21st Century Hungarian Language Survival in Transylvania

Judith Kesserű Némethy: New York University, Editor


  • Noémi Fazakas – Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, Târgu-Mureș, Romania 
  • Rita Fóris-Ferenczi – Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • Orsolya Nádor – Károli Gáspár University, Budapest, Hungary
  • Attila Z. Papp – Institute for Minority Studies, Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
  • Janos Péntek – Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • Krisztina Sárosi Márdirosz – Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, Târgu-Mureș, Romania 
  • Borbála Zsemlyei – Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania


21st Century Hungarian Language Survival in Transylvania

The book examines the present-day situation of Hungarian as minority language in Romania. It is an important addition to the study of the Hungarian language in the Diaspora that should be of interest not only to linguists and sociolinguists but to historians and political or social scientists, educators, and dialectologists as well. The problems presented, albeit referring specifically to the Hungarian language in Romania today, have parallels across borders and across all languages spoken by minorities. 

Survival of minority languages, be it Quechua in Peru, Irish in the United Kingdom, Spanish in the United States or Hungarian in the Carpathian Basin, depends on historical, geopolitical, and sociolinguistic factors. To a large degree it also depends on the politics of the governing majority country, whose regulations have repercussions on all aspects of education, work environment, and cultural and social life. In fact, in the course of the twentieth century, after Hungary was dismembered following the 1920 Treaty of Trianon and one third of its population became minorities of neighboring countries, their use of Hungarian has been greatly weakened by unrelenting restrictive or even punitive policies on the part of successive governments. Today, political and social pressure, coupled with the passage of time and globalization, threatens to endanger the very existence of the Hungarian language outside of Hungary, and with it the minority’s national identity as well. 

Multilingualism and cultural diversity are at the core of the European Union’s linguistic political discourse, and instruction in minority languages is an important part of it. Yet although the social and ideological environment has drastically changed since the fall of the Communist regimes, the goal of achieving multilingualism, and especially that of minorities reaching full bilingualism in both their mother tongue and the majority language, is facing nearly insurmountable obstacles. In fact, where nationalist linguistic ideology drives homogenization, the EU has been unable to implement its policy of protection of cultural diversity, with lethal consequences for the minorities’ survival, as citizens equal in rights and opportunities to the members of the majority.

The six essays in this volume, written by Hungarian academics living in Transylvania and Hungary, deal with historical, political, educational, legal, social, and linguistic aspects of minority language survival in Transylvania. They also point to the tools that make possible the reversal of the trend toward linguistic and cultural assimilation, tools that could also open the path toward a healthy multicultural and multilingual coexistence. The essays are preceded by an introduction with an overview of majority-minority relations today and their governance through international covenants. It delves into the history of Transylvania within the history of Hungary, delineating the forces that contributed to the make-up of its population and shaped the interaction among its ethnicities. It finally expands on the situation of Transylvanian Hungarians as minority since the end of World War I to this day. Five maps illustrate the ethno-geographical changes of the Hungarian population in the Carpathian Basin since the fifteenth century to date.

Orsolya Nádor’s essay, “East Central European Traditions Shaping Language Policy and Language Instruction,” is a historical review of the evolution and status of the Hungarian language since the Middle Ages, both in majority and minority situation. The author analyzes the role of linguistic ideologies in shaping the attitude towards majority and minority policies leading to linguistic conflicts in East Central Europe. Through a review of international language laws, we come to the question of survival of the minorities in a homogenizing nation-state ideology. 

In “Educational Policy Concepts in the Carpathian Basin,” Attila Z. Papp outlines the main changes in Hungarian minority education in the four countries housing today the largest Hungarian minorities: Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and the Ukraine. The author contextualizes minority education policies by reflecting on challenges related to major demographics, educational statistics and institutional development processes.

Rita Fóris-Ferenczi and János Péntek aim to present the Hungarian sub-system of Romanian public education in their essay “Hungarian Public Education in Romania, with Particular Attention to the Language(s) of Instruction.” The authors make the case for the Hungarian minority’s specific situation within the Romanian educational system, in view of their sheer numbers and historic traditions. In Transylvania where they have lived as an indigenous community for 1,000 years, Hungarians constitute nearly 20% of the population. Therefore, they consider it their basic right to study in their native language, but are confronted by a system that does not support the development of high level bilingualism.

