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Nationalism and the Media in Post-communist Romania How media can fuel nationalist resentments.

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Presentation on theme: "Nationalism and the Media in Post-communist Romania How media can fuel nationalist resentments."— Presentation transcript:

1 Nationalism and the Media in Post-communist Romania How media can fuel nationalist resentments

2 Historical background  The modern Romanian state came into being in 1859, when the European Great powers agreed upon the unification of Moldavia and Vallachia, under the leadership of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, in what was to be called The Old Kingdom. Starting with 1866 Romania became a constitutional monarchy ruled by a king belonging to a German dynasty: Hohenzollern- Sigmaringen. State independence was gained as soon as Up to that moment, both Principalities had been most of the time under Turkish domination, while Transylvania, the third Romanian region, was under Austro-Hungarian rule.

3 Historical background  Yet, the boundaries of present day Romania came into existence only after the end of the World War One, when Transylvania joined the Old Kingdom after the Versailles Peace Treaty on the basis of the Wilsonian self-determination principle. The importance of this moment is underlined by the fact that after 1989, it was decided that the Romanian national day should be exactly the 1st of December.

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5 Historical background The “December 1 st, 1918” moment has a particular significance because: it marked the end of the Hungarian rule over Transylvania, a Principality inhabited by a majority of ethnic Romanians but ruled by elites of Hungarian and German origin. it marked the end of the Hungarian rule over Transylvania, a Principality inhabited by a majority of ethnic Romanians but ruled by elites of Hungarian and German origin. Romania became the home of one of the largest minority populations in Europe, representing 9% of the population, composed mainly of ethnic Hungarians and Germans. Romania became the home of one of the largest minority populations in Europe, representing 9% of the population, composed mainly of ethnic Hungarians and Germans.

6 Historical background From this moment on, conflicting narratives came to the fore regarding the legitimate rule over this region. From this moment on, conflicting narratives came to the fore regarding the legitimate rule over this region. While Romanians claim that Transylvania is a Romanian land since “the Roman conquest of Dacia”, the Hungarians consider it as part of Greater Hungary. For both sides, Transylvania has a symbolic meaning: for Romanians it represents the cradle of the Romanian civilization whereas for Hungarians it stands for a symbol of their national Golden Age. While Romanians claim that Transylvania is a Romanian land since “the Roman conquest of Dacia”, the Hungarians consider it as part of Greater Hungary. For both sides, Transylvania has a symbolic meaning: for Romanians it represents the cradle of the Romanian civilization whereas for Hungarians it stands for a symbol of their national Golden Age.

7 Communist period  The Communist period worsened the situation as the Romanian Communist Party decided to play the nationalist card in order to gain some legitimacy. If initially Romanian “National- Communism” indicated a departure from the line imposed by the Soviet Union, starting with 1970s it represented an official nationalist state policy. As such, Ceausescu’s rule put great emphasis: (1) on a new demographic policy of repopulating Transylvania with ethnic Romanians from Moldavia and Vallachia, with the explicit aim of reducing the numerical relevance of ethnic Hungarians and (2) on rewriting history according to an obvious exacerbated nationalist interpretation of the historical past.

8 Post-communist period: Statistics According to the 2002 census, the Romanian population was formed by a majority of 89.47% ethnic Romanians and 6.6% ethnic Hungarians. According to the 2002 census, the Romanian population was formed by a majority of 89.47% ethnic Romanians and 6.6% ethnic Hungarians. The majority of Hungarians are living in Transylvania, where they represent around 20% of the population. The majority of Hungarians are living in Transylvania, where they represent around 20% of the population.

9 Post-communist period Forty years of Communist rule turned post-communist Romania into a country characterized by widespread nationalist feelings. Forty years of Communist rule turned post-communist Romania into a country characterized by widespread nationalist feelings. Some of the relevant manifestations of such a phenomenon are: Some of the relevant manifestations of such a phenomenon are: Bloody ethnic conflict on March 19 and 20, 1990 in the city of Targu Mures between ethnic Romanians and ethnic Hungarians, ending up with 3 deaths and 269 injured people. Bloody ethnic conflict on March 19 and 20, 1990 in the city of Targu Mures between ethnic Romanians and ethnic Hungarians, ending up with 3 deaths and 269 injured people. The creation of the Romanian Hearth union ( Vatra Romanesca) immediately after the 1989 Revolution, a “self- proclaimed cultural organization” which gave birth eventually to two extreme right wing parties: PUNR (The Party of the Romanian National Unity) and PRM (the Great Romania Party). The creation of the Romanian Hearth union ( Vatra Romanesca) immediately after the 1989 Revolution, a “self- proclaimed cultural organization” which gave birth eventually to two extreme right wing parties: PUNR (The Party of the Romanian National Unity) and PRM (the Great Romania Party).

10 Post-communist period The fact that a party like PRM, despite (or precisely because of) its obvious nationalist discourse and anti-Hungarian stance always succeeded in entering the Parliament, obtaining around 10% -12% of the votes. In the 2000 Parliamentarian elections they came to the fore as the second largest relevant party (26% of the votes for Senate, 24% for the Chamber of Deputies), while their candidate for Presidency, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, got into the second run. (33.17% of the votes) The fact that a party like PRM, despite (or precisely because of) its obvious nationalist discourse and anti-Hungarian stance always succeeded in entering the Parliament, obtaining around 10% -12% of the votes. In the 2000 Parliamentarian elections they came to the fore as the second largest relevant party (26% of the votes for Senate, 24% for the Chamber of Deputies), while their candidate for Presidency, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, got into the second run. (33.17% of the votes)

11 Post-communist period Politicians discourses: always making references to the need for national unity or to the possible threats to the integrity of the national territory. Politicians discourses: always making references to the need for national unity or to the possible threats to the integrity of the national territory. For example, early 1990s Prime Minister, Petre Roman, referring to the Targu Mures conflict, claimed that “thousands of Hungarians crossed the border into Romania in thousands of vehicles” (Gallagher; 1995, p. 88) and considered that “we should have expected the Hungarian government to call its own citizens to order and to refrain from interfering in Romanian affairs”(Gallagher; 1995, p. 88). For example, early 1990s Prime Minister, Petre Roman, referring to the Targu Mures conflict, claimed that “thousands of Hungarians crossed the border into Romania in thousands of vehicles” (Gallagher; 1995, p. 88) and considered that “we should have expected the Hungarian government to call its own citizens to order and to refrain from interfering in Romanian affairs”(Gallagher; 1995, p. 88).

12 Post-communist period Moreover, the Romanian President at that time, Ion Iliescu, asserted that: “the current serious political and ethnic conflicts created the impression that Transylvania may become a serious subject of discussion. We want to state most categorically that Ardeal and its belonging to the Romanian homeland cannot be a subject of negotiation with anyone”.( Gallagher, 1995, p. 91). Moreover, the Romanian President at that time, Ion Iliescu, asserted that: “the current serious political and ethnic conflicts created the impression that Transylvania may become a serious subject of discussion. We want to state most categorically that Ardeal and its belonging to the Romanian homeland cannot be a subject of negotiation with anyone”.( Gallagher, 1995, p. 91).

13 Post-communist media Suggestive title: “On Saturday, the borders of the Szekely Republic are established”. => Explicit reference to an unconstitutional action on the part of the Hungarian minority, as the Romanian fundamental act clearly stipulates the unitary character of the state. Suggestive title: “On Saturday, the borders of the Szekely Republic are established”. => Explicit reference to an unconstitutional action on the part of the Hungarian minority, as the Romanian fundamental act clearly stipulates the unitary character of the state.

14 Post-communist media  The article refers to another article wrote by “a well-known journalist of the Hungarian press from Transylvania”, Lajos Sylvester, who published on the “official page of the Sfântu Gheorghe town-hall” an article in which this journalist supposedly asserted that “The only solution is the autonomy of the Szekely country as part of an independent Transylvania”. Yet, the article takes the words out of their context and, despite the serious accusations, the article fails to indicate the source of this information, leaving the reader with no possibility of checking the validity of the aforementioned declarations of the Hungarian journalist.

15 Post-communist media  The article states that “The political tension within the region is aggravating with each passing day”, but fails to provide the reader with concrete examples of every day life in Transylvania proving that ethnic tensions exist in reality.

16 Post-communist meida  Referring to the peaceful demonstrations of the Hungarian population in several Transylvanian towns against the actual Hungarian Prime Minister, the article states that on the banners carried out by the demonstrators there are inscriptions such as “What happens in Hungary (namely street violent demonstrations) should be a signal for those Magyars living in Ardeal!”. Yet, again, the article says nothing about the number of demonstrators (relevant or not) and brings no further proof of this element being true, no photo of the banners, no references to other media sources that identified the same phenomenon.

17 Post-communist media  Moreover, the article makes use of the expression “the Szekely people” (understood as the French le peuple,) instead of the Szekely population or any other neutral formulation that does not implicitly have a negative, unconstitutional meaning.

18 Post-communist media The peak of the nationalist rhetoric of this article is reached within one of its subtitles explicitly called “16 years of anti- Romanian campaign”. The following passage successfully illustrates how media, and in particular newspapers, are a reliable indicator of Romanian post-communist nationalism and how they can actually fuel ethnic resentments: The peak of the nationalist rhetoric of this article is reached within one of its subtitles explicitly called “16 years of anti- Romanian campaign”. The following passage successfully illustrates how media, and in particular newspapers, are a reliable indicator of Romanian post-communist nationalism and how they can actually fuel ethnic resentments: “The aggressive campaign started by the numerous Magyar formations from Romania for 16 years now does not surprise anyone anymore, the goal strongly followed in all this period being the same: achieving territorial autonomy against the interests of the Romanian state and laws. Along these years, the Romanians ended up as being discriminated and a minority in their own country. This year the Magyars’ provocations came into the picture again”. “The aggressive campaign started by the numerous Magyar formations from Romania for 16 years now does not surprise anyone anymore, the goal strongly followed in all this period being the same: achieving territorial autonomy against the interests of the Romanian state and laws. Along these years, the Romanians ended up as being discriminated and a minority in their own country. This year the Magyars’ provocations came into the picture again”.

19 Post-communist media The article fails to accurately explain the reader what type of “territorial autonomy” the Hungarians ask for, and deliberately suggests that the Hungarians are searching for secession. The article fails to accurately explain the reader what type of “territorial autonomy” the Hungarians ask for, and deliberately suggests that the Hungarians are searching for secession. Yet, the article forgets that no such thing is possible as long as the Szekely county is geographically placed right in the middle of Romania. Yet, the article forgets that no such thing is possible as long as the Szekely county is geographically placed right in the middle of Romania.

20 Post-communist media One more example of irresponsible and unprofessional journalism in post-communist Romania: One more example of irresponsible and unprofessional journalism in post-communist Romania:

21 Post-communist media “Hungarian mass-media heated up spirits three weeks ago, denouncing insistently an incident that in their view has an ethnic explanation. More precisely, the news broadcast in Hungary referred to two Hungarian bikers who were training themselves on the Romanian roads and who were beaten up just because they had Hungarian nationality. In reality, the attackers were ethnic Hungarians and the incident had no ethnic motivations”. (Ziua, on-line version, September 28, 2006, accessed on ) “Hungarian mass-media heated up spirits three weeks ago, denouncing insistently an incident that in their view has an ethnic explanation. More precisely, the news broadcast in Hungary referred to two Hungarian bikers who were training themselves on the Romanian roads and who were beaten up just because they had Hungarian nationality. In reality, the attackers were ethnic Hungarians and the incident had no ethnic motivations”. (Ziua, on-line version, September 28, 2006, accessed on )

22 Post-communist media Once again the article does not point out the sources of information about the Hungarian press, failing to provide the reader with explicit reference to one or more Hungarian newspapers or TV channels dealing with the subject in the aforementioned manner. Once again the article does not point out the sources of information about the Hungarian press, failing to provide the reader with explicit reference to one or more Hungarian newspapers or TV channels dealing with the subject in the aforementioned manner. As such, the claims of this article come to the fore as unfounded speculations having as main consequences the creation of a highly distorted image of present day Transylvanian ethnic realities. As such, the claims of this article come to the fore as unfounded speculations having as main consequences the creation of a highly distorted image of present day Transylvanian ethnic realities. Moreover, this type of articles are creating a false and exaggerated representation of actual social and political realities, contributing by this to the emergence of a state of affairs in which ethnic resentments are more likely to occur. Moreover, this type of articles are creating a false and exaggerated representation of actual social and political realities, contributing by this to the emergence of a state of affairs in which ethnic resentments are more likely to occur.

23 References Tom Gallagher, Romania after Ceausescu. The Politics of Intolerance, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Tom Gallagher, Romania after Ceausescu. The Politics of Intolerance, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Katherine Verdery, What was socialism and what comes next, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, Katherine Verdery, What was socialism and what comes next, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press,


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