On 15 September principal investigator of the NEPOSTRANS project, Gábor Egry held a presentation in Vienna, at the conference The Theory and Practice of Non-Territorial Autonomy in Europe – A Historical Perspective.
Non-territorial (non-)autonomy and its socio-political conditions. What informal arrangements at the local level can tell about the benefits of non-territorial autonomy
In his seminal work, Der Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Nationen, Karl Renner makes a peculiar argument regarding why it should not cause much difference to establish national autonomies within Austria-Hungary. As Renner described, most of the characteristics of national autonomy, especially language use and in administration in certain spheres of local government was already living practice in the provinces, therefore, a new, legally sanctioned autonomy would not cause any disruption, only to recognize the reality. While for Renner it was a way to suggest that the costs of introducing autonomy from above would not be as high as some feared, the whole logic raises another issue: whether it is possible to achieve non-territorial autonomy informally, through existing and mutually accepted practices, and from below? In my paper I will use the example of interwar Romania and the various local practices, often deviating from official monolingualism regarding language use and cultural institutions to follow this logic. I will argue, that despite the widespread acceptance of oral bilingual administrative practices in a country where no other language than Romania was supposed to be used in public institutions and even with some examples of local institutions used to promote other than Romanian culture, there was no informal national autonomy in the country. However, it does not entirely preclude its possibility even in a centralizing and nationalizing state (arguably, Transylvanian Saxons can be an example post-1876), but it would require a different, more decentralized and less normative conceptualization by the minority elite of how the national community should work and exist too.