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Hungarians in Romania

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Hungarians in Romania

Map of Romanian counties with notable Hungarian presence (2011 census).
Hungarians in Romania (2002 census), by cities and communes

The Hungarian minority of Romania is the largest ethnic minority in Romania, consisting of 1,227,623 people and making up 6.5% of the total population, according to the 2011 census.[1]

Most ethnic Hungarians of Romania live in areas that were, before the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, parts of Hungary. These areas are today known as Transylvania, where Hungarians make up 18.9% of the population.[1] The region also includes the historic regions of Banat, Crişana and Maramureş. There are forty-one counties of Romania; Hungarians form a large majority of the population in the counties of Harghita (85.21%) and Covasna (73.74%), and a large percentage in Mureş (38.09%), Satu Mare (34.65%), Bihor (25.27%), Sălaj (23.35%) and Cluj (15.93%) counties.


Historical background

Distribution of nationalities within the Kingdom of Hungary, according to the 1880 census (based on mother tongue interpreted as the language one was most comfortable using[2][3]).

Magyar (or Hungarian) tribes originated in what is now Russia, arrived in the territory occupied by present-day Romania during the 9th century, in an area called Etelköz or Atelkuzu (roughly the space occupied by the present day Southern Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and the Romanian province of Moldavia).[4] Due to various circumstances (see Honfoglalás), the Magyar tribes crossed the Carpathians around 895 AD and occupied the Carpathian Basin (including present-day Transylvania) without significant resistance from the local populace.[5] The precise date of the conquest of Transylvania is not known; the earliest Magyar artifacts found in the region are dated to the first half of the 10th century. While the Kingdom of Hungary emerged around 1000 AD the conquest of Transylvania was not completed until the late 12th century.

In 1526, at the Battle of Mohács, the forces of the Ottoman Empire annihilated the Hungarian army and in 1571 Transylvania became an autonomous state, under the Ottoman suverainty. The Principality of Transylvania was governed by its princes and its parliament (Diet). The Transylvanian Diet consisted of three Estates (Unio Trium Nationum): the Hungarian nobility (largely ethnic Hungarian nobility and clergy); the leaders of Transylvanian Saxons—German burghers; and the free Székely Hungarians.

With the defeat of the Ottomans at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the Habsburg Empire gradually began to impose their rule on the formerly autonomous Transylvania. From 1711 onward, after the conclusion of Rákóczi's War for Independence, Habsburg control over Transylvania was consolidated, and the princes of Transylvania were replaced with Habsburg imperial governors.[6] In 1765 the Grand Principality of Transylvania was proclaimed, consolidating the special separate status of Transylvania within the Habsburg Empire, established by the Diploma Leopoldinum in 1691.[7] The Hungarian historiography sees this as a mere formality.[8] Within the Habsburg Empire, Transylvania was administratively part of Kingdom of Hungary.[6]

After quashing the 1848 revolution, the Habsburg Empire imposed a repressive regime on Hungary and ruled Transylvania directly through a military governor. Habsburgs abolished the Unio Trium Nationum and granted citizenship to ethnic Romanians. However, in the compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867, which established the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the special status of Transylvania ended and it became a province under the control of the Kingdom of Hungary. Hungarian becomes the official language and a policy of Magyarization was applied to the various ethnic groups in Transylvania.

With the conclusion of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles, formally signed in June 1919, recognized the sovereignty of Kingdom of Romania over Transylvania as a historic fact. The Treaties of St. Germain (1919) and Trianon (signed on June 1920) further elaborated the status of Transylvania and defined the new border between the states of Hungary and Romania. As a result, the more than 1.5 million-strong Hungarian minority of Transylvania found itself becoming a minority group within Romania.[9] The Hungarian language was expunged from official life and the new authorities institute a policy of Romanianization.

In August 1940, during the Second World War, the northern half of Transylvania was annexed to Hungary by the second Second Vienna Award. Historian Keith Hitchins[10] summarizes the situation created by the award: Some 1,150,000 to 1,300,000 Romanians, or 48 per cent to over 50 per cent of the population of the ceded territory, depending upon whose statistics are used, remained north of the new frontier, while about 500,000 Hungarians (other Hungarian estimates go as high as 800,000, Romanian as low as 363,000) continued to reside in the south.

The Treaty of Paris (1947) after the end of the Second World War overturned the Vienna Award, and the territory of northern Transylvania was returned to Romania. The post-WWII borders with Hungary agreed on at the Treaty of Paris were identical with those set out in 1920.

After the war, in 1952, a Nicolae Ceauşescu's regime came to power, restarted the policy of Romanianization.

Map of Romania with "Transylvania proper" in bright yellow

Today, "Transylvania proper" (bright yellow on the accompanying map) is included within the Romanian counties (judeţe) of Alba, Bistriţa-Năsăud, Braşov, Cluj, Covasna, Harghita, Hunedoara, Mureş, Sălaj (partially) and Sibiu. In addition to "Transylvania proper", modern Transylvania includes Crişana and part of the Banat; these regions (dark yellow on the map) are in the counties of Arad, Bihor, Caraş-Severin, Maramureş, Sălaj (partially), Satu Mare, and Timiş.

Post-communist era

Ethnic map of Harghita, Covasna, and Mureş Counties based on the 2011 data, showing localities with Hungarian majority or plurality.

In the aftermath of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, ethnic-based political parties were constituted by both the Hungarians, who founded the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, and by the Romanian Transylvanians, who founded the Romanian National Unity Party. Ethnic conflicts, however, never occurred on a significant scale, even though some violent clashes, such as the Târgu Mureş events of March 1990, did take place shortly after the fall of Ceaușescu regime.

In 1995, a basic treaty on the relations between Hungary and Romania was signed. In the treaty, Hungary renounced all territorial claims to Transylvania, and Romania reiterated its respect for the rights of its minorities. Relations between the two countries improved as Romania and Hungary became EU members in the 2000s.


The European Democrat Union (EDU) and the European People's Party (EPP). Since 1996, the UDMR has been a member or supporter of every governmental coalition.

Political agreements have brought the gradual implementation of Hungarian language in everyday life: Public administration Law 215/2002 stipulates "the use of national minority languages in public administration in settlements where minorities exceed 20% of the population"; minority ethnics will receive a copy of the documents in Romanian language and a translation in their language; however, official documents are preserved by the local administration in Romanian only; local administration will provide inscriptions for the names of localities and public institutions under their authority, and display public interest announcements in the native language of the citizens of the respective ethnic minority under the same 20% rule.

Even though Romania co-signed the European laws for protecting minorities' rights, the implementation has not proved satisfactory to all members of Hungarian community. There is a movement by Hungarians both for an increase in autonomy and distinct cultural development. Initiatives proposed by various Hungarian political organizations include the creation of an "autonomous region" in the counties that form the Szekler region (Székelyföld), roughly corresponding to the territory of the former Hungarian Autonomous Province as well as the historical Szekler land that had been abolished by the Hungarian government in the second half of the 19th century, and the re-establishment of an independent state-funded Hungarian-language university.

However, the situation of the Hungarian minority in Romania has been seen as a model of cultural and ethnic diversity in the Balkan area:[11] In an address to the American people, President Clinton asked in the midst of the air war in Kosovo: Who is going to define the future of this part the world... Slobodan Milosevic, with his propaganda machine and paramilitary forces which compel people to give up their country, identity, and property, or a state like Romania which has built a democracy respecting the rights of ethnic minorities?[12]

(to be written about autonomy of the Székely Land movement)


Several have won olympic medals for Romania. See: Iolanda Balas (Jolanda Balázs), Ecaterina Szabo, Emilia Eberle (Hungarian-German) Ecaterina Stahl-Iencic (2B) Gabriela Szabo (1G, 1S, 1B) Zoltán Meskó



The Székely people are Hungarians who mainly live in an area known as Székely Land (Ţinutul Secuiesc in Romanian), and who maintain a different set of traditions and different identity from that of other Hungarians in Romania. Based on the latest Romanian statistics (2011 Romanian census, the Hungarian population in the counties of Harghita, Covasna and Mures is 611,391, which is roughly indicative of the total Szekely population in Romania.[13]


The Csángó (Romanian: Ceangău, pl. Ceangăi) are people of Roman Catholic faith, some speaking a Hungarian dialect and some Romanian. They live mainly in the Bacău County, Moldavia region. The Csángó settled there between the 13th and 15th centuries and today, they are the only Hungarian-speaking ethnic group living to the east of the Carpathians.

