Hungarian minority in Romania

Hungarian minority in Romania

The Hungarian minority of Romania is the largest ethnic minority in Romania, consisting of 1,434,377 people and making up 6.6% of the total population, according to the 2002 census. [ [ Populaţia după etnie] ]

For historic reasons, most ethnic Hungarians of Romania live in what is today known as Transylvania, where they make up about 19% of the population. [ [ Minorities in Europe - Hungarians in Romania] ] This area includes the historic regions of Banat, Crişana and Maramureş. Hungarians form a large majority of the population in the counties of Harghita (84.6%) and Covasna (73.79%), and a large percentage in Mureş (39.3%), Satu Mare (35.22%), Bihor (25.91%), Sălaj (23.07%), Cluj (17.4%) and Arad (10.70%) counties.


Historical background

The first Magyar presence on the present-day territory of Romania and Moldova was recorded in what became Moldavia, were settlements were established in the 8th-9th centuries, when the nomadic tribes of briefly settled in that area ("see Etelköz"). The last remains of early Magyar presence in that area vanished during the Mongol invasion of Europe. Political dominance over the region, regained during the first decades of the 14th century, was reflected in an toponyms of likely Hungarian origin - Bacău - "Bákó", Suceava - "Szűcsvár", the Moldovan Orhei - "Örhely", etc.). A Roman Catholic Hungarian community was settled in Moldavia during and after the period, on the Siret and Trotuş valleys ("see also Cotnari"); a possible consequence of this presence was the emergence of the Csángó community.

After the Magyar tribes invaded the Pannonian basin (in 896), they also conquered Transylvania in the 11th century; the latter which became an autonomous province under the rule of either a prince from the ruling, Árpád dynasty or a member of the nobility of the Hungarian Kingdom until the Ottoman victory over Hungary in the Battle of Mohács (1526).

After the conflict, Hungary became divided into three parts: Royal Hungary came to be ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy, conquered Hungary became part of the Ottoman Empire, while Transylvania became an autonomous principality under Ottoman influence, ruled mostly by Hungarian Princes.

By the 18th century, the Habsburg Monarchy had conquered most of the former Hungarian part of the Ottoman Empire. After the independence war of Francis II Rákóczi failed to emancipate in Hungary in 1711, Habsburg control over Transylvania could be consolidated, and the princes of Transylvania were replaced with Austrian governors. During the Hungarian revolution of 1848 the union of Transylvania with Hungary was proclaimed by the Transylvanian Diet; this claim was, however, not supported by Romanians and Saxons of Transylvania, whose political representatives became involved in an armed conflict with the Honvédség. After the revolution's defeat 1849, Transylvania was again subject to direct control from Vienna. With the Ausgleich of 1867 Transylvania became part of the refounded Hungarian Kingdom within the Astro-Hungarian Empire.

Although mostly controlled by Hungarians during the last millennium, Transylvania had been a multi-ethnic region with Hungarian, Romanian and Saxon inhabitants since medieval times. In spite of Magyarization policies of the Hungarian government at the end of the 19th century, ethnic Romanians were in the majority.

After 1918

The interwar period

On December 1, 1918, a large assembly of Romanians of Transylvania met at Alba Iulia and called for a union with Romania, promising minority rights for all ethnic groups. The Romanians, who formed a majority of the population, were also joined by Saxons. In response, the Hungarian General Assembly of Cluj reaffirmed the loyalty of Transylvanian Hungarians to Hungary on December 22, 1918.

Following WWI, with a disintegrated Austrian-Hungarian army and revolutions taking place in Budapest, Hungary could not resist the Romanian armed forces acting on behalf of the winning Entente powers, and gradually lost territories, including Transylvania, during 1918-1919. In 1919, the intervention of the Romanian army put an end to the intentions of the Communist government of Béla Kun to re-capture Transylvania.

The Romanian intention of unifying Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania was supported by the Entente powers. In 1920, the unification was ratified, and border lines were finalised by the Treaty of Trianon. As a result, the more than 1.5 million-strong Hungarian minority of Transylvania found itself becoming a minority group within Romania. The same event was seen by ethnic Romanians in Transylvania as a liberation from their former minority status within the Kingdom of Hungary.

