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Modern History Sourcebook:
Jules Jezequal:
Transylvania Ten Years After, 1928

The victory of Roumania's allies brought her several vast provinces which really beonged to her, for their population was undoubtedly in a large majority, Roumanian. Transylvania, one of these provinces, was part of Hungary before the war. She had been colonized by her conqueror who had established himself firmly. Important German groups had also established themselves in certain parts of Transylvania. Of the five million inhabitants of Transylvania, when she was given back to Roumania, 57.5% were Roumanians, 25.53% were Magyars and Szeklars, and 10.45% were Germans (Saxons and Swabs). There were also 3.60% Jews, 2.92% Ruthenians, Serbs, Bulgarians, etc. This made a very mixed population, as far as race was concerned, and not less so from the viewpoint of religion. The Roumanians are Greek Orthodox; the Hungarians are Roman Catholics numbering about a million, Protestants, divided into Reformed, more than 700,000, and Unitarians about 74,000. Those of the population who are German by extraction, but have become Hungarian subjects, are Lutherans, numbering 260,000. To these about 200,000 Jews should be added. Relations between the Government of Old Roumania and the Orthodox Roumanians of Transylania were easily established. In the meantime, a Transylvanian peasant party has been formed which is not always in harmony with the Central Government. Serious difficulties however, are not likely te occur on this hand. But the relations with the Magyar, the Germans, and the Jews, were at once found to be very intricate. Of the Jews, I will say nothing. The lot of the Jews of Transylvania is that of the Jews of the rest of Roumania. Of the Germans, there is not much to say, as they are treated in the same way as the Magyars, and when I speak of the Magyars I am also speaking of the Germans. It should however, be noted that the authorities are perhaps a little less severe with the latter than with the other minorities. This is perhaps because they have behind them Germany, a more imposing power than Hungary. It is quite natural that the Magyar minorities are the most disturbing element the Roumanian Government has to deal with. They were torn from their country by force. This force, it is true, was that of justice. It was right that a province, in which the large majority was Roumanian, should be returned to Roumania. But this justice was none the less hard for the Magyars of Transylvania. It was naturally sad for them to be torn from their mother country. They are in this way, it is said, expiating an old sin. But because a sin was committed far back in the past, one can hardly hold the present Transylvanian Magyars responsible, and one cannot hold a grudge against them for not rallying with enthusiasm and without regret to the new regime.On the other hand, one cannot hold it against the Roumanian Government for regarding these newcomers with some mistrust. The situation is one of great delicacy. The Roumanians are in the majority in Transylvania, but these Roumanians are peasants. Their ancient masters left them systematically, one might say, in total ignorance. It is true that in old Roumania the directing class did not trouble itself to teach the miserable peasant. But this statement is not an excuse for the Magyars, however much they pride themselves on a superior civilization to their neighbors. Established in the towns, when they were not in their chateaux, the Magyars of Transylvania, great landowners, officials, industrialists and merchants reigned for their own profit alone. Now, by a sudden turn of affairs, the disdained and despised Roumanian peasants take precedence over the superb Magyar. It is the Roumanian who has become master. The Magyar must bow before the uneducated and rough Roumanian gendarme. It is perfectly comprehensible that this gendarme, and the government for whom he acts, cannot wholeheartedly believe in the loyalty of these enforced Roumanians. Mistrusting their loyalty, and moreover, annoyed by the deep-rooted as well as irritating habits of these people, the Government has taken a distrustful and vexatious attitude toward the Magyars. The different Hungarian religious denominations deeply resent this feeling. They have raised bitter complaints. Their lamentations are not, properly speaking, about ecclesiastical questions alone. They include also questions of instruction and of property. On these two questions they are most bitter. The Central Government in matters ecclesiastical has respected things as it found them, equally for Roman Catholics, as for Protestants. But the Greek Orthodox Church is the Church of the State. Other churches are only tolerated. All the Orthodox archbishops and bishops have a constitutional right to sit in Parliament, but only one Catholic bishop has been admitted. But that is only a small inconvenience. The essential point is that liberty of creed should be respected. And it seems that it is so respected. The Churches, provided they confine themselves strictly to their religious functions, seem to have all the liberty that they can legitimately expect. This however, does not mean that the religious minorities do not suffer from the new