The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources
 
HTA Home Page | E-books | Europe | Cast onto the Periphery

12: Cast onto the Periphery

<< 11: Transylvania in World Politics || 13: The Fight for Freedom, the Compromise, Dualism >>


Even though we had accompanied Ferenc Rákóczi II on his final exile, we must take a step back in time. He was the last Prince of Transylvania, but the fate of Transylvania was not the stake in his, for him fatal, fight for freedom of glorious memory. Neither was it the patient Transdanubia, the devastated Great Plain or the Small Plain close to Vienna. The stake was the Felvidék and northern Hungary, which was in a peculiar position during the Turkish occupation, having an intermediate situation and taking and extorting all possible advantages of this situation. It was this area that furnished the armies of Rákóczi with a high percentage of enthusiastic and important followers.

It was never the strategy of the rising to first cleanse Transylvania of the imperials and then to continue the war by slowly advancing from east to west toward Vienna. One reason for this was that a significant part of the costs of the war had to be furnished by the Rákóczi estates, most of which were in Upper Hungary. The indications and moral basis for the rebellion, stated by Rákóczi frequently in manifestoes and also in his memoirs, were not the oppression and the yearning for freedom of the "three nations" of Transylvania, but of the entire Hungarian nation.

It has been mentioned that from the time of the conquest to the incursion of the Turks into the Carpathian Basin, it became an accepted fact that there were going to be regional divisions. Yet, Transylvania was a fundamentally Hungarian conquest and settlement area and was an organic part of the Kingdom of Hungary, founded by and incorporated into the realm under the "holy" crown. In this spirit, the separate Transylvanian principality did not originate from any internal Transylvanian demands, but were imposed by external circumstances and the consequences of the disaster of Mohács.

We must assume then that the House of Habsburg, having obtained the royal crown of Hungary—legitimately according to its own legal theories, was anxious to place Transylvania under the sway of the Crown as soon as possible. Not so. Vienna was successful in convincing Mihály Apafi II to exchange his Principality of Transylvania for a German Imperial Dukedom. Ferenc Rákóczi rejected a similar offer. When Vienna no longer had to be concerned with a Prince of Transylvania, or with pretenders for this title, it still viewed this distant province as a border buffer zone and attempted to control it as a separate entity, directly subject to the Imperial Crown. It was willing to assume the burden of a separate administration and the bother and labor of dealing with the local nobility in matters of governance and law. Thus, they could further divide and manipulate this "Eastern" nation : the Hungarians, using regional interests as a lever.

The legal bargaining soon assumed a special significance. It happened in 1711 that due to the unexpected death of his brother, Charles Habsburg, was summoned from his very shaky Spanish throne to the other end of the family empire. As king of Hungary he was Charles the Third, while as Holy Roman Emperor he was known as Charles the Fourth. He was the last male member of the previously, and again in the future, so fertile House of Habsburg (1740). Charles made early efforts to assure that the dynasty continue through its female branch. This was why he proclaimed the Pragmatica Sanctio in 1713, and had it accepted in 1722, first by the Transylvanian Estates, and then by the Hungarian ones. For the first ones, he used a trick and the Diet was not only very poorly attended but was held in the Saxon town of Nagyszeben.

One might ask why Vienna made such consistent efforts to increase its hold on Transylvania, other than the insatiable greed for additional territory which characterized the dynasty. Even though the importance of the gold and silver mines has decreased, they were still important. Even more important were the salt, copper and mercury. More important than any of these, however, was the fact the Turk still lurked beyond the "garden wall". He was a live threat. What if he again became active? His expulsion from the Balkans was inconceivable unless the flanks were properly protected. It was this strategic consideration which explains the diligence with which the Austrian Emperor—again, primarily through its military forces—protected and increased his control over Transylvania. The Empire even endeavored to expand beyond the Carpathians.

This will be beneficial for Transylvania. It is true that after having gotten used to navigate well in the ebbing and flowing waters of its dependence from the Turks, it now had to adapt to the more rigorous, closed system of a more rigidly centralized government. Its bureaucracy, trying to establish order and usually warding off arbitrary autocracy, at times was as cruel as the "barbarian" Pashas. Fortunately, in the times to come, the direction of the campaigns was being changed. The still paramount anti-Turk military maneuvers were shifted to the south and east of Transylvania, much to everybody's relief.

