After Trianon

The Treaty of Trianon of 1920 deprived Hungary of 72% of its national territory.  Most of this land was lost to Romania, one of the big winners in the Paris peace settlement, and it is this aspect of the treaty which will be examined here.  Romania’s territory was more than doubled through gaining Transylvania and most of the Banat (from Hungary), Bukovina (from Austria) and Bessarabia (from Russia), not to mention retaining Southern Dobrudja.  Although the Romanians had wanted more, resenting the loss of western Banat to Serbia (Yugoslavia) in particular, the Greater Romania (România Mare) that emerged in 1920 was celebrated as the confirmation of Romania’s emergence as a major state.  In October 1922, Ferdinand and Marie were crowned King and Queen of Greater Romania at Alba Iulia (no longer Gyulafehérvár) in Transylvania and Article 1 of the new constitution in 1923 declared Romania a “unified, indivisible national state”.  Emmanuel de Martonne acclaimed the difference between pre-war Romania, which was “like a set-square”, and the “round and perfect” state created in 1920, and held that “the Roumanian land has something of the harmony of our beautiful France”.[1] 

Sadly, round and perfect did not mean harmony.  National differences proved problematical in Bessarabia (where the Russian minority disliked Romanian rule) and Bukovina (the one newly-acquired territory in which Romanians were a minority), but the main focus of this study will be the stresses created by Romanian policy in Transylvania and the Banat, the areas taken from Hungary.  Romanians made up more than half of the population of Transylvania, but there was a large concentration of Magyars (the Székelys) in south-eastern Transylvania, the central patch of green in the map below; “isolated in a sea of Roumanians,” their remaining in Hungary was not a realistic option.[2]  The same was true of German cities like Hermannstadt (Sibiu) and Kronstadt (Braşov).  However, for economic reasons, the Commission on Romanian Affairs also gave Romania much of the Partium to the west (Crişana and Maramureş), where most of the population was Hungarian.  As for the Banat, it was said that the peoples “were of such varied origins that a chameleon placed on a coloured population-map of the Banat would explode”.[3]  Romanians were a majority only in the east (the comitat of Krasso) and were outnumbered by the Magyars and Swabian Germans (combined) in the centre (Temés) and by the Serbs in the west (Torontál).  The award of Krasso and most of Temés gave Romania 516,371 out of the total of 592,049 Romanians in the Banat – but also substantial Magyar and German minorities (and the city of Temesvár went to Romania despite its preponderance of Magyars and Germans).[4]

Ethnographical map in support of Romania’s claims, by Emmanuel de Martonne.[5]

On 8 May 1919, the Commission’s report was briefly challenged in the Council of Foreign Ministers, when Robert Lansing, the US Secretary of State, objected that the proposed frontier was “did not appear very just; in every case the decision seemed to have been given against the Hungarians.”  France’s André Tardieu explained the need to preserve railway communications and said that because of “the way in which the Hungarians were grouped” it was “absolutely impossible to avoid attributing large numbers of them to the future Roumanian State”.  Crucially, “any other adjustment would have been all in favour of the Hungarians and correspondingly to the detriment of the Roumanians” – a decisive point in the eyes of a man who was always clear about the difference between an ally and an enemy.  Harold Temperley’s diary had Lansing robustly assailing the unfairness of Tardieu’s unbalanced idea of “an equitable compromise” but then, “after having made everyone very uncomfortable, Lansing suddenly withdrew his objections…”[6] 

The Council of Ten accepted the proposed Romano-Hungarian frontier on 12 May, the division of the Banat was approved by the Foreign Ministers on 23 May, and the Council of Four confirmed these decisions in June.  After the renewal of war between Romania and Hungary in July 1919, the victorious Romanians refused for many months to withdraw to the newly decided frontier; they remained in Budapest until November 1919 and on the east bank of the Tisza until March 1920.  The frontier would be challenged when the Hungarian delegation went to Paris in January 1920, and Lloyd George briefly expressed reservations in February, but the decisions made in May-June 1919 were confirmed in the Treaty of Trianon of June 1920.[7] 

When more was less

The country’s 16 million population (up from 7.7 million) rose to just over 18 million in 1930 and had (in that census year) a non-Romanian proportion of close to 30 percent, including 1,425,507 Magyars, 745,421 Germans, 728,115 Jews, 594,571 Ukrainians, 409,150 Russians and 366,384 Bulgarians.  The “territorially bloated” Greater Romania, wrote Raymond Pearson, “accommodated a greater variety of national minorities than any other east European neighbour (excepting the Soviet Union)”.  Expansion converted “what had been close to a Rumanian nation state into a Rumanian empire.  Incurring the penalties of significant minorities and the wrath of all its truncated neighbours” – Hungary, Russia and Bulgaria – “Rumania after 1919 showed every sign of falling victim to its own success.”[8] 

