Hungarian [magyar nyelv] is a language of the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family. It is spoken by approx. 14.5 million people worldwide, of which approx. 10 million live in Hungary and another two million live in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before the Treaty of Trianon. Of these, the largest group lives in Romania. Hungarian normally displays a low dialectal variation, with differences being mainly phonetical. The influence of Romanian on the dialects of Transylvania is more significant, especially where Hungarians live in dispersed communities (as well as among those with lower levels of education). Among speakers of Hungarian in Romania, the cultural prestige of the Transylvanian varieties of Hungarian is high, even higher than that of Hungarian itself ― not only among Hungarians in Romania, but in all areas of the Carpathian basin where Hungarian is spoken. An important role in this respect is played by the tradition of the Hungarian literature and folklore in Transylvania, as well as by the expressivity and poetic character attributed to the Szekler dialect (Benő and Szilágy, 2005). The influence of Romanian is particularly strong on the dialects spoken in Moldavia ― which can be divided in Northern-Csángó, Southern-Csángó and Szèkely-Csángó dialects (the Szèkely-Csángó being more prestigious than the others), displaying significant phonetic, syntactic and lexical differences. Most of the Csángó dialects, which evolved separately from Hungarian, are incomprehensible to speakers of Hungarian (conversely, Csángós hardly understand Hungarian varieties), and some of them are even mutually unintelligible (Sandor 2000, 2005).
In Transylvania, the Hungarians very likely settled on a substratum of Daco-Roman and Slavic transhumant herdsmen and stock-breeders (Jordan 1998), and imposed their rule during the reign of Stephen I (997-1038). As the Hungarian kingdom gained political dominance, large groups of Magyars, Szeklers [Székely] (probably, but still not undisputedly, of Hungarian origin) and Germans settled the region as frontier guards (Schubert 1997; Jordan 1998). In the 14th century, Hungarians from northern Transylvania moved to the north-western part of Moldavia, settling along the rivers Siret, Bistrita, Trotus and Tuzlau areas and may have been the ancestors of the Csángós ― although there is no consensus over such origin (Schubert 1997). Csángós, whose main element of (self)-identification is their Roman Catholic faith, eventually grew totally separated from the Hungarian language and culture ― despite the fact that in the following centuries groups of Szeklers also moved from eastern Transylvania to Moldavia. To this day, they have retained an isolated, pre-industrialised social structure, with non-mechanised methods of agricultural production and no handicraft industry (Sandor 2000, 2005). In 1438 the (largely Hungarian) Transylvanian nobility, the Szeklers and the Transylvanian Saxons formed the Unio Trium Nationum, an agreement which excluded the largely Romanian peasantry from political life. Transylvania became an autonomous part of the Ottoman Empire in 1541, but in 1683 reverted to the rule of the Austrian Emperor, as part of Hungary. During the Hungarian revolution of 1848 the union of Transylvania with Hungary was proclaimed. Attempts to impose Hungarian culture (magyarization) caused sporadic tensions with the Romanians, who formed the majority of the population in Transylvania. According to the 1910 Hungarian census, the total population of Transylvania was 5,259,918 people, of whom 2,829,389 were Romanian, 1,661,987 were Hungarian, and 565,004 German. 64.6% of the urban population of Transylvania spoke Hungarian, 17.7% Romanian and 15.7% German, but in rural areas the proportion was almost the reverse (26.8% were Hungarian speakers, while Romanian speakers represented 59.4% and German speakers 9.8%). After World War I, Transylvania was ceded to Romania under the Treaty of Trianon (1920) and the Hungarians’ previously dominant social position was eroded. About 197,000 Transylvanian Hungarians emigrated to Hungary between 1918 and 1922, and a further group of 169,000 did so before World War II. The Hungarian language was banned from official life as well as education, place-names were Romanianized and Transylvanian aristocrats (most of them ethnic Hungarians or assimilated as Hungarians from other ethnic groups) were dispossessed of large landed properties. In 1940, to partly compensate Hungary for the territories lost under the Trianon Treaty, the second Vienna Award briefly returned Northern Transylvania to Hungary (until 1947). In the post-war period the situation of the Hungarian minority comparatively improved with respect to other minorities. In 1952 a Hungarian Autonomous Province [regiunea autonomă maghiară] was created by the communist authorities, but dissolved in 1968 when the country was administratively re-organised into counties. Despite the fact that Hungarian schools were gradually merged with Romanian ones and the proportion of Hungarian children educated in their mother tongue steadily declined, 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 their native tongue. In the aftermath of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, ethnic-based political parties were constituted by both Hungarians (who founded the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania) and Romanian Transylvanians (who founded the Romanian National Unity Party). In general, ethnic conflicts never occurred on a significant scale. In the 1995 treaty between Hungary and Romania, Hungary renounced all territorial claims to Transylvania, and Romania reiterated its respect for the rights of its minorities. Political agreements brought 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 numerous Hungarian newspapers, books, other publications and even broadcasting hours on public television have existed in Romania even during the communist regime, their number and diversity started decreasing after the 1989 revolution. The same is true of the number of elementary schools, high-schools, colleges and universities where teaching is in Hungarian, as well as for cultural institutions such as Hungarian theatres and opera houses funded by the Romanian state. Various Hungarian political organizations keep launching initiatives such as the creation of an "autonomous region" in the counties that form the so-called Szekler region (i.e. the counties of Hargita, Covasna and Mureş, roughly corresponding to the territory of the former Hungarian Autonomous Province) and the re-establishment of an independent state-funded Hungarian-language university.
