View Full Version : Minorities in Romania: Differences and typology

Friday, November 5th, 2004, 10:22 PM
See also, for the tables: http://www.iie.org/flinnscholar/romminor.htm

Minorities in Romania: Differences and typology

by István Horváth

The birth year of modern Romanian State could be conventionally considered 1859 when the historical provinces of Moldavia and Valachia (including Oltenia and Muntenia) united. In spite of the fact that in Transylvania (and in other western territories and provinces, as seen in Figure 1.) the Romanian population constituted a demographic majority and there existed an articulated national movement, six decades had to pass before these territories were passed under Romanian sovereignty. After 1918 Romania as modern state become one of the largest sovereign territories of Central and Eastern Europe. Beside the provinces of Moldavia, Valachia and Transylvania, Romania took over and incorporated Basarbia (the actual territory of the Republic of Moldavia) and the Northern part of Bucovina (actually belonging to Ukraine). After the Second World War part of these territories, with a large amount of Romanian population were lost, but the Romanian state succeeded (excepting of a short interlude between 1940-1945) to maintain within its borders Transylvania and all the western territories.

Romania as modern state inside of its actual boundaries has a long history and experience of the territorial presence of national minorities. More than that, in the case of some of the above-mentioned territorial changes, the minority issue was frequently evoked due to the fact that the ethnic borders were not congruent to state boundaries. Consequently, the Romanian historical awareness is very sensitive on the minority - especially on the Hungarian - issues considering it as being one of the factors of potential territorial instability.

Concerning the minorities, it is rather difficult to outline shortly the roots of all of them and to reflect on the specificity of their historical status. There will be taken into account some considerations with a certain risk of losing some aspects of the nuances of a long inter-ethnic co-habitation specific for the territories of actual Romania.

First of all it has to be taken into consideration that Romania, in its actual configuration, is composed of territories which used to be separate political entities for centuries having more or less a different history, where different ethnic groups were having a substantially differentiated political status. Also, it has to be mentioned that the different minority groups are composed of successive strata of immigrants and/or colonists with major differences regarding the historical context when, and regions where they were settled.

The Hungarians installed in the region (in Transylvania, Banat, Crisana and Maramures) since the 9th century. Starting with the eleventh century all these territories were organized as parts of the Hungarian Kingdom, but with Transylvania having a special autonomous status. The representatives of the Hungarian nobility, together with the Saxon and Szekler leaders in 15th century signed a joint treaty (the so-called Union of Three Nations) in order to assure the supremacy of the ruling political elite, this act reiterating, beside its political significance, the mixed character of the provinces. After the breakdown of the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary and its Ottoman occupation (including also the province of Banat), Transylvania enjoyed an unsteady autonomy. At the end of the 17th century the province was gradually incorporated into the Habsburg Empire. In 1848, in defiance to the protests of the Romanian and Saxon population, the Hungarian leaders of the province decided the unification with Hungary.

Consequently, the Hungarian nobility represented for long centuries a dominant political stratum, and after 1848 within the process of modernization of the education and the state as whole, the Hungarians enjoyed a status of majority as it is definable in the present sense of the word. Besides, not just the political standing of the Hungarian population was important, but also the cultural investments (in many cases concretized in longstanding religious and educational institutions) and the particular historical significance of the regions inhabited by them (in collective memory Transylvania is frequently represented as a cultural core region for all the Hungarians).

After the First World War, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated, Transylvania, Banat, Crisana and Maramures provinces with Romanians constituting the majority, but also with a significant Hungarian minority - more than 30% of the total inhabitants -, were assigned to Romania by the Trianon Treaty.

For the Hungarians leaving at these territories, the rapprochement with the new state structures and with the status of minority was not easy, moreover the new Romanian state's cultural and educational policies having strong nationalizing tendencies.

After the Second World War , for about two decades the situation of Hungarian minority in Romania seemed to improve, but this progress was followed by a very aggressive Romanian nationalistic policy, such as in 1990 at the beginning of the so-called democratization process, the Hungarian minority felt very frustrated and deprived.