The ethnic composition of the population at this time was estimated to be: Hungarian 45-50%, Romanian 30-40% and Saxon 10-15%. Of these, the lower numbers were probably the more correct ones in view of the several other nationalities not included in the list. There was also a constant movement of people. Its main direction was east to west. Many settled individually in the territories vacated by the Turks. Others were transplanted from Transylvania by magnates having depopulated estates farther west. This created a vacuum, and the shortage of people in Transylvania was being replenished by the entry of Romanians from beyond the Carpathians. This migration was both spontaneous and organized and further shifted the ethnic balance.

Protestantism remained strong and the rights of the Protestants were always an important issue in the political bargaining with Vienna. A new element was that the previously forcefully Catholicising Vienna now was trying to convert the Greek Orthodox Romanian population to the more "intermediate" Greek Catholic Church. It made many promises to the clergy and offered privileges withheld from the Orthodox priests. These obvious attempts of assimilation and the Pravoslav reaction with its nationalistic overtones was the source of conflicts, lasting to this day, and involving areas beyond those inhabited by Romanians, such as the Ukraine and Eastern Slovakia.

It is of considerable interest, beyond its purely technical considerations, that the Transylvanians of the 18th century took advantage of the favorable geographic and hydrographic conditions and used the water-wheel not only for milling grain, crushing ores and driving lumber mills, but for many other purposes as well. The altitude and the hard winters limited the ingenious use of water-power to seasonal use.

Even though local mining and smelting made iron readily available, the water-driven machines were largely constructed of wood with minimal iron reinforcements. The Transylvanians, but primarily the Székely men, were masters of all wood working and carpentry and are so even to this day. Mastery of wood working obviously had no ethnic limitations, but it was axiomatic that the Székely way of thinking, their inventiveness and cleverness were frequently manifested in the development of complicated gadgetry. Today, when we are so concerned with man's exploitation of his nurturing environment, we seek for the historic roots of ecological thinking, of the recognition of the problem and of endeavors to correct it. Newer studies have found rich source material for these issues in the old Székely village ordinances. It is worthwhile to quote from the 1733 village ordinances of Papolcs in County Háromszék: "Since our stream, which gives us life, is usually small during the summer, in consideration thereof, nobody dare dispose of any household dirt, dung and, particularly dead animals in or near said water. The furriers and tanners shall not soak any hides nor pelts nor hemp above or below the village in the running water. Not above or in the village for fear of dirtying the drinking water and not below the village for fear that the substances placed into the stream to soak may dam up the flow and produce floods to the great detriment of the people. Hemp soaking ponds may be established in certain locations by anybody, but nobody dare establish such ponds to the hazard and detriment of the village, its, roads, mills etc."

This rather attractively worded ordinance testifies not only to the fact that the Székely village recognized its dependence on nature and tried to prevent its pollution, but also that the peasant population realized that ordinances for the common good could be codified internally by the village community.

It is of interest to the writer that a similar conscientious, responsible local codification took place in the early 1600s in his native area, in the small boroughs and villages of the grape-growing and wine producing Tokaj-Hegyalja district. These ordinances dealt primarily with property matters, inheritance, acquisition of new property and economic matters -- trade, lease, taxation—that is with the relationships between man and man, rather than with issues between man and nature.

When now—toward the middle of the century—it became obvious that there was no possibility for a Rákóczi restoration with or without Turkish assistance, and no chance for the re-establishment of a Transylvanian principality, the attempts of Charles Habsburg to have the Pragmatica Sanctio accepted became very reasonable. In the absence of a male heir, he was followed on several of his thrones by his daughter, Maria Theresa (1740-1780). >From a Hungarian perspective, her reign was a mixed blessing. Sometimes it was beneficial, sometimes it was harmful.

The evident economic upturn and the lasting agricultural prosperity, which was very beneficial to Hungary, seems to have stopped at the western borders of Transylvania. Here the agricultural opportunities were slimmer, the distances were great and the modern methods of agriculture developed only gradually. The growth of the cities and the urbanization of the population, so noticeable in the past, had slowed down. There was insufficient economic backing for it. The commerce and industrial production improved to some degree only when the Romanian principalities beyond the Carpathians gained strength and became important markets.

It was during the 30s and 40s of this century that the national ideas and trends of the numerically and educationally improving Transylvanian Romanians appeared. This group, which representing a third of the population, wished to have itself accepted as the fourth Transylvanian nation. It wanted the appropriate rights and privileges, if for no other reason, than by ancient rights. It was in this period that the hypothesis of the Daco-Roman Continuity appeared. It will cause much debate and even more controversy.