Noémi Fazakas’ paper “The Hungarian Language in Transylvania: Its Existence in the Diaspora and the Possibilities of Revitalization” portrays the complexities of bilingualism and of language shift and maintenance, as well as the possibilities of revitalization. She examines the level of endangerment in three distinct types of demographic and linguistic situations of Hungarians in Transylvania: the compact territory of the Székely lands, the island situation, and the diaspora of Northeastern and Southern Transylvania. Based on a thorough theoretical backdrop, Dr. Fazakas studies the possibilities of reversal of language shift and revitalization through the implementation of minority linguistic rights as part of the basic human rights.

Krisztina Sárosi-Márdirosz’s “The Official Register of the Hungarian Language Used in Transylvania” is a sociolinguistic study of the impact of Romanian upon the official register of the Hungarian language as it appears in the audiovisual media, specifically in official, administrative and political discourse. While current legislation allows the use of the minority language when its percentage is of at least 20% of the population, the official register of the Hungarian language is underdeveloped, and users encounter many problems while trying to translate laws, acts and documents from Romanian. Based on a two-year extensive monitoring of the Hungarian electronic media in Transylvania, during which specific errors, inconsistencies and problems of translation were analyzed, Dr. Sárosi-Márdirosz identifies the tasks related to problems of translation derived from an imbalanced bilingualism. Her conclusion is that these can be solved, provided that a conscious expansion of journalism instruction in Hungarian is implemented by Romanian universities and adopted by the media. 

In “Language Use in the Hungarian Electronic Media in Romania,” Borbála Zsemlyei follows up on Dr. Sárosi-Márdirosz’s theme by presenting the characteristics of the Hungarian language use of reporters and correspondents of the Hungarian electronic media in Romania. The goal was to determine the extent to which reporters and correspondents follow standard norms, the mistakes they tend to commit, and the most common language phenomena. The analysis covers all substructures of language: pronunciation, morphology, lexicology and semantics, syntax, and stress, even including pragmatics, and presenting, with numerous examples, the influence of Romanian over the Hungarian phrases. The paper concludes that mistakes are linked not only to foreign influence, but also to poor competence in Hungarian, denoting the strong influence of the bilingual context of which it is part. It is from this reality that a policy of language planning must be built in order to maintain and revitalize the Hungarian language in Romania.

Night and Fog: The Collected Dramas and Screenplays of Danilo Kiš

Translated and with an introduction by John K. Cox


Night and Fog

This volume of translations represents the entire dramatic and cinematic ouevre of the Yugoslav writer Danilo Kiš (1935-1989). The seven dramas and screenplays are accompanied by a historical introduction by the translator, John K. Cox, who has also translated two of Kiš’s novels (The Attic and Psalm 44) and a volume of his short stories (The Lute and the Scars). Written mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, the themes of the works in this anthology vary widely. Of the seven translations in Night and Fog, two address classical literary themes, one is a dramatization of part of Kiš’s own A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, and the others explore personal and political conflicts during the Holocaust and the first decades of socialism in Tito’s Yugoslavia and Hungary. What they have in common is Kiš’s ear for precise language, telling detail, epistemological and narrative anxiety, and, in most of the pieces, his eye for the personal costs and often lethal emotional turmoil of individuals in communist and fascist systems. As readers work their way through the torturous and unsatisfying workings of the characters’ memories, they are also exposed to many seldom-discussed details of life in Tito’s Yugoslavia from the split with the Cominform in 1948 to the student uprisings of 1968. Many people who knew Kiš consider A Wooden Trunk for Thomas Wolfe to be his finest play; it is the chronicle of the intense relationship of two men, one broken by Hitler’s death camps and the other by Stalinism, as they wrestle with their own physical infirmities and artistic impotence. Night and Fog, the translator’s favorite, originates in the same milieu—the multicultural region of Vojvodina between Belgrade and Szeged— as Kiš’s other autobiographical writings about the childhood of a young male character named Andreas Sam. But in this play a twenty-something Sam tracks down a married couple in Hungary who had been teachers in his wartime home town, and their three-way sparring over contested memories transitions slowly from nostalgia to bitter awareness of lies and collaboration. The Mechanical Lions is a must for anyone who has read A Tomb for Boris Davidovich; this stage version of the main story in Kiš’s path-breaking eponymous short story collection leads through terrain familiar to readers of Darkness at Noon and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Written with vintage Kiš wryness, spareness, and emotional force it bounces around through time and place to tell the story of the Soviet purges in the 1930s, and honor and historical truth join Old Bolsheviks and international activists on the secret police’s hit list.