The Saxons from Transylvania, invited as colonists by the Hungarian Kings in the 12-13th centuries, were settled in the Southern and Eastern parts of Transylvania. They used to enjoy a large degree of political autonomy within Hungarian Kingdom or within the autonomous Principality of Transylvania. Being the main promoters for the development of urban life and crafts, they represented reference models for the patterns of cultural and administrative organization. But this was not the only infusion of Germanic population in the actual territory of Romania. Starting with the very beginning of 18th century the Swabs were colonized in Banat and Crisana, having a Catholic religion in comparison with the Protestant Saxons. During the 19th century the Saxons lost their special political status, and after the Second World War also their special economic and social positions, moreover they were subjects of collective harassment and hostile treatments. After all these historic losses, the experience of collective punishment, enduring the difficulties of the accommodation with communist system, starting with the seventies the Germans from Romania started to emigrate in Germany.

Before the 18th century the Jewish population was not a significant presence in the territories entered in the actual configuration of the Romanian state. In Transylvania their amount increased starting with the 18th century, and in Bucovina, Moldavia and Muntenia they started to emigrate at the beginning of 19th century. Their paths of integration were significantly different. In Transylvania (as specific for the whole Hungarian Kingdom) they adopted first the German culture and at the end of the 19th at the beginning of the 20th century the Hungarian culture.

In Bucovina and Moldavia they get integrated just in the economic system with sporadic contacts with the Romanian culture. This was one of the reasons frequently evoked during the 19th century as regards the political refusal to offer them citizenship, this problem being partially solved in 1923.

During the Second World War in the provinces of Old Kingdom they were the main victims of the aggressive behavior of paramilitary fascistic formations, in the North Western parts of the Romanian territory reenacted to Hungary between 1940 and 1944, being victims of the deportations assisted by the Hungarian authorities. As a result of such a treatment, and due to the massive process of immigration which has started after 1945, from the third largest minority in 1930, they become in 1992 one of the smallest ones.

The Armenians arrived during the 14th century in Moldavia, and beginning with the 17th century they formed colonies of merchants also in Transylvania. The last significant migratiomnal wave of Armenian population arrived at the end of the 19th - beginning of 20th century.

The Slovaks and Czechs were colonized starting with 18th especially in 19th century, in mountainous areas of Banat and Western Transylvania, the majority of them in order to exploit the mineral resources of this area.

The Ukrainian population has established in the northern part of the actual territory of Romania (especially in Maramures) starting with the 14th century. Their presence in Bucovina, according to the opinion of most of the historians, is in relation with the minority policy of Austrian Empire, administrating this territory starting with the last quarter of 18th century.

The Greeks established in Valahia and Moldavia during the 18-19th centuries, have had a complex influence on the development of this province, due to their significant presence not just on the commercial but also on the cultural life, being considered as promoters of the spirit of modernity. Greek refugees arriving in Romania were registered even at mid of the 20th century.

The Turks and Tartars are present mainly in Dobrogea - a territory existing for centuries under Ottoman authority which became part of Romania after the Congress of Berlin in 1878.

The presence of Roma population on the territories of Romania seems to be documented from the eleventh century. In the 14th and 15th centuries the slavery became institutionalized in the historical provinces outside Transylvania. Some efforts were made, starting with the mid of the 18th century to abolish slavery, but this succeeded just in the second half of the 19th century. Even if from legal point of view it was free, this group never enjoyed fully the advantages of various social and economic process such as the various land reforms of the 20th century. More than that they were continuously facing the prejudices of the majority population, and even certain institutionalized discriminative policies of the state, as being the massive deportations of some Roma people from 1942 and later on, during the Second World War. From the point of view of local administration it should be mentioned, that partially due to various factors. as the nomadic traditions, the high level of illiteracy, the fact that in communism a large part of the Roma population was used in agriculture as a mobile workforce, several Roma persons do not have proper ID's, and are not registered as belonging to any the administrative unit. Consequently it is rather difficult to appreciate the exact number of Roma persons living in Romania, but fact is that there is a strata of population which is not in the position to benefit from local social policies, being from administrative point of view, out of the system.

According to the census from 1992, the number of citizens declaring to have a different nationality than Romanian exceeds 10% of Romania’s overall population (). Among the existing diverse ethnic groups including the majority one, there are significant differences, especially concerning the main religious denominations they belong to, and their mother tongue (see Tables 3 & 5). Also, the territorial distribution and the degree of urbanization are variable for different minorities. Most of the minority population is concentrated in Transylvania (Table 4.), where the amount of Romanian population is 75,29%, the Hungarians representing 20,96%. Regarding the level of urbanization, the German, Jewish and Armenian population are above the national average, the distribution of Hungarians among the rural and urban areas being more or less corresponding to the national average.

According to statistical data regarding regional concentration, level of urbanization, religion, mother tongue it has to be mentioned that at the level of different regions there are various regional mentalities, having different integrative forces. Such as, in the region of Banat -having one of the highest degree of diversity of the minority populations represented - the regional identity seems to have a large integrative force, in some cases being stronger than the particular ethnic loyalties.

Concerning the level of political mobilization and the relation between the political elite of one particular minority and the Romanian State, there can be identified three different cases, risking to ignore some details and exceptions:

* The case of the Hungarian minority, trying to renegotiate with the Romanian state its political and public status. The major goal ever expressed publicly by the political representatives of this minority (we are referring just to the period after 1989), was to be considered as co nation with the Romanian nation, in other words to be considered an equal but distinct/autonomous constituent of the Romanian political community. In addition to this general goal, Hungarians are striving to acquire an official status for Hungarian language, to set up new cultural and educational state policies creating a frame for autonomous administration of these issues, and also to have some forms of territorial autonomy for the regions where Hungarians live compactly.

* The case of minorities existing as a small communities (less than 100.000 persons belonging to), facing particular problems in preserving their cultural identity. They are integrated within the political system through specific mechanisms of representation (see the chapter analyzing the political participation of minorities). Their needs and demands are not exceeding the actual political and administrative system their grievances usually not generating major political and public debates.

* The Roma minority, spread all over the Romanian territory, marginal both from social and cultural point of view, facing harsh prejudices of the population frequently manifested between 1990 and 1996 in form of violent aggressions. Concerning the dimensions of this population, there is an ongoing debate, due to the fact that during the census from 1992 many persons identified as being Roma by their immediate surroundings, declared themselves as belonging to another nationality. With an under-dimensioned but very active stratum of political and intellectual elite, Roma minority presents a very low level of political mobilization, their problems not being sufficiently articulated at the level of political life. One of the reasons leading to this phenomenon can be the high level of stratification of the above mentioned elite. However, the problems associated with this ethnic group remain diversified emphasized mainly at local level.

One can still notice (Tables 1 & 2) a gradual decrease of the weight and number of national minorities in Romania. This is only partially explained through their assimilation by the majority group, the main reason of this phenomenon, especially in the case of Germans, Jews and Hungarians, being the mass emigration.

The demographic patterns of the existing ethnic groups are significantly differing, which also can partially explain their decreasing amount. Even though there are accounts of linguistic and even ethnic assimilation (Table 5), there can not be advanced considerations in this respect, because the problem is highly politicized. Furthermore there exists no official data concerning the extent and direction of these trends.

The demographic stress, the fear of significant decrease in number is especially strong among the Hungarians from Romania, the emigration of Hungarians, as a consequence of an inadequate and unfavorable minority policy, being frequently mentioned in various discourses of Hungarian public and political actors. The fact is, that the Hungarians from Romania are more disposed to emigrate than the ethnic Romanians (Table 6) but it is rather difficult to clearly determine whether an unfavorable minority policy or the declining economy could be considered as a major reason for this.

Regarding the demographic stress, there is a widespread discourse of the Romanian political elite on the increase of the amount of Roma population, sustained by the demographic indicators, but often formulated in a language with racist accents.

Vlad Cletus
Saturday, November 6th, 2004, 09:02 AM
As an individual of both Hungarian and Romanian lineage, how do you fare with the territorial shifts? Do you think that Transylvania should be Hungary's once again, or at least have more of a Hungarian Culture influence? Also, What are Lipovans?

