Serviciu Specială de Siguranţă
19 decembrie 1921
Avem onoare a reportă că în noaptea de 14 Decembrie 1921 D-le Enea Popovici, secretarul Prefecturei atras în cafeneua „Corso” câteva focuri de revolver, pe când era la chef cu baronul Banfi şi D-rul Jeney ceea ce produs panica în cafenea şi a făcut ca lumea să a evacueze. După aceea cu revolverul în mâna a întrat în camera servitoarelor cafenelei şi sub ameninţare a voit să le violeze ceea ce le-a făcut să iasă desbrăcate în zăpadă.
Aducăndu-ni-se dimineaţă la cunoştinţă, am plecat la faţă locului şi am constatat două semne de glonţ din care unul având chiar glonţul înfipt în scândură lânga a oglindă. Când am început a face întrebări, ni s-a adus la cunuştinţă că Poliţia deja a chemat pe patron şi martori, aşa că ne-am dus la Poliţie unde am constatat ca de fapt au început cercetările. Dela primele vorbe schimbate cu şeful Poliţiei am văzut ca D-sa doreşte a muşamaliză această afacere considerând-o numai o simplă contravenţie de turburarea ordinei publice. Chemând la serviciu pe directorul cafenelei după amiază şi pe şeful chelner, au declarat câ Banca „Albina”, – care e proprietatea cafenelei – a şi luat înţelegere cu D-le Prefect, că nu face nici o reclamaţie contra secretarului, cu condiţiunea că d-l Prefect să admită că primaşul Balog Lajos să nu mai fie alungat din oraş şi a fi lăsat să cânte la cafenea. Nefiind deci reclamaţie, nu rămâne decât contravenţia.
Cu două seri mai înainte de această pe când un domn căpitan petrecea în cafenea şi-i cânta la masă Balog, d-l Prefect, care a venit cu încă câţiva inşî în cafeneua, ar fi spus ţiganului să-i cânte şi lui, ceeace ţiganul n-a voit, – ori pentru că cântase toată noaptea căpitanului, ori pentru că se dăduse ordin de către căpitan să numai cânte altcuiva. Această presupunere a făcut pe d-l Prefect – în virtutea nu stui cărei legi – să hotărească şeful Poliţiei de a interzice ca ţiganul să mai cânte în acea cafeneaci să fie alungat din oraş. În seara urmatoare ţiganul n-a mai cântat. Fiindcă acesta e un bun lăutar şi mare parte din clientela cafenelei venea pentru el, a fost mare lovitura pentru Banca „Albina” intrzicerea lui de a mai cânta, aşa încât a fost bucuroasă să renunţe la reclamaţia contra secretarului şi a-l avea în schimb pe Balog.
Notam că d-l Prefect, când a fost scandalul de acum câteva luni între footbalisti şi pfiţeri, la care cel mai vinovat a fost acest ţigan, a luat parte footbaliştilor şi a fost contra ofiţierilor. Atunci am înţeles să fi dispusi depărtarea din oraş ca element turbulent, dar acum nici un caz. Vorbînd cu d-l Prefect D-sa ne edclară că a luat măsura inderpărtări lui Balog că s-a convins că acesta cânta numai cântece ungureşti, nu penru ca nu i-a cântat D-sal. Ne întrebăm, de de acum fiindcă Banca nu mai face reclamaţie contra secretarului Perefcturei nu mai e de părerea că acest ţigan să fie îndepărtăt din oraş pentru că cântă numai ungureşte.
Acest mic exemplu vă poate face dovadă de câte stimă se bucură autorităţile din oraşul mostru faţă de populaţie şi în special de cea streină, care discuta tot a două seară în cafenea cu ţiganul, care mai ales acum jubila pentru căderea Guvernului şi deci a Prefectului.
[ Arhivele Naţionale Istorice Centrale Fond Consiliul Dirigent, Secţia Prezidială, dosar 2/1922, 75.]
The above report portrays a small incident in many senses typical in a countryside town at the beginning of the twenties. The events described here were scandalous but not unheard of – as the way it was settled indicates – and it offers a lens through wich different aspects of everyday life can be revealed. Not only customs and behavior, but the relatiohsip between locals and authorities and ethnicity also. A very important aspect of the latter, the specific circumstances that activates it or at least invokes an argumentation based on ethincity/nationality.
Place and time
The events happened at the end of the year 1921 in Târgu Mureş. The city itself was inhabited predominantly by persons who gave as their mother tongue the Hungarian at the census of 1910. (23253 Hungarian, 2416 Romanian, 624 German, 26779 inhabitants. The conscription in 1920 found 23238 people with Hungarian nationality, 4774 with Romanian, 450 German 3267 Jewish out of 31998 inhabitants.) According to contemporary observers the raise of the number of Romanians were mainly a result of the „romanization” of the administration, a process that begun as early as in 1919. The leaders of the county administration were replaced by some Romanian leaders, delegated by the Consilul Dirigent and as a part of the public officials refused to take an oath of fidelity to the king of Romania or at least swear to execute the orders of the new Romanian administration thy were gradually removed. The same process started at the city hall as well.
