Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Carrying on Ceausescu's work

During the Ceausescu years, there was an official policy of “Romanianisation” of various towns and cities in Transylvania. This was effected by barring Hungarians from buying property in the cities in question and bringing in Romanians from other parts of the country. One good example of this is Marosvasarhely/Targu Mures which went from being a predominantly Hungarian city to being around 50:50 Hungarian/Romanian today. When Erika was growing up it as more like 75:25 and when her father was young it was even more predominantly Hungarian. This much is undisputed and a matter of historical record. (And of course, before someone mentions it, there was also a similar-and worse- policy of Magyarisation in Transylvania in the late 19th Century).

Now, however, in the post Ceausescu world, this kind of divisive and oppressive policy is no longer possible. In a democracy such a policy of forced Romanianisation could not be allowed. But to imagine that it doesn’t still happen in some way would be a mistake.

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) may have noticed that I’m not much of a fan of organized religion. It’s the religious institutions that I have a problem with, not the people who attend the churches themselves, who as far as I am concerned can believe in whatever they like. In particular I think many churches (or “religious institutions”, to be more inclusive) have a tendency to encourage the use of religion as a form of nationalistic identifier. At best they do not discourage this role, and at worst they are active in seeking it out. I don’t think the institutions themselves are responsible for the conflicts in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, India/Pakistan etc, but I also think they have contributed to those conflicts by their actions (or inactions). And so, it will possibly come as no surprise to learn that my subject for today is the role in the continuing attempts to Romanianise areas of Transylvania played by the Romanian Orthodox Church (which from this point onwards I’ll refer to as the ROC for ease of typing).

It is a well known fact in this town that if you have some property to sell the ROC will offer to buy it. This doesn’t apply to apartments so much, but houses or other buildings. Obviously they have every right to do so if they so desire, but it’s somewhat sinister when you delve below the surface. What the ROC does, as a very very rich organization, with seemingly bottomless pockets, is to make unrefusable offers to people for their property. They then use this property to house Romanians from poor villages in the back of beyond as their first step to building a new life here. Once again, not really something that can be criticized – they are after all giving people with very few chances in life a big chance. But why? Other than all church’s supposed role in being charitable, what else is behind this activity? Basically it (the ROC) acts in this way to attempt to dilute the Hungarian-ness of the city and the region in general. The objective is ultimately to create enough of a Romanian community in this area to ensure that any talk of autonomy is never feasible. They are in effect, and quite legally, carrying on the policy of forced assimilation that was in effect under Ceausescu. They are, in so doing, continuing the sorry tradition of religious institutions in other countries of acting as a conduit for nationalism. They don’t for example, to my knowledge, do the same thing in “safe seats” like, I dunno, Vaslui or somewhere. It’s just an act reserved for Székelyföld. [To give an example, the parents of a friend are currently engaged in selling their property, which is a house in the centre of town – the ROC has approached them and said “Name your price, and we’ll pay it”. This leaves them in a quandary – obviously such an offer is very attractive, but they also don’t want to facilitate this Romanianisation which they know full well is the point of this offer. They are caught between a ROC and a hard place, you might say (at least if you were as bad a punner as I)]

Likewise the tourist in Romania is liable to notice a vast number of monasteries. Some of them, like the spectacular ones in Bucovina have been there for centuries, while others have been there for a little less time. In fact many in Transylvania seem to be brand new, and I'd hazard a guess that more than half were built in the last 15 years. They are continuing to sprout like mushrooms (as the Hungarian phrase has it). They are not, it should be noted, housing vast numbers of Romanian Orthodox monks who need more and more monasteries to be monkish in. The ROC actually has problems with recruitment in general as in this case where the priest who crucified a nun was in fact some bloke who’d barely managed to scrape his way out of school, so desperate were the church for members. (I visited one of these new monasteries in Maramures, and while it was very beautiful, there was no sign of any actual monks anywhere to be seen – and tourists were allowed to visit all parts of the complex –after paying an entrance fee and a “photography fee”).

So, why then are these monasteries appearing? The cynical might suggest that their purpose is to firmly stamp the region as Romanian through and through (after all if there are so many Romanian Orthodox monasteries, then surely this must be thoroughly and historically Romania). It is, perhaps, another example of this slightly odd tendency to “Magyarphobia” exhibited by certain Romanians. That is, the fear - real or stirred up – that the Hungarians are champing at the bit to reclaim Transylvania, and that all Romania’s Hungarians are desperate to overthrow rule from Bucharest and install some form of anti-Romanian independent state.

Now, before it comes up I want to make it clear that I have absolutely no problem with Csikszereda having Romanian residents (or indeed an increasing number of Romanian residents). In fact one of the things I most like about Transylvania is this diversity of cultural influences – and one of the things that I find most tragic in the recent history of this region is the fact that by and large all the German population has left. It would be great if the influences of the groups that have made this region what it is – Magyar, Romanian, Rroma, Saxon, Schwab, Szekely, et al - could all be recognized and could create a greater whole. But this ROC desire (supported by extremist right wing shitbags such as Gigi Becali) to Romanianise Székelyföld and other Transylvanian areas is not driven by a love of diversity, but by a desire to eventually rid Transylvania of its Hungarian culture altogether (or at the very least to reduce the Hungarian influence and culture to the role of mere museum piece). It is an attempt to homogenize the nation to create a country which is entirely Romanian and untainted by “foreign” cultures. It is, in short, anti-diversity.

21 comments:

Irina said...

Andy,

I can't even begin to say how right you are! If it's so obvious to you living there for two years, for people having spent all their lives in that place it must be more than just sad.

Only one thing to add: you forgot to mention that the church (called ROC by you and BOR in Romanian) is supported by the state (!). Isn't that nice in a democracy? To underline my point: it's only the orthodox church that's being supported - so everybody who's paying taxes, yourself included, is helping them to get richer and to buy even more properties... so on and so forth.
A national scale example for a similar situation is the current scandal regarding the religious symbols in schools.
Pretty disappointing, I'd say.

PS: they're doing this more freely then b4 '89; if back them the authorities were forcing people to move in these regions (Szekelyfold), afterwards they started luring them with higher positions, bigger salaries and extra payments to compensate for living in a 'dangerous area'.

Andy H said...

Hi Irina

Thanks. I actually wrote a paragraph about the role of the State in all of this but then deleted it because while I have heard it from people, I have no actual evidence of it. But I'm glad you mention it, because it seems to me that this state role in this is the worst part of it.

Andy

Anonymous said...

Irina, all the registered churches are supported financially by the state, proportionally to the number of adherents declared in the last census.

That means of course, that ROC gets 86% of those funds...

There was an idea to switch to the German system: i.e. if one belongs to a church, one would have to pay a tax which would go to the church. That would purge the number of non-religious Romanians who consider themselves "Orthodox" from an ethnically POV and never attend church.

The Orthodox Church disagrees with that reform, as probably that would halve its number of adherents. :-)

-- bogdan

Andrei said...

"One good example of this is Marosvasarhely/Targu Mures which went from being a predominantly Hungarian city to being around 50:50 Hungarian/Romanian today."

That's right, but let's not forget that most of the Romanians in the Austrian-Hungarian empire, were peasants who didn't or weren't allowed to live in cities.

"In fact most (at least in Transylvania) have been here for approximately 10 years, some for even less."

I strongly dispute the fact that over half of the monasteries in Transylvania were built in the last 10 years (I bet you also don't know that for a fact, and I also bet your estimate is not even close), and I find the formulation at least misleading and at most insulting. Have you heard about the 14th century Romanian monasteries in Maramures?

"That is, the fear - real or stirred up that the Hungarians are champing at the bit to reclaim Transylvania, and that all Romania’s Hungarians are desperate to overthrow rule from Bucharest and install some form of anti-Romanian independent state."

There's also the corresponding Hungarian version, that all the Romanians are always plotting and inventing new ways to assimilate the Hungarian population. To tell you the truth I've never heard of what you're describing here, although I consider myself a very informed person.

Here's the ethnic breakdown of the Harghita and Covasna counties at the 1992 and 2002 census:
(The first value is the percentage of Romanians, the second the percentage of Hungarians)

1992:
Harghita: [14.1%] [84.7%]
Covasna: [23.4%] [75.2%]

2002:
Harghita: [14.1%] [84.6%]
Covasna: [23.2%] [73.8%]

(Source: www.recensamant.ro - the official page)

So the only documented homogenization consists of the 300.000 Hungarians that left Romania after 1990, which I'm sure you'll agree is not ROC's doing.

So unless you have more compelling evidence (other than "your knowledge") that there's a frightening large-scale Romanianisation process going on in Transylvania for the last 16 years, I'll flag this post as misleading, or at best misinformed.

Andy H said...

OK, Andrei, let's take your complaints one by one:

That's right, but let's not forget that most of the Romanians in the Austrian-Hungarian empire, were peasants who didn't or weren't allowed to live in cities.

As I pointed out.

I strongly dispute the fact that over half of the monasteries in Transylvania were built in the last 10 years (I bet you also don't know that for a fact, and I also bet your estimate is not even close), and I find the formulation at least misleading and at most insulting. Have you heard about the 14th century Romanian monasteries in Maramures?

Fair cop. I don't know this for a fact. I thought I had qualified this with a "it seems" but obviously I didn't. However, I have never seen an old Orthodox monastery in Translyvania, and have seen many many new ones (I can think of at least 5 within 50 kms of where I now sit). [Is Maramures officially Transylvania? It's never been that clear to me.]. I'd like to actually find out figures on this - any idea where I could find some? My gut says that it's more than 50% to be honest.

There's also the corresponding Hungarian version, that all the Romanians are always plotting and inventing new ways to assimilate the Hungarian population. To tell you the truth I've never heard of what you're describing here, although I consider myself a very informed person.

If you visited here you'd hear about it. There is a video that the Duna channel produced on the Monasteries issue, and I'm quite sure there are Hungarian language sources which will back me up on this (it's no coincidence that the first person who commented here backed me up instantly)

Here's the ethnic breakdown of the Harghita and Covasna counties at the 1992 and 2002 census:
(The first value is the percentage of Romanians, the second the percentage of Hungarians)

1992:
Harghita: [14.1%] [84.7%]
Covasna: [23.4%] [75.2%]

2002:
Harghita: [14.1%] [84.6%]
Covasna: [23.2%] [73.8%]

(Source: www.recensamant.ro - the official page)

So the only documented homogenization consists of the 300.000 Hungarians that left Romania after 1990, which I'm sure you'll agree is not ROC's doing.


I'd be intrigued to know what the figures are for the towns. The Romanian population of Miercurea Ciuc is definitely on the rise, and I'm certain that places like Sfantu Gheorghe and Gheorgheni are experiencing the same increase. I could give you a lot of possible reasons for those figures (not least the validity of the Romanian census in the first place) but none of them are likely to satisfy you.

So unless you have more compelling evidence (other than "your knowledge") that there's a frightening large-scale Romanianisation process going on in Transylvania for the last 16 years, I'll flag this post as misleading, or at best misinformed.

Ah, now that's a bit cheeky of you isn't it Andrei? I have not alleged "frightening large-scale Romanianisation". I am alleging insidious on-going fairly small scale Romanianisation. I can give you a tour of Csikszereda and point out many of the buildings recently bought by the ROC, many buildings they tried and failed to buy and the local monasteries. I can't prove their intent, absent some "smoking gun" document which advises their people to go round buying property in Szekely Land for the purpose of Romanianisation, and as I'm unlikely to ever have access to such documents, I'm not sure I can prove that. But the evidence of the buying up policy is all around me.

Feel free to "flag" my post, but so far you have done nothing to put forward a convincing case against it in my view.

Anonymous said...

"I could give you a lot of possible reasons for those figures (not least the validity of the Romanian census in the first place) but none of them are likely to satisfy you."

Well, since there's no Romanianisation if the proportion of Romanians is steady, I think this is the main point.

Your answer amused me though, because it means that the Romanian state is so devilishly clever that it's no longer lying by saying there are fewer Hungarians in Transylvania, now it's lying by saying there are more, to cover up the Romanianisation!!
No international observing organisation laid claims that the censuses were falsified, not even the Hungarians.

Also, in Harghita, after 10 years of Romanianisation, at the elections in 2000 UDMR got 83,20% in Harghita and 74,80% in Covasna. In 1992 it got 83,04% in Harghita, and 74,28% in Covasna. But I bet those clever Romanians falsified those too, to cover up all traces to this dark conspiracy.

You're saying Hungarian media will back you up as if that means something. In the Romanian media for example, there's a huge uproar about the situation of Romanians in Harghita and Covasna, how they're discriminated against and forced to leave for greener pastures. I expect both to be mostly bullshit just like your sneaky Romanianisation theory.

Andrei said...

PS: That guy above was me.

Andy H said...

Hi Andrei

Firstly I'd like to apologise for the tone of my previous response - I do actually want to engage you on this issue, and realise that I didn't really do anything to help that with the way I responded.

Now to the census - I have no reason to believe that it is "falsified" - just that it is flawed. I mean you know this, right? I thought it was commonly understood and accepted that it seriously undercounts the Roma population (according to the 2002 census, for example, there are approx 500,000 Roma in Romania, a figure which is widely regarded to be out by a large amount - with the actual figure being somewhere between one and three million depending on who you ask) I mean in the stats you have quoted for Harghita county, for example, in 2002 the Romanian population was 14.1% and the Hungarian 84.6%. Which leaves 1.3% Roma? I hardly think so.

However, I have no reason to suspect that the ratio of Romanian to Hungarian is significantly wrong (the Roma community leader I spoke to suggested that people were counted according to first language - so Hungarian speaking gypsies are listed as Hungarians and Romanian speaking gypsies as Romanians), so let's put that one aside for now. [Plus, the voting figures you add for the UDMR support the ratio given by the census]

Some possible reasons why not much change is shown between the 1992 and 2002 figures in the Rom:Hun ratio

1. This was a decade of turmoil as the country righted itself after years of oppression (of all communities). I'm quite sure the bare statistics tell nothing like the full story (that decade as I understand it was charaterised here by Hungarians moving to Hungary, Hungarians returning from Hungary, Romanians who had been moved into villages moving out and back "home", etc etc.)
2. As I mentioned, I think this is mostly a city-based action - I mean it is unlikely that you'll convince some poor villager from Oltenia to become a poor villager in Szekelyfold. I think the figures for the cities are liable to show significant difference
3. I have only lived here for two years, and have no idea how long this ROC-buying-up-property has been going on. As far as I am aware it's a fairly recent thing, and may not be reflected in the statistics from as long ago as 2002.

However, we can't wait for 2012 to prove me right (or we can, but both of us are unlikely to remember this argument)

The reason I specifically mentioned the Duna channel as a source for the Monastery thing is because I imagined you'd regard that as a fairly reliable source (just as Hungarians would regard various Romanian media as reliable sources - TVR, for example, and some of the newspapers). I am aware of the myth of the poor oppressed Romanians of Harghita and Covasna, but as you say it is clearly a bunch of Magyarphobic bullshit put out by the media that will devote much of its coverage to the statements of Vadim Tudor and Becali.

By the way, I've gone back and edited the wording of the paragraph claiming 50% of monasteries in Transylvania are new - it was badly written and did imply that I knew this to be true.

Andy

Andrei said...

"Firstly I'd like to apologise for the tone of my previous response - I do actually want to engage you on this issue"

Accepted.

"I thought it was commonly understood and accepted that it seriously undercounts the Roma population (according to the 2002 census, for example, there are approx 500,000 Roma in Romania, a figure which is widely regarded to be out by a large amount"

That is attributed to the fact that many Roma prefer not to declare themselves as such for fear of discrimination. I don't think that's the case for Hungarians, nor would Romania have any real benefit in purposely hiding the real number of Roma (They have such a small political and social cohesion that they really aren't regarded as a threat to anyone).

There may be some misguided attempt to gain a foothold of Romanianness in your county, but really this tendency of building new churches is visible everywhere. In Bucharest, many "neighborhood" churches have sprung up recently (to the annoyance of many) seemingly every couple of blocks (that's a bit exaggerated of course, but ask anyone and they'll know what I'm talking about). (I doubt though that building a few monasteries in an area as large as a whole county is an effective way to overthrow the ethnic balance - by hosting a bunch of poor homeless people that would do nothing but sit there, eat the church's food and say no to autonomy.)

Even though you admit that it's not really a major thing going on there, the dark tone of the article ("continuing Ceausescu's work" => "that place it must be more than just sad") is what got me upset, because that tone makes the post instantly quotable on the bullshit variety of web-pages and articles that claim Romania should not be granted EU membership until it stops deporting Hungarians and moving peasants to Transylvania.

Andy H said...

That is attributed to the fact that many Roma prefer not to declare themselves as such for fear of discrimination. I don't think that's the case for Hungarians, nor would Romania have any real benefit in purposely hiding the real number of Roma (They have such a small political and social cohesion that they really aren't regarded as a threat to anyone).

Well, again, I don't think that this is something done deliberately by the Romanian state or by those responsible for the census. But it obviously happens (for both the reason you give and the one I gave). But I do think you're living in a bit of a dream world if you can't imagine any reason why the Romanian government might like to downplay the number of Roma in the country.:-)

Even though you admit that it's not really a major thing going on there, the dark tone of the article ("continuing Ceausescu's work" => "that place it must be more than just sad") is what got me upset, because that tone makes the post instantly quotable on the bullshit variety of web-pages and articles that claim Romania should not be granted EU membership until it stops deporting Hungarians and moving peasants to Transylvania.

Well, I don't think it's large scale, but I do think it's worth reporting, because I am sure it is happening, and happening for the reasons I give. Perhaps the title is slightly provocative (after all it's only only carrying on a small part of Ceausescu's work), but the other piece you quote is not even mine, but from a comment. I stand by the rest.

(If it makes you feel better, I don't think Romania should be denied EU membership - not that it will be anyway! - and I don't believe there is ANY deportation of Hungarians. Indeed I think EU membership can only benefit the minority communities in Romania)

pixi said...

Firts of all, I want to congratulate you for this nice blog, I think you write very interesting stuff in a very interesting way.

I would reccomend you to read the following book (you can find printed as well in Romania) about the history of Transylvania. I think explains a lot of what happened in this beautiful land. It is not directly on this topic, but I guess whoever wants to get in a discussion about Transilvania, should read this firts (not written by a hungarian/romanian):

English version:
http://www.hungarian-history.hu/lib/dunay3/dunay3.pdf

Romanian version:
http://www.hungarian-history.hu/lib/dunay2/dunay2.doc

I personally think, that one of the reasons of having Romanians in Transylvania was the fact that the Hungarians wanted economical benefits (cheap labour) back few hundred years ago. If now Hungarians will put first economical benefits (they sell their houses to Roc/Bor), then they will have more Romanians and then in 50 years they should not complain about having more Romanians here, because history shows clearly the consequences.

Unfortunatelly Ceausescu started a process that is really hard to stop now and built a mentality that is even harder to change. Besides that the capitalist economical way of being is not the best platform for identity building when you are in minority.

In northern countries (I can't recall now which one, but I can look up on the net) there are laws which protect minorities in the sense that the local town council has to approve if a majority rezident wants to move there in that city (in some special areas). No idea how efficient this law is, but i am sure Romania would not be able to have this kind of law. Even the concept of local autonomy is unacceptable unfortunatelly.

The Singaporean model is quite good as well. Even though indians and malays are a minority in numbers (around 80% are chineze), they have equal status with the chineze (each ethnic group has its own TV station, education, etc). The immigration is conttrolled, so the ratio is maintained and the majority chineze do not allow more chineze immigrants in the country.

All the best,

Attila

Musculin said...

Dear Andy,

I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and I've come to appreciate many of your views on the country you live in and on its people. Not all, though. This is one of the posts that I don't agree with and I feel I have to comment on.

First of all, you don't know for a fact that the Romanian Orthodox Church is buying on a massive scale properties of the Hungarians who want to sell. And even if this were true, I don't see why this would be wrong, as long as the evil guys from ROC don't force people out of their homes or land and pay the price that the homeowners ask. But I repeat: you don't have any evidence of that, just mere suppositions based on the fears and frustrations of the people around you who, I gather, happen to be Hungarians.

Second, you say you're in favour of ethnic diversity, but you deplore the attempts, real or imagined, that aim toward a more diverse ethnic make-up of the region. Diversity is good anywhere but in your backyard - that's the position you seem to adopt.

Speaking of diversity, you also challenge the accuracy of the 2002 Romanian census, claiming that it seriously understates the actual size of the Hungarian population in Harghita and Covasna, as well as the size of the Roma minority.

The figures seem to contradict your opinion when it comes to the number of Hungarians who were "forced" by the Romanian authorities or by the ROC to leave those two small and economically insignificant counties, so you thought that quoting an "authoritative" source would lend some strength to your argument. Therefore, you imply that the National Statistics Institute manipulated the 2002 census by associating one's ethnic identity with the first language spoken, as suggested to you by some leader of the local Roma community.

If you had taken a closer look at the 2002 census webpage, available at http://www.recensamant.ro/pagini/rezultate.html#, you would have noticed that people are classified according to their declared ethnicity AND to the first language spoken (mother-tongue).

According to the ethnicity declared to the interviewers, 535,250 people identified themselves as Roma, that is 2.5 percent of the total Romanian population, while less than half, that is 241,617 = 1.1 percent, declared Romani as their mother-tongue.

If you know of any other way to determine someone's ethnic identity, please let me know: DNA testing maybe? Or membership of the "ethnic religious denomination" / cultural association / political party / number of people who study in their mother-tongue? Or you'd prefer the census operator to skip the interview part altogether and tick the "Roma" box according to his/her judgement of the dress/looks/lifestyle of the interviewees? That's precisely the way some people have arrived to the extremely accurate figure you mention as real for the size of the Roma community of Romania: one to three million. Makes you wonder!

What you chose to do instead was to base your opinion on your observations of a small sample of Romania's population (the citizens of the thriving, ethnically diverse and multicultural metropolis called Miercurea-Ciuc) and to the sayings of a totally disinterested local leader who wants nothing else than the common good of its community (with no hidden political agenda nor interest in international NGO funding and other related subsidies), ignoring thus official data, statistical methods, proven facts or common sense.

You don't know anything for a fact, so you're jumping to unsupported conclusions, passing judgement on the corrupt, inefficient and xenophobic Romanian authorities.

Newsflash: this is so early 1990s! Back then, nobody had a clue about what was going on in this part of the world and took anything that was remotely connected to the region as "facts".

If you want your arguments to be from this millenium, get your "facts" straight before putting the same old clichés in circulation.

Andy H said...

I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and I've come to appreciate many of your views on the country you live in and on its people. Not all, though. This is one of the posts that I don't agree with and I feel I have to comment on.

Thanks for that. Really.

First of all, you don't know for a fact that the Romanian Orthodox Church is buying on a massive scale properties of the Hungarians who want to sell. And even if this were true, I don't see why this would be wrong, as long as the evil guys from ROC don't force people out of their homes or land and pay the price that the homeowners ask. But I repeat: you don't have any evidence of that, just mere suppositions based on the fears and frustrations of the people around you who, I gather, happen to be Hungarians.

Not true, I do have evidence of it, and it's very solid very physical evidence. There are many many buildings in this town that have been bought by the ROC. It's got nothing to do with fears and frustrations.

Now, my interpretation of the reasons why the ROC is buying this property is much more open to question, and there I am basing things on peoples fears and frustrations. I suspect (strongly) that they are right. I'd like toask someone in the ROC why they are buying it all. Any ideas who I could approach?

Second, you say you're in favour of ethnic diversity, but you deplore the attempts, real or imagined, that aim toward a more diverse ethnic make-up of the region. Diversity is good anywhere but in your backyard - that's the position you seem to adopt.

Again, not in the remotest bit true. I've said I don'd have any problems with Romanians moving to Csikszereda - I just object to it being a forced policy.

Speaking of diversity, you also challenge the accuracy of the 2002 Romanian census, claiming that it seriously understates the actual size of the Hungarian population in Harghita and Covasna, as well as the size of the Roma minority.

No, I have never said it seriously understates the actual size of the Hungarian population in Harghita and Covasna - in fact I think it overstates it because it names many Roma as Hungarians.

The figures seem to contradict your opinion when it comes to the number of Hungarians who were "forced" by the Romanian authorities or by the ROC to leave those two small and economically insignificant counties, so you thought that quoting an "authoritative" source would lend some strength to your argument. Therefore, you imply that the National Statistics Institute manipulated the 2002 census by associating one's ethnic identity with the first language spoken, as suggested to you by some leader of the local Roma community.

No, this is just putting two and two together ancoming up with 57. I accepted Andrei's arguments regarding the census, and said that I felt the problem with the figures was that they show only the county wide numbers and that the bulk of this ROC focus seems to have been too recent to have impacted the 92-02 census changes.

I have taken great pains to stress that I do NOT think the Romanian govt and census institute manipulated the figures. I think the figures are wrong, but not because of any manipulation or devious reasons.

If you know of any other way to determine someone's ethnic identity, please let me know: DNA testing maybe? Or membership of the "ethnic religious denomination" / cultural association / political party / number of people who study in their mother-tongue? Or you'd prefer the census operator to skip the interview part altogether and tick the "Roma" box according to his/her judgement of the dress/looks/lifestyle of the interviewees?

No I think the only way they can make this determination is by self-determination. But as Andrei himself points out, a lot of Roma will choose to self-identify as non-Roma for various reasons

What you chose to do instead was to base your opinion on your observations of a small sample of Romania's population (the citizens of the thriving, ethnically diverse and multicultural metropolis called Miercurea-Ciuc)

Sarcasm is not really helpful to your arguments here

and to the sayings of a totally disinterested local leader who wants nothing else than the common good of its community (with no hidden political agenda nor interest in international NGO funding and other related subsidies), ignoring thus official data, statistical methods, proven facts or common sense.

You may be the first person I've ever encountered who believes the census figures for Romania are accurate in their statement of the size of the Roma population

You don't know anything for a fact, so you're jumping to unsupported conclusions, passing judgement on the corrupt, inefficient and xenophobic Romanian authorities.

Oh come on! Nowhere in what I've written here either in comments or in the original post have I suggested at any point that the Romanian authorities have anything to do with this.

Newsflash: this is so early 1990s! Back then, nobody had a clue about what was going on in this part of the world and took anything that was remotely connected to the region as "facts".

If you want your arguments to be from this millenium, get your "facts" straight before putting the same old clichés in circulation.


