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  • The Bolyai University

A short history of the BOLYAI UNIVERSITY

From the background of this University, it is to be noted that the Hungarian University established in 1872 in Cluj/Kolozsvár was abolished by the Romanian government when the regime changed after the First World War. Following the Vienna Arbitration Decision in 1940 the University has started to function again, however, at the final phase of the Second World War its existence has became impossible.

On September 15, 1944 the University Council has decided that "the University shall not leave Cluj/Kolozsvár even in case of a hostile occupation, (…) because the Hungarians from Transylvania need the cultural capital represented by the University.” On January 19, 1945, the prefect ordered “the functioning of the Hungarian-language University in Cluj/Kolozsvár based on the legal continuity and the start of the Romanian-language University’s functioning.” This provision was specified by the Commission appointed at the meeting held at Cluj/Kolozsvár on April 16-17, 1945, by the National Democratic Front as follows: 1) with effect from May 1st the Romanian-language Universities in Sibiu/Nagyszeben and Timisoare/Temesvár shall return to Cluj/Kolozsvár and occupy the University’s premises and dormitories. To this end, the Hungarian-language University was required to complete the academic year earlier in order to transfer the buildings to the Romanian-language University; 2) a University with courses in Hungarian language shall be established in Cluj/Kolozsvár with a Depratment of Linguistic and Philosophy, of Natural Sciences and of Medical Sciences; 3) the staff of the Hungarian-language University, of Romanian citizenship, who are at their place of employment when the proposal was made, shall be confirmed in their position. Those without Romanian citizenship, if they apply for and be awarded such citizenship, shall also be confirmed in their position; 4) the Romanian-language University shall take over the inventory as of August 30, 1940, remained at Cluj/Kolozsvár, and the Hungarian-language University shall take over the inventories that it obtained after the abovementioned date; it shall receive the premises of the former Queen Mary High School and shall rent for 90 years the Marianum building from the Roman Catholic Church.

The Hungarian Popular Association from Romania has essentially accepted these resolutions at its General Meeting held on May 1945 in Cluj/Kolozsvár. After that, Ştefan Voitec, the Minister of Education has submitted a draft law to King Mihai. Regulation No 407 regarding this issue, published in the Official Journal No 119 on May 28, 1945, provides for the establishment of a Hungarian-language university at Cluj/Kolozsvár with effect as from June 1st. The novelty was that the bill provided not for three, but four faculties: the list of the abovementioned faculties is completed by the Faculty of Law and Economical Sciences (upon the proposal of the Prime Minister, the Medical School was moved to Targu Mures/Marosvásárhely). This Regulation was completed by a Decision as of December 11, 1945, stating that this higher education institution shall bear the name of BOLYAI UNIVERSITY.

The educational reform in 1948, launched in the political context created after the Romanian Kingdom was abolished, resulted in a process that led to the subordination and gradual liquidation of the Bolyai University. In the autumn of 1949 the second rector of the University, Mr Edgár Balogh was arrested; Mr Lajos Csögör, the first rector was soon also imprisoned. In 1952, during the events connected to the so-called Luca-deviation many teachers were removed from the University, among those Attila T. Szabó and Zsigmond Jakó, still living among us, and many others. Furthermore, many were relieved of their offices, and a number of students were arrested or sent down from the University. The lack of trust on behalf of the government and the “search for enemies” continued to potentate each other. At the beginning of the 1995/1956 academic year, a rumour started to circulate in the Ministry of Education according to which the Bolyai University was “overproductive” because a number of its graduates cannot obtain a job. The management proved that this rumour was unsubstantiated on the basis of surveys carried out in the rural regions. In October 1995, Leonte Rautu, member of the Central Committee, and Miron Constantinescu, the Minister of Education, made a visit to the University. After inquiries on the number of students, their skills, the quality of the courses and seminaries and the possibilities of the graduates to find employment, Mr Rautu raised objection against the fact that the University held courses not only on the Hungarian literature from Romania, but on the whole Hungarian literature. Not just for this reason, but in the spirit of contemporary expectations the possibility to review and reorganize the whole Bolyai University was brought up.

During the next few years, the one-party socialist regime made use of the possibilities that arouse to realize this intention. After the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, many of the teachers and students were brought to justice and sentenced to 10 to 20 years of imprisonment or forced labour for no real reasons. In the 1957/1958 academic year the local and mutually initiated relations between the two Universities in Cluj/Kolozsvár and the joint activities were beginning to be controlled and extended from upper central levels. Several “informal” meetings between the leaders of the two Universities were held in the Continental Hotel. From time to time, rumours about the ending of some faculties leaked out. In the autumn of 1957 the so-called Dobai-Komáromi action started that became an action against intellectuals and the University. Among the charges was sympathising with the anti-socialist and anti-sovietic Hungarian Revolution, abandonment of Marxism, reading the Irodalmi Újság (Literature Paper) and listening western radio stations etc. In the spring of 1958 a new wave of arrests began. Gyula Dávid, Elemér Lakó and János Varró from the Department of Hungarian Literature were sentenced to 8 to 12 years of imprisonment. The official charges were summarized as “public agitation”, or more precisely, they made an allegation that in the autumn of 1956 they recited poems by Sándor Reményik and Jenő Dsida at the grave of these poets and sang together with their students and made injurious remarks about the socialist regime. Lajos Jordáky was arrested for the second time, and many students were also expelled from the University: Ferenc Bartis, Zoltán Boros, János Kelemen, György Koczka, Erzsébet László, Géza Páskándi, Irén Péterfi, and Emma Váradi from the Hungarian Literature Department, Benedek Nagy and István Várhegyi from the History Department, Lajos Páll and Imre Balázs from the Institute of Fine Arts.

Many of those concerned later declared about these events and the arrests following the tensions on the student assemblies that these actions were already aiming at the unification of the two universities and the dictatorial subordination and control of the Hungarian-language University. These dismissals, arrests and imprisonments served to substantiate that the Bolyai University does not fit with the political and ideological image of Romania higher education, and due to its separatist and nationalist nature it is a dangerous node for the entire national education network and for the political system. The intimidation was manifest in methods and actions disguised by slogans and it aimed to liquidate the Hungarian-language University from Romania.

This plan of the government was openly revealed at the national conference of the Romanian student association held in Bucharest between February 18 and 22, 1959. Among other things, Gheorghe-Gheorghiu Dej, the General Secretary of the Communist Party urged the audience to eliminate any efforts to isolate nationalities and ethnic groups, citing Lenin that students of different nationalities should go to the same school in order to educate them in the spirit of socialist internationality. He also set one of the goals of the conference as the review of how Lenin’s idea could be realised in Romania.
The management of Bolyai University convened a meeting for February 23rd on which the Rector, Lajos Takács announced that the Prorector shall make a confidential proposal for information purposes. According to this, upon the request of the students, the Romanian-language and Hungarian-language universities shall be unified based on the decision of the Party and the Ministry.

During the following period, a series of meetings were held under Nicolae Ceauşescu’s authority. The basic principle was that the unification of these two universities served to build socialism because it eliminates isolation and nationalism, and puts the foundation for the true completion of the culture of a socialist people.

Despite of the subdued atmosphere at these pre-organised meetings, Edgár Balogh, István Nagy and László Szabédi were against the unification. However, they were soon forced to review their position which also meant full failure of general public resistance. In such circumstances neither the suicide of László Szabédi and Zoltán Csendes, nor the destiny of those imprisoned could have changed the political decision imposing the liquidation of the Bolyai University.