Wednesday, November 30, 2005

March to December

There are a bunch of soldiers marching around in the main square visible from my window. It seems they are rehearsing for Thursday. I’m not quite sure why they need to rehearse marching since it seems a fairly straightforward activity, but anyway, what do I know.

Tomorrow is, as you may know, December 1st. Unless you are Romanian or live here, you may not know that it is also the National Day of Romania. I mentioned it last year. Now recently, in the comments section of another post I wrote, someone called Albinel (near the end) commented that he could never vote for autonomy while people in this region didn’t celebrate December 1st. This struck me as odd, and I’ll attempt to explain why.

December 1st is the country’s national day. If it were merely that, then it should obviously be celebrated by everyone. But the reason it is Romania’s national day is that it celebrates the “unification of Romania” in 1918. Now the other side of that coin is that it is the day when Transylvania ceased to be part of Hungary. In effect, while it is a celebration of the creation of modern day Romania, it is also a celebration of the destruction of what used to be Hungary. So, as you might imagine, Hungarian Romanians are not that enthusiastic about celebrating it. In fact, it would be weird for them to celebrate it, and this has nothing to do with any lack of patriotism or anti-Romanian feeling. If the national day in Romania were timed at and billed as the celebration of the signing of the constitution for example, then it would truly be an inclusive celebration. If it were a day celebrating the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime, then once again, it would include all groups of the country. But celebrating the addition of Transylvania to Romania, while perfectly understandable as a Romanian celebration, is never likely to be a celebration for Hungarians.

I discovered today, to go on top of this, that there’s actually a law that you have to celebrate December the 1st. Which means that the government (or whichever government wrote that law) knows full well that it’s not very inclusive, and that people are going have to be coerced into feeling Romanian. It’s not a law that gets obeyed much, if my observations last year are anything to go by.

One final thing. Military parades. What’s that all about? Do people (I mean real, normal, regular people) get a kick out of military parades? Do people think to themselves, “Hmmm, there’s a military parade going on this afternoon, I mustn’t miss that.”? So who are they parading for? It’s either for the commanders who can feel good about how much mightiness they have at their disposal, or for the people that this army might be one day employed to subjugate. “Look,” they are saying in their curious goose-stepping body language, “don’t try anything people, or we will be forced to march on you.”

Now I don’t actually think that the army will be marching in downtown Csikszereda tomorrow just to make sure that the Szekelys don’t rise up, and that it’s more to do with half-arsed tradition, but it seems to me that someone could at least ponder this for a while, and wonder whether or not it might be seen as provocative in any way. In the meantime, I have to say that for a group of people who have more or less nothing to do except march, they’re remarkably bad at it. They’ve been practising all day and they still making mistakes.

But anyway, I hope all my Romanian readers have a good December 1st, and enjoy your nation's birthday. You can have Csikszereda's piece of cake.

20 comments:

albinel said...

I didn't expect them to "celebrate" the day, but to ostentatiously not take the day off is just a cheap nationalistic gesture.

And a push for autonomy driven by nationalistic desires is not headed the right way.

Anonymous said...

Well, Hungarians aren't the only ones that'll go to work tomorrow in "protest" (I've read your last years post). My brother will have to go to school tomorrow to recuperate what was lost during the teacher's strike.

And let me send my thanks to the Hungarian community for working tomorrow. They'll avoid a drop of 0.075*5/365 percentage points in our GDP. ;)

Parades are great if you know people participating in them if only for the reason that you get to say a lot of sarcastic remarks.

Cheers,
D

Bogdan Giuşcă said...

Actually, before communists took over, the national day was 10 May, which had a double meaning:

- in 1866, Romania became a monarchy, when Carol I of Hohenzollern-Singmaringen arrived in Bucharest

- in 1877, prince Carol I signed the Romanian declaration of independence.

In 1989, 10 May was not chosen as national day because of its links with the monarchy: there was a movement that to bring back the deposed King Michael. The ex-Communists that held the power (Ion Iliescu and co.) selected a holiday that had as little connections as possible with the old monarchy.

Andy H said...

Yes, I'm not sure if they go to work in protest. That was just how it looked to me last year. Now I think they go to work because they've got nothing better to do, and because of Romanian tax laws nearly everyone works on a freelance contract anyway and by taking the day off they're losing money.

And it's certainly not an ostentatious act. People don't commute wearing big sandwich boards saying "Look at me. I'm going to work. How do you like that, Romania?"

What would ostentatiously working look like? The army are ostentatiously working, as far as I can see. Rather than marching round in some miserable camp, they're doing it in the main square.

romesperi said...

Yes, it's similar to what happened in Australia a few decades ago, when the native Aboriginals resented Australia Day, celebrated on 26 January, because it marks the European settlement of the country and hence centuries of domination over Aborigines. The Australians, however, have managed to make it inclusive by arranging Aboriginal dances on Australia Day and a whole range of minority activities. But, the Aborigines probably still don't celebrate the day with much enthusiasm.

The Romanian government seems to be doing this too... in Bucharest there will be several displays of the culture of minorities during the National Day. So, I think the fact that "Transylvania was given back to Romania" is not really the main celebration here, but rather the founding of modern Romania. While we're not expecting the Hungarians to wave Romanian flags around and participate in the parades, their boycotting the day implies a bit of separatism that shouldn't be there. Of course, in a free-market economy, everyone is free to choose, and if they want to go to work, that's perfectly fine. And, there should probably the a Szekely public holiday in this region, a day where the Szekely can celebrate whatever they feel was a momentous occasion for them (the Basques have "Aberri Eguna", their national day).

Andy H said...

So, I think the fact that "Transylvania was given back to Romania" is not really the main celebration here, but rather the founding of modern Romania.

I'm sure thats how Romanians see it, and that's perfectly fine, but it's also understandable that as the day is originally about the addition of Transylvania to Romania (and centred on Alba Iulia), you can see why Hungarians might see it differently.

Of course, in a free-market economy, everyone is free to choose, and if they want to go to work, that's perfectly fine

Actually I've been thinking about this, and have to say I'm not 100% sure of what the law actually is that I mentioned in my post. It was presented to me as a law that everybody has to celebrate Dec 1st, but I'm not absolutely sure what the wording actually is. For all I know it may be something as simple and genuine as "Employers must give all their employees holidays on all national holidays" which I would support wholeheartedly. So, until I find out what the law actually is, that bit of my original post ought to be ignored.

Andy H said...

Oh by the way, the weather sucks today. Just hovering around 0 degrees with freezing drizzle coating every surface in incredibly slippery ice. I actually feel quite sorry for those soldiers. The parade/marching is going to be a tragicomic farce.

arina said...

Hmmm, I don't even know where to start.
Military parades - "half-arsed tradition", "provocative", display of subjugation power ? That is a tad rich coming from an Englishman - is that what you would use to describe Trooping the Colour ?
How about this for a reason for a military parade - after fighting in a very bloody WWI and loosing more than half a million people (soldiers and civilians) the country was finally reunited thanks in most part to that ill-equiped, ill-fed, patriotic army. The vast majority of countries have military parades on their national day, without having to worry that it might stir paranoia among its citizens.

The hungarian population not wanting to celebrate the 1st of December - it's a matter of choice but it does raise questions. If as a Brit you were living in India, would you refuse to take the day off on their Independance Day just because India was once part of the Empire but not anymore ?? It would seem rather silly. Just as silly as a Frenchman refusing to travel on the Eurostar only to arrive at Waterloo Train Station.

You made a comment that people do not celebrate a defeat. Well, at the last VE Day celebrations, the German Chancellor was present and that was probably to show that it is time to move on and grow from our past experiences. So maybe that should be food for thought for all the Hungarians out there that refuse to celebrate the National Day of the country where they live.

On the other hand I do feel for the Hungarian minority - for one reason or another they are not happy in their adoptive country, their country of origin does not want them... very ingrate and frustrating position to be in ...

Oh, by the way, the urban mith of not being served in a shop if you didn't speak hungarian ... it happened to me ... I was 10 years old, holidaying in Tusnad with my grandmother and entered a breadshop to buy some bread rolls for a snack. I was very polite and asked several times, unfortunately in romanian, only to be completely ignored for 10 minutes. I walked out in tears in the general sniggering of the other people. Don't get me wrong, the experience did not mar me for life, I do not get up at night in pools of sweat over it, I just did not enter that shop ever again. Now, that I am an adult and have a little girl of my own I just wonder what lowlife would act like that towards a child ? The bloody rage that darkens your mind and makes you want to smell their blood, eventually goes away and you realise they are not even worth a spittle....

Bogdan Giuşcă said...

The text of the law is something like this:

<<

The following days are legal holidays:

- 1st and 2nd of January
- 1st and 2nd day of Easter
- 1st of May
- 1st of December
- 1st and 2nd day Christmas
- two anual holidays of two days each for people that belong to religions other than Christianity, the dates being set by those religious movements.

Work during legal holidays requires a justification and is payed 100% more than in regular days.

>>

Andy H said...

Thanks Bogdan. That's helpful.

Arina: Now where do I start?

Firstly, I'm sorry to hear about your childhood experience in Tusnad. That's terrible. In answer to your question "what lowlife would act like that towards a child?" I would say defintely lowlife, and definitely scum. It would be pretty unforgiveably childish if directed at an adult, but at a child? I despair at human beings sometimes.

