About The Slovaks In Romania

The Slovakian migration to Romanian territory took place in several stages. It started in the 18th century (in particular the second half), and it grew stronger in the first half of the 19th century. The Slovaks mostly settled in four Romanian regions – the plains of Arad and Banat, the mountainous and wooded areas of Bihor and Sălaj, the plain and mine regions of Satu Mare and Maramureş, as well as in north-eastern Bucovina. These areas were at that time under the domination of the Habsburg Empire.In the Arad and Banat areas, the first Slovaks arrived in 1747 from Békéscsaba and Sarvas. They were the ones to set up the Mocrea settlement. Most of the Slovaks in the Arad and Banat area were Lutherans. In Brestovăţ, as well as in Ţipar, some Roman Catholic Slovaks did settle, nevertheless. After the primary colonization, in the 18th century, which mainly had a confessional character, in the 19th century the colonization mainly took an economic aspect. The scarcely populated areas of Arad and Banat that were lacking labour force compelled the big landowners here to encourage the settlement of people who practiced agriculture and had the necessary means to do it – agricultural tools and animals: horses and oxen. The colonists also received certain privileges, such as freedom of religious practice, release, for a certain period of time, from the labour tribute; they were provided with the necessary materials to build churches and schools, and they were also given permission to build and self-administer their own windmills and watermills.In the Arad and Banat areas, especially after the second half of the 20th century, the implementation of liberal economic relations increased, due both to the Protestant confessional background of the Slovakian population who settled in this area, and to the high quality of the soil, which allowed both an extensive and an intensive exploitation.The reflux migration of the Slovakian population from the Arad and Banat area in the inter-war period was of low significance. Only a large group of Slovaks left Nădlac in 1923 and settled in Argentina, in the Chaco province. However, migrations to Brazil, Canada and the USA were only casual.Some important changes in the lives of Slovakian communities in this area occurred after the re-emigration of a portion of the Slovakian population in Czechoslovakia between 1946 and 1948, and after the onset of the communist regime. The number of re-emigrants in the Arad and Banat areas rose to more than a third of the total approximately 21,000 re-emigrants of Romania and, through this phenomenon, the Slovakian communities in the area were considerably depopulated.After the onset of communism, the existing national Slovakian institutions were abolished – the Slovakian Evangelical Archdiocese, the cultural societies, and the Czechoslovakian Union of Romania included. Teachers from Slovakia who had taught in Slovakian schools in Romania left the country. These restrictive measures were particularly felt in smaller communities, where Slovakian schools had but recently come into being, and where these teachers had recently started to revive the cultural and national life of the population (Berzovia, Pecica, Scăiuş, Semlac, Morava, Teş and Vermeş). But with the foundation, in 1945, in Nădlac, of the Slovakian high school, which functioned as a pedagogical high school until 1956, preparing numerous teachers and Slovakian intellectuals, there was a break in the lives of Slovakian schools. The system of schools where Slovakian was used as teaching language consolidated, without any external influence.In the 1960s, Slovaks from Bihor and Sălaj started migrating towards Arad and Banat, for economic reasons. Most of them settled in areas where the Slovakian element was already present – in Nădlac, Butin, Vucova – thus reinvigorating it. In the same time span, the number of Slovaks looking for professional success in cities such as Arad, Reşiţa, Timişoara and Hunedoara increased. In smaller settlements (Semlac, Mocrea, Teş, Morava, Vermeş etc.) where, after 1945, Slovakian schools were closed, the process of Slovakian assimilation started to make itself felt to a much greater extent. In the 1970s, the first elements of Slovakian literary creation appeared in Nădlac. These pioneer Slovakian writers founded, in 1976, the "Ivan Krasko Literary Society" (the present-day "Ivan Krasko" Cultural and Scientific Society). Shortly after, the first books of Slovakian fiction came into being on Romanian soil.After 1989, the national life of Slovaks in this area (and all over the country) acquired a new dimension. The Democratic Union of Czechs and Slovaks in Romania was founded in Nădlac, the Evangelical Lutheran Slovakian Archdiocese was re-established, the activity of the "Ivan Krasko" Cultural and Scientific Society flourished with the opening of its first printing house. Four magazines started to be published (the monthly "Naše snahy" magazine of the D.U.C.S.R., the bilingual "Parallel Mirrors – Rovnobežné zrkadlá", "My" – the Slovakian youth magazine in Romania, "Dolnozemská»· Slovák" – the common magazine for Slovaks in Romania, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro). The activity of the local organizations of D.U.C.S.R. intensified cultural, social and political life in Nădlac, as well as in other areas with Slovakian population. In the forested hill areas of Bihor and Sălaj, the first Slovakian families came from Orava, Kysuce and Gemer in 1785 and founded Budoi. Initially, the reasons for which the PlopişuluiMountains were colonized with Slovaks were mainly economic. Parts of them were also colonized to provide a qualified labour force for the recently established glass manufactures. The low quality of the agricultural soil resulting from the clearing of the land, the overpopulation caused by the high birth rate, as well as the scarcity of employment, caused the next migration, an internal one, this time, of Slovaks into other areas in the region. The internal migration lasted until 1918., The isolation of Slovakian localities in Bihor and Sălaj, mostly consisting of dwellings which were situated at some distance from each other, throughout the hills – a structure which is specific to extensively inhabited areas, was the main reason for which the ethnical autonomy of the Slovaks was preserved. In the second half of the 19th century, the life quality and instruction