Its founding father was the leading bishop of the Unitus, meaning those united to Rome—i.e. the Greek Catholics, one Inochentie Nicu-Klein (1635). This young, dynamic and educated prelate, who was a clever tactician, was relying on the promises made and benefits granted by Leopold I to the Unitus. Even though these were religious concessions, he wanted to use them to give all Romanians, including the peasants a new standing in law. In doing so, he would also gather in the Orthodox. Vienna slowly and carefully makes concessions to him for the reason—which he did not appreciate—that these concessions were made at the cost of the other Transylvanian people and particularly at the cost of the Hungarian nobility.

The fact that the raising of these novel Romanian national interests were intertwined with the interests of the peasantry and with the emphasis on the backward state of the mountain shepherds and of the peasant-serfs gave it its real significance. Nicu-Klein linked their case to the entirely different kinds of priorities and endeavors of the other Romanian classes and also to the manifold, colorful mythical threads of the ideological theories of Romanian national identity. At the famous and often cited Balázsfalva Assembly, which he called together in 1644, even though it was nominally a religious synod, it was the practical, rather than the ideological side of the issues which came to the fore. Actually it may be misleading to call this synod-assembly practical, when it declared that the active participation of the people may be highly commendable, but at this time it was not yet realistic?

Paradoxically, the greatest and most damaging opposition to these early Romanian national aspiration came not from Vienna or from the other opposed nationalities, but from the Orthodox counterattack against the spreading Greek Catholicism. This Orthodox resistance was fomented partly by the Serbs, but more forcefully by Russian religious and political interests. Austria still needed Russian support in the War of the Austrian Succession, which was due to the Pragmatica Sanctio being far from universal acceptance. For this reason, Vienna temporarily stopped supporting "their" Unitus and made concessions to the Orthodox Romanians. The latter, wishing to be helpful, became even less supportive of the burgeoning Romanian national ideas. Later on the role of the two religious denominations was reversed. Inochontie Nicu-Klein himself, after much persecution found asylum in the Vatican and observed from there the atrophy of his initiatives and of the respect that he once held.

Beyond the mid-point of Maria Theresa's rule, the generals of the Austrian army gained increased prominence; it can be said that Transylvania became the testing ground of an overt military dictatorship. The whole system of border protection was reorganized. Of the newly recruited border forces, half were Romanian. Service was very onerous and thus—as Vienna had hoped—few volunteered. Yet, for the Romanians in the army, it first promised and then meant social advancement and led for the first time to the public education of their children.

The Székelys, who were the "born border guards", were very pleased to learn about the reorganization of the service, provided this would lead to the re-establishment of the so often curtailed and reduced Székely military and border guard privileges. They wanted to serve in their own units and under the command of Székely officers. The proposal by the Austrian militarists, namely forced enlistments, foreign regulations and foreign commanders, may have been beneficial for the Romanian peasant-serfs, but induced the majority of the free Székelys to escape. Whereto? They withdrew to their mountains and forests. When the unhappy Székelys of County Csík assembled in Madéfalva, a certain General Siskovics interpreted this as an uprising and surrounded them with his troops at dawn on January 7, 1764. It was not a fight. It takes two to make a fight. What happened was a massacre that left several hundred dead. The Madéfalva tragedy was a blow to the entire Székely community from which it has never fully recovered. They have gone through many perils, but it was Madéfalva that made the "People of Prince Csaba" realize their depressing historic defenselessness.

The events of Madéfalva left tragic traces not only in the Székely national soul. They also increased the emigration which again and greatly replenished the Hungarian and Székely settlements in Bukovina. These Moldavian Csángó and Bukovine Székely settlements had a most sorrowful fate, and some of them subsist in heart-rending misery to this day.

