The Hungarians enter politics

On January 13, the second national meeting of the Democratic Association of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) was held at the “István Szentgyörgyi” theatre studio. I consider it to be symbolic that the Mureş County branch of the RMDSZ was formed at Christmas 1989 in the office of Győző Hajdu, the former editor-in-chief of the local Hungarian literary monthly, and a Ceauşescu stooge. Hajdu figured in two places in the telephone directory, both as Győző and as Victor (the Romanian version of Győző). After December 22 he fled from Târgu Mureş, being afraid that the anger of the people would not spare him. He has since returned to write for Vatra-type publications.

The engineering professor and Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Attila Pálfalvi, said at this second RMDSZ meeting that the new government, true to the declared programme of the National Salvation Front, urged the restoration of an independent nationality-based education system. He said further that it would approve every initiative and solution coming from below. And he mentioned as an example the decision on the restoration of Hungarian secondary schools in the Transylvanian town of Cluj.

Indeed, a week before our meeting, the National Salvation Front still claimed (quoting from its Nationality Programme):

...that it condemns resolutely the policy conducted by the previous dictatorial system against the national minorities and declares solemnly: it realises and guarantees individual and collective nationality rights. In consequence, the National Salvation Front considers necessary:

1) The new Constitution of the country should recognise and guarantee the individual and collective rights and civil rights of the national minorities.

2) The National Minorities Bill, detailing the provisions of the Constitution in a concrete form, must be elaborated and enacted. This Act should be adopted by the Parliament within six months from the entry into force of the new Constitution.

3) In accordance with legal provisions, the establishment of the institutional system necessary for the practice of the fundamental rights of the minorities must be ensured, and thereby the free use of the mother tongue, the care of national culture, and the safeguarding of national identity. For this purpose a Ministry of Nationality Affairs must also be established... etc.

In his memoir, Nyílt kártyákkal (With open cards), Károly Király wrote – he also told me personally – that the original draft contained the right to autonomy. When finalising the text, Ion Iliescu argued that it would be prudent to leave it out. Király was firmly against deleting the term, but Géza Domokos, the-then temporary leader of RMDSZ, intervened and said he also thought it would be better to leave out the concept of autonomy from the nationality programme. Iliescu immediately made use of Domokos’s blunder and declared that if Domokos is on this opinion, then he will delete autonomy from the programme of the National Salvation Front. Although if this term had been kept in the text, the idea of autonomy could have become familiar to the Romanian public opinion and the case of autonomy, aimed at securing our staying Hungarian in our homeland, would have had a different standing. Károly Király’s recollections are supported by the historian, Lajos Demény.

I have recorded the Nationality Programme of the National Salvation Front in such detail above in order to explain the reasons for Hungarian impatience and distrust at what proceeded to happen in educational matters.

Unfortunately, the mushrooming number of Romanian parties, the so-called historic parties, the National Peasant Party and the National Liberal Party – and the 50 or 60 other little parties, did not formulate a nationality programme at all. Or if they did, their programme contained much less than that of the National Salvation Front.

In this way, the Romanian parties, calling themselves “democratic”, committed a huge blunder: without wishing to do so, they made the national minorities believe that only the Front could ensure their rights, and that if the Front lost at the forthcoming May elections (in January it was still considered a very real possibility by many) there would be no Hungarian schools and no equal rights. This implied a deadline.

Consequently, desiring that the 450-year-old Hungarian Reformed College, the today’s Bolyai Farkas Lyceum, should once again become a Hungarian school (it was made a joint Hungarian-Romanian institution in 1961, to the gradual detriment of Hungarians thereafter), the Hungarians of Târgu Mureş desired to achieve this change by the beginning of the second school term – i.e. immediately. For the elections which our supposed Front protectors looked very capable of losing were set for too soon after that date for the Hungarians to risk waiting.

Indeed, the official decision that the Bolyai Lyceum become once again Hungarian was made on January 18. The adoption of this resolution was linked to the names of Valer Galea, the Romanian County Vice-President of the National Salvation Front, the Hungarian teacher Tibor Wessely, Vice- Chairman of the Târgu Mureş Municipal Committee of the National Salvation Front, and the Romanian teacher Nistor Man, the Chairman of the Education Committee of the National Salvation Front.

This decision caused great consternation in the Romanian section of the Bolyai Lyceum and also at the corresponding Romanian (though also now mixed) Papiu Ilarian Lyceum. There was consternation too among the political – excuse me, cultural! – Romanian organisations associated with these institutions, i.e. Vatra.

The Mureş County Council of the National Salvation Front discussed the matter at an extraordinary session.

The full minutes of this January 19 session should be published because they are exciting and instructive: they show what the boundaries of the navigable road are in the intelligent resolution of Romanian-Hungarian conflicts.

Those talented – usually young – Romanian politicians who had been brought to the surface by the revolution understood after our open – but not hateful – clash of arguments that the Hungarians were entitled to their own schools, and especially to the ancient Bolyai. (It is this class of Romanians which the hyenas of the Vatra Românească had for the time being removed from public life.)

The Romanian members of the National Salvation Front County Council agreed on January 19 to the restoration of the Bolyai Lyceum as a school teaching in the Hungarian language. But the Hungarian members for their part accepted that this could only be implemented at the beginning of the new school year (i.e. on September 15).

The healthy compromise was: the Bolyai should de jure be declared at once a Hungarian lyceum, but its Romanian students should be able to continue to attend it until the end of the school year, and not be torn from their classes in mid-course.

It was at this meeting that [local Romanian theatre director] Smaranda Enache for the first time spoke up for the restoration of independent education on the mother tongue. The effect of her intervention was overwhelming. Though she promptly began to receive mailed death threats and obscenities.