Documentation Centre – Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities
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Name of collection
- Documentation Centre – Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities
Provenance and cultural activities
The Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities is a legally constituted public entity under the authority of the Romanian Government. It was established in 2007. One of the RIRNM’s departments is the Documentation Centre. Its role is to facilitate research on national minorities from Romania, and to this aim, the Documentation Centre collects and archives primary research sources too.
Concerning the past of national minorities in Romania and particularly the topic of cultural opposition in the period of state socialism, there are various types of records stored at the Documentation Centre: interviews, copies of official documents, and registers. There was no overarching collection development policy. Rather the materials were gathered through different projects of a more or less complementary nature, and hence the results cannot be considered exhaustive from any point of view.
With a few exceptions, relevant sources concern the activities of local or national Hungarian elites and cultural institutions of key importance for the Hungarian minority in Romania. The sources were produced both before and after the regime change.
The interviews can be clustered into two groups based on when they were made: interviews done during the period of state socialism and interviews done after the change of the political regime. The first group contains interviews conducted in the 1980s by Gusztáv Molnár, who at the time was editor at the Kriterion publishing house, which was a publishing house dedicated to books in minority languages. Under the oppressive and anti-minority state policies, his main aim was to collect alternative narratives about the past and current situation of the Hungarian minority living in Romania based on first-hand experiences. The Securitate closely followed Molnár’s activity, but he continued collecting reliable information up until he emigrated to Hungary in 1986.
The second cluster contains materials generated through projects employing oral history methods, such as biographic interviews with intellectuals, interviews with the staff of the Kriterion publishing house, and interviews with local elites regarding the change of the political regime from 1989. In addition to individual life stories and careers, these interviews deliver information on a broad range of issues pertaining to the domains of the political, social, and institutional history.
The next type of record, copies of official documents, are constituted by the Securitate files on Géza Domokos (1928–2007), which implicitly contain information regarding the functioning of the Kriterion publishing house too. Domokos was the general director of the Kriterion publishing house between 1970–1990, as well as a writer and a politician after the regime change. He was probably the most active, the most mobile, and the best-known Hungarian intellectual of his age in Romania. The Kriterion publishing house itself, which used to publish in nine minority languages, can be considered a unique cultural achievement under the Romanian communist dictatorship. The story of its foundation, its functioning, and its survival in spite of systematic attempts to abolish it make in interesting from the perspective of cultural opposition.Finally, registers help one effectively use large primary sources. There is a register of the aforementioned interviews conducted by Gusztáv Molnár, as well as a register of the Securitate files of the Roman Catholic bishop Áron Márton (1896–1980), who was one of the most prominent and authentic anti-communist dissidents in Romania.
Description of content
The interviews conducted by Gusztáv Molnár and stored at the Documentation Centre were completed in the 1980s with 17 interviewees. They make up ca. 45 hours of audio materials. These interviews represent just a small portion of the series of interviews conducted by Molnár in the 1970s and 1980s. His personal project aimed at collecting information from the “elderly generation” of (mostly) Hungarian intellectuals and politicians concerning 1) illegal communist activism before 1944, 2) activities in the time period between 1940 and 1944, and 3) the activity of two left-wing Hungarian mass organizations: the Union of Hungarian Workers (Magyar Dolgozók Szövetsége, 1934-40) and the Hungarian Popular Alliance (Magyar Népi Szövetség, 1944-1953), as well as other political parties (Romanian Communist Party) and the activity of Hungarian institutions of key importance, for instance, the Hungarian Economic Association of Transylvania (Erdélyi Magyar Gazdasági Egyesület, 1844–1948), the Hungarian Cultural Society from Transylvania (Erdélyi Magyar Közművelődési Egyesület, 1884–1948) and others. The collection also contains interviews with leading figures of the Hungarian Popular Alliance, some of whom were even jailed for their political and cultural activities (for instance, János Demeter, Edgár Balogh, István Lakatos, József Méliusz etc.). Molnár intended to publish a few of these interviews in Romania, but the Securitate effectively influenced both the editorial office (the cultural monthly “Korunk”) and the controlling fora in order to “delay” publication. Use of this large, unedited collection of audio material is facilitated by a registry that contains the name of the interviewee, the length of discussion, as well as a detailed description of the topic of discussion.
The “Minority elites in Transylvania - an oral history project” resulted in video recordings of 12 life-story interviews. The interviews were conducted between 2008 and 2010 with the collaboration of the Video Pontes Studio (Cluj-Napoca), and they constitute a part of the Hungarian Oral History Collection from Transylvania (Erdélyi Magyar Oral History Tár) stored for the most part at the “Jakabffy Elemér” Foundation (Cluj-Napoca). The shortest video from the collection of the RIRNM Documentation Centre lasts 5 hours, whereas the longest is 13 hours. 8 interviews have transcripts too. In addition to the careers of the individual involved, the interviews focus on events of key importance regarding the fate of Hungarians living in Romania in the twentieth century, most of whom had a strong influence on cultural life. The interviewees include poets, editors, church leaders, and politicians (mostly) from the second half of the period of communist rule.
The series of Kriterion-interviews consists of 13 in-depth interviews with the editorial staff of the Kriterion publishing house in the period between 1970 and 1990. The aim of the interviews was to map the formal and informal functioning mechanism of the publishing house, as well as the cultural consumption patterns of the period, the relationships between the writers and their readers, the relationships with the controlling forums, censorship practices, and techniques used to overcome censorial interventions, the political strategies of the publishing house, the book distribution strategies etc. The interviews have transcripts too.
The project entitled “Regime change in Romania. The participation of the Romanian national minorities in the events from 1989 and their first forms of self-organization” targeted interviews with local elites from 16 towns from Transylvania (plus Bucharest) and collecting mass-media documentation regarding the role of the national minority groups (especially Hungarians) in the processes of political regime change and civil/political initiatives that eventually resulted in the institutionalization of various structures representing the minorities. One section of these in-depth interviews focused particularly on the notoriousness of various oppositional activities and engagement in activities of this kind. The project resulted in 82 interviews, out of which 69 have transcripts.
The Securitate files of Géza Domokos contain a total of ca. 18,000 pages included in 33 volumes of about 500-600 pages each. Four of these volumes contain notes, reports, analyses and other types of documents issued by the Securitate, while the rest consists of minutes of discussions intercepted at his home and workplace, namely, the Kriterion publishing house. Electronic copies of these documents can be consulted at the Documentation Centre with special prior approval.The register of the Securitate files of Áron Márton – The Information fond (Fondul informativ) of the Securitate contains two dossiers for Roman Catholic bishop Áron Márton, summing up 236 volumes, ca. 77,000 pages of documents. The larger dossier containing 174 volumes was processed, resulting in a register containing detailed information concerning each individual document, including the topic of the document, as well as keywords. The dossier comprises minutes of intercepted discussions, correspondence, surveillance reports, analyses, syntheses, action plans, and other types of documents. The registry is in an electronic format and it can be consulted at the Documentation Centre.
- legal and/or financial documentation: 1000-
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): unknown quantity
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): unknown quantity
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Bárdi Nándor, Gidó Attila, and Novák Csaba Zoltán. Együtt és külön: az erdélyi magyarok önszerveződése: (1989-1990). Kolozsvár: Nemzeti Kisebbségkutató Intézet, 2014.
Author(s) of this page
- Kiss, Ágnes
Bartha Katalin Ágnes. Kriterion Kiadó interjúkban: Identitásmunka és hatalmi korlátozás: (Kézirat, kutatási jelentés). Cluj-Napoca: ISPMN, 2014.
Kiss Ágnes. “Censorship Revisited”. (Forthcoming). In Aus den Giftschränken des Kommunismus. Methodische Fragen zum Umgang mit den Überwachungsakten in Südost- und Mitteleuropa, edited by Florian Kührer-Wielach and Michaela Nowotnick, 233–270. Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet Verlag, 2018.
Lőrincz D. József. The Securitate Files of Géza Domokos: (Research report, manuscript). Cluj-Napoca: ISPMN, 2016.
Molnár Gusztáv, ed. Transzcendens remény. A Limes-kör dokumentumai 1985–1989. Csíkszereda Pallas-Akadémia, 2004.