The distance separating Transylvania economically from Central Europe and even from the western parts of Hungary was less noticeable in the cultural arena. The linkage systems in intellectual and scholarly life functioned, even though at times under considerable difficulties. The Protestants maintained their contacts with their traditional Western European partners. Transylvanian students continued to study at foreign universities. Transylvanian educators maintained an active correspondence with the colleagues they had met during their study years. The Saxons who created a separate German culture in Transylvania were a true, albeit peripheral, part of German culture. The international nature of the Catholic religious orders was strengthened by the Counter Reformation, and was well recognized. The Romanians were necessarily somewhat in the rear of the cultural mainstream, and it was primarily the Unitus priesthood that had the opportunity for more information. A number of them had studied in Rome. The linkage of the Orthodox priesthood to Greece and Russia was—contrary to the views and writings of Romanian historians—a negative influence. On the other hand, the number of well trained Romanians achieving official positions in Transylvania continued to grow, and their further advancement and options were determined by their position, and not by their nationality.

The decades of Maria Theresa—and even more so the years of Joseph II (1780-1790)—were characterized by a Germanizing trend and by a centralized, rational government. It is a paradox that in Transylvania this centralization, with its merciless unification and more advanced and thus more intrusive administration, was most damaging to the Saxons since they had established and maintained an autonomy that was inevitably curbed by centralization. The new administration reaching out to the individual, clearly made any concerted societal activity much more difficult. The Romanians were the greatest beneficiaries. Central control diminished the chances of their being exploited, and public education decreased their lagging behind.

In 1711, the Peace of Szatmár referred to it, in 1740 Maria Theresa -- under duress—confirmed it. Transylvania was part of the Hungarian Crown, directly as a principality. We have seen, however, that Vienna tended to separate the administration of Transylvania and it was only during the last years of Maria Theresa's reign that the pendulum began to swing back toward administrative unification. The customs barrier between Transylvania and Hungary was eliminated by Joseph II, and it was this action that again made the Carpathian Basin into an economic unit after a long period of time. Being on the periphery was beneficial to Transylvania—and to northern Hungary—at this time. Vienna, in order to protect Austrian and Moravian industry actively prevented the development of manufactories west of the Lajta, which would convert a cottage industry into a mass production industry. At the periphery, the local officials could tacitly condone such developments, or they may have proceeded covertly.

Maria Theresa and Joseph repeatedly tried to regulate socage and serfdom itself. This was being made very difficult by the stubborn resistance of the nobles and by the bureaucracy and inexperience of their own administrative apparatus. In spite of the enormous differences in their personality—the mother had empathy and patience, the son was forceful and impatient—the results achieved by both were inconclusive. Also, the further from the Centrum from where the imperial urging and mandates came, the greater the public resistance and the splintering and fading of the original intent of the mandates.

Joseph II and Josephinism are as suitable to a novel as they are to history. His almost utopian, enlightened absolutism was overshadowed even for the few Hungarians advanced enough to understand it, by the fact that the "Uncrowned king" (the King in the Hat) considered progressiveness to be purely Germanic. He alloyed progress with a comprehensive Germanization but gave it a fatal blow with the retractions he made on his deathbed. He suffered one of his painful disappointments in Transylvania.

What was it that triggered the bloody Horea serf rebellion of 1784? While the Court wished to curb the excesses of the landowners by regulating the burden of the serfs, locally there was a complicated system of tacit agreements, so that unification and better record keeping actually increased the burdens in some areas and "cast them in concrete". In matters affecting the serfs, those affected equated regulation with liberation. It could easily be viewed as a sign of weakness, and became the source of further demands. At the same time, a new and poorly executed recruiting effort further agitated Romanian public opinion. They expected opportunities and privileges from the enlistments that the recruiters had not actually promised. The whip and the club landed on the masters who were naturally Hungarian, although not necessarily to the seventh generation. It is probably not justified to highlight this rebellion over other similar popular uprisings, except perhaps for the violence and counter-violence of some of its excesses, such as the forceful marriage of Hungarian noble maidens by Romanian "suitors". These gave it wider renown than would be deserved either by the numbers involved, or by the geographic extent of the rebellion. Its origins were actually more societal than national.

One of the first acts of Leopold II (1790-1792) on his succession to Joseph II, was to swing the pendulum in the other direction, and once again separate Transylvania from Hungary. It succeeded only partially, even though the endeavor was not totally opposed even in Transylvania. The Protestants were concerned that in case of a union, their rights would be curtailed. The Saxons and the Székelys were opposed for similar reasons. In the meantime -- and even though Joseph II's death did not end Josephinism which was a synonym for practical absolutism—the Estates requested that the Transylvanian Diet be called into session.

