MINORITIES RESEARCH

Béla Pomogáts

A Chance Missed
Transylvania as "Switzerland of the East"

The Swiss Model

In the course of the recurring geopolitical debates about Transylvania throughout the twentieth century many people have suggested that for Transylvania, home to several peoples and cultures, territorial autonomy, or ultimately sovereign statehood, could be the solution to those burning historical and political questions that Bucharest and the Great Romanian power, along with the accompanying ethnocratic political strategy, have been unable to solve. Sovereign Transylvanian statehood patterned on the Swiss system of cantons would have really offered a historical chance to the solution of the Transylvanian problem, otherwise almost insoluble on account of the region's peculiar ethnic composition. Historical experience suggest that this question could be settled only with the help of a system of national autonomies based on the equal status and equal rights of the three nations-the Hungarian, the Romanian and the German-in suitable manner for all concerned. The encouraging example of the system of cantonal self-governments based on the Swiss model, or the small multinational country in the valleys of the Alps, occurred to almost everyone-from Oszkár Jászi to Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky-who contemplated on the fair and lasting solution of the "Transylvanian question".

There are, indeed, a large number of similarities between Transylvania and Switzerland, both regarding geographical features and ethnographic diversity. The landscape of the region surrounded by the Carpathian range reminds people of the Alpine republic not only with its mountains, highland pastures and rapid streams, nor do the old Transylvanian towns, Brassó, Nagyszeben, Segesvár, resemble such German or French towns of Switzerland as Solothurn, St. Gallen, Zug or Fribourg, for example: both urban types are rooted architecturally in the Middle Ages, only the Swiss urban view has always been regarded as a highly praised element of European civilisation, while the Transylvanian cityscape was more or less destroyed by the Stalinist rule of Ceausescu. Travellers visiting Kolozsvár, Arad, Nagyvárad or the contemporary Saxon towns of Southern Transylvania constantly encounter the catastrophic consequences of this destruction. These are the towns and villages that provide the most appalling experience: the once famed fortified churches lay in ruins (unless the German state was allowed to restore them, as in the case of the fortified church of Prázsmár); the once extremely wealthy Saxon peasant homes also deteriorate in the hands of their new and careless owners, demonstrating how an eminent piece of western civilisation is being destroyed by carelessness, lack of attention or history itself.

Nevertheless, several of its historical and cultural characteristics destined Transylvania to play the role of a kind of "eastern Switzerland". Its territory is about two and a half times that of the envied Western European state, with a population exceeding the latter by 1.5 million. Switzerland has approximately 6.5 million inhabitants, as opposed to the 8 million people living in Transylvania. It is a well-known fact that both countries give home to several nationalities, languages and cultures, with a relative sizes of these ethnic communities being very similar in the two countries. Sixty-five per cent of Switzerland's population is German, 18.4 French, 9.8 Italian, and 0.8 retoroman. In Transylvania we find the following percentage: according to the census of 1992, 73.5 per cent of the population is Romanian, 20.7 per cent Hungarian, 1.4 per cent German, and 4 per cent other nationalities (Gypsy, Ukrainian, Serb, Slovak). However, the international community of researchers question the accuracy of this census. According to estimates relying on church records and surveys, it is customary to put the figure of the Hungarian population at 24-25 per cent, instead of 20 per cent, implying a similar decrease in the Romanian population, cutting it down to 68 per cent (in other words, roughly the same as that of the Germans in Switzerland!).

The similarities between the relative strength of the nationalities are even more apparent when we take the situation previous to the Trianon peace treaty. According to the last official Hungarian census in 1910, 53.9 per cent of the population in Transylvania, or more precisely, in the former Hungarian territory handed over to Romania, was Romanian, 31.7 per cent Hungarian, 10.6 per cent German, and 3.8 per cent other nationality. These figures indicate that the original percentage of Transylvanian Hungarians was more than 1.5 times that of Switzerland's French contingent within the total population. The same figures can demonstrate the fact that within eight decades (between 1910 and 1992) the Hungarian quota was reduced by one-third. Had the Hungarian population increased at the same rate as did the Romanian, there would have been 3.5 million Hungarians living in Transylvania today (in which case the relative strength of the Romanian population would have naturally been much smaller than its present value!). All this has resulted from the immigration and fleeing to Hungary under pressure, as well as from Bucharest's continuously applied politics of enforced assimilation of the national minorities and from the large-scale resettlement of the Romanians of Regat (in numbers probably exceeding one million). Especially endangered are the Hungarians living in diaspora, and since the population living under such circumstances numbers between seven and eight hundred thousand, it is quite conceivable that the size and percentage of Transylvania's Hungarian population will be dramatically reduced within a generation.

If we accept, what is generally believed to be true, that Switzerland cannot be defined in terms of a single ethnic group and culture, then the same also holds for Transylvania. In Switzerland four peoples and cultures live side by side in the greatest freedom and harmony, and it would never occur to Switzerland's German population to look upon themselves as the sole political nation of the confederation, so as to suppress the non-German constituents of the country. Why could we not accept the historical, ethnic and cultural facts strikingly similar to the Swiss example in Transylvania's case? The question is, of course, merely a rhetoric one; but the time will come when this rhetoric question will have to be answered. And it will have to be answered not on the basis of some ethnocratic, nationalistic or etatist concept or myth, but on the basis of reality and according to the requirements of European norms.

Hungarian literature in Transylvania between the two World Wars called attention to this reality, and to these requirements. "Transylvania, Jenö Szentirmai wrote in 1922, cannot be conceived in any other way than the melting pot of peoples and races (...) a whole international society in small." "In the course of history, all three nations' culture, wrote Aladár Kuncz in 1928, stayed in close contact with the culture of the respective mother nations (...) All three cultures of Transylvania remained explicitly national, losing nothing of their original colours and popular associations." "A thousand year, Károly Kós explained in 1929, is a long period even with regard to the lives of peoples and culture; yet in one thousand years neither of the nations and cultures was able, or willing, to assimilate the other."

All this is independent of, or should be independent of, what actual state formation the peoples of Transylvania live in. The lessons of history teach us that only those state formations can be stable, which do not prevent the people and the minorities living there from realising their elementary rights and interests. If Romania does indeed want to consolidate the situation, if she really wants to establish a democracy on the European pattern, and if she strives to become an equal and esteemed partner in the process of European integration, then she will have to concede that there are more than one political nation and more than one culture in Transylvania. In other words, Romania will have to accommodate the idea of "Eastern Switzerland", she will have to move towards the Swiss model of peaceful coexistence and co-operation between ethnic communities an cultures. This can, at the same time, be a test of Romanian democracy, of political modernisation, of the acceptance of European norms, a test the criteria of which will be set not by Bucharest, but by the community of European nations.

Since the publication of Oszkár Jászi's book "A nemzeti államok kialakulása és a nemzeti kérdés" (The Formation of National States and the Nationality Issue, Budapest, 1912), we know that the task of bringing the various nationalities of Switzerland into harmony had not been without difficulties. Up until the French Revolution the non-German elements had been subjected to the aristocratic rule of the German Eidgenossenschaft, and it was largely due to the French army that first the French, and later the Italian cantons also gained political rights. In Switzerland it was historical development: the majority's sober realism and the minorities' deliberate stand that created national, linguistic and cultural equality, which eventually provided the world with a paragon (since there is hardly a state where there are no minorities with different language or culture), and which the Hungarian minorities of Eastern and Central Europe, limited in their freedom, admire with envy.

Aspirations for Self-government

Some attempts to achieve a solution based on the equality of all three nationalities in Transylvania were made both before the Compromise of 1867 and after the Romanian annexation of 1918. During the history of Transylvania's Hungarian population in minority, a period spanning more than eight decades now, it was frequently claimed that protection against the official Romanian nationalism and enforced assimilation primarily lay either in the joint sovereignty of the nations, or in the legal order and practical implementation based on the autonomy of Transylvania and the nationalities. As the idea of Transylvanian or minority autonomy have appeared in the proposals of politicians in many instances and in many forms, perhaps it is fair to say that the idea of autonomy has become an organic part of the Hungarian political traditions in Transylvania.

In the last hours of historical Hungary, at the meeting between Oszkár Jászi and the leaders of the Romanian national committee in Arad, the Romanian party promised a legally founded autonomy to Transylvania's non-Romanian nationalities, in effect the same self-government that Jászi had offered in case of preserving the historical state formation. Held prior to the Romanian National Assembly of Gyulafehérvár, but already in full knowledge of the Romanian troops' advances, the huge mass-meeting convened at Kolozsvár on December 22, 1918, in an attempt to decide the fate of Transylvania's Hungarian population and still envisaging it within the framework a united state with the Hungarian nation as a whole, called for the formation of a system of national autonomies. At this mass meeting the Transylvanian National Council, the Szekler National Council, the bourgeois radicals and the social democrats (whose rank and file included the representatives of the Romanian workers) all held the view that Transylvania's place should be within the framework of the Hungarian Republic established along democratic lines, naturally creating the administrative and cultural system of national autonomies on the Swiss pattern. In the end, however, Transylvania's fate was settled by the arms, and the great powers signing the treaties of Trianon and Paris all sanctioned this military settlement, which had been prepared by political intrigues.

The idea of a Hungarian self-government in Transylvania remained, nevertheless, on the agenda. The Hungarian minority made it clear on several occasion at the end of the 1910s and at the beginning of the 1920s that the maintenance of its Hungarian culture and the co-operation with the Romanian majority could be founded only on the legal system of national self-determination and cultural autonomy. In principle, the constitutional position of Transylvania's Hungarian population and the direction of nationality politics were laid down in the Gyulafehérvár Resolution proclaiming Transylvania's union with Romania, and also in the Minority Agreements amended to the Paris Peace Treaty. In the third chapter of the Resolutions the national rights of Transylvania's non-Romanian population were recorded as follows: "Complete national freedom for all the peoples living here. The education, public administration and administration of justice will be in the mother tongue of each nation, by persons belonging to that nation. Each nation will be represented in the country's legislative and governmental bodies, in accordance with their relative strength."

To a certain extent, the agreement signed on December 9, 1919 in Paris by the Romanian government applied the principle of the self-government of nationalities ("Traité entre les principales puissances alliées et associées et la Roumanie"), which declared in Article 9 the following: "No Romanian citizen can be limited in the free use of any of the languages in private or business communication, in religious life, in making statements in the press or in any other form, and in public meetings." As to Article 11, it formulated the law allowing the minorities the possibility of free national development: "Romania agrees that the Szekler and Saxon public bodies, under the supervision of the Romanian state, form local self-government in religious and educational matters."

These decrees and regulations opened the perspective of the solution of the nationality issue, yet they were never translated into practice. The Romanian government refused to incorporate the Gyulafehérvár Resolutions into the constitution and to carry them into effect; they only signed the Paris Pace Treaty under pressure from the great powers. The Romanian constitution of 1923 ignored the self-governments promised to the national minorities earlier on, only talking about Romanians enjoying equal citizens' rights "without respect to differences of race, language or religion". The Romanian constitutional thinking and practice of nationality politics was based on the etatist ideology of "political nation", the same ideology which invariably referred to the principle of subjugation and elimination of minority groups.

Despite all this, the Hungarian minority of Transylvania rightfully demanded self-government all along. In March 1919 Elemér Gyárfás, the former governor of Kis-Küküllö County and Vice President of Transylvania's Catholic People's Alliance worked out the constitution of independent Transylvania, which wished to found Transylvania's state formation and sovereignty on the sovereignty and voluntary union of the three Transylvanian nationalities: the Hungarian, the German and the Romanian. This draft proposal, entitled "Az erdélyi három nemzet uniójának alapelvei" (The Fundamental Principles of the Union of Transylvania's Three Nations) was prepared for the Romanian governor's council of Nagyszeben, yet the council never seriously discussed the document.

After this, the same demand was regularly put forward in press debates and political pamphlets, in the firmest manner in the famous pamphlet "Kiáltó szó Erdély, Bánság, Körösvidék és Máramaros magyarságához" (Crying Words to the Hungarians of Transylvania, Bánság, Körösvidék and Máramaros) published on January 23, 1921 by Károly Kós, Árpád Paál and István Zágoni. The pamphlet of epochal importance was born in the spirit of the romantic pathos inspired by the historical realism of national self-examination on the one hand, and the recognition of questions of national faith on the other. Károly Kós urged to accept the Central and Eastern European realities emerging after the First World War, wishing to see sincere understanding between the majority nation and the minorities and for that reason advocating loyalty towards the Romanian state. He expected the fulfilment of the wishes of the national minorities-the preservation of national language and culture, social security and the economic prosperity of the minorities-from reconciliation between Romanians and Hungarians and from the establishment of mutual trust, envisaging the survival and development of Transylvania's Hungarian population in the vouchsafing of minority autonomies. The other authors of the pamphlet, Árpád Paál and István Zágoni undertook a more comprehensive exposition of the system of autonomies, setting it in a legal and historical context. In addition to securing the independent development of minority culture and the freedom of minority organisation, they demanded regional autonomy and the establishment of the national kataszter.

The idea of national kataszter originated from the famous theoretician of Austrian social democrats, Otto Bauer. In his work "Die Nationalitä tenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie" (The Nationalities Question and Social Democracy, published in Vienna in 1907) Bauer took another social democrat thinker, Karl Renner's earlier nationality political concept one step further, suggesting that a nation be defined "not as a regional body but purely as an association of persons", and that the self-government of nations and nationalities be established on the basis of national kataszters, in other words, of the "free declaration of nationality" by the citizens, organising the citizens of the same nation/nationality into a legal body independent of the territorial principle. In this way, István Zágoni's draft constitution for Transylvania was equally inspired by the traditional ideas of regional autonomy (by the way, it was taken into account with regard to the Szeklers and the Saxons in the minority agreement signed in Paris in 1919, mentioned above) and by the ideas of cultural autonomy based on nationality kataszter, which had been developed by the theoreticians of federalism based on national autonomies in the interest of modernising the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, including Oszkár Jászi and the Romanian Aurel Popovici, as well as the two earlier mentioned Austrian social democrats.

In fact, this federalism was patterned on the Swiss practice, since it was easy to see that the constitutional structure of the mixed territories could be fair and effective only when it took into account the mixed character of the population and invested each ethnic and cultural community with equal rights. Actually, many leaders of the Hungarian Democratic Alliance in Romania strives for the same legal arrangement, who in their draft proposals want to build the constitutional structure of Transylvania within the Romanian state on the ethnic composition of the Transylvanian society. This constitutional structure is defined by the fact that in Transylvania historically there are two ethnic/cultural communities: the Romanian and the Hungarian (Transylvania's third nationality, the German, had by now decreased to such an extent that they can only be regarded as an ethnic minority!), and both have to be given a role in Transylvania's government and institutions within the Romanian state.

Romanian "Nation State" or Romanian Regions

The official Romanian national ideology would like to regard Romania as a homogeneous national state, when in fact this would not strictly hold even in Romanian national territories, besides completely ignoring the fact that at least one quarter of Romania's population are of nationalities other than Romanian. Just as the so-called "nation states" created after the First World War by the powers of the entente cordiale in Central and South-East Europe do not meet the classical requirements of national states, with the strong internal tensions dividing, and eventually tearing apart, both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, so is Romania burdened with internal tensions developed historically and culturally.

Great Romania established in 1918 and 1919 consists of three historically very different regions: Moldova (and Bessarabia) aligned with Easter Slav (Russian and Ukrainian) historical traditions and political culture; Havasalföld displaying south-eastern, Balkan traditions, mentality and political culture, and Transylvania, earlier belonging to the western cultural milieu. Therefore, Romania is situated at the cross-roads of three European civilisatory and historical regions.

Therefore, the Hungarian territories annexed to Romania after the First World War (besides historical Transylvania, this region also includes a part of the Bánság, as well as Körösvidék and Máramaros) form part neither historically, nor culturally nor spiritually of the Eastern and South-Eastern belt, which lends its character to the Romanian political culture and mentality. Transylvania had its own political profile, culture and identity, which contained the seeds of a social development on the Swiss pattern. Sadly, in consequence to the Romanian imperial rule, this character faded away or changed in the aftermath of the massive exodus of Germans and Jews, of the radical decrease of the relative numbers and political weight of the Hungarians, of the suppression of historical Transylvania's Romanian intelligentsia and, of the large-scale settlement with Romanians from Regat.

Regardless of all this, and despite Bucharest's homogenising politics alternately employing aggressive and shrewd manipulations for the past eight decades, Romania has failed to become a unitary nation state; quite the contrary will be true, if her planned (but not very likely) union with Bessarabia (the Modavian Republic) does come off. Strong fissures can be seen behind Greater Romania's facade, which otherwise goes to the extreme to give the impression of a full and homogeneous nation state. It is so not only because of the presence of minority groups, and not only on account of the million-strong Gypsy population blotting the state's ethnic map, but also for the growing differences amongst the Romanian population of the regions with markedly different historical development.

The Oltyaks, the Moldavians and the Transylvanians are very different in many respects; so are the Romanian Greek Catholics-as opposed to followers of the Orthodox Church who are still supported by the state; the people living in the country's northern and western regions (in Transylvania and the Bánság) will also have different interests from those living in the eastern and southern territories. The former will probably develope closer links with the west economically also, the latter will probably strengthen their connections with the Balkan: this can be inferred from their earlier traditions and long-term interests. The Romanian society is now facing a transformation, insofar as they will inevitably have to surrender that monolithic state into which they had been forced by the Ceausescu regime, and the current Romanian opposition's groups affiliated by Communists and Securitate agents, whose interests lay in the preservation of the monolithic state, will perhaps themselves beat a retreat in face of the changes motivated by economic necessities.

The thinking and favoured political strategy of a substantial section of the Romanian intelligentsia are still governed by the vision and myth of developing a nation state. The purpose of the relentless chanting of national unity has, however, more of a tactical and propagandistic character than of a strategic power. In the interest of preserving their power, the Romanian "political class" of Bucharest, the parties on the extreme right and the extreme left, wish to strengthen nationalism, which has been so indispensable and useful in the past, while searching for excuses for the Romanisation of the national minorities.

Romania's internal democratisation and search for a place in Europe are made more difficult by the fact that the nationalistic obsession with the idea of a nation-state still permeates the entire society, and even those intellectuals who are the most responsive to democratic requirements are unable to stay immune to its effects. Sadly, the forces of Romanian democracy are, in this regard, obliged to adjust to the nationalistic mood, and to those norms of nationalist ideology, which have been at work in the past one hundred or one hundred and fifty years of Romanian history, and which the recently toppled Communist dictatorship had only made more hysterical, cynically exploiting it for its own purposes. This is a real dilemma in the political life of every democratic state: any politician who wants to give a democratic turn to the Bucharest political development either has to join the nationalist mood, thus compromising some important elements of democratic political development, or isolates himself from the broader masses, thus eliminating his chances of implementing the democratic requirements.

The idea of Romanian nation state, along with the ethnocratic ideology which gives substance to this idea and singles out the strategy that follows from it, nevertheless remains an abstraction and a political manipulation, which causes substantial damages to Romanian economy, hindering the overcoming of the economic crisis and making the search for a role in Central Europe and in the European integration impossible, possibly landing the entire Romanian society in the "third world". All this would, of course, have even more dire consequences for the non-Romanian elements: it not only could foil their hopes for self-government, but could also hinder the preservation of their cultural and ethnic identity in a painful manner.

Decentralisation and Transylvanian Self-government

Sooner or later the regional idea and politics will have to raise its head within the Romanian state, too, forcing it to relinquish the pre-modern, nineteenth-century vision and ideology of the ethnocratic state. If for nothing else, than so as to fall in line with the requirements of current European developments. On the continent, or in Central Europe, for that matter, the traditional, historical economic and cultural regions and multicultural social structures are bound to play an increasing role, at the expense of the states proper. One of the pre-conditions of closing down the period after Trianon and the four-decade-long Communist era is precisely this regional development and coming to awareness. Sooner or later the intolerant nation-state ideology hostile to minorities will have to tumble in Romania, too, just as Communism had tumbled. It will have to be replaced by the regional idea and the administration based on decentralisation, the benefits of which not only Hungarians will enjoy; the Romanians of Transylvania and Moldavia will also be able to assert their own regional interests.

Perhaps one of the first (or most important) signs of this assertion of regional interest is the campaign started by the young Romanian writer and television editor of Kolozsvár, which was launched in the memorandum Pro Transylvania Foundation, published in the middle of September in the Kolozsvár newspaper Monitorul de Cluj. What the author of the memorandum, Sabin Gherman claims is that ever since Transylvania had become part of the Romanian state, the central authority in Bucharest unfairly disadvantaged Transylvania and the Romanians of Transylvania, and so the Transylvanian people (Romanians, Hungarians and Germans) should do everything in their power to obtain administrative autonomy within the Romanian state. As a result of the centralised politics of Bucharest, Transylvania, the young Romanian editor from Cluj claims, has all but lost those characteristics that had, for long centuries, testified for its traditional European qualities. Transylvania has been methodically corrupted to the level of the provinces of Regát, as the government had always supported these provinces at the expense of Transylvania with every means, even including budgetary resources. And this was claimed not by a Hungarian injured in his Transylvanian pride, but a young Romanian writer and politician.***

Gherman rejects Greater Romanian nationalism and the national myths violating historical facts. He reminds his readers of the point that, far back when the Romanian Royal Army occupied Transylvania and the neighbouring lands in 1918, and when the Romanian National Assembly of Gyulafehérvár decided on the union of Romania and Transylvania, what many people were thinking of was not an ordinary annexation but a confederacy on the Swiss model, or even a Central-European state federation which would unite Austria, the Czech territories, Hungary, Transylvania and Romania into a democratic successor state of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. According to the Pro Transylvania Foundation's memorandum, by integrating Transylvania politically, economically and culturally into the Trans-Carpathian state formation of Romania, an extraordinary geopolitical opportunity was lost, in addition to the severance of the organic connections that had always linked Transylvania to the Western civilisation and political culture. Gherman uses strong words, words that even an agitated nationalist in Budapest would refrain from. "Transylvania's serenity, elegance and discipline, he claims, fell victim to mysticism of various kinds, to vulgar Balkanism and to knickknack civilisation. The union with Transylvania gave Romania a great chance to catch up with the Transylvanian value system. Instead of that, Romania subjugated the land."

It is worth citing the closing sentence of the memorandum worded by Gherman: "We must come to our senses! We must realize that all that all takes place here is but a cheap comedy (...) We must finally comprehend that we, Transylvanians, are different! That every foul and crooked manipulation comes from Bucharest, from the luxurious palaces of the politicians, who do nothing but fight over the carcass. We must finally understand that real enemies are not the Germans, not the Hungarians, and not the Burundians but ourselves. We are our own worst enemy, we who live from one day to the next, who have been provoked into theft and defamation. We have nothing more to say to one another, nothing more to do with each other; we have kept on trying for seventy five years and all that we have achieved is that we have become seventy five times poorer. So much an no more-I have had enough of Romania; I demand my Transylvania back!"

Naturally, Gherman does not want Transylvania to severe links with Romania. Rather, he wants to procure that Transylvania be allowed to manage its own natural resources, instead of falling victim to political parties and political intrigues in Bucharest, so that it can find its way back to its cultural heritage, or in other words, to that Transylvanian cultural heritage that it had compiled in consequence to its European location and system of connections. The young Romanian politician thinks that the only way by which this can effectively be achieved is political autonomy. Gherman himself declares that what he bears in mind is not ethnic autonomy, in other words he does not lend support to the Hungarians' aspirations for self-government; rather, he envisages a Transylvanian autonomy in the framework of which all the Transylvanian peoples, Romanians, Hungarians and Germans together restore the traditional Transylvanian values and assert Transylvania's economic, political and cultural values. All this undoubtedly reminds us of the "Transylvanian idea", of the Transylvanian self-government along the Swiss lines, that Károly Kós, Árpád Paál, István Zágoni and György Bernády-the great Hungarian thinkers contemplating on Transylvania's future place after Trianon-developed to solve the Transylvanian question. It also reminds us of the Romanian proposals which were partly put forward in the disputes about Transylvania's future in 1918 and were partly formulated in the course of the bitter conflicts at the early 1920s between Transylvania integrated into the Greater Romanian state formation and the provinces of Regát. Admittedly, these proposals were invariably rejected by the strongly centralist and highly ethnocratic government politics in Bucharest, so that by now probably nobody remebemrs them, even though the actuality of these proposals seems to be returning.

