Hungary Table of Contents
According to Romanian statistics, 1.7 million Hungarians were living Romanian Transylvania in the late 1980s. Western experts maintained that at least 2 million Hungarians inhabited this part of Romania, and some estimates put the figure as high as 2.2 million. Although problems existed earlier, in the mid-1980s Romanian treatment of the Hungarian minority became increasingly harsh. For example, the Romanian city of Brasov had no Hungarianlanguage schools, although the city was home to Transylvania's second-largest Hungarian minority. In 1983 the Romanian government reduced Hungarian-language television broadcasts from two and one-half hours per day to one hour per day. In 1984 it discontinued Hungarian-language programming altogether. The Romanian government allowed the importation of only one periodical--Sakkalet (Chess Life)--from Hungary. The Romanian government also attempted to prevent Hungarians from traveling to Romania. During the height of the summer tourist season, Hungarians had to wait up to a whole day while Romanian authorities searched their cars and baggage. Many Hungarians were not allowed to enter Romania after the seizure of books, periodicals, and even HSWP and Hungarian government newspapers.
The Hungarian regime failed to respond quickly to the Romanian actions. As Austrian political commentator Paul Lendvai has noted, because all communist countries are, according to their official definition, brothers, they must bury the differences that frequently appear between noncommunist states. Therefore, until the mid-1980s the regime remained silent about the treatment of Hungarians in neighboring countries. For example, after a high-level Romanian delegation visited Hungary in April 1985, the joint communique contained no reference to Romania's nationality problem.
Beginning in 1984, however, Hungarian criticisms of Romania began to surface in the media, and Hungarian leaders began to develop their own position on minority nationalities. In August 1984, the deputy prime minister, Lajos Faluvegi, criticized Romania's treatment of its minorities. In a November 1984 speech to the Thirteenth Party Congress of the Romanian Communist Party (RCP), National Council of Trade Unions secretary Lajos Mehes echoed Faluvegi's comments. The Thirteenth Party Congress of the HSWP in 1985 also addressed this problem. Kadar twice spoke about the need to respect the rights, language, and culture of national minorities and to allow them freedom of movement and contacts with their mother country. Kadar emphasized that national minorities ought to act as a bridge between neighboring countries.
In June 1987, at a meeting with a Romanian delegation headed by Emil Bobu, an RCP Politburo member and Central Committee secretary for party organization, Hungarian officials brought up the problem of Romania's treatment of its Hungarian population. Hungary maintained that Romania's treatment of Hungarians failed to comply with a 1977 agreement between Kadar and Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu to strengthen friendship and cooperation between the two peoples and to develop good relations between the two countries. However, the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the minority problem. Hungary wanted Hungarians in Romania to be loyal citizens of that country but to preserve their language and culture and be considered equals in "building socialism." Hungary agreed that the problem could be settled only by Romania. However, the Romanian report of the meeting failed to mention that the two sides had discussed the problem.
Hungary took the unprecedented step of raising the minority issue at multilateral forums. In October 1985, Hungary addressed this problem at the Cultural Forum of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). A representative of the Hungarian delegation revealed that Hungary, Poland, the Soviet Union, and East Germany prepared a proposal "about the assertion by national minorities of their cultural rights" in which Romania and Czechoslovakia did not participate. More important, on November 15 Marton Klein, a department head in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, condemned the oppression of 3 million Hungarians in neighboring countries. He called for guarantees of the minorities' civil rights and for granting them specific collective rights to use their language to enable them to preserve and enhance their cultural traditions.
In March 1987, at a closed session of the CSCE review conference in Vienna, the Hungarian delegation supported proposals for protecting minority rights submitted by Yugoslavia and Canada. This action marked the first time a Soviet ally supported a Western proposal at a CSCE review conference. Hungary faced heavy pressure from its allies for this decision. In April, Hungary responded to Romanian criticisms of its "diversionary moves" and "nationalist" and "chauvinist" practices. Rezs Banyasz, head of the Council of Ministers' Information Bureau, argued that the Romanian charges lacked foundation and damaged the basic interests of the Romanian and Hungarian peoples.
Relations between Hungary and Romania further deteriorated in 1988. Thousands of ethnic Hungarian (and some ethnic Romanians) were fleeing from Romania to Hungary to escape Ceausescu's political oppression. The National Assembly passed a resolution calling Romania's planned destruction of thousands of villages a violation of human rights. The razing of between 7,000 and 8,000 villages and the relocation of their inhabitants were not directed at minorities as such, but the minorities would suffer the most because they would be scattered throughout the country and lose their national identities. In July tens of thousands of Hungarians demonstrated in front of the Romanian embassy in Budapest against the destruction of the villages. In response, Ceausescu threatened to close the Romanian embassy, closed the Hungarian consulate in Cluj-Napoca, and blamed Hungary for the worsening of relations.
Grosz and Ceausescu held an impromptu meeting in Arad, Romania, on August 28, 1988, to discuss relations between their countries. The talks lasted eight hours but failed to produce tangible results. The joint communique did not mention the nationality issue. Hungary later conceded that the two sides had made no progress on this problem.
On November 14, 1988, relations fell to a new low when Romanian police arrested Karoly Gyorffy, the Hungarian commercial counselor, in Bucharest. The Romanians accused Gyorffy of using a stolen automobile, causing a serious accident, and distributing leaflets inciting public opinion against the authorities. On November 19, Romania declared Gyorffy persona non grata and instructed him to leave the country within three days. Hungary rejected all accusations against Gyorffy and noted that this incident did not mark the first time that Romanian organs had hindered the work of its diplomats. On November 24, Hungary expelled Romania's political counselor.
Data as of September 1989
Hungary Table of Contents