Romania Table of Contents

Although in the postwar period Romania and Hungary were "fraternal states in the socialist community of nations," bilateral relations were marred by historical hostility, and disputes continued to erupt throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1977 Kádár visited Romania, and he and Ceausescu signed a comprehensive agreement governing bilateral relations. The agreement called for more cultural exchanges between the countries and for setting up additional consulates in Szeged and Cluj-Napoca for that purpose. The Hungarian government hoped the agreement would improve its contact with the Hungarian minority in Romania, but the Ceausescu regime failed to implement the agreement and continued its policy of forced assimilation under the guise of enhancing national unity.

In the 1980s Romanian-Hungarian relations remained tense. The Hungarian government and intellectual circles began to express concern over the issue of ethnic assimilation in Romania. In 1982, reports of mistreatment of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania further exacerbated relations. The media of both countries publicized the controversy, and an energetic anti-Hungarian propaganda campaign on the anniversary of Romania's union with Transylvania brought relations to their lowest level since World War II.

With the progressive deterioration of Romanian-Hungarian relations, polemics crept into official political statements. In 1985 the Central Committee secretary for international relations in Budapest blamed the poor relations on the political climate and reduced human contacts, presumably referring to a series of measures taken by Romania to hinder contacts between Transylvanian ethnic Hungarians and Hungarian visitors. The next day, Ceausescu at a Central Committee plenum criticized "nationalism, chauvinism, and revanchism wherever it was to be found." In turn Radio Budapest accused Romania of failing to implement the 1977 agreements signed by Kádár and Ceausescu.

A particularly serious episode in the chronology of the crisis was the Hungarian Ministry of Culture's 1986 publication of the three-volume History of Transylvania. The work followed Bucharest's publication of two volumes describing atrocities committed against Romanians by Hungarian forces occupying Transylvania from 1940 to 1944. The Romanians started a propaganda campaign against the publication of Hungary's three-volume work. Ceausescu addressed a joint plenum of the German and Hungarian nationality councils and condemned the publication as the "revival of Horthyst, fascist, and even racist theses by reactionary imperialist circles."

In 1987 relations between the two countries further worsened as large numbers of ethnic Hungarians began leaving Romania. The Hungarian government established an interdepartmental committee and allocated the equivalent of approximately US$5 million to resettle the refugees. Meanwhile, 40,000 people marched to the Romanian embassy in Budapest to protest the planned demolition of Transylvanian villages. The demonstration, organized by Hungary's dissident Democratic Forum, appeared to have the tacit support of the Hungarian government. The protesters regarded the planned demolitions as an attempt to disperse the ethnic Hungarian population, which they claimed numbered some 2.5 million persons. Following the demonstration, Hungary was ordered to close its consulate in Cluj-Napoca and vacate its embassy in Bucharest, which was to be converted to a cultural center.

In an attempt to resolve some of the issues dividing the countries and to obtain guarantees for the rights of the Hungarian minority in Romania, new Hungarian leader Karoly Grosz met Ceausescu in August 1988 at the Romanian city of Arad--the first meeting between the countries' leaders in more than ten years. The day-long discussion was fruitless, as the Romanians rejected two key proposals. The first called for reopening the consulates closed during the dispute--the Romanian office at Debrecen and the Hungarian facility at Cluj-Napoca. The second appealed for an end to the rural systematization program.

In March 1989, Hungary declared that it would lodge a complaint with the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva concerning Romania's failure to abide by cultural agreements, its policy of forced assimilation of minorities, and the flood of refugees into Hungary. At Geneva the Hungarian representative accused Romania of "severe violations of basic human rights," while his Romanian counterpart reproached Hungary for "pursuing irredentist goals." The Hungarian government therefore decided to join the Geneva Refugee Convention and to establish refugee camps in the eastern part of the country and in Budapest.

The Swedish representative to the UN Human Rights Commission submitted a resolution calling for an investigation of alleged human rights violations by Romania. The Swedish initiative was cosponsored by Australia, Austria, Britain, France, and Portugal. Later Hungary made an offer to "co-sponsor" the resolution. Romania rejected the criticism as meddling in its internal affairs. The Romanian representative to the Commission claimed that all ethnic groups in Romania enjoyed "legal guarantees and the means to preserve their cultural identity."

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress