An early example of Hungarian-Romanian national tensions

Nationalist sentiments are nothing new – sadly, humankind’s history is full of them. While we would like to think that moderation, peaceful co-existence and cooperation are the norm rather than the exception, we have found an over 100 years old example of Hungarian-Romanian animosity, which has even sparked a diplomatic incident at the time (the year 1906, when Romanian aviation pioneer Traian Vuia made the first unassisted take-off of a heavier-than-air vehicle in France).

Independent Hungarian newspaper Ellenzék was founded by Miklós Bartha and published in Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca between 1880 and 1944. The editor and his team have assumed the role of covering the daily life of Transylvanian Hungarians which includes a rare story like the following:

Romanian League of Culture president Petru Grădișteanu provoked an international scandal when he insulted Austro-Hungarian consul Miksa Kutschera in Bucharest because of the use of his mother tongue, the Hungarian language.

Two Hungarian ladies were having dinner at the Carol hotel, and they spoke with the waiter in Hungarian. After hearing the conversation with the waiter in Hungarian, the president of the League of Culture started yelling at them, shouting about how impertinent they were to speak Hungarian in Romania. “We cannot tolerate this!” he roared and stormed out of the restaurant.

Austro-Hungarian consul Miksa Kutschera heard Grădișteanu’s outburst, went to the ladies’ table, and offered them protection. Two hours after the loud incident, he met Gradisteanu on the street, stopped in front of him and said: “Insulting ladies is cowardice.” Surprised by Kutschera’s reaction, Gradisteanu, asked for more information. They presented themselves, and after Kutschera handed over his business card to an officer adjacent to Grădișteanu, wanted to leave. However, he found himself surrounded by people threatening him and his escort by raising their fists and sticks.

Gradisteanu attacked with his bare hands, but the consul managed to avoid the strike. However, he received a blow to the chest and slightly lost his balance. The mob started to attack Kutschera with their sticks, who bravely stood his ground and finally got away with the help of his friends.

The Bucharest scandal caused tensions between the Romanian and Austro-Hungarian governments but was finally tempered by the Romanian side when they ousted Grădișteanu from his position. The story appeared in Ellenzék in early September 1906.

Digitéka website
Screenshot of the Digitéka website

The newspaper was digitalized by the Iskola Alapítvány/School Foundation as part of the Transylvanian Digital Knowledge – Digitéka program, initiated with the purpose of digitalizing the newspapers, weeklies, and magazines of in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that offer a cross-sectional view of the daily lives of Hungarians living in Romania. The digital library embraces more than 100 years of Hungarian journalism in Transylvania. Visit digiteka.ro and start diving into the daily history of Hungarians in Transylvania.

Title image: headline of the Ellenzék newspaper.

Author: István Fekete