The danger of enlightenment

In connection with these events, Smaranda Enache recounted that she had learned a few days earlier in Bucharest that an anti-Hungarian demonstration was being prepared to be held at Satu Mare on March 15. She and the Romanian journalist Gelu Netea, the then director of Viitorul (The Future), the paper of the National Liberal Party, wanted to enlighten the Romanian public in order to prevent any possible ethnic clashes. They wanted to publicise the argument that on the day of the outbreak of the 1848 Hungarian revolution in Pest-Buda there were no anti-Romanian overtones, and that the revolutionary crowd, in addition to freeing from prison the Hungarian writer, Mihály Táncsics, also freed the Romanian writer, Eftimie Murgu.

They asked Professor Zoe Petra, who was then Dean of the History Faculty of Bucharest, to put it to Răzvan Theodorescu, the director of Romanian Television, that by broadcasting adequate materials before March 15 they would enlighten the Romanian public. Professor Petra promised to intervene, but her efforts were unsuccessful.

Vlad Rădescu, actor of the National Theatre of Târgu Mureş, and member of the Mureş County Council of the Temporary Council of National Unity, had even played the 1848 Romanian revolutionary Avram Iancu in a film. He was also asked to publish a suitable article about March 15 in the Cuvîntul Liber of Târgu Mureş. They wanted to get the writer Cornel Moraru, the editor-in-chief of the literary periodical Vatra (repeat: no relation to Vatra Românească), to intervene with Lazăr Lădariu, the editor-in-chief of Cuvîntul Liber, to publish Vlad Rădescu’s article if he could be persuaded to write it.

Both attempts were unsuccessful.

At this time, the Romanian public – certainly the Romanian peasants of Mureş County – were unaware of any foreign propaganda material attacking the “national” integrity of Romania. We Hungarians didn’t know about any such materials either.

In order to infect the domestic political climate with the old fear that “the Hungarians want Transylvania”, foreign propaganda material had to be translated into Romanian and had to be published in Romania. This task was undertaken by the Vatra Românească, and by the Romanian newspaper of Târgu Mureş mouthing its propaganda, the Cuvîntul Liber, as well as by Bucharest Television.

The anti-Hungarian propaganda campaign was topped by the reproduction of a certain handbill protesting against “anti-Hungarian cultural genocide”. However one problem for the perpetrators of this particular propaganda coup, was that the offending handbill had been taken off the wall of a Reformed Church in Los Angeles as long ago as January 15, 1988.

This handbill was dished up in a fulminating article in the March 14 Cuvîntul Liber as if it had been printed just then, and not in the Ceauşescu era.

It could be seen from the article that its author knew of a hand-written Romanian note attached to the 1988 handbill, and referring to the Reformed Church of Los Angeles. It was clear that he therefore consciously lied when he gave the impression that fresh material of 1990 was concerned here. In the printed handbill, there is no reference to Los Angeles or to the Reformed Church. This was written onto the attached paper by the same hand which wrote the original 1988 date.

In a clumsy way, they then tried to change 1988 to look like 1990. As this did not succeed, they simply left the date off the photocopy, and copied only the printed leaflet. Thus the Romanian reader and television viewer could have no idea that he had fallen victim to a forgery.

A report about this article was broadcast the next day, on March 15, at peak viewing time, by Bucharest Television. At the urging of my friends with whom I had viewed the transmission, I immediately rang the editor of the item, the historian Victor Ionescu, in Bucharest.

I asked him whom, in his opinion, it would benefit if a Romanian-Hungarian conflict – a bloody incident – occurred. He agreed that this would only harm both the Romanians and the Hungarians. I stressed that we had written evidence that the hand-bill originated in 1988 and had protested against Ceauşescu’s cultural genocide. I told him that we could also prove that the perpetrators of the deception had tried to change the original date.

Victor Ionescu promised that the next day, in the same transmission, he would give us three minutes to present the denial. This denial was signed by András Sütő on behalf of the Mureş County Presidium of the RMDSZ, and I read it to the camera in the company of Attila Jakabffy.

The driver of my service vehicle (a Vatra man inherited from the Romanian Communist Party) refused to take me to Bucharest. But fortunately we got air tickets, and arrived at the studio ten minutes before the transmission.

I at once asked the editor of the news broadcast of that evening, G. Marinescu, to read our protest to the camera. He was unwilling to do so, although according to the rules of press ethics, the same person should read the denial who had read the original denied text. Thus our denial lacked the authority of the television station. Finally, I read it to the camera myself. The entire thing looked like a private action from Târgu Mureş , and its psychological effect was minimal.

The following is a translation of the Romanian original of the protest:

The Mureş County branch of the Democratic Association of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) resolutely protests against the broadcasting on national television, in peak hours, of the article received without any checking from the county newspaper “Cuvîntul Liber” of Târgu Mureş.

The broadcast of this article on March 15, 1990 (the anniversary of the Hungarian revolution of 1848) lacked all political and diplomatic tact, and misled the Romanian audience by suggesting that the Hungarians living in Romania had anything to do with the documents presented.

For the sake of truth, it is necessary that we declare that this call was issued by a Californian committee fighting for the human rights of Hungarian and other minorities on January 15, 1988. It was one of numerous appeals published abroad which condemned Ceauşescu’s genocidal policies – crimes for which Ceauşescu was subsequently condemned to death.

It is beyond comprehension that those who commented on this appeal of two years ago presented the text as if it had been written in our days, after the revolution.

We resolutely protest against the intellectual forgery committed by the editors, and against the way in which this material directed against Ceauşescu had been presented.

Our statement refers to the text of the appeal, and not at all to the map attached to it. (The map showed Transylvania as part of pre-World War One Hungary.) We dissociate ourselves from any such attempts aimed at causing conflict between Romanians and Hungarians. (Here, of course, we were referring to the map.)

The forces of evil, in order to maintain tensions between ethnic groups, do not hold back from forgeries and the use of other methods of base provocation. They aim thereby to prevent the extension of the rights which are due to national minorities and to obstruct the process of democratisation in our country.

We call on all mass media of Romania not to condemn the Hungarians living in Romania for opinions and newspaper articles which they have nothing to do with. Our convictions are reflected only in the organs published by the RMDSZ in the Hungarian and Romanian languages.

The Democratic Association of Hungarians in Romania condemns every extremist, nationalistic or chauvinistic manifestation, irrespective of its origin.

Signed: András Sütő, Chairman of the Mureş County branch of the RMDSZ


Despite its weakened impact, this denial very much angered the leaders of the Vatra Românească. On the morning of March 17 (the day following the TV denial), Dumitru Pop told me at the headquarters of the Provisional Council of National Unity: “You will see what you get for this.”