Ethnic Hungarian Writer and Activist Andras Suto, 79

By Pablo Gorondi
Associated Press
Thursday, October 5, 2006

BUDAPEST -- Andras Suto, 79, a writer and human rights advocate for his fellow ethnic Hungarians in Romania who was persecuted by Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, died Sept. 30 at a Budapest hospital. He was being treated for cancer, said Laszlo Cselenyi, Mr. Suto's son-in-law.

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany described Mr. Suto as a "creator, a sufferer and nearly a martyr of our common history."

"His rich life's work, individual example and personal tragedy is a warning to us all that our region, Central-Eastern Europe, can have only one road -- openness and tolerance toward each other and the finding of a common denominator called culture," Gyurcsany said in a statement.

Western Romania, including Transylvania, was part of Hungary until World War I and still has a large ethnic Hungarian population, whose fate has since often defined relations between the two countries.

Mr. Suto for decades spoke up when the human rights of ethnic Hungarians in Romania were threatened, including attempts at forced integration, efforts to eliminate Hungarian-language schools and plans to bulldoze villages, many of them predominantly Hungarian.

In March 1990, Mr. Suto was nearly beaten to death and lost an eye during clashes between Romanians and ethnic Hungarians in the Romanian city of Tirgu Mures after Ceausescu was ousted in December 1989.

In Mr. Suto's works, he wrote much about the ordeals of living as a minority -- often in humorous, melancholy tones -- but he also called for the peaceful coexistence between ethnic groups.

"We lived in decades in which intellectuals, including writers, could not exclude themselves from the aspirations of a community," he told the British Broadcasting Corp. last year. A writer "has to be aware of the world he lives in and writes for and whose fate and historical and national status force upon him certain duties."

The Ceausescu regime banned his books and plays beginning in 1980, but they continued to be published and performed to great critical and popular acclaim in Hungary.

Among his best-known works are the semi-autobiographical "My Mother Promises Light Dreams," the essay collection "Let the Words Come to Me" and a play, "Advent on Harghita." His diary, "An Eye for a Word," was published in 1993.

Mr. Suto was a member of the Romanian Parliament from 1965 to 1977 and vice president of the Romanian Writers' Association from 1974 to 1982. He received numerous state and literary awards in Romania and Hungary.

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