Romanian‑Hungarian Relations in Interwar Sociology
„We are young: the postwar era youth. For us the great cataclysm of mankind was just a childhood memory, born in the historic change occurred along with the formation of our consciousness. […] We are Transylvanian Hungarian youth and since we became a national minority we did not make our voice heard. […] Today’s youth are faced with all the Transylvanian Hungarians’ problems, together with that huge responsibility: the Hungarians in Transylvania will be just like their youth and will go on as their youth will find a way to go on.1
These words gleaned from the editorial are written in the first number of January 1930 of the magazine Erdélyi Fiatalok (The Transylvanian Youth) from Cluj‑Napoca, which was meant to be a mouthpiece of the new generation of Transylvanian Hungarians.2 That new generation of young people who supported a new attitude of the Hungarian population in Transylvania: to accept the status of ethnic minority after World War I, to adapt to the new state of affairs, which originally the Hungarians considered to be extremely painful but temporary. This new generation of intellectuals who lived through ‘the Great War’ as school children began to manifest as a compact group in the late Twenties, firmly formulating the need to confront the new realities and to build new ideals, in accordance with these realities.
Therefore, the magazine was founded in January 1930, in a time when the Hungarian community in Transylvania encountered a serious problem of generations: the loss of a generation of specialists trained before the war, in the Austro‑Hungarian Empire, whose place was not taken by professionals, as the Hungarian sociologists’ training was virtually nonexistent. Since the ’30s, this void begun to fill, but with young people with less theoretical training, a new generation of specialists that were not satisfied with the abstract social theories, but – due to a movement that swept many countries in Europe ‑ acted as representatives of a sociographic vision on this subject.3
The vision of these young people on the new world where the Transylvanian Hungarians must live, seen in an apocalyptic light by the representatives of the „old generation” from which the Transylvanian Youth are firmly delimited, is accurately described by László Dezső, editor in chief of the magazine, in the same first number of Erdélyi Fiatalok of January 1930:
„A healthy ideology, that is born despite the injuries suffered by the Transylvanian Hungarians, is about to rise. In this article and throughout our magazine we struggle to create and spread this ideology full of energy and vitality. […] The last four or five years made the Transylvania Hungarian youth become self‑ aware and awake the consciousness of its people fate. Their bewilderment is a natural state. They are the first Hungarian minority youth. They have no one to teach them, they must learn by themselves. […] If they wanted to be loyal to the values instilled in school, they had to leave Transylvania or to enter an eternal conflict, without horizon with the new empire. The youth of the first part of the Twenties have mostly chosen the first pathway. Today we are aware that this was not a healthy solution. […] We later realized that for us there is only one way: to stay home, in minority, preparing us to consciously serve the fate of Transylvanian Hungarians. […] But this ideology would be misleading if it concerned only the Hungarians themselves, failing to consider the other people who live with them in Transylvania and in the same country, if it ignored the current political and constitutional situation. Not to accept the situation of minority and oppose the existing state and legal order would be an attempt on the life of the Hungarian community.”4
Even in this first article signed by the magazine’s editor in chief we can see the direction in which this new generation of Transylvanian Hungarians wishes to direct attention: to the „neglected Hungarian village”. This new generation was mostly made of Hungarian students from universities of Cluj‑Napoca, in a continuously growing number since 1924‑1925, after for several years after the Great War, the Hungarian youth ‑ become minority in Transylvania ‑ would not conceive to enroll in higher education institutions in Romania, preferring to be educated in Budapest or in the West. However, those who came back home had problems in validating these studies by the Romanian authorities.
The Transylvanian youth continually stress the need to combine the „social and national work” through a thorough knowledge of the problems that „require urgent solutions and account for all our social concerns and all the errors of the national life” 5. The first steps in this direction were made by attempts to identify this problem before the magazine publication: the Szekler Society youth organization with youth organizations of Hungarian religious cults: Dávid Ferenc Association (Unitarian), Christian Youth Association (Reformed) and the Youth Department of the Catholic Popular Union (Roman Catholic) made up sociographic questionnaires in 1929. The questionnaires divided the village life into groups of economic, cultural, medical and other questions.
However, the work to educate masses, carried out in villages by members of the Dávid Ferenc Association at the initiative of the young Unitarian priest Balázs Ferenc had a greater scale. These folk conferences of religious, social and literacy nature were attended by 200 young people from 21 villages in the Cristuru Secuiesc area. The traveling library institution was established, the villages were supplied with film projection equipment.
The Transylvanian youth draw inspiration not only from fellow predecessors, but also – especially – from the Hungarian progressive movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which had already covered a large portion of this way of „turning over to the village” in the second half of the Twenties. One of these movements was Miklós Bartha Society in Hungary, and with regard to the Hungarian young people in Slovakia – also affected by the trauma of transition from the majority nation status to that of minority community –, Mikó Imre, one of the Cluj‑Napoca magazine editors finds that they had recovered much faster than their Transylvanian generation colleagues.
„Miraculously, the Hungarian youth in Slovakia ‑ which were probably the most oppressed of the Hungarians young people that became minority ‑ had recovered the fastest. Awareness of the new political conditions also led to the awareness that new frontiers give only a new political division to the Hungarians in the Danube Basin, without dismantling the secular communion that linked Hungarians in Slovakia to the mother country throughout history. The wish for this national unity is the motivation that urges the young Hungarians in Slovakia to perform a full reassessment of our culture in crisis and to search for new resources. Therefore, the starting point of the Hungarian youth in Slovakia was to build a relationship as close as possible with the people. They tried to teach the people and to learn from the people.”6
In the second number of Erdélyi Fiatalok, of February 1930, Péterffy Jenő – one of the magazine founders – calls for action, condemning the passivity of a lost decade in terms of the Hungarian community.
„After the Transylvanian Hungarians cut off from the mother country accepted that it would be useless to try to throw obstacles in the will of fate, and that there is no point in waiting with arms crossed for the fate to improve, began to move from passivity to activity. The illusions in the eyes of the educated youth began to disappear, the same became aware that the new Hungarian youth have new duties: to create a new existence, staying here, knowing the situation here, arming with all the necessary tools to become the elite of their people, leading the people to a future worthy of its past. We may consider the school year 1924‑1925 a turning point, because this is when large numbers of Hungarian youth enrolled for the first time at the Romanian University of Cluj.”7
Echoes of publication of the new magazine in the Hungarian press in Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia do not delay to appear. The editors of Erdélyi Fiatalok review these echoes – some positive, some negative – among which there are: „In number 3/1930 of Erdélyi Helikon the reformed bishop Makkai Sándor addresses us warm words, encouragements”. „In number 3/1930 of Korunk Bolyai Zoltán of Aiud believes that our lyricism is unhealthy, unrealistic and unhistorical”. „The number 4/1930 of Kálvinista világ joyfully announces our publication”. „The Hungarian public may learn from the newspaper Magyar Hírlap about the publication of our magazine through Szentimrei Jenő’s article that accurately renders our main thoughts”. „The Hungarian Reformed Youth gives us a collegial hand through Csanády József’s article in the 7th number of the magazine A Magyar Református Diákmozgalom. „The magazine of the Hungarian youth in Czechoslovakia, Mi lapunk, announces with heartfelt joy the publication of our magazine on this common stage, in the March number of this year.”8
The Romanian press of the time generally perceived the Transylvanian youth’s activity with sympathy. Number I/1933 of Erdélyi Fiatalok includes an unsigned article about the Village Books published by the editorial staff of Erdélyi Fiatalok in the Romanian environment. Reference is made to Ion Costea’s article in the magazine Patria9, where the author notes with satisfaction that in recent years there has emerged a generation of Hungarian intellectuals who seek to join the Greater Romania’s Transylvanian society, overpassing the trauma of losing the dominant nation status.10
We can see the absolutely positive perception of the members of the Sociological School of Bucharest led by Professor Dimitrie Gusti on the Transylvanian Youth movement, particularly in the light of articles published in the Sociologie românească (Romanian Sociology) magazine, between 1936‑1938, signed by young Romanian sociologists who spoke Hungarian, as Transylvanian people: Octavian Neamtu, Anton Golopentia, Traian Herseni. In Neamtu’s article, „Road to Villages of the Hungarian Youth” from the very first number of the Romanian Sociology, he draws from „the Hungarian example” major conclusions for the Romanian university students, saying that the Hungarian youth embraced Gusti’s sociological system as a working method to achieve their aspirations.
„In our opinion, what should be considered particularly exemplary for the entire Romanian intellectual stratum and in the first place for the university students, what we deem as an urging reprimand is the endless striving for the nation, which is proven by the road to villages of the Hungarian Transylvania youth. Neglected by the official circles of Budapest and by the Transylvanian oligarchy, left alone, merely with books full of revolt […], the Hungarian youth managed to learn from others’ example and after carefully looking into the movement around Professor Gusti, took everything likely to be used for their national and political purposes. Wealthy now, by the knowledge of a scientific working method, they go on with the national defense and spiritual assertion, their road to villages […]. Thus, they embrace, before having passed through every corner of our intellectuality, the sociological thinking system of the Bucharest School and the ethical and social conception of Professor Gusti, also taking all the social and political consequences.”11
Neamţu also draws attention to the gaps posed by the village movement of the Transylvanian Hungarian youth, however showing a lot of tolerance to such gaps.
„It is still far from the results gained by the institutions from which it takes theoretical and practical guidance. But we must not forget that it is a new movement, which is just beginning to be organized and which has just stated its scientific foundations and social ideals. As it appears now, this movement of the Transylvanian Hungarian youth contains some encouraging things and others that must be a severe reprimand to our university students.”12
Ideological conflicts between the Hungarian progressive youth in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Hungarian official policy in all these countries – a prominent revisionist policy, especially in Hungary ‑ were common in those years. Erdélyi Fiatalok tells about an incident that happened in Budapest in March 1930, when the Association „Sarló” („Sickle”) of the Hungarian students from Czechoslovakia wanted to deposit a wreath on March 15, at the statue of poet Petőfi Sándor from Budapest. The wreath had ribbons with the Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Czech, Croatian, Serbian tricolor, and a red ribbon. The student organizations from Budapest reacted vehemently against this intention and – at their insistence – the Hungarian police asked the representatives of „Sarló” association to abandon their intention. Thus, the wreath was eventually deposited on the tomb of the forty‑ eighter revolutionary Táncsics Mihály. The Hungarian students protested at a meeting against the „outrageous attempt”, a query was made in the Hungarian Parliament where the „Sarló” members were labeled as „opportunistic race traitors” and the organization was called the „exponent of Czechoslovak official foreign policy”13.
The first number of Erdélyi Fiatalok entirely devoted to village issues is that of June 1930. The articles have the same common message: the only chance of the Transylvanian Hungarians to „reinvent” themselves after the situation created by the peace treaties following the First World War is to find connections with the village.
„In Transylvania it is fashionable to talk about the village, both in the social, cultural and especially in the economic field. But we are not judging by fashion, but we try to turn over to the village. In agrarian peoples, development and better future are linked to a better life for farmers and for us this is all the more true as the Transylvanian Hungarians are almost exclusively made of peasants. […] Therefore, we can say without exaggeration that all roads lead to villages.”14
The same special number of the magazine contains the sociographic questionnaire made up by the Transylvanian Youth in order to be used by students who wish to participate in the contest initiated by the magazine. The stated goal of the contest in which any Hungarian student from Romania may participate – in compliance with the rules – was to create a „picture” of the Transylvanian Hungarian village, through a sociographic analysis based on data collection and processing.15
An important step in the organization of the rural work of the Transylvania Youth was the establishment of the Village Workshop which would operate near the editorial staff of Erdélyi Fiatalok. The establishment of the Transylvanian Youth Village Workshop is announced through a press release appeared in number 7/1930 of the magazine.