Britain’s representative in Bucharest, Frank Rattigan, advised Ferdinand that in Transylvania, “A wise policy of conciliation was absolutely necessary if the present bitterness between the different racial elements of the population were to be removed,” and the King said he was “fully alive to the importance of reconciling the Hungarian malcontents…”[9]   At times, the desire for a homogenous nation state seemed to involve pretending that the problem, or even the minorities, did not exist: Ferdinand’s May 1919 tour of Transylvania was said to have “exceeded all expectations … and all sections of the population had united in acclaiming His Majesty and the union with Roumania.”  Twenty years later, a large sign at the Romanian pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York proclaimed that “ROMANIA HAS OVER 20 MILLION PEOPLE COMPLETELY UNITED IN LANGUAGE, TRADITION, AND CULTURE.”[10] 

In reality, however, the new state was all too aware of its difficulties, regarding non-Romanians as potential enemies whose identity and influence had to be eroded through Romanianisation.  The Germans and Magyars of Transylvania certainly resisted the idea that they might be or become Romanians.  The Bukovina German family of Gregor von Rezzori “did not belong to Romania,” which was “part of the East”.  When, in the 1930s, Rezzori’s father went to live in the “thoroughly German city” of Hermannstadt in Transylvania, he found that the Germans had “managed to preserve a German heritage to his own liking”; “they were absolutely sure of their unequivocally defined identity.  They were first of all Transylvanians, German in origin and language but completely independent … with a self-assured culture they had created themselves…  They were connected to the German world of their origin, but no more emotionally tied to it than, for instance, the German Swiss.”[11]  At roughly the same time, in 1934, Patrick Leigh Fermor found in Braşov (or Kronstadt, the name to which the Germans “clung jealously”) that, “Not only the name and the architecture of the town were German, but its speech and the looks of the citizens,” with their “florid complexions and blond hair” and “the bodices and waistcoats and the felt hats”.  These Germans “had had no contact with their distant relations for seven centuries” but “the blue eyes, flaxen hair and Teutonic speech that I met in those arcades and market-places could just as well have belonged a thousand miles to the west.”[12]  The Swabians of the Banat, too, clung to the churches, schools, newspapers, language and cultural institutions which marked them out as Germans.

This did not mean that the Germans in Romania would inevitably be discontented.  Largely left to their own devices, the Germans “had little cause for complaint, and behaved as quiet and loyal citizens”.[13]  Most accepted Greater Romania (representative bodies of the Transylvanian Saxons and the Banat Swabians had voted for union with Romania in 1919) and were more interested in preserving their distinct culture, their way of life, than organising politically.  As Claudio Magris put it, “Isolated, cut off from their country of origin, they have always been a “cultural nation”, inclined not towards joining their territory to that of Germany, but eager to preserve their own cultural identity.”[14]  Although “discriminatory practices”, for example in employment and education, favoured the Romanians, “the chief targets in all these practices were not the Germans but the Magyars.”[15] 

It was clear that the great obstacle to forging a united Greater Romania would be the Magyars of Transylvania.  Their mother country encouraged their alienation.  Admiral Horthy’s regime in Hungary was committed to the recovery of Transylvania and its revisionist policy provoked Romanian suspicion of Magyars and undermined any prospect of their reconciliation.  In March 1920, Leeper, the British official most involved in redrawing Romania’s frontiers (and most favourable to the Romanian cause), regretted that “Hungary as yet shows no readiness to accept the very just provisions of the peace treaty: if she does so, I venture to think that Rumania’s Magyar subjects will enjoy very fair treatment, but the way to obtain this is not by intriguing against Rumania & distorting facts.”[16]  Pablo de Azcárate of the League’s Minorities Section charged that the Horthy government’s plan was “to prevent by every possible means the internal consolidation of the new Rumanian State,” undermining the efforts of “those of us in Geneva who were encouraging and helping the Bucharest officials in their praiseworthy efforts”.[17]  The Magyars were thought to be “inspired with the bitterest feeling towards the Roumanians”; the latter, long “regarded with the utmost contempt by the Hungarians, have now become the masters.  To a proud race like the Hungarians this state of things is naturally intolerable.”[18]  Hungarian revisionists were convinced that “all these subject nationalities, Serbs, Slovaks, Roumanians, whom the Supreme Council is cutting off from our body politic, must inevitably return; for they are naturally subordinate, and we are naturally the masters…”[19] 

It would be wrong, however, to attribute the Magyars’ discontent entirely to their own superiority complex.  There were many allegations of Romanian “persecution” and “tyranny” in Transylvania: in 1919, Britain’s man in Bucharest reported that there was “excessive severity” in requisitioning, “innocent persons” were interned and there were “several cases of flogging”; “the whole treatment of Hungarians had become very harsh” – and these comments drew from Curzon the observation that, “The Roumanians have behaved with extraordinary lack of prudence both in Bessarabia & Transylvania.”  For Sir George Clerk, sent to Hungary by the Peace Conference in September and November 1919, the Romanians were committing “unscrupulous and arbitrary acts…  Arrests and personal distraints on no reasonable grounds are frequent…  Roumanians are thus befouling [the] name of Allied and Associated Powers…”[20]  The Romanians repudiated the “Hungarian inventions” (Maniu); “no brutality had been used” (Váitoianu) – but Azcárate later conceded that “a policy of repression and terror” was carried out “in the first months of the postwar period,” bringing “cruelty and suffering to innocent people”.[21]

The Protestant churches, which lay at the heart of Magyar culture and sense of identity, claimed that they faced “extinction” at the hands of the Orthodox Romanians.  Leeper dismissed these “imaginary grievances”, “the usual Magyar propagandist lies”.  In 1920, Catholic bishops (the Székelys were Catholic) complained that the Romanians “have taken steps to dispossess the inhabitants, and substitute especially in towns, as many Rumanians as possible…  Catholics and Protestants alike are being subjected to persecution because of their religious beliefs…  [O]utrages of every sort have been committed upon religious persons, and no rights of property have been respected.”[22]  Leeper was probably right to dismiss the more extreme claims, but Transylvania’s churches did lose a great deal of property in the land reform of 1919-21 and the constitution of 1923 gave “national church” status only to the Romanian Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches.[23]

The process of Romanianisation alienated the country’s minorities.  “Roumanian officials, doctors, teachers, etc. are being substituted for Hungarian ones,” Clerk observed.[24]  Officials throughout Greater Romania were required to swear an oath of allegiance to the Romanian state.  Thousands refused (Magyars especially, but also Russians in Bessarabia).  Romanian was the official language, it alone was permitted in government and the courts, and non-Romanian civil servants were required to sit an examination in the language.  These measures led to the dismissal or resignation of many officials and their replacement with Romanians.[25]  Agrarian reform facilitated “an arbitrary Roumanian colonization” (Clerk).[26] Leeper denounced one critic of the agrarian law for “working against Rumania by every means in his power” – it is interesting that criticism of a policy was seen as “working against Rumania” – “in the interests of the big Magyar landlords who have for generations regarded Transilvania as their private domain & its native inhabitants as their natural serfs”.  Redistribution of land was carried out more rigorously in Transylvania than in the Old Kingdom, due, Leeper explained, to the stronger “democratic current” in Transylvania, and, though Leeper insisted that it penalised “the few big Rumanian landholders” and “not merely Magyar landlords”, the reform transferred land from mostly Magyar landlords (and Magyar churches) to mostly Romanian peasantry.[27]  The Romanians were weakening the old, Magyar ruling class.  Leigh Fermor spent time amongst this class in 1934 and wrote eloquently of their alienation:

Most of the minor landowners had been obliged by circumstances to become Rumanian citizens; but very few of them had ever been to Bucharest.  They looked on it as a faraway Babylon of dust and bribery and wickedness and vowed never to set foot there if they could help it, or even cross the former eastern frontier.  Pining for the crown of St Stephen, they had no eyes or ears or heart for anything but their mutilated kingdom to the west…  Islanded in the rustic Rumanian multitude, different in race and religion and with the phantoms of their lost ascendancy still about them…, they lived in a backward-looking, a genealogical, almost a Confucian dream and many sentences ended in a sigh.[28] 

Romania’s rulers were aware of the crucial role of education in forging a single national culture, making Romanians.  They sought to reverse the effects of decades of Magyarisation.  In 1920, the majority of Romanian children in Sătmar’s primary schools in Transylvania allegedly did not know Romanian.  The process was the same in all of the new territories.  Teachers were re-educated in Romanian history and culture, there was an influx of teachers from the Old Kingdom, and crash-course-trained Romanian cursişti were recruited.  Teachers, too, had to swear the new oath of allegiance.  Magyar teachers who refused were fired in 1919, but after Trianon they were offered another chance, Iancu understood, and most took it and were reinstated.[29]  Romanian history, literature and geography had to be taught in Romanian; the teaching of Romanian history involved the Daco-Roman continuity theory and the Roman symbol – that on the left, a gift from Italy in 1921, was (and is) to be found in Cluj – was introduced in the new territories.  Many schools saw attempts at total proscription of the other languages in and out of the classroom and Romanian was made the language of final secondary school examinations, to the disadvantage of minority children.  Thousands of Magyar schools in Transylvania were Romanianised or closed down, beginning with a surge in 1919-24 but continuing sporadically until 1938.[30] 

Transylvania’s University of Kolozsvár (Cluj), before 1919 essentially a Magyar institution, was turned into “a foremost agent of Romanianization” (Pálfy).  The faculty was required in May 1919 to swear an oath of loyalty to the Romanian monarch – this coming before any treaty decision to transfer Transylvania but following the precedents set by the French and Czechs at Strasbourg and Bratislava.  Romanians have argued that the Magyar professors resigned, such was their “irredentism and discontent”, but most histories (and Iancu’s pro-Romanian account) have them dismissed after refusing to swear the oath.  Hungary’s Count Apponyi alleged in Paris that the Romanians “had driven out the Hungarian professors – men of real learning – [and] they were obliged to grant certificates of professorship to almost illiterate Roumanians.  It was as if one had replenished Cambridge with a number of Spanish farmers.”  Cluj was declared “a Romanian university” by royal decree on 12 September 1919 and subsequently renamed the Ferdinand I University (1927-1948).  The student population, over 80% Hungarian before the war, was soon less than 10% Hungarian and over 70% Romanian, although Hungarian numbers did partially recover in the mid 1920s before a new entrance examination (in Romanian) in 1935 again reduced the proportion of Hungarians.[31]  Much the same fate befell the only other university in the acquired territories, the German-language Czernowitz (Franz Joseph) University in Bukovina. 

