“The Romanians are An Inferior Nation” Claimed the Hungarian Delegation to the Paris Peace Conference
The Hungarian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference attempted to postponefor as long as possible the singing of the Peace Treaty which would have sanctioned the union of Transylvania with Romania. The leader of the Budapest delegation, count Albert Apponyi, submitted ample memoranda to the Great Powers which defended Hungary’s cause. The Hungarian notes were aimed at systematically inducing the idea that Romanians are an inferior race which is incapable of governing itself and also, ungovernable.
The racism of the Hungarian notes at the Paris Peace Conference is evident especially in their historical and political demonstrations and arguments. The history of the Romanians in Transylvania was distorted according to the theories of Roessler which claimed that Romanians came from the Balkans to Transylvania in the 14thand 15thcenturies. Moreover, they were a “disturbing factor” in the Hungarian system and thus, civilizing efforts were employed to bring the “semi-nomadic shepherds” round. Furthermore, the Hungarian memoranda claimed that there was a major gap between the Romanians who lived inside and outside of the Carpathian arch-since those residing inside it were in contact with the Hungarians, they were superior to those outside it. However, the Hungarian attempts at denigrating the Romanians met with failure, but their 1920 allegations about a supposed “inferiority of the Romanian race” are even now proof of an extremist political conception.
Certain paragraphs in the Hungarian memoranda accentuated the alleged superiority of the Hungarian people:“Intellectually and economically, Transylvania has a hundred-year advance compared to Romania. Thus, its union with Romania would have a negative influence over its evolution and could cause serious social unrest.” The diplomats from Budapest attempted to portray the Transylvanian Romanians as inferior by writing that “The majority (of Romanians) belongs to the peasant class, whereas the Hungarians are nobler than this peasant mass, since their social life is much more developed and are more intellectual. The social life of the Hungarian and Transylvanian Saxons is much differentiated. The percentage of those who have a qualified profession is higher than that of their population. Yet, the Romanians have an important contribution with their high illiteracy rates.”
Moreover, the alleged Romanian inferiority is unavoidable:“The superiority of the Hungarian and Transylvanian Saxons is not the result of the protection of the Hungarian state or of an oppressive system based on violence. This is an assumption that has been proved false by the statistical data which also shows that the inferiority of the Romanian race manifests itself in a striking manner each time they are allowed the freedom to have a private initiative.”
The Arguments of Oppression
“The inferiority of the Transylvanian Romanians is not the result of oppression, yet it has two different causes. First of all, the Romanian nation is young, it lacks tradition and they discovered their national conscience only amidst the 19thcentury. The Romanian religion is the Byzantine one, the language of their religious service is Slavic and in Transylvania, the Romanian Church achieved its independence thanks to the Hungarian Protestant princes and to the confessional union (the creation of the Greek Catholic Church). They could not forge this union by themselves, but only under the pressure of an exterior force. Their national language is of recent origin.” This is the content of the Hungarian notes to the Great Powers.
“The Romanian people could neither shed light on the individuality of its race, nor give a national specificity to the institutions of its country. Neither the Medieval institutions, nor the power of the Contemporary ideas could influence its politics and civilization. The Era of the Crusades, the feudal system, the Papacy, the Holy Roman Empire, Renaissance or the Reform did not leave a mark on this people. All to the contrary, the Hungarian nation took part in all these events”, wrote the Hungarian diplomats.
Inability to Evolve
The above quoted memoranda claim that Romanians are incapable to evolve, that they are almost condemned to remain an inferior race:“The backwardness of the Romanian civilization and economy should come as no surprise. It is a certainty that by living in a state neighbouring other peoples, the Romanians cannot and, for a long time, could not rise to the level of the other states (…)” “Yet, the inferiority of the Transylvanian Romanians is a result of their local history as well. The Romanian element was not native, it could not create its own state, yet it slowly insinuated itself across centuries. Just as volcanic lava penetrates under pressure the rifts in the Earth’s surface, the Romanian element infiltrated itself in the cracks of the national and economic edifice created by the Hungarians and Saxons in Transylvania. And as the volcanic lava cannot rise above, but goes lower inside the Earth, the Romanians in Transylvania remained at the lower end of the social strata.”