regime. From the first they were hit, and often hard hit, by the agrarian reform. Before the annexation, they possessed vast lands, whose revenues contributed to their maintenance. I believe that with the old regime, certain churches enjoyed bigger revenues than their needs demanded, but today it is certain that their revenues are insufficient. In many cases they did not have anything left because the expropriation laws were applied to them without mercy. Have they the right to complain? The principle of expropriation was just. The peasant who cultivated the land, in the old Roumania, as well as in the new, did not possess a bit of ground. It was all in the hands of the great landowners, of the officials and of the Churches. To avoid a threatened peasant-uprising after the war, the Government took over the lands for distribution to the peasants. It was right insofar as principle was concerned. But the application was not always so. The State took into consideration itself and its friends, but it struck heavily at those whom it considered its enemies namely, Magyar landowners, and the Churches of the minorities. As far as the latter were concerned, the blow was particularly heavy, as it also struck the church schools. Now in Hungary, all the schools are church schools. They were equally so in Transylvania. Thus in a day these schools lost the most valuable of their resources. And the churches, impoverished themselves, had so much less for the support of their schools. And they needed more than ever, because in these schools alone could suitable religious instruction be given in their own language. Another example of the complexity of Roumanian affairs! The Churches and the schools, left to their own devices, are thrown back on themselves, and for better or worse have become centers of Hungarian culture. Hotbeds of "Irredentism," says the Government. Would it not have been wiser on the Government's part to have become the protector of these churches and schools? It has not thought so. It has preferred to adopt an antagonistic attitude. It has tolerated the creation and functioning of private church schools, but has surrounded them with a meddling supervision. It has subjected them to annoyances and vexation. For example: no Roumanian child is allowed to attend a private church school. If any official discovers in one of these schools, a child whose name has a Roumanian sound, even though it is proved to him over and over again that the child is a Magyar or German by extraction, the child has to leave his school to go to the Roumanian public school where the Orthodox religion is taught. And it is only by good fortune that the private school he has left is not closed. I was told with such sincerity of an instance of this kind that I was obliged to believe it. A Roman Catholic orphanage had taken in Roumanian children afflicted with ophthalmia, for treatment. It has imprudently accepted for the care of these children, a subsidy from the Government which thereupon took the opportunity of taking over the orphanage. I gathered evidence of a number of acts of this sort. I cannot guarantee that they are all true, but they are too numerous not to be insignificant. Here is another instance of hardship. It is asserted that the secondary church schools, of which many are very important, have not the right to give graduating diplomas to the universities. The Government denies this. What is true, and this possibly explains the contrary statements of both parties, is that pupils, in order to acquire diplomas, have to pass examination before professors, who belong to the Department of Public Instruction, and are appointed for this purpose by the State. It is true, this system is not illiberal in itself. It can be justified with good reason. The minorities are wrong to complain of it. But, if, as they assert in all seriousness, the authorities profit by the system to disqualify as a foregone conclusion, the candidates drawn from the church schools, then the minorities have a right to protest. These lamentations and recriminations are not voiced by just this or that minority. This fact in itself gives them additional weight. All agree in denouncing the bad spirit of the Government toward them. The harmony between Roman Catholics and Unitarians, which I observed everywhere in Transylvania, would not be so close if they did not both suffer from the same vexations and annoyances. If these annoyances affected individuals only, it would be a small matter, but they affect the most cherished convictions and most essential principles of the minorities. It is not surprising that after treatment of this kind these minorities are rebellious and restless, and that they do not always strive for an adjustment which should be their special work....

Source:

From: Jules Jezequal, Roumania Ten Years After,(Boston: The Beacon Press, 1928), pp. 132-138, reprinted in Alfred J. Bannan and Achilles Edelenyi, eds., Documentary History of Eastern Europe, (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1970), pp. 298-302.Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.


This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
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© Paul Halsall, August 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu