Romania Table of Contents
Arguably the changes under communism that most grievously affected ethnic minorities, especially the Hungarians and to a lesser extent the Germans, were those that limited education in their native languages. In the first decade of communist rule, students could acquire an education at Hungarian-language schools from preschool to university and at German-language schools from preschool to high school. These schools had their own administration and a long tradition of humanistic education; many were 300 to 500 years old. But already in 1948 some of the policies of the new regime had begun to weaken national minority education. A purge and "reeducation" of faculty in all educational institutions was carried out. From that time forward, important teaching positions were filled only by teachers deemed politically reliable. At the same time, nationalization of all ecclesiastical and private schools destroyed the traditionally important role of the church in the Hungarian and German educational systems.
Schools in some communities were merged so that ethnic Romanians constituted the majority of the student body. The regime mandated the teaching of Romanian in all educational institutions to "prevent national isolation." Beginning in 1957, amalgamation of minority (particularly Hungarian) and Romanian schools became the rule rather than the exception. Most of the directors for the newly merged schools were ethnic Romanians, whereas Hungarians or Germans filled vice-principal or vice-director positions.
The merger of the Hungarian Bolyai University at Cluj with the Romanian Babez University in 1959 dealt a major blow to the Hungarian-language educational network. Such mergers meant a larger enrollment of ethnic Romanians and reduced availability of Hungarian-language instruction. The party determined what courses would be taught in Hungarian; many were of an ideological bent, and the more technical courses were taught in Romanian only. It became nearly impossible to study any of the applied sciences in Hungarian, restricting career opportunities for the Hungarian minority. The result was a predictable drop in the number of Hungarian undergraduates--from 10.75 percent of all undergraduates in 1957 to only 5.7 percent in 1974.
Meanwhile education laws introduced in 1973 continued the assimilation that had begun with the amalgamation of minority and Romanian schools. In keeping with the economic program of rapid industrialization, the laws emphasized technical studies over humanities. The ratio established was two-thirds technical to onethird humanities, making it even more difficult for minorities to acquire an education in their native language. In 1974 only 1.4 percent of the instruction in technical schools was in Hungarian. Technical textbooks were rarely translated into minority languages. Thus a technical education, the premier vehicle of upward mobility, became possible only for those who had mastered Romanian. This requirement and the fact that university entrance exams were given only in Romanian increased the pressure on parents to enroll their children in Romanian-language schools.
Instruction in Hungarian was further hampered by an acute shortage of Hungarian-language teachers and language experts; "internal regulations" assigned Hungarian university graduates to work outside their communities--usually out of Transylvania. The use of minority languages was restricted in the cultural arena as well. Local libraries persistently lacked literature in minority languages. After 1973, Hungarian-language newspaper publishing was sharply curtailed, and in 1985 television broadcasts in Hungarian and German were discontinued.
Romanian leaders claimed that the amalgamation of minority and Romanian schools and the 1973 educational reforms were necessary for administrative and economic efficiency and were not intended to ensure the assimilation of ethnic minorities. Although that claim appeared to be plausible, other actions that diminished the ability of minorities to maintain their ethnic identity were not so readily explained. The assimilation of national minorities into a "harmonious whole" continued, and over the decades the gap between theory and practice in the treatment of minorities widened. The state's discriminatory policies steadily diminished minority constitutional, political, linguistic, and educational rights.
Data as of July 1989
Romania Table of Contents