- László Tőkés
László Tőkés (IPA-hu|l|á|s|z|l|ó|-|t|ő|k|é|s; born
April 1, 1952, in Cluj) is an ethnic Hungarian politician in Romania, bishopof the Romanian Reformed Church District of Piatra Craiului ("Királyhágómellék"), Transylvania, Romania. A former honorary president of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, he is a founding member and president of the Hungarian National Council of Transylvania( _hu. Erdélyi Magyar Nemzeti Tanács).
An effort to transfer him from his post as an assistant
pastorin Timişoara(Hungarian: "Temesvár") and to evict him from his church flat helped trigger the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Nicolae Ceauşescuand spelled the end of the communist era in Romania.
László Tőkés is the son of
István Tőkés, professor of theology and former deputy bishop of the Reformed Church. He is married to Edit Joó, with whom he had three children: Sons Máté and Marci, and daughter Ilona. Máté Tőkés, who was only three years old during the Revolution of 1989, later collected the memories of the friends, relatives, and other participants of the events, and in 2005 wrote "Egymás tükrében" ("In Each Other's Mirror"), a book about his parents and the hardships of the family.
Like his father, Tőkés was a persistent critic of the Ceauşescu regime. While a pastor in the Transylvanian town of
Dej(Hungarian: "Dés"), he contributed to the clandestine Hungarian-language journal "Ellenpontok" ("Counterpoints"; 1981-82). An article there on abuses of human rightsin Romania appears to have been the occasion of his first harassment by the Securitate. He was reassigned to the village of Sânpetru de Câmpie(Hungarian: "Uzdiszentpéter"), but refused to go and instead spent two years living in his parents' house in Cluj-Napoca(Hungarian: "Kolozsvár"). [Deletant, online, p.49‒50]
His situation was discussed in the
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which led indirectly to his appointment to be assistant pastor in Timişoara, where he gave sermons that opposed the Romanian national government's program of systematization, which proposed radical restructuring of the infrastructure of Romanian towns and villages. This was seen by Hungarians as a particular threat to their villages, although Tőkés' sermons did not single this out, calling for solidarity between Hungarians and Romanians. [Deletant, online, p. 50]
In the summer of 1988, he organized opposition to systematization among Hungarian Reformed Church pastors, again drawing the strong attention of the Securitate. After the Securitate objected to a cultural festival organized on October 31, 1988 (the Day of Reformation), jointly with the amateur Hungarian-language theatre group "Thalia", Bishop László Papp banned all youth activities in the Banat (the region of which Timişoara is part). Tőkés nonetheless collaborated with the bishop of the
Romanian Orthodox Churchon another festival in spring 1989. [Deletant, online, p. 50]
March 31, 1989, Papp ordered Tőkés to stop preaching in Timişoara and move to the isolated parish of Mineu(Hungarian: "Menyő"). Tőkés refused the order, and his congregation supported him. The bishop began civil proceedings to evict him from his church flat. His power was cut off and his ration book taken away, but his parishioners continued to support and provision him, some of them being arrested and beaten for their trouble. At least one, Ernő Ujvárossy, was found murdered in the woods outside Timişoara on September 14, and Tőkés's father was briefly arrested. [Deletant, online, p.51]
A court ordered Tőkés' eviction on
October 20. He appealed. On November 2, four attackers armed with knives broke into his flat; Securitate agents looked on while he and his friends fought off the assailants. The Romanian ambassador was summoned to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and told of the Hungarian government's concern for his safety. His appeal was turned down, and his eviction set for Saturday December 15. [Deletant, online, p. 51]
December 15approached, Tőkés’ parishioners began something of a vigil outside his flat, refusing two guards’ orders to move along. On December 15, a human chain was formed around the block; the militia were unable to gain access. Tőkés thanked the crowd but advised them to leave, but several hundred stayed in groups close to the flat. His wife, Edit, who was pregnant at the time, fell ill. On December 16, the family doctor appeared to see Edit. Within half an hour, the mayor of Timişoara appeared with three more doctors, hoping to persuade Edit to head to a hospital. On the advice of their family doctor, she refused. [Deletant, online, p. 52]
Shortly afterwards, workmen arrived to repair the damaged windows and door to the flat; presumably the mayor was hoping to defuse matters, but the crowds actually grew, with young Romanians joining the Hungarian parishioners. Tőkés spoke with the mayor and again urged the crowd to disperse. The crowd remained; the mayor stormed away, returned at noon, and promised that Tőkés would not be evicted. The crowd remained; some of them accused Tőkés of collaborating with the authorities and demanded a written retraction of Tőkés’ transfer and eviction. The mayor promised to produce this within an hour; if he intended actually to do so, it proved impossible on a Saturday. [Deletant, online, p. 52‒53]
After various negotiations with the mayor and the deputy mayor and the involvement of various delegations, the mayor gave an ultimatum for the crowd to disperse by 5 p.m. or face fire-brigade water cannons. Tőkés again pleaded with the crowd to disperse, but, possibly convinced that he was acting under threats from the Securitate, they refused. The crowd beckoned him to leave his apartment and come down to the street. He refused, presumably fearful of being seen as the leader of this resistance. [Deletant, online, p. 53]
