AHF Book Review: "Transylvania Today: Diversity at Risk"
6/17/2014 - AHF Book Review: "Transylvania Today: Diversity at Risk," edited by Csaba Zoltani. Written by noted experts, describes the issues faced by minorities in Transylvania in their effort to retain their identity in an adverse environment. The essays of the book capture some of the fault lines in Transylvania, created by the incorporation of a territory with western traditions into one of Byzantine culture. Minorities, according to the official census, constitute nearly one-quarter of the population of Romania. Contributors include Amb. Geza Jeszenszky, Prof. Andrew Ludanyi, Tilhamer Czika, Viktor Segesvary, and Andreas Bereznay.
The fascinating world of people who intend to survive, retain their ethnic identity, and do more than go with the flow is highlighted. The contributors survey the facts on the ground regarding the reality that determines the quality of the lives of minorities in Transylvania with emphasis on, but by no means exclusively on the larger minority groups. After a historical overview, the book details the markers of the minority landscape in Transylvania. A chapter on the Saxons, German-speaking descendants, who have lived over eight centuries in Transylvania, is presented. Close-up of the once vibrant, now diminished presence of Jews is detailed. The Roma speak a variety of languages, are economically disadvantaged and often victims of discrimination. Their struggles to survive are discussed in detail. Churches play a central role in the lives of indigenous minority communities. Separate chapters deal with the Catholic, Unitarian, Reformed, and the Greek Catholic Churches. The lagging restitution of property seized from the churches and minority individuals by the Communists has its own chapter. Indigenous minority languages, as well issues related to their use in education are treated separately. Additional chapters treat the judiciary as it affects minorities and the problems of objectivity in the press. A final essay addresses the means that some groups feel is the key to minority survival: autonomy.
Transylvania Today: Diversity at Risk
The first impression that mesmerized me, when I took the book in my hands, was the wonderful photograph taken by Stephen Spinder, which shows two young girls in ethnic costumes and two elderly women in Transylvania standing in front of a traditional Sekler’s gate. It immediately triggered a series of thoughts and concerns, as I thought of those girls in the picture for a moment. How much chance do they have studying in their native language in a higher education institution? Have they been bullied by their classmates in school for speaking in Hungarian? Will they have the legal option to choose between citizenships or retain both? Will they be able to proclaim that they are de facto bilingual citizens? Ultimately, what are their chances in the future for maintaining their native values, traditions and language? Hoping to get answers to these questions, I anxiously opened and read Zoltani’s book with high expectations.
Transylvania Today is an all-encompassing collection of essays concerning minority rights in 21th century Romania. The book explores the complexities and injustices that ethnic minorities face in Romania today, particularly Hungarians in Transylvania. Csaba K. Zoltani ascertains that even though nearly 1/4 of the population is considered minorities, their interests are not represented proportionately, if at all. Unfortunately, historical misrepresentations, delayed property restitutions, deficiencies of the judicial system and a barrage of discriminatory legislation in general all suppress the rights and freedoms of minorities in the region. I highly recommend Transylvania Today to scholars, researchers and students or to anyone interested in minority rights in Eastern Europe today. The structure of the book enables all readers to grasp the heart of the problem and shed light on the issues themselves. By providing a detailed historical background in the first few chapters, even those who hitherto have not known much about Transylvania or the problems that most minorities have to face there, will quickly understand the issues at stake.
The essays cover a wide spectrum of issues, such as: historical analysis, demographical changes throughout the centuries, disputes over historical and geographical names, the delicate subject of restoring historical monuments and historical figures, issues regarding different religions and church restorations, language laws and rights in the past and today, the overall state of education, the disposition of the Romanian press and media towards minorities, protracted restitutions and a denial of autonomy. These topics are then divided into three major sections: geography & destiny, state and church relations from 1944 to the present and legal issues. Each essay essentially provides an overview of the problem areas discussed, details a list of actions that could potentially improve the status quo and propose possible solutions for tackling each specific issue.
The book is quite successful in providing a complex and independent analysis regarding the current situation of minorities in Transylvania and explains all the major issues and reasons behind discrimination, the attitude, and the lack of progress that they have to endure up to the modern day, despite being a member country of the European Union. Although some improvements have been made, there is still a long way to go.
The famous slogan of the European Union: “unity in diversity” is far from being validated in Romania today. According to Zoltani, this slogan remains just a slogan in that country, while the European Parliament and the European Commission sit idly as they shy away from confronting ethnic discrimination. Analysts repeatedly confirm that Romania gets away with open-ended and rampant ethnic discrimination, which makes this country the pariah of Europe (which does not absolve Slovakia and the Ukraine from similar discrimination practices).
Contributors: Geza Jeszenszky, Andras Bereznay, Lajos Asztalos, Jeno Muradin, Csaba K. Zoltani, Victor Segesvary, Attila Gido, Janos Nagy, Marta Jozsef, Andrew Ludanyi, Laszlo Bura, Vilmos Kolumban, Sandor Kovacs & Lehel Molnar, Zsuzsa Hadhazy, Janos Pentek, Kinga Magdola Mendel, Attila Ambrus, Emod Veress, Tihamer Czika.
• Note on Names
"The famous slogan of the European Union: 'unity in diversity' is far from being validated in Romania today"
The author, Csaba K. Zoltani, was a senior researcher with the Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He has authored numerous articles on issues related to human and minority rights, including an essay written, with AHF President Frank Koszorus, for the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs entitled,"Group Rights Defuse Tension."
How to Order
Why So Many Hungarians Across the Border?
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups based on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes to create the countries with which we are so familiar. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were virtually unchanged. Until 1920...
The Treaty of Trianon in 1920... in the aftermath of WWI, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her Hungarian-speaking population. Add to this the loss of up to 90% of vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure. The clear winner of the land grab, was Rumania, who, established only 60 years earlier, more than doubled in size overnight.
Ethnic Distribution in the Kingdom of Hungary in 1910 (Hungarians shown in red)
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, this trend continued over the past 90 years.
[read more on the Treaty of Trianon]