Friday, January 13, 2012

My Hopes for Transylvania in 2012

It's the New Year, and I have a dream, and all that...

I have this utopian vision in which people get over their need to be intolerant dicks who see everything through nationalistic spectacles.  (I mean those that are intolerant dicks who see everything through nationalistic spectacles anyway.  The others who are not can just be as they are, safe in the knowledge that they haven't incurred my meaningless wrath).

Anyway, to the idiots who insist on making everything into some national dick waving contest:

Let me let you into a secret: There is absolutely no difference between Hungarians and Romanians, aside from the fact that they speak a different first language (and there are a few nurtured "cultural" differences).  That's it.  In fact anyone who is from Transylvania is pretty much guaranteed to have both Romanian and Hungarian ancestors, that's just the way it is.

The history of Transylvania is one of diversity and different groups. Can't people be proud of that rather than find it as a reason to be irritating intolerant bastards? It makes me so tired.

Can't you celebrate the diversity?  One of the greatest ever heroes of Transylvanian (and Hungarian) history is Matyas Kiraly (Matthias Corvinus). He's a great example of a Transylvanian having (as he did) a Romanian father and a Hungarian mother. Everyone should celebrate him, but instead Hungarians want to pretend that the Romanian side didn't exist and Romanians (or at least Gheorghe Funar) want to dig up his statue. This kind of wankery goes on all the time.

The whole area has been home to Romanians, Hungarians, Szekely, Germans, Jews, Armenians, Rroma, Csango, Serbs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, etc etc etc for centuries.  This seems to me like something to be proud of.  The fact that a lot of these groups have gone or are nearly gone now is the real tragedy.

Romanians: When two people whose first language is Hungarian speak to each other it is entirely normal that they do so in Hungarian. It's not some massive insult to the nation. Swiss people, for example, seem to be able to manage to deal with the fact that some of their countrymen speak a different language from them, why can't you? It's not treason, it's talking.

Hungarians: If a Romanian comes into your shop or your cafe or whatever and wants to buy something, or ask a question or whatever, why can't you just behave like an adult and respond in Romanian? You know you speak it. It's not clever and big to pretend you don't. It's stupid. I speak the world's worst Romanian, but I reckon I could manage to sell someone a loaf of bread. I know you can do it.

Now, I know a lot of people will tell me that I just don't get it.  I just don't get the history, I don't get the pain that one set of people have suffered at the hands of the other.  I don't, in short, carry around some massive nationalistic chip on my shoulder.  That's true.  I don't. I do have my fair share of chips, but I don't have some kind of historical grudge against some people whose only crime is to speak a different language from me.  I know there's history, I know there have been bad things done to people for terrible reasons, but taking it out on your neighbours - who were not involved in any of these crimes - is not really going to solve anything. Let it go.

Hungarians: Transylvania is in Romania. The only way that it won't be in Romania in the future would be through some absolutely catastrophic event which would definitely be a very bad thing. Get used to it, and perhaps even enjoy it.  The land is the same, the people are the same, it's just governed by some people in a far off city beginning with Bu- and ending in -est, so in fact very little has changed.  (And yes I know the current government in that city are utterly shit, but even then they are marginally less bad than the current government in Budapest.  So, on balance you're ever so slightly better off, anyway)

And if somebody Romanian acts like an wanker, it's because they are an wanker, not because they are Romanian.  Likewise if a Hungarian acts like a dick, it's because he's a dick not because he's Hungarian.

To give an example, it seems that the nationalities of the two main protagonists in the story of Basescu vs Arafat are being presented as an issue.  They are not.  Basescu is a twat because he's a twat not because he's Romanian, and Arafat is one of the good guys because he's one of the good guys, not because he's Palestinian. (Or, if you wrongheadedly see things the other way round, nationality still doesn't come into it)

Even in the case when people allow nationalism to drive their thick-as-pigshit-ness, that still doesn't come down to their nationality.  The bloke from here who hanged an effigy of Avram Iancu last March 15th?  Those Noua Dreapta scum who showed up here a month ago on December 1st to spread their poisonous bullshit? Those people are arseholes pure and simple.  The fact that they hang their arseholery on nationalism doesn't make them arseholes because they are Hungarian/Romanian.  It is just because they are braindead fuckwits.

(Romanians: Here's a little test for yourself: Every time you feel the urge to go off on one about Hungarians, first do the following. Imagine the situation in question pertains to Romanians living in Northern Bucovina, and see if this changes your perception. If a Romanian in Cernauti speaks Romanian to his neighbour, or doesn't proudly hang the Ukrainian flag outside his house, do you feel he should be criticised for somehow being anti-Ukrainian)

Basically, nationality is not a factor. You are of course more than welcome to identify yourself as being part of a national group (I don't really understand that either, but I recognise I'm very much in the minority in that), and even if I wanted to I couldn't stop you from making nationality part of your identity, but it's not a factor in anything else.  If someone disappoints you or annoys you or makes you angry or challenges you or arrests you or attacks you or pleases you or intrigues you or says something interesting or turns you on or makes you feel good or whatever, their nationality is not the first thing you should focus on.  It's not even the last thing.  It has no bearing on anything.

I know this sounds like some naive Rodney King-esque plea, but really can't we all just get along? And I'm not talking about tolerance, if that's the best you can do, you probably shouldn't bother.  You, we, are all the same. Celebrate that fact. But if you can't do that, just moan about each other out of range of me.  You're making me really tired.


Csilla said...

Andy, do you really think that if somebody asks for a loaf of bread in Hungarian language, will not be served in Csikszereda?? Then how do Romanian speakers of Csikszereda manage to buy their bread every day??? If this really happens, I feel ashamed for all those Hungarian shopkeepers. I prefer to believe/ I hope that this "one can't buy a loaf of bread" is rather a myth...

Andy H said...

I thought the same thing Csilla, but so many people have assured me that not only does this happen but that it even happened to them, that I am starting to suspect it does happen.

(I mean whenever I go to a shop here and start speaking Hungarian the shop assistant - if she doesn't recognise me - starts speaking Romanian since I'm obviously not a native Hungarian speaker and she/he is trying to help out, so I think that more often than not people are quite normal reasonable people who behave like adults, but I have heard this bread story so often that perhaps there is some truth in it.)

Csilla said...

Myths are quite persistent, as we know... I have some doubts just because this story is always heard like this: You can't buy a loaf of BREAD... Nothing else, just bread... Not being served with meat or milk would not sound as serious like not being served with this "Biblical" bread... As I told you: yes, it is serious and revolting if it happens, even more if it happens often. But it is also not advisable to "feed" such myths...

Otherwise you are mostly right and I wish all Transylvanians listened to you...

Andy H said...

Yes, it is always bread. But set against that I even have people I would consider friends who have told me that it has happened to them. If it's entirely made up it's got such a grip on the national psyche that it even convinces otherwise rational people that it in fact happened to them in reality.

Maybe it's like ghosts or paranormal activity or religious miracles or something.

andyv said...

Nice post. It totally agree with your statements with only one exception: nowadays, politically, the Hungarian nationalist movements are the real problem and not the Romanian ones. Jobbik is getting closer to 20% while PRM (Greater Romanian Party) is not even in the Parliament. "Noua Dreapta" is too small and insignificant to even matter.
I'm sure you are aware of the "scandal" related to the national youth hockey team. Nobody from Bucharest had any problems with an (almost) all Hungarian national team, while the only Romanian from the team was bullied.
Clearly, there are idiots on both sides, but only on one side these idiots start to negatively influence politics.

P.S.: I'm a transylvanian romanian, thus my opinions could be biased.

D said...

Móricz Zsigmond: A török és a tehenek

Volt egy török, Mehemed,

sose látott tehenet.

Nem is tudta Mehemed

milyenek a tehenek.

Egyszer aztán Mehemed

lát egy csomó tehenet.

Csudálkozik Mehemed,

"Ilyenek a tehenek?"

Én vagyok a Mehemed,

Mi vagyunk a tehenek.

Számlálgatja Mehemed,

Hány félék a tehenek.

Meg is számol Mehemed

három féle tehenet:

fehéret, feketét, tarkát,

Meg ne fogd a tehén farkát!

Nem tudta ezt Mehemed,

S felrúgták a tehenek!

Andy H said...


Jobbik are in Hungary, not in Transylvania, which is what I'm talking about. And yes they are very scary, but then Vadim Tudor got to the Presidential run off once also, so there is sadly no place where nationalist scum are not somehow supported (though as you point out it fluctuates)

Yes i heard of the story of the hockey team (I live in Csik/Ciuc, which is the home of ice hockey in this country and most of the players are from here, so it's always news, even when things go smoothly :-)). I've also heard of stories of Romanian kids bullying Hungarian kids and even Romanian adults bullying Hungarian adults (in the army). I still think this has nothing to do with nationality (I mean the nationality of the bullies - they, the bullies, are obviously using the nationality of the bullied). Bullies are bullies, and bullying is a terrible thing, whoever does it. When people get in big gangs, there are some bullies and some easily led people. What language they speak has nothing to do with it.

Marius said...

Great article ! I fully agree.
I´m Romanian, not from the Transilvania region, but i´ve met a few Hungarians, even had a Hungarian girlfriend for a while, and i must say it´s exactly how you said: nationality has nothing to do with how people are. If someone´s a twat is because he´s a twat not because he´s Hungarian, Romanian, Serb, British, Gypsy, German, Russian, etc.
Now i also have a couple of Hungarian friends in my city, husband and wife, they´ve moved here. I actually was one of the first to become friends with them. They are nice people and we get along very well.
So i also wish the same things as you do Andy !
Peace :)

Vlad Vais said...


First of all good blog: I have read it for a long time, and it is only now I post for the first time.

Unfortunately to say you don't get, if you did your post wouldn't be so long winded. It really is quite simple:

As you are British I will use them as an example.
Step 1: Follow some political discourse in Britain.
Step 2: Replace the word "British" with "Romanian".
Step 3: Replace the word "immigrant" with "Hungarian".
And that is it!

Before anyone starts crying like a baby: I am not trying to say that members of the Hungarian community are immigrants to Transilvania. It is just that in Eastern Europe national minorities occupy the same political niche as immigrants in Western Europe.

If you don't believe me here are some examples:
In UK: "immigrants are coming over here to steal our jobs"
In Romania: "Hungarians are trying to steal are land"
In UK: "If they don't like it here, they should go back to their own country."
In Romania: "If they don't like it here they should leave Romania."
In UK: "if we give in to immigrants we won't speak English in our own land."
In Romania: "if we give in to Hungarian, we won't speak Romanian on our own land."
Etc... Etc... Etc...
On that note try saying in Britain: "we shouldn't be too harsh on immigrants" as a mainstream political party, and see how far you get. ;-)

This whole political charade exists as a way for the Romanian authorities to distract the Romanian people from the day to day problems of Romanian life, which are generally caused by the Romanian authorities. Furthermore the Romanian authorities are too incompetent to solve those problems (never mind being corrupt). I can assure that there are many Romanians who can see through this charade, but admittedly no where near the majority.

However, none of this explains why there are many people who think like that. For that, you'd have to wait for another post. Bet you can't wait. :-D