In the final days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire many people, including Romanians, entertained the thought of Transylvania's autonomous status, even in the form of a sovereign state. Such elderly leaders of the Romanian national movement as Vasile Goldio and Stefan Pop-Ciceo, as well as the representatives of the Romanian social democrats themselves envisaged an autonomous Transylvania, simply for the fact that they did not have trust in the democratic intentions of the Bucharest political elite, being well acquainted with the autocratic traditions of the political life in Regát. Finally, however, the National Assembly of Gyulafehérvár decided in favour of the union, mainly on the influence of Iuliu Maniu and Alexandru Vaida-Voevod. The emotions of Greater Romanian nationalism, along with the victory in World War One, which the Bucharest government scored at the negotiating table regardless of the defeats in the battle fields, thanks to the Entente powers, carried away even the more cautions Romanian politicians of Transylvania. Nevertheless, the Romanian National Party, which represented the interest of Transylvania's Romanian population, was not subordinated to Bucharest, and therefore they joined forces with the Peasant Party, the opposition in Regát, rather than with the liberals of Bratianu. The conflicts between the liberals representing Regát's interests and the nationalists of Transylvanian roots were practically ceaseless in the inter-war period. The subject of the embezzled Tranylvanian autonomy was often brought up in Romanian political life and the Romanian press of Transylvania, especially when people had first-hand experiece of the traditions and methods of the Bucharest political culture (for example, the election frauds which were permanent features of Romanian history between the two World Wars). Naturally, the interests and the dignity of the Romanian intelligentsia in Transylvania were also offended by the fact that Bucharest usually put officials from Regát in the top positions of Transylvania's administration, judicial system and military organisations. Several statements and newspaper article can testify for the Transylvanians' disappointment and embitterment, written by politicians such as Vasile Goldnis, Mihail Popovici, or Alexandru Vaida-Voivod, who later tried to represent the particualr Transylvanian interests as Prime Minister of Greater Romania. The leaders of Transylvania's Romanian population mostly became disenchanted with the political life of Greater Romania, many of whom commented on the anomalies witnessed in Bucharest with scarcely concealed dissatisfaction: the system of corruption, the aggression of party politics, the Balkan-type moral attitudes. The fundamental difference between the political cultures of Transylvania and the Regát constantly came to fore. It is worth quoting from one of Vaida-Voevod's speeches published in the November 13, 1923 issue of the Adevarul: "In the past, Romania for us was the land of beautiful dreams and ideal freedom, the future Prime Minister said, the place that we visited whenever we wanted to draw new strength for our national struggle. Then Greater Romania was established. What disappointment! We woke up from our dreams and discovered that we had been thrown into slavery. We were slaves in Hungary. There we could talk freely on the streets, in our homes, in Parliament. Today we are being lectured on patriotism by the lowest of the low in public life. In Hungary we had the shield of law in our hands, which protected us, Romanians, just as well. Today we are treated as enemies who are placed outside the law." As a result of all this, the Romanian politician suggested that the Romanian state be given a new constitution, and that it be built on the limited self-government of the historical regions (Transylvania, Moldavia, Havasalföld), as well as on the decentralisation of state administration, thus requiring from Bucharest to abandon that centralising and etatist strategy that has always been dominant in the Romanian state's organisation (from Bratianu to Ilieasu) right up to the present.

In consequence to the bitter experiences of Transylvania's Romanian population, in the mid-1920s the idea of Transylvanian self-government generally come to the fore, according to which the structure of the Romanian state should be built on the self-government of the historical regions, as opposed to the strongly centralised Bucharest authority, and the country should be "regionalised". In the debate on the reform of public administration Iuliu Maniu put forward the following principle: "Unity of the state on the one hand, and decentralisation and local self-government for the new provinces on the other."

However, the requirement of decentralisation and regionalisation were soon taken off the agenda. It was partly for the fact that the history of the Romanian state took a turn in the direction of developing anti-democratic techniques of government, and partly for the fears of the Bucharest politicians who, rightly or wrongly, were always anxious about the Hungarian and Russian revisionist demands, and the official state policy always regarded all forms of decentralisation as dangerous.

As a result, the principles of strongly centralised government and power concentrated in Bucharest became the overriding requirements of Romanian state strategy. It was so not only during the Communist dictatorship, which itself postulated centralisation as its first principle, the but also following the political turn at Christmas 1989.

Nevertheless, it appears that the views about decentralisation and regionalisation, smothered in the second half of the 1920s, once again receive some attention. The mayor of Ia"i, Mircea Simirad recently established the Party of Moldavians, announcing that Moldavia demands autonomy within the Romanian state. And now the memorandum of the Pro Transylvania Foundation calls for self-government for the Transylvanians. Naturally, all the politicians and parties in Bucharest (as well as the dignitaries of the Orthodox Church) heaped abuse on the proposals of the young politician, Sabin Gherman. Nevertheless, these proposals offer some hope: they can serve Romania's democratic development as well as Transylvania's growing freedom, while at the same time furthering the same strategy of regionalisation that have brought already discernible economic, political and cultural results in Europe's western, southern and northern parts. The same strategy that could transform Transylvania-as part of the Romanian state and within Romania's borders-into a regional formation based on the reconcilement and cooperation between the various national and cultural communities patterned on the Swiss model.

 

Vissza