„Today, the village issue is in the spotlight throughout the world. The youth of all countries deal with this problem, our Romanian brothers and Transylvanian Saxons, as our Hungarians brothers from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Transylvanian Hungarian youth cannot be omitted from this work. The economic basis of Hungarians in Romania is the Hungarian village. The economic situation of all Hungarians in Romania will be identical to the economic situation of the village. […] The editorial staff of Erdélyi Fiatalok decided to establish a new body for systematization of the rural work, and this body is the Transylvanian Youth Village Workshop.”16
In February 1931 general ethnography and folklore classes were given in the Village Workshop. „This gave the start of the actual rural work of our youth” ‑ notes the editorial staff. It is significant for the orientation of the Transylvanian youth to the Romanian sociology and mainly that represented by the sociological school in Bucharest led by Dimitrie Gusti, that the theme of the first course was „Spiritual work of the Romanian youth”, taught by Demeter Béla, director of the recently established Village Workshop.17
The Transylvanian Youth group, based in Cluj‑ Napoca, establishes sub‑editorial offices, working groups in Odorheiu Secuiesc, Bucharest and Timisoara. „The establishment of the sub‑editorial staff in Bucharest will boost the national connections of our magazine” – editors hopes.18 The sub‑editorial staff in Timisoara, founded immediately after that in Bucharest, intended to establish connections between young intellectuals and the workers in Timisoara, carrying out a sociographic work among them, using questionnaires and preparing the ground for rural work in the Hungarian municipalities of Banat. The first contacts were established with the Hungarian youth in the workers’ district Blascovici, aspects of this work were presented at a meeting held on September 10, 1931. „It is worth noting that this initiative gave rise to the first meeting of the Transylvanian Youth with the Hungarian youth workers; these contacts will also be extended to Fratelia, the workers’ district of Timisoara.”19
Another article reports with disappointment about the work of the working group of Odorhei of the Transylvanian Youth. „We were many at first, but few remained in the practical rural work” – the author of the article notes bitterly. „We do not mean it as a reproach, but it should give us food for thought about the future. Many young students do not realize that the village problem is a vital issue for the Hungarian youth: if the village lives, the Hungarians in Transylvania live too. If the village dies, our future, of the youth, will die too.”20
The Transylvanian youth must also face Hungarian nationalism charges from Romanian circles. In the reply published in the magazine, the editor in chief of Erdélyi Fiatalok, László Dezső, rejects the charges made by Professor Onisifor Ghibu against the Transylvanian Youth. These charges appear in the nine‑volume collection entitled „An Anachronism and a Challenge: The Transylvanian Roman Catholic State. Historical and Legal Study” of Onisifor Ghibu published by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, the Historical and Legal Commission studying the problem of the Transylvanian Roman Catholic State. The Transylvanian Youth are mentioned in Chapter IX of the third volume of the paper; Ghibu says that the Transylvanian Youth are „the most dangerous of all youth movements under the guidance of the Roman Catholic State, fierce supporters of Transylvania’s separation from Romania”. The editor in chief of Erdélyi Fiatalok rejects these charges by arguing that the work and ideology of Transylvanian Youth are in clear opposition to the „fashionable” irredentism in the official Hungarian policy. László Dezső states that the mere fact that the Transylvanian Youth refer to the need for cultural autonomy of the Székely Land – autonomy guaranteed, as the editor in chief of the magazine says, by peace treaties – demonstrates a clear distance from the rhetoric of Budapest officials who wanted to review such treaties and to change borders. The author recalls that the Transylvanian Youth were accused by the Hungarian right‑wing party precisely of collaboration with the Romanians, claiming at some point that the magazine is financed by Romanian circles. Another charge made by Professor Ghibu is that Erdélyi Fiatalok is an official magazine of the Hungarian Party – unfounded accusation, in the opinion of the editor in chief, considering the stated apolitical nature of the Transylvanian Youth. „We were the ones who strongly stated ‑ despite the charges from many Hungarians ‑ that we must live in this country accepting our fate of minority people” – points out László Dezső. He is convinced that Professor Ghibu’s allegations come from ignorance, and advocates for a closer relationship between the Hungarian and the Romanian community for a better understanding and elimination of such false opinions. 21
Another unexpected attack against the Transylvanian Youth, come from Romanian circles otherwise non‑hostile, is resumed in the first number of 1934 of Erdélyi Fiatalok. Biró Sándor tells in the magazine about an event organized by the Astra Cultural Association in Cluj‑Napoca, on March 7, 1934. During the event, Professor Ioan Chinezu – which is said to be known by the Hungarian community in Transylvania for his work performed for the rapprochement between Hungary and Romania by publishing papers on the Transylvanian Hungarian literature after 1918 – had a presentation entitled „The Cultural Life of Minorities in Transylvania”. Biró reports that the Hungarians – not few in number – who wanted to be present at the event, listened with amazement as Professor Ioan Chinezu said about the Transylvanian Youth movement that it was „an afremath of the chauvinistic and Magyarized program before the World War of the Hungarian Cultural Association in Transylvania (EMKE)”, that, according to Chinezu, „tried to prevent the cultural development of Romanians in Transylvania during the empire, with the support of the Hungarian state”, and that „did everything possible to forcibly Magyarize the minorities at that time”.22 The author of the article wonders: what was the opinion about Professor Chinezu’s allegations of the Romanians attending the event that wrote about the Transylvanian Youth in the Romanian magazines Patria, Ardealul, Curentul or Universul words of praise for the obvious intentions of the Hungarian youth to approach the youth of the Romanian majority population. Biró Sándor believes that this „distorted image” that was presented by Chinezu is due to „adverse weather conditions”, that is, to the political circumstances of the time. The author recalls the reproaches come precisely from a part of the Hungarians, addressed to the Transylvanian Youth, because they openly preached the need for rapprochement of the Hungarian and Romanian youth, the need for cultural exchanges between the two peoples.
