Vol 1, No 22
22 November 1999

L E T T E R S:
Re: A Hungarian University in Transylvania

Dr R Rautiu

Having read the article "A Hungarian University in Transylvania" by Catherine Lovatt, I would like to point out some inaccuracies in her comments.

Ms Lovatt writes:

"The Babes Bolyai University in Cluj Napoca/Kolosvar, Romania, was established as a Hungarian University at the time of the Magyarisation policy. In 1959, it was closed by the Communists in response to the 1956 anti-Communist Hungarian revolution. Today, Hungarians in Romania are campaigning for the re-opening of a Hungarian University."

The history of the University of Cluj/Kolozsvar (name correction)/Klausenburg is somehow muddled and incorrect. In 1776, Empress Maria Theresa created a German University, not a Hungarian one, and, later, during the reign of Joseph II, it became a Latin Lyceum.

It was only in 1872 that the language of instruction within the University of Klausenburg/Kolozsvar became Hungarian, and Hungarian only, despite both German and Romanian protests. This is actually an effect of the Ausgleich, after which, the decision was made establishing Hungarian as the official language in the Hungarian-controlled half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Up to that point, Latin was the official language of the chancellery.

After WWI, the University of Cluj, falling within the Romanian state, was modelled on the University of Strasbourg, and instruction was given in both languages. Of course, during the WWII, when parts of Transylvania reverted to Hungary, the Romanian part of the University was relocated (to Sibiu and Timisoara).

In 1945, the Hungarian Bolyai University was created, and, in 1948, the Romanian Victor Babes University was formed. Those two institutions were merged in 1959 under the name of Babes-Bolyai, and instruction was given in both languages, Hungarian and Romanian, although both academic communities suffered under Communism.

Even at the height of the Communist regime, it was possible to receive instruction in Hungarian at universities in Cluj/Kolozsvar and Marosvasarhely/Targu Mures in subjects as diverse as Hungarian literature, medicine and drama. The new charters of the Babes-Bolyai University of 1991 and 1995, both point to the multi-cultural aspect of the University, where Hungarian, German and Romanian have all been the official the languages of instruction ever since.

Furthermore, Ms Lovatt writes:

"Until September of this year (1999), Hungarian demands had more or less been ignored as the Education Law did not allow minority groups to be taught in their own language within the Higher Education system."

This is again a misrepresentation and totally false, because the instruction at present is in Hungarian, as well as German and Romanian. Out of the eighteen faculties (departments) of Babes-Bolyai, thirteen presently integrate Hungarian instruction, and nine integrate German instruction with Romanian. Two faculties, those of Protestant Theology and Roman-Catholic Theology, offer programmes entirely in Hungarian.

Babes-Bolyai University provides undergraduate programmes in three languages as follows: 38 specialisations in Hungarian, 12 specialisations in German and 92 specialisations in Romanian (and this since 1990).

Cluj University also has a three-year short-track system with instruction in Hungarian and Romanian in the towns of Gheorgheni and Sfantu Gheorghe and with instruction in Romanian, Hungarian and German in the city of Satu-Mare.

Moreover there are other universities in Romania with instruction in Hungarian as well as Romanian: in Targu
Mures/Marosvasarhely, Oradea/Nagyvarad, etc (see below for a list of universities/departments where the instruction is in hungarian.

There are however valid points which Ms Lovatt picks up, such as:

"Hungarian officials in Budapest appreciate the fact that the new education law provides a framework within which Magyar culture can be promoted and accept the possibility of a multicultural Magyar university with at least one Romanian faculty."

Indeed, the officials in Hungary know very well the situation of Hungarian education in Romania, and they realise that, while not perfect, it has improved tremendously since 1990.

However, far less was done for minority education in Hungary, and apart from linguistic studies, there is as yet no higher education in Hungary in any minority language (German, Roma, Slovak, Romanian, etc).

Also, the Ms Lovatt makes another valid remark:

"Instead of singling out the Hungarian minority as privileged or in some way special, the Romanian authorities have conferred equal educational rights on all minorities (with the possible exception of the Roma). Allowing a separate Hungarian University could have led to demands for a separate German or Jewish University, which in turn would categorise ethnic groups and intensify distinctions. Separating out ethnic groups at the various educational stages would almost certainly have detrimental consequences for future generations. The multicultural universities recognise differences without prejudicial separation; they enable the exploration of distinct cultures without removing the possibility of mixed association. "

Indeed, the go-ahead for the Petoffi-Schiller Multicultural University (state-funded) where instruction would be in Hungarian and German with Romanian as a taught subject was considered a step forward by many minorities representatives.

The whole issue of the Hungarian State University in Romania is a political one, but could the writer point out how many countries in Europe have state-sponsored universities entirely in a minority language?

The case of Finland which is often used by the Hungarians in Romania, is totally different because Swedish is an official language in Finland due to a historical decision, and the Swedish language has a special status among Finns as a cultural language, whereas Hungarian does not have the same status with all the Romanians - it is a regional language and can be used in local administration and justice.

Spain is another different case where Catalan, Basque and Galician have equal status to Castillian/Spanish in the respective provinces, however Spanish is taught as well at universities there as well.

It is such a pity that Ms Lovatt's article has perpetuated many common misconceptions; she should probably do a bit more research next time and use a wider variety of sources.

With the hope that your journal maintains its high standards and wonderful reviews and news from Central and Eastern Europe, I remain truly yours,

Dr R Rautiu, London, 9 November

Universities and Departments with instruction in Hungarian
(this list does not pretend to be comprehensive):

University of Bucharest, Department of Hungarian Studies

University of Cluj/Kolozsvar, Faculty of Letters, Dept of Hungarian Language and Culture, Department of Hungarian Literature, Drama and Theatre in Hungarian, Hungarian Ethnology, Hungarian History, Sociology and Psychology, Faculty of Roman Catholic Theology, Faculty of Protestant Theology

University of Medicine and Pharmacy Targu Mures/Marosvasarhely

Academy of Dramatic Art Targu Mures/Marosvasarhely



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