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The Institute of Turkish and Central Asian Studies

In this piece we will tell you about the meeting that we had with the secretary of the Institute of Turkish and Central Asian Studies (ITCAS) Madam Margareta Aslan.

Purpose of ITCAS

The Institute was created to help facilitate the research about the history, civilization and culture of the Turks. It was created two years after the Romanian accession into European Union. It investigates the contributions the Central Asian and Anatolian Turks’ to humanitarian development.

About the transformation of the Institute and Romania

The institute is located in the central campus of the Babeş-Bolyai University and we were welcomed by the secretary Madam Margareta Aslan upon our arrival. We learned about both the institute and Romania from her. She is a young, dynamic and hard working person and this year she started to work as a secretary along with her doctorate studies on International Relations and Security Studies. She also gives lectures as an assistant in the university.

We first started talking with Margareta about Romania, when we told her that we were studying the changes in the last 25 years, she dismissed this proposition as Bucharest is called the Paris of the East and that the security forces of the communist era still exist. She was a student during the era and although there was a regime change, she still worked for the country because she was raised this way.

She sees the accession of Romania into the EU as both as a positive and negative. She believes that the youth of today undervalues the importance of the national identity and that the sense of belonging to a country is slowly disappearing. She tells us that the reason behind it is the low frequency and intensity of the history lessons in Romania and also the economic situation. Yet she still says that after the 2nd world war the people still love their country despite all the negativity.

She notes that multiculturalism is an immense advantage for Romania and that Transylvania is the home of multiculturalism. During the worst times of religious repression, she says that both Catholicism and orthodoxy could peacefully be practiced here. When we ask her about her background she tells us that her mother is Hungarian, her father is Romanian and her spouse is Turkish. She also adds that she has Turkish origins.

The Turkish Studies in University conducts cultural and scientific activities and researches the Turkish Nations in Central Europe and Turkey. They have joint operations in Konya, Istanbul Medeniyet, Çankırı and Karabuk Universities. The organize conferences and welcome valuable professors from Turkey. Every year in June they organize a festival in Cluj about the Turkish Culture. She tells us that the Turkish Embassy in Bucharest always helps the institute.

The people emigrating from Romania generally leave because of economic reasons and they in fact are not happy where they live afterwards. The Romanian diaspora usually returns back to Romania with a capital to invest and start their own businesses. Re-adaptation to Romania is generally not a problem for returning citizens. On average the Romanian émigrés come back to Romania after around 14 years abroad, and the main reason in returning is that they have enough money to sustain themselves. The returning people have a positive impact on the national economy with their connections and work experience.

The farms which were nationalized during the communist era were given back to their previous owners after the toppling of Ceausesku and Madam Aslan recounts the tale of her grandmother about this. She was forced out of her land in 1984 and was moved to an apartment. After the communist rule the lands were restored but the procedure was taking too much time. Some law suits regarding this redistribution of land still continue and her own lawsuit was opened in 1991 and is still ongoing regarding her grandmothers land. She tells us that the law and justice works fine but the problem is the people, many people who worked in redistribution of lands were tried because of corruption and jailed but the government is still indifferent to the topic.

She tells us that the Turkish families have to pay a lot of money to send their kids to school and if Turkey joins the EU most of them can come to European countries and that it can be a good advantage for the EU universities. She says that main fear for Turkey accession is that the Turks will not return to their countries after going to other nations but that pretty much is the same case for Romanians.

The press became free in Romania only following the revolution and there is no oppression as long as the press abides to press ethics. She recounts the day of the revolution for us, she tells that his father arrived at home and took them and hid them in the car. They drove to her grandmother at the other side of the city and they heard gunshots and screams throughout all the way. She says that she was too small to understand what was going on at that age. She says that no one in the family ever talked to her about what they did or how they felt during that time because no one talks about such things. She says that the mentality of the people who live in communist era is much different than those of the younger generations. She says that there are doubts about whether if this revolution was good or bad economically or sociologically. Following the uprisings, many Germans, Hungarians, Tatars left the country to work abroad and never returned. She says that back in the day everyone who graduated was given a house and a job and they could be economically stable. She told us that the factories were sold after the revolution and they stopped functioning, therefore exportation was halted and economy collapsed.

She says that there was no problem about European integration because Romanian people were very good at abiding laws and they could accept new things easily. She tells us that she uses internet to gather information to teach her pupils Turkish. She adds that the Hungarians can learn Turkish more easily than Romanians but the Romanians are more ambitious than them.

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