Regarding military parades. I am not blind to the fact that my country leads the world in crappy half-arsed tradition and military parades. My paragraph on such things was directed at all military parades, and yes they are all stupid and crap (especially ones in my country which are definitely driven by half arsed tradition). If a country and its people wish to thank returning soldiers who have just been fighting a war on their behalf, then that is completely understandable and I'd say a good thing. In your post WWI example for instance. But these soldiers have not just returned from fighting for Romania, they are just soldiers. They did not fight in WWI. Honestly, I looked, and none of them were old enough.

Have to go now, but answers to your other points a little while later.

Andy

arina said...

Andy,

Yeah, unfortunately lowlifes exist and are amongst us. Just like C.V.Tudor. In the 2000 elections, when push came to shove, the nation showed that he does not hold a chance. When I had to vote for smiling, smirking Iliescu I thought that a thunderbolt from heaven will strike me dead on the spot, but we had to choose the lesser of the two evils.

Fair enough - you don't like military parades. I love them, I love seeing Trooping the Colour, my knees go weak when I see the old veterans at the Remembrance Day parades, I love seeing the young boys on Kiseleff on parade. They do look young, don't they ? But one thousand romanian citizens, boys just as young are now in Iraq together with british, american and other nationalities. Boys that have been sent there by half-arsed politicians that have never heard the sound of a bullet. Politicians that piss on us and expect us to believe it's raining, with big words like WMD, human-rights, etc.But that's another story ...
So, when I see a military parade, I see the spectacle, the handsome boys in polished uniforms, I say a prayer for all the ones that fell, feel a swell of pride and go on my way, hoping that the ones that I just saw will get to grow old.

Andy H said...

OK, I'm back. More on parades:
The vast majority of countries have military parades on their national day, without having to worry that it might stir paranoia among its citizens.
I haven't said that they should be worried that it migth stir paranoia, I've said that it's boring and a waste of time. This is true of all of these vast majority of countries, not merely Romania.

On celebrations:
If as a Brit you were living in India, would you refuse to take the day off on their Independance Day just because India was once part of the Empire but not anymore ??

Well, no. I lived in the US for 6 years and never refused to celebrate July 4th. There is, however, a massive difference between the British relationship to India and the Hungarian relationship to Transylvania. Let's take another , more topical, and closer to home example. If (as seems likely) Kosovo gains its independence in the near future, then presumably they will have a national day to celebrate that momentous event (and so they should). Now would you expect the Serb population of Kosovo to jump up and down every year in celebration of that day? I certainly wouldn't, and I'd contend that this would be a far better analogy with the Hungarians of Transylvania.

You made a comment that people do not celebrate a defeat. Well, at the last VE Day celebrations, the German Chancellor was present and that was probably to show that it is time to move on and grow from our past experiences.

It is time to move on, of that I have no disagreement. Again, though, I think this analogy is somewhat flawed. Germany is celebrating liberation from the Nazis as much as anything else and with as much relief as everyone else.

On the other hand I do feel for the Hungarian minority - for one reason or another they are not happy in their adoptive country, their country of origin does not want them

This is NOT their adoptive country. It's their country. They have lived here for generations. Hungary is not their country of origin in the way you present it here. This paragraph is just nonsensical, and the only one of yours which I feel seriously misses the point.

Andy H said...

Sorry, our comments crossed in the air, and I've just answered your first post.

Well, it's good to kow that someone enjoys military parades, and even someone who recognises the crap that military men (and women) are often forced to fight for by terrible politicians.

I've been thinking about this a lot over the last couple of days, and what I realy think Miercurea Ciuc needs in order to celebrate December 1st is for there to be a real party. I mean the weather on that date in this town is never going to be beach weather, but there's no reason we couldn't have a party. Heated tents in the main square serving hot wine and mici. Concerts. That kind of thing. Make it into a celebration, rather than what we have now - a frozen windswept square in the beautiful Ceausescu arhitectural style, with some soldiers marching, a few speeches from politicians and a few fireworks. I really think the majority of people would like to have a good party on December 1st and would be happy to participate - not everyone, obviously, there'll always be some nationalist idiots, but the vast majority of people who are not, despite what you may believe, anti-Romanian.

albinel said...

"Yes, I'm not sure if they go to work in protest."

That's not what you implied when you first said that.

"I haven't said that they should be worried that it migth stir paranoia, I've said that it's boring and a waste of time."

Yes you did, although not in the same words:

"might be seen as provocative in any way"

"Now would you expect the Serb population of Kosovo to jump up and down every year in celebration of that day? I certainly wouldn't, and I'd contend that this would be a far better analogy with the Hungarians of Transylvania."

Even if it were a better analogy, do you think that this is a feeling (resentment for a crushing defeat) that we should hang on to for the next 100 years?

Anonymous said...

