In the seven years since revolution swept through Romania,
Elemer Kincses has lost a number of his prized actors.
They left this city's venerable Hungarian theater for the bigger
venues of neighboring Budapest and beyond.
It's not only stardom they've sought, but a ticket out of a
homeland grown hostile. The 1.6 million ethnic Hungarians of
northwest Romania allege increased discrimination in housing,
schooling, and use of their mother tongue. And despite a landmark
basic treaty between Hungary and Romania, ratified in Bucharest
Sept. 26, few here in the region known as Transylvania expect
things to improve.
"For us Hungarians, oppression is a normal way of life," said
Mr. Kincses, director of the Tirgu Mures theater. "It would feel
abnormal without it."
Still, Kincses and most ethnic Hungarians are cautiously
optimistic about the treaty, hailed by the West as a huge stride
toward historic reconciliation between long-hostile neighbors.
But the agreement sprang less from goodwill than cool pragmatism.
The United States-led Western powers made the fledgling
democracies an offer neither could refuse - no treaty, no chance to
join NATO. The security alliance has already learned, from conflict
between member states Turkey and Greece, the pitfalls of
incorporating border disputes within NATO.
With an eye on the prize
So Hungary and Romania have recognized the inviolability of
their respective borders - a prickly issue for 76 years - and vowed
to treat their mutual minorities according to high "European
standards." Officials in both countries proclaimed it would raise
their international standing, enhance regional stability, and boost
But the agreement also elicited howls of protest from the right
wing in both countries, who view any compromise as a betrayal of
national interest. They warn ominously that interpretation and
implementation of the agreement will get messy.
"We know from history that a treaty signed under international
pressure is not a treaty, but a dictum," said Corneliu Vadim Tudor,
a member of Romania's parliament and president of the nationalist
Greater Romania party.
Territorial rights to Transylvania, the rolling, verdant swath
of land at the base of the Carpathian Mountains, best known as the
home of the legendary Count Dracula, have been a source of enmity
The Romanians claim it as their 2,000-year-old ancestral land,
while the Hungarians regard it as the cradle of Magyar culture.
Transylvania belonged to Hungary until the post-World War I
Trianon Treaty dismembered the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The treaty
deprived Hungary of two-thirds of its land and population. The
territory and people were distributed among Romania, Slovakia,
Ukraine, Serbia, and Croatia.
Hungarians stewed for two decades before lending their support
to Hitler in hopes of recovering their land.
Indeed, they reclaimed Transylvania in 1940 and kept it until
the Soviet Army rolled into the region and restored the Trianon
borders in 1945. …