In Search of the Budapest Secession: The Artist Proletariat and Modernism’s Rise in the Hungarian Art Market, 1800–1914

by Jeffrey Taylor, Assistant Professor of Arts Management, Purchase College, State University of New York 


In Search of the Budapest Secession

This important work by American historian Jeffrey Taylor, who spent the last two decades in Hungary and earned his PhD at Central European University in Budapest, serves to detail the nineteenth century origin of the art market in a Central European nation as its economy was shifting from total dependence on agriculture to a mixed industrial/agricultural model during the Industrial Revolution. The creation of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1867 provided Hungary with a measure of equality with Austria, initiating a period when the social and cultural development of Hungary and its newly emerging professional and merchant classes provided a new marketplace,which while bourgeois in nature nevertheless brought “art” to a greater portion of the population. Taylor provides us with a fascinating history beginning in eighteen-hundred of the art market of Hungary, of the rise of modernism and its conflict with traditional elements. This book is a valuable addition to the history of European art of the 19th century and one which gives us an insight into the commercial aspects of the art marketplace which have not been explored by previous scholars. 

The Editors

The art market of Hungary began in Pest ( Buda and Pest were not joined into one city until 1873) around 1800 in the shops of booksellers who also dealt in maps, sheet music, and prints. The sale of paintings first began to appear in the form of the Pest Art Union, and then in the Kunsthalle model. By the late 19th century, however, the art market operated in a salon system which proved incapable of absorbing the rapidly expanding capacity of artist production. The population of artists in Budapest grew at a rate of approximately 7% a year in the last four decades preceding World War I. The vast over-production of artists and artworks produced a mad scramble for new retailing models as alternative salons, private galleries, studio exhibitions, salon des refusés, one-man shows, and groupings with aesthetic agendas all competed for the public’s attention. Secessions followed upon secessions, and the art politics of the period divided in to three camps, only one of which was Modernist in orientation, and they increasingly found themselves losing control of institutions to a stylistically stagnant, egalitarian-oriented artist proletariat. Therefore, by the early 20th century the more progressively-inclined artists began to turn towards the new commercial gallery models as the most successful venue for their work.

German War — Russian Peace: The Hungarian Tragedy, The wartime memoir of Hungarian Minister Antal Ullein-Reviczky

Translated from the original French by Lovice Maria Ullein-Reviczky
Introduction by Tibor Frank


German War Russian Peace

The book contains the wartime memoirs of Antal Ullein-Reviczky, first published in French in 1947 in Switzerland as Guerre allemande, paix russe. Le drame hongrois. This is the first English edition of his book, translated from the French original by Lovice Mária Ullein-Reviczky. His memoir is an invaluable source about Hungary’s fate in World War II. Ullein-Reviczky’s work was based partly on the public and private documents he succeeded in saving throughout the war and his long years of exile in Turkey, Switzerland, France, and Britain where he died. Written by a well-informed insider and a shrewd observer, this book remained essentially unknown in the English-speaking world. Antal Ullein-Reviczky s memoirs represent an important source of the history of Hungary from German war through Russian peace.

The Inauguration of Organized Political Warfare: Cold War Organizations Sponsored by the National Committee for a Free Europe

Katalin Kádár Lynn, Editor


  • Veronika Durin-Hornyik: Université Paris-Est, France“The Free Europe University in Exile, Inc. and the Collège de l’ Europe libre (1951-1958)”
  • Tibor Frank: Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary“Imre Kovács and Cold War Émigré Politics in the United States”
  • Katalin Kádár Lynn: Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary“At War While at Peace: The History of the National Committee for a Free Europe”
    “History of the Hungarian National Council 1946-1971”
  • Maria Kokoncheva: Altborg University, Denmark“George Dimitrov and the Bulgarian National Council”
  • Jonathan H. L’Hommedieu: Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Georgia, USA“The Baltic Freedom Committees: Policies and Politics of an Exile Community”
  • Anna Mazurkiewicz: University of Gdansk, Poland“The Assembly of Captive European Nations and the Free Europe Committee in the face of Nikita Khrushchev’s US Visits in 1959 & 1960”
    “The Schism within the Polish Delegation to the Assembly of Captive European Nations (1954-1972)”
  • Marius Petraru: Sacramento State University, American River College, California, USA“The Romanian Government In Exile in the United States: 1947-1975”
  • Francis Raska: Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic“History of the Council of Free Czechoslovakia” 
  • Toby Charles Rider: Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA“The Cold War Activities of the Hungarian National Sports Federation”


The Inauguration of Organized Political Warfare

Each of the essays in this volume focuses on an organization or activity funded through the National Committee for a Free Europe, Inc. (NCFE was known as the Free Europe Committee, Inc. after 5 March 1954) during the war of ideas and ideals in which the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged that came to be known as the Cold War. This US government sponsored organization existed between 1949 and 1971 and was but one aspect of United States policy arising from the policy of containment and an aggressive stance against Soviet Expansionism. Archival information on the NCFE offers a rich source of information that has not yet been thoroughly mined by scholars. The NCFE’s original charge, as outlined in 3 May 1948 by George Kennan to the National Security Council in a policy paper titled “The Inauguration of Organized Political Warfare”, was to wage “organized political warfare” which became the ideological basis for US policy during the Cold War. In large part this effort involved the U.S.-based exiles from the nations of Central and East Europe that had become Soviet satellites after World War II. The NCFE organization was developed and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Policy Coordination. The first chairman of NCFE’s Executive Committee was Allen W. Dulles, and it was operated and funded covertly through American intelligence channels throughout its twenty-two year existence as an ostensibly private, not for profit entity funded by donations from the American public. 

Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty are the two most well known divisions of NCFE, with RFE having the highest profile. As the two radio divisions’ archival records were acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University in 2000, those divisions have been the focus of most NCFE-related scholarship. Additional archival material documents the much wider range of Cold War activities which the NCFE established, sponsored and funded, but until now, these have received little attention and research on the non-radio aspects of its operation has been minimal—due in part to the fact that, as of this writing, a portion of the primary archival material relating to the parent organization remains classified. Despite this challenge, each of this book’s contributors has successfully researched an activity or organization sponsored by the NCFE or its later incarnation the FEC or Free Europe, Inc. 

Of primary interest to scholars will be the histories of the Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish and Baltic States national councils or committees, which represented the U.S.-based exile leadership of those satellite nations. These nationalities’ groups and their leaders were intended by the NCFE’s founders to lead the propaganda battle against the growth of world-wide communism. Kennan outlined the mission of the NCFE and the nationalities committees in the following manner “encourage the formation of a public American organization which will sponsor selected refugee committees so that they may act as the focus of national hope and revive a sense of purpose among political refugees from the Soviet World; provide an inspiration for continuing popular resistance within the countries of the Soviet World; and serve as a potential nucleus for all –out liberation movements in the event of war.” The nationalities committees were provided with operational funding for their domestic and international offices, publications and activities as well as funds for salaries to their leadership. However, NCFE sponsorship was not limited to these groups, its organizations numbered well over one hundred and circled the globe, represented not just in the United States but in Europe, Latin America and Asia as well. The major sponsored organizations ranged from the Assembly of Captive European Nations, the Free European University in Exile, the Crusade for Freedom, and the International Peasant Union to various propaganda programs including those that sponsored cultural and sports activities and organizations. The history of the Assembly of Captive European Nations and that of the Free Europe University in Exile, Inc. are addressed in this volume. 

The NCFE and its Cold War campaign of “organized political warfare” activities remains one of the last aspects of U.S. Cold War policy that has not been thoroughly researched, and Cold War scholarship will not be complete until this history is made available. This volume takes the first step in that direction but there is still much more material that is to be uncovered.

Katalin Kádár Lynn