Small stories of everyday life 5. – Less noble loyalties

In the previous post of this series the fate of an aristocrat in Greater Romania was portrayed as an illustration that adjustment to the country’s realities was not impossible. Such phenomena existed not only at the upper end of the social ladder. The most telling examples of expressions of loyalty and acceptance are petitions submitted to the king. The practice had long traditions rooted in the concept of the generous and righteous king caring for all of his/her subjects. It was neither a novelty nor the individuals merger with a nation as the king’s role traditionally was less associated with the emerging entity of the nation than with the state and the kingdom and prescribed magnanimity towrads every one of his subjects.

It is therefore not surprising that  the kings of Greater Romania received a series of petitions from their Hungarian subjects as well. The very nature of these made it more probable to originate from the lesser strata of the society. People asked for material help after sudden and irreparable loss due to unexpected events (natural disaster, the death of the earner in the family etc.), dowry for a girl who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to marry her love, permission to baptize a child after the king and that way assume his „guardianship” over the child’s life.

The success of these attempts was neither certain nor impossible. As the role of the king implied such acts of generosity and magnanimity every – reasonable – petitioner were treated seriously and their case investigated. The kings chancellery sent it  to the respective local or county authorities and asked for their opinion on these issues. (As a consequence the decisions often reflected the stance of the authorities instead of the king’s.)  Betti Juhász, 21, from Petroşeni, applied for financial support in order to conclude  marriage with her fiancée for five years, Adalbert (Béla) Váta. Váta was locksmith at the mines while three of Juhász’ four brothers (locksmiths too) were married, one of them (a miner) single. They had no means to support their sister and the couple could not have afforded to set up a separate household without financial support. However, the local police nurtured rather unfavorable views of the family. In their opinion they advised the king not to grant the sum Juhász asked for, because she is „the sister of some suspected communists, only slightly speaks Romanian” and Váta was alleged to have committed burglary. The conclusion of the report run: „Every one of them being minority they not really nurture Romanian sentiments”.

Nevertheless, granting and denying the requests of his subjects varied in the practice and  individuals continued to petition their ruler. Not every one of them raised so serious problems like Betti Juhász. Ştefan Kun (Kun István, see the picture below, showing him and his family) asked the king to accept the role of virtual godparent over his sixth son. Kun, who referred to himself as a humble electrician from Cluj, proudly mentioned being Hungarian and not Romanian, but saw no objection in this fact for granting his request, as he described himself as faithful and loyal subject, whose desire is to give similarly faithful soldiers to His Majesty.

The story of individual petitions reveals another aspect of interwar Romania, usually veiled by the dominant national (and nationalist) perspectives of historiography. Firstly, it is a sign of differences in personal identification, contradicting to assumptions based on the broad interpretation of national conflict. Secondly, it is a sign of the continuous existence of the role of the ruler and sovereign as it was constructed before the age of mass nationalism and kept – sometimes deliberately against the latter – even during the 19th and early 20th centuries. From this perspective the king was not identical with the nation state, as its head, rather the traditional figure of the good ruler and therefore approachable by everyone, regardless of nationality or religion. For the „humble people” this role was familiar and appealing. It was not an invention, the king played a similar role even before 1918, as it is seen for example in the Memorandum movement. However, just as it happened in the latter case, the king of Greater Romania was inseparable from his state. Even if he was not entirely constrained by its apparatus, certain rules bound him as well, giving influence to state authorities on decisions. With it these authorities also gained the possibility to enforce considerations not necessarily part of the king’s own deliberations. Like in the case of Betti Juhász, who was unfortunate enough to belong simultaneously to the two most feared enemy group of Greater Romania: communists and irredentists.


7 gânduri despre “Small stories of everyday life 5. – Less noble loyalties

  1. What is so special about the life and activity of this hungarian aristocrat ? The fact that he liked the Bucharest high society ( protipendada bucureşteană) of the inter-war period ? Who in his place wouldnt’ like it ?

    • I don’t think that my conclusions were much different in the sense that it is not a bombastic story. However, according to Bossy Mikes was a unique figure in his eagerness to keep contact with the Bucharest elite and Hungarian travelers (like Ernő Ligeti in 1923) found in the capital much indifference towards Transylvania (albeit Ligeti had no contacts with the elite). Mikes can or can not be exemplary for the behavior of Hungarian aristocracy, without the respective research it will remain to everyone to guess it. Nevertheless, it is usually assumed that Hungarians tended to keep social contacts with Transylvanian Romanians if at all and not Regăţeni.

      One of the interesting points is Mikes’ activity and the resulting ties to the business elite of the new country (he was active in the forestry industry as soon as the late 19th century, and his company extended its working to Băcău before the First World War, he was later treated as someone who ruined the local peasantry there) and the way he used these informal ties. It is again very interesting how the elite of the Old Kingdom (and vice versa) accepted Hungarian aristocracy as their peers and was ready to give expression to this stance. Probably this rather aristocratic world of the Old Kingdom was a factor behind the huge differences between Transylvanian Romanian politicians – having been socialized in the typical countryside Hungarian gentry world – and the Regăţeni.

      Another aspect of his case is rather revealing considering the typical portrayal of the period, highlighting the national conflict. In the Hungarian historiography it means referring to the problems – or sometimes impossibility – to be loyal to Greater Romania, to establish there someone’s personal existence etc. due to national oppression. Not denying these such cases points to the necessity of a more detailed research and more complex approach.

  2. I don’t know, but if he was still alive and remained in the city probably nothing specific. The documentation of his petition was not scrutinized later, I would conclude that without being denounced no one cared about this story.

  3. Another interesting case of a hungarian aristocrat from Transilvania that integrated very well in the high society of the Kingdom of România (but not trough career and economic or political connections but trought marriage) is Maria Theresa of Debretzy from an szekler noble familly . She married romanian colonel Petre Dumitriu and followed him all around Romania where his army assingnements led him including in the frontier region of Cadrilater.she is mother to the romanian famous writter Petru Dumitriu , her’s story in general is very interesting.

  4. There is scattered evidence that in case of the aristocracy closer relationships were kept than usually assumed, but without specific research one can only rely on generalized assumptions. In Albert Wass’ autobiographies he mentions that he spent his military services at a special unit of the Romanian army reserved for aristocrat and noble families. (However, given his tendency to fabricate stories I wouldn’t be sure.) Moreover, again mentioned in his autobiographies for a while he was a kind of supervisor of the game stock in the Carpathian as a representative of the king’s Grand Master of the Hunt and if one considers that the latter position was held by Anton Mocioni, fellow aristocrat from Hungary it is almost a safe bet to assume that he acquired this position due to their connections.
    Raoul Bossy, mentioned in the post not only was a distant relative to the Baron Szentkereszty family, but the Romanian Foreign ministry used the family’s house in Budapest as their new building of their legation when Bossy was stationed there. Given all of the facts I wouldn’t be surprised to learn once that Szentkereszty’s connections had something to do with the decision.

    • Mocioni@ … were, to my knowledge, descendants of an aromanian family from Moscopole. This is somehow also in Wikipedia – but I knew it from family tales of the Mocionis too.

      Do you keep track at all of the various hungarian noble families of either romanian/transilivanian or aromanian origins? I know there was an important series of them,
      not just the Hunyadis … it would be interesting to know more.

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