Commentary

Romanian crowd breaks into Hungarian WWI graveyard

An angry, Romanian crowd broke into a WWI-era Austro-Hungarian military cemetery on Thursday, surging past a picket of praying, ethnic Hungarians and a massive police presence.

The angry Romanians broke into the graveyard then began laying wreaths at the illegally erected stone crosses of purported Romanian war heroes.

The Úz valley graveyard was established by Austrians and Hungarians in 1917 and the fallen heroes of WWI and WWII battles lay there in peace until the council of Dormănești/Dormánfalva – a small town of 8,600 inhabitants in Bacău/Bákó county - set up concrete crosses and a memorial of Romanian war heroes in the cemetery. The cemetery belongs to the small Transylvanian village of Csíkszentmárton/Sanmartin Ciuc with a population of 1,200 in Hargita/Harghita County.

The Romanian Ministries of Culture and Defense, as well as the Bacău building authority, declared the new crosses and memorial illegal. Politicians of both the ethnic Hungarian community in Transylvania and from neighboring Hungary appealed to leading Romanian officials - including Romanian President Klaus Iohannis - to resolve the issue peacefully. The latest such request came earlier in the day, when Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szíjjártó called his Romanian counterpart, Teodor Meleșcanu, asking him again to stem any provocations and resolve the issue peacefully.

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Despite the official Romanian decisions to the contrary, the council of Dormănești announced that the inauguration of the Romanian war memorial would be held this afternoon. Some 1,000 ethnic Hungarians, in silent prayer, formed a human chain to prevent the arriving Romanian crowd - many of them brandishing Romanian flags - from entering the graveyard. Despite a heavy police presence - at least a several dozen officers were on site, attempting to calm the Romanians - a group eventually broke through the police cordon, crashing through the fence and tearing down the gate from inside.

The Romanian crowd then entered the graveyard, tore down some of the Hungarian crosses that stood on the grave sites and began a Romanian Orthodox religious service to consecrate the Romanian war memorial and laid wreaths at the freshly erected concrete crosses. The title image of this article is a still from a video posted on social media by one of the Romanians who entered the graveyard, Angela Negrota.

According to reports, Romanian police officers were also seen laying wreaths at the Romanian war memorial.

The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) condemned in a statement those who "resorted to physical violence and barbarian aggression" to intimidate the peaceful Hungarian picket, called the authorities to detain those responsible and asked the Romanian media to "end misinformation and incitement to hatred". In light of the fact that Romanian authorities failed to prevent the atrocities, RMDSZ President Hunor Kelemen called on Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă to sack Minister of Interior Carmen Dan and Hargita County prefect Adrian Andrei, holding them directly responsible for the events.

Title image: Romanians break into the WWI Austro-Hungarian military graveyard in Úz valley, Transylvania. (MTI/Nándor Veres)

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