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Two East-bloc allies at odds over minority rights in Transylvania

Frictions between two East European allies, Hungary and Romania, are bubbling to the surface over Transylvania. They are even showing up in the local news media.

It is an old dispute. Each regards Transylvania as historically part of its own territory. Since 1920 - apart from an interlude some 40 years ago when Hitler divided Transylvania between the two - this fabled region of mountains and forests has been part of Romania.

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After World War I, the Treaty of Trianon placed 2 million Hungarians under Romanian rule, creating a source of periodic tension between the two countries.

The ideological links and membership of postwar communist alliance in the Soviet orbit have not eased these tensions. Hungarians still hold to their stronger historical claim to the territory. But they are realistic enough to know that neither the Soviet Union nor anyone else is likely to restore it to them.

Hungary's complaint over Transylvania is that key aspects of the 1975 Helsinki agreement - the guarantees of human rights for all peoples and nationalities - is being disregarded by Romania in the case of its large (about 1.8 million) Hungarian population.

According to Hungary, discrimination against Magyar culture and education have not been relaxed since Helsinki - but, if anything, have intensified.

Until recently, Hungarian attitudes had been confined to urging a mutual curb on national extremes (i.e., on Romania's part) and genuine tolerance of national identities. In this particular case, that means preserving a Magyar Transylvania identity.

This is a deeply held national sentiment that even communists share. And recently, noted writers in Hungary have been allowed to publicize the issue in open or thinly veiled attacks on Romanian minority policy. Even the Hungarian party paper Nepszabadsag has satirized Romania's policy toward Hungarians.

In December, Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu celebrated the anniversary of the Romanian state set up after World War II with a torrent of speeches, press articles, and even poetry extolling the unity and equality of ''all Romanian citizens'' living in communist Romania.

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Almost coincidentally, editors of several Tran-sylvanian Hungarian-language periodicals were dismissed. One was apparently fired because artwork depicting unification was printed upside down, giving it the appearance of a predator spider.

In Romania, Mr. Ceausescu says, there are no minorities - only Romanians. All people, he insists, have equal rights of language and education, among other things, irrespective of parentage and ethnic origin.

The Hungarians say these cultural and linguistic rights are observed largely on paper. Their concerns seem to be supported by the absence of autonomous local units in areas populated almost exclusively by ethnic Hungarians. Those Hungarian bodies that do exist seem to be ''facades.''

There are also severe limits to keep cultural contacts and travel (as this writer has observed) between Hungarian Transylvania and Hungary to a minimum, extending even to the ban on imports of the latter's media.

Many Hungarians agree with Ceausescu that today's technological age requires a common working language - in industry, for example. But they can also point to linguistic discrimination in school curricula and preferences accorded Romanians in jobs, however well an equally qualified Hungarian may speak the language.

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