About 197,000 Transylvanian Hungarians fled to Hungary between 1918 and 1922, [Raffay Ernő: A vajdaságoktól a birodalomig-Az újkori Románia története = From voivodates to the empire-History of modern Romania, JATE Kiadó, Szeged, 1989, pages 155-156)] and a further 169,000 emigrated over the remainder of the interwar period.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.] Among those who departed were destitute agricultural laborers, disheartened aristocrats, disillusioned intellectuals, and workers and their families searching for better opportunities in Hungary or in some cases, overseas. [Kürti, László (2001) "The Remote Borderland: Transylvania in the Hungarian Imagination", Albany: SUNY Press, p. 32.] In 1921, the Popular Hungarian Party and National Hungarian Party were formed; in 1922 these fused to form the Hungarian Party of Romania.

The new regime's objective became to effectively Romanianize Transylvania in a social-political fashion, after centuries of Hungarian rule. The regime's goal was to create a Romanian middle and upper class that would assume power in all fields. The Hungarian language was expunged from official life, and all place-names were Romanianized. In the land reform undertaken in 1921, Transylvanian nobles (most of them ethnic Hungarians) were dispossessed of large domains, and the land was given to the peasants that worked it (the majority of whom were ethnic Romanians). The move changed the ethnic distribution of land ownership.

The Magyar population complained about the insufficiency of schools in their language and the pressure to send their children to Romanian language schools. In the private economy the commanding position of Hungarian, Jewish and Saxon was somewhat eroded, as the government tried to improve the relative position of the Romanian enterprise with preferential measures. Higher education was completely Romanianized, except for a chair of Hungarian Literature at the University of Cluj. On the other hand, the minority's cultural activities met with little official hindrance.

World War II

In 1940, the joint German/Italian Second Vienna Award gave back Northern Transylvania to Hungary, which held it until 1944. The award was intended to partly compensate Hungary for the territories lost with the Trianon Treaty, and ensure its continued loyalty towards Germany and Italy. However, it was again simply a re-drawing of national borders in a multi-ethnic region, without providing a real solution. Historian Keith Hitchins [Hitchins, Keith (1994) Rumania: 1866-1947 (Oxford History of Modern Europe). Oxford University Press.] summarizes the situation created by the award::"Far from settling matters, the Vienna Award had exacerbated relations between Romania and Hungary. It did not solve the nationality problem by separating all Magyars from all Romanians. 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 Magyars (other Hungarian estimates go as high as 800,000, Romanian as low as 363,000) continued to reside in the south."

During this period, some members of the Hungarian minority participated in discriminatory policies, harassment and killings against the Romanian population.Fact|date=May 2008 There were also atrocities by Romanians in 1944, [ Atrocities against Hungarians in the Autumn of 1944 (in Transylvania, Romania)] [ The Hungarians in Transylvania: Victims of Romanian Nationalism] leading to a chaotic situation until the Petru Groza government took control of it in 1945.

After World War II

After the war, in 1952, a Hungarian Autonomous Province was created in Romania by the communist authorities. The region was dissolved in 1968, when a new administrative organization (the one still in place) was applied.

The early communist party of Romania heavily relied on non-Romanian elements, among which were many Hungarians (many of whom were of Jewish origin). Under the first decades of Communist power, the situation of the Hungarian minority improved: a few Hungarian newspapers and theaters were created, etc.

Merging of Hungarian schools with Romanian ones began in 1959 and was completed in the mid-1980s. Teaching staff were progressively Romanianized in the wake of this consolidation, so that the proportion of Magyar children educated in their mother tongue steadily declined. Nevertheless, even in 1989, 80% of Hungarian children in grades 1-4, 76% of those in grades 5-8 and 41% of those in high school were studying in Hungarian. [Rogers Brubaker, Margit Feischmidt, Jon Fox & Liana Grancea (2006). "Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town", p.88. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691128340.] In 1959, the Magyar University of Cluj was merged with the Romanian one to become an almost exclusively Romanian language institution; the event was marked by the suicide of several Magyar professors. Ethnic Hungarians were progressively excluded from the administrative apparatus of the regime, the officer corps, and economic management. In the 1980s even Magyar educational and cultural studies became headed by ethnic Romanians.