The first „cracks” in the Transylvanian Youth group appear in 1933, in the 4th year of issue, with the structural changes that occurred then, mainly due to increasingly pressing financial problems: the monthly magazine Erdélyi Fiatalok becomes quarterly. In the early years it appeared ten times a year (monthly, except July and August), with some gaps in the regular issue, especially due to the financial problems that the editorial staff was faced with. In fact, there are many references to these problems, usually in the context of the global financial crisis, references accompanied by many repeated entreaties to readers, subscribers, to pay their financial obligations to the publisher. At the same time, there is announced the exclusion from the founders of two names that marked the first three years of issue of the magazine Péterffy Jenő and Demeter János. The first failed to comply with the editorial staff’s decision not to allow its members to conduct political activities, and the second published defamatory statements in the pages of another magazine, Falvak Népe, against the Transylvanian Youth. Bányai‑ Baumgarten László’s withdrawal from the Transylvanian Youth is also regretfully announced.23
Starting with 1935 a new magazine is issued, addressing the same audience as Erdélyi Fiatalok, with Venczel József among its initiators, a prominent figure of the Transylvanian Youth: Hitel (Credit). Disagreements arise between the Transylvanian Youth and the new group, between Venczel József and the editor in chief of Erdélyi Fiatalok, László Dezső, materializing in an exchange of reciprocal „strikes” in articles published in both magazines. Venczel reproaches the Hungarian intellectual youth – also including himself here – the lack of planned, scientific work towards the village research, considering that the Transylvanian Hungarian society is described only through „superficial, journalistic reports”. In reply László Dezső accuses Venczel of ill‑will and/or ignorance.24
The schisms within the Transylvanian Youth group still leave traces in the pages of Erdélyi Fiatalok: in number I/1936, year VII of publication, the editor in chief László Dezső explains the reasons for „divorce” of the group of Hungarian intellectuals youth from Cluj – mostly former editors of Erdélyi Fiatalok, including Venczel József, Vita Sándor or Kekkel Béla – who founded the Hitel magazine. Apparently, the conflict is generated by the dissatisfaction of some young editors of Erdélyi Fiatalok caused by the magazine policy not to publish literature. Then, László Dezső proposed to issue an independent literary supplement of Erdélyi Fiatalok with its own editorial policy, but the proposal was not accepted, thus the bimonthly magazine Hitel appeared from January 1935. But it survived only six months, then it was closed for financial reasons, being restarted in 1936 as a quarterly magazine, with Albrecht Dezső as editor in chief.
Despite the fact that the enthusiasm of the first years of the Transylvanian Youth ended after 1933, the magazine still publishes articles on the rural work of student teams led by Professor Dimitrie Gusti (then Minister of Education and Culture). Such a broader article, signed by Jancsó Béla, appeared in the number of the 2nd quarter of 1933. The author notes that from the beginning, the Transylvanian Youth followed carefully the activity of the sociological school from Bucharest, expressing their admiration and respect for the Romanian students’ activity. Jancsó Béla also makes some conclusions that the Transylvanian Youth and other Hungarian students concerned about the fate of the Transylvanian village should take into account. „The organization of these trips was not an easy job, as it is the joint work of 50‑70 people for six weeks in one place. This could be achieved only with a lot of solidarity and discipline”25 – the author draws attention. Regarding his own rural work, Jancsó Béla notes disappointed that, in comparison with that of Gusti’s student teams, it fades.
„How meager are the so‑called results of our rural work! And we complain in vain by saying: it is easy for them, with help from the state! Formal support provides only the framework, but we must do the work, by the sweat of our brows! And they did this work! In so many years we have not passed the phase of lamentations, envy, baseness and religious division to give ampleness to the rural work, to be able to work with aplomb for the theoretical preparation of such work, for data collection and processing, for the propagation of need for this activity! … We are ashamed, we are very ashamed. And for good reason: our minority status would demand us more work, and we fail to do for our villages not even as the majority people do for their villages” – Jancsó concludes.26
References to the research conducted in the Romanian villages continue throughout the publication of the Erdélyi Fiatalok magazine. (Except in the last two years of publication, 1939 and 1940.) In no. 3 of 1935 we find an article about the rural work of the Transylvanian Romanians Astra society. The author, Szász István, believes that in Romania – an essentially agrarian country – the village issue is particularly important, and this was achieved by the political and civil parties of the time, starting with the left and far‑right movements, representing the ideology of the Cuza‑Goga government and the Iron Guard. The author recalls the two Romanian apolitical movements of village research: the rural work of the student teams led by Professor Dimitrie Gusti from Bucharest and that of the Transylvanian Astra cultural society, considering that the Hungarian intellectual youth in Transylvania should follow Astra’s model. Professor Julius Haţieganu, president of Astra branch, is quoted, speaking of the cultural centers established by Astra in over 20 villages. „An intensive work is carried out in the Romanian villages. The same in the Saxon ones. Only the Hungarian intelligentsia fails to establish a living relationship with the population of Hungarian villages in Transylvania” – Szász draws the conclusions.27
The same idea of the organic relationship between the Romanian youth and the Romanian village is continued by Váró György in the article published in the first number of 1936 of Erdélyi Fiatalok. Váró notes that the Romanian intelligentsia did not separate to such an extent from the people of Romanian villages as happened in other nations, especially the Hungarians. „Almost always, the Romanian literature has been focused on the Romanian village and the Romanian scholar felt close to peasants; there is no need to come down to the village when dealing with the village”28 – says the author, giving the example of the extensive village research work carried out with the participation of a great number of students under Professor Gusti’s guidance, at „Prince Charles” Royal Cultural Foundation. „Since 1934, the foundation operates in three main directions: study of the village situation, coordination of cultural centers’ work and cultural development of the village by various publications, books. During these campaigns, the teammates carry out monographs of the villages studied, analyze their health, economic and cultural condition, collect folk songs, legends, etc. All this information is included in tables, graphic schemes, statistics with which anyone can have a clear picture of the village life, from infant mortality to church attendance and land data”29 – Váró lists the royal teams’ achievements, considering that the Romanian youth carry out a serious, conscious and constructive work for the Romanian village development. „Romanians are focused on villages, for whose support they put forth substantial efforts. We should take example from them” – Váró György concludes.
About the rural work carried out by the student teams coordinated by Professor Gusti through „Prince Charles” Royal Cultural Foundation, Pálffy Károly writes in high praise in the number of quarter III‑IV of 1936. In the article called „Moral Aspects of the Minority Folk Education” Pálffy considers this activity of the Romanian students as the most significant of all the Romanian movements of village knowledge. „The way in which the Foundation operates under Professor Gusti’s leadership in order to achieve the purpose of being aware of the reality is a model that we, the Transylvanian Youth, must follow, with the same burning love and vocation which they manifest. Without these things, our work to educate people will remain superficial and ineffective” – Pálffy says.30
The Romanian students’ rural work under Professor Gusti’s guidance is also carefully followed in the pages of Hitel. In number 4/1935 of the magazine, there is an article signed by Nagy Géza, describing the monographic campaign under the auspices of „Prince Charles” Royal Foundation in 1934. „Work was started by royal word and the same word announced the purpose: 1. to do something in the interest of the village and its people, 2. to show the youth, through the rural work, the healthy way to discharge one’s energy.”31
An important episode in the relationship between representatives of the sociological School of Gusti and the generation of young Hungarian intellectuals from Hungary, interested in villages and national self‑awareness through villages, is the visit of writers Németh László, Keresztury Dezső and Boldizsár Iván from Budapest in the Romanian capital, on the coast of the Black Sea and in Transylvania. The visit ‑ which also included objectives related to the monographic movement of the Romanian Social Institute and Prince Charles Cultural Foundation led by Professor Gusti – had a great echo due to L. Németh’s essay, published in its critical magazine Tanú (The Witness). The press from Budapest attacked him with unusual vehemence, not because Németh had found words of praise for Gusti and his young collaborators, but because he criticized very harshly the Hungarian elite and intellectuals from Transylvania. In the magazine Romanian Sociology number 9/1936, Octavian Neamţu publishes a paper entitled „Hungarian Travelers in Romania”, showing the readers the publishing echoes in Hungary of the three writers’ journey in Romania.32 The Romanian sociologist brings into question the known concept of László Németh that „the Hungarians, by their spreading over the whole land from Prague to Lemberg and the Black Sea had to carry and reset the great political, economic and spiritual composition of Danubian States, connected by the same unifying ideal of peasant life lived in freedom and fraternity, in which race is a source of creation, not division”. Neamţu stresses that in order to achieve this ideal, the Hungarians „must take upon themselves the wandering fate of those doomed to spread everywhere and to all the people the living principles, ideas and plans of work, living not only as Hungarians but as people connecting the other nations on the Danube.”33 But – disappointment – Hungarians do not live such thoughts. „And their life is wasted and goes off without the ascent of strain for a great ideal.”
But Neamţu believes that the Hungarian writers have discovered something else in Transylvania, beside the Hungarians’ weakness and indifference to the great ideals which would be assigned to them. Namely, the power of life of the young Romanian people. „For Németh, the most important fact of the Romanian spiritual life and work of building a new Romania is the monographic movement of the Romanian Social Institute and the practical action of Prince Charles Cultural Foundation, through the Student Teams” – believes Neamţu, who quotes Németh, fascinated by the discipline of the Romanian youth rural work, which he knew in the company of monographers and among the student teams. The visit of the three writers from Budapest is also reflected in the magazine Erdélyi Fiatalok: in number IV of 1935 Jancsó Béla says he does not wish to enter into such polemics, but he also disagrees with the conclusions drawn by Németh in his essay, that the Hungarians in Transylvania are doomed because they lack the will to live.
„I think there are big gaps in demonstrating this thesis and I would like them to be reconsidered”34 – Jancsó says, bringing as arguments the works of Transylvanian Hungarian writers and personalities of the time, such as the poet Reményik Sándor, the reformed bishop Makkai Sándor or the Unitarian priest Balázs Ferenc. In the first number of Erdélyi Fiatalok, from 1937, two reviews are published35 (also resumed by the Romanian Sociology – founded by Professor Dimitrie Gusti in 1936 – through Bakk Péter, a sociology student in Bucharest, at that time a sort of bridge between the Transylvanian Youth and Gusti School). The reviews concern two volumes published in Budapest, of the writer Illyés Gyula and of the sociologist Szabó Zoltán. The well‑known book of Illyés, Puszták népe (People of the Puszta) describes the hard life of the Hungarian steppe inhabitants. This population of about 3 million people of the rural Hungary, located mainly on the lower Tisza, lives a life of deprivation, being threatened by the emergence of modern means of work, agricultural machinery, which gradually make their work useless. Another volume presented here is Szabó Zoltán’s, A tardi helyzet (The Situation at Tard) – a monograph of the Tard village in northeastern Hungary, Borsod county. Szabó’s conclusion is the same as that of Illyés: the Hungarian peasants’ fate is not better than it was in the days of serfdom, before appropriation.
The same volumes are also presented in Hitel no. 3/1936, in Kéki Béla’s article entitled „Metamorphisis Transylvaniae”. The author criticizes the Transylvanian Youth movement ‑ but without naming it ‑ because for many years in the Transylvanian Hungarian intellectuals’ circles there has been much talk about the village issue, but too little has been done. „The uninitiated may think that our students are armed with valuable knowledge in this area, attending lectures and reading volumes of the European renowned sociologist Dimitrie Gusti. At first glance, I was headed in terms of both identification and processing of village problems. The truth is, however, that during this time there has been no work that would describe the life of our villages on the bank of Calata or at the foot of Harghita. We needed volumes from abroad, from Hungary, to make the village research a burning need for us” – Kéki Béla opines. The same shows in addition to the two said volumes and the study published by the working community members for the village study of the student hostel Pro Christo of Budapest A village about to disappear in Pannonia. The Life of Kemse Village (Elsüllyedt falu a Dunántúlon. Kemse község élete). Kéki believes that this latter volume provides the „the darkest, most hopeless” portrait of the village of 140 souls in Baranya county in western Hungary, where social dismantling of the village reached alarming levels, and the habit of having one child became „a deadly plague”. The author of the article in Hitel raises the question: how many Hungarian villages in Transylvania have the same fate as the village of Tard? „We still do not have the answer to this question” – concludes Kéki, reminding – as an exception to the rule – the research campaign in the village of Babiu in the folk area Calata (currently the county of Salaj), in the summer of 1936, attended by students at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Cluj. „The Hungarians students from Cluj prepared last year for the rural work, in several groups, but the authorities failed to give their approval, therefore Professor Gusti’s intervention was required in order to finally receive such approval” 36 – we find out from Hitel. The campaign from Babiu was attended by 23 young people led by the linguist Szabó T. Attila and guided by the writer‑architect Kós Károly, rehabilitating a rural road of about a kilometer, along with the research work: data collection of local history, public health, folklore, folk art. Dimitrie Gusti’s personality is increasingly evoked in the pages of Erdélyi Fiatalok and Hitel, with his recognition as the ultimate scientific authority in the village monograph. Number I/1937, year VIII. of Erdélyi Fiatalok related about Professor Dimitrie Gusti’s anniversary of 25 years in higher education, event organized at the University of Bucharest; the Transylvanian Youth also paid tribute to the famous scientist. „The village research done by Professor Gusti by methods introduced by the same serves universal interests, comprehensive in the analysis of the social situation of all mankind, with particular importance and creating a sociological school of global importance” – believes the author of the article from Erdélyi Fiatalok. A few pages later, it reports about another event occurred in Bucharest, about the personality of Professor Dimitrie Gusti: the meeting of the members of „Koós Ferenc” Club of Hungarians from Bucharest and the acclaimed scientist.
