Minority Church Autonomy in Dualist Hungary: Contact between State Authorities and Romanian Churches

STSM start and end date: 17/05/2023 to 20/06/2023
Grantee name: Ágoston István Berecz, Phd
Host institution: Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Home institution:Pasts, Inc, Budapest, Hungary

Statement about the STSM:

I conducted research for four weeks in three Romanian state archives (in Bistrița, Caransebeș and Timișoara), framed by shorter stays in Cluj-Napoca, where I was advised by historians from Babeș-Bolyai University and shared my experiences with them. The advice I received was particularly helpful because the inventories of most archival fonds are not accessible online.

STSM purpose:

My goal was to examine how far state and county authorities respected the linguistic autonomy of parishes in Dualist Hungary (1867-1918). Under the Nationalities Act of 1868, parishes had the latitude to communicate in their administrative language with state officials and (where it was a recognized language of county assemblies) county authorities. This provision gained significance in the case of ethnic churches, most notably the Romanian Greek Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which used Romanian for internal administration. I chose the former Beszterce-Naszód and Krassó-Szörény Counties, where Romanian had not only been the most spoken widely spoken language but had also enjoyed territorial recognition.

Description of the work carried out during the STSM:

I consulted dozens of Romanian Orthodox and Greek Catholic parish fonds, several deanery fonds and a few fonds deriving from county authorities.

Description of the main results obtained:

The most unexpected result is the prevalent practise of non-accommodating bilingualism in the contact between secular authorities and Romanian parishes, which remains completely hidden in the printed sources. Most Romanian priests and all lay congregational office holders consistently wrote to state and county officials in Romanian, to which they replied in Hungarian; and vice versa. This kind of asymmetrical communication also existed in areas where Romanian enjoyed no formal recognition and was little influenced by the content. On the other hand, new laws, decrees and rescripts reached the parishes in Romanian translation by the bishoprics. I also found illuminating metalinguistic comments, first-hand evidence on individual priests’ second-language skills and was able to date when state officials began to demand reports in Hungarian after the turn of the century.