A recent event in Toplița/Maroshévíz points out once more the existence of anti-Hungarian sentiment in Romania. On Tuesday morning locals found that on the bilingual (Romanian-Hungarian) place-name signs marking the various entrances into Toplița/Maroshévíz, the name of the city in Hungarian had been painted over during the night.
Attila Béla Bodor, the president of the local Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR/RMDSZ) organisation voiced his concern over the matter. He added that it had been a long and arduous process to finally get the local public authorities to put up the bilingual signs in autumn last year – in a city where 22% of the inhabitants are Hungarian. According to the Romanian legislation, multilingual signs are mandatory when a minority population constitutes at least 20% of the population in a territorial and administrative division.
NO TOLERANCE FOR BILINGUAL SIGNS
The police investigation is under way, but it will likely prove difficult to find the culprits, since there are no surveillance cameras in the vicinity of these signs. Some speculated that it is probably a mischievous act committed by children. However, this is highly unlikely, given that the perpetrators would have had to use a car, otherwise it is hard to explain how they could cover such distances – travelling to each and every entrance into the city – in such a short space of time. Moreover, all the place-name signs have been painted over with the same bronze colour, which also points to a planned and coordinated action. Bodor expressed his hope that the Harghita County Prefect’s Office will also aid the investigations.
This lamentable incident is not an isolated case, as several bilingual signs have been painted over in recent years: Covasna/Kovászna, Târgu Secuiesc/Kézdivásárhely, and Gheorgheni/Györgyfalva – just to name a few. Sadly, these cases and others – such as the smearing of the Hungarian community’s statues and monuments – reflect a persistent anti-Hungarian attitude in Transylvania, which the authorities often do little to combat.
It is not difficult to see why an ordinary citizen might think that in committing such acts, they are fighting for a righteous cause, as the Romanian authorities often use every tool at their disposal to prevent bilingual signs from being put up, as was the case in the recent trial concerning bilingual place-name signs in Cluj-Napoca/Kolozsvár. Until there is a clear animosity towards bilingual signs coming from the authorities themselves, there will always be some members of the Romanian majority who will feel emboldened in their fight against these signs.