Saturday, November 6th, 2004, 09:44 AM
As an individual of both Hungarian and Romanian lineage, how do you fare with the territorial shifts? Do you think that Transylvania should be Hungary's once again, or at least have more of a Hungarian Culture influence?

The real historical fact is that the Romanian people as we know it nowdays, born on the current teritory of Transylvania, which was one of the Dacian provinces conquered by Romans. In the 9th century, on the other hand, it has been conquered by Hungarians, who tried, but not really succeeded to apply a Hungarisation procedure till 1918.

So, if you want my oppinion, Transylvania is Romanian by the rights of first born and it has a very strong 1000 years Hungarian influence. That's why, at least in my oppinion, the borders must dillute between Romania and Hungary, because of the common mixt teritory. That's why I wait for the moment, both countries will join Schengen Agreement. This will make many maniacs of both sides to die of the shock. Anyway, they are no value for the others, so their loss will not be so important.

Also, What are Lipovans?

Old rite orthodox Russians: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Lipovan

Saturday, November 6th, 2004, 09:56 AM

The migration of Czechs in Banat took place mainly between 1823-'28. This was actually an internal colonization [ie "migratio colonorum"] within the same state [during that period of time Bohemia and Banat were part of the habsburgic state] done, in the first stage, by a private person.
The reasons for coming and settling down in this region were of economic and social nature. It was an unpropitious period in Bohemia: persistence of serfdom among the rural population; the taxes were high due the bankruptcy of the Habsburgic state in 1811 as a result of Napoleon's continuous and exhausting wars; and the military services lasted 6-7 years.
The new colonists / each family were promised to have great advantages and facilities:
-10 "chains" [ie 10 Joch] of land [~4.5 ha]
-tax exemption
-military service exemption.
-each family member will receive 6 Austrian Forints per month.
-the priest will have a yearly salary of 400 Austrian Forints.
These attractive promises brought many Czechs from different localities to the Banat Mountains [in a region named also Banatul Montan / Banater Bergland / Bánsági Hegyvidék] which was an unpopulated region near the Danube River, in the south-western corner of today Romania. The settlers travelled from Vienna to Banat, at Moldova Noua [ie Neumoldowa / Ujmoldova], for whole weeks and they made the trip on the Danube River with the raft. Some of them died on the way and others have been born.
The first wave of colonists was brought by a hungarian intermediary named Janos Magyarly, who was a contractor in Oraviţa [ie Orawitz / Oravicabánya] and tenant of the large forests in the Locva Mountains, above the Danube River. In search for cheap laborers to clear the large pristine forests of the Banat, Magyarly sent recruiting agents to Bohemia and Moravia. Magyarly manages to attract in this rarely populated region some hundreds of colonists from Bohemia. He needed these people for clearing forests, for preparing and transporting cheap timber and for preparing wood coal. Therefore, in 1823 he founded the Sfanta Elisabeta [Saint Elisabeth] village and one year later, the Sfanta Elena [Saint Helena] village. It seams that the name he used for these two villages are the names of his daughters. Magyarly made lots of promises to the colonists but he never kept them. The majority of the emigrants were poor people. Upon their arrival, after a two-month journey, they discovered that their homeland was a rocky terrain high in the mountains completely untouched by civilization, and almost unfavourable to human habitation. Stranded in the hills, the labourers and their families built log cabins and set to work. They have been cheated, because instead of land they received forests, out of which they were supposed to make fields. Men used to cut trees and women uprooted logs. Several years later when the forests had been cleared, Magyarly disappeared and was never heard from again. Having overcome the extremely difficult beginnings by this time, the immigrants were settled and decided to stay on in these villages, many of which exist today. After their request, in 1826, inhabitants of both villages joined the body of the military frontier guards of the 13th Military District located at Caransebes. The local Austrian military bodies [mainly Colonel Floria von Machio, the commander of the local regiment] initiated the second wave of Czech colonists, because the authorities needed new frontier guards and wanted to colonize the entire region.
The second wave of Czechs colonization was limited to the so-called "Military Border(s) of Banat ", toward which the majority of settlers were going. But, within this territory, there were different laws and other juridical standards as in the monarchic regions. The new colonists were promised to have great advantages and facilities. So, between 1827-'28 Czechs have colonized the almost unpopulated territories in the Almajului Mountains. They settled down in the following localities: Bigăr, Eibental, Frauenwiese [ie Poiana Muierii], Ravensca, Şumiţa, etc. Once arrived there, they were forbidden to return home. However, in the first year, 70 persons from Gârnic fled crossing the Danube to a manufacturer of czech origin. At the beginning, the plane was to colonize only Gârnic [with a field of 500000 ha and 400000 ha for grassland]. Gârnic, today the largest locality with Czech inhabitants from Romania, was located at approximately 15 km northeast of Sfanta Elena.
Around the middle of the XIX century two of these villages with Czech population disappeared, namely Sfanta Elisabeta / Svatá Alžběta [due lack of water] and Frauenwiese [Frauvízn, Poiana Muierii; disappeared around 1860]. In each of the other six villages, the Czech population represents at least 90% of the total number of inhabitants. Together they number approximately 2400 persons. But even this second wave of colonisation was a difficult one. For example, the first shelters were underground, where due to humidity their entire fortune got musty and only after 24 years of struggle, in 1850, Colonel Floria von Machio [the commander of the local regiment] succeeded to receive from the Bishop of Hradec Kralove, a priest for this region. His name was Frantisek Unzeitig and he used to be chaplain in Lichve. Machio's requests were the following:
-a priest, who really cares about the souls of his parishioners and their welfare [to lead them]
-to have a good influence upon them
-to love the nature
-without any personal interests
-to be trustful
-to know, besides German, the Czech language perfectly
-to encourage the agricultural work
-to turn the thoughts of those intending to return in the homeland
-to lead them to welfare.
Father Frantisek Unzeitig was deceived as well, because he was told that the church and parish are ready. In reality they were ready only on paper. Despite of this, he stayed and was buried in Banat.
In 1861 Banat becomes subordinated again to the Kingdom of Hungary [starting 1868 inside the imperial dualism of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy], excepting the military border [where the Czech villages are also], which was still subordinated directly, up to 1873, to the Imperial authorities from Vienna. Therefore, the hungarian government organized the third Czech colonization wave, this time in already existing localities with mixed populations. Thus, in 1862 Czechs settled down in Clopodia, a village in Caras Severin County [together with romanians, germans, hungarians and serbs]. In 1863 they settled down in Peregul Mare in Arad County [together with carpathian russians and serbs] and between 1863-1865 in Scăiuş [which until than was inhabited only by romanians. Simultaneously with the Czechs also came here Greek Catholics from eastern Slovakia]. Presently, there are not more than 150 czech inhabitants in all these three localities together.
Besides these three waves of Czech colonization on Romania's present territory, individuals came during the XIX century and settled down in big cities like Bucharest, Ploiesti, Craiova, Resita, Timisoara, Arad, Cluj, Sibiu, Brasov, Petrosani, Medias, Lugoj, Galati, Oradea, etc. The majority of them were handicraftsmen [especially shoemakers, tailors, weavers], musicians, soldiers, miners, glassmakers, qualified workers and foremen, financial and industrial clerks, tenants, merchants, manufacturers, etc. Excepting some of the Bucharest inhabitants [during the 1992 census a number of 119 persons declared themselves of Czech nationality], the descendants of these Czech colonists have already been assimilated.
During the repatriation, between 1947-'49, approximately one third of the Czech population from Romania returned in their ancestors' homeland [original villages around Plzen / Pilsen and Domazlice region], but also aiming to populate [together with Czechs from other lands] the border territories from where the German population was expelled. The population from Banat alone represented approximately 500 persons of Czech nationality or origin.
After 1990 some other hundreds of Romanian Czechs left Romania for returning to the Czech Republic. According to unofficial estimates up to now they number 700-900 persons. According to the last official census, which took place in 1992, there are still 5800 Czechs in Romania. Approximately half of these persons originate from the villages colonized in the first three colonization waves. Presently, Czechs still represent minority communities in Romania in several cities, where they moved during the so-called secondary colonization from the localities mentioned above. In Caras-Severin County these localities are: Moldova-Noua, Zlatita, Resita, Berzasca, Lipova, Cozla, Bozovici [18 families], Prilipeti, Mercina, Anina-Steierdorf, Caransebes, Jupa, Baile Herculane etc. In Mehedinti County these localities are: Orsova, Turnu Severin and Iesalnita. Among the large cities in which Czechs are living we have to mention: Timisoara, Bucharest, Arad, Resita, and others.

Generally, it can be noted that the majority of Czechs living in south Banat kept their original dialects from the Plzen and Domazlice regions, their old customs, traditions and ceremonies unspoiled up to the present and even better than in their own homeland. Because of their isolation and the simplicity of their lives, they give us a glimpse of what life must have been like for our great-great grandparents [they are at the six's generation!]. We still have a number of six pure Czech and Roman Catholic villages in Banat. The exception is the village of Saint Helena, made up of Roman Catholics and Baptists [former Lutherans]. Unfortunately, presently the population is these villages become smaller and smaller.

Gârnic [ie Gernik / Weizenried / Szörénybúzás] (at 705 m over the sea level)
The church was built in 1857 [the parish was raised in 1850] and dedicated to Saint Joan Nepomuk, having its festival on the day of monk Saint Havel [October 16]. There were 469 czech inhabitants in 1830, 1389 in 1928, 1090 in 1930, 1400 in 1937, 733 in 1966, 868 in 1992, 620 in 2001 and 525 in 2002.
Sfânta Elena [ie Svatá Helena / Sankt Helena / Dunaszentilona]
The local church is dedicated to Saint Helena and its festival is on 28 September (Saint Vaclav). The church was built in 1879. There were 338 czech inhabitants in 1830, 960 in 1928, 935 in 1930, 510 in 1948, 605 in 1966, 790 in 1991, 729 in 1922, 360 in 2002.
Eibenthall [ie Tiszafa] (at 600 m altitude; administratively belongs to Dubova)
The church was built in 1912, replacing the one built in 1847 [when the parish was raised also], which was made of wood. Its festival is on Saint Havel's day, celebrated on October 16 and it is dedicated to Saint Joan Nepomuk. Presently, the village has 480 parishioners. The czech's number fluctuated in time: 356 in 1830, 837 in 1928, 582 in 1930, 591 in 1935, 700 in 1937, 513 in 1948, 441 in 1966, and 338 in 1991. The number of the parishioners in 2001 was 481 [all Czech]. The village is known also as Eibentál, Jeventál or Ajbentál.
Bigăr [ie Biger / Schnellersruhe / Bigér] (at 550 m altitude; administratively belongs to Berzeasca)
The Holy Trinity church was built in 1876. It is dedicated to Saint Juda and the festival is celebrated on Saint Havel's day. There were 266 czech inhabitants in 1830, 453 in 1928, 610 in 1937, 464 in 1948, 273 in 1991 and presently there are 254 parishioners. The german name of the village could be linked with the name of the General Andreas Schnelle, which, according to the legend, spend a night in the village.
Ravenska [ie Rovensko / Rawenska / Almásróna] (at 866 m over the sea level)
The church celebrates its festival on Saint Martin's day [November 11] and it was built in 1922. There were 237 czech inhabitants in 1830, 350 in 1928, 425 in 1937, 401 in 1948, 223 in 1991, 150 in 2001 and 130 in 2001.
Şumiţa [ie Šumice / Schumitza / Cseherdös] (administratively belongs to Lapusnicul Mic)
The church built in 1888 is dedicated to Saint Anna and the festival is celebrated on Saint Havel's day. There were 123 czech inhabitants in 1830, 510 in 1928, 425 in 1937, 460 in 1948, 384 in 1966, 206 in 1991, 148 in 2000 and presently [in 2002] the number decreased to 130 parishioners.

Note: the first name of each village is the official / Romanian name followed by the [Czech / German / Hungarian names].

Web Sites for the Czech villages in Banat [lot of interesting pictures!]:

http://www.decros.cz/~peter/Banat.htm] ( [url) http://www.decros.cz/~peter/Banat.htm[/URL]