Look, I really really want to be able to discuss this with you, but this is ridiculous - you've criticised my use of "facts", and managed to completely misrepresent more or less everything I've written here. The "facts" that you're basing your arguments on are right here in front of you (because your arguments are about what I've written), and you still have got them all arse about face.

I really have nowhere else to go with this - I'm stumped. How can we carry on this conversation when it seems you completely misread everything I write?

Andy

Romerican said...

On irin and bogdan's comments, I come from yonder wild west where we believe the government should neither support religious institutions nor should they penalize them. No tax money should be given to these -now effectively- instruments of the state, nor should these -obstensibly independent- houses of worship be penalized.

Keep taxes out of it altogether. The freemarket of ideas will let the nutjobs listen to whatever Invisible Man/Women/Aliens fairytale storyteller they wish while the rest of us can move on with our adult lives.

Lastly on pixi's comment, it disappoints me whenever serfdom and slavery are euphemized as cheap labor.

Anonymous said...

Read this.

MS

Andy H said...

Thanks MS, that looks worth reading. I'll take a proper look in the New Year. (Any chance you could b a bit less anonymous?)

Musculin: I presume you are not coming back to respond, which shouldn't surprise me, I suppose. I think what really upsets me above all about your assertions here is that you re a young and liberalish Romanian - and yet you still are afflicted by the anti-Hungarian sub-PRM shit too. What hope is there for this country?

Just to sum up some of your slurs, in case you don't know what I'm on about:
"just mere suppositions based on the fears and frustrations of the people around you who, I gather, happen to be Hungarians."

A double whammy here: the xenophobic opener- Hungarians are not qualified to hold real opinions - coupled with personal abuse - I am, it would seem, too stupid to form my own opinion - instead regurgitating the hill formed gibberish that those damned Hungarians come out with..

"What you chose to do instead was to base your opinion on your observations of a small sample of Romania's population (the citizens of the thriving, ethnically diverse and multicultural metropolis called Miercurea-Ciuc)"

Ah, so I'm not as cosmopolitan as you are, Mr Musculin? I live in a small town full of hicks and inbred cretins, and have been infected by their provincial mindset? I bow to your greater range of influences and overall broad-mindedness.

And your conclusion based on all this rubbish? That I am the xenophobic prejudiced one. Take a look at yourself, man! You must know prejudice when you see it - I bet you experience it all the time

Mihaly said...

Ethnic breakdown for Csíkszereda according to some unofficial sources:

1992 (http://varga.adatbank.transindex.ro/?pg=3&action=etnik&id=207)
Total      Ro        Hu
[46228]  [7497]   [38359]
            [16.2%]   [82.9%]

2002 (http://nepszamlalas.adatbank.transindex.ro/?pg=3&id=1314)
Total      Ro        Hu
[42029]  [7274]   [34359]
            [17.3%]   [81.7%]

Although the numbers are not official, it makes sense. As Andy mentioned earlier there were a lot of population displacements after 1990, Hungarians moving to Hungary, Romanians moving back to their natal places from where they were forced to move by the communist regime.

Probably we'll have to wait until 2002 to have a clear picture, I just hope it won't show a major change in the ethnic composition of the city...

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for some time and now i feel i have to give you some feedback about your views.
First of all in many towns things are fine, hungarians have their own schools, they still have a chance to speak their own language.
By talking about this autonomy you're just causing troubles, not preventing them. I come from finland where we have had swedish minority for long, but if they dared to start talking about autonomy, we'd tell them to go to sweden where they could talk their motherlanguage and do whatever they wanted, this is finland and here we speak finnish. In romania this is happening at the moment and from romanian point of view its fully understandable. Romanian ppl dont hate the hungarians as far as they'd respect the fact that they're all living in romania, not in hungary. Even the german ppl left for germany when ceaucescu's time came to an end. Btw. im from finland and i have a romanian gf so i know a little bit of the situation ;) My opinions might be a bit difficult to swallow, but i can understand your point of view as/if you're related to someone who's a hungarian in romania. -olli

Andy H said...

Hi Olli. Thanks for writing. I have a number of issues with your comments:

First of all in many towns things are fine, hungarians have their own schools, they still have a chance to speak their own language.

They do all over Transylvania to my knowledge and I have never claimed otherwise.

By talking about this autonomy you're just causing troubles, not preventing them.

Well it would be nice to think this blog had so much power that it could actually influence things, but I think you're being a bit melodramatic there. Autonomy is being talked abut by all across the Romanian political spectrum (for and against). My (relatively neutral) view is hardly likely to make a difference to that.

I come from finland where we have had swedish minority for long, but if they dared to start talking about autonomy, we'd tell them to go to sweden where they could talk their motherlanguage and do whatever they wanted, this is finland and here we speak finnish.

You're not serious? If the Swedish minority "dared" talk about autonomy you'd tell them to get lost? You don't think this sounds a little bit like Kosovo? The Albanian population of Serbia could have gone to Albania too, but that sounds a little like a kind of ethnic cleansing to me. You have a much worse opinion of the Finns than I have (though I have never been there, so I'll have to take your word for it)

In romania this is happening at the moment and from romanian point of view its fully understandable. Romanian ppl dont hate the hungarians as far as they'd respect the fact that they're all living in romania, not in hungary.

Hang on a second, no-one is talking about living in Hungary. And no-one is talking about not living in Romania - we're not talking about independence here, just autonomy. I think you may have got the wrong end of the stick. Everyone I know is happy living in Romania (the ones that aren't have left), but they want greater autonomy and respect within Romania. is that so terrible?

Even the german ppl left for germany when ceaucescu's time came to an end.

I think you'll find that most of them left during Ceausescu's time - the West German government paid Ceausescu to let them emigrate

Btw. im from finland and i have a romanian gf so i know a little bit of the situation ;) My opinions might be a bit difficult to swallow, but i can understand your point of view as/if you're related to someone who's a hungarian in romania.

Yes, I am married to Hungarian Romanian, and I have friends who are both Hungarian and Romanian. My view is obviously not entirely objective but it's not something i haven't spent a lot of time thinking about and a lot of time talking to people from both nationalities about. I understand your opinions, though I disagree with you and think you realy need to think them through a little bit more - it sunds like you may have got the wrong end of the stick in a couple of cases. I'm sure you don't really advocate that the Hungarians who have lived here for over a thousand years should up sticks and move to a country which they have no great affinity for merely for exercising freedom of speech?

Cheers
Andy

Olli M said...

I think you'll find that most of them left during Ceausescu's time - the West German government paid Ceausescu to let them emigrate


Actually majority of them left only after Ceaucescu was put out of order, and some of them even came back after noticing they didnt like it in germany.

I had a chat with my gf as at this point the things are going above my knowledge as im not a native romanian;)
She has loads of friends who are hungarians, and she has a great respect towards them, no bad words about them at all. You're talking about greater respect, in her opinion hungarians have it already.
As a romanian she just dislikes the fact that in her own country she can enter a store where a storekeeper won't serve her in her own language, only in hungarian. After reading your answer i noticed i overreacted a "bit" about this autonomy-issue, but i still cant understand why its that important.
At this point we're reaching a situation where its starting to be more about my gf's opinions/facts than mine so i better shut up on this matter:)
In the end its nothing personal as im sure you have noticed it.
Thanks for the interesting blog, i'll be following it now on;)

Olli

Andy H said...

Hi again, Olli, and thanks for continuing the conversation


I had a chat with my gf as at this point the things are going above my knowledge as im not a native romanian;)
She has loads of friends who are hungarians, and she has a great respect towards them, no bad words about them at all. You're talking about greater respect, in her opinion hungarians have it already.


Yes, I think this is true - on an individual level. I hear this all the time from both Hungarians and Romanians about how they have no problems with each other and it is just the media and the politicians who stir things up. However, I think there is a section of Romanian society (mostly those who have never even met a Hungarian, people from rural Walachia, for example) who think that Hungarians are some kind of dangerous entity, desperate to take back Transylvania (because this is what nationalist Romanian politicians and media tell them)

As a romanian she just dislikes the fact that in her own country she can enter a store where a storekeeper won't serve her in her own language, only in hungarian.

Can you ask her if this has actually happened to her. I am not questioning this, it's just that it's one of those popular stories that goes around, and I suspect it's not as widespread as people would have me believe. I have been told this upwards of 25 times by different people and only one person on being asked has toild me "yes it happened to me", while everybody else has said "well it happened to someone I know" or "I have heard that it happens". I don't doubt that there are one or two arseholes who refuse to speak in Romanian to a Romanian (just as there are Catalans who refuse to speak Spanish to a Spaniard or Flemish speaking Belgians who refuse to speak French), but the vast majority will switch just like that (all shop keepers I have ever encountered here on hearing my Hungarian and realising that I am not a native speaker automatically switch to Romanian. Without exception)

After reading your answer i noticed i overreacted a "bit" about this autonomy-issue, but i still cant understand why its that important.

I'm conflicted myself, to be honest, as I have made clear in a number of posts on this blog. But I think something has to change.

Cheers
Andy