Five p.m. came and went without water cannons. By 7 p.m. the crowds extended for several blocks and included many students from the local polytechnic and university, Romanians and Hungarians in a human chain, first singing hymns, but about 7:30 launching into the patriotic song
Deşteaptă-te, române!("Wake up, O, Romanian!"), banned in 1947 at the beginning of the communist dictatorship and sung during the November 1987 protests in Braşov. [Deletant, online, p. 53‒54]
In Deletant's words, "The Hungarian protest had now become a Romanian revolt." Cries were raised, "Down with Ceauşescu!" "Down with the regime!" and "Down with Communism!" The crowd moved out from around Tőkés' flat and church, crossed a bridge, and headed for the city centre and Communist Party headquarters, where they threw stones before militia drove them back toward the church around 10 p.m. and the water cannons finally came into play. However, the crowd seized the cannons, broke them up, and threw the parts into the river
Bega. A general spirit of roving riot ensued. [Deletant, online, p. 54]
Demonstrations continued the next two days. On Monday,
December 17, the army fired into the crowd. The number of casualties has been a matter of dispute; early reports were undoubtedly exaggerated. The number of deaths was 73 for the period December 16-22, 1989, and another 20 for the period after Ceauşescu fled. [cite web |url=http://timisoara.com/newmioc/69.htm |title=Martirii revolutiei timisorene |work=CyberTim Timisoara's Homepage] On Elena Ceauşescu's orders, 40 of the dead were transported by truck (lorry) to Bucharest and cremated to make identification impossible. [Deletant, online, p. 54]
December 18, tens of thousands of industrial workers in Timişoara peacefully took up the protest; by December 20the city was effectively in insurrection. [Deletant, online, p. 54]
Bishop of Királyhágómellék
After the dispossession of the discredited Communist
bishop of Oradea("Nagyvárad"), László Papp in 1989, Tőkés was elected as a bishop of the Reformed Church District of Oradea("Nagyvárad") ( Királyhágómellékas official name). He was re-elected most recently in 2004 for another six-year term. During his tenure, he worked hard for the reorganization of the disintegrated church and the renewal of spiritual life. He emphasized the importance of Hungarian-language education, social responsibility, and missionary work. It was his top priority to win back the confiscated properties and schools of the church, but ownership-restoration in Romania proved to be an extremely difficult, slow and—so far—unsuccessful process.
In spite of the financial difficulties, he established new social and educational institutions instead of the old ones. The
Christian University of Partiumin Oradea ("Nagyvárad") was one of the bishop's favorite projects as the first Hungarian-language private university in Romania (opened in 1999). His other notable initiatives are the child-care center in Oradea, an orphanage in Aleşd("Élesd"), Bethesda Health-Care Center in Arduzel("Szamosardó"), Peter Reformed Elementary School in Salonta("Nagyszalonta"), and a nursing home in Tinca("Tenke"). The Lórántffy Zsuzsanna Ecclesiastical Centre of the Hungarian Reformed Church with a museum, auditorium, and social care centre was inaugurated in 1996.
In 2007 Tőkés decided to run for the
European Parliamentas an independent, receiving the backing of Hungary's Fidesz. [ro icon [http://stiri.acasa.ro/stiri/FIDESZ-il-va-sustine-pe-T-kes-pentru-PE_--s63624.html "FIDESZ îl va susţine pe Tökes pentru PE" ("FIDESZ Will Support Tőkés for EP")] , acasa.ro, July 21, 2007.] At the November election, he gained enough votes to win a seat. In competition with the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, the main party of Romania's Hungarians, Tőkés was accused, for instance by a leading politician of that party, György Frunda, of splitting the Hungarian vote. [ro icon [http://ziua.net/display.php?data=2007-11-26&id=229922 "Maghiarimea divizată" ("Hungarian Community Divided")] , " Ziua", November 26, 2007.] Frunda also claimed that Tőkés was helped by President Băsescu and noted that he received 18,000 votes from Wallachiaand Moldavia, places where few Hungarians live. [ [http://www.gandul.info/politica/frunda-ii-numara-moldovenii-si-muntenii-lui-t-k-s.html?3928;1080516 "Frunda îi numără moldovenii şi muntenii lui Tökés"] , in " Gândul", December 10 2007]
An unbowed Tőkés commented on election night, "I knocked out the Greater Romania Party", referring to the fact that while he had won a seat, the anti-Hungarian
Greater Romania Partyhad lost all five of its own. [ cite web | last = Tóth-Szenesi | first = Attila | title = Index | publisher = Index.hu| month = November | year = 2007 | url = http://index.hu/politika/kulfold/tl071125/ | accessdate = 2007-11-25 ]
*Deletant, Dennis, "Romania under communist rule" (1999). Center for Romanian Studies in cooperation with the Civic Academy Foundation, (
Iaşi, Romania; Portland, Oregon), ISBN 9739839282.
* Colson, Charles, and Ellen Vaughn, "Being the Body: a new call for the Church to be light in the darkness" (2003). W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN 0849917522.
* ro icon Alex Mihai Stoenescu, "Istoria loviturilor de stat din Romania. Vol. 4, part 1" ("The History of Romanian Coups d'État"). Rao publishing house, Bucharest, 2004. An entire chapter is devoted to Tőkés, his background and the December 1989 events.
* [http://procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/mmioc/revmistere/default.asp.htm Marius Mioc, "Revoluţia fără mistere: Începutul revoluţiei române: cazul Laszlo Tokes"] ("A revolution without mysteries: the beginning of the Romanian Revolution: the case of Laszlo Tokes")
* [http://timisoara.com/newmioc/69.htm List of people killed in Timişoara during Romanian Revolution, published by Marius Mioc in "Revoluţia din Timişoara şi falsificatorii istoriei". Editura Sedona, Timişoara 1999]
* [http://tokeslaszlo.ro/en/index.html Personal site]
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