It not only met, but passed a number of acts. "The Transylvania Diet began its work on December 21, 1790. Its minutes are frighteningly voluminous and its additional documentation fills a freight car, documenting that it had indeed very much to do. The scribes could barely keep up with the memoranda, petitions and supplications all of which were filled with complaints, offenses and, naturally, demands. The documents of the Diet can very clearly tell the modern reader exactly where Transylvania stood in relation to the general European developments, what it was that the literate people of this small country could absorb from the general storehouse of enlightenment and the directions -- political, economic and intellectual—in which it tried to move. Among the papers we find the famous Supplex Libellus Valachorum in which the Transylvanian Romanians requested that they be acknowledged as the fourth nation and be given autonomy as a recognized Estate." (Samu Benkő)

The sessions lasted well into the new year, and made many decisions and submissions but, in the end, achieved very little. Making our language the official one took a step forward with the decision that the minutes of the Diet be kept in Hungarian. The rights of the serfs and of the Orthodox had been enlarged. A proposal was made for the establishment of the Association for the Propagation of the Hungarian Language in Transylvania, which assumed the nature of an academy when it started its activities three years later.

The Supplex Libellus Valachorum, which was prepared by a large but still not completely known circle of Romanian priests and other intellectuals, based the Romanian demands it contains both on the Theory of Daco-Roman Continuity as its ideological-historic argument, and on the popular majority of the Romanians in Transylvania as its concrete demographic and statistical argument. There is nothing we can do with the former one, but the latter one cannot be denied. At this time the Romanians represented the largest ethnic group in Transylvania. Yet, they were the last, both in their legal and in their economic status. In order for them to change this, the differences between the Unitus and the Orthodox had to be reduced.

The answer of the Estates was that regardless of their serfdom, nobility or other status and regardless of their ethnicity, all inhabitants of Transylvania had the same rights. What else could one want? It cannot be denied that this "slippery" argument haunts even today, for instance, in the Romanian rejection of the national and minority demands of the Transylvanian Hungarians. The argument of the Estates continued by saying that the problem of the Romanians was not lack of liberty, but lack of education. This should not be considered an insult. Particularly not when we consider that the Transylvanian Hungarians, noting the narrowness of their own legal and political perspectives, made great efforts to improve their educational opportunities. The first permanent home of Hungarian theatrical performances was opened in Kolozsvár in 1821. The strong links with Europe were also demonstrated by the rapid spread of Freemasonry. Its principles started to spread in 1742, first to the Saxon cities, and then to the circles of the Hungarian leading classes.

The functioning of the Freemason lodges over the next decades was first banned, then tolerated and finally almost supported. We may even assume that the strange Joseph II himself was granted membership. Not so. He wrote in a letter of instruction: "Previously and in other countries the Freemasons were punished and their meetings in the lodges were disrupted only because they were not familiar with their secrets. Even though these secrets are unknown to me as well, it is enough for me to know that these freemason lodges have done much good for friendship, for the relief of want and for education. I hereby order, that even though their by-laws and discussions remain unknown to me, they be granted the protection of the State and that their meetings be permitted as long as they continue to act beneficiently. This is more than was done for them at any time and in any other country." The conditions laid down subsequently were fairly strict, but there is no doubt that the permission, quoted above, was liberal and elegant.

Those organizations which were devoted to the propagation of the Hungarian language, scholarship, public education and literature were less fortunate, even though they were not surrounded by the secrecy of freemasonry. The suspicions of the authorities were not without some foundation. For instance, in the Diana Hunting Society, organized in 1794 by the noble reform groups, there was less talk about the very popular hunts in Transylvania than about agrarian problems and about the importance of an interchange in social activities between the lesser, middle and highest nobility. This was also the time when the effects of the Hungarian Jacobin movement became evident in Transylvania. It was fortunate for the Transylvanians that these effects were not due to a direct association, but rather just to the indirect, intellectual transmission of ideas.

The Habsburg Empire of Francis I (1792-1835) was slowly eroded by the enormous external forces weighing on it. It was during his reign that his aunt, Marie Antoinette, was beheaded in Paris. Yet later he had to give his daughter to Napoleon, who not only was the principal beneficiary of the blood-soaked French revolution, but was an upstart and a divorced man. This happened only three years before the Little Corsican looses the fateful battle of Leipzig, and only five years before the battle of Waterloo put an end to his brief return to power. Thus, the Austrian self-debasement accomplished very little. These few lines suggest that at this time the important events took place far from Transylvania. Francis I, as King of Hungary, shifted back and forth. His inclination was toward a show of force, such as the execution of the leaders of the tragic Hungarian Jacobin movement. Yet, he needed Hungarian soldiers and Hungarian money so much, that he was willing to make certain concessions.