level increased in Slovakian localities situated in valleys, due to the development of viticulture and, later on, the opening of brown coal and bitumen mines. In the vast majority of Slovakian mountain localities, the hard living conditions did not allow the instruction level of the population to develop. Although confessional schools were founded in some parts, the dominant trends of the time, the absence of a Slovakian ecclesiastic authority, and insufficient financial means impeded the development of national awareness in schools, and eventually resulted in their casual functioning. The outcome of these unfavourable circumstances was the presence, here as well, after 1918, of a high degree of illiteracy and the absence of all structured cultural life. Not even in 1918, when these areas were included in the Kingdom of Romania, did the life conditions of Slovaks change, with the exception of new financial opportunities in the traditional mining areas of Budoi and Voivoz. In the inter-war period of the 20th century, a major change occurred in the organization of the school system. Confessional schools were nationalized, and after the signing of the cultural agreement between Czechoslovakia and Romania in 1936, schools with Slovakian as the main teaching language flourished as they had never before. In the communist years, even though many schools disappeared, especially in the less populated localities, and the Slovaks in these areas were mostly assimilated, in those places with more extensive Slovakian population the network of Slovakian schools was strengthened. Not only the qualified teachers – whether they came from Nădlac or they were home graduates of the Slovakian high school in the area – contributed to this process, but also the local graduates of higher education systems who came to teach in the area. The activity of Slovakian Roman Catholic priests from Bihor and Sălaj was also highly important in the consolidation of Slovakian national identity in the region.In the 1960s, as a result of urban industrialization, and a scarcity of employment in Slovakian localities, a new migration of the Slovakian population took place. After 1989, as a result of the D.U.C.S.R. activity, cultural initiatives developed in this area as well. Also, in Budoi the second high school in Romania with Slovakian as the main teaching language (the "Jozef Kozáček" High School) was founded. Today, as a consequence of the closing of the mines and industrial regression, the Slovakian population in the area is decreasing, especially because younger people and families leave to look for work abroad. A less known fact is the colonization of Slovaks in Satu Mare and Maramureş. After the calling of the Hungarian landlords Károlyi and Pérenyi, Slovaks of Zemplín, Šariš and Ugocea settled in Livada, where Ruthenians had already been colonized. Slovaks were brought there as agricultural workers. In 1840, Slovaks of Northern Slovakia were brought to Huta-Certeze. Also, starting with the end of the 18th century and until the first half of the 19th century, qualified Slovakian mine workers of Spiš settled in the mining areas of Baia Sprie, Ocna Slatina, Ocna Şugatag. In the 19th century, in both counties there was a relatively large number of Slovakian settlers. But because of the lack of Slovakian schools and the Hungarization pressure of the Roman Catholic Church, most of this population was assimilated. Even though in the inter-war years of the 20th century casual manifestations of national rebirth could be noticed among the Slovaks in the area, and attempts of founding Slovakian schools in Livada and Huta-Certeze were successfully encouraged, most Slovaks in this area were assimilated by either the Romanian or the Hungarian populations after 1945. Nowadays, a very small number of Slovaks in Huta-Certeze display national awareness. In the fourth area, southern Bucovina, Slovaks of Kysuce and the surrounding areas of ÄŒada settled towards the end of the 18th century for the same reason for which Slovaks had settled in Transylvania: landowners in the area colonized them as a labour force for the glass manufactures. After remaining for a while in several localities, they finally settled down in Soloneţul Nou, Pleş and Poiana Micului, where they represented the majority of the population. Some of them chose to stay in the mixed Romanian and Polish localities of Althuta, Davideni, Mold-Banilla, Panca, Petrinoasa, Ţerebleşti. After them, Germans also settled in these areas. In the context of ecclesiastical territorial organization, the Slovaks of Bucovina belonged to the Roman Catholic diocese of Lvov. That is why they had Polish, and then German priests attached to them. They had no interest in supporting the development of Slovakian national identity. And given that the population in this area spoke a Slovakian dialect with Polish traces, the Roman Catholic priests became in favour of Polish assimilation. The de-nationalization process lasted until 1936, when a Slovakian school was founded in Poiana Micului and a branch of the Nădlac Cultural Slovakian Society was established in the region. During the 19th century, until 1918, Slovakian communities of the four areas did not communicate with each other. The first approach, and the first communicational exchanges between regions inhabited by Slovaks, except for Satu Mare and Maramureş, only occurred after the foundation, in Nădlac, in 1924, of the Cultural Slovakian Society and after the Slovakian magazines "Slovenský týždenník" (Slovakian Weekly – 1929-1932) and "Naše snahy" (Our Efforts – 1936-1941) were first published. This process consolidated after the arrival of qualified teachers from Slovakia. Reciprocal contacts between Arad and Banat and the areas of Bihor and Sălaj were strengthened and broadened only in the second half of the 20th century. The reason was not only the Slovakian high school in Nădlac, and the activity of its graduates, but also the economic migration in the early '60s. And despite the natural process of integration after 1989, these two regions with Slovakian population each preserves its specific features. In each of them one may notice tendencies towards a specific independent evolution. The common ground is represented by their efforts to obtain and implement fundamental nationality rights, the unitary development of the Slovakian network of schools and the common political manifestations.

by Ondrej Štefanko