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Nation-Building and National Minorities

Even before Ceausescu came to power, PCR leaders had taken a nationalistic, anti-Soviet stance, which was important for maintaining the legitimacy of the regime. During the first decade of Soviet-imposed communist rule, the population suffered the misery of expropriations, the disruptions of rapid industrialization and forced collectivization, and the Sovietization of society. The result was an increasing bitterness toward the Soviet Union and the PCR itself, which was directly controlled by Moscow. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, as deStalinization and a more liberal atmosphere prevailed in Moscow, PCR leaders asserted their independence by ousting pro-Soviet members and refusing to accept Soviet plans to make Romania the "breadbasket" for the more industrialized Comecon (see Glossary) countries (see Historical Setting , ch. 1).

As Ceausescu assumed power, the campaign for self-determination and de-Sovietization was accompanied by increasing Romanian nationalism in domestic policy. Fervent emphasis on Romanian language, history, and culture, designed to enhance Ceausescu's popularity among the Romanian majority, continued unabated into the 1980s. In 1976 the PCR launched a nationwide campaign dedicated to the glorification of the Romanian homeland--the "Hymn to Romania." All nationalities were expected to join the fete, which placed the Hungarian and German minorities of Transylvania in a grievous predicament. The campaign aimed to remove all traces of German and Hungarian territorial identification. In cities that had already been Romanianized, monuments and artifacts representing links to the Hungarian or Saxon past were all but eliminated, bilingual inscriptions were removed, and streets--and in some cases, cities themselves--were renamed to emphasize Romanian roots. Thus Turnu Severin became Drobeta-Turnu Severin, and Cluj--Transylvania's most important Hungarian city--was renamed Cluj-Napoca.

Given the socioeconomic structure of precommunist Transylvania, when Hungarians and Germans were much more urbanized and economically advanced than the mostly peasant Romanian majority, the changes wrought by the modernization program negatively affected the position of the minorities. As the needs of industrialization brought more and more peasants from the countryside to the factories, the ethnic composition of Transylvania's urban places shifted. Romanians became the growing majority in cities that had long been Hungarian and German enclaves. These changes were not solely the result of natural migration, but were carefully engineered by the state. Secret internal regulations ordered major minority centers such as Cluj, Oradea, and Arad to be virtually sealed off to the largest ethnic minorities and encouraged their outmigration while directing an influx of ethnic Romanians.

Population shifts were engendered under the guise of multilateral development, the party's byword for building socialism. The stated goal was equalization of regional development, and statistical data were often cited to show that investments in underdeveloped minority-inhabited areas were made in an effort to bring them up to the national average. Minorities-- particularly the Hungarians--claimed, however, that economic growth did not provide training and jobs for them but served as a pretext for the massive influx of ethnic Romanian workers. Thus, whereas ethnic Hungarians had to leave their homeland to find employment in the Old Kingdom region, ethnic Romanians were offered incentives to relocate to Transylvania.

The dispute between Hungary and Romania over the history of Transylvania complicated interethnic relations in the region. The histories of both countries claim Transylvania as the safe haven that ensured the survival of each nation. The Romanians contend that they are descendants of Geto-Dacians--the indigenous inhabitants of Transylvania. Although earlier Romanian historiography emphasized the Latin origins of Romanian language and culture, later pronouncements by Ceausescu and Romanian historians stressed cultural ties to this pre-Roman civilization. The regime set out to prove the so-called Daco-Roman continuity theory to bolster Romania's claims over Transylvania. Despite furious archaeological activity to discover Dacian roots, however, just as many traces of Celts, Huns, Avars, Goths, and Romans were uncovered. Nevertheless, the country's museums and history books presented the theory as indisputable fact.

Even as early as 1948, the process of rewriting the history of Transylvania to favor the Romanian version was under way. Revised textbooks gave ample coverage of the great Romanian heroes of the past, but they provided little or no information about key minority figures, and those who were mentioned were given Romanian names. The books emphasized that the struggle for unification of the Romanian fatherland had been opposed by the Hungarians and Germans, who were labeled "latecomers" and "colonists."

Amidst the controversy, the Hungarian minority of Transylvania was considered an instrument of the Hungarian government, further ensuring their second-class citizenship status. Expressions of concern for the treatment of this minority, whether originating inside or outside Romania, were branded "chauvinistic, revanchist, and irredentist." The regime increasingly limited contacts and cultural links between Hungary and Romanian Hungarians. After 1974, regulations forbade all foreign travelers except close family members to stay overnight in private homes. Violators placed their hosts at risk of fines amounting to as much as one year's salary. Romanian Hungarians found it difficult to obtain newspapers and journals from Hungary, and the Department of State Security (Departamentul Securitatii Statului--Securitate), the secret police, monitored the reception of Hungarian radio and television broadcasts and the placement of long-distance calls to Hungary. Significantly, the pervasive Securitate employed few minority citizens.

As the economy ground to a halt in the 1980s and living conditions deteriorated for both the majority and the minorities, thousands of citizens fled to Hungary. In 1987 alone, some 40,000 sought refuge there, and from June until August of 1988, at least 187 Romanians were shot dead by the Securitate while attempting to escape to Hungary.

Data as of July 1989

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