Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

tinued to protest, especially after Tokes was whisked out of Timisoara. The unrest soon spread to other cities and the revolution was on.


Bibliography

Almond Mark, The Rise and Fall of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu ( London, 1992); Behr Edward , Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite ( New York, 1991); Galloway George, Downfall: The Ceausescus and the Romanian Revolution ( London, 1991).

Tokes, Laszlo (1946- ). In the province of the Banat lies the city of Timisoara, an urban center that was given to Romania by the peace treaties of 1918. The province and the city have always had a large ethnic Hungarian population. The Calvinist church, established by Calvinist preachers in the course of the sixteenth century, was almost exclusively Hungarian in character. It was the center of resistance to the Catholic Habsburgs during and following the Catholic Reformation of subsequent centuries.

In the 1980s, a young Calvinist minister, Laszlo Tokes, was elected pastor of one of Timisoara's Calvinist congregations. In a short time, he became a popular man in the city. He was a vigorous preacher who did not mind offending the communist authorities with his open criticism of the abuse of human and ethnic rights and of the general mistreatment of the minorities in communist Romania. The superior of Tokes in the county of Oradea was Bishop Laszlo Pap, another ethnic Hungarian, who was an ardent and willing servant of the communist authorities. By the summer of 1989, the activities of the Reverend Tokes had become too much for the regime, and Bishop Pap was ordered to remove him from the city.

Accordingly, the bishop instructed Tokes immediately to take up a new ministry in a godforsaken little village far from Timisoara. Tokes simply refused to go, and he was supported by his congregation. Non-Calvinist ethnic Romanians also came to his support because, by then, he was a symbol of resistance to the regime. Bishop Pap, desperate to obtain the required transfer, took his case to the communist courts, where it was a foregone conclusion that Tokes would be transferred. However, against all expectations, the case dragged on all late summer and early autumn, and it rapidly developed into a case of mighty mouse versus the almighty giant of the state.

An interesting episode was provided by the visit of the American Baptist preacher, Billy Graham, to Romania in the summer of 1989. He was wined and dined by the party leaders, and so, he did not take the time or trouble to inquire about the fate of a fellow Protestant minister whose case was becoming widely known. When, upon arriving in Hungary from Romania, he was interviewed by Hungarian radio reporters about this strange omission, Graham responded that he did not want to meddle in Romanian politics.

By the fall of that year, communism had disappeared from most East European countries and, in November, even the Berlin Wall had fallen. In October, the Hungarian government opened its western borders to East German refugees which brought down the Honecker regime. On December 16, the authorities in Timisoara enforced

-434-

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