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This paper analyzes the competition for the political and cultural integration of the Hungarian-speaking community of Szeklers into the Hungarian and Romanian national-states during the interwar period. A traditional East European peasant community facing the challenges of both modernization and state-building, the Szeklers first called for regional autonomy during the “Székely Kongresszus” held in Tusnádfűrdő/Tuşnad in 1902.
Further attempts by Szekler elites to endow their cultural identity as a Transylvanian nation with political content (a regional or even state entity) came in 1918–1919 after the region was incorporated into Romania, and again in 1940 after the Szeklerland was re-appended to Hungary under the terms of the Second Vienna Award. During the wars, intellectuals and writers like Árpád Páll challenged the mainstream Hungarian National Party’s (Országos Magyar Párt) conservative policy, actively promoted a new, more specifically Szekler identity.
Plans for territorial autonomy were also issued after World War II, giving the Romanian communist regime in 1952 grounds for conceding limited autonomy within the Szeklerland. This autonomous region was modelled on the Soviet's nationalities policy of the 1920s. The short-lived “autonomy from above” nevertheless had a significant impact on the self-image of the Szekler community, and contributed to the strengthening of an often ambiguous local identity, in which cultural, political and emotional elements still intertwine.
Stefano Bottoni has a PhD in European History from the University of Bologna (2005), and he is currently working as an assistant fellow at the Department of Public Politics of the University of Eastern Piedmont, Italy. In 2006 he was also awarded a post-doctoral fellowship by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His main fields of interest are:
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