However, at some point, the diplomats from Budapest decided that the “Romanian race” is capable of learning from the Hungarians:“The Romanians in Transylvania who came here from the Balkans in the 15thand 16thcenturies did not have a constitutional life. Because of their intellectual and economic backwardness, the church offered the only civilizing opportunity (…) All of the old intellectual and economic institutions are exclusively Hungarian or German and the Romanian element did build its own intellectual and economic institutions only in the last 100 years under the positive influence of the Hungarian and German intellectual and economic environment. This is the reason why the Romanians in Transylvania bypassed their racial brethren who lived in their own countries (Moldova and Wallachia) outside this ethnic mix.”
Distortion of History
Hungarian memoranda distorted history by insinuating the idea that the Romanians came to Transylvania 400 years later than the Hungarians. According to Budapest, Romanians came in groups of semi-nomadic shepherds who needed coercive measures, in order to live in an organized state:“inside the Carpathian area, the first real state appeared in the 10thcentury and it was created by the Hungarians who decided to establish their territory here, after occupying positions in the trans-Danubian regions and the Hungarian Plain (…) In the 14thand 15thcenturies, after the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans, the rate of Romanian immigration across the Danube towards Transylvania and the eastern Hungarian territories increased considerably.”
The 1920 diplomatic notes clearly deny the Daco-Roman continuity:“Bonfinius was the first one who expressed the idea that the Romanians should be the descendants of the Roman elements who remained to live in Dacia. He also claimed that because of the similarity between the Italian and Romanian language, the Transylvanian Romanians are the descendants of the legionnaires and coloni of Emperor Trajan. The thesis of Bonfinius became a scientific dogma, thanks to certain foreign political circumstances and because in the 18thcentury, through the works of Toppeltinus and Cantemir this thesis entered the European science realm.” Furthermore, the Hungarians rejected the chronicle of a Hungarian, if it mentioned the Romanians:“the anonymous chronicler of the king Bela, Anonymous, is the only Medieval chronicler who, during the 9thcentury, finds Romanians in the old Dacia when the Hungarians came to their present day country. Yet, the critical history demonstrated that it is impossible to sanction Anonymous’ work as an authentic source of history. This chronicle was inspired by a patriotic fantasy and thus, it does not reveal the real history of the Hungarians who conquered the country, it is just an epic. The same scientific critique demonstrated that the part referring to the Romanians was added to the chronicle only after these events.”
The Romanians – A “Disturbing Element”
In Paris, the Hungarians claimed that the Romanians had always been a “disturbing element”:“The immigrant Romanians were led by their own dukes (knyaz) who were the original leaders of the immigration. Thus, the Romanians settled initially on the uncultivated and uninhabited royal domains. Their relations with the agricultural Saxon and Hungarian populations were as bad as the ones with the Balkan peoples. Only after considerable efforts, did they manage to get accustomed (or not at all) to the economic, social and legal order of the Hungarian state. Because of this, there were numerous sanctions against them and the state authorities had to implement a lot of coercive laws against the Romanians (…) We can thus affirm that, according to all historic data, in the Middle Ages, the Romanians, ever since their first appearance, were everywhere considered a disturbing factor. The Romanians respected neither individual property, nor social order or judicial state institutions. It is thus obvious that such an element could not gather enough economic, political or social influence, in order to be a constitutional factor alongside the other three legal nations (…) It has been very hard for the authorities of Transylvania to accustom these people with a certain moral, social and legal order and the judicial institutions of the state – to cut a long story short:to transform these semi-nomadic people into an agricultural and hard-working nation, fit for civilization.”