Horthy regime you could learn Romanian in the Hungarian schools, now
you can't learn Hungarian in Romanian schools...In the international train station in
Budapest they also announce in the Romanian the destination of trains, because
there are always some 300 Romanians around...while in Oradea, where daily 2000
Hungarians cross the border to Romania they don't announce anything in
Hungarian'. (old men, Sf Gheorghe).

The different view was also expressed, but only once :

'We should know the language of the state, but since we do not have the children to
learn it when they're young it becomes increasingly difficult later. If you don't speak
English in United States...Maybe that's not the way to Europe'(Hungarian intellectual,
Miercurea Ciuc)

Legal developments had caught the reality by 1997 and amendments proposed by the
Ciorbea government to the education and local administration law were intended to make
Hungarian almost an official language. It was not however called so, from fear of nationalist
reactions from the part of Romanians. The first Prime Minister after the 1996 victory of the
centrist coalition, Victor Ciorbea, a Transylvanian Romanian, was sincerely willing to 'do
justice to Hungarians'. The Hungarian language was anyway used in administration before
being legalized; in Tg. Secuiesc, for instance, from the local Council only one member is
Romanian, so the meetings of the Council were held in Hungarian in 1996, despite the law.
In Tg. Mures the Romanian authorities and part of the Romanians population were against
bilingual inscriptions although Tg. Mures has a Hungarian theater and opera (attended by
many Romanians as well), Hungarian newspapers, cultural associations, and so on. When
the Ciorbea government had for the first time since the Hungarian Autonomous region the
name of the city written in two languages the Hungarian version was erased with paint in
only a few hours after the sign was installed (July 24, 1997), while in Cluj the opening of a
Hungarian consulate long prevented by Funar provoked no adverse reaction, but even
applause from the population. This supports the idea that Funar's provocative nationalist
behavior somehow immunized the city, but also the idea that Romanians react mostly when
the Romanian language is challenged, being very tolerant for the rest.

The experience of the Hungarian autonomous region is also recalled negatively by the
Romanians. Even people from outside Transylvania, claim that when crossing the region
they were faced with a total refusal of the inhabitants to answer in the Romanian language.
Coexistence of nationalism with a command economy led to the rejection of the others'
language, since there was no incentive for communication whatsoever. Today, when
private trade flourishes it is, on the contrary, exceptional that the vendor and the buyer don't
find a way to communicate, despite a few complaints from Romanians in Tg. Mures.
However, where this incentive doesn't exist, communication is difficult.

'There are people and people. A car from Prahova broke here in Tusnad and our
peasants didn't help the driver because he was not speaking Hungarian'. (Hungarian
middle-class group, Miercurea Ciuc).

Hungarians, in their turn, complain that if they speak Hungarian outside Transylvania, even
between themselves, people look at them without sympathy or even ask them to speak
Romanian, especially at the countryside. (Sf Gheorghe, intellectuals)

The whole battle for self-government is actually a battle around language. The whole logic of
self-government evolves around language:

'If an old Hungarian woman who doesn't know Romanian because she was born
under the Austro-Hungarian Empire goes to the City Hall because she needs a
certificate, and nobody there speaks Hungarian she will not be able to solve her
problem and they may even mock her' (DAHR President, Tg. Mures).

But nobody could in fact be alive today who went to school under the Austro-Hungarian
regime, so if the old lady, or anyone else, doesn't know enough Romanian to ask for a
certificate it is because she did not want to know. Of course Hungarian-speaking clerks
should exist in all institutions in regions inhabited by Hungarians, but this because it is
obvious Hungarians living in compact areas do not know Romanian and because finally the
state is meant to function, so to provide services, and not to teach the official language to
recalcitrant students. However, if any form of testing the Romanian language will be
exempted from the education system a young girl from the Szekely area will know in 60
years as little Romanian as the old lady mentioned, even less because she will know in
every institution she will find somebody to speak Hungarian.

The stake of the second official language is that this in all probability prompts also the
reorganization of the state along linguistic lines. This type of policy can be noticed in
Belgium and Quebec (Ross, in Giles :1992) and implies the demand for the reform of the
political system and a decisive change of the rule of the game.(Melluci :1989). If Hungarian
becomes an official language in Hungarian-inhabited areas self-government is under way.
For zones where Romanians and Hungarians are in similar proportion such as Tg. Mures
this would probably increase ethnic resentment and bring more voters to Romanian
nationalist parties. For the rest of Transylvania it would probably make little difference from
the present situation. In our survey the Romanian community showed relative tolerance
towards bilingual signs, an all-Hungarian section of Babes-Bolyai University or even the
study of history and geography in Hungarian. Important reservations were made however
towards the idea that Romanian civil servants in Hungarian dominated areas should pass a
Hungarian language test when applying for the job.


5.6 On state, citizenship, government and self-government

The Romanian State is of the unitary-fused type, copied after the French, with central and
local government fused in the office of prefect. During the post communist years the prefect
enjoyed more authority and power than the mayor did, several mayors, especially from the
political opposition being dismissed by prefects by 1996. Local taxes were introduced in
1992 but they represent an insignificant amount of the taxes raised from the inhabitants.
Taxes are collected by local agencies of the Finance Department and redistributed by the
government. Until 1999 no law of financement of local governments existed, so each
mayor's budget was at the mercy of the central government. Most local institutions are also
centrally subordinated : health, police, and education. These specifications are necessary
in order to understand the amount of frustrations local governments - named, by the way,
'administration' because in the view of many Romanian politicians 'local governments exist
only in federal systems' (Romanian Secretary of State, Department of Information, 1996) -
accumulated during the post-communist transition. Politics in Romania is a central game
and due to the proportional system and the voting on party lists only Bucharest politics
matters, where party lists are made. The 'national' element, be it politics, television or
culture carries away in front of the local one. This political order is firmly grounded in the

social structure created by the Communist system that leveled regional and social
differences to a surprising extent (Botez : 1986 ; Mungiu :1995).

Hungarian respondents were unanimous in their blame for the 'state'. The state is
'nationalist' because 'They claim they want to integrate into Europe but they do just the
opposite'. The state is 'sucking the blood' of the counties, because it takes large taxes and
returns insignificant parts of them.

'We should have taxes for the development of state, of region and of town. Not like
this, all money are put in the central purse and then...It matters when you put meat in
a soup if you get some of it finally or you get liquid only'.(Miercurea Ciuc, middle-
class group)

'If a Hungarian family has economic difficulties -the same Romanian families have-
then the Hungarian says : it's not my fault, since I am a hard worker. But whose fault
is it ? It's Bucharest !'

'I work here, I do my job, why shouldn't I benefit of my work and my money ? Why
should I give it to Bucharest ?' 'The state kills us. They laid off some bureaucrats, but
the rest still sit on the country. They come here at the end of the month and take our
money' (Hungarian workers)

'You know the joke : why does the Southerners have a long neck : to look over the
mountains in Transylvania. They take all the goods for Bucharest people from here.
Whoever is appointed here doesn't go back to Bucharest...'(Hungarian peasants)

'Only 4 % of our taxes came back for the county last year. And the prefect decided to
give more money to Ludus (Romanian town) to help them build an Orthodox church,
while in Tg. Mures money is not enough even for street sweepers.' (Intellectuals, Tg.

Although the complexity of these discourses varies greatly their construction is similar in
many points. Both intellectuals, ignorant of the way the budget is designed but able to draw
on figures to make their point, and ordinary peasants resorting to sayings in order to do the
same were in fact constructing an attribution for a resentment. The resentment against the
state is justified by the situation we described above. People feel little of their money come
back to them in the form of some valuable service, and are willing to pay more local taxes

than national ones (Mungiu and Ionita: 1988). In the view of our Hungarian respondents,
duties towards the state as a citizen are tax paying and law-abiding. Since they pay their
taxes they consider the state - which is usually considered the 'Romanian' state (only now
DAHR is associated to government) owes them. In the Szekelys area, at least, none of our
respondents considered for a moment some of the public goods the state provides reaches
their area, (although except peasants and the middle class group they all worked in the
state sector), via at least education, defense or public order, but considered they could live
a completely autarchic life if their taxes come back to local governments. After complaining
too many garrisons are located in their region and the Romanian policemen don't know
Hungarian well (but Hungarians traditionally don't enroll as policemen, they told us) of
course they considered these two fields unworthy of their financement. Paying for
education is also frustrating, since education is subordinated to Bucharest.

'When inspection comes from Department of Education in Bucharest here they don't
understand anything. Why should Bucharest inspect us ? They're interested only if
children know Romanian. And of course children almost don't'(Hungarian teacher,
Miercurea Ciuc'.

Prejudices of both the Romanian nationalists and the citizens from the Szekelys area mirror
each other perfectly. They are both based on stereotypes: the Romanian stereotype of the
Hungarian as a traitor citizen who has to be kept under constant surveillance and the
Hungarian stereotype of the Romanian state which takes from Hungarians to give
Romanians. However the post-Communist state took from everybody with little
discrimination in order to support the massive state sector and avoid unemployment for both
Romanians and Hungarians.(Zamfir: 1994) Although Romania did not have after 1990 a
strategy of regional distribution of resources (a law to this effect was passed in 1997, but
with little practical consequences) inhabitants of Transylvania, not only Hungarians but
some Romanians too are persuaded they support the rest of Romania. few people realize
that due to a large central budget they benefit still of important subsidies in the cost of
energy and gasoline and pay insignificant amounts for education or health care.

Of course, self-government is seen as the solution of all problems (excepting Cluj, where
Hungarians fear Funar will become even more aggressive had he more autonomy from the
central government).Here opinions are different from the working and middle class
Hungarians we discussed to in the Szekelys area, who are radical autonomists and

intellectuals in Tg. Mures, Cluj, and even Sf Gheorghe, who realize the matter is more
complicated. The complicated system of 'autonomy steps' built by DAHR is not even known
excepting Hungarian intellectuals, and not understood even by them since it is quite
confuse but people we talked to knew well enough what kind of self-government they want.

' What's good for us'

' It means laws that concern us shouldn't be passed if we do not approve'

'Decentralization, for us and for the Romanians as well'

How to do it is a more complicated problem. In the Szekelys area most Hungarians,

regardless of education share the political model : ethnic-grounded territorial autonomy.

' Why can't we do it as in Switzerland ? They should split the country into regions :
Moldova, Muntenia, Banat, Transylvania into two parts, ours with Covasna, Harghita,
Mures and eventually Brasov, it doesn't matter, another one in Northern Transylvania,
each with his own laws and interests, that's federalization, that's what we need'.
(workers, Tg. Secuiesc). Intellectuals share this ideal, but are more aware of its
difficulties :

'We cannot create two categories of Hungarians, ones inside, the others outside a
Hungarian autonomous region. The only solution is a more autonomous Transylvania
as a whole' (DAHR leader, Cluj)

'Territorial autonomy on ethnic grounds is difficult to achieve, impossible. But still the
solution would be the South Tyrol model, with the rights of Romanians and
Hungarians who make a minority in a community being firmly ensured' (Tamas
Sandor, DAHR MP, advisor of Laszlo Tokes)

'We can't think of a separate solution for the Hungarians living here. We can solve it only
with the Romanians living here'

'If the Romanians would want to emancipate from Bucharest together we could work
something out'.(Intellectuals, Tg. Mures and Sf Gheorghe).

But this is precisely what the Romanians fear: that normal decentralization will only further
complicate the national problem, bringing an escalation of the Hungarians drive towards
some form of ethnic-based territorial separation. The present structure of 47 counties is a

compromise between the even more fragmented inter-war administrative organization and
the Communist one. The Ciorbea government planned to return to the inter-war structure,
although the project was strongly criticized. In any event, an administrative organization on
larger regions and provinces is absent from the Romanian tradition, excepting a brief and
failed reform of administrative organization attempted by Charles II. Steps towards normal
decentralization were constantly blocked in the 1992-1996 Parliament (the most
nationalistic until now) which prevented the reform of the administrative system in the whole
country on the grounds that Hungarians might benefit from it in their interest. This is one of
many cases, but a very significant one, of the pattern according to which development of
democracy in Romania is hindered due to the national problem.

The Szekelys do not make the majority of Hungarians in Transylvania, however., although
due to their compact presence they are of the the main initiators of political attitudes. The
rest of the Hungarians in Transylvania, slightly more numerous, have a different point of
view. According to our survey self-government of the Szekely region by itself does not meet
the approval of the majority of Hungarians. It would be surprising if it did, since the majority
does not inhabit there. 40 %, however, would like to see a special status region in the
Szekelys. Since Romanians are against it, 77 % of our sample made of Romanians and
Hungarians scored against the special status region. The opinion is much more balanced
when it comes to consociative solutions: 38 % Romanians favor and 37 % oppose the
appointment of Hungarian prefects in Hungarian dominated areas, although IMAS polls from
1994-1996 showed a larger opposition. The same IMAS polls made however clear that
Romanians tend to endorse whatever rights minorities already have and to oppose the
granting of new ones. In 1998 the Hungarian prefects had already been in place for almost
one year and a half so the population had grown accustomed to them.


Participation of DAHR to government, although strongly criticized by advocates of self-

government meets the approval of Hungarians and of a minority of Romanians as well. 35
% of Romanians, however, believe DAHR participation to the government as having a
negative impact on the Romanian-Hungarian relationship.


Romanians show disbelief when it comes to the Hungarian attachment to the Romanian
State :

'We all here approved to what the MP Mr. Ratiu said when asked by the Hungarians
why can't they have a state university the way Swedish minority has in Finland. Well,
he said, when Finland and Sweden play football together Swedes in Finland cheer
for the Finnish team, while in Romania Hungarians do the opposite,' (workers,
Romanians, Cluj)

'Hungarians will never accept Romanian domination, never will they accept the fact
that are part of the Romanian state. To them the nation is more important than
everything is, they are disciplined and listen to national commandments in ways
Romanians cannot dream of. They killed, proportionally, maybe even more Jews
than the Germans in order to have the Germans support them, then in 1944 they
were told : you are Hungarians you shouldn't be subordinated to Romanians, enroll
in the Communist Party early and you will occupy the key positions...In 1956 I was
working in Vatra Dornei and subordinated to a very tough Hungarian
apparatchik...When the Revolution started in Hungary we were all touched and we
hoped it will start in Romania, too, but that man was telling us defiantly 'Romanians
are not capable of something like this. Even this fantastic moment, which I think is
one of the very important moments of the European history they couldn't help using
only to exult their pride'

'The Romanian people resented Communism. In 1944 almost no Romanian enrolled

in the Communist party...Then the leaders of the Hungarians in Romania understood
the importance of that moment and they saw in Communism a double opportunity :
to defend their interests and to continue the fighting against the same Romanian
state, in the same time escaping the responsibility for what they had done in the last
4 years (1940-1944)'. (Old Romanian intellectuals, Cluj)

DAHR is right in theory when explaining that asking Hungarians to prove their loyalty
towards the state is similar to giving up the presumption of innocence. (Marko Bela: 1998)
However even the more moderate Romanians (like the workers in Cluj) would feel better
that autonomy would be a 'contract' and loyalty the trade-off. Based on the logic summed up

by MR Marko Bela none of the legal proposals of DAHR does even allude to the matter of
loyalty, which only feeds the anxiety and fear of the Romanians.

5.7. On East and West

Politicians and intellectuals both often said that Romania's path can no longer be distinct
from the general trend towards European integration. The theme was also constantly
invoked in our focus groups. The European integration of Romania is by no means certain:
but people's choice of a political way is nevertheless highly relevant for a certain value-
system. Our survey provided three options to be chosen by respondents: option West (best
foreign policy is seek speedy integration in NATO and the UE), option East (best foreign
policy is seek an alliance with the Community of Independent States), and national option
(best policy is to pursue its own original path unlike the East or the West).
Twice as many Romanians as Hungarians, as one can notice, believe that Romania should
indeed seek an 'original way' and a third of the whole sample representative for Transylvania
share this belief. The majority, however, is inclined towards the option ‘West’. Of the 31 %
who chose the national option the most are highly educated people. To what cause can we
attribute this fact? The higher awareness of the difference between the Romanian and the
Western systems? The fear of being rejected, or to compete with the West? Provincialism,
higher among educated people, more eager to protect their culture and their role? Difficult to
answer. But is it certain that the discourse of conservative intellectuals is directly linked with
this national option. As Hungarians Romanians also noticed immigrants in Western Europe
end up in the black labor market. Contact with the few multinationals landed in Romania
also increased the perception that work attitudes are different in the Balkans than in
Western Europe or United States. Hungarians identify themselves more with the civilized
West, and most Romanians share the perception of a barbaric East. Some want to keep the
differences embodied in the original 'third way. some are afraid of that:
If neither NATO nor the UE will accept us in 1999, if Westerners do not come here
massively as investors as managers to compel us live with them and by them this nation will
disappear or will become just a populace.(officer, Army Of Transylvania)
Transylvania wants to belong to the West but stumbles over the doubt it is 'West’:. People
fear for good reason their values and attitudes might be closer tot he realities of a under-
developed post-totalitarian country than to Western Europe.


The victory in November 1996 elections of the centrist coalition in Romania-the only
alternative to the post-communist and nationalist alliance which had rules since 1990-
brought an area premiere that remained if not unnoticed than little analyzed. As a
consequence of the victory the ally-since 1991- of the winner Democratic Convention of
Romania (CDR), the Hungarian alliance (DAHR) joined the new-formed government.
The event has a twofold importance: in broader European terms, since DAHR is the
largest ethnic party in Europe, representing the 1.7 million Hungarians and enjoying
almost 7 % of the total seats in the Romanian Parliament, and in the Balkan area, where
such collaboration is rarer and rarer.
One would expect that such a move would appease nationalists in both camps.
However, the presence of DAHR in the government proved to be a daily struggle, of the
government with the media and a rebellious Parliament, of the DAHR leaders with
various discontent wings of their party, of the Romanian coalition leaders with their MP
and followers. Although the major improvements in the Hungarians’ self-government
promoted by the government (such as appointment of Hungarian prefects in Hungarian
dominated-areas of Transylvania) brought no popular discontent, the debate on what the
status should be of the Hungarian community in Romania was only reopened. The major
conflict is between those who see the Hungarians participation at government as an end
in itself, while others, notably the Hungarians, see it as a means towards their program
of full self-government. The President of DAHR, while on one hand strongly keeping its
party together and in the ranks of the larger coalition is currently describing the situation
as a ‘Catch 22’ one. *In short, despite the major achievements of these two years
nationalists on both sides find good reason to claim the experiment had failed.
This chapter will analyze by looking into this issue the composition of nationalistic elites in
present-day Romania and the perception by the public of the elites’ role in the national
It is widely admitted that the elites, most notably what in Europe is called ‘intellectuals’
play an important part in the articulation of ethnic and national revival political
movements, and their involvement is often a consequence of failed assimilation and
frustrations over perceived rejection from the part of the dominant culture.. As Anthony
Smith put it :’

The intelligentsia, or professional classes, in the widest sense, play a special part
in the process of politicizing nascent ethnic sentiment(…)Fewer and fewer of the
educated elites from different ethnic groups are able to find positions which
match their professional qualifications(…)In fact, the process of politicizing the
intelligentsia cuts across the distinction between ethnic and territorial nationalism.
We find it at work in nineteenth century Eastern Europe, post-1945 Western
Europe, and among the territorial nationalism of contemporary sub-Saharan
Africa. (…) (Smith::1982:p 30,31)
Rejection or perceived rejection plays a part, but in the case of nationalists in Romania
we should say rejection is only a part of a larger game, strengthened by the habits
acquired during Communism, of avoiding or reducing competition by all means. The
intellectual class is especially good at this game. Hungarian intellectuals feel as second
class citizens often from symbolic reasons only –that their culture is a minority culture.
Romanian intellectuals also have a serious inferiority complex towards Western Europe.
The result is that nationalism is a common feature, the rule rather than the exception, in
both camps, its fiercest accents to be met mostly in parliamentary debates and the
Romanian media. But it would be wrong to assume that the top opinion leaders are cut
from their base. Frustration over ethnic competition is resented quite often. One focus
group participant, a Hungarian coach, complained about it in the following terms:
The evening before the match with the Romanian team I send my boys jogging
and then put them to bed early stressing the importance of the next day match.
The Romanian team occupies the porch of the hotel, smokes a little, drinks a lot
of beer, dances in the near-by disco, goes to bed at two in the morning and the
next day we are better than they but they win.
We would like to stress that if Hungarians feel Romanians do better with less effort
Romanians, in their turn, mostly Transylvanians, still experience the complex of being
politically and culturally dominated for hundreds of years. As members in a focus group
of Cluj Romanian intellectuals put it.
‘Their cultural heritage is richer because they were the masters here. Romanians
were not allowed to live in cities and build churches…What they boast with was
done on our expense’

(Bela Marko: 1998: in Transitions, December 1998.

2. Who makes the ‘elites’?
I understand by ‘elite’ in the present work three categories of persons:
1. Leaders and political class.
Here one can find the full spectrum of the Romanian elite, comprising politicians with
ideologies varying from extreme nationalist to liberal regionalism and part of a political
spectrum for the Hungarian politicians, as ideological differences are less important
since their main program is focused on the welfare of the Hungarian community.
2. outstanding opinion leaders (journalists, intellectuals, clergymen)
3. Opinion leaders, either regionally or locally influential (priests, teachers, other locally
acknowledged intellectuals or public figures).
It is always difficult to discern between the real problem of the national or ethnic group,
mirrored by leaders or elite, and the problems the leaders help subsist in order to take
advantage on them and consolidate their position. Some politicians can be described as
professional nationalists as they are directly interested not to solve an ethnic conflict
on whose behalf their career is made. Other persons with political ambitions denied by
their position in society –such as priests and journalists- also discover nationalism as a
‘cause’ they pretend to embrace in a non-political and non-partisan manner, in order to
gain primarily political influence. This last category likes to show itself as prophets and
defenders of some endangered cause, ranging from the protection of an extinct
language (like the Welsh, the Breton, the Basque) to the protection of a well-to-do
language they claim is abused (the movement to make English an official language in
US; the movement to protect the French language from anglicisms; the ‘crusade’ to
protect the Romanian language by writer and senator George Pruteanu. These are the
voluntary soldiers of nationalist causes, the crusader nationalists. Their cause is most
of the times a language – but they can also focus on a minority religion or denomination,
even on the genetic heritage threatened by mixed marriages.
The third and the largest category of nationalists are, however, the conformists. Group
conformity is a vital element in the understanding of the mobilization and support
building of nationalism. Many influential people in a community would never have
nationalist initiatives or would support personally such a movement, but since they are
dependent of the group/community they are willing to pay to have their identity as good
group members confirmed by nationalists who speak in the name of the group. This
leads to the subordination of elites which otherwise have both the money and the wit to
do their own politics to the nationalist leaders. Many middle-class and business

characters find themselves passive supporters of nationalism due to this mechanism,
although they are disinterested by the nature of their occupation in linguistic battles and
prestige wars, favoring communication over extreme differentiation. They end by
sponsoring nationalist movements by group conformity only, seeing it even as duty of
the well-to-do community members towards the rest.
Each of these three categories can be found within the two elites, Romanian and
Hungarian. The situation is obscured even further by the absence in Romania of a class
of professional politicians. The background of people serving as politicians in these
times of ‘transition’ are either as lawyers, or, quite often, as intellectuals and priests, so
exactly from categories aspiring to reach political influence by nonpolitical means. It is a
well known fact that writers tend to be nationalist leaders in the first stages of a
nationalist movement: in the former USSR Republics Popular and National Fronts were
mostly lead by writers in late ‘80’s and early’90’s, and so was DAHR (the Democratic
Alliance of Hungarians Romanian). The supreme office of DAHR, the presidency,
passed from one writer, Domokos Geza, to another, Bela Marko. The most popular
DAHR character is still the Bishop Laszlo Tokes. The most notable characters of
Romanian nationalism are poets such as Adrian Paunescu, Grigore Vieru, Leonida Lari,
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, priests such as Bartolomeu Anania, literary critics such as
George Pruteanu. And these are only the famous ones: Transylvania is full of people like
them, but least known, school principals, union leaders, history professors and librarians,
all guided by the ambition of being protectors and leaders of their community, all
voluntary to share with me their view on the essence of the national problem in

6.2. The Hungarian political class; ideology, evolution, trends

The creation of DAHR in 1990, immediately after political pluralism was allowed was a
natural phenomenon. Similar Hungarian parties were forming at the time in all the
neighboring states including Hungarian minorities. Laszlo Tokes had had a powerful start
as a hero of the Romanian Revolution, which helped him emerge as a political leader of
the Hungarian community in those days. Also essential was the fact that Ceausescu's
policy of denationalization of the last years had prepared the program of DAHR. While
Romanians were confused and divided in their new unexpected freedom, Hungarians
were united and so DAHR became the largest opposition party in the 1990 Parliament.

Its first leaders had been actually the leaders of the community already in the Communist
times. Domokos Geza, the first president, had been President of the Hungarian section of
DAHR, an establishment position. Others like Karol Kiraly had been members of
Ceausescu's Political Bureau and had protested openly against its national policies.
Despite individual contestings this group held together well: amazingly when one
considers later attacks against DAHR as an ethnic party that no essential contesting was
directed against it that days. The strange informal coalition governing Romania at the
time, made up of Army, secret service officers, former nomenklatura and the former
Communist newspapers supporting them seemed more concerned to prevent the
creation of a real Romanian opposition challenge to post-communist establishment, than
to counteract the creation of an ethnic party. This lack of interest from Bucharest lead to
the creation in Transylvania first of 'Vatra Romaneasca', a political and cultural nationalist
association, then to its political wing, the Party for the Unity of Romanians (PUNR). It is
important to establish that the first Romanian nationalist post-Communist movement
started in Transylvania. PUNR managed to win a few seats in the 1990 Assembly, but
since they registered as a party barely a month before elections, their performance can
be considered a success.
DAHR is indeed a political alliance, as its name shows. It was never recorded as a
political party according to the Romanian parties’ legislation. In fact it included parties,
NGO's, and cultural associations as well. Although ideological trends within DAHR vary
from Christian Democrats to Liberals, DAHR acts and is perceived more as an ethnic
party. Its constituency is either 'centre', or cannot say what it is (41%, UBB poll). The
Hungarian community lacks an ideological orientation even more than the Romanian
community, quite disoriented itself and having as only political option a party with a
national more than a political program.
A large body of literature in Romania and abroad, mostly written by journalists, point to
the existence inside DAHR of a 'radical' and a 'moderate' group. This discussion
originated in the sanctions given by DAHR leadership to the presence of two MP at a
conciliatory meeting with the Romanian government in 1993 at Neptun (organized by the
American Project on Ethnic Relations). One of the MP to receive a party sanction then
was the future candidate to Presidency, Frunda Gyorgy.
After Bela Marko as President of DAHR replaced Domokos Geza the alliance entered a
more radical stage, which lasted from 1992 to 1996. The Alliance between DAHR and the
Romanian opposition at the 1992 elections brought DAHR nothing, and Romanians

electoral losses. Later on, the government party, post-Communist Party for Social
Democracy (PDSR) associated itself with nationalistic PUNR and the more recent
Greater Romania Party (PRM), thus leaving Hungarians no hope their claims can be
resolved in the framework of the Romanian political system. During this time DAHR
adopted important documents such as the Cluj Statement (1992) and the Statute of
Personal Autonomy (1996). These documents proclaimed Hungarians in Romania as a
separate 'political subject' and asked for the internal 'self-government' and 'self'-
determination' of the Hungarians as a political community. In 1996, after becoming
partners of the government coalition with their long times allies, Romanian center-right
parties, DAHR abandoned this language and pursued their claim for cultural autonomy
via general laws (amendments to the laws of Education, Local Government). This history
helps us emphasize a distinction, which may prove instrumental to classify trends within
We therefore consider as 'moderates' the DAHR leaders who seek the fulfillment of the
Hungarian community problems in the adoption and enforcement of the legal provisions
comprised in the framework of European institutions such as the Council of Europe and
the European Union minority and minority language regulations. This group sees
Hungarians in Romania as a minority and considers its problems can be resolved without
a reform of the Romanian political system or the state structure, only by the
establishment and protection of individual and derivative rights (rights deriving from the
appurtenance to a community). Frunda Gyorgy and Verestoy Attila were the most
outspoken representatives of this group until now.
We consider as nationalist or 'radical' the Hungarian politicians or ideologues who look
upon Hungarians in Romania as a 'nation', or a separate political subject as it is specified
in the Personal Autonomy Statute. This group includes Laszlo Tokes, Csapo Ioszef and
Borbely Imre. They dislike DAHR being treated as a minority only; its rhetoric makes from
the large number of Hungarians a decisive issue and they consider a difference should
be made between Hungarians and other minorities in Romania and this difference should
be embodied in the recognition of Hungarians as political subjects. The political system
must be reformed in order to accommodate this separate 'political subject', either by
creating a special status region on the model of South Tyrol in Italy or a federal state
instead of a unitary one with Transylvania as a federal unit. This policy line was never
very much agreed by the other minorities, who have presented their own draft for a
minorities' law, in which, needless to say, treatment of minority group is non-differential.

Since DAHR became a member of the governing coalition incentives for a consociative
formula increased and most of DAHR's MP and establishment became 'moderate'. The
attempt of Pastor Tokes to organize in September 1998 a meeting to discuss DAHR
leadership in critical terms and ask for a change in its policy failed as most of the
Hungarian political establishment boycotted the meeting. In his speech Tokes was bitter
against the moderates, whom he portrayed as 'opportunists' and the liberal Hungarian
newspapers from Budapest that did not support his wing.
Where is the promising spirit of our internal Parliament that adopted the Cluj
Statement? Not to mention the oath taken in St. Michael's Church! Only with bitter
irony can one call this body our internal Parliament, the one said to embody the
self-government of our community (...)
What does the Hungarian nation of Transylvania wish? This expression of our
political wills is organically integrated in the historical Szekelys tradition, same as
the popular assembly at Lutita in 1848 that we commemorate these days...
Bishop Tokes than criticized a Hungarians columnist for attacking DAHR leaders who want to quit the
government coalition and retreat to their ethnic ‘ghetto’, and Gyorgy Frunda for playing by the rules of the
European Council before concluding:

From here, in Cernatul de Jos, one can clearly distinguish how much our point of
view, Transylvanian and healthy, is different from the official vision of DAHR, of
Bucharest, Budapest, Bonn and Washington!
What do European documents and Western diplomats do to be so disliked Bishop
Tokes? One thing mainly: they do not encourage unilateral actions, even if they are not
opposed to self-government. Or the Statute of Personal Autonomy was close to turn into
a unilateral action as steps were taken by radicals to organize a referendum and adopt it
in the Szekelys area in 1996. Due to important international-in fact, American- effort and
to the eagerness of both Hungarians and Romanian leaders to be granted international
recognition as stable countries -both were applying to become members of NATO- a
bilateral treaty was eventually concluded after many difficulties in 1996. The treaty
included European provisions for protection of the minorities such as the Charter of
Minority Languages and the 1201 Recommendation of the European Council - with the
specification asked by the Romanian side that in no way interpretation of these
documents could compel the Romanian state to grant ethnic-based territorial autonomy
and collective rights to members of Hungarian minority. This cut the grounds from under

Hungarian nationalists' feet in Romania. Happily, their allies, the Romanian center-right
won just two months later the elections and they invited them to join the government.
As violent as Laszlo Tokes against moderates is Kiraly Karoly, the old Communist turned
nationalist in the eighties. He accuses the Hungarian MP of controlling the Council of
Representatives, the body including both central and local DAHR leaders supposed to
become a ‘Parliament’ of the Hungarian minority.
DAHR officials want to have their positions for the life (...) These persons
practically represent only themselves at every level. (...)This represents the
greatest danger for the existence of Hungarians in Romania. Not Greater
Romania Party, not Funar, not Iliescu are the danger. Quite on the contrary, they
are of help to us.(in Szekelyfold,no5/1998)
The nationalists were influential enough back in 1996 to have the Personal Autonomy
Statute approved. A few excerpts of this document are telling:
On the basis of internal self-determination, which by the way of self-government
inside the state guarantees the preservation of the national identity of the
Hungarian community, the individual and collective practice of rights specific to
persons belonging to these minorities
Chapter 1, article 1
The national Hungarian community of Romania, from now on national community,
as an autonomous political subject is the equivalent of the Hungarian body, inferior
in numbers but safe keeper of historical , territorial, cultural linguistic, religious
traditions on the native homeland, whose members affirm their belonging to the
community by their free will
Chapter 2, art 5
Personal autonomy included all minority rights, which can have an individual
practice, all the specific rights which can be exercised collectively only, therefore
the rights which rest upon the national autonomous community as a political
Art. 10 in the territorial administrative units where persons belonging to the minority
group make a majority their language are equal to the state language.
Art, 14 Personal autonomy guarantees for community and its members:
a. Full and real equality as citizens
b. self-government inside the state, according to the historical and territorial

c. Equality of chances' (reproduced by Rompres, National Press Agency, 114/01/1996).
The most striking feature of this document is the mix of two types of rhetoric. One is the
liberal rhetoric also used in the language of international law; provisions for minorities, a
long list of them, make actually the opening statement of the document. Here belong
unmistakably expressions such as 'equality of chances'. The other is based upon
'tradition', and 'historical and territorial specificity' -whatever that means- and is therefore
a national rhetoric. Senator Csapo, considered the author of the document, volunteered
some explanations in an interview with Radio Bucharest.
Why is autonomy 'personal'? Because it points to a community recognized by the
state as an existence inside the state and points to the self-government of this
community as a person, so the community is considered a person- a legal or
political person(...) Power must be granted to the authorities that are closer to the
respective community. The society should therefore reflect if a federal form of
government does not provide better decentralization and exercise of the
Why are we present, why do we insist ? To claim our rights, to be able to create
the necessary framework to exercise the minority rights, collectively or
privately....This is our mandate and goal, since the Hungarian community has its
historical and territorial traditions, specific territorial, historical, number(!) traditions
inside the Romanian state. (Radio Antena Bucurestilor interview, quoted by Rador
of March 1, 1996).
Senator Csapo insisted after 1997 that UDMR should quit the government coalition, but
lost the final vote in the Council of Representatives (Romaniai Magyar Szo, 26/06/98).
His rather complicated and wordy program was in fact inspired largely by a policy
proposal written by Professor Ferenc Glatz, a President of the Hungarian Academy
(Glatz:1993) and adopted also by other Hungarian parties in the region (such as in
Vojvodina, part of Yugoslavia). The project for minorities’ law drafted by the Department
of Minorities that I consulted in the summer of 1998 was however not inspired by these
documents but rested more upon a consociative logic, securing positions for minorities
inside government offices. Marko Bela, on the other side, declared in February 1997 that
DAHR did not give up its autonomy program, but instead sees its participation in the
government as a gradual approach towards it (Romanian daily Romania libera, 6/02/97).
Along the years an approach trying to balance between the two wings of the party
seemed the best policy to keep the party united around its current leaders. Despite

scandals and temporary setback of symbolic issues such as the Hungarian University,
most of the Hungarians claims from 1996 were resolved via participation in government.
Local government appointees are now Hungarians; the Hungarian language can be
used in justice and administration; local communities are better financed. All these
positive developments were possible only by amending general laws such as education
and Local Administration law, and by passing new laws (such as Financement of Local
Governments). The mere idea of having a Hungarian prefect in Hungarian majority areas
was viewed as heresy in 1996, so important steps forward were possible by
consociatonalism. However, Hungarian nationalists will probably disagree with
minorities' law that makes no difference between Hungarians and other minorities and
abandons the self-government rhetoric. Hungarian nationalists point often to the
Hungarian law for minorities, built around the concept of minority self-government. They
tend to forget, however, that in Hungary minorities have no reserved seats in parliament
as in Romania, and are too few to be able to have parliamentary representation. The
‘self-governments’ of minorities are therefore only able to supervise and distribute funds
for cultural activities and fail to take any other actions, even when necessary (The
Economist of March 19/1999). However, this attitude complies moderates to act with
extreme caution.
Politics is the art of realism, but few people can be realists when it comes to nationalism.
However, this makes the difference between Marko Bela and Tokes Lazslo. Back in
1990 their language was not so different as it is today. They both shared the ideas of
‘Transilvanism’, this nostalgic trend of the thirties now revived in a more political form:
‘Accepting Transylvania as an independent entity, the recognition of its
specificity, of its historical and geographical determinations leads us unwillingly to
the most modern European theories and purposes, such as territorial and
regional autonomy, the making of a continental unity possible through concerns
regarding autonomous regions and federalism(...) If we reason in large European
context, it doesn't matter to which state Transylvania belongs, more important is
that Transylvania, together with the whole Romania, becomes an organic part of
Europe and the surrounding space. On the contrary, within a national
undemocratic state, intolerant,(...) all these aspiration cannot be accomplished’.
(Tokes Laszlo : To be a Transylvanian Hungarian, in Cumpana 1, Antologia
revistei Korunk)

‘Transilvanism means common and separate existence. The common being of
separate existences. To the extent that culture is involved this already exists. But
not in the fields of justice, politics, administration. But it should ! (...)There is no
alternative to the common existence of separate existences...I know, this is just a
metaphor. But think of it as a political program’. (Marko Bela- the Transylvanian
cat, in Cumpana 1).
Actually it became a political program because the same arguments are used for the
motivation of the ‘autonomy’ program in 1994. While the concept of territorial autonomy
remains obscure in the quoted document, other specifications made by Mr. Marko Bela
are relevant : the fact that the ‘autonomy system' is inspired from the ‘mediaeval
traditions’ of Transylvania and that present institutions only create a ‘coercive
coexistence’ ‘Neither the forced coexistence nor the forced separation are practicable
ways’ states Mr Marko Bela, considering therefore the current situation a ‘forced
cohabitation’. (Bela Marko 1994 : The Autonomy Program of UDMR).
These difference of views inside DAHR is often mirrored by its reactions to various
challenging events. In the case of Odorheiu Secuiesc orphanage, for instance, Tokay
Gyorgy, minister of minorities and one of the ‘sanctioned’ MP from Neptun gave a public
apology for the behavior of locals towards Greek-Catholic nuns are stated bitterly that
never in their history Hungarians failed to be courteous toward women, not to speak of
nuns. The official reaction of DAHR, however, signed by influential executive president
Takacs Csaba slighted the fault of Hungarian local authorities for the incident and laid
the blame on the intervention (late after the events) of the governmental Agency for
Local Government.
The view of the Hungarian Alliance seems to have been closer to Mr Takacs than Mr
Tokay. During and after a television talc-show I organised and moderated in Sfintu
Gheorghe on this issue all the Hungarians present –either appointed by the Central
government or directly elected- sided in declaring Remus Opris, head of Local
Government Agency was the only one to blame. They all refrained to comment the fact
that the government stepped in pushed by the Romanian media only months after
waiting for the local authorities –for the first time, all-Hungarian- to act and censure the
behavior of the Local Council of Odorheiu. Ethnic solidarity proved a lot stronger than
either the desire to prove Hungarians can be objective and allowed to rule themselves,
and the usual understanding of justice in a market economy (the Local Council tried to
seize the building of the Swiss Foundation and use if for its own purposes). When asked

about the Romanian public opinion and the negative consequences of the laws still
waiting to pass and bring further good provisions for minorities they told me’ we know
this is not tactful, but we can’t step back. A minority can never step back’. Six months
later, in the summer of 1998 DAHR politicians present at the Cluj Council of
Representatives meeting were interviewed by my team and asked about the incident. Of
fifteen interviewed only four laid some blame on the Local Council, 10 blamed the Swiss
Foundation, 7 Remus Opris and 6 ‘the Romanian nationalist press’. Ten of these
considered South Tyrol and two Catalonia as political models for Transylvania, and
chose as the main DAHR priority ‘to find a suitable territorial autonomy for regions where
Hungarians have a majority).
It is difficult to speculate who has the majority inside DAHR, nationalists or moderates.
Votes’ results in 1998 on staying in government showed the moderate trend grew since
1996. However, the Council of Representations looks divided and perhaps having a
nationalist majority, while the MP clubs look like having a definite moderate majority.
This is easily explained since MP are the main beneficiary of consociatonalism, while
local political leaders see no advantages in cooperating with Bucharest and prefer to
enhance their power.
Despite some differences, the entire Hungarian political class in Romania wishes that
Romania will give up seeing itself s a nation-state, and consequently remove this
expression from the 1991 Constitution. The DAHR leader of Tirgu Mures, Attila Szondi,
The Romanians have to give up the phrase from the Constitution saying Romania
is a nation-state. We’re more than 2 millions, the Gypsies are 2-3 millions, what
kind of nation-state has more than 30 % minorities?
The 1991 census recorded only 1.6 million Hungarians and around 400.000 Roma
(although other estimations suggest 1 000. 000 may be closer to truth). Despite this
fact, fantastic exaggerations like this one are necessary in order to make the point. The
nationalist argument for self-government relies on the numbers when stating we cannot
treat Hungarians as a minority, but as a nation.
The Romanian political system is however a democratic one. Allowing Hungarian
representation in Parliament and bringing them in a close alliance with Romanian
parties was worth, since at all times, when DAHR was dominated by nationalists as
since it was dominated by moderates the national problem remained in the framework of
the law. Only one in ten years did DAHR asked for civil disobedience, when requesting

parents to boycott schools to protest against the 1995 Education Law. It was the
opportunity for them to measure the ethnic mobilization. Passive mobilization had been a
success: 400000 Hungarians signed for modifications to be made in the Education law.
However, very few followed the appeal to civil disobedience so active mobilization failed.
Parents so no reason not to take their children to schools, in almost al cases Hungarian
6.3. Romanian political class and nationalism
The exercise of discovering the ideology of the Romanian political class is a difficult
one. Aligica and Ionita, who tried to measure the economic vision of the Chamber of
Deputies, were the first to point to the ideological incoherence of the Romanian political
class. The 1996 parliament, for instance, passed with a majority of only one vote the
support letter for NATO in the Kossovo business, after endless bargains and fierce
nationalistic speeches made by all parties; the same Parliament had passed earlier, in
1997, the law granting foreigners the right to buy land in Romania, which would have
been unconceivable a year before. The same Parliament was at least ambivalent, if not
opposed, to the Ciorbea legislation meant to satisfy Hungarians’ demands on education
and local government, and strong authoritarian party leadership of the government
coalition was needed in order to pass the government’s drafts. The 1992-1996
Parliament, where post-Communists and nationalists formed a majority, displayed no
less paradoxical behavior: it passed most of the European legislation concerning
minorities, and the treaty with Hungary. The 1990-1992 Parliament, which had a strong
post-Communist majority also approved an article in the Constitution that made
international legislation prevail over domestic one in human rights matters. In all these
Parliaments the rhetoric was far more nationalistic than the actual vote.
Taking into account as ‘Romanian political class’ party leaders who are not necessarily
MP, local representatives, and top bureaucracy besides ordinary MP we can distinguish
quite clearly a few well-differentiated nationalist trends.
1. The assimilationist nationalists
This group of xenophobic nationalists include the voiciest Gheorghe Funar and Corneliu
Vadim Tudor, but also Ioan Gavra, Valeriu Tabara, Mihai Ungheanu, Radu Theodoru,
Petre Turlea. By ‘assimilationism’ I mean the denial of any particular pluralistic claims,
even if minimal’ (Simon:1990: p.209). According to the ideology of this group Hungarians
are or ought to be, in fact, ‘Romanian’. They see the political organization and self-
awareness of the Hungarian minority as a perpetual cause of instability and dissent

inside the Romanian State. They consider ethnic parties should not be allowed to exist
and cultural difference should be reduced as not to have any political implications. This
political view is well matched with a paranoid theory on the political history of
Romanians, considered to be the eternal prejudiced and scapegoats of international
conspiracies, which leads to the rehabilitation of various authoritarian leaders, ranging
from right-wing Marshall Ion Antonescu to left-wing Ceausescu, both praised in the
Greater Romania weekly, the main ideological manifesto of the nationalists. This vision,
unfortunately, dominates from far in many circumstances the whole of the Romanian
press, due to the persistence in the Romanian press of many journalists who served
Ceausescu’s national-communist ideology campaigns or to former Securitate (secret
service) officers who continue to have key positions in the Romanian press. Members of
this group also had during the Vacaroiu government (1992-1996) key positions in the
Department of Culture. Also in those times some of this ideology could be found in the
government’s own mouthpiece, ‘Vocea Romaniei’.
However the ‘assimilationism’ of this group also characterized more the rhetoric than the
actual policy. Politicians of the group were never in really influential positions. Funar,
who has been a mayor of Cluj since 1992 was the most influential and tried everything
he could as a mayor- which was not a lot: he changed streets names from Hungarian to
Romanian, threatened to evacuate DAHR from the buildings they held as tenants from
the local government, However when his party was at government as an associate of
PDSR this policy did not become a government policy.
Katherine Verdery ‘National Ideology under Communism’ sums up the archeology of
national-communist ideology in the excellent book. Ana analysis of this type of rhetoric
and its stereotypes can also be found in my previous book ‘Romanians after ‘89’.
2. Statist Nationalists
I find necessary to adapt the French word 'etatisme' (the noun), ' etatist' (the adjective)
because an adequate English equivalent is missing. The term is meant to design a
conception, more than an ideology in which the state is the supreme value. Romanian
political class is 'etatiste'- post Communist mainly, but not exclusively, since most
politicians were socialized in the Communist regime. Statist nationalists do not identify
the state with the dominant nation necessarily, but they consider regions should be
clearly subordinated by the center, and of course the center is the expression of the
dominant culture. Their view is that control by the state is the important thing, other
notions such as accountability or effectiveness being ranked under control. They see the

prefects appointed by the government as the real powerful men in the regions, more
powerful than elected local governments, the budget as being decided with the national
priorities above regional or local ones, the army and the police playing an important
political role. Sovereignty is seen as the main values in this ideology and subsidiarity a
form of anarchy. Statist nationalists are against any devolution of powers and believe
that as expression of the popular vote the central government is the only one supposed
to have real power, the rest of the administration having only to implement its policies. In
theory they accept a plural society; in practice they reject institutional pluralism. Plural
societies are anyway, as Horowitz mentioned ‘pregnant with conflict’, as one culture
dominates the others. The instability that characterizes plural societies is based on a
conflict opposing different value-systems. The only way to maintain the balance of such
societies is the enhanced control of the state over the dissent regions or areas. The
Romanian post Communist State did exactly that, controlling Hungarian majority regions
by appointment of Romanian nationalist prefects and maintaining a strong presence of
the army in the region. These strategies cannot reduce the conflict, but only amplify the
hate towards the state, seen by Hungarians as a state belonging only to the dominant
nation or culture.
The favorite model of solving a national dispute quoted by this group is the solving by
France and Germany of the Alsace-Lorraine German speaking population dispute.
Former President Ion Iliescu used to quote this example often. Romanian Hungarians
rejected it.
3. Conservative Nationalists or autochtonists
This trend is to be found mostly among aged members of the so-called ‘historical
parties’, intellectuals and the Greek Catholic clergy (the Orthodox clergy is closer to the
first trend described here). This residual, nostalgic trend is based upon an identity
problem. The value of being Romanian is one hand overvalued, and on the other a
reason for anxiety as the Romanian culture is crossing a difficult time in being
recognized as a European culture. To be a Romanian, a Christian, peasant-born
becomes a value in this ideology. To defend the ‘europeanness’ of Romanian and to
render justice to east Europeans when compared to Western ones conservative
nationalists overestimate the value of the Romanian culture as an European culture and
display the belief that Romania could have been a sort of France under more favorable
circumstances. Essayist and liberal senator Alexandru Paleologu made a point, for
instance, from the fact that Socrates and Aristotel were also ‘Balkan’. They can be

tolerant towards Hungarians if only Hungarians openly dissuade the Romanian culture
under-evaluation line of the Hungarian classic nationalism. Nationalist conservatives see
themselves as mere ‘patriots’ and think of themselves they are representatives of civic
nationalism. However, since all the battle for emancipation of Hungarians is based upon
the fact that they do not admit the cultural superiority of Romanians and do not wish that
citizenship had any cultural connotation the conflict is finally unavoidable. The creed of
conservative nationalism is the belief in some ‘good Romanianess’ to be showed to
Europe and the world. If Hungarians reject it at home there is really little hope the rest of
the world will accept it.
6.4. Crusaders and conformists

In the first line of the national battle, today as ever, we find the Church, or best, the
Churches. Nothing could be more natural: of all institutions the Church is bound to be
sensitive to symbolic issues, prestige and traditions. The Church perceives the national
status war as a war for its own status, since the Church identifies itself with the
community. Competition for restitution of real estate nationalized by the Communist
regime and for state funds is also an important part of the rivalry among churches. Not
only the Hungarian churches, but also Hungarian civil society protested against the
preferential treatment granted by the Romanian State to the Orthodox Church (reported
by Mediafax New Agency on March 21/1999). The Hungarian Churches started to
recuperate their former schools and other buildings with great difficulties only in 1998.
The Orthodox Church felt threatened by the coming out of illegality of the Greek-Catholic
Church in 1990, since most of the Greek-Catholic buildings have passed in the Orthodox
hands when the Communist regime forbid the Uniate denomination in 1948. Historically
the Orthodox Church had indeed the worst situation: it was the only denomination
discriminated against in Transylvania. Orthodox priests had the same obligations
towards the grof as serfs did. The Orthodox Church is insecure enough to become
extremely self-assertive: in 1998 Orthodox priests refused to evacuate churches and
restore them to Greek-Catholics. It also likes to point at itself as the only ‘Romanian’
church. The Greek-Catholics often have to face rumors that they are ‘Catholics’,
therefore ’Hungarian’.
‘This is such a shame’, a Cluj prelate confessed to me, ’when we were the ones to fight
Hungarians even more than the Orthodox did’. Therefore the Uniate Church, who tries to
recuperate from the Orthodox not only the churches, but the tenths of thousands

believers who turned Orthodox meanwhile- is almost compelled to accentuate its
difference from the Hungarian churches and Hungarians.
Cases of direct political involvement of the Church are many. The most outstanding
example is Bishop Tokes himself, who often uses the Church infrastructure to combine
religious with political events. Claude Karnouh also reported in ‘Dilema’ the presence of
bishops of Hungarian churches at revisionist rallies in Budapest. After the expulsion of
the Uniate nuns from Odorheiu Secuiesc, the Hungarian churches asked the Uniates to
meet for mediation. The statement was signed 'Historical Churches of Transylvania’, an
irritating fact in itself for the Romanian churches. The Uniate bishop refused, saying that
the justice is called to resolve the conflict of the orphanage in Odorheiu Secuiesc.
Hungarian priests were extremely active in the ‘civil disobedience campaign’ of 1995.
Some of them volunteered their churches as places where hunger strikers could be
observed and gathered signatures for the amendments to the Education law.
The connection between the national mission and the Hungarian churches is so deep
because, in the words of the Catholic spokesperson from Cluj’ Christianism made us a
nation. The Hungarian national hymn we sing in Church says: 'God, preserve the
Hungarian nation’. . Church and nation are conflated in this vision so intimately they
can’t be told apart. Other trends, such as Protestant priests more involved in social than
political work are also present, but are less influential.
In its turn the Orthodox Transylvanian Church is involved in prestige wars and tries to
make its own symbols dominant. Its most active presence is Metropolyte Bartolomeu
Anania of Cluj. Anania is an outspoken partisan of Church involvement in politics and
lead in 1998 a ‘Silence March’ against the ‘abandon’ of the Orthodox Church by the state
(an interpretation of the winning by Greek-Catholics of many restitution trials) and was
stopped only by National Heritage from building in the Cluj historical Unirii Square a new
Orthodox Cathedral to defy the existing Hungarian one. Central Orthodox authorities
also encouraged a campaign for the rehabilitation of churches in Covasna-Harghita, said
to have decayed because of state negligence and disinterest from the part of Hungarian
local authorities, Not once did they mention in this campaign that the main cause for the
decay of the Churches was the absence of communities- most of the Churches involved
were built by the Romanian state after 1918 in regions with little or not-at all Romanian
population. Another Metropolyte, Daniel, also complained the Christian Democrat regime
is doing less for the Church than the Post-Communist one, and blackmailed the Church
of Transylvania, which allegedly supported Christian Democrats will retreat its support.

The priests are however not the only ‘crusaders’ of the region. Intellectuals, doctors,
journalists and writers join them mainly. The mob that attacked the orphanage of
Odorheiu Secuiesc was only following the lead given by the Local Council, whose
meeting was broadcast live by a local television station: attackers were lead by local
intellectuals. Romanian intellectuals are also present in Vatra Romaneasca, from Babes
Bolyai University Professors to elementary schools teachers. Peasants from Viisoara
participate to ‘Vatra’ as to a club, from conformist reasons mainly; intellectuals, however,
are well aware ‘Vatra’ is more than a club and is stuffed with retired Army officers and
former Ceausescu’s Securitate agents. Intellectuals also bet on ‘multiculturalism’ instead
of more practical ‘inter-culturalism’. Multiculturalism is understood by Hungarian
intellectuals as complete separation of the two cultures, and by Romanian intellectuals
as keeping the control in the cultural affairs of the Hungarians. Both groups discourage
neutrality. In 1996, when we toured the Szekelys area, school inspectors complained of
the pressures put upon them by nationalists. Hungarians have trouble for not being as
radicals as DAHR wanted them to be; Romanians were pressured by ‘Vatra’ to be
harder on Hungarians. The pressure was especially hard on people who founded mixed
families and had to face daily conflicts of loyalty.
Sometimes one can find neutrals in influential positions. It is ironical former Communists
are often more tolerant towards the national problem. The mayor of Viisoara, for
instance, was extremely upset to find out about our research and blamed Romanians
from the village for envying Hungarians and attributing a ‘national’ correlation to their
social envy. The President of the Hungarian Workers’ Group, a former Communist
apparatchik, Hungarian this time, complained the good times of Communist ‘affirmative
action’ are gone. ‘At least they r4espected then the percent of Hungarian’. And indeed
Communist affirmative action seems to have been effective.
6.4. Perception of the elites role by the public
Participants in our focus groups have unanimously pointed at ‘political leaders’ as the
main responsible of the ethnic conflict. The elite was described by terms such as ‘the
bosses’, the ’press’ ‘the politicians’. On the other hand people acknowledge they are
sensitive to provocations by press, mainly television, but insist they be for nothing in this
This is the bosses business, politics that is; we ordinary people get along fine.
(Hungarian workers, Cluj)

It weren’t for politics we wouldn’t even know who’s Romanian, who’s Hungarian,
as it was in Ceausescu’s times, we were all alike then. (Romanian workers, Cluj)
You just can’t imagine how well we get along with people here [Romanian].
Politics doesn’t let us live peacefully. (Hungarian peasants, Miercurea Niraj)
The truth is all these groups tend to form national in-groups, but are politically passive. If
Romanian peasants from Ibanesti had embarked in buses to be brought to Tg. Mures
they wouldn’t have had this initiative. They set to this journey blessed by the local priest
and persuaded they were going to save Transylvania. Hungarian inhabitants from
Odorheiu also heard from people they respected best that the presence of the nuns was
part of a diabolic conspiracy meant to change the ethnic composition of the region.
‘Instead of the orphans they planned to bring here Romanian prostitutes and criminals’ a
Hungarian journalist in the public broadcasting told me in 1997. If fed with this type of
information the locals could not fail to run ‘save’ their town.
Beyond active or passive mobilization when summoned by elites the two communities
are quite different when it comes to estimate the performance of political leaders.
Hungarians consider as ‘extremists’ only Romanian politicians. The only Hungarian
leader with some negative appreciation is Laszlo Tokes –26 % of Hungarians see him as
‘extremist’ in our poll, while other 18 % answer’ somehow extremist’. Results are
consistent with the UBB poll, 25 % agreeing that he amplifies tensions between
Romanians and Hungarians. The relative majority however denies that. IMAS polls of
1995 and 1996 also showed tokes as having the highest rate of confidence lack- 29 %,
but the highest rate of confidence also, which placed him the second after Bela Marko as
the most trusted Hungarian politician (by the Hungarian community).
In my survey Romanians considered as ‘extremists’ leaders as Laszlo Tokes (61%),
Marko Bela (40%), Frunda Gyorgy and Tokay Gyorgy (35%), but also the Romanians
Gheorghe Funar (43% plain yes, 15 % somehow extremist) and Vadim Tudor (42 % yes,
15 % somehow). 30 % consider as extremist and somehow extremists also George
Pruteanu and Valeriu Tabara.
With few exceptions Hungarian attribute the conflict to Romanian extremists. They also
pick as ‘extremists’ Romanian politicians such as Ion Iliescu, Adrian Nastase, Petre
Roman. Romanians blame both sides. Both groups consider Emil Constantinescu; the
1996 elected President, as the political leader who does the most to appease the

Transylvanian Romanians see things under a more bilateral angle than Hungarians do.
However this objectivity functions only in order to blame Romanians nationalists, and
fails to make accepted Hungarian moderate politicians or DAHR, widely seen as an
organization that protects only Hungarians and even has an ‘activity directed against
Romanians' (IMAS, 1996).
Discontent with extremist politicians showed often in group interviews, too. People live
intensely and tend to remake conflicts at the top. This discontent point to the idea that
attributing the whole responsibility to leaders is not just.
If I see at TV that Tokes said something, or Funar said something, my Hungarian
neighbor and I barely speak to each other the next day. (Hungarian worker, Cluj)
Appeals by extremist politicians would fail to raise such an echo if groups would not be
ultra sensitive in their turn. However groups are ready to feel prejudiced, although they
do not admit so. Distance from extremist nationalist policies is showed only at polls.
We would never vote a Funar here. This means afterwards we’ll have to be at
Hungarians’ throats daily and they at ours. (Romanian peasants, Livezi).
Politicians are also blamed for the Tg. Mures conflict.
It is because of them that people in the rest of Romania think we kill each other
here in Transylvania.
Well, we don’t. But we don’t look very nicely at each other either (Romanian
workers, Cluj).


7.1. Perception of the ethnic conflict

Both political parties and ordinary citizens in Romania do not like to admit any ethnic
conflict exists. Foreigners, ranging from organizations like the PER mentioned to the
American embassy in Bucharest point out usually that there is a serious amount of ethnic
competition going on, but refrain themselves from qualifying it as 'conflict'. In connection
with a country neighboring Yugoslavia the use of this term risks being politically
explosive. Ordinary people show even more restraint: their first reaction in all the focus
groups was similar to this line of a Hungarian peasant in Covasna : 'It's only the bosses,
they make the trouble, the bosses and the television, we ordinary people get along fine'.

But the 'bosses' are there and so is the media, always ready not only to show nationalist
speeches, but to amplify all kinds of incidents, real or fictitious, bringing the national
problem daily in the house of every Romanian or Hungarian and therefore prompting a
further need of security. People who discard easily the idea of an 'ethnic conflict' imagine
a conflict is necessarily and always violent. In fact it is not: many ethnic conflicts, from
Quebec to Belgium, from South Tyrol to Slovakia are not violent. But they are
nevertheless conflicts, that is, fights to attain objectives and simultaneously to neutralize,
affect or eliminate rivals (Horowitz: 1984). Ordinary people feel that you can have a
conflict without violence: 75 % Hungarians and 45 % Romanians (absolute and relative
majorities) consider a conflict exists between Hungarians and Romanians (UBB poll,
1997). Why then in every group people were reluctant to admit it? Because the logic of
the group discussion was centered on one's community. To admit an ethnic conflict exists
would have been to accept it exists in the close vicinity, therefore to assume some kind of
personal involvement. Asked for a global evaluation Transylvanians admit the conflict,
asked for a personal one they reject it and attribute the responsibility to elites. This is a
national conflict, centered on national symbols at the scale of the two communities as
whole, and not a daily communitarian conflict for small rewards or resources. From this
point of view it is indeed an elite-engineered conflict. Romanians and Hungarians do not
fight in Saturday night discos and pubs: instead they are reminded via media by their

leaders that they belong to a group and should act as such. Youths who should be the
most susceptible to engage in daily aggressive conduct are in fact the most disinterested.

Why do more Hungarians feel a conflict exists than Romanians do? We can think of two
complementary answers here. One answer is the minority status of Hungarians; being in
minority Hungarians feel more easily threatened by nationalist and xenophobic speeches
constantly made in the Romanian Parliament. The other is that Hungarians are
dissatisfied with the status-quo and want more rights than the Romanian state is willing to
grant them so it is natural they feel more than Romanians a conflict exists. Romanians
being satisfied with the present situation they tend to react only at the excessive publicity
of nationalist statements by some DAHR leaders. For the rest they consider there would
be no problem at all if DAHR does not make one. It is clear, however, that the public
debate around the problem feeds the problem. This is why people consider in polls that
the relations between Hungarians and Romanians degraded after 1989, although the
problems of the Hungarian community were greater before: but before it was clear
Ceausescu was the cause and any public discussion of the matter was impossible.
According to IMAS only half of the Hungarians, compared to a large majority of
Romanians share this view. This only strengthens the idea that Romanians were in fact
ignorant of the problems of the Hungarians so they considered there was no problem at
all. However, a majority of both Hungarians and Romanians consider that improving the
relationship between the two groups is am emergency (IMAS poll: 1996).

The relationship between the groups is only the top of the iceberg in the equation of the
conflict. The relationship would be good if Hungarians cease to ask for more rights,
Romanians believe. The relationship would be good only if Romanians grant the rights
the Hungarians desire, Hungarians think. And it is not easy for an observer to say who is
right. Would bilinguism and self-government solve problems, or create others? Would it
bring together the two communities or would it only estrange them further? Let us review
the sources of conflict before answering this question.

7.2 The language battles

Despite several discussions on the topic, Romania has not yet adopted a minorities' law. The life
of the ethnic minorities and their entitlement to a public sphere of their own is regulated by the

1991 Constitution (quite liberal), the Law of Public Administration, and the Law on Education.
The Ciorbea government coalition of which DAHR is a member proposed in 1997 amendments
to the public administration law (Ordinance 22/1997) and the Education Law (Ordinance
36/1997). Amendments to the administration law legalized for the first time the use of minorities'
language in the state administration, although its practice, especially in Hungarian dominated
regions, was widespread. The law also specifically required all mayors in regions where
minorities make more than 20 % of the population to display signs carrying denominations of
towns or other important notices in the Hungarian language also. This existed previously only in
the Szekelys region, where the Hungarian population makes up to 90 % in certain places. The
two laws can be considered to fulfill at last the spirit of the 1991 Constitution, which granted
minorities full rights of representation and education in their language, under the abstract general
provision that Romania is 'a unitary, national and indivisible state'.

Both laws have had a strange fate since their promulgation as emergency ordinances. The
government chose this way because ordinances start being active from the moment of their
promulgation by the government : the Parliament is entitled to reject or approve them later, but it
cannot discuss them article by article if an emergency procedure is required. Although the
application of the ordinances in Transylvania met no opposition or unrest from the part of the
Romanian population their fate in the Parliament was rather different. MPs insisted in discussing
them by article and despite an agreement within the government coalition these laws brought the
first major defections inside the coalition ranks and most notably inside its leading National
Peasant Christian Democratic Party (PNTcd). The party's club in the Senate, authoritatively led
by a Romanian literary critic and host of a popular TV show on Romanian language, Mr. George
Pruteanu sided with the opposition and started a crusade for the Romanian language. The most
contested article was the Department of Education proposal that history and geography should
be taught in Hungarian in all-Hungarian schools. Despite the practical common sense of the
provision - in Hungarian schools children simply do not know enough Romanian to be able to
learn complex matters in this language - it was met with harsh opposition at the Senate. Trips
were organized by the leftist nationalist opposition to Harghita and Covasna counties in 1997 in
order to prove that Hungarian children have little or no knowledge of the Romanian language,
which is often the case. The findings resulted from those trips were afterwards used as more
arguments that the study of the official language should be enforced. The government proposed
a compromise allowing the study of geography and history in Hungarian under the provision that
children are compelled to learn geographic denominations in the state/official language also.

However the proposal did not pass as such, the Senate reversing again to the study of the two
disciplines in Romanian. Also the proposal that special textbooks be made for Hungarians
allowing them to learn Romanian as a foreign language was downgraded from the secondary
school level (eight grades) to the elementary school (four grades only), since senators
considered ten-years old Hungarian children should be capable of addressing Romanian not as
a foreign language anymore. The law is still to be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies, and if a
different version is adopted it will be mediated between the two Chambers. The version adopted,
however, allowed professional education in Hungarian, admitted that Romanian language
education is not compulsory in a village with no Romanian inhabitants and created a framework
with practically no examination of the Romanian language, since all important exams (capacity,
high-school graduation and university admission) can be taken in the maternal language.
Hungarians consider this version still inferior to the Communist Constitutions of 1948, 1952 and
1965 which all provided mother tongue education at all levels, judiciary and administration in the
language of minorities. This is perhaps the logic behind Lazslo Tokes' demand that the 1991
Constitution be revised and terms and paragraphs directed against minorities be eliminated
(Press Agency Mediafax, February 22 1997), since there are no such terms or paragraphs.
However, the 1991 Constitution only makes the general statement :' The state acknowledges
and protects the right of persons belonging to different nationalities to preserve, develop and
exercise their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity.'(Article 6 - The right for identity).

The 22 Ordinance suffered a worse fate. Despite being adopted with relatively mild discussions,
a provision concerning ex Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea -granting the right of enjoying
simultaneously the position of Prime Minister and Mayor- lead to the rejection of the Ordinance in
the Senate. Also the Court who ruled in its favor accepted a petition to the Constitutional Court
denying the ‘emergency’ character of this emergency ruling. The Ordinance was still applied in
1998, although the government had turned it into an ordinary bill and submitted it again to the
Parliament. It is worth mentioning that the article allowing Hungarians to use their language in
the public administration and compelling authorities to hire Hungarian-speaking personnel were
passed encountering no serious difficulties.

Besides the chronic ineffectiveness of the Romanian Parliament - which alone justifies the
approach of the government to make such provisions emergency rulings - the debate on
education exposed the deep cleavage in the battle for bilinguism. Romanians are not prepared to
accept Hungarian as a second official language. Hungarians do not present their claim as such,
being aware of this fact. But, in fact, their attempt of having the papers of the schools, Courts and

the administration written in Hungarian and the general idea that the learning of the Romanian
language should be a right, not an obligation (Szilagy N. Sandor : 1998 : 135) points to the real
issues : making Hungarian an official second language. 'It is like one would put a provision
asking citizens not to waste their money needlessly' claims Szilagy Sandor, who says that the
phrasing of the Education Law 'The study and learning of the Romanian language in school as a
state official language is compulsory for all citizens regardless the nationality' - article 8:3) is
insulting for the minorities. Lobby has been going on concerning another provision of the
Education law, that Romanian-language education should not be organized if there are too few
children to make a class. The government finally agreed with this and established Romanian
children in a Hungarian environment should group from different villages to form a class, but the
argument had been that they should accept to go to a Hungarian language class if a Romanian
one was not at hand. In short, the fight is to make the two languages equal, that is, having
Hungarian as a second official language.

The language battles were the toughest of the past years. The diabolization of the Education
Law 84/1995 as an instrument of 'cultural genocide' for introducing a test of Romanian at the
admission exams in the University was however an exaggeration. It was a poor law, making
steps back, which could only lead to revolt. The Hungarian political elite decided at the time to
make it an example. People were instigated to civil disobedience, white flags hanged above
Hungarian schools and 420 000 signatures gathered to support DAHR amendments to the law.
However, a referendum of the boycott of schools was dropped because DAHR had clear signals
there would be no mass following on this issue. Hungarian leaders went so far as to ask
Hungarians to go on hunger strike in order to obtain the amendments debated. Although few
registered as required as strikers the protest form is no less radical. The protest also showed the
deep alliance between Hungarian educators, politicians and Church - the Church lead the
Crusade against the education law recording people who decided to strike and encouraging
people to take part in the protest. A group of youngsters marched on foot across Europe to
protest in front of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg.

The Education law was a mistake of the Vacaroiu government. But the debate and the unrest
surrounding it only worsened the daily, usual relations between Hungarians and Romanians.
Romanians mention always with fear this exceptional mobilization of the Hungarian community.
The exaggeration also laid ground for the quest for 'defending' and 'preserving' the Romanian
language of PNTcd Senator George Pruteanu already mentioned. When Pruteanu was expelled
from the party in April 1998 at the request of DAHR the public television, host of his grammar

show, was invaded with protests and accusations it did not take his part more because being
subordinated to the government, subsequently to PNTcd and their allies, the DAHR.

The masterwork inspiring every Hungarian community, Professor 's Ferenc Glatz of the
Hungarian Academy policy proposal towards minorities 'Principles for a Code of Conduct' (Glatz
;1993) is clear on this point. Minorities ought to have, in his view, full language autonomy
regardless their number in a community. This includes addressing in their mother-tongue the
officials, judges, and the media, the costs of translation being supported by the state and/or local
budget. When a minority makes more than 51 % the minority language should become the first
language in the specific territorial unit the minority lives on, and the majority language -state
language- is to be treated as a minority language. Glatz mentions in his proposal, however, that
knowledge of the language and culture of the majority is important, although not compulsory. The
system conceived by Glatz is equitable, although great costs are required in order to protect
minorities from learning the majority language. In a richer country and with a stable political
situation it could eventually be tried. In a country with a bankrupt state and nationalist parties
always accusing minorities for their refusal to learn the official language, a government attempt
to set up the Glatz system will probably bring votes to nationalist parties only.

A resolution of the Hungarians' demands via special laws has indeed a weak spot Hungarian
usually point out. A nationalist government to revert these modifications or pass even more
restrictive amendments can use the same way a liberal government modified the education Law
to serve its purpose. A minorities law would be harder to modify from fear of international scandal
if not from other reasons. Hungarians do not agree within DAHR and do not agree with other
minorities on the contents of such a law. The draft of the Law concerning National Minorities and
Autonomous Communities proposed in 1994 by the DAHR club in the Chamber of Deputies is
based upon the Personal Autonomy Statute, claiming that:

National minorities and autonomous communities as political subjects together

with the Romanian nation constitute the state.(Article 2)

This paradigm change from a state made of individual citizens to a state made up by nations and
communities stands little chance of being adopted. Its main problem is that it practically forces
the reorganization of the Romanian unitary state into a federal state. Romania was, however, an
unitary state during its whole existence as a state. Regions have a weak identity and even the
designation of a region capital would create controversy. Furthermore, despite well-grounded

critiques directed against the Bucharest bureaucracy in a state of this size devolution of powers
to the regions might mean more bureaucracy and more corruption before anything else occurs.
The current system enjoys legitimacy, and its fundamental challenging can only bring about
controversy but not compromise. Questioning the regime (republic or constitutional monarchy)
and the state structure (unitary or federal) is unpopular. No referendum is needed in order to find
out what Romanians think about that. Polls show clearly they endorse the current system and
consider destabilizing the endless discussion on its essential revising. This revising was debated
without being even possible during ten years: a law on referendum is only now, in 1999, ready,
and without it any modifications of the Constitution would have been impossible.

How could DAHR refrain from proposing constitutional modifications, when the change of the
paradigm 'nation state' from the Romanian Constitution is one of their main goals? What was the
point to push this claim instead of, more modestly, push for a referendum law? Only symbolic
and prestige motives can serve as a justification for this policy. Unfortunately its side-effect was
an escalation of nationalist rhetoric on both sides, and for little reason. Had the 1991 Constitution
a different phrasing PDSR would have still allied itself with nationalist parties and DAHR would
have acceded to government also via its alliance with Romanian centrists. But unfortunately the
energy invested in symbolic politics and national assertiveness seems to surpass by far the more
applied policies, with immediate consequences on people's lives.

7.3 A war of political symbols

The national topic dominated the political debate since 1992 till 1996. The conclusion of a
bilateral treaty with Hungary represented a major setback for nationalists, deprived in the
electoral campaign of 1996 of their major asset. Ironically, among the consequences of the treaty
the immediate one was the loss of power by the Romanian party, notably by President Ion
Iliescu. His party tried until the last day to impress voters with the old fear-arousing appeals. For
instance a map was published from Samuel Huntington's article 'The clash of civilizations'
showing a line separating Transylvania- considered as belonging to Central Europe, from the
'Orthodox' rest of Romania, with a note saying that if the centrist coalition wins the Western
powers would divide Romania along the line. 1997 was a year of détente- as the treaty had left
weaponless the Romanian nationalists, the participation of DAHR to government did the same
for the Hungarian nationalists. However, the inability of the government coalition to pass the two
government ordinances in due time and form led to the reemergence of nationalist dissent within
DAHR, Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. The position of DAHR moderate leaders

became difficult as nationalists asked them to leave the government. Despite carrying the vote
on this by the moderates the nationalists grew in influence and managed to have the minorities
minister, Tokay Gyorgy, sacked in early 1999.

The main conflicting issue remains the claim of a part of DAHR to have Romanian Hungarians as
a separate 'political subject'. In this respect the Personal Autonomy Statute was inspired by the
Hungarian legislation, but it entirely disregarded the fact that Hungary practically has no
minorities, so in the context of the Hungarian political system the minorities law has no practical
importance. What can however be considered only minor legislation in Hungary would pose a
serious challenge in the case of Romania, which accommodates the largest minority in Central
Europe. According to this draft, the regulatory body of Hungarians in Romania would become the
Council of Representatives, directly elected on a four years term. The Council would decide over
budget subventions, propose judges, control Hungarian public media, organize and supervise
the autonomous educational network of all-Hungarian schools, deal with Hungary and the
Romanian officials, and oppose a veto on the decisions concerning Hungarians it disagrees with.
It is not clear what would be the relationship of this body with the large number of MPs directly
elected in the national elections. The problem did not exist in Hungary, where the Constitution,
unlike the Romanian 1991 Constitution does not grant seats for each minority and minorities are
not large enough to pass the electoral threshold. Echoes of this debate became more familiar
since the granting of a Scottish Parliament. Analysts and conservative politicians opposed it on
the grounds that Scottish MP in the House would have the right to vote in matters concerning
England, while pure Scottish matters would be confined to the Scottish Parliament, thus giving
Scots a privilege over the English.

The main political problem is however the claim of a part of Hungarians that this group
constitutes a 'nation', not a 'minority', and must be accepted as a constitutive unit of the state in
corpore. This claim is not entirely groundless. It is based on the fact that the first Transylvanian
state was Hungarian, so it is a historical claim. Although Hungarians have been in minority in
Transylvania for over at least 300 years, princes of Hungarian descent ran the state between 16-
17th centuries, and after the Habsburgs (1867-1818). It is on this basis that Kiraly Karoly, in a
public letter addressed to Laszlo Tokes in 1998 asks DAHR to revive its claim to the self-
government of the Szekelys. Although the Szekelys region accommodates roughly half of the
Romanian Hungarians it is the only region where their presence is more compact. The Szekelys
are anyway a highly isolated and parochial community. The train from Brasov, the most
important city in the region, makes seven hours to Sf. Gheorghe/Covasna because of detours

and needs two transfers (the same distance by car is of only one hour). Romanian governments
keep complaining the region is isolated but do nothing to help it out. NGOs organize summer
camps, but these help little, being disconnected from the life of the population.

Nobody is sober here after 7 p.m. There is nothing else to do but drink. (worker, Tg.

Drinking is so much part of the local culture in this isolated villages or small towns off the
Szekelys that each of the focus groups had to end in a sot of on spot party. It was sometimes
difficult to persuade participants to postpone drinking alcohol and try our Cokes instead until the
end of the interview. Sharing at least one drink with them became afterwards compulsory and we
had trouble trying to protect at least our driver from the local brandy.

Poor communications and infrastructure links, different language and culture, and a terrible
weather on top of it- the Szekelys are the 'North Pole' of Romania, temperatures falling easily to -
30C only isolate further this region. This increases the perception of inhabitants they are different
from the rest of Romanian and makes the rest of Romanians look upon them as different as well.
Even within the Hungarian community an endless debate is going on between those who side
with the 'scattered' versus the 'gathered' Hungarians. Local authorities after 1996 were almost
entirely of Hungarian descent.

Both the demands for a special status for the Szekelys and the refusal to grant it are politically
grounded. Romanian politicians oppose it from the following reasons:

i. the general perception of Romanians is that Hungary and Hungarians were the traditional
enemies opposing the unification of Romanian-inhabited regions. Any attempt to fragment the
Romanian state, even through a mild federal formula is seen as an anti-state attempt. Since
Romanian regions show little or no cultural difference, such an attempt would single out the
Hungarians as being the only interested in 'dismantling' the unitary state. A more regional
approach towards the administration of Romania would be the only one to make acceptable such
an approach towards the Szekelys. At the present time this is still quite an unlikely approach.

ii. a minority of Romanians inhabit the Szekelys (proportions vary between 30 % in Miercurea
Ciuc and under 10 % in Tg. Secuiesc or Odorheiu). In the event of a special status zone on the
model of South Tyrol this group would become a minority. According to the Glatz proposal they
would be then treated as such and granted the same rights Hungarian have. Or, as we showed,

the times of the Hungarian Autonomous Region bring about bad memories. Rather the
consociative way of the Ciorbea-Radu Vasile governments that tries to accommodate
Hungarians in the framework of the existing system - appointing Hungarian prefects in the
Hungarian dominated districts could work if Hungarian bureaucrats would consider themselves
public servants, not only Hungarian public servants, as in the Odorheiu case.

Since we live in a post-modern world, however, communication across borders is common. The
isolated from Romania Szekelys are in fact connected and well connected with towns and
villages from Hungary. The Romanian governments do not oppose it. Things go so far that the
City Hall of Tg. Secuiesc displays the Hungarian flag in the meeting hall, for instance. Local
authorities explained 'this is the flag of the Hungarian nation, not of the Hungarian state'. Indeed
besides the Hungarian flag they had the Romanian and the county flags. However the Romanian
government fears that if this happens without any special status the special status would
practically make the Szekelys a 'Hungary' inside Romania.

The theme of the separation drive of Hungarians is a dear one for Romanian nationalist or post-
Communist leaders. After blaming DAHR for years for a policy of promoting a 'ghetto' for the
Hungarian community former President Ion Iliescu launched in 1998 the 'Transylvania
Proclamation' accusing DAHR of separatist plans (Oradea, June 19). The appeal of this type of
discourse is less grounded in the rhetoric of Mr. Iliescu as in the experience of Transylvanians.
Small-scale separatism such as the school separatism laid out a pattern of one ethnic group
retreating in order to leave the space to the other not very different from the general pattern
people fear would follow the special status granting. Hungarians claim with good right the school
belonged to the Hungarian community and should be returned regardless the number of students
today. Romanians claim Hungarians had so many schools because they were in control before
1918, discriminating the Romanian majority. The appeal to the past only makes more
resentments surface.

Romanian dislike the separation even in instances when the space is not an issue. Romanian
students complain of the perfect segregation between Romanian and Hungarian students, and
blaming it most on the graduates of pure Hungarian high-schools. Romanians claim that if the
University would split Romanians and Hungarians would not get together at all. Hungarian
students admitted it is a risk but explained the risk is not important considering the other
advantages a pure Hungarian university would grant them. The French anthropologist Claude

Karnoouh who taught at Babes Bolyai University is favoring its separation, saying that students
are already perfectly segregated even in the present form. (Karnoouh, 1996).

The topic of a separate University also fuels conflict. It almost pushed DAHR out of the
government coalition in the fall of 1998. The attempt to solve it by making a Hungarian-German
university failed. Germans refused to be used as cover saying they are happy with the current
system, and the institutions involved in the evaluation of the project had been in fact opposed for
a long time. Unfortunately the debate was again centered on symbolic issues. Data show
proportions of Hungarians in key disciplines inferior to Romanians (there are fewer Hungarian
than Romanian lawyers, for instance). But the argument was not built on equality grounds, but
again on the past. It mattered less the idea that such an university is necessary in order to solve
the disadvantage Hungarians are at, but the idea it is the old Hungarian university finally
recuperated. In 1918, this pure Hungarian University had no Romanian students, although
Romanians made the majority of Transylvanian inhabitants. The Rector not only refused to
swear allegiance to the new Romanian state, but declared no Romanian will ever learn there
(Livezeanu : 1997) The University was therefore nationalized by the Romanian state, while
Hungary settled at Szeged across the border a 'Cluj University' which became a symbol of
revisionism. When Horthyst troops occupied Cluj in 1940 after the German arbitrage, the
Romanian University, still bearing the same name, retreated at Sibiu. Communists put the two
universities together after 1956, and event seen as a drama by the Hungarian community: a vice-
Rector committed suicide in protest. Since 1990 due to a liberal Rector the University multiplied
its languages (including now a Romani language section) and denominations (it is the only
University in Romania where a theology student can graduate from a Reformist, Uniate, Eastern
Orthodox or Roman Catholic section).

NGOs and independent analysts favoring the restitution of a Hungarian university used mainly
affirmative action arguments. DAHR MP we interviewed were against setting it anywhere else
but Cluj. So the German-Hungarian Petofi-Schiller, this sad compromise of the Radu Vasile
government failed without regrets, since it satisfied nobody. The idea of splitting Babes Bolyai
also failed, because Romanian professors opposed it and Romanian students threatened with
rallies. Had Babes Bolyai being split it would have been the end of this multicultural university,
since Hungarians would have probably enrolled all in the new Hungarian one.

These two topics are far from settled. The majority of Hungarians want a separate university,
although they do not endorse a special status region. One certitude emerges, however: if the

issue is not addressed focusing on its practical side but on the symbolical side, if is seen as a
flag-issue, in other words, then chances of a resolution look dim. More advocacy and less appeal
to mass mobilization would be a good start. If mass mobilization remains the real target we shall
continue to have a dramatic split in the public opinion. Our survey showed Transylvanian
Romanians against a separate Hungarian university (72%) and Hungarians in favor (84%).

Figure 14

Hungarians would perhaps accept easier the existing system would the 22 ordinance and the
Law of local budgets be finally passed by the Parliament. Romania still needs badly the normal,
ordinary decentralization of a contemporary state. Not to be mistaken, however, the 'autonomy'
DAHR asks is not, as even many Hungarians in our groups seemed to think, ordinary
decentralization, but an attempt of modifying the existing territorial administration.

The most serious issue, however, lies in the future. The decision of the EU to invite Hungary to
join, while keeping Romania on the black list of visas could well turn into a nightmare. If joining
the Schengen agreements Hungary will have to introduce a visa for Romanian citizens, including
the 1.6 million Hungarians the situation might get out of hand. Since no Hungarian government -
and especially not Fidesz, a rightist party, would forbid access to Hungarians, the solution
proposed might be what radicals from DAHR had been long asking for : the granting of double
citizenship for Romanian Hungarians. The Hungarian government is aware of this problem and
advocates for a Hungarian integration simultaneous with a removal of Romania from the 'black'
visa list. Opinions inside DAHR are split between the radicals' group, which long advocated the
granting of double citizenship to the 1.6 million Hungarians in Romania, and the opinion of the
moderates who oppose it..

The status wars make the strangest part of the conflict. They have the largest popular
mobilization, at least from the Hungarian part, and they meet the more lasting resentment.
Romanian newspapers on March 15, 1990 when Hungarians for the first time were allowed to
celebrate reminded that 40 000 Romanians were killed on the occasion of the historical event
celebrated. On the list of claims Lazslo Tokes makes the teaching of history ' of the Hungarian
nation' (Mediafax Press Agency) can be found, in a phrasing quite different from the official one
of DAHR that mildly asks for a 'history of minority groups'. The DAHR claim that the Constitution
be modified in order to specify Romania is a multinational state shows that 'nation', in
Hungarians view, means 'ethnic' and cannot under any circumstances have a civic meaning.

This might be based on the Hungarian elite's belief that the Romanian state is identifying with
the dominant ethnie without admitting so, but shows also the ideological conviction that
generally speaking the state cannot fail to be an ethnic state so multinational states are the only
democratic states.

Ordinary Romanians had little participation to the status war. Instead, Romanian authorities such
as Mayor Gheorghe Funar helped to escalate it. An outspoken assimilationist in his
propagandistic speeches, but a pragmatic local governor, Funar changed street names from
Hungarian to Romanian and built Romanian statues while on the other hand encouraging
business regardless of nationality and contributing to the city's development. Funar's attempts
have been mocked constantly in the Romanian press. But his policy was doomed even without
that, since he tries to fight a spontaneous mass behavior (45 % of Hungarians declare in the
UBB poll they participated to the March 15 celebration in 1991, a figure decreased to 36 % in
1997) with a top-down state organized national enthusiasm, In the same poll only a handful of
Romanians declare they take part in ceremonies celebrating the Romanian national day, which is
an official celebration. It is natural that the Hungarian minority shows a superior mobilization
when it comes to national events, since Hungarians feel a superior need to assert themselves,
living in another state. The Romanian authorities, both local and central, regard with enough
suspicion this type of manifestations - mostly because leading Hungarian politicians from
Hungary, such as Geza Jeszensky and Viktor Orban attend them. Even democrat President Emil
Constantinescu felt the need in 1997 and 1998 to endorse celebrations of the Romanian 1848
Revolution - in order to balance the large attention given to March 15 by the Hungarian leaders,
This type of escalation, however, does no good to the cohabitation and explains why both
Romanians and Hungarians answer in polls (IMAS) that cohabitation was better during
Ceausescu, when manifestations of this kind were simply forbidden. Communities cannot see on
television examples of mobilization from rival communities without this raising their anxiety.
Even if organized with the best intentions, the ostensible display of national celebrations and
anthems have something offensive for the other community, especially in a region where history
is so mutually exclusive - when not really offensive. It is relevant that the Hungarian participation
to the March 15 events decreased significantly from 1996 to 1997 and 1998 (UBB poll), so the
participation of DAHR to the government led to a decrease in national mobilization. The
participation of Romanians in celebrations such as Tebea and Blaj has always been reduced.
These celebrations are always state-organized. While Hungarian nationalism is grass-rooted,
even if lead by the elite, Romanian nationalism is mostly formal and centralized. On December 1

except for the big rally at Alba Iulia attended by the President and the Patriarch there is no
spontaneous manifestation from the part of the Romanians : rather, as a multiplication of Alba
Iulia, prefects, mayors and the Army all over the country enlist themselves in the boring ritual of
deposing flowers to some official monument.

Hungarians in Romania consider themselves a 'nation'. Attempts made by Ceausescu to

'ethnificate' them, to use the excellent term of T.K.Oomen (Omen : 1996), that is, to de-
territorialize them, failed. The Hungarian community in Romania considers itself a nation, has a
homeland it has been inhabiting for centuries - Transylvania - a common language, culture, a
myth of common descent, a strong nostalgia for the times when they were the dominant culture,
and so on. According to Oomen they would qualify as a nation, although according to Anthony
Smith (1979 : 48) or Anthony Giddens' definitions they would not (Giddens 1985 : 116) The only
thing missing to Hungarians of Romania is their own state, which in various forms is what some
leaders feel is missing and what they seek. The essence of the ethnic conflict between
Romanians and Hungarians lies here : to the fact that people of Hungarian descent seek, lead
authoritatively by their political elite, that the whole Romanian political system be reorganized in
order to accommodate them better, that Romania becomes if not a federal state at least
something close so the 1.6 million Hungarians enjoy full self-government, and the Romanians
give up the claim Romania is a national state on the model of France or Britain.


To sum up, can we say that a perceived conflict is real ? After all, besides this perception we
have only elite-engineered issues. Some specifications and distinctions will perhaps help us
clear this issue:

1. Is it right to confound the Romanian state with the Romanian people, since most of the
struggle of DAHR is directed against the state ? I think it is, from two reasons: i. Romanians,
although not very involved or interested in the conflict, are nevertheless supportive towards the
state policy when it comes to minorities : all the polls since 1990, with the notable exception of
the Tg. Mures conflict, when the population blamed the government for not intervening in time,
showed clear support for the government's status quo policy. All these polls, notably the IMAS
and CURS, but also in ours, the most recent one, showed that the Romanian people is endorsing
the government even if slight changes of policy occur, in the same time considering the claims of
the Hungarians exaggerated. ii. most of the struggle, due to the strong presence of DAHR in the

Parliament, is located in the two Chambers, as, for instance, the battle around the 36 ordinance
in the Senate. Or, proportionally elected Romanian MPs can be considered representative for the
Romanian people

2. Is it right to consider the 'rivalry' aspect, despite the fact that most of the Hungarians claim
policy pretends to be only a legitimate exercise of rights, without impeding on the rights of the
others ?

Yes, it is, since most is not all. If several Hungarian rights claimed are in fact rights that can be
exercised without affecting others' rights (the right to have a University ; the right to professional
education in Hungarian; the local autonomy ; the use of their language in local government),
others fall far beyond this category and are closer to a nationalist policy than to the quest for
equal opportunities. In this category fall the demand for separating schools into pure Romanian
and pure Hungarian, eliminating the system of parallel classes in either one of the two languages
functioning in the same school ; reorganizing the entire Romanian administrative system in order
to accommodate the Szekelys area better, although this affects many Romanians living there ;
modifying symbolic constitutional wordings such as 'national state' and considering it directed
against minorities ; campaigning against the fact that Romanian is the official language, that its
study must remain compulsory and can be checked when applying for certain positions in
Romania without considering that a discrimination; creating political structures to prepare and
govern the future autonomous region when its creation is not decided yet and it cannot be
decided by unilateral decision only.

3. Is the mobilization along ethnic lines present at all times and issues of conflict ?

Yes, it is. The mobilization on the Hungarian side is 100%. The mobilization of the Romanians is
weaker, but however consistent. As the case of Odorheiu shows, it is indeed evidence of
mobilization along ethnic lines regardless the particular circumstances or the responsibilities that
come with it.

4. Does this elite-dirven conflict enjoy mass support ?

Again the answer is: yes, it does, with some amendments. i. in most polls Hungarians and
Romanians complain of the same social and economic issues; the ethnic issue is rarely
mentioned spontaneously and most of the people have no initiative in this direction ii. most of
the people are afraid of conflict and feel that the politicians go too far iii. however, when an issue

is present, such as Odorheiu, people endorse their politicians and their positions and they would
do the same in a referendum.

5. What are the chances of this conflict to become violent ?

Chances of ethnic violence are scarce, but real. If border regions and Cluj display more
tolerance, in Tg. Mures or the Szekelys area violent conflict may yet occur. Triggers of violence
are always the same : attempts of one side to occupy the territory of the other. So it started at
Tg. Mures, when Hungarians pushed Romanians to retreat from a school which had been a pure
Hungarian school before ; at Odorheiu, where fear Romanians will 'invade' the town by means of
the orphanage lead to the mobilization of the local community and the expulsion of Romanian

6. Is the claim of DAHR that Hungarians in Romania are 'a distinct society' a reality, or merely a
political program ? If so, what bearing does it have on the conflict ?

We think DAHR is wrong here, Hungarians in Romania are not a different society, although they
are obviously a distinct culture. Most polls show a remarkable similarity between concerns,
anxieties and values of Romanians and Hungarians inhabiting Transylvania. We could not find
between the two groups a deep division. Some communities in the Szekelys area, it is true, are
extremely isolated, but this is why such isolation shouldn't be encouraged. Their isolation is not
just one from the Romanian society, but, as the Odorheiu case proves, shows all the
characteristics of parochialism.

The Romanian-Hungarian conflict is a basic one, and satisfying one or the other of punctual
demands may improve people's lives but it will not solve the conflict, as it did not in Quebec after
constitutional changes made French the first language of the province. The conflict is not a
recent one, it has centuries of history, and has a major motive : two peoples are forced to share
a state. Quebec is indeed the closest model for Transylvania. In both cases, a past-oriented
minority considering itself as 'state builder' and owner of an older, alternative culture felt as a
second-rank participant in the state and engaged on a process of national revival and finally
separatism ( Breton : 1992). Of course, Hungarian Transylvanians are not so outspoken on
separatism: with the Hungarian state close at hand any such open policy would not be regarded
favorably by the international community.

The Romanian debate around Hungarians is centered on two basic ideas, each excluding each
other, each wrong : i. either that they want Transylvania to return to Hungary (Romanian
chauvinistic parties and journals, nationalist Romanians), ii either that they seek 'normal,
ordinary, human rights' (Romanian and Hungarian intellectual journals). None is true, although
each would simplify somehow the matter. The matter is not simple at all, it involves two
countries, a strong ethnic party with a national project to accomplish, several post-Communist
groupings with roots in the secret services and the Communist propaganda in bad need of
survival tactics - and what can be better than turning nationalistic ? - and at least 6 million
inhabitants of Transylvania. Minimizing the issue is only enhancing chances of deterioration in
the future.


The experiment of governing with the Hungarian alliance since 1996 is a remarkable one. The
presence of Hungarians in the Romanian government is not limited to the seats DAHR had in the
Ciorbea and Vasile governments starting with 1996. A permanent board made of parties heads
or their deputies in fact settled important matters. What this Political Council decides (the name
changed repeatedly, but the attributions stayed the same) is what the government turns into

However, this experiment in itself cannot be considered a 'model' of solving the minorities
problem. Even if one is inclined to see it as a success one cannot fail to see its frailty. By 1999
polls already showed serious drops of support for the coalition, mainly because of its inability of
solving economic problems. If centrists lose elections, which is a plausible development and
cannot fail to happen sometime in the future, the whole experiment is endangered. It is highly
unlikely post-Communists will govern with DAHR: for ten years they were allies of nationalists
and displayed strong nationalistic attitudes themselves. Both DAHR radicals and the Romanian
nationalists wish the experiment to fail, and unfortunately even the initiators of the experiment
have little idea what to do next.

I believe that the temporary participation to the government did not succeed in solving the
conflict-and it could not have even if things had worked out more smoothly. This conflict depends
on the political and economic situation and will evolve with it. Since Romania has the worse
economical situation of east Europe many hardships are yet in store so populist nationalist
rhetoric may have a future still.

This is why a more permanent solution of the Hungarian problem is desirable. The regime settled
in 1996 provided a détente between Romanians and Hungarians, despite conflicting issues.
Moderates still hold the leadership of DAHR although they shall lose it if Romanian nationalists
return to power. It is perhaps the last time that such a solution can be sought. A nationalist
government will immediately eliminate the Hungarian prefects and all administrative forms of
consociatonalism and may start legal procedures to revise the laws of Education and Local
government as well. This is why is so important to move before that, to negotiate an agreement
between Romanians and Hungarians, a roundtable as DAHR asked for in its 1999 meetings, and
have the blessing of the international organizations for it as well. Hungarian radicals need
Romanian radicals, and vice versa. This would be the best way of eliminating both.

However such a proposal does not exist. DAHR asks for a round table, while being accused by
leaders of other minorities of speaking on behalf of all the minorities when making anti-
constitutional statements (reported by Mediafax on May 17,1999). To design a model acceptable
for all the parts one has to establish a few minimal objectives to be solved. We have to assume,
however, that no proposal can entirely satisfy everybody. In my view the objectives of a
permanent solution should be the following:

1. to secure the right of the Hungarian minority to a shared public sphere of its own, that meaning
'a communal domain that is constructed not only as an arena of cooperation for the purpose of
securing one's interests but also as a space where one's communal identity finds expression'
(Tamir: 1993: 74). This space already exists to a large extent: all that is needed are
supplementary legal guarantees.

2. to eliminate by a policy of affirmative action the disadvantages Hungarians still experience

(proportion of Hungarian students compared to Romanians; proportion of Hungarian policemen,
and so on) This was started in 1997, when the University of Cluj (babes-Bolyai) reserved seats
for Hungarians applying for the Law School: this allowed them to be accepted with a much lower
threshold than the Romanians.

3. Creating incentives for the Hungarian elite to choose moderate instead of radical policies

4. The same for the Romanian Transylvanian elite

5. Eliminating unnecessary competition between the two national groups as groups wherever this
can be avoided

6. Preventing a deepening of the division between the two national groups and keeping a decent
level of communication and interactivity between them in order to create at least occasionally a
'in-group' of both Romanians and Hungarians, instead of having them permanently exclude each

7. Eliminating the Hungarian theme from the Romanian internal political debate

8. Adjusting the political system in order to satisfy the listed requirements with reasonable costs
and at a pace that would not endanger the stability of the political system (so often threatened
both by ethno-regionalism and by the Romanian nationalist reaction).

Everybody agrees there are no universal models for the solving of ethnic conflicts. There are no
permanent solutions, either: constitutional modifications in Canada and self-government for the
Germans of South Tyrol did not prevent them from seeking separation. Ideal linguistic equality is
also a passing dream: the French became the first language of Quebec, and the Catalan is on its
way to make the Castilian a second language in Catalonia. In the name of times when it was
discriminated the regional language is pushing the national language or the language of the
majority in a second position. Or, the language of the majority is the main language of
communication. In the case of Quebec or Catalonia it is a language of universal circulation, much
more useful than the regional language. In the case of Romania, its is the language 20 millions
speak, compared to just two. Even if Transylvanian Romanians should know some Hungarian
the Romanian language cannot be replaced as language of the state. Pure bilinguism is a
delusion: the case of Brussels is relevant in this respect. If people are given a choice people will
stick to their own language.

Ethno-regionalism is on the rise. Even former terrorist movements had found a way in the
legitimate part of the political spectrum. Political wings of terrorist movements, both in Ireland
and the Basque country have become associated with government parties. This shows
mainstream parties consider they can no longer allow this trend to remain isolate and eventually
turn against them. These developments occurred in the framework of institutional Europe: it is
obvious separatist movements find here rather favorable grounds for their policies (Lynch: 1996;
p.14-15). The 'liberation' of east European states from either the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia also
provided further legitimacy to minority nationalism in Western Europe, as one nationalist leader
puts it:

Right across Europe, nations are asserting their right to self-determination- a fundamental
principle enshrined in international law. The newly-liberated nations of Eastern and
Central Europe- many of them smaller and all of them poorer than Scotland- are queuing
up to join the European Community, alongside many of the former EFTA countries. None
of them would settle for some sort of second-rate regional status; all insist on becoming
independent member-states in their own right.

Alex Salmond MP, leader of the Scottish National Party, 1992 (quoted by Lynch:1996:1)

Despite the varying circumstances three models are worth discussing in an European context
and in the context of Transylvania as we described it. Those are multiethnic democracy (other
authors name it quite properly hegemonic control), federalism and consociatonalism.


Hegemonic control or multiethnic democracy is the most common way of solving an ethnic
conflict. The term 'hegemonic control’ belongs to Lustick (quoted by O'Leary and McGarry: 1993:
23) and it coins regimes which either by coercion or cooperation manages successfully to control
an ethnic challenge to the political order. Combining some degree of domination with some
degree of inclusion of the elites seems to be a successful formula. Its undemocratic variant is the
regime described by Linz as the ‘multiethnic democracy without consensus’, a regime which
makes use of force in order to contain an ethnic minority that challenges the Constitution.
Common examples are Northern Ireland and Israel (Linz: 1977).

This was also the form the Communist states used in the last period, after the great repression
had passed. This is true even for the Ceausescu regime: Ceausescu did not imprison nationalist
leaders and until the attempt to compel Pastor Tokes Lazslo to change his parish only moderate
coercion was necessary in order to keep Romanian Hungarians under control. Hungarian
leaders remained in the running bodies of the Communist Party until the end, with the notable
exception of Kiraly Karoly.

The inheritance of this model showed its limits after 1990. The Romanian post-Communist
leaders tried to respect the framework of procedural democracy; in the absence of other
repressive policies the nationalist and anti-minority discourse expanded until it became the
official discourse (since 1992 to 1996). The state, represented at first by the party-state
transitional National Salvation front, then by the Party for Social Democracy (Ion Iliescu's party)
was characterized by the hypertrophy of a nationalist discourse, centered on the theme of state
protection in front of separatist Hungarian movement. This was however mainly a reaction to the
impossibility of making further use of the hegemonic control the way the Communist regime had

Chances of the dark side of this model have not vanished. A return to the government of the
coalition that ruled in 1993-1996 (socialists with nationalists) would throw Romania further out
from Europe. But one must consider the admiration many Romanian MP expressed for the
courage of Serbs to confront the whole world, expressed during the Kosovo crisis on 1999. As

former President Ion Iliescu, perfectly positioned to win next elections as well, put it during a
gathering of peasants in Baragan in May 1999, discussing the Yugoslav situation: 'A man beats
his wife and here comes one who calls himself a friend of democracy and knocks him down
(reported by Adrian Ursu in Adevarul).


Since 1993 - although unofficial demands are older - the Hungarian elite has constantly asked for
a 'special status'. This 'special status' can be understood in various ways, although we think the
Glatz document gives us a fair and more detailed account on how this should be interpreted.
Being a general document, made to fit every state, the Glatz documents doesn't say what
modifications specific political systems should undergo in order to adjust to the system it
proposes. This is left for each state to evaluate. As we see it, the Glatz proposal, and the Czapo
Ioszef proposal for a minorities' law (making the Hungarian community a 'political subject') can
be accommodated only in a cantonal-federal type of political system (Switzerland was often
pointed to us in discussions with Hungarian politicians as a suitable model). The key word of this
system is subsidiarity, the Catholic word for devolution of powers to the lowest, most appropriate
level in the political hierarchy. Edmund Burke was the first to explain subsidiarity that is not
equal to the modern decentralization of a liberal state, but it is closer to the Middle Age
philosophy and organization. Mr. Marko Bela pointed again and again the model of mediaeval
autonomy was useful in constructing DAHR's own model of autonomy. The difference between
cantonisation and ordinary decentralization or devolution is its organization 'on an ethno-
territorial basis.(...) Cantonisation must be distinguished from mere administrative
decentralization, common in unitary states : it is built upon the recognition of ethnic difference
and allows for asymmetrical relations between different cantons and the central government'
(O'Leary & Mc Geary : 1993;31).

Cantonalization and its larger version, federalization presuppose the existence of geographically
clustered communities. Where communities are well segregated indeed the experience often
shows 'good fences make good neighbors'. Problems usually arise when communities which are
not well ethnically segregated try to become so in order to seek some political design, as was the
case of former Yugoslavia. 'The reason why federalism proved totally insufficient as a conflict-
regulating device in Yugoslavia was because the insufficient geographical clustering of the
relevant ethnic communities.(O'Leary & McGeary : 1993:33).

The model of Switzerland is quoted ignoring a few essential facts. Among 'prejudices or errors
contained in the 'Swiss model' one can count:

1. implying this model was attained peacefully, a historical error; many wars were needed to
create Switzerland as we know it today

2. confusing the stability and endurance of a state formula reached organically compared to an
artificial model imposed on a society, as we've often seen it happen in the Third World

3. confusing between a regional-ethnic identity and nationalism. Nationalism tends to stop only
when he nation-state is attained. Or, in the Swiss case there are many linguistic and ethnic
identities, buy none of a national intensity.

At the opposite extreme of the Swiss model federalists in Romania constantly bring up the
'Gagauzia' model. Gagauzia is a small region in Southern Moldova(135.000 inhabitants). Its
inhabitants have a remote different ethnic origin (presumably Turkish), but Russian is their native
language. Due to separatist tactics supported by the 14th Soviet -than Russian - Army between
1991 and 1993 both Gagauzia and the Dniestr Republic broke free from Moldova and were
finally granted a 'special status' embodied in the new Moldovan Constitution.

The mention of these models in support of Hungarians' claims for autonomy is at least surprising.
The legal framework for Gagauzia and The Dniestr Republic - whose main fear what the possible
union of Moldova with Romania (a highly unlikely possibility) was not meant to accommodate
the national identities of the two regions, since they have none, but only to secure post-Soviet
elites that Moldova's freedom to choose the reunification path with Romania is reduced. The two
regions were visited by several Western journalists, especially during General Lebed' stage as
Commander of the Fourth Army and was rightly depicted as the last bation of hard-line Soviet
Unionists, eventually combined with most wanted criminals who became leaders of paramilitary
troops in this wonderful refuge place (see for instance coverage of the Dniestr war by French
journals Le Monde, Le Point and the International Herald Tribune). I interviewed president Topal
of Gagauzia personally in 1991 ; the President spoke no Gagauz language, admitted he was a
former apparatchik, complained Turkey is not answering properly to the Gagauz friendly
tentatives and strongly recommended to the group of Western journalists to visit the National
Gagauz Museum, (which we did). The museum contained a rather limited stock of Soviet-times
displays such as medals and awards for surpassing the production plan, but nothing more : it
was the typical Soviet-type identity revival attempts made only in order to control the real

attempts for national emancipation of nations, which Helene Carrere d'Encausse so masterfully
described in her books ( ). Since then efforts have been made to reinvent the Gagauz language,
but the population remains closer to the name it is usually given in press agencies reports :
Russophone. In any event, theoretically and practically, comparing a post-Soviet environment
with the rest of Europe is a mistake. Nowhere else in Europe (until Kosovo) have entire
populations been displaced, deported, eradicated, cleansed and denationalized in the recent
past- to amount finally to an artificial, unstable ethnic composure- as in Stalin's Soviet Union.
During his most oppressive time Ceausescu went so far as to compel University graduates to
take jobs outside their native areas, an experiment which failed, since refusal did not lead to
prison, but only to the loss of the job. Comparing post-Ceausescu Romania with post-Soviet
Moldova is therefore groundless, while comparing Romania with any other European country
where national and ethnic groups evolved naturally, and national feelings are genuine can be
useful. The models of Gagauzia and the Dniestr are even less worth mentioning because they
represent attempts of institutionalizing by undemocratic means undemocratic regional units -
leaving a helpless population at a mercy of the local oligarchy, living on arms' and drugs' deals.
In the case of this artifact to speak of 'the practical application of subsidiarity' as Renate Weber
does (Weber :1997) makes little sense. Subsidiarity, a concept understandable in Germany due
to the tradition and organization which allowed the survival of 'lander' cannot apply to Southern
Moldova, a strong Russified region with no political tradition of the local (non-Russian, but
Russian speaking population) and where even the term of traditionalism makes no sense.
Abstract models help little in the solving of an ethnic conflict : rather, it is the ground conditions
that impose the solutions. Furthermore, self-determination is justifiable if seen as democratic
collective rights seeking. But often, as Tamir points out, it 'is not a search for Millian liberties and
civil liberties, but for status' and this is done 'At the cost of relinquishing their civil rights and
liberties' (Tamir 1993: 71). This is obviously the case of the two regions mentioned.

The most important argument for federalism cannot be found in Gagauzia. Rather it is made by
the commitment of an important part of the Hungarian elite to it, as the case of Odorheiu showed.
Local authorities behaved in their dispute with Mr. Remus Opris as if the Szekelys area is
autonomous already: his arbitration was seen and is seen by the Hungarian elite as the gravest
offense. The local tradition is in favor of cantonalism: a town like Tg. Secuiesc again displays the
Middle Age flags of the 'Three Chairs' together with the Hungarian and the Romanian flags.
Larger towns with larger Romanians minorities do not dare to do so openly but the spirit is there.

The second important argument, connected closely to the first, is the presence of an ethnic
regional party. After the disappearance of the Communist party the new political system was
unable to create trans-ethnic parties. One reason is the prompt, almost immediate founding of
DAHR, but also the lack of interest of the Romanian parties for this problem. Interest in shown
either in the worst possible way by nationalist parties, or in electoral years as Romanian parties
remember they need the votes of Hungarians for their presidential candidate. Hungarians voted
in fact at each presidential elections (1990, 1992,1996) with the Romanian challengers to Iliescu
agreed by DAHR. Rumors about a split of DAHR on doctrinal or ideological lines have been
going on for years, but despite the existence of ideological clubs inside the Alliance it is highly
unlikely one day the Liberal Club, for instance, would join the Romanian Liberal Party. The
structures DAHR created in 1995 -like the Council of Representatives- were also seen at the
time with good reason as anticipating a federal organisation. These structures have functioned
within the limited possibilities of the existing legal and administrative framework. The Council
gained some experience to be able to function as a regional Parliament, for instance. But of what

The main advantage of federalism as Hungarians see it is the elimination at least for a restricted
area of the continuous bargain with Romanian authorities over various issues. Strict delimitation
of powers between central and regional government is the main incentive of federalism, while the
structure of the Romanian unitary state allows even the most liberal government a strong hand in
local affairs, or at least the need for the local government to communicate to the center if not
seek approval for many regional matters. Where the local authorities seemed to have abused
their powers the government, in the person of Mr. Opris stepped in immediately.

The argument against federalism is also strong enough. Most important, the geographical
segregation is not complete. Even if homogenous Hungarians pockets can be found in the
Szekelys area, other Romanian pockets, mixed villages and towns, and the fact that half of the
Hungarians live in Romanian majority areas outside the Szekelys' complicate and attempt to
cantonalization. The 'special status' area would create two categories of Hungarians and two
categories of Romanians - the ones inside and outside the special status area. Would
democracy and cohabitation profit from this or rather would new problems arise ? The most
outspoken promoter of a federalist solution, Will Kymlicka, cannot fail to notice that while
federalism offers ethno-cultural minorities the best conditions possible, it stops short from
providing the bonds of solidarity necessary to keep together even a federal state: ethnic-based
federations seem doomed to separation sooner or later.(Kymlicka: 1998)

The Romanians, not only the Romanian government, do not agree to this solution. Even the
liberal Ciorbea government had reserves. Besides obvious reasons, the most likely outcome of
such an attempt would be a strong nationalist mobilization on the Romanian side, to the benefit
of Romanian nationalist parties. Public opinion is against federalism both from fear of irredentism
- the interwar revisionist times are not so far - and also from conservatism. Reshaping the
Romanian entire administrative organization in this radical form never experienced before, in
order to find a solution to provide the Szekelys area with some form of territorial autonomy would
be unpopular, regardless the guarantees the Romanian minority in the area might receive. Even
now the Romanian press runs strong campaigns accusing the government it does nothing to
prevent the denationalization of Romanians in the area.

Some Hungarian leaders in favor of decentralization hope that the next years will bring an
increase in the regional identity feelings of Romanians and somehow and agreement can be
reached among Transylvanians to seek a special status together. Despite minor incidents such
as the attempt of the mayor of Iasi to create a 'Moldovans Party' (with no following) this
development is highly unlikely. the Romanian situation rather verifies the theory of Walker
Connor. Connor was amending the Deutsch model by pointing out that while' increased sectional
contacts tend to dissipate sectional differences among diverse ethno-national conscious groups
appear more apt to cement and reinforce the divisive sense of uniqueness'(Connor :1994; 171).
In this respect the assimilationist attempts of the Communist regime directed against Hungarians
failed, while the policy of the Romanian monarchy and then the Communist Republic to create a
homogenous Romanian population succeeded. Where exposure to communications revealed a
minor difference, as among Romanian regions, the difference was gradually eliminated. Where it
made people (Hungarians and Romanians) aware of an important difference (as in the case of a
common University) the exposure to the others only enforced the separate group identity.


Consociatonalism arose at first an extraordinary enthusiasm, only to be then submitted to hard

trials. In its complete form as Lijphart described it is rather a complicated mechanism, which can
accompany or not the federal organization of the state. In any event, consociatonalism does not
equal federalism as some authors think, pointing to the case of Belgium. Belgium is rather a
model of conflicting federalism -at least constitutionally, but also politically. We side with Mc
Geary and O'Leary that consociatonalism is rather an alternative to federalism, also it can be a
complement sometimes as well. The essence of consociatonalism is power sharing, and it was

tried by Dutch and Lebanese politicians mainly, but also experimented in Malaysia, Fiji and
Northern Ireland. Under consociative rule as Lijphart described it (Lijphart: 1977) minorities enjoy
community autonomy in matters that concern them and have the right to a constitutional veto.
The country is governed by a grand coalition featuring every sector of the divided society, and
the same rule applies to employment in the public sector. As it was often pointed
consociatonalism can function only in proportional systems, being difficult if not impossible to
accommodate with Westminster-type democracies.

What are the arguments is favor of consociatonalism in Romania ? The strongest one is that it is
already under way. Consciously or not, completely or not, this was the way tried by the winners
of the November 1996 elections when inviting DAHR to the government coalition and dividing
public positions proportionally in order to accommodate them. The fact that this was done rather
on a party basis than on an ethnic basis - since DAHR was not the only party invited to
participate, but the Social Democrats also, is another proof of consociatonal rule, since the most
important cleavage of the Romanian society after 1990 was between the post-communist left and
the anti-Communist right.

Consociatonalism rises serious objections as well. The main one is the lack of knowledge
surrounding it. While both Romanians and Hungarians have some understanding of federalism -
Hungarians to praise it, Romanians to fear it - Romanian politicians have never debated the
advantages and disadvantages of consociatonalism. The politicians of the centrist coalition are
no longer committed assimilationists as the post-Communists, but they are little aware of what
they are. No party ever organized a serious debate on the accommodation of the Hungarian
minority in Romania. Party programs address very superficially the problem, in a few lines
usually encouraging the conservation of the present situation. Consociatonalism requires the
absence of a will to assimilate the minority and a commitment of politicians to make it work (Mc
Garry and O'Leary :1993 :34). Admitting the first point is met now to an extent still unprecedented
in Romania, the second raises doubts. Romanian politicians are only vaguely committed to
governing with Hungarians -the Democratic Convention, their old allies, the most, and the
Democrat Party, as their votes in the Parliament show, the least. Hungarian politicians, in their
turn, are divided. Most of them favor the cantonalization-federalization solution, although they
realize it is not a realistic one. Hungarians intellectuals also push for more radical approaches, as
Bela Marko reproached them in his June 27, 1998 speech at the Council of Representatives
meeting at Cluj. The commitment for consociatonalism is thus reduced only to Hungarian
politicians involved directly with the government, the division line cutting across parliamentary

clubs as well, as Mr. Marko admitted in the same speech (quoted by Rompres News Agency).
However, if cultural autonomy could be achieved and, some form of veto for the Hungarian
community institutionalized, consociatonalism would become more popular. Its main advantage
remains its feasibility, while Cantonisation is difficult and risky.

DAHR itself might be the main obstacle in front of consociatonalism. Mr. Marko was right to say
that DAHR is the 'the main achievement' of the Hungarian community after 1990, due to its unity,
so unlike the other Hungarian communities in the Carpathians, bitterly divided over power.
However, what was an advantage during the post-communist regime might turn into a
disadvantage in the long term. Ethnic parties, as Horowitz showed, start by mirroring ethnic
conflict, but end by giving it more depth it (Horowitz :1984). The presence of a strong DAHR as a
permanent partner, a third partner in what should be a state to state relationship between
Romania and Hungary, discourages any attempt at any organizations cutting across the ethnic
line. Few of these are now left. Since the main goal is not inter ethnic communication, but the
preservation of the Hungarian cultural identity common cultural organizations are not
encouraged. It is obvious this strong policy of cultivating the national identity only increases the
division between the two national groups. Neither DAHR, nor the Romanian state have made
from ethnic cross-cutting organizations and inter-culturalism a policy. DAHR openly avoids this,
while the Romanian state confuses it with an organization dominated some way or another by

It may seem as quite a long shot, still cohabitation based on power sharing and civic nationalism
looks like the only solution possible. In this formula a new form of communication between the
two groups needs to be designed. In contemporary Europe we should conceive communication
as something more than just acknowledgment of some innate difference. The policy of
escalating national celebrations and displaying national anthems, encouraged by politicians of
both groups, should be given up and left to extremist nationalists only. Separation of borders only
mirrors the psychological separation: preventing the latter is essential in order to keep the peace
between the two national groups. A joint effort to create that 'larger circle' which avoids clashes
of 'loyalties of identical scope' (Allport :1954 : 43) is not only necessary, but has a historical
opportunity to be fulfilled in the present political conditions. Consociatonalism has the advantage
of not referring to territory in any way, henceforth it can stand easier attacks from Romanian
nationalists. But in order to succeed it needs the full commitment of the Hungarian elite, and of
the Romanian centrist parties. Neither of these exists today.

A final word

Will Transylvania find finally the peace and become only the legendary cradle of vampire stories,
or will it turn into another Kosovo? The answer to this is difficult. Looking at Transylvania as it is
now, a peaceful region where inhabitants share both rewards and hardships it would be tempting
to say Transylvania will never again see another nightmare as the ones in its past. However not
much is needed to make this peace vanish. Increasing economic and social hardship,
nationalistic elites, and a self-government program of the Hungarian minority are not elements of
a good prognosis.

Nationalism is there in Transylvania. It exists on the Hungarian side, in the desire to circumscribe
a territory where Hungarians should not have to share power with Romanians. It exists on the
Romanian side, in the attempts to hinder the expression of national identity of Hungarians and
deny them the right to use their maternal language in administration or any other part of the
public sphere. Both can be controlled in normal times, both can escape control if some
international development creates exceptional situations, in which anything becomes possible.
The commitment of the entire Romanian political class to European and NATO integration is a
positive element:, but the entire Romanian political class, including democrats, would unite
against a Hungarian attempt to proclaim self-government unilaterally of some part of the
Transylvanian territory*. Transylvania is, unfortunately, more a part of the Balkan area due to its
present ethnic configuration than a part of Central Europe. Its problem can be solved only if
Romania succeeds in politically becoming 'Central Europe' and escaping the 'Balkans'. Attempts
of shaping a separate destiny for its Hungarian minority would only trigger disaster. The effort to
find a common solution for all the national groups may however create a new successful model
of solving an inter-ethnic conflict.

See the coverage of the scandal concerning a call to the autonomy of Transylvania in June 1999 in the
Romanian newspaper Adevarul. Public opinion mobilized histerically against a document calling for the
autonomy of Transylvania proved afterwards not to be authentic, and not to be signed by the alleged

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