Romania Table of Contents
Although shifts in Romania's ethnic structure can be attributed to several factors, the most far-reaching changes occurred at the behest of the PCR, which subscribed to the Marxist belief in the primacy of class over nation. Marxist theory claims not only that national identity is subordinate to class identity, but also that as class consciousness rises, nationalism and nations will disappear. The practical problem of how to deal with nationalities in a multinational state until the class consciousness of socialism eradicates them was addressed not by Karl Marx but by Vladimir Lenin. A pragmatic response to the reality of national minorities in the Soviet Union, Lenin's nationalities policy is often summarized in the phrase "national in form, socialist in content." The policy essentially permitted national minorities to be separate in terms of language, education, and culture as long as they adhered to the principles of socialism and did not pose a political threat. Romania's national minorities at the outset of communist rule were seemingly well served by the Leninist approach. The Constitution provided them equal rights in "all fields of economic, political, juridical, social, and cultural life" and specifically guaranteed free use of their native language and the right to education at all levels in their mother tongue.
The large Hungarian minority received special attention with the establishment of the Hungarian Autonomous Region in 1952. Like many other generous provisions for nationalities, however, this concession turned out to be by and large an empty gesture and masked the true nature of relations between the state and minorities. The region was never home to more than one-quarter of Romania's Hungarian population, and it had no more autonomy than did other administrative provinces. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, even this autonomy was curtailed. In 1960 directives from Bucharest reorganized and renamed the province so that its Hungarian nature was even further reduced. The territorial reorganization, by adding purely Romanian inhabited areas and excluding Hungarian enclaves, increased the Romanian element in the province from 20 to 35 percent and reduced the Hungarian presence from 77 to 62 percent. The name was changed to Mures Autonomous Hungarian Region and thereafter was most often referred to simply as the Mures Region.
In 1965, concomitant with Ceausescu's rise to first secretary of the Partidul Muncitoresc Romān (PMR--Romanian Workers' Party), a new Constitution proclaimed Romania a socialist unitary state. Thereafter, the country's multinational character was largely ignored, and the problem of cohabiting nationalities officially was considered resolved. In 1968 the regime eliminated the Autonomous Hungarian Region outright. The regime maintained the appearance of minority representation at all levels of government, and official statistics showed that the proportion of people from ethnic minority communities employed in government duly reflected their numbers. In reality, minorities had little real power or influence. At the local level, minority representatives, who were generally quite Romanianized, were mistrusted by their constituents. Ironically, although these spokespersons were routinely hand-picked by the PCR, their loyalty to the regime was often suspected. The ethnic composition of the party itself was a more accurate reflection of minority participation and representation.
From the start of communist rule, large numbers of ethnic Romanians joined the party, and their share of total membership rose steadily over the years, increasing from 79 percent in 1955 to almost 90 percent in the early 1980s. Although the regime claimed that minority membership and representation in the people's councils and the Grand National Assembly were commensurate with their size, minorities were largely excluded from policy-making bodies on both the local and national levels (see Central Government , ch. 4). Even in areas where Hungarians represented a sizable portion of the population--Timis, Arad, and Maramure judete--few were found in local PCR bureaus. At the national level, the most powerful positions in the critical foreign affairs, defense, and interior ministries were reserved for ethnic Romanians, and minorities were consigned to rubber-stamp institutions.
Ostensibly representing minority interests, workers' councils were established for Hungarian, German, Serbian, and Ukrainian citizens. These bodies operated within the framework of the Front of Socialist Unity and Democracy and were under the constant supervision of the PCR Central Committee Secretariat, which funded their budgets. The councils had neither headquarters nor office hours, and their sole function appeared to be praising the regime's treatment of national minorities. Significantly, when the councils did meet, business was conducted in Romanian.
Data as of July 1989
Romania Table of Contents