The Hungarian-speaking minority of Romania is the largest ethnic minority in Romania, consisting of 1,431,807 (2002 census) people and making up 6.6% of the total population. In the 20th century their number has remained comparatively stable: the census of 1930 recorded 1,423,459 Hungarians, a number which went up to 1,587,675 in 1956, 1,619,592 in 1966 and 1,713,928 in 1977, then went down to 1,624,959 in 1992. The steady decrease since 1977 is due to low birth rates, emigration and assimilation. The latter element is determined by several factors, including an increase of ethnically mixed families, which in this case has been shown to increase the majority group (Benő and Szilágy, 2005). For historical reasons, most ethnic Hungarians (approx. 90%) live in Transylvania, where they make up approx. 19% of the population. As the chart below shows, they are a large, compact group in the Szekler region, where they form a majority in the counties of Harghita and Covasna (84.61% and 73.81% of the population respectively).
Other areas of concentration are in the counties of Satu Mare, Bihor, Sălaj, Cluj, and Arad. Most of the Hungarian rural population lives in settlements where they are an absolute majority. The Csángós of Moldavia (counties of Bacău and Botosani) mostly live in villages around the cities of Bacău and Roman, but in 2002 only 1,266 people declared Csángó as their ethnicity (as against a much higher estimate of 240,000, based however not on ethnic but religious affiliation).
County Hungarians % Harghita 276,038 84.61% Covasna 164,158 73.81% Mures 228,275 39.26% Satu Mare 129,258 35.22% Bihor 155,829 25.92% Sălaj 57,167 23.07% Cluj 122,301 17.37% Arad 49,291 10.70% Maramureş 46,300 9.06% Braşov 50,956 8.75% Timiş 50,556 7.59% Bistriţa Năsăud 18,349 5.89% Alba 20,684 5.40% Hunedoara 25,388 5.20% Sibiu 15,344 3.67% Caraş-Severin 5,824 1.76% Bacău 4,528 0.64% Bucharest 5,834 0.31%
In 2002, 1,443,970 people declared Hungarian as their mother tongue (more than those declaring Hungarian ethnicity). Of these Hungarian speakers, 1,397,906 declared Hungarian ethnicity, 23,950 Roma, 13,852 Romanian, 6,413 German (as well as other ethnicities). Of the 1,266 Csángós, 910 declared Romanian as their mother tongue, 307 Hungarian (as well as other languages). Most of the Csángós therefore appear to have switched to Romanian as their mother tongue, with the number of people also speaking Csángó dialects being estimated atapprox. 62,000. Apparently, speakers show a rather negative attitude towards their dialects (which are highly diversified, due to the fact that Csángós live in still very isolated villages) and often switch to Romanian when communicating, Hungarian apparently providing no “roof language” (Sandor 2000, 2005).
The sustained activity of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania [Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség], within the Romanian Uniunea Democrată a Maghiarilor din România (UDMR) – the major political representative of the Hungarian minority in Romania since 1990 – has had a crucial impact on the positive evolution of interethnic relations in Romania. UDMR has been very vocal in the Romanian Parliament and Government, supporting an extension of the minority rights framework, including an extended language use in education, local public administration, justice and the media. The public administration law of 1991 (modified by the emergency decree 22/1997, allowing the use of national minority languages in public administration in settlements where minorities exceed 20% of the population) was consolidated into law in 2002. The Education law was amended in 1999 to allow the establishment of Hungarian-language departments and faculties in universities. The laws on restitution have brought a significant improvement to the property rights and economic situation of the Hungarians living in Romania. The national restitution committee received a total of 1,957 requests and by the end of 2005 it had ruled in favour of the restitution of 387 properties belonging to historic Hungarian churches.
In the early 1900s, Transylvania had a highly developed Hungarian educational network where instruction in Hungarian took place at every level. The situation deteriorated in the interwar period: higher education was completely Romanianized (except for a chair of Hungarian Literature at the University of Cluj), and church-funded schools were brought under state control. The Hungarian-language school network revived between 1940 and 1944 in Northern Transylvania (the period of its annexation by Hungary) and remained practically intact after the War, with 1,790 primary schools and 173 secondary schools among others. Over 2,800 Hungarian students studied at three universities and at the technical college in Cluj. The educational system created in the post-war years ensured education in Hungarian at all levels, at least in principle. In 1948 the all-Hungarian Bolyai University was founded in Cluj, but in 1959 it was forcibly merged with the Romanian Babes University (Schubert 1997), with Romanian gradually becoming the language of instruction. In the 1960s, the formerly Hungarian high schools became Hungarian sections within these institutions, and many Hungarian classes were eventually abolished (Benő and Szilágy, 2005) ― with the result that the number of students receiving education in the native language decreased rapidly. After 1989 the educational system underwent favourable changes for minorities. The law on education that came into force in 1995 further restricted native-language schooling, with the number of Hungarian graduates remaining well below that of the national average (3.6%), but the new education law adopted on 1 July 1999 now allows, also in small settlements of regions with scattered minorities, native-language classes below the established minimums and grants churches the right to train the teachers they need and to provide secular education, albeit in the form of private institutions. The amended law also allows the establishment of Hungarian-language groups, departments, colleges, and faculties in higher education. However, it does not allow the setting up of a Hungarian-language state-funded university but grants only the establishment of a multicultural university whose language of instruction is regulated by a separate law. In the field of Hungarian-language higher education, the establishment by the Hungarian government of the Sapientia Hungarian private university in Transylvania represented a big step forward. According to official data, during the 2000/2001 school year instruction in Hungarian was taking place in a total of 2,367 school institutions (of these, 1,283 functioned as independent Hungarian institutions, and 1,084 as evening or corresponding institutions). In 2003, 186,218 children were enrolled in Hungarian-language nursery schools and state schools, and there were 11,917 teachers in 2,322 institutions. In addition, 7,110 Hungarian students studying in the Romanian language in 623 schools could at their own request study Hungarian language and literature under the guidance of 831 teachers. The majority of the educational institutions (1,230) functioned as independent Hungarian institutions, and 1,092 as branch institutions. With regard to the level of instruction, instruction in Hungarian was given in 1,120 nursery schools, 417 primary and 634 elementary schools, 133 high schools, and 18 vocational and post-graduate schools. Although the number of Hungarian students enrolled in higher-education institutions has considerably increased, their proportion of 4.3% has remained unchanged since 1989. A total of 25,762 Hungarian students were enrolled in Romanian institutions of higher education in 2003. In spite of the expanding native-language school network, the number of students receiving instruction in the Hungarian language decreased in the 2004/2005 school year as a result of the general demographic drop.
At the secondary school level, schools with Hungarian as a language of instruction (by county) include "Bethlen Gábor" Secondary School, Roman Catholic Theological Seminary (Alba); "Csiki Gergely" Industrial School Campus (Arad); "Ady Endre" Secondary School, Reformed Theological Seminary, Roman Catholic Theological Seminary (Bihor); "Aprily Lajos" Secondary School, Braşov, "István Rab" Secondary School, Săcele (Braşov); Unitarian Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, Roman Catholic Theological Seminary, Secondary School No. 2 (Cluj); "Székely Mikó", "Mikes Kelemen", "Bod Péter" Teachers' Training College, Târgu Secuiesc, "Nagy Mozes" (Covasna); "Márton Aaron", Miercurea Ciuc Art School, Roman Catholic Theological Seminary, "Tamas Aron", "Palló Imre" Art School, "Bányai János" Industrial School Campus, Industrial School Campus No. 2, Health School Campus, Agricultural School Campus, "Benedek Elek" Teachers' Training College, "Salamon Erno", "Gábor Aron" Industrial School Campus, "Petöfi Sándor", "Puskds Tivadar", Agricultural School, Corund, Agricultural School Campus, Roman Catholic Theological Seminary (Hargita); Reformed Theological Seminary, “Ham Janos" Roman Catholic Theological Seminary, Roman Catholic Theological Seminary, "Kölcsey Ferenc" Secondary School (Satu Mare); Reformed Theological Seminary (Sălaj); "Bartók Béla", Roman Catholic Seminary (Timiş ); "Ady Endre" Secondary School (Bucharest). In addition, there are several other schools that have Hungarian language departments.
Instruction in the Hungarian language