Vatra Românească means “Romanian Hearth” a term designed to emphasise the alleged longevity and continuity of Romania’s historical claims and rights to Transylvania. Vatra called itself a “cultural” organisation however.
We now know that it was also on December 27 that this cultural brigade, Vatra Românească, was founded in Târgu Mureş. Until February 1, however, it functioned underground, and did not come out into the open. But the consequences of its activities became increasingly public and obvious.
Despite the incubus of Vatra secretly planted on December 27, these post-revolutionary days continued to be euphoric for most of us. Even if we saw that not everybody was happy with the new course, for the time being the will of the people swept away the partisans of regression. They did not try to oppose openly the forces demanding democratisation.
For in Târgu Mureş at this time, not only was the (as-yet unheard of) Vatra Românească founded. Also it was founded the Friendship Platform of the Romanian and Hungarian Democratic Intelligentsia. This followed an initiative of local literary periodicals representing both Romanians and Hungarians. Our Friendship Platform assembled on December 26. We spoke quite openly about the points between us which hurt us, and we decided to do everything possible to relax the old restrictions, and to establish a new Hungarian-Romanian relationship.
It is not possible to forget the words of the Hungarian Reformed pastor, Dénes Fülöp. He began by saying that historical incidents remembered as evil must not be made the object of idolatry in themselves. If we sincerely want peace between our two peoples, he said, we must refrain from ecclesiastical politicking which exacerbates the negative nationalistic sentiments of simple (and not-so simple) people.
In 1985, for instance, a mural was painted in the Romanian Orthodox church in Târgu Mureş. It depicts Hungarians in national costume beating a Romanian saint while the Romanian people of the village cry in the background.
Coming from the locality depicted in this mural (Ocna de Jos), Fülöp knows through what tragedies the people there really lived as the Austro-Hungarian Empire began to come apart – in 1916, for instance, when Romanian troops arrived and carried off 70 local Hungarian youths and old men along with plundered grain, cattle and wagons. None of those prisoners ever returned. The memorial in the centre of the village lists the names of the victims.
But it is not such events that must be recited now. These memories which cause hatred must be removed from our souls!
We all shared Dénes Fülöp’s responsible anxieties. And I felt that I too had to speak. I gathered all my courage and said that the Daco-Romanian continuity theory is nothing other than the ideological foundation of contemporary Romanian supremacy and privilege. This popular theory so important to Romanians posits a direct line of ethnic descent between the ancient Romans who colonized Dacia (including Transylvania) and the modern Romanians who now live there. I announced that I did not contest this Dacian continuity theory, and that in my opinion there were not more than 100 experts in Romania and Hungary qualified to argue it. I said that they should be entrusted with the debate. I only asked that the Romanian press and politicians should stop repeatedly quoting the theory, and that then it might be easier to arrive at truly equal rights and a democratic, pluralistic Society.
I added that nobody can contest that those values which we can agree do exist in today’s Transylvania had been created mostly in the last 700 years, and it is entirely certain that in those years Romanians, Hungarians, Germans and the other national groups of Transylvania lived together and got along well in the common homeland.
No Romanian, who was present attacked me for my words. On the contrary, they proposed that I should be one of the formulators of the text of our movement’s platform. The text is the work of the editors of the local Romanian and Hungarian literary periodicals and myself. The platform was subsequently published in the local press of both nationalities.
Unfortunately, the Central press and television did not provide adequate publicity, and thus, instead of breaking through the wall of mistrust and silence, our initiative was lost.
I believe it is worthwhile to quote the text of our platform, however: