EARLY MARCH: THE WAR OF THE STATUES
In early March, the words “LE VED” were daubed on the equestrian statue of Avram Iancu in the centre of Târgu Mureş. If – as we must assume – the culprit was trying to say “Take it down” in Hungarian, he would have written “VEDD LE”. Or, in English, as best as it can be compared, instead of “Take it down”, the culprit wrote “DOUN IT”.
Iancu, by the way, was a Romanian Transylvanian peasant leader remembered for massacres of Hungarians in the 1848-49 revolution and celebrated by Romanians as a fighter for their freedom from Hungarian oppression.
Cuvîntul Liber devoted a vehement and provocative article to the issue. And I knew that this incident should not be left to pass without comment.
I had to go to Bucharest to attend a conference of the 13 minority nationality organisations of Romania who were to meet in the hall under the dome of the Romanian Parliament. But before I left, in a TV interview, I explained that the person who daubed the statue with “LE VED” (instead of “VEDD LE”) was ignorant of the niceties of Hungarian grammar. I also proposed that the paint should be analysed to see where it came from, since a lot of red inscriptions had appeared in town and it might be possible to find out who did it.
I further mentioned in an aside that it would be good if in the forthcoming elections, borrowing from the example of the Romanians of Caransebeş who at the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy elected the Hungarian Lajos Mocsáry to be their representative, we should do the same now in our town with Smaranda Enache.
Although the arguments in my interview complete with Romanian dubbing were impossible to contest, the Adevărul, as if nothing had happened, published G. Giurgiu’s article. He asserted that the Hungarians had soiled the statue of the “king of the snowy mountains”.
Needless to say, my reply was not published by the Adevărul.
At the minorities’ forum in Bucharest I was startled to hear from the other minority leaders how much they had also suffered from the oppression of nationalities – what losses of blood they had endured in the course of time, and that they did not have any schools either! My consternation also sprang from the realisation of how ignorant we each were of the fate of the other, so effectively the dictatorship had been able to insulate people and ethnic groups from each other.
The programme of the German Democratic Forum in Romania was described at the conference. We noted and supported it. This programme discussed the immediate need to establish factories employing mainly Germans, plus German-owned institutions and schools. The implementation of such a programme should have been able to prevent the mass exodus of Romania’s centuries-old German community that escalated following the revolution. But the government did not even find these demands worthy of reply, and the flight of the Germans has since continued apace.
It is possible that in that Spring – through adequate political steps – the Germans might have been persuaded of the desirability of their staying in their established homeland. But the political will was missing for these steps to be taken and it appears that after 750 years the role of the Saxons and Swabians in Transylvania and in the Banat region has come to a tragic end. In my opinion, there are only losers here: the Germans have lost their adored Siebenbürgen and Banat, and Romania has lost the German expertise, energy and capital. I am convinced that if the approximately half-million Germans had stayed, they would have exercised a tremendous attraction within the new Europe for German capital investments. But then chauvinism has never been a good economic or political advisor.
Returning home from this minorities conference, I read in the Cuvîntul Liber of March 10 that two electronic word processors had been received from Hungary as gifts. One was received by the Romanian Vatra literary periodical (repeat no relation to Vatra Românească) and the other by the Hungarian Erdélyi Figyelő [Transylvanian Observer] literary periodical.
Then I read in another article on the same page that the Hungarians were being blamed for knocking down the statue of Nicolae Bălcescu in Sovata, a spa town in Mureş County.
It should be known that the statue of Nicolae Bălcescu (another Romanian freedom fighter from 1848-49) has been standing for years in the gardens of the Sovata baths. Thousands of visitors come to Sovata for recreation, and they usually come from Romanian-inhabited regions.
In the dark nobody can see whom a statue represents (the destruction occurred at night). Why should such an event, where the perpetrator is unknown, be dished up as a Hungarian provocation?
In addition, from a Hungarian point of view, Nicolae Bălcescu is perhaps the most positive figure of Romanian history. It was he who concluded the 1849 Project de Pacification with the Hungarian leader Lajos Kossuth, and he did everything for the two peoples to make friends. Would the Hungarians desecrate his memory?
The perpetrator is still unknown. The people of Sovata at once protested, and stressed that they had nothing to do with the knocking down of the statue. They ordered a new Bălcescu statue (the old one suffered such damage that it could not be restored). But the extremist press continued to repeat ever after that the Hungarians had desecrated Avram Iancu’s statue and had knocked down Nicolae Bălcescu’s statue.
So much for that.
Károly Király continuously reacted to these protests with actions of his own at governmental level. He bombarded Bucharest officials with weekly petitions, beginning from January 25 with a description of the events surrounding an attack on the RMDSZ headquarters in the Transylvanian town of Reghin. In an ominous preview of events to come, this was carried out by Romanian peasants of the Gurghiu-valley who had been made drunk and who were then transported to Reghin.
On this occasion, Király demanded that the culprits named by him should be called to account, and that the military officers who had incited such an action to be transferred to other duties.
As ethnic relations worsened, he also demanded that a Nationalities Ministry be established, and that a decree be swiftly passed with which it would be possible to fight nationalistic-chauvinistic incitements in the Press. Király repeatedly tried to achieve the transfer of the two most dangerous local Vatra officers, but Major Vasile Ţîra – who during Ceauşescu’s rule had been a political officer – and Colonel Ioan Judea remained in place.
After Judea publicly recounted an alleged Hungarian plan to get hold of Transylvania in three steps, Király – feigning stupidity – asked the Defence Minister, General Stănculescu: “Have you heard what military secret Judea has blurted out?” “’What was that?” Well, that the Hungarians want to seize Transylvania, and that he has got hold of the military plans.” Stănculescu’s brief answer: “Prostul” [the idiot].
But – Stănculescu’s mockery aside – Király’s memoranda and warnings were addressed to deaf ears. The agreed scenario could not be interrupted.
Indeed, Károly Király himself began to suffer more and more attacks in the media. Just as at a Vatra Românească meeting on February 1, the signal for the campaign against László Tőkés had also been given. At their meeting in Alba Iulia, the Vatra men had decided they wanted to see him hanging, too.