Vol. 1, No.119, 17 September1997
HUNGARIAN PREMIER REASSURES ETHNIC SLOVAKS. At a meeting
with representatives of the Slovak minority in Hungary, Gyula Horn
said on 16 September that Slovak Prime Minister Meciar's proposal
for a "minorities exchange" between the two countries is not on
Hungary's agenda. Slovak minority leader Mihaly Mata told reporters
that media reports about the proposal have aroused fears among
Hungary's ethnic Slovaks. He said while Slovaks do not intend to
leave Hungary, they consider Slovakia their second homeland,
regardless of any developments in "high politics."
HUNGARY SEEKS JAPANESE INVESTMENTS. Hungarian Finance
Minister Peter Medgyessy and National Bank President Gyorgy
Suranyi met in Tokyo on 16 September with leading Japanese
businessmen in a bid to attract more Japanese investment to
Hungary. Japanese investment in Hungary to date totals some $500
million. Eximbank President Yashuda Hiroshi assured Medgyessy that
Japanese development credits will continue to be available to
Hungary. So far, Eximbank has extended credits worth $300 million
to small and medium-size companies in Hungary.
INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN TRANSYLVANIA: RHETORIC AND
REALITY (PART II)
by George Schopflin
Just as the Romanian are divided by various cleavage lines, so
the Hungarians have different attitudes and are sociologically
heterogeneous. Broadly, they fall into three categories: those in the
overwhelmingly Hungarian areas of the Szekler lands (some 700,000
people); those in the mixed areas of central Transylvania (around
500,000), for whom interaction with Romanians is a daily experience;
and those from the area closest to Hungary itself (also around
500,000). The last category is closer also in culture and values to the
ones dominant in Hungary. These sociological cleavages are not
translated into politics: Hungarians vote largely for the Hungarian
political party, the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania
The Hungarians of Romania are not necessarily well disposed
toward Hungary. They have been known to refer to Hungary as "the
country where the cheese is artificially enriched with vitamin C,"
thereby implying their Hungarian identity is far more authentic than
the Hungarians of Hungary itself. The political fall-out of this attitude
means there is virtually no support for reunification with Hungary.
When the Transylvanians go to Hungary, they are foreigners there.
In essence, their coexistence with the Romanians and their
interaction with the Romanian state--even when that interaction has
been hostile--have reshaped their identity. The gap between them
and Hungary is growing, while their integration in Romania is an
The attitude of the Transylvanian Hungarians to the Romanians
is very similar to how the Romanians see them: they accept the
majority and have learned to live with them but do not warm to
them particularly. In this context, the threefold internal cleavage in
the minority has some political relevance in attitudes toward the
Romanian majority and the Romanian state.
In the Szekler lands, the Hungarian elite has more or less
reestablished the dominant position it had before the
industrialization of the Ceausescu era dislodged them. The Romanian
elite has largely gone, although the middle- and lower-level
bureaucrats remain. The area is fully bilingual; only the institutions
of the Romanian state (police, military, railroads) are monolingual. In
the Szekler lands, low levels of competence in Romanian are
widespread, while at the bottom end of the social scale, knowledge of
Romanian is barely necessary. As a result, the Romanians are the
minority in this region.
In central and western Transylvania, the situation is quite
different. The population is mixed, and there is competition between
the two groups for resources. Transylvania is changing rapidly. It is
no exaggeration to say that it is undergoing a second modernization,
after the failed communist modernization. This process is uneven and
uncontrolled. The impact of the Romanian state is comparatively
weak, because its leverage (both financial and administrative) is
There is also the economic pull of Hungary, not to mention its
cultural prestige. Despite the differentiation noted above, Budapest is
the pole of attraction. Even more significant is the Transylvanian
Hungarians' own aspirations, skills, and determination to survive as a
cultural community, separate from both Hungary and the Romanians.
One of the paradoxes of the present situation is that the UDMR
is a member of the government. In effect, this is the first time that
the Hungarians are participating in a democratically elected
Romanian government. Having acquired an attitude that regards the
Romanian state and government as anti-Hungarian (the legacy of the
Ceausescu and Iliescu periods), the shift is not an easy one for many
Hungarians to accept.
They see their party as their protector, and it is hard for them
to identify the Romanian state as being actively theirs. The legacy of
suspicion is deeply engrained. At the same time, their expectations of
creating a fully-fledged Hungarian existence through participation in
the government are unrealistic. In the Szekler lands, such
expectations do not constitute an acute problem. But elsewhere they
do and could give rise to friction if they are not met.
Given their vagueness, it is unlikely that those expectations can
be realized. But their central significance is that the Hungarian
minority in Romania fully accepts the Romanian state. Moreover, it
constructs its political life around loyalty to that state and not to
The author lectures at the London School of Economics. Part I of this
article appeared in yesterday's "RFE/RL Newsline.
Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
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