The Hungarian delegation in Paris (1920) tried to postpone as long as possible the signing of the peace treaty that would have led to the recognition of the Union between Transylvania with Romania. The delegation chief from Budapest, count Albert Apponyi made available to the great powers many memos that defended Hungary’s cause. The notes from the Hungarian part have continuously tried to induce the idea that Romanians are an inferior race, incapable to govern themselves and hard to be governed.
The Hungarian rasism from the Paris Conference is implied systematically in the historic and political demonstrations and arguments. The history of Romanians in Transylvania is distorted in accordance with Roessler’s theories, who said that Romanians came from the Balkans in the XIV – XV Centuries and behaved as a “disturbing element” for the Hungarian order, becoming a necessity to make efforts in civilizing “the semi-nomadic shepherds”. The Hungarian notes also claim the existence of a major difference between Romanians who live in the Carpathian ark and those who live outside it – the first being much more superior after coming in contact with Hungarians. Slandering the Romanians in Paris had remained without success – but the statements found in the diplomatic Hungarian notes from 1920 about the “inferiority of the Romanian rase” still are an X-ray for an extremist political conception.
Various paragraphs in Hungarian notes are keen to emphasize the Hungarian superiority to the Romanians: “From an intellectual and economic viewpoint, Transylvania is with 100 years more advanced than Romania, that is the reason why the union with Romania will have an unfornunate influence on its development and can lead to serious disturbances”. The diplomats from Budapest were trying to demonstrate that Romanians are an inferior class in Transylvania by declaring that: “Their majority (Romanians) come from the peasant class, while Hungarians who have a more developed social life and numeorus intellectual classes are more mobile than these peasant masses. The social life of Hungarians and Transylvanian Saxons is more diverse. Their percentage of qualified labor exceeds their number of population. On the contrary, Romanians are important through their number of illiterate“.
Moreover, the supposed inferiority of Romanians is considered to be unavoidable: “The formentioned Hungarian and Transylvanian Saxons superiority is not due to the protection of the Hungarian state, nor an oppressive system based on violence. This is just a supposition denied by statistical data which demonstrates that the inferiority of the Romanian race manifests itself in a striking manner whenever there is free space for private initiative”.
The argument for oppression
“The inferiority of the Romanians in Transylvania, far from being the result of oppression, reside in two distinct causes. In the first place, the Romanian nation is a young one, which lacks tradition and which has not discovered its national consciuousness only at the middle of the XIXth Century. Its religion is Bizantine, its language is Slavic and in Transylvania the Romanian chuch won its independence thanks to the Hungarian Protestant Princes and confessional unity (the creation of the Greco-Catholic Church, n. red.)” which the Romanians were not able to do on their own powers, but only through the pressure coming from an exterior force. Their national literature is of recent origin”, alegged the remitted notes from the Hungarian delegation to the Great Powers.
“The Romanian people has never succeded in bringing into light their rasial uniqueness, nor to did they leave a mark on their countries’ institutions. Nor did the Middle Ages institutions, nor the power of the ideas of the modern world did not have an influence upon the politics or their civilization. The Crusades, the feudal system, Papacy, The Holy Roman Empire, Renaissance and the Reform have passed without leaving a single mark on this people. Unlike the Hungarian nation that witnessed all these events”, the Hungarian diplomats claimed.
Incapacity to develop
The quoted notes say that Romanians are simply incapable to develop, being as if they are condemned to remain an inferior race: “the Romanian’s backward civilization and economic development must not surprise anyone, it is without doubt that living in a village, next to other peoples, Romanians do not and never have for a long time match these peoples (…). However, the inferiority of Romanians from Transylvania is connected to their local history. The Romanian element is indeginous, never being able to found its own state, but it was only implied slowly accross centuries. Similar to pressurized volcanic magma that blasts through fissures in the crust, the Romanian element has blasted through the fissures that have appeared in the national and economic edifice built by the Hungarians and the Saxons in Transylvania. And so, like volcanic magma never rises to the surface but goes deeper in the ground, so the Romanian people from Transylvania have remained at the bottom of the social ladder”.
Still “the Romanian race” is capable to “learn” from Hungarians, the diplomats from Budapest concluding at a certain point that: ”Romanians from Transylvania have come here in the XV – XVI centuries from the Balkans and did not have a lawful life. Due to their intellectual and economic inferiority, their church offered them the only chance to civilize (…) All the old intellectual and economic institutions are exclusively Hungarian and German, while the Romanian element only founded its own intellectual and economic institutions, under the benefic influence of the Hungarian and German intellectual and economic environment. This is the reason why Romanians from Transylvania have surpassed in the last century their bretheren who lived outside this ethinc mix in their own countries (Wallachia and Moldova)”.
The Hungarian notes deform history trying to credit the idea that Romanians came 400 year after the Hungarians arrived, organized in semi-nomadic shephards, who required measures for coercion in order to settle in an organized state: “In the Carpathian area the first mature state was founded in the Xth Century by Hungarians who had settled here after occupying the Transdanubian regions and the Hungarian Plain” (…) in the XIV and XV Centuries, after the Turkish invasion in the Balkans, the immigration among Romanians from beyond the Donaube had risen considerably in Transylvania and the oriental parts of Hungary”.
The 1920 diplomatic notes deny the Daco-Roman continuity: “The first who expressed the idea that Romanians are the descendants of the Roman people that reached Dacia was Bonifinus, because of the similarities between the Italian and Romanian language, claimed that the Romanians were the descendants of emperor Traian’s legions and colonialists. Bonfinius’ thesis has passed in the XVIIIth Century through Toppeltinus and Cantemir’s writings in the European knowledge and became, with the help of extreme political circumstances, a scientific dogma”. Moreover, the Hungarians reject even a Hungarian chronicler who mentions the Romanians: “Anonymus, an annonymus chronicler for King Bela is the only one from the Middle Ages who finds Romanians in the IXth century in the old Dacia when the Hungarians arrived in their present country. However, the history has demonstrated that it is impossible to consider Anonymus’ work as an authentic historical source. Inspired by a patriotic fantasy, this work does not convey the true history of how the country was conquered by the Hungarians, but just a saga. The same scientific critique demonstrated that the part that refers to Romanians was inserted later in the chronicle”.
Romanians – a “disruptive element”
The Milestone between Romania and Hungary
In Paris, The Hungarians claimed that Romanians had always been a “disturbing element”: “the Romanian imigrants initially settled on uncultivated and uninhabited royal domains, under the rule of their own Knyaz, who were the original leaders of the immigration. Their relations with the German and Hungarian farmers were just as bad as with the Balkan populations. They could not easily adapt with the economic, social and judicial order of the Hungarian state. That is the reason for the numerous punishments against them and the state authorites had to implement derrent laws against them. (…) We can say that all the historical facts prove that in the Middle Ages, Romanians were viewed at a first glance as a disturbing element who never respected individual property, nor social order, nor judicial institutions of the state. It is obvious that this kind of element did not have a sufficient economic, political and social influence to be a constitutional factor among the other three legally recognized nations” (…) It was very difficult for Transylvania’s governance to accustom this people with a morality, with legal social order and with the judicial institutions of the state, in a word to make these seminomad shephards into an agricultural and hard-working people, fit for civilization”.
*George Damian is a member in the LARICS Expert Council.