However, the growing presence of Romanian officials didn’t changed the outlook of the city significantly. Although a part of the flats in the city were confiscated for the newly arrived officials (and in many cases for Hungarians as well) and the Hungarian language as the language of official inscriptions was at least nominally replaced by the Romanian (although in this case the same observers cynically mentioned that these regulations usually were only partially introduced), until major construction projects were finished it resembled its past as a city in the dualist Hungary, rather its future as a county seat of Greater Romania.
The exact date of the events is not really significant (albeit the prefect was an appointee of the government led by General Averescu, that was replaced by another led by Take Ionescu on the 17 December), it is the end phase of the transition period, everyone trying to accomodate to the new realities.
The public, the authorities and the local elite
The institution of the prefect – as its forerunner the Hungarian office of the Lord Lieutenant (főispán) – was a political one. The office was usually held by one of the politicians of the government party. While being the chief of the county administration, it was at the same time the representative of the center of power and traditionally held in high esteem as a member of the county elite. In this case it is clear that the secretary of the Prefecture – probably an intimate of the Prefect – entertained himself in the company of two prominent Hungarian figure, one of them even aristocrat in a coffeehouse. This kind of activity was quite typical, a part of the countryside elite’s life, what is interesting in this case is the participation of a Romanian official, despite the widespread perception – resulting from the portrayal of the minority era as a constant series of grievances – that Hungarians and Romanians were divided and rarely interacted. (Even if the Hungarians invited Enea Popovici in order to ensure some influence on the Romanian authorities, in the countryside life it was a way of acceptance. And Târgu Mureş is not a sole example. A year later the police chief in Făgăraş ordered the arrest of a group singing „irredentist songs”. Next morning they were released as it turned out that the group consisted the leaders of the Romanian National Party. They were just singing Hungarian popular songs.)
Unfortunately the series of events was also not uncommon, in this social environment, neither the shots, nor the attempt of rape or the eagerness of the police to dismiss the scandal. It indicates another important element: the arbitrary conduct of the authorities, that clearly diminished their otherwise not too positive standing. Presuming that it was not a sole occasion and looking at the way the problem was resolved – with a bargain in the background – the practice was far from the claims of rule of law and democratic administration as opposed to the conduct of the former Hungarian county officials.
Ethnicity and everyday, societal culture
What is revealed about ethnicity in this story? First of all its changing importance. For this social group – a middle class occupying the administration, aristocrats and other middle class individuals from the free professions – certain elements of a societal culture defined as part of its middle class existence were common. Not only the events of the night of 14 December can be subsumed under this category. The stories about the gipsy singing for the officer (some months ago for the football players), being the most important asset of the coffeehouse and continuously assaulted by the prefect in order to sing for him also portrays this cultural environment. In this context not only the figure has its importance but the songs – the typical Hungarian popular songs. Those are generally accepted as indispensable parts of this common culture. Thus, this cultural setting – otherwise having its ethnic/national content as well – in this specific situation could have be a unifying element and not a dividing line. (Sometimes it was also used to emphasize the difference towards people coming from the Old Kingdom and obviously not being part of this societal culture.)
But in some situation ethnicity became important, at least for one of the actors. Even though nobody interpreted the prefect’s order of expulsion as a nationally based action he thought it better to give this – clearly more acceptable – reason instead of admitting that jelousy was the main driving force behind it.
Another interesting aspect of nationality is the role of the bank Albina. Although this institution claimed to be a champion of national interest in this case very few of this eagerness of promoting romanism could be seen. They owned a coffeehouse, probably managed by a Hungarian, a favorite place of local middle class because they employed a gipsy musician who only sang Hungarian songs and they even made a deal with the Romanian prefect in order to keep this musician of theirs. In this situation national interest was not taken into consideration (most probably the concept didn’t even came to anybody!s mind) and only business interest had importance and influence on the decisions.
In situations that can be characterized as petty or banal ones national belonging and ethnicity not necessarily gained importance for the participants of different interactions. Even though posterity tends to conceptualize the period (and the preceding ones) as eras of constant national struggles encompassing every aspect of life, surprisingly many events can be found where the presumed national conflict lost its significance. Quite the contrary, possibilities of a common life emerged. However it didn’t mean that nationality lost its significance in its entirety, it was only insignificant among the given and specific circumstances and in a different situation or context it suddenly could become important. It also underlines the conclusion of a popular direction of contemporary anthropology: national identity is not given and present at every moment in an individual’s life, it rather something triggered by specific events and occasions, a contingency. Its appearance depends on social interactions, or the reasonability to use specific ways of argumentation and the idea of the nation and the national culture is far from being homogeneous, many elements of it can be a dividing line towards those who supposedly belong to the same national group, while the very same elements can offer a bound to others who are clearly not members of groups such as nations, but can be conceived as belonging to social categories like countryside middle-class.
PS. The attempt of rape is a very deplorable part of this whole world of the ’20s. And the conduct of the new administration was problematic in general, not only against minorities, complaints were widespread from Besarabia to the Banat.