LETTER : Xenophobia stalks Romania again

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The Independent Online
From Mr Martyn Rady

Sir: Adrian Bridge ("Romania set for new row with Hungary", 26 August) is right to draw attention to the provocative distribution by the Romanian government of Romanians Hunted Down in Their Own Country. The book repeats allegations, originally made in the local Romanian press during the spring of 1990, that gangs of ethnic Hungarians engaged in the widespread intimidation of Romanians in Transylvania, including the murder of police officers, in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 revolution.

During 1990 I investigated several of these allegations and found that, while some killings had undoubtedly taken place, the groups responsible had a mixed membership of Romanians, gypsies and ethnic Hungarians. Significantly, however, in the subsequent trials of the culprits, Hungarians and gypsies generally received harsher sentences than their Romanian accomplices.

The book also documents the departure of ethnic Romanians from Transylvania after 1989. A large number of those listed are, however, former Securitate officers, whom we may imagine were anxious to distance themselves from their earlier crimes; others are young teachers who had been compulsorily located in Transylvania upon graduation and who moved back home after the revolution; the remainder mainly comprise party-nominated managers who forfeited their jobs with the democratisation of workplaces.

Romanians Hunted Down in Their Own Country strongly recalls the xenophobic and crudely nationalist literature published in Romania during the last years of the Ceausescu dictatorship. Romania has, however, made enormous progress since 1989 in protecting and preserving the rights of its ethnic minorities: it probably sustains the most extensive network of minority- language schools and classes in Eastern Europe today. This latest work does a disservice, therefore, not only to the Hungarian minority in Transylvania but also to the achievement of the Romanian government over the past few years.

Yours faithfully,

Martyn Rady

Director of Studies

Centre for the Study of Minorities

School of Slavonic and

East European Studies

University of London

London, WC1

27 August