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05BUCHAREST887 2005-04-08 13:52:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Bucharest
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1. Summary: An archeological dig in Cluj's central square
has been a source of ethnic division in this multicultural
city for more than a decade. Reform-minded Cluj Mayor Emil
Boc has forged a democratic solution to address the concerns
of both ethnic Hungarians and archeologists -- filling the
hole half way. Separately, three years after the Cluj city
council voted to change the name of a street named for
wartime dictator Antonescu, Boc has taken down the old
street signs and reverted the street to its previous name,
an important step for Romania's Jewish community. End



2. The casual tourist visiting Cluj is bound to visit the
Piata Unirii with its impressive St. Michael's church and
equestrian statue of Hungarian king and local son Matei
Corvin. In front of the statue lies a neglected
archeological excavation site, exposing the remnants of
third century a.d. Roman houses. Local opinion holds that
what the "hole" actually reveals is a twelve year

3. The excavation site is both a medium and a message.
First, it demonstrates physically the claim that Romans were
present in Cluj and Transylvania many centuries before the
area was settled by Hungarians. Second, segments of the
archeological and historical communities hold that although
what is currently revealed is not very significant,
something "spectacular" might be revealed by extending the
excavation. The Hungarian minority at one time feared that
this argument might lead to the destruction of the statue of
Corvin adjoining the hole. Finally, it stands as a constant
reminder to passersby of tensions in local politics.

4. The initial excavation occurred in 1994, the same year in
which the Piata was renamed "Unification" square by extreme
nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) mayor Gheorge Funar.
(The new name is itself a reminder of the Hungarian loss of
Transylvania to Romania under the Trianon agreement.)
Although the National Archeological Commission decided to
fill in the diggings in 1997, nothing was done. In 2000 the
county prefect also decided to fill in the area, but Funar
thwarted the decision by moving the soil needed for the
procedure in the dead of night. An architectural
competition several years ago selected a design for a
viewing station and catwalks for the site, but nothing was
built. It is locally regarded as little more than a garbage
pit, maintained by neither the city nor archeologists.



5. The Cluj-Napoca city government organized a public debate
on the fate of the archeological site in early February. In
what may have been the first such event of its kind in Cluj,
architects, archeologists, politicians and members of civil
society debated possible solutions for over two hours on
February 9. Mayor Boc was quoted as saying, "Cluj deserves
a different center. The time when the city was a bastion of
outmoded nationalism is over. There needs to be a
democratic debate in order to reach a decent solution,
because the city cannot be allowed to have a center like it
is now."

6. After hearing arguments on both sides, it was decided to
pursue a middle option: filling in the excavation on the
eastern side of the square, and continuing work for the
moment on the west. The local council sent this plan to the
Ministry of Culture and the National Archeology Commission
for review and approval, with the final decision to be taken
by the local council in March.



7. It is a measure of the surprising public interest in this
issue that it has been the subject of guerilla art exhibits.
This includes actions by "Mind Bomb," a group of artists,
architects, graphic artists and writers -- whose goal is to
"sensitize citizens with respect to different daily problems
and their determination to participation in taking decisions
that concern them." The group placed a sign on the square
prior to the public meeting on February 8. When the local
council had not announced a decision after a month, they
snuck a new sign onto the square over the night of Sunday,
March 13. The sign featured an orange pen with "D.A. for
change" written on it signing a decision, and the slogan
"Fill in the Hole." The group warned that if the mayor and
city council avoided taking a decision, they could lose the
vote of confidence the citizens of Cluj gave them.

8. Whether influenced by guerilla art or not, the local
council announced its plan on March 28. The excavation on
the east of the square should be covered in sand and grass
by the end of May 2005. The National History Museum of
Transylvania has until the end of September 2005 to finish
research in the second excavation site. A second public
debate will then be organized at which the research results
will be presented, and a decision made regarding the future
of this area. Unfortunately, there is no money allocated in
the local budget for the work, and the local council is in
negotiation with some local firms to find one that will do
the work pro bono.



9. In a separate move, three years after a city council
decision calling for the change, Boc has replaced the signs
for "Marshal Ion Antonescu" street with new signs restoring
the name to Spring Street. Boc promised the Embassy and the
local Jewish Community he would make this change shortly
after his election in June 2003. The Jewish Community had
spent six years petitioning former mayor Funar to remove
street signs erected in 1999 honoring Antonescu on the main
street of Manestur, the largest district within the city of
Cluj-Napoca. Although an emergency ordinance was passed by
the Romanian Parliament forbidding the cult of war
criminals, and the City Council decision in August 2002
called for the name to be changed, Funar refused.

10. Cluj Jewish Community president Gavrila Goldner
expressed delight to EmbOff that the street name had finally
been changed. One local newspaper (Monitorul de Cluj)
featured a front page story on the change March 29,
proclaiming it a "Purim gift for the Jewish Community." The
Jewish community in Cluj, in the tens of thousands before
World War II, now numbers between 300-500. Goldner said the
Jewish community is now pressing Boc and the central
government to aid in the repair and maintenance of four
local Jewish cemeteries.

11. Comment. Boc came to office in Cluj with high
expectations from residents who had experienced 12 years of
economic stagnation, bureaucratic blockage, and persistent
ethnic division under extreme nationalist Funar. In the
early months after Boc's victory, many residents complained
privately and in the media that Boc was moving slowly in
implementing the reform platform he had campaigned on. A
number of local analysts note he now appears to have turned
a corner. Economic signs are improving, due in large part
to the now more open environment Boc has brought to the city
(septel). Moreover, the resolution of key issues of great
symbolic concern to the ethnic Hungarian and Jewish
communities demonstrates Boc's commitment to healing wounds
which festered under Funar. End Comment.

12. Amembassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are available
on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: