Collage International Youth Magazine no.14/winter 2001
Published by ISHCA International Secretariat of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly NGO
Romanian-Hungarian Relations in Transylvania: a problem?
By Adriana Pop (Listes) Cluj-Napoca
Romanians and Hungarians have lived side by side in Transylvania for about 1000 years. There have been moments in history when their relations were particularly strained, however. Romanians used to resent Hungarians for feeling like slaves in their own country – Hungarians owned the land and Romanians were forced to work for them. While the times of uprisings and riots are gone, some bitterness
remains. Transylvania is still a delicate subject among the Romanians and Hungarians who live here. In fact, Transylvania was ”taken” from Romania and ”given” to Hungary in the 1940’s. Not for long, but long enough to instill the fear that some day Hungary would attempt to reclaim Transylvania. This possibility has often been speculated by politicians strategically distracting people’s attention from the real problems of the country which they themselves are incapable of solving.
In reality, there have been only a few direct conflicts between the Transylvanian Romanians and Hungarians. The most important of these occurred in Targu Mures in 1990, immediately following the Revolution. Scholars trace the roots of this conflict to the communist system under Ceausescu: ”There was a clear anti-Hungarian policy during the ’80, especially after 1985. Hungarian names of localities were banned. Fewer and fewer students were able to pursue their university studies in Hungarian”
(Valer Veres, sociologist).
Consequently, Hungarians developed a slight negative attitude towards Romanians. On an ideologiacal level, this hostility was mirrored by the Romanians as well. Following the Revolution, these previously repressed tensions surfaced. Recently, however, younger generations of both nationalities have come to see things more clearly than their adult predecessors.
Vali, 32, hair-stylist: ”None of my colleagues know I’m Hungarian, and not because I want to keep it secret, but because I don’t think it is necessary to position myself in one group or another. We are all the same. It’s only the politicians who try to incite us to hatred. I don’t like Hungarians politicians; from my perspective they are too radical. They pit people against each other in order to fulfill their political goals. They eat each other and we are the ones who suffer the consequences. In 1990, after the Revolution, when the Targu Mures scandal broke out, my wife scolded her mother, who is Hungarian. Though she’s half Hungarian, my wife calls herself Romanian. We don’t argue in the family anymore because we realized that they’re using us”.
Rodica, 50 years, housekeeper: ”I don’t thik there’s a conflict here. The ones from the higher classes manipulate the matter. All in all, I’m sure the Hungarians never gave up Transylvania. Why? Because the ancient problems inherrited from forefathers persist. Certainly they never gave up wanting Transylvania
Janos, 47 years, engineer: ”I don’t think there are such conflicts. My wife is Romanian, almost all my friends are Romanians, some of them are Hungarians, but I don’t treat them differently. Sometimes we quarrel, but for other reasons, it’s never an ethnic problem. I sincerely think that Transylvania belongs to both Romanians and Hungarians who live here”.
Eckstein Kovacs Peter, deputy prime-minister on the problem of minorities: ”The National Minorities Protection Department (NMPD) was established in 1997 as a structure within the Romanian Government Apparatus. Its main activity consists in the elaboration of governmental policy towards national minorities in Romania. There are 17 national minorities in Romania now representing over 10% of the population. The department maintains relations with the minorities organizations, which are to be found in the National Minorities Council, which is the consultative organ of the department. Also, the department issues a monthly publication. The Romanian government has given a larger and larger amount of money to national minorities organizations – in three years, the sum increased from 12 billion lei to 60 billion”.
Valer Veres, sociologist: ”The conclusion of my research conducted among the youngsters from Transylvania is that we are dealing with a conflict on an ideological level. Most of the youth admit the existence of a conflict here, but 65% of Romanians and 56% of the Hungarians are convinced that it can be solved. This suggests that the roots of a potential conflict are not very deep. An analysis of high-school students revealed that only a quarter of Romanians and half of the Hungarians think ”there’s a inter-ethnic conflict” in the region. It appears that, in the last three years, the younger generations have changed
their attitudes. My personal opinion is that the participation of Hungarians in the goverment had an important role in improving interethnic relations in Transylvania”.
Sociological studies point out that the distances separating youth from different ethnicities becomes smaller day by day and that 65-70% of young people prefer to live close to each other. For instance, 31% of Romanians and 28%of Hungarians would start a family with a person of another nationality. 35% of
Romanians would become friends with a Hungarian, while 43% would do so without second thought. The number of young Romanians which could not accept others within their country is irrelevant, just 7%. Relations between Romanians and Hungarians from Transylvania are becoming more and more harmonious as time passes. Younger generations have forgetten old conflicts and are looking for a
better future together.