Record Of Journey To Romania, May 1924

excerpts X In the morning of May 27th I went to see Mr. Tatarescu, at the office of the Prime Minister. I quote the main points of what Mr. Tatarescu told me: He is the Under-Secretary of State for political issues, including Minorities issues. As these latter are of particular importance, he is generally called Under-Secretary for, or Minister for, Minorities issues. He was appointed to this post in December last, and has now organized his office, in which three Hungarians and two German-Saxons or Swabians are working. The great difficulty was the psychological one, the atmosphere created before and during the war and the unwillingness of the minorities leaders to come to terms. A short time ago he had had a meeting with some of these leaders and frankly told them that if they continued to work against a reasonable settlement, he would get in direct touch with the subordinate priests and with the peasants, and in general with the masses of the population belonging to the minorities. The result had been that the leaders had taken the matter seriously and it might be that a thorough re-organization of the leadership of the minorities in Transylvania would take place, perhaps within a few days. As for the administrative difficulties, Mr. Tatarescu said that he had already taken steps to replace three or four Prefects who had shown administrative deficiencies. The views of the Minister of Public Instruction differed considerably from Mr. Tatarescu's own: Mr. Angelescu looked upon the school issues solely from the standpoint of a Minister of Public Instruction of Greater Romania, anxious that the nation should have the best possible instruction from the Romanian point of view. Mr. Tatarescu had made a point of seeing that the general political interests of the country at large were safeguarded, and it was most important than the minorities should be satisfied. For this reason, he had not only, as Mr. Duca had said to me, poured water into Mr. Angelescu's wine, but he had done it in a very liberal fashion. Amendments had been made in the State schools bill, but Mr. Tatarescu had, however, not obtained everything for which he had fought. As for the bill on private (including denominational) schools, this was not yet ready for submission to Parliament. The copy which Mr. Angelescu had promised to send me would, I could be quite sure, be considerably altered. The denominational schools: the Romanian Government's opinion was that the schools should in principle be non-confessional. The minorities held the quite opposite view that public instruction should be linked to the Churches. This represented a really major difficulty, given the quite opposite views held on a question of principle: the Romanian Government did not want denominational schools at all in the country. The minorities considered them essential. Mr. Tatarescu did not say expressly that denominational schools would be allowed or not allowed, but he gave me to understand that if they were allowed, it would be as the result of a concession made in order to satisfy the minorities even against the conviction of the Government. We discussed the language question: I explained the opinion of Mr. Kisch – that the first four years should be left to the children thoroughly to learn their mother tongue, to speak it, write it, and know it from a literary point of view. Mr. Tatarescu said that he knew all the arguments in favor of Mr. Kisch's opinion. There were, however, arguments on the other side, which seemed to show, especially, that the children could quite well master more than one language at the same time. He assured me that there was not the slightest intention of preventing the Minorities from educating their children in their own languages, but it was in the interests of the minorities themselves for their children to have a thorough knowledge of the State language. It was therefore necessary for them to begin quite early. Administrative language: for the present no clear rules existed and conditions in the different localities differed very much. In Brashov, for instance, only German was used for public notices and at City Hall, while in some thoroughly Hungarian village only Romanian was used. One was just as wrong as the other, and it would be necessary to issue some general rules. These, it was Mr. Tatarescu's intention to issue by administrative decree, in order to avoid their submission to Parliament, where the liberal regulations he had in view might meet with considerable opposition. The minorities themselves went further and wanted the minorities' languages to be used throughout the administration. That was rather a stiff demand. Municipal autonomy: the bill on the unification of the administration drawn up last year was very liberal and gave the municipalities a great degree of autonomy. It was therefore to be expected that it would not be passed by Parliament in its present form, as this would result, in certain localities, in the Mayor and the whole of the Municipal Council being composed of persons belonging to a Minority, – a situation which might make administrative collaboration with the Government a little difficult. It was suggested that a certain number, for instance four or five, of the heads of the local administrative services, who, in many cases, were Romanian, should sit and vote on the Councils as members without being elected. As the number of members on the Councils would be between 9 and 50, there would be no danger of these officials creating a majority or even a considerable element in those bodies. It had, however, been objected that this idea was anti-democratic, and the proposal made that these officials ought only to sit on the town and village Councils in an advisory capacity. The question was not yet finally settled. Language in Court: this was a question which Mr. Tatarescu himself had, as yet, barely dealt with. It was in the hands of the Minister of Justice. The fundamental principle was that the language in Court was Romanian, but that reasonable facilities should be given to the Minorities in order that they might not suffer from the lack of knowledge of the Romanian language. In many places the minority's language was, as a matter of fact, used in the Courts to a considerable extent. This, however, represented rather a concession of fact than the recognition by the Romanian Government of the right of such a practice. Definitive rules had not yet been drawn up and the problem was very difficult. Local abuses and smaller conflicts with the minorities: Mr. Tatarescu had prepared a scheme for the creation of a museum for Hungarian national symbols, statues, inscriptions, etc., of which very many had been taken down by the Romanians during the troubled period after the Armistice. He did not expressly say that the intention was also to put the Hungarian statues and symbols not yet touched in the museum. Nevertheless, I think it may perhaps have been in his mind that where these questions are the source of trouble, friction might be avoided if the symbols were collected in a place which could be kept and guarded as a national sanctuary of the minorities. Gheorghe IANCU, Ethnic Minorities from Romania in Documents from the Society of Nations, 1923-1932Argonaut, Cluj-Napoca, 2002

by Erik Colban