„Six years after the start of the Transylvanian Youth Village Workshop another important step was made in the rural work. „Koós Ferenc” Club of Hungarians from Bucharest organized a training seminar for the Hungarian students in the capital in order to familiarize them with the worldwide known monograph system of Professor Gusti. […] The event held on February 4, 1937 was also attended by Professor Gusti, along with the Assistant Professor Henrich [Henry] H. Stahl and the inspectors Oktavian [Octavian] Neamţu and Anton Golopenţian [Golopenţia]. The Club celebrated Dimitrie Gusti in the warmest way, celebrating twenty five years of professorship. […] Gusti expressed his sincere gratitude for the warm welcome and joyfully noted the conscientious and devoted participation of the Hungarian youth in the rural work activity of royal teams. He expressed his belief that these two nations that have lived and will continue to live together for centuries – Romanians and Hungarians – will get along and work together’
– is written in the pages of Erdélyi Fiatalok.37
The collaboration between members of the sociological school of Bucharest and the Transylvanian Youth continues in the spring of 1937 with the participation of Hungarian youth in the training courses of the Romanian royal teams, organized in Stăneşti, county of Muscel by „Prince Charles” Royal Cultural Foundation, in March and April 1937. The two courses lasting two weeks were attended by Váró György, Haáz Ferenc and Hegyi István from the Transylvanian Youth and by Bakk Péter from the „Kós Ferenc” Club of Hungarians from Bucharest. „The courses had 68 students, including four Hungarians. We left Bucharest on April 15, we arrived at Stăneşti after a half a day’s journey by bus. When we arrived there, the course leader, H. Stahl made a brief introduction, presenting the work plan and asking young people to abstain from politics during the course, because this would prevent the joint work. Particularly he welcomed us, the Hungarians, expressing in warm words his joy of seeing our desire to know their work and to participate in such work”38 – the young Hungarians describe the welcome given at Stăneşti. Regarding the course, it took place – according to their story – in total discipline and order, „almost military‑like”.
„We were divided in groups of ten people; each group had a leader responsible for coordinating work in his group. The daily schedule was as follows. After waking up at 6 a.m., setting up exercises and washing in the river, then breakfast and flying the flag of the camp. The commander presented the agenda, listening the group leaders’ report on what happened on the previous day. Before lunch we performed practical work – tree planting, ground leveling, water well digging, road repair – or we collected folk data. When it rained, we attended theoretical courses, which were normally held between 3 and 6 p.m. After that, until dinner we spent time on trips, games and choir rehearsals. After dinner, recreational and educational programs were organized for villagers, on which occasion the village people could meet the teammates, thus, the latter had the chance to gather various statistical data” – the Transylvanian Youth describe their participation in the student teams’ training courses at Stăneşti. The author of the article (unsigned) believes that the Romanian youth „take seriously the village issue and conduct very conscientiously the research work of the Romanian village based on the already established method of Professor Dimitrie Gusti”.
In number III/1937 of Erdélyi Fiatalok Jancsó Béla – prominent member of the Transylvanian Youth movement – shows the basic principles of the Romanian students’activity, led by Professor Gusti: 1. The village has the right to culture (it is not a charitable act, but an obligation to work to raise the village, from the total 18 million population of Romania, 13 million people live in rural areas, in the country’s 15.200 communes), 2. Village should not be given another culture, but must be helped to be able to create its own culture (it is not a mere transmission of knowledge, but people’s awareness on the need to develop their own specific culture), 3. Culture is not a finite collection of general information that can be applied in any environment in the same way (the Romanian village needs a culture appropriate to its needs, that is, a regional culture, which can be achieved only by knowledge of the country with monographic methods) and 4. It takes a complete culture, a culture that is both a culture of health, labor, intellect and spirit. Jancsó believes that all these ideas laying the foundations of the rural work carried out by Gusti’s student teams can be found in the work of Balázs Ferenc, the Unitarian priest who achieved in the Cheia village near Turda a model of development through his own efforts of the Hungarian village in Transylvania; he was also a prominent member of the Transylvanian Youth movement. The author of the article emphasizes that Gusti’s monographic research method ‑ repeatedly described in the pages of Erdélyi Fiatalok – makes it possible to identify the specific needs of the village, which are going to be met by working in villages. Jancsó sees in the cultural centers’ system introduced by Gusti an instrument to coagulate „all the creative forces” of the rural intelligentsia and the village awareness elements, in order to form a living working environment, acting coordinately in order to meet the needs of the rural population. „The so‑called royal teams prepare the ground, partly by monographic research work, partly by example, for setting up the cultural center of the village. After establishing this village cultural center, the independent work can be started through this organ which, based on the main principles set out above, will be able to carry out a specific cultural creative activity. The cultural centers are supervised and coordinated by the „Prince Charles” Royal Foundation, but they have a high degree of autonomy in their work”39 – Jancsó notes, reminding that in 1937, Romania had 1818 such cultural centers (189 in Oltenia, 412 in Wallachia, 100 in Dobrogea, 354 in Moldova, 544 in Bessarabia, 33 in Bukovina, 107 in Transylvania, 49 in Banat, 32 in Maramureş and Crişana). By comparison, 640 cultural centers were established in 1934, in 1935 their number increased to 1310, and in 1936 to 1689. The author concludes that the rural work performed under Professor Gusti’s guidance has a paramount importance for the development of the Romanian village, considering that the Hungarian minority in Romania should follow the same path in trying to develop their own rural communities
– „Gusti’s system may be the most direct path of our community confrontation with the problem of minority and of the deepest understanding of such problem” – says Jancsó Béla.
The internal conflicts within the Transylvanian Youth group become increasingly visible to the readers of Erdélyi Fiatalok: in number II. of 1937, the editorial staff reflects on the centrifugal tendencies within the Transylvanian Hungarian youth, started in 1933 with the exclusion or voluntary departure from the Transylvanian Youth of some „Marxists” members of the editors, such as Demeter János, Bányai‑Baumgarten László and others, continuing with the „right‑wing dissidence” of Hitel founders – Venczel József, Makkai László etc. The said article talks about the attempts to restore unity within the Transylvanian Hungarian youth; the author claims that Erdélyi Fiatalok has always done everything possible to maintain such unity. „Our democratic liberalism, which is above all ideologies, was attacked from two directions: from the new Catholicism and from Marxism. In the autumn of 1932 these two dogmatic camps rose against each other and both against us, against our democratic thinking, with no dogma” 40 – shows the author of the unsigned article. The same draws attention to the futility of the conciliatory attempts of the writer Tamási Áron, considering that the „youth in action” front demanded by Tamás (materialized in October 1937 by the Meeting of Târgu Mureş) merely accentuated the differences between the three camps identified by the author – Hitel, Marxists and Erdélyi Fiatalok –, since nobody outside the Transylvanian Youth recognized that these three categories are fighting each other. Balogh Edgár ‑ the Hungarian journalist exiled from Czechoslovakia in 1935, the founder of the „Sarló” („Sickle”) movement of the Hungarian youth in Slovakia – had a similar attempt, calling for the establishment of a so‑called „parliament of the Transylvania youth”, also doomed to failure as the Transylvanian youth believe.
The conflicts between different groups of Hungarian intellectuals in the Transylvania of the Thirties reach their peak with the organization in 1937 of the Meeting from Târgu Mureş of representatives of various movements by an initiative committee which included among others the writer Tamási Áron and the publicist Balogh Edgár. The young Transylvanians did not attend the works carried out in Târgu Mureş during 2 to 4 October 1937 of this „Transylvanian Hungarian youth parliament”, considering that the invitation of „extremist Marxists” to the meeting legitimates this movement that the representatives of Erdélyi Fiatalok believes harmful for the Transylvanian public life. „Our presence at the Meeting from Târgu Mureş would have legitimized the undemocratic organization of the event but also the extremist Marxists’ movement”41 – the editorial staff of Erdélyi Fiatalok explains in a press release the decision taken by the Transylvanian Youth. No. III/1937, year VIII of the magazine publishes a critical article of the Meeting from Târgu Mureş, attended by 187 delegates. The Transylvanian Youth criticize from a national‑Christian platform the cooptation of „extremist Marxists” in the new movement, considering that this did not achieve the original intention to bring workers’ representatives among the young Transylvanian Hungarians active in the public life, but mimicked it, and the left‑wing organization Madosz and its leader Nagy István – invited to the Meeting from Târgu Mureş – do not represent this class.
„Legitimate representatives of left‑wing youth, members of the Social Democratic Party and trade unions were not invited to the Meeting from Târgu Mureş” – organizers are accused by the Transylvanian Youth. The editorial staff Erdélyi Fiatalok concludes that the unity created at the Meeting from Târgu Mureş is only a surface, unprincipled unity. The Transylvanian Youth also criticize the „chameleonism” of Hitel, that agreed to shake hands with the „Marxist publicist” Balogh Edgár – initiator of the Meeting from Târgu Mureş – which not long ago labeled them as fascists. The Transylvanian Youth also contest Balogh Edgár’s moral right – known as a former prominent member of the „Sarló” („Sickle”) organization of young Hungarians in Slovakia ‑ expelled by the Czechoslovak authorities and established only two years earlier in Transylvania, of calling to unity the Hungarian youth from Romania. As for the final text of the decisions taken at the Meeting from Târgu Mureş, the Transylvanian Youth note that „although the extreme left Marxist ideas have not been adopted in these decisions, the left extremism soldiers have infiltrated among us. The Trojan horse was introduced in the city.”42
The last two years of publication of Erdélyi Fiatalok no longer contain references to the monographic concerns of the Transylvanian Youth group, which became increasingly isolated after its self‑exclusion from the „youth parliament” held in October 1937 in Târgu Mureş. As such, between 1938 and 1940, Dimitrie Gusti’s name or any information about the sociological school of Bucharest is no longer shown in the magazine, not even in the promulgation by King Carol II of the Social Service Law in 1938, in which the work done voluntarily by the student teams – with the royal dictatorship establishment – became mandatory for all graduates of universities and high schools, and the suspension of this law, a year later, due to infiltration of legionnaire activists among the teammates. The magazine ceases to appear after no. 2 in 1940, although in the previous number (1/1940) the editorial staff announced the entry into the second decade (11th year) of publication of Erdélyi Fiatalok, also promising to return from the quarterly to the monthly publication.43 The substantial reduction in the influence of the Transylvanian Youth group – split and increasingly isolated – in the Transylvanian Hungarian public life and the well‑known historical events – Vienna Dictate, whereby the Hungarians temporarily regained the status of „dominant nation” in Northern Transylvania – led however to the disappearance of Erdélyi Fiatalok and of the Transylvanian Youth movement. But the seed was planted: Gusti’s school left deep marks on the thinking and concepts of the progressive Hungarian intellectual elite of the interwar period; such influence also affected indirectly the Transylvanian Hungarian society as a whole. This is also the belief of Octavian Neamţu, expressed in the pages of the Romanian Sociology:
„The penetration of Professor Gusti’s sociological thinking system and of the sociological monographic method in the Transylvanian Hungarian scientific world can only have good consequences, both in the knowledge of the Romanian national land and in the scientific connections between the Hungarian minority and the Romanian scientific world. And we also believe that the action of knowing the Transylvanian social reality will also have consequences in the political mentality of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania”44.
1. Erdélyi Fiatalok editorial, I: 1, January 1930, pp. 1‑2.
2. According to the masthead the magazine founders are: editor in chief: László Dezső, editors: Balázs Ferenc, Biró Sándor, Debreczeni László, Demeter János, Jancsó Béla, Jancsó Elemér, László József, Péterffy Jenő.
3. Balázs Sándor, Szociológia és nemzetiségi önismeret. A Gusti‑iskola és a romániai magyar szociográfia. Editura Politică, Bucureşti, 1979.
4. László Dezső, Az erdélyi magyar ifjúság lelki arca, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 1, January 1930, pp. 3‑5.
5. Demeter János, Az erdélyi magyar ifjúság kapcsolatai a néppel, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 1, January 1930, pp. 5‑8.
6. Mikó Imre, Úttörő fiatalok. Szlovenszkó magyar ifjúságának munkája a Vetés tükrében, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 1, January 1930, pp. 12‑14.
7. Péterffy Jenő, Az erdélyi magyar ifjúság jövője, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 2, February 1930, pp. 18‑19.
8. Hogyan fogadták az Erdélyi Fiatalokat?, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 3, March 1930, pp. 43‑44.
9. Ion Costea, A New Generation of Hungarians in Transylvania?, in Patria, no. 38, 19 February 1933.
10. Új Magyar Nemzedék Erdélyben? Fiatal erdélyi román vélemény az Erdélyi Fiatalokról, a falumunkánkról, és Mikó Imre falufüzetéről, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, IV: 1, 1933, pp. 33‑34.
11. O. Neamţu, Drumul spre sate al tineretului maghiar, in Sociologie românească, no. 1‑2, 1936.
13. Nemzetgyalázás vagy fajszeretet?, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 4, April 1930, pp. 62‑63.
14. Demeter János, Vissza a faluba, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 6, June 1930, p. 81.
15. Hogyan tanulmányozzam a falu életét?, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 6, June 1930, pp. 91‑94.
16. Magyar főiskolások, lépjetek be az Erdélyi Fiatalok faluszeminári‑ umába!, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, I: 8, November 1930, p. 125.
17. Erdélyi Fiatalok, II: 3, March 1931, p. 64.
18. László Dezső, Falumunka, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, II: 2, February 1931, p. 39.
19. Tóth Zoltán, Az Erdélyi Fiatalok munkája Temesváron, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, II: 8‑10, November – December 1931, p. 153.
20. Miklós György, Az Erdélyi Fiatalok udvarhelyi csoportjának falu‑ tanulmányozása, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, II: 8‑10, November – December 1931, p. 160.
21. László Dezső, Ghibu O. professzor könyve és az Erdélyi Fiatalok, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, III: 1‑2, January – February 1932, pp. 3‑10.
22. Biró Sándor, Az erdélyi kisebbségek kulturális élete, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, V: I, 1934, pp. 30‑31.
23. Erdélyi Fiatalok, IV: 1, 1933, p. 37.
24. László Dezső, Rosszindulat vagy tudatlanság?, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VI: 1, 1935, pp. 20‑22.
25. Gusti professzor és tanítványainak falumunkája, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, IV: 2, 1933, pp. 46‑49.
27. Szász István, Az Astra falumunkája, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VI: 3, 1935, pp. 99‑100.
29. Váró György, Román falumunka. Hogyan dolgoztak és milyen ered‑ ményeket értek el a diák‑munkacsapatok?, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VII: 1, pp. 25‑30.
30. Pálffy Károly, A kisebbségi népnevelés erkölcsi vonatkozásai, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VII: 3‑4, 1936, p. 90.
31. Nagy Géza, A román falumunka, in Hitel, I: 4, 1935, p. 7.
32. Octavian Neamţu, Hungarian Travelers in Romania. Documents, In Sociologie românească, no. 9, 1936, pp. 24‑30.
34. Jancsó Béla, Ahogy lehet, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VI: 4, 1935, pp. 109‑110.
35. Két kiáltás, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VIII: 1, 1937, pp. 7‑8.
36. Kéki Béla, Metamorphisis Transylvaniae, in Hitel, no. 3, 1936, pp. 241‑245.
37. Főiskolás élet. Gusti professzor ünneplése a Koós Ferenc‑körben, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VIII: 1, p. 12.
38. Falumunka. Magyar fiúk a Stăneşti‑i tanfolyamon, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VIII: 2, p. 21.
40. Az ifjúsági parlament kérdéséhez, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VIII: 2, 1937, p. 19.
41. A Vásárhelyi Találkozó, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VIII: 3, 1937, pp. 12‑15.
42. Az Erdélyi Fiatalok szerkesztőségének válasza a Vásárhelyi Találkozó előkészítő bizottságának nyilatkozatára, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, VIII: 3, 1937, pp. 15‑18.
43. Tizenegyedik évfolyamunk elé, in Erdélyi Fiatalok, XI: 1, 1940, p. 2.
44. O. Neamţu, Drumul spre sate al tineretului maghiar, in Sociologie românească, no. 1‑2, 1936.
- Semnal editorial: Martin Ladislau Salamon, “Un aliat uitat. Relatiile româno‑maghiare în sociologia interbelică”
- Problematica satului la intelighentia maghiara a Ardealului interbelic
- „Stiinta natiunii” a lui Dimitrie Gusti – un model pentru Tinerii ardeleni
- The Relations Between the Romanian and the Hungarian Sociologists in the Interwar Period
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