Once Ceauşescu came to power, emphasis was put on nationalism, and the situation of the Hungarian minority worsened. Education in history became focused on the Romanian history of Transylvania and omitted the role played by Hungarians. Bennett Kovrig summarizes the situation in his study "Partitioned Nation: Hungarian Minorities in Central Europe":

:"The official nationalist ideology revived and accentuated the nation-building myths of the prewar period. Thus the ethnic Romanian nation and its state were represented as an organic unity; the Magyars were depicted as historical interlopers in the process of Daco-Romanian continuity, as the fundamentally alien oppressors of Romanian Transylvania in the past, and as unassamilable, crypto-revisionist threat to the integrity and cohesion of contemporary Romania. The Magyars’ claim to cultural autonomy implied that a distinction could be drawn between cultural and civic allegiance, but Romania’s rulers emphatically rejected the civic form of nationalism in favor of the essentially xenophobic dogma of organic Romanian nationhood. By the early 1980s, the regime’s favoured authors were publishing virulent diatribes against the Magyars."

:"Thus ethnic Romanians were encouraged to believe that all their troubles, past and present, were due to the presence of Magyars. The latter, on the other hand, were too conscious of their history and too rooted to a community to accept the status of unwanted, second-class citizens. To be sure, cordiality was not wholly absent in daily contact between Transylvania’s Magyars and ethnic Romanians; and the autochthonous Romanians were generally less hostile than those transplanted from Moldavia and Wallachia. But the fact is that the nationalistic propaganda struck a responsive chord among the mass of Romanians. The few active Magyar dissidents soon lost hope of conciliating the latter or the rulers; their efforts were aimed more to raise minority spirits and alert world public opinion."

The regime discriminated against ethnic minorities. Few members of these minorities were co-opted in party structures and administration, and many were stripped of their functions. However, mere expulsion was not the main objective of the regime. For instance, West Germany and Israel were obliged to pay a per capita ransom for the Ceauşescu regime to accept the emigration of Germans and Jews (however, the Jewish and German communities were rapidly depleted by emigration). Hungary didn't have the money nor the political will to follow suit. The regime weakened, but did not destroy, Hungarian institutions (schools, publishing houses, newspapers and cultural organisations) that continued to provide a framework for ethnic networks and permitted Hungarians to quickly and effectively organise after 1989. [Brubaker et al., p.88]

The minority situation after 1990

In the aftermath of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the inter-ethnic relations of Transylvania worsened. Ethnic-based political parties were constituted by both the Hungarians, which formed the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, and by the Romanian Transylvanians, who formed 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 1990, did take place shortly after the fall of Ceauşescu 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 were transformed as Romania moved to join Hungary as a full EU member. A number of Hungarian-speaking border towns which for decades were cut off from Hungary now have virtually free movement via new border-crossings.

Since November 1996 the situation of the Hungarian minority has improved following an election which brought about a government coalition that included the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) as a partner. Since 1996, the UDMR has been a member or supporter of every governmental coalition, including the Justice and Truth Alliance (2004-07). Political agreements have brought the gradual implementation of major advances in the official status of the Hungarian language in all localities where it is spoken by more than 20% of the population. While Hungarian newspapers, books, other publications and even broadcasting hours on public television have existed in Romania even during the Ceauşescu regime, their number and diversity has steadily and significantly increased after the 1989 revolution. The same is true for the number of elementary schools, high-schools, colleges and universities teaching in Hungarian, as well as for cultural institutions such as Hungarian theaters and opera houses funded by the Romanian state.

Even though Romania adhered to all the European laws for protecting minorities' rights, this as not proved satisfactory to all members of this 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 Székelyföld, roughly corresponding to the territory of the former Hungarian Autonomous Province, and the re-establishment of an independent state-funded Hungarian-language university.However, overall the situation of the Hungarian minority in Romania has been seen as an example of cultural and ethnical diersity. Romania has been referred to in many instances as model to follow in respecting minorities' rights. 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?’,additional text.]

On July 9, 1997 while on a brief visit to Bucharest President Bill Clinton made the same statement: “You have turned old quarrels into new friendships, within and outside the country’s frontiers. You have signed treaties with Hungary and Ukraine. For the first time, you have shared a democratic government with the Hungarian ethnics. You let minorities play a larger role in creating your future. Together with them, you represent the new Romania”. [] , additional text.]


The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) is the major representative of Hungarians in Romania, and is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. The aim of the UDMR is to achieve local government, cultural and territorial autonomy and the right to self‐determination for Hungarians. UDMR is a member of the European Democrat Union (EDU) and an associated member of the European People's Party (EPP).

In the 2004 legislative elections, UDMR gained 10 seats in the Romanian Senate, or 6.23% of the total vote, and 22 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (6.17% of the total vote). In 1996, UDMR became part of the National Democratic Convention coalition government, holding two ministerial portfolios in the cabinet. The party is also part of the current coalition government (2004-2008), where it holds four ministerial portfolios. Romania's vice-premier, Béla Markó, is also a member of the party.

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



The Székely people are Hungarians who mainly live in an area known as Székelyföld ("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, there are approximately 670,000 Székely.


The Csángó ( _ro. 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, 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 Orthodox Christianity. Along with marked cultural and ethnolinguistic differences between Hungarian-speaking and Romanian-speaking Csángó/Ceangăi, this historical background explains why some Csángó/Ceangăi claim having Hungarian while others Romanian ancestry. The Csángó have been subject to many 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.


Owing to its multicultural roots, Transylvania has a very diverse culture, in which Hungarians left probably the most distinctive mark. There is a vast network of Hungarian theaters, more than 200 years old and still functioning, and some of them, like those from Cluj-Napoca, Târgu-Mureş and Timişoara have international reputation. The number of Hungarian social and cultural organizations in Romania has greatly increased after the fall of communism, with more than 300 being documented a few years ago. There are also several puppet theatres. Professional Hungarian dancing in Romania is represented by the Maros Folk Ensemble (formerly State Szekler Ensemble) in Târgu-Mureş ("Marosvásárhely" in Hungarian), 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. The two public wide-coverage TV stations broadcast several Hungarian programs with good audiences also from Romanians. This relative scarcity is partially compensated by private Hungarian-language television and radio stations, like DUNA-TV which is targeted for the Hungarian minorities outside Hungary, particularly Transylvania. A new TV station entitled "Transylvania" is scheduled to start soon, the project is funded mostly by Hungary but also by Romania and EU and other private associations. There are currently around 60 Hungarian-language press publications receiving state support from the Romanian Government. While their numbers dropped as a consequence of economic liberalisation and competition, there are many others private funded by different Hungarian organizations. The 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.


Ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania have mixed opinions about their identity. Many of them tend to define themselves as being Hungarian, Transylvanian and Romanian at the same time, and there is even a sense of pride about this fact. Many Hungarians living in Transylvania were disconcerted when 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 a significant investor in Romania, with many cross-border firms employing both Romanians and Hungarians.

Historically, the Székely people considered themselves an ethnic group distinct from HungariansFact|date=June 2007 in Transylvania, even though they now identify mainly as Hungarians.



* 1992 - 1,624,959 persons, 7.1% of the population of Romania
* 2002 - 1,431,807 persons, 6.6% of the population of Romania

Transylvania only

* 1786 - 29.4% of the populationFact|date=October 2008
* 1910 - 1,662,000 persons, 32% of the population of Transylvania (including the Hungarian -speaking Jews and Schwabians - 1910 census)
* 1992 - 1,603,923 persons, 20.8% of the population of Transylvania
* 2002 - 1,415,718 persons, 19.6% of the population of Transylvania

By county

Another 16,089 ethnic Hungarians live in the other counties of Romania, (primarily in Bucharest) where they make up less than 0.1% of the total population.


Further reading

* cite journal
quotes =
last = Bell
first = Andrew
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year = 1996
month = September
title = The Hungarians in Romania since 1989
journal = Nationalities Papers
volume = 24
issue = 3
pages = 491-507
issn =
pmid =
doi = 10.1080/00905999608408462
id =
url =
language =
format =
accessdate =
laysummary =
laysource =
laydate =
quote =

* cite journal
quotes =
last = Culic
first = Irina
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year = 2006
month = May
title = Dilemmas of belonging: Hungarians from Romania
journal = Nationalities Papers
volume = 34
issue = 2
pages = 175-200
issn =
pmid =
doi = 10.1080/00905990600617839
id =
url =
language =
format =
accessdate =
laysummary =
laysource =
laydate =
quote =

External links

* [ Map] Nationality Map of Central and Southeastern Europe
* [ Map] Ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania
* [ 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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