Romanianisation of education was least successful where there were sizeable concentrations of non-Romanians.[32]  In such communities, almost all of the parents, teachers, pupils and books were not Romanian, initially at any rate, and it was impossible to force Romanian culture on them.  The Magyars, Germans and Jews reduced the impact of state policy by having increased recourse to confessional schools.  Magyars went to the schools of both Catholic and Protestant churches and Clark found in one Protestant school in the 1920s that “the children had just finished singing the Hungarian national anthem!”[33]  The first school of Austrian-German Gregor von Rezzori was the historic Saxon Gymnasium at Braşov in Transylvania, a Lutheran school in a town (he still called it Kronstadt) that was “a fairy-tale German enclave in the elemental Romanian countryside… [I] had ample opportunity to ponder what ill wind had blown me into this confining, hidebound community, which seemed to have retrenched in an act of stubborn self-protection against scimitar-swinging, slit-eyed, rattail-moustachioed Mongols.”[34]   In the early 1930s, the Transylvanian Saxons had 263 primary and 15 high schools with German as the language of instruction, Sătmar’s Swabians had 22 schools, and the Banat’s Swabians had a total of 204 schools.  The majority of these were church schools, Lutheran for the Saxons and Catholic for the Swabians, and this meant that “under Rumanian rule they had much more German schooling than ever before during the Hungarian era”.[35]  Of course, the Romanians did not allow the Magyar and German churches to plough their own furrow in these schools.  Confessional schools came “under heavy pressure to conform to policies designed to promote Romanian language and culture among the minorities” and were subject to instruction-in-Romanian and other such orders – so that these schools were battlegrounds in the war for Romanianisation.[36]

The University of Cluj and the Black Church of Kronstadt, bastions of Hungarian and German culture, respectively, in Transylvania.  Magris: ‘The Black Church in Kronstadt (Braşov), the ancient walls of which call to mind Luther’s hymn “A mighty fortress is our God”, is a fortress of German faith and clarity, standing like a bulwark’ against ‘swarming and intermingling’.[37]  

The Romanians succeeded in compelling the use of their language in most schools, which is hardly surprising given that they outnumbered the minorities in most of the new territories.  But what happened in schools had limited impact in the short term on the wider community.  Among the Székelys, the influence of imported Romanian teachers was confined, thought one disappointed official, to “the school’s four walls”.[38]  The Székelys, believed by their new rulers to be “hidden” Romanians who could be brought back to their true identity, did not feel remotely Romanian.[39]  A local director of education in the Banat deprecated the “childish idea that the Schwabs might be Romanized with a Romanian staff” in the German schools.[40]  The minorities retreated to their autonomous enclaves, centred on their churches, newspapers and societies; as with the Germans noticed above, Magyar (and Jewish) cultural life was well organised and self-sufficient.  Many young Magyars went to university in Hungary.  The university at Cluj moved across the Hungarian border to Szeged, taking much of its staff there, and it adopted the old name of the Royal University of Kolozsvár.  This university and the one at Debrecen (in eastern Hungary) attracted many Transylvanian Magyars; they were “centers for the preservation of Magyar chauvinism” in Romanian eyes, but their students were “celebrated in all of Transylvania as Magyar heroes”.[41] 

Greater Romania alienated many Romanians in the new territories.  The Transylvanian Romanians looked down on their “obscurantist and oriental” (Rothschild) fellow-Romanians, the “Regateni” of the pre-war state.  Their “regionalist sensibilities” were “offended by rapid centralization measures” (Livezeanu) and they resented the domineering spirit and the corruption of Bucharest officialdom.  Leeper noted in 1920 that “the extreme centralising policy of the Averescu Govt. has aroused strong opposition in Transilvania.”  This followed the abolition of the autonomous Directing Council in Transylvania in April 1920, which caused Alexandru Vaida-Voevod to protest against the plan to “convert Transylvania into a satrap”.[42]  The constitution confirmed that Romania was a centralised, unitary state.  Transylvania’s leaders, including the main party, the Nationalists, stayed away from Ferdinand’s coronation at Alba Iulia in 1922.[43]  Transylvanians also felt that they were not permitted to advance in their careers.  The result was that Transylvanian Romanians “virtually formed a new national phenomenon: a minority within the majority”.[44]  Similarly, in Bessarabia, incoming Romanian officials were corrupt, overbearing and dismissive of local ways: a disenchanted writer complained in 1930 that, “We joined the Romanians, we weren’t supposed to have been conquered by them.”[45] 

The national minority that fared worst in the new Romania was the Jews.  The old idea that Romania had been subjected to a “Jewish invasion” was inflamed by the numerical strength of Jewry in the new territories, although this was mainly evident in Bukovina, where 10.8% were Jews (40% in Cernăuți), and Bessarabia, where Chişinău, 36% Jewish, was called the “Romanian Jerusalem”.   In Transylvania, the Magyarised Jews were seen as “hidden Magyars”, part of the enemy camp, but the alarming phenomenon of Bela Kun and his largely Jewish Communist regime in Hungary added another dimension to anti-Semitism: Jews were associated with Bolshevism.[46]  In the 1920s, right-wing students perpetrated sporadic anti-Semitic violence in Romania.  In the next decade, the Iron Guard fascists, the heirs of those students, were responsible for numerous violent incidents and employers and ministries stepped up their discriminatory policies against Jews.  The Iron Guard took control of Romania in 1940 and applied most of the measures associated with Nazism before the Holocaust, but General Antonescu eliminated the Guard in 1941 and went on to obstruct the German extermination policy sufficiently to secure the survival of 57% of Romanian Jews, the highest percentage in eastern Europe.[47]  Had the Jews of Transylvania remained in Hungary, they would probably have shared the disastrous fate of that country’s Jewish population.

The Minorities Treaty of 1919 did not provide effective protection for any minority in Romania.  The League received 47 petitions by the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, more than from any other minority except the Germans of Upper Silesia, mostly dealing with school and church issues and the agrarian reform.  However, the functionary who received the petitions (Azcárate) thought that any “injustices” involved “were neither so great nor so serious as to be of any real political interest”.[48]  Leeper’s sceptical view of Magyar grievances was communicated to Lord Robert Cecil at the League: “It is as well to keep Lord R. Cecil infd. of both sides of the case in Transylvania.”[49]  The French generally supported Romania at the League and one of their comments, made in 1923, has a familiar ring: “although the Hungarian complaint is justified, the Romanians are our friends.”[50]  There was a similar attitude to the plight of Germans and that of the Russians in Bessarabia.  Many members of the national minorities felt compelled to “vote with their feet”, leaving Romania.  About 42,000 Germans left the Banat between 1921 and 1930.  Most sources put the number of Magyars who left Transylvania at 200,000 or more and Cartledge has written of the “tens of thousands who had come to post-Trianon Hungary as refugees from the lost territories, living sometimes for years in railway trucks in the goods sidings of Budapest or in abandoned army barracks”.[51]  Many students who went to Hungary never returned: with Romania and Hungary not recognising each other’s degrees, it is not surprising that “few, if any, ever attempted to “bring home” their degrees”.[52]

Charles Upson Clark, celebrating the success of the union, commented on how his book of 1922, “Greater Roumania”, was renamed “United Roumania” when it was updated in 1932: “I call it “United Roumania” because in 1922 Bessarabia and the Banat, the Bucovina and the Dobrudja were still strangers to each other; now, after ten years of business, political and intellectual association, there is genuine union.”  Clark’s list did not include Transylvania!   He commended Romanian “patience” and “mildness” and contrasted the “easy-going tolerance” of the Romanians with the oppressive methods of the Magyars.[53]  There is a grain of truth in this assessment.  The Romanians were responding in kind to Magyarisation, their methods were not brutal, and the century was to see many examples, some of them in the Balkans, of more vicious regimes.  The Romanians never treated the Hungarians as badly as the Hungarians treated each other in 1919, when White Terror followed Red Terror.  Hugh Seton-Watson conceded that the Magyars “became second-class citizens” – but they were not “oppressed” and Romanian education policy was merely “irksome”.  “There were constant causes of irritation, but these were not very important” and were less oppressive than the previous treatment of the Romanians by the Magyars.[54]

This was the opinion of a friend of Romania.  It is difficult, in fact, to see a significant difference between Hungary’s prewar and Romania’s postwar policies.  Romanianisation was as oppressive as Magyarisation.  And it was unsuccessful, for it generated hostility rather than loyalty.  Azcárate lamented Romania’s failure in Transylvania: “the Rumanian Government never made any real attempt to foster in the local authorities a spirit of cordiality and collaboration with the minorities”; the Hungarians “very seldom enjoyed that fair treatment which would have been conducive to the political consolidation of the country.”.[55]  Azcárate was even more critical of the treatment of the Russians of Bessarabia and Bulgarians of Southern Dobrudja; writing in 1945, he welcomed the return of these territories “to the states to which they rightly belonged”, Bulgaria and Russia.[56]  Such criticism is all the more telling because it came from an ardent admirer of the Romanian government.  It is not clear what was ever done to try to win over the minorities.  At any rate, Romanianisation, to succeed, would take more than one generation; it is likely that, in the years before the Second World War, hardly any members of the minorities were altered in their sympathies and identities and brought into “genuine union” with Greater Romania.

The peace undone

In the 1930s, Romania sought security in membership of the League of Nations and close relations with France, as well as regional alliances.  With the League discredited in 1935-36 (in the Abyssinian crisis) and France exposed as weak at Munich (September 1938) before the collapse in 1940, Romania’s foreign policy unravelled in the face of the threats from Germany and the Soviet Union.  The Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 meant that the Germans and Russians would act together and Romania (like Poland) had the misfortune to be considered an enemy by both of the predatory powers.  The “territorial amputations” (as they were known in Romania) began when the Red Army massed on the Dniester in June 1940 and the Romanians felt compelled to cede both Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union.  They were regained when Romania joined Germany in Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 but lost again when the Soviets returned in 1944; the Soviet Union retained Bessarabia and northern Bukovina in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947.  Seeking an alliance with Bulgaria, Hitler compelled the Romanians to return almost all of Southern Dobrudja to Bulgaria in the Treaty of Craiova of September 1940 and this change was confirmed in the postwar settlement (see ‘Neuilly’).

On 30 August 1940, the Second Vienna Award (or Diktat, as Romanians know it) saw Germany and Italy (Hitler, in fact) allocate northern and eastern Transylvania to Hungary – “Hitler is simply cutting the baby in half”[57] – where Hungarians claimed that most of the 2.6 million inhabitants were Magyars.[58]  Olivia Manning, then in Bucharest, described how the initial wave of anger over losing “our Bessarabia” and “our Bukovina” had given way to resigned acceptance, but the “sense of outrage” over Transylvania was overwhelming: “Gabbling in their rage, people shouted to one another that they had been betrayed…  They began shouting for war.”  Transylvania was “le berceau [cradle] de la Nation, le coeur de la Patrie…  People are weeping in the streets.”[59]  Romania’s switching sides to join the Allies in August 1944 (and Hungary’s role as “the last ally of the Reich”) helped ensure that Romania regained all of Transylvania.  Romanian forces joined the Soviets in invading northern Transylvania and the rest of Hungary, and in 1947 the Paris Peace Treaty restored the frontier to that of 1920.[60] 

Of the territories that Romania gained in 1919-20, there was a clear west-east split: Transylvania and the Banat were kept, but northern Bukovina, Bessarabia and Southern Dobrudja were lost.  But even the part of the settlement which survived the Second War was hardly successful, given the eventual departure of one minority, the Germans, and the sense of alienation (or separateness, at least) still felt by the Magyars. Most of the German population remained in Romania after 1945 and numbers held up until post-1990 uncertainty combined with reunited Germany’s welcoming embrace to induce the vast majority to leave; the German population fell from 359,109 in 1977 to 119,462 in 1992 and 36,042 in 2011.  The current President of Romania (from 2014), Klaus Werner Johannis (Iohannis), is a Transylvanian Saxon.  As for Romania’s Magyars, they numbered 1,227,623 in 2011 and their presence is clearly visible in Cluj and many other places.  Romanians and Magyars co-exist peacefully but do not have cordial relations; there is no prospect of an elected Magyar President of Romania.    

[1] Gilles Palsky, ‘Emmanuel de Martonne and the Ethnographical Cartography of Central Europe (1917-1920)’, Imago Mundi (January 2002), Vol. 54, pp. 113, 115.   

[2] Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople: The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates (London, 1986), 165.  Robert Seton-Watson later wrote that putting many Magyars into Romania “is unfortunately inevitable, owing to the geographical position of 600,000 Magyars (the so-called Szekels) as a compact mass in the extreme south-east corner of Transylvania…”  Hugh and Christopher Seton-Watson, The Making of a New Europe: R.W. Seton-Watson and the last years of Austria-Hungary (London, 1981), 400, from The New Europe, 15 January 1920.

[3] Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water, 121.

[4] The Commission’s deliberations are described more fully in ‘Leeper’s Romania’.  The best modern treatment (in English) is Ignác Romsics, The Dismantling of Hungary: The Peace Treaty of Trianon, 1920 (Boulder, 2002), 80-83.  See also Henry Baerlein, The Birth of Yugoslavia (London, 1922), II, 362-70.

[5] Repartition des Nationalités dans les pays ou dominent les Roumains, par Emmanuel de Martonne, FO 371/3566, 562.

[6] T. G. Otte, ed., An Historian in Peace and War: The Diaries of Harold Temperley (Farnham and Burlington, 2014), 409-10, 8 May 1919.  Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States: The Paris Peace Conference 1919 (FRUS), IV, 672-3, Council of Foreign Ministers, 8 May 1919.  See also Papers of Allen Leeper (LEEP), 3/8, Leeper to Rex Leeper, 8 May 1919. 

[7] See ‘Leeper’s Romania’ for more detail on Lloyd George’s doubts.

[8] Raymond Pearson, National Minorities in Eastern Europe, 1848-1945 (London, 1983), 166-67.

[9] FO 371/3569, 68, Rattigan to Curzon, 8 August 1919.

[10] FO 608/49, 389, Rattigan to Curzon, 3 June 1919, quoting Acting Prime Minister Pheredyke.  Irina Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building, & Ethnic Struggle, 1918-1930 (Cornell, 1995), 1-4.

[11] Gregor von Rezzori, The Snows of Yesteryear (New York, 1989), 49, 65, 179-81.  See also G.C. Paikert, The Danube Swabians: German Populations in Hungary, Rumania and Yugoslavia and Hitler’s impact on their Patterns (The Hague, 1967), 247-49.

[12] Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos (London, 2013), 195.  Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water, 172.  Leigh Fermor was rather taken with the romantic idea that these Germans were descended from the children led away from Hamelin by the Pied Piper: “swallowed up by the hillside, they miraculously emerged in this leafy principality.”  The Broken Road, 165-66, 193.  Between the Woods and the Water, 173. 

[13] Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe Between the Wars, 1918-1941 (Cambridge, 1946), 278.

[14] Claudio Magris, Danube (London, 2001), 310.  P. de Azcárate, League of Nations and National Minorities (Washington, 1945), 48: the Saxons’ “attitude was a loyal one, and they were wise enough not to let themselves be carried away by the Hungarian minority nor to emulate its policy of systematic hostility towards the Rumanian Government.”   

[15] Paikert, The Danube Swabians, 246-47.

[16] FO 371/3569, 425, note by Leeper, 2 March 1920.

[17] Azcárate, League of Nations and National Minorities, 44, 71.

[18] FO 608/15, 207, Rattigan (British chargé d’affaires in Bucharest) to Curzon, 2 August 1919.   

[19] Charles Upson Clark, United Roumania (New York, 1932), 93, quoting a Hungarian minister encountered towards the end of 1919.  Azcárate also discussed the “intractability caused by the Hungarian minority’s conviction of its superiority over the dominant Rumanian peoples [sic]”.  Azcárate, League of Nations and National Minorities, 71.

[20] FO 608/15, 207, Rattigan to Curzon, 2 August 1919; FO 608/49, 250, Rattigan to Curzon, 4 July 1919 (also in FO 371/3569, 31, with note by Curzon, 17 July 1919).  FO 371/3517, 10, Clerk to Crowe, 6 November 1919.  See also FRUS, VII, 126, Bela Kun to Clemenceau, 11 July 1919.  Rattigan visited Transylvania in July 1919, Clerk not at all.

[21] E.L. Woodward and Rohan Butler, eds., Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 (London, 1956), hereafter DBFP, VI, 357, 431-4, Rattigan to Curzon, 10, 27 November 1919; 372-3, Rattigan to Crowe, 13 November 1919.  FO 371/3517, 86, 410, Rattigan to Curzon, 12, 27 November 1919.  FO 608/15, 206, Rattigan to Curzon, 27 November 1919.  FRUS, IX, 913, International Council of Premiers, 20 January 1920, Vaida-Voevod.  Azcárate, League of Nations and National Minorities, 71-72.

[22] FO 608/11, 654, Johnson to Balfour, 12 February 1919, with note by Leeper, 22 February 1919.  Arthur S. Link, ed., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson (Princeton, 1989), Volume 65, 138, James Cardinal Gibbons to Wilson, 26 March 1920.

[23] For an anti-Magyar assessment of Romanian offences against the Transylvanian churches, see Seton-Watson Collection, SEW/11/2/2, On alleged Religious Persecution in Transylvania.

[24] DBFP, VI, 3412, Clerk to Crowe, 6 November 1919.

[25] The oath of allegiance was very patchily enforced.  Gheorghe Iancu, ‘The Position of the Ethnical Minorities towards the Union of Transylvania with Romania’, in George Cipăianu and Vasile Vesa, eds., La Fin de la Première Guerre mondiale et la nouvelle architecture géopolitique européenne (Cluj-Napoca, 2000), 228.

[26] DBFP, VI, 342, Clerk to Crowe, 6 November 1919. 

[27] FO 371/3569, 425, note by Leeper, 2 March 1920.  As Philippi has put it, the reform “worked mainly to expropriate Hungarian and Saxon property and turning [sic] it over to ethnic Romanians.”  Paul Philippi, Transylvania: Short History of the Region: The Hungarian and German Minorities (Sibiu, 2016), 39.  For a statistical analysis of the impact, see Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe Between the Wars, 301-2.  Also Isaiah Bowman, The New World: Problems in Political Geography (New York and Chicago, n.d.), 375-76.

[28] These Magyars knew nothing of Romania – “their knowledge stopped dead at the crests of the Carpathians” – which they dismissed as “wild Wallachia”, “as though it lay in the heart of the Mongolian steppe.”  Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water, 104-6.

[29] Gheorghe Iancu, The Ruling Council: The Integration of Transylvania into Romania, 1918-1920 (Cluj-Napoca, 1995), 209.

[30] Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania, 63-5.

[31] FO 371/3518, 595, Hohler to Curzon, 28 January 1920 (Apponyi).  DBFP, VI, 432-3, Rattigan to Curzon, 27 November 1919.  Seton-Watson Collection, SEW/11/2/2, Appeal of the Royal Hungarian Francis Joseph University to the Universities of the civilized world, Budapest, January 1920.  Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania, 219-27.  Zoltán Pálfy in Anders E.B. Blomqvist, Constantin Iordachi, and Balázs Trenscényi, eds., Hungary and Roumania Beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements (Berne, 2013), 339-53.  Iancu, The Ruling Council, 217.

[32] Among the Ruthenians of northern Bukovina and the Germans and Jews of that province’s cities, the Russians and Jews of urban Bessarabia, the Magyars of western Transylvania, the Saxons and the Székelys of eastern Transylvania and the Swabians of the Banat.

[33] Clark, United Roumania, 345.

[34] Rezzori, The Snows of Yesteryear, 105-6.  Rezzori’s second and third schools were the German Gymnasium in Czernowitz and ‘a kind of reform school’ in Fürstentenfeld, eastern Styria (Austria).  Ibid., 173-74.

[35] Paikert, The Danube Swabians, 248-49.

[36] Keith Hitchins in Blomqvist et al, Hungary and Roumania, 142.  See also Iancu, The Ruling Council, 206-7.  Azcárate, League of Nations and National Minorities, 77-82.

[37] Magris, Danube, 312.

[38] Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania, 141.

[39] FO 608/15, 207, Rattigan to Curzon, 2 August 1919.

[40] Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania, 169.

[41] Ibid., 227, quoting a March 1922 source in the state archives in Bucharest. 

[42] Ibid., 304.  Joseph Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars (Seattle and London, 1974), 286-87.  FO 371/3569, 502, Rattigan to Curzon, 4 April 1920 (“satrap”); ibid., 543, 551, notes by Leeper, 18, 29 May 1920.

[43] Charles and Barbara Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804-1920 (Seattle and London, 1977), 310.

[44] Pearson, National Minorities in Eastern Europe, 167.

[45] Charles King, The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture (Stanford, 2000), 43-7.  Marcel Mitrasca, Moldova: A Romanian Province Under Russian Rule (New York, 2002), 41.

[46] Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania, 79-87, 153, 174, 250-51.  Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars, 288-89.

[47] Ezra Mendelsohn, The Jews of East Central Europe between the World Wars (Indiana, 1983), 183-9, 202-11.  The nearly complete extermination of the Jews of Romanian-occupied Odessa in the Ukraine was a very different story.

[48] Azcárate, League of Nations and National Minorities, 43-44.

[49] FO 371/3569, 425, note by Adam, 3 March, endorsed by Curzon (“I agree”), 3 March 1920.  Leeper’s note was expanded into a letter from Cecil Harmsworth.  Ibid., 428, Harmsworth to Cecil, 9 March 1920.

[50] Elemér Illyés, National Minorities in Romania: Change in Transylvania (Boulder, 1982), 75, 271n8.

[51] Ibid., 23, 267n22.  Bryan Cartledge, The Will to Survive: A History of Hungary (New York, 2011), 353-4.  Mócsy in Béla K. Király, Peter Pastor and Ivan Sanders, eds., War and Society in East Central Europe, Vol. VI.  Essays on World War I: Total War and Peacemaking, A Case Study on Trianon (New York, 1982), 494, 501-2 (est. 222,000 refugees from Transylvania).  The census of 1930 put the number of Transylvanian Magyars at 1,353,288, substantially lower than the figures for 1910 and 1920.  Kocsis has 197,035 Magyars leaving Romania between 1918 and 1924. Karoly Kocsis and Eszter Kocsis-Hodosi, Ethnic Geography of the Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin (Budapest, 1998), 19. 

[52] Zoltán Pálfy in Blomqvist et al, Hungary and Romania, 343.

[53] Charles Upson Clark, Bessarabia: Russia and Roumania on the Black Sea (New York, 1927), 221, 293.  Clark, United Roumania, v (Preface), 117, 346-48, 357.

[54] Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe Between the Wars, 300-1.

[55] Azcárate, League of Nations and National Minorities, 44-45.

[56] Ibid., 48.

[57] Olivia Manning, The Balkan Trilogy (London, 1990), 469.

[58] Hitchins’s estimate was roughly 50 per cent Romanians and 37 per cent Magyars and Székely.  Keith Hitchins, Rumania 1866-1947 (Oxford, 1994), 450.  Dinu C. Giurescu, Romania in the Second World War (1939-1945) (Boulder, 2000), 38.  Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe Between the Wars, 302-3.  The First Vienna Award gave Hungary southern Slovakia in 1938, in the wake of the Munich Pact.

[59] Manning, The Balkan Trilogy, 322-32, 397, 426, 468-9.  “In the face of the threat to Transylvania, no one gave much thought to the southern Dobrudja.”  Ibid., 442.  See also Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe Between the Wars, 400-2.

[60] Huey Louis Kostanick, ‘The Geopolitics of the Balkans’, in Charles and Barbara Jelavich, eds., The Balkans in Transition: Essays on the Development of Balkan Life and Politics since the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1963), 30-31.