Hungarians in Romania

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Hungarians in Romania
Romániai magyarok
Total population
1,237,746 [1]
Regions with significant populations
Harghita county coat of arms.gif Harghita County 258,615 (84.8%)
Mures county coat of arms.svg Mureș County 200,989 (37.8%)
Coa Romania County Kovaszna.svg Covasna County 151,787 (73.6%)
Actual Bihor county CoA.png Bihor County 138,441 (25.2%)
Satu Mare county CoA.png Satu Mare County 113,541 (34.5%)
Actual Cluj county CoA.png Cluj County 103,457 (15.7%)
Hungarian, Romanian, German
Calvinism (46.5%), Catholicism (41%), Unitarianism (4.5%)
Map of Romanian counties with notable Hungarian presence (2011 census) Ethnic-map-of-Romania-2011.png
Map of Romanian counties with notable Hungarian presence (2011 census)
Map of Romanian communes with notable Hungarian presence (2011 census) Romania harta etnica 2011.PNG
Map of Romanian communes with notable Hungarian presence (2011 census)

The Hungarian minority of Romania (Hungarian: romániai magyarok, Romanian: maghiarii din România) is the largest ethnic minority in Romania, consisting of 1,227,623 people and making up 6.1% of the total population, according to the 2011 census. [2]


Most ethnic Hungarians of Romania live in areas that were, before the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, parts of Hungary. Encompassed in a region known as Transylvania, the most prominent of these areas is known generally as Székely Land (Ținutul Secuiesc, Székelyföld), where Hungarians comprise the majority of the population, comprising Harghita and Covasna counties and parts of Mureș county. [2] Transylvania also includes the historic regions of Banat, Crișana and Maramureș. 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 Mureș (38.09%), Satu Mare (34.65%), Bihor (25.27%), Sălaj (23.35%) and Cluj (15.93%) counties.


Historical background

Transylvania, as a part of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary during the early 12th century. Kingdom of Hungary 1102.jpg
Transylvania, as a part of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary during the early 12th century.

The Hungarian tribes originated in the vicinity of the Ural Mountains and arrived in the territory formed by present-day Romania during the 9th century from Etelköz or Atelkuzu (roughly the space occupied by the present day Southern Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and the Romanian province of Moldavia). [3] [ non-primary source needed ] 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. [4] 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.

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 suzerainty. 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 Monarchy 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. [5] 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. [6] The Hungarian historiography sees this as a mere formality. [7] Within the Habsburg Empire, Transylvania was administratively part of Kingdom of Hungary. [5]

After quashing the 1848 revolution, the Austrian Empire imposed a repressive regime on Hungary and ruled Transylvania directly through a military governor and abolished the Unio Trium Nationum and granted citizenship to ethnic Romanians[ clarification needed ]. Later, the compromise of 1867 established the Austria-Hungary and Transylvania became integral part of the Kingdom of Hungary again, with Hungarian becoming the official language, as well the policy of Magyarization affected the region.

Following defeat in World War I, Austria-Hungary disintegrated. The ethnic Romanian elected representatives of Transylvania, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș proclaimed Union with Romania on 1 December 1918.

Map of Romania with "Transylvania proper" in bright yellow TransylvaniaProper.png
Map of Romania with "Transylvania proper" in bright yellow

With the conclusion of World War I, the Treaty of Trianon (signed on 4 June 1920) defined the new border between the states of Hungary and Romania. As a result, the more than 1.5 million Hungarian minority of Transylvania found itself becoming a minority group within Romania. [8]

In August 1940, during the Second World War, the northern half of Transylvania was returned to Hungary by the second Second Vienna Award. Historian Keith Hitchins [9] 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-World War II borders with Hungary agreed on at the Treaty of Paris were identical with those set out in 1920.

After the war, in 1952, a Magyar Autonomous Region was created in Romania by the communist authorities. The region was dissolved in 1968, when a new administrative organization of the country (still in effect today) replaced regions with counties. The communist authorities, and especially after Nicolae Ceaușescu's regime came to power, restarted the policy of Romanianization.

