More than 100 years since the Great War (1914- 1918) and 75 years since World War II (1939- 1945), the traumas that the Romanians and the Hungarians alike have been through during this period are still present in the collective mindset of both nations. Even if 102 years have passed since Transylvania united with Romania (01.12.1918) and it’s been a century since the decision made in Alba Iulia through the Treaty of Trianon (04.06.1920) received international recognition, we should get better acquainted with our Western neighbour for at least two reasons. 1. Hungary is a country next to ours, a country close not only from a geographical point of view, but also from an economic and cultural one. We are connected due to the presence of a significant Hungarian community, but also due to the presence of a Romanian community in Hungary which, even if smaller in number, is equally significant. 2. On the other hand, a longing for Transylvania still persists among the Hungarian public opinion and at the level of the political and cultural elites. Recovering lost territories was and still is the Red Thread of the political and diplomatic endeavours that Budapest initiated and coordinated, especially with direct regard to Romania. During the Great War (1914-1918), Romanians and Hungarians were adversaries, and the Treaty of Trianon was signed by Hungary as a losing state, while Romania signed it alongside the Entente Powers, the winning side. During the period immediately following the Treaty of Trianon, the head of the Hungarian state, admiral Miklos Horthy, self-proclaimed regent, declared Romania “enemy number one”, because Hungary raised the largest territorial claims against it and because it was the most powerful country neighbouring Hungary. To the Admiral Regent, a soldier by trade, the most important Hungarian policy regarding Romania was “armed war”. In 1921 he stated that until the right moment to attack emerged, it seems the two countries should have peaceful relations, however, Hungary had to seize every opportunity in order to continue its irredentist planning. Consequently, revising the system of the Versailles peace treaties became a constant objective of the Hungarian foreign policy.

After World War I, Romania’s position and status changed considerably – as a result of the great union of 1918 it became a middle-sized country in Europe. At the same time, Romania changed its neighbours; three of them – Hungary, Soviet Russia and Bulgaria – had territorial claims and presented themselves as enemies. As a consequence, the Kingdom of Romania, ruled by King Ferdinand, acted to defend the status quo of the territories, established in Paris, and would build a system of alliances that would serve that exact purpose – an alliance with Poland (1921) to defend itself from the USSR, and the Little Entente – with Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (1920-1921), to protect itself in case of an unprovoked attack from Hungary.

In order to accomplish its revisionist objectives, Hungary needed a powerful ally, which would concur with its own objectives – and was found in Nazi Germany. The Horty-Nazi alliance was established during the first arbitration in Vienna, on the 3rd of November 1938, that had as a result the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Hungary receives from Hitler southern Slovakia and then Ruthenia. In the summer of 1940, Romania was subjected to extraordinary pressure from two emerging military and political powers – Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union. Both countries were against the Peace Treaty in Versailles, and in both capitals – Berlin and Moscow – Hungary was encouraged in its revisionist policy against Romania. Following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and Poland, and France’s surrender, Romania, isolated militarily and politically, sides with Germany. Hence, 80 years ago, Hungary and Romania were allies, along with Nazi Germany. Even under these circumstances, Miklos Horthy kept to his policies, even partially reaching his objective – he got Northern Transylvania through the second arbitrage in Vienna, on the 30th of August 1940. The massacres in Ip and Trăsnea, and others, are very relevant to the traumas he inflicted on the Romanian people. Because of these massacres, caused by the military leadership instated by Horty’s regime in Northern Transylvania, neither King Michael, nor Marshal Ion Antonescu, as the leader of the country, recognised the arbitrages signed in Vienna on the 30th of August 1940.

Moreover, by means of King Michael’s coup d’état on the 23rd of August 1944, joining the allies, declaring war against Germany and the Romanian Armed Forces contributing to the liberation of Northern Transylvania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, Romania recovered Northern Transylvania during the peace following the war (February 10th 1947), however with great effort and sacrifice. Thirty years ago, Romania and Hungary were allies once again, as part of the Soviet socialist system, and members of the Warsaw Pact. In December 1989 they united in taking down communism and Ceaușescu’s regime. Since a civil war did not take place in Romania, Hungary focused on an interethnic war in Transylvania. Taking advantage of the fact that one year before, in 1988, interethnic conflicts broke out in Kosovo – Yugoslavia and Nagorno-Karabakh, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Budapest introduced Transylvania into this equation, motivated by the fact that the Hungarian community in Romania had been deprived of its rights. On the 20th of December 1989, the President of the Parliament and the interim President of Hungary, Matyas Szürös, stated in an interview to Radio Budapest that his country supported Transylvania’s “autonomy” and even “independence” (translation by Col. (ret) Ioan Todericiu, former Military Attaché of Romania to Budapest, 1979-1990). Relevant to this is the plea that the acting Hungarian head of state, the same Matyas Szürös, addressed to Hungarians in Romania. During the interview he gave on 15th of March 1990 to the Hungarian newspaper “Romàniai Magyar Szó” (published in issues no. 69 and 70 on 15th and 16th of March 1990 respectively, translated by Zeno Millea) he urged Hungarians to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by Romania to mobilise and organise, while he provided moral and political support, as well as that of another nature (?), highlighting that “the most important thing is that Hungarians in Transylvania make their own destiny”. Matyas Szürös stated in his interview that “this can be supported from the outside, however, it must start from the inside”, i.e.

