Hungarians in Romania
Transylvania was neither invented by Dracula`s spiritual father Bram Stoker, nor was the region`s name born out of his creativity. Transylvania has existed for many centuries before the Dracula myth came into existence. Throughout all those years, Transylvania has almost incessantly changed ownership. Before being added to Romanian territory in the wake of WWI, it had already belonged to the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the last owner before Romania: the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The shared history with neighbouring Hungary and Austria explains why Transylvania still has a huge Hungarian and even German influence.
It leads no surprise that Transylvania`s capital Cluj-Napoca was attributed plenty of different names by all the different owners of the regions. The Romanians simply refer to it as Cluj, anybody speaking German may refer to is as Klausenburg, the Hungarians call it Kolozsv?r, all after the Romans once named it Napoca. People in the streets talk a variety of languages, with Romanian, French, English, German and Hungarian among the most frequently heard.
..defeats stereotypes by being Hungarian and at least trilingual
Cluj is nowadays the most metropolitan and multicultural city of Romania, in line with its heritage from the early 1900s. The multicultural development was halted after the Second World War, when communists wiped out all difference between the different ethnic groups. Even after the revolution, an anti-Hungarian nationalist mayor by the name of Gheorghe Funar denied Cluj`s multicultural nature. By doing so, he unintentionally discouraged international firms to invest in the region and even slowed down the economic development in the city.
Recent years have shown major improvements in the local economy and also in the relations between the Romanians and the Hungarians residing in Cluj. The Romanians and Hungarians are not the only ones to take advantage of the new situation. Cluj`s universities attract students from across Europe and beyond, while foreign investment is thriving. Within five years time, Cluj has transformed from a greyish regional capital back into the intellectual and international centre it already was a century ago. This time with newly paved streets, caf?s, shoe shops, banks and an abundant availability of any product or service one can think of.
Outside the city of Cluj Napoca, there are still some places where accounts have not yet been entirely settled. Two Romanian provinces East of Cluj, Harghita and Covasna, have a Hungarian majority that would be very much in favour of independence, even though their independent state would be surrounded by Romanian territory. Transylvania itself already has similar ambitions, and if both favours were granted, Romania would become a patchwork of countries within countries.
Whenever Alex (21) travels through areas that have a dominant Hungarian population, he hardly feels at home in his own country. `On the whole, things are OK. I have many Hungarian friends and even if they sometimes start speaking Hungarian among themselves in the presence of others, that`s still alright with me. But then, if you walk into a shop and they simply refuse to speak Romanian, that annoys me quite a bit. Or for example yesterday: I walked into a bookshop with a Hungarian owner. When I started speaking Romanian, all of a sudden I needed to leave my bag at the entrance. And we have a Hungarian king standing on the main square in the city centre of Cluj. It`s not a problem, but you wouldn`t see anything like that in another country.`
`Talking stereotypes, Hungarians seem to have a preference for the colour green and they are good at cooking goulash. They have different first names than we Romanians do, with Istvan and Arpad ranking among the most stereotypical ones. Romanian Hungarians are not known for being very strong at foreign languages, and many of them don`t even speak English.`
Bogdan (25) think that Hungarians are like Romanians, with the exception that the Hungarians `forever think that they will be taken advantage of whenever any authority takes a decision. Maybe it`s a legacy from the communist times, when they were treated as second range citizens. But so was everybody, so that shouldn`t explain the difference.` I ask him what his parents would say if he came home with a Hungarian girlfriend. He replies that they would probably not have any problem with that, as long as the girl behaves like a normal citizen without feeling prosecuted.
Mirjam (21, photo) is a clear exception to the stereotypical Romanian Hungarian: `I speak both Hungarian and Romanian fluently, but I prefer to formulate my reflections in English. Most of my education was in English, I guess that`s why. Most of my friends are actually Americans, not Romanians, but I think the lack of sympathy between Romanians and Hungarians is mostly something from the past. Maybe some old people still hate each other, but that would be on the individual level. There are many mixed couples, even though most Romanians think Hungarian is way to complicated to even try and learn it.`
`Beside the language differences, Romanians and Hungarians belong to different churches. Hungarians are mostly catholic, Romanians are mostly orthodox. The Romanians think they are more religious than we are, but I don`t really believe that. They use the church for everything, up until match making services. Much of it has little to do with religion.`
Codruta (28) is Romanian but knows a few words of Hungarian: `I don`t have a lot of access to it though. My Hungarian Romanian friends always switch to Romanian whenever I`m around, so I only get to hear it in the streets. There is something interesting about the way Romanians look at Hungarians. Romanians blame them for being too structurised, but at the same time, the Romanians from this part of the country are subject to the same prejudices from Romanians from the rest of the country. It works both ways, we in the north don`t always speak about Romanians from the South in a very flattering way. The money is made in the Western part of the country, but it is spent in the South. We obviously wonder what happens to all the money our region is contributing to the rest of the country.`
Aziz (34) is one of the approximately 1 000 Tunisians living in Cluj. The French university for Medicine and Pharmacy attracts quite some North African medicine studies. Aziz also came as a student, but ended up marrying his Hungarian Romanian wife. He now works as a business man in clothes. As a bit of an outsider to the Hungarian-Romanian struggle, he summarises the issue as follows: `Romanians in general have a lot of respect for the Hungarians. But there`s always a little hate in their respect. Hungarians are thought of as more powerful, more serious and more goal-oriented. In business, you can count on their promises, which is not necessarily the case with Romanians. Obviously, that quickly makes Hungarians thought of as rich and arrogant, especially those who are unwilling or unable to speak Romanian or otherwise insist on their non-Romanian roots.`
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