The ethnic background of Csángó/Ceangăi is nevertheless disputed, since, due to its active connections to the neighboring Polish kingdom and to the Papal States, the Roman Catholic faith persisted in Moldavia throughout medieval times, long after Vlachs living in other Romanian provinces, closer to the Bulgarian Empire, had been completely converted to Eastern-Rite Christianity. Some Csángó/Ceangăi claim having Hungarian ancestry while others claim Romanian ancestry. The Hungarian-speaking Csángós have been subject to some violations of basic minority rights: Hungarian-language schools have been closed down over time, their political rights have been suppressed and they have even been subject to slow, forced nationalisation by various Romanian governments over the years, because the Romanian official institutions deem Csángós as a mere Romanian population that was Magyarized in certain periods of time.


Owing to its multicultural roots, Transylvania has a very diverse culture, in which Hungarians left a distinctive mark. There is a vast network of Hungarian theatres, more than 200 years old and still functioning, and some of them, like those from Maros Folk Ensemble (formerly State Szekler Ensemble) in Târgu-Mureş, the Hargita Ensemble, and the Pipacsok Dance Ensemble. Other amateur popular theaters are also very important in preserving the cultural traditions.

While in the past the import of books was hindered, now there are many bookstores selling books written in Hungarian. Two public TV stations, Székely Region has many touristic facilities that attract Hungarian and other foreign tourists.


According to Romania's minority rights law, Hungarians have the right to education in their native language, including as a medium of instruction. In localities where they make up more than 20% of the population they have the right to use their native language with local authorities.

According to the official data of the 1992 Romanian census, 98% of the total ethnic Hungarian population over the age of 12 has had some schooling (primary, secondary or tertiary), ranking them fourth among ethnic groups in Romania and higher than the national average of 95.3%. On the other hand, the ratio of Hungarians graduating from higher education is lower than the national average. The reasons are diverse, including a lack of enough native-language lecturers, particularly in areas without a significant proportion of Hungarians.

At Babeş-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca, the largest state-funded tertiary education institution in Romania, more than 30% of courses are held in the Hungarian language. There is currently a proposal by local Hungarians, supported by the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, to separate the Hungarian-language department from the institution, and form a new, Hungarian-only Bolyai University. The former Bolyai University was disbanded in 1959 by Romanian Communist authorities and united with the Romanian Babeş University to form the multilingual Babeş-Bolyai University that continues to exist today.

Identity and citizenship

Many Hungarians living in Transylvania were disconcerted when the referendum held in Hungary in 2004 on the issue of giving dual-citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living abroad failed to receive enough electoral attendance and the vote was uncertain. Some of them complain that when they are in Hungary, they are perceived as half-Romanians, and are considered as having differences in language and behaviour. However, a large proportion of Transylvanian Hungarians currently work or study in Hungary, usually on a temporary basis. After 1996, Hungarian-Romanian economic relations boomed, and Hungary is an important investor in Transylvania, with many cross-border firms employing both Romanians and Hungarians.

A proposal supported by the [15]

In 2010 some amendments were passed in Hungarian law facilitating an accelerated naturalization process for ethnic Hungarians living abroad; among other changes, the residency-in-Hungary requirement was waived.[16] According to a RMDSZ poll conducted that year, over 85 percent of Romania's ethnic Hungarians were eager to apply for Hungarian citizenship.[17] Romania's President Traian Băsescu declared in October 2010 that "We have no objections to the adoption by the Hungarian government and parliament of a law making it easier to grant Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living abroad."[18]

Between 2011 and 2012, 200,000 applicants took advantage of the new, accelerated naturalization process;[19] there were another 100,000 applications pending in the summer of 2012.[20] As of February 2013, the Hungarian government has granted almost 400,000 citizenships to Hungarians ‘beyond the borders’.[21] In April 2013, the Hungarian government announced that 280,000 of these were Romanian citizens.[22]



In 2002, 46.5% of Romania's Hungarians were Reformed, 41% Roman Catholic, 4.5% Unitarian and 2% Romanian Orthodox. A further 4.7% belonged to various other Christian denominations.[23]


  • 1920 - 1,328,128 persons, 25.5% of the population of Transylvania
  • 1992 - 1,603,923 persons, 20.8% of the population of Transylvania
  • 2002 - 1,415,718 persons, 19.6% of the population of Transylvania
  • 2011 - 1,224,937 persons, 18.9% of the population of Transylvania

By county (2011 census)[24]

County Hungarians Population
Harghita 257,707 85.21%
Covasna 150,468 73.74%
Mureş 200,858 38.09%
Satu Mare 112,588 34.65%
Bihor 138,213 25.27%
Sălaj 50,177 23.35%
Cluj 103,591 15.93%
Arad 36,568 9.03%
Braşov 39,661 7.69%
Maramureş 32,618 7.22%
Timiş 35,295 5.57%
Bistriţa-Năsăud 14,350 5.23%
Alba 14,849 4.61%
Hunedoara 15,900 4.04%
Sibiu 10,893 2.93%
Caraş-Severin 3,276 1.19%
Bacău 4,373 0.75%
Bucharest 3,463 0.21%
Total 1,222,650

The remaining 4,973 ethnic Hungarians live in the other counties of Romania, where they make up less than 0.1% of the total population.

Hungarian Heritage in Transylvania, Romania

See also


  1. ^ a b (Romanian) "Comunicat de presă privind rezultatele definitive ale Recensământului Populaţiei şi Locuinţelor – 2011", at the 2011 census site; accessed July 10, 2013
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Eagle Glassheim (2005). Noble Nationalists: The Transformation of the Bohemian Aristocracy.  
  4. ^ Constantine Porphyrogenitus: De Administrando Imperio, edited by Gy. Moravcsik and translated by R. J. H. Jenkins, Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, Washington D. C., 1993 pp. 175)
  5. ^ Fine, Jr., John V. A. (1994). The Early Medieval Balkans - A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. The University of Michigan Press. p. 139. ISBN 0-472-08149-7
  6. ^ a b "Transylvania." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 07 Feb. 2011.
  7. ^ Diploma Leopoldinum. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 07, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  8. ^ "John Hunyadi: Hungary in American History Textbooks". Andrew L. Simon. Corvinus Library Hungarian History. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  9. ^ Kovrig, Bennett (2000), Partitioned nation: Hungarian minorities in Central Europe, in: Michael Mandelbaum (ed.), The new European Diasporas: National Minorities and Conflict in Eastern Europe, New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, pp. 19-80.
  10. ^ Hitchins, Keith (1994), Rumania: 1866-1947 (Oxford History of Modern Europe). Oxford University Press
  11. ^ Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Romania: Ethnic Hungarians (January 2001 - January 2006), 16 February 2006, ROU100794.EX, available at: [accessed 8 February 2011]
  12. ^ Tom Gallagher, "Modern Romania: the end of communism, the failure of democratic reform, and the theft of a nation", p. 216, NYU Press, 2005
  13. ^ Document of the European Centre for Studies Covasna Harghita (NGO), page 28
  14. ^ Rogers Brubaker (2006). Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town. Princeton University Press. p. 328.  
  15. ^ Tristan James Mabry; John McGarry; Margaret Moore; Brendan O'Leary. Divided Nations and European Integration. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 112.  
  16. ^ Mária M. Kovács, Judit Tóth, Country report: Hungary, Revised and updated April 2013, EUDO Citizenship Observatory, page 1 and 7
  17. ^ Ethnic Hungarians in Romania keen to get Hungarian passport, EUobserver, 26.05.2010
  18. ^ Romania backs Hungarian citizenship law, 18 October 2010, AFP text syndicated to
  19. ^ Mária M. Kovács, Judit Tóth, Country report: Hungary, Revised and updated April 2013, EUDO Citizenship Observatory, page 11
  20. ^ Mária M. Kovács, Judit Tóth, Country report: Hungary, Revised and updated April 2013, EUDO Citizenship Observatory, page 18
  21. ^ Hungary and Romania. Flag wars, 21 Feb 2013, The Economist
  22. ^ Emil Groza (5 Aprilie 2013) Aproape 300.000 de români cer cetatenie maghiara, Radio România Actualităţi
  23. ^ Populaţia după etnie şi religie, pe medii
  24. ^ Recensamantul Populatiei si Locuintelor 2011: Populația stabilă după etnie – județe, municipii, orașe, comune

Further reading

External links

  • Multiculturalism debated Editorial about the Hungarian University in Cluj (Nine o'Clock English Language Daily [e]Newspaper)
  • The Hungarian National Theater in Cluj, one of the most prestigious Hungarian theaters in Transylvania
  • Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, the main Hungarian ethnic party website
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