Today, "Transylvania proper" (bright yellow on the accompanying map) is included within the Romanian counties ( județe ) of Alba, Bistrița-Năsăud, Brașov, Cluj, Covasna, Harghita, Hunedoara, Mureș, Sălaj (partially) and Sibiu. In addition to "Transylvania proper", modern Transylvania includes Crișana and part of the Banat; these regions (dark yellow on the map) are in the counties of Arad, Bihor, Caraș-Severin, Maramureș, Sălaj (partially), Satu Mare, and Timiș.

Post-communist era

Ethnic map of Harghita, Covasna, and Mures Counties based on the 2011 data, showing localities with Hungarian majority or plurality. Szekely04.png
Ethnic map of Harghita, Covasna, and Mureș 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 Mureș 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 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 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 by some as a model of cultural and ethnic diversity in the Balkan area: [10] 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 Milošević, 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? [11]

Notable Hungarians of Romania


Several ethnic Hungarians [12] have won Olympic medals for Romania.

Olympic chess players


Classical music


Actors of Hungarian descent



The Székely people are Hungarians who mainly live in an area known as Székely Land (Ținutul 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, 532 people declared themself "Székelys" rather than "Hungarians.". [35] The three counties of the unofficial Székely Land – Harghita, Covasna, and Mureș – have a combined ethnic Hungarian population of 609,033.


The Csangos (Romanian : Ceangău, pl. Ceangăi, Hungarian : Csángó, pl. Csángók) are people of Roman Catholic faith, some speaking a Hungarian dialect and some Romanian. They live mainly in the Bacău, Neamț and Iași counties, Moldavia region. The Csango 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.[ citation needed ]

The ethnic background of Csango 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 Csango claim having Hungarian ancestry while others claim Romanian ancestry. The Hungarian-speaking Csangos 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 Csangos as a mere Romanian population that was Magyarized in certain periods of time.[ citation needed ]


The Hungarian Theatre of Cluj and Cluj-Napoca Hungarian Opera building. Opera maghiara din Cluj Napoca , Teatrul Maghiar din Cluj Napoca 16p9.jpg
The Hungarian Theatre of Cluj and Cluj-Napoca Hungarian Opera building.
The Targu Mures National Theatre has two language sections, Hungarian and Romanian Marosvasarhely, Nemzeti Szinhaz 2.jpg
The Târgu Mureș National Theatre has two language sections, Hungarian and Romanian

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.[ citation needed ] There are also several puppet theatres.[ citation needed ] Professional Hungarian dancing in Romania is represented by the Maros Folk Ensemble (formerly State Szekler Ensemble) in Târgu Mureș, the Hargita Ensemble, and the Pipacsok Dance Ensemble.[ citation needed ] Other amateur popular theaters are also very important in preserving the cultural traditions.[ citation needed ]

While in the past the import of books was hindered, now there are many bookstores selling books written in Hungarian. Two public TV stations, TVR1 and TVR2, broadcast several Hungarian programs with good audiences also from Romanians.[ citation needed ] 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,[ when? ] 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 Babeș-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 (RMDSZ), 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 Babeș University to form the multilingual Babeș-Bolyai University that continues to exist today.

Other universities that offer study programs in Hungarian are the University of Medicine, Pharmacy, Science and Technology of Târgu Mureș (public), Târgu Mureș University of Arts (public), Sapientia University (private) in Cluj-Napoca, Miercurea Ciuc and Târgu Mureș, Partium Christian University (private) in Oradea and Protestant Theological Institute of Cluj (private).

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.[ citation needed ]

A proposal supported by the RMDSZ to grant Hungarian citizenship to Hungarians living in Romania but without meeting Hungarian-law residency requirements was narrowly defeated at a 2004 referendum in Hungary (the referendum failed only because there were not enough votes to make it valid). [36] After the failed vote, the leaders of the Hungarian ethnic parties in the neighboring countries formed the HTMSZF organization in January 2005, as an instrument lobbying for preferential treatment in the granting of Hungarian citizenship. [37]

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. [38] According to a RMDSZ poll conducted that year, over 85 percent of Romania's ethnic Hungarians were eager to apply for Hungarian citizenship. [39] 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." [40]

Between 2011 and 2012, 200,000 applicants took advantage of the new, accelerated naturalization process; [41] there were another 100,000 applications pending in the summer of 2012. [42] As of February 2013, the Hungarian government has granted citizenship to almost 400,000 Hungarians 'beyond the borders'. [43] In April 2013, the Hungarian government announced that 280,000 of these were Romanian citizens. [44]


Harghita County is the county with the highest percentage of ethnic Hungarians in Romania. Field Harghita bgiu.jpg
Harghita County is the county with the highest percentage of ethnic Hungarians in Romania.
Historical population
1930 1,425,507    
1948 1,499,851+5.2%
1956 1,587,675+5.9%
1966 1,619,592+2.0%
1977 1,713,928+5.8%
1992 1,620,199−5.5%
2002 1,431,807−11.6%
2011 1,227,623−14.3%
According to various census data,[ which? ] their numbers were:

2011 census [45]

of county population
of Hungarians in Romania
Harghita 257,70785.21%20.99%
Covasna 150,46873.74%12.25%
Mureș 200,85838.09%16.36%
Satu Mare 112,58034.65%9.17%
Bihor 138,21325.27%11.25%
Sălaj 50,17723.35%4.08%
Cluj 103,59115.93%8.43%
Arad 36,5689.03%2.97%
Brașov 39,6617.69%3.23%
Maramureș 32,6187.22%2.65%
Timiș 35,2955.57%2.87%
Bistrița-Năsăud 14,3505.23%1.16%
Alba 14,8494.61%1.21%
Hunedoara 15,9004.04%1.29%
Sibiu 10,8932.93%0.88%
Caraș-Severin 3,2761.19%0.26%
Bacău 4,3730.75%0.35%
Bucharest 3,4630.21%0.28%

The remaining 4,973 (0.4%) ethnic Hungarians live in the other counties of Romania, where they make up less than 0.1% of the total population.


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. [46] [47]

In 2011, 45.9% of Romania's Hungarians were Reformed, 40.8% Roman Catholic, 4.5% Unitarian and 2.1% Romanian Orthodox. A further 5.8% belonged to various other Christian denominations. [48] Around 0.25 percent of the Hungarians were atheist.

Hungarian Heritage in Transylvania, Romania

See also

Related Research Articles

Transylvania Historical region of Romania

Transylvania is a historical region that is located in central Romania. Bound on the east and south by its natural borders, the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended westward to the Apuseni Mountains. The term sometimes encompasses parts of the historical regions of Crișana and Maramureș, and occasionally the Romanian part of Banat.

Mureș County County of Romania

Mureș County is a county (județ) of Romania, in the historical region of Transylvania, with the administrative centre in Târgu Mureș. The county was established in 1968, after the administrative reorganization that re-introduced the historical judeţ (county) system, still used today. This reform eliminated the previous Mureș-Magyar Autonomous Region, which had been created in 1952 within the People's Republic of Romania. Mureș county has a vibrant multicultural fabric that includes Hungarian-speaking Székelys and Transylvanian Saxons, with a rich heritage of fortified churches and towns.

Târgu Mureș City in Mureș, Romania

Târgu Mureș is the seat of Mureș County in the historical region of Transylvania, Romania. It is the 16th largest Romanian city, with 134,290 inhabitants as of the 2011 census. It lies on the Mureș River, the second longest river in Romania.

Odorheiu Secuiesc Municipality in Harghita, Romania

Odorheiu Secuiesc is the second largest municipality in Harghita County, Transylvania, Romania. In its short form, it is also known as Odorhei in Romanian and Udvarhely in Hungarian. The Hungarian name of the town "Udvarhely" means "courtyard place".


The Székelys, sometimes also referred to as Szeklers are a subgroup of the Hungarian people living mostly in the Székely Land in Romania. A significant population descending from the Székelys of Bukovina lives in Tolna and Baranya counties in Hungary and in certain districts of Vojvodina, Serbia.

Miercurea Ciuc Municipality in Harghita, Romania

Miercurea Ciuc is the county seat of Harghita County, Romania. It lies in the Székely Land, a mainly Hungarian-speaking ethno-cultural region in eastern Transylvania, and is situated in the Olt River valley.


The Csango people or Csángó people are a Hungarian ethnographic group of Roman Catholic faith living mostly in the Romanian region of Moldavia, especially in Bacău County. Their traditional language, Csango, an old Hungarian dialect, is currently used by only a minority of the Csango population group.

Northern Transylvania

Northern Transylvania was the region of the Kingdom of Romania that during World War II, as a consequence of the August 1940 territorial agreement known as the Second Vienna Award, became part of the Kingdom of Hungary. With an area of 43,104 km2 (16,643 sq mi), the population was largely composed of both ethnic Romanians and Hungarians.

Magyar Autonomous Region

The Magyar Autonomous Region (1952–1960) and Mureș-Magyar Autonomous Region (1960–1968) were autonomous regions in the People's Republic of Romania.

Székely Land Historical and ethnographic region of Romania

The Székely Land or Szeklerland is a historic and ethnographic area in Romania, inhabited mainly by Székelys, a subgroup of Hungarians. Its cultural centre is the city of Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely), the largest settlement in the region.

Minorities of Romania

About 10.5% of Romania's population is represented by minorities. The principal minorities in Romania are Hungarians and Romani people, with a declining German population and smaller numbers of Poles in Bukovina, Serbs, Croats, Slovaks and Banat Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Jews, Turks and Tatars, Armenians, Russians, Afro-Romanians, and others.


Romanianization is the series of policies aimed toward ethnic assimilation implemented by the Romanian authorities during the 20th and 21st century. The most noteworthy policies were those aimed at the Hungarian minority in Romania, Jews and as well the Ukrainian minority in Bukovina and Bessarabia.

Lunca de Jos Commune in Harghita, Romania

Lunca de Jos is a commune in Harghita County, Transylvania, Romania. It lies in the ethno-cultural region Szekely land.

Merești Commune in Harghita, Romania

Merești is a commune in Harghita County, Romania. It lies in the Székely Land, an ethno-cultural region in eastern Transylvania. It is composed of a single village, Merești. Its elevation is 557 m (1,827 ft).

Mihăileni, Harghita Commune in Harghita, Romania

Mihăileni is a commune in Harghita County, Romania. The commune lies in the Székely Land, an ethno-cultural region in eastern Transylvania.

Siculeni Commune in Harghita, Romania

Siculeni is a commune in Harghita County, Romania. It lies in the Székely Land, an ethno-cultural region in eastern Transylvania. The Siculicidium took place here.

Unitarian Church of Transylvania

The Unitarian Church of Transylvania is a church of the Unitarian denomination, based in the city of Cluj, Transylvania, Romania. Founded in 1568 in the Principality of Transylvania, it has a majority-Hungarian following, and is one of the 18 religious confessions given official recognition by the Romanian state.

The Hungarian People's Union was a left-wing political party active in Romania between 1934 and 1953, claiming to represent the Hungarian community. Until 1944, it was called the Union of Hungarian Workers of Romania.

Székely autonomy movement

The Székely Land (Szeklerland) is a historic and ethnographic region in Eastern Transylvania, in the center of Romania. The primary goal for the Hungarian political organisations in Romania is to achieve Székely autonomy. The Szeklers make up about half of the Hungarians in Romania and live in an ethnic block. According to official data from Romania's 2011 census, 609,033 persons in Mureș, Harghita, and Covasna counties consider themselves Hungarian. The Székelys (Szeklers), a Hungarian sub-group, are mainly concentrated in these three counties.

The Kriza János Ethnographic Society is a 1990 founded ethnographical research institute from Cluj, Romania. Its objective is to serve as professional representation of the ethnic Hungarian ethnographers from Romania, and to provide an institutional framework for research and professional work. Since its inception has been operating continuously, and as ethnographic research and ethnographic education began to develop, its activities expanded and diversified. From 1994 the Society has its own headquarters, where a library, an archive, a publisher and a lecture hall is housed. The latter is used for ethnographic lectures and exhibitions.


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  48. Census 2011

Further reading