Andy,

I'm a hungarian romanian and I leave in Csikszereda. The main square is visible from my window also. It made me feel very good to see a honest, objective opinion on this issue.
I could never Celebrate this day. As long as I would rather see the colors of the hungarian flag, which I do very often arround here. You can't make someone feel a different identity. I feel I am "szekely" and it's painful for me to see the marching, singing and fireworks on December 1st.
Thank You Andy, it really moved me.

Arina,

One may think that with some empathy we can understand eachother, well it's not so.

My example for you follows: I leaved in Brasov 20 years of my life and I went to a Hungarian High School there. You know that the population of Brasov is mainly romanian. When we were coming out from school with my friends talking in hungarian, it happened often to be stopped by someone to "tell" us: "don't speak hungarian, you leave in Romania".
So, I like to belive that your and my example are only exceptions. I can't tell you how good it made me feel when I first came to Csikszereda, and for the first time in my life, in Romania someone in the shop asked if she can help me, in Hungarian language. It was one of the many reasons why I moved to this City. I love this place. I know i'm subjective, but aren't we all when it comes to this issue? It's within us, and it can't be changed.

The example with India and Great Britain was in did something very different from our situation.

Andy H said...

Albinel:
"Yes, I'm not sure if they go to work in protest."

That's not what you implied when you first said that.


I know. That's why my next sentence was "That was just how it looked to me last year".

"I haven't said that they should be worried that it migth stir paranoia, I've said that it's boring and a waste of time."

Yes you did, although not in the same words:

"might be seen as provocative in any way"


How is that related to stirring paranoia? Provocation and paranoia are not related. I think they ought to think how it looks. (If you want me to spell it out, it looks - or could look- like rubbing the noses of the Hungarians in the defeat. Nothing to do with paranoia.)

"Now would you expect the Serb population of Kosovo to jump up and down every year in celebration of that day? I certainly wouldn't, and I'd contend that this would be a far better analogy with the Hungarians of Transylvania."

Even if it were a better analogy, do you think that this is a feeling (resentment for a crushing defeat) that we should hang on to for the next 100 years?


No, obviously not. people should let go of these things. BUT, and it's a big but, if every year the victor has a huge celebration marking that defeat/victory, then you can see how it might be difficult to let it go. In Northern Ireland every year the Orange Order march through the streets of Belfast celebrating William of Orange's victory over the Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne. In 1690!!! It's triumphalism, and it's certainly not conducive to people letting go of resentment.

Now, Romania's national day is, I'm quite sure, merely a birthday, a celebration of the nation in the eyes of the majority of Romanians. But what I'm saying is that it is on December 1st for a reason and whether you like it or not, it celebrates Romania gaining Transylvania (which of course means that it celebrates Hungary losing Transylvania). As I say, from a Romanian persepective it probably doesn't seem like triumphalism, but from a Hungarian perspective it does.

Can you see that?

albinel said...

OK, I see that.

Paul said...

There was rather a strange occurence up here in Budapest on the 1st. I was passing the Urania Cinema, which is the place normally showing all the nationalistic/patriotic Hungarian films, when I saw two guys standing forlornly outside with a rather battered Hungarian flag.

Turns out that the Romanian embassy had hired out the cinema for the night to celebrate the holiday you're talking about.

Which was rather taking the piss I'd say!

Anonymous said...

The fact is that history dealt a bad hand to the Hungarians in Romania in 1918, as it did to many other nations in Europe at some point in time. The question is when does one stop resenting it, if ever.

Truth be told, prior 1918 history dealt the Romanians in Transilvania a much worse hand than the Hungarians later on. This won't make the Hungarians happy, but a little bit of historical perspective might be healthy.

I can only talk for myself; I know that I couldn't live my whole life with a chip on my shoulder due to some historical unjustice. I feel that at some point I would have to free myself of the burden of the past.

All my grandparents learned to speak Romanian later in life. They were never 100% Romanians, but this didn't stop them from adapting to the changed circumstances and becoming part of Romania. They managed to do this without loosing their traditions and identity. I sincerely hope the Hungarians will eventually find their peace by accepting and, why not, embracing the present.

Andy H said...

Spot the contradiction:

The fact is that history dealt a bad hand to the Hungarians in Romania in 1918, as it did to many other nations in Europe at some point in time. The question is when does one stop resenting it, if ever.

Truth be told, prior 1918 history dealt the Romanians in Transilvania a much worse hand than the Hungarians later on. This won't make the Hungarians happy, but a little bit of historical perspective might be healthy.


OK, aside from having a go at the counterpoint between "stopping resentment" and "historical perspective", I don't think you'll find many Hungarians who are completely blind to the realities of the last 50 years or so of Hungarian control over Transylvania. So, I'm not quite sure where you're going with that one.

Resentment, I suspect, stops when there is an acceptance on the part of the victor of the vanquished being hard done by. As I have said many times, I definitely agree that it is time for Hungarians to move on (and I think most of them have).