Bright stars appeared at this time in the heavens above Transylvania. About the turn of the century a lesser noble youth walked home all the way from Gőttingen. It was the mathematician Farkas Bolyai (1775-1856) who kept up a correspondence with his former student friend, Karl Friedrich Gauss, who was later known as the prince of mathematicians.

In 1819, the Székely Sándor Kőrősi Csoma (1784-1842), looking for the ancient home of the Hungarians, started out toward the East, also on foot. He reached Tibet and having suffered deprivations that would have done justice to a fakir, he gathered linguistic material and wrote the first Tibetan grammar and the first Tibetan-English dictionary.

The son of Farkas, János Bolyai, born in 1802 (1802-1860), was a military engineer and mathematician. In parallel with the above mentioned Gauss and the Russian genius Nikolai Ivanovics Lobachevski, and far outstripping the traditional mathematical thinking, he worked out the non-Euclidean "complete" or "absolute geometry" of which Euclidean geometry was only a special facet. Avoiding the unrewarding arguments about precedence, one must admit the originality and the great individual contributions of the three men. One must mention, however, that in his notes János Bolyai almost fully recognized the general theory of relativity which evolved from non-Euclidean geometry, but which was only fully developed, and published, by Einstein. In this, Bolyai was far ahead of his times.

Kőrősi Csoma and the younger Bolyai were two Transylvanian geniuses in touch with the science of their days, but who labored much more in isolation than their more fortunate western contemporaries, and who produced such intellectual achievements under such unfavorable conditions that it can be compared only to the lustrous pearl born from the sufferings of a wounded oyster.

Transylvania had not suffered the direct ravages of war for a long time. Epidemics were less frequent, public health was improving. The population increased rapidly, but the Saxons and the Hungarians, less likely to become urbanized, fell behind. The Romanians forged ahead. The region was agriculturally not self-sufficient. The cereals used in baking were imported from the Banate and from the Great Hungarian Plain. They were paid for primarily in wool and in the products of the mines. It is of interest that it was still under Maria Theresa's maternal rule that the potato was introduced into Transylvania. Its wide distribution was forcefully demanded by the central administration wishing to benefit the people. At the same time, corn, which very rapidly became an enormously important component in the nutrition of the people of Transylvania and quite particularly among the Romanians, was discouraged as being detrimental to the productivity of the lands producing cereal grasses.

The 19th century entered its second quarter. It was the beginning of the Reform Age, which will resound with the debate between the more careful and remote István Széchenyi and the more radical and trouble making Lajos Kossuth. This reached Transylvania in its relative isolation, even though one of the greatest figures of this age, Miklós Wesselényi, was more of a mentor to Széchenyi than a companion or follower. In the west, the large and powerful middle nobility played an important role in the age, which was actively seeking the advancement of the bourgeoisie. Transylvania was a step behind in this as well and here the enlightened highest nobles set the tone. Yet, at the same time, the county delegates in Transylvania were recruited from a much broader base than in Hungary.

The Reform Age was deeply entangled in the language question. Its leaders had distanced themselves from Latin and had rejected German. They identified the use of the Hungarian language with the national aspirations and this raised significant opposition among the national minorities, not any more against the Austrian-German language, but against the Hungarian language and the national aspirations it represented. In addition, the religious issues also raised their head. Austria was almost entirely Catholic, while Hungary showed a much more colorful religious map. The issue of religious freedom was quite different in Hungary, where Hungarians following different religions lived together, than in Transylvania, where the religions followed ethnic dividing lines. In Transylvania, anyone speaking up for equal rights for the Greek Orthodox religion—as many counties had done—involuntariliy but clearly strengthened the national pride and national identification of the Transylvanian Romanians. This, in turn, led to major contradictions, the effects of which did not become manifest until 1848-1849, and came to a peak after 1918.

The Transylvanian intellectuals were becoming increasingly better informed. The new models came from further away, and included western European Protestantism and the societal and economic changes it brought. The models also included the English middle-class, industrial developments and the French enlightenment and revolution. These intellectuals had made a few study tours to the United States, and came back with the highest hopes about the rosy picture of American democracy as applied to Transylvania. They forgot the circumstances of America's birth as a nation, and its very different historic-societal origins.