Romania. If the “motherland” tells you, from the highest level, to get out in the street and state your claims over Transylvania, you proceed accordingly. After only five days, on the 20th of March 1990, Hungarians stormed the streets of Târgu Mureș. The reaction of the Romanians was not what they had hoped for, and the ethnic war never took place in Transylvania.

Nowadays, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn practically follows in the footsteps of his predecessors Horthy and Szürös. On this year’s anniversary of the treaty of Trianon in Hungary, during the speech delivered in Satoraljaujhely (06.06.2020) Viktor Orbàn accused the West – that is France, England, the USA and Italy – of violating the borders of Central Europe and squeezing Hungary inside borders that cannot be defended. During this speech, the Hungarian Prime Minister announced that his country was building a common future alongside Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. At the same time, he expressed his joy that Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia no longer exist. Of course, for Hungary it  is easier to discuss with Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia or directly with Slovakia. The Prime Minister’s speech makes no reference to Romania. Why this omission? Could he be regretting the fact that Transylvania is still intact and still belongs to our country? In his speech Mr. Orbàn makes another statement – that “only countries have borders, nations do not”. This can be considered correct, but then where does all this opposition against the Treaty of Trianon come from? First of all, this treaty represents the basis of existence of modern, independent and sovereign Hungary. Secondly, the treaty establishes Hungary’s state borders in its ethnic area, wherein lies the majority of the Hungarian nation. The Hungarian communities that are outside these borders live in countries where the majorities are represented by Slovakians, Serbs, Croatians, Slovenians and Romanians. It is worth mentioning that the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon was celebrated on the 4th of June 2020 in one hundred Romanian cities. In Cluj-Napoca, at about 17.30 (16.30 Paris time, when the treaty was signed in the Grand Trianon), members of the Hungarian National Council of Transylvania, of the Hungarian People’s Party of Transylvania, the Hungarian Civic Party and the Szekler National Council laid wreaths on the statue representing Matthias I (Corvinus) King of Hungary, as a “homage to those who during the past one hundred years have fought for the reunification of the Hungarian nation” (according to the local daily newspaper “Făclia”, the 05.06.2020 issue). A commemoration like the one in Romania is impossible to organise in Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, or Slovenia. And yet, Romania is left out of Budapest’s political-diplomatic construct. Relevant to this is the Visegrád Group, composed of Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland, that Romania was never invited to take part in. This attitude is in accordance with the Red Thread of Hungarian foreign policy – starting with Miklos Horthy, up to Matyas Szürös, and Jozsef Antall, and continuing with Viktor Orbán – diplomatic isolation of Romania.

It is the same today, when Hungary and Romania are once again part of the same alliances/ organizations – NATO and the European Union. Paraphrasing the old Latin saying “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes” – “Beware of the Greeks bearing gifts”, I urge my readers to replace Greeks with Hungarians, for extra precautions as to what the future may bring.

Note: The article was first published in the daily newspaper “Făclia de Cluj”, issue 9030/29 on 30th of August 2020.

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Asociația Anima Fori - Sufletul Cetății s-a născut în anul 2012 din dorința unui mic grup de oameni de condei de a-și pune aptitudinile creatoare în slujba societății și a valorilor umaniste. Dorim să inițiem proiecte cu caracter științific, cultural și social, să sprijinim tineri performeri în evoluția lor și să ne implicăm în construirea unei societăți democratice, o societate bazată pe libertatea de conștiință și de exprimare a tuturor membrilor ei. Prezenta publicație este realizată în colaborare cu Gazeta Românească.

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Asociația Anima Fori - Sufletul Cetății s-a născut în anul 2012 din dorința unui mic grup de oameni de condei de a-și pune aptitudinile creatoare în slujba societății și a valorilor umaniste. Dorim să inițiem proiecte cu caracter științific, cultural și social, să sprijinim tineri performeri în evoluția lor și să ne implicăm în construirea unei societăți democratice, o societate bazată pe libertatea de conștiință și de exprimare a tuturor membrilor ei. Prezenta publicație este realizată în colaborare cu Gazeta Românească.