Sándor Bőlőni Farkas (1795-1842) resembled Kőrősi Csoma physically so much that they could have been taken for twins. He crossed the Atlantic in 1831-1832 and published his Travel in North America in 1834. He described his experiences and he was the first one to make available in Hungarian the entire text of the Declaration of Independence and other papers of state and documents of freedom.

Among Hungarians, but particularly in Transylvania, Bőlőni's work was the Bible of the intellectual and political elite for many years. Having the work officially condemned added to its popularity. Let us not forget, however, that among the readers we find the Romanian intellectuals, who spoke Hungarian, and there were many of these. This book meant liberty for them as well. Needless to say, Bőlőni was a friend and associate of Miklós Wesselényi. It was characteristic of the moment that the newly recovering Transylvanian spirit made Vienna see the specter of another Romanian popular uprising. It was a schizophrenic situation. The Court was simultaneously trembling because of these events and was also inciting the Romanians since it was scared even more of Hungarian separatism. Yet—as far as tactics were concerned—the immediate Hungarian aim was no more than an internal structural reorganization of the Habsburg Empire.

Everywhere that timely reforms are forcefully prevented, it is axiomatic that when the changes come anyway, they will be full of unexpected conflicts. Much more threatening to the Reform Age was the revision of the serf system as a first step toward complete abolition which, while very complex was also inevitable. The land reform made antagonists of the nobles and the serfs. The reform illuminated their condition and made it more difficult for the serfs to avail themselves of the centuries-old, routine escape hatches and secret transitions to freedom. When reforms are mandated by the State, one can be certain that the State was going to be the principal beneficiary.

This is very interesting, since those of us who were taught an almost mechanistic development of history and an evolution of human rights from slavery through feudalism to a bourgeois, capitalistic society were amazed to find that the supposedly rigid class society was actually quite flexible. The serf had many opportunities for both individual and family happiness, and had many "special pathways" that were hardly special, and affected very large groups of individuals.

Another matter that was fraught with contradictions and that was very much in the forefront of public concern at this time—somewhat differently in Hungary than in Transylvania—was the issue of the county system. This system simultaneously gave a refuge to the conservative elements of the noble classes and opportunities to the reform party. It could serve both the centralist tendencies of the Court and the Hungarian drive for autonomy. It was increasingly less suitable for the recognition and resolution of minority interests.

Yet another controversy arose from the developments in public education. While increasingly large numbers, including minorities, were provided with middle and higher education, many fewer achieved the opportunities, livelihoods and offices that they had hoped for. Among both the Hungarians and the minorities there was an abundance of intellectuals, but in different proportions. There was a real irony in all this. The educated and fundamentally politically oriented multitude, which was also the victim of discrimination, lacking other employment, became a willing participant in a revolution.

In the meantime, in Pest-Buda, Pozsony, and other centers, law students had a major role in the preparation of the 1848-49 events. Sometimes far from home, these young Romanian, Slovakian, Serb, Croatian, Ruthenian and other university graduates gathered in coffee houses and other societies, established newspapers and prepared to free their own—potential—nation from the icy grip of the Habsburg empire. Many of them saw their adversary not in Vienna, but in Buda, Kolozsvár, and Pozsony. They did not—at least not yet—contemplate a complete separation from Vienna, but rather some internal reforms which would liberate them not so much from Habsburg oppression, but from the much more intimately experienced Hungarian supremacy.

This relative abundance of intellectuals affected the most advanced society in Transylvania, the Saxons as well. Their own particular dilemma was that while they were interested in liberalization because of their bourgeois status and because of their economic interests, their fear of the Hungarians—and more immediately of the official use of the Hungarian language—drove them away from their national interests toward the conservative, centralizing Vienna. At the same time, their greatest concern was the increasing numerical preponderance of the Romanians, which began to appear in the Saxon lands as well.

At the beginning of 1846, the national uprising of the Galician Polish nobility against the Tsarist regime was drowned in blood by the local peasantry. This led to two very different interpretations. In Vienna it meant that this was a good example and a potential highway to the future; In Buda, among the Hungarian nobility, it meant that the aspirations of the serfs had to be supported from above, since otherwise the Galician example represented a major threat.


<< 11: Transylvania in World Politics || 13: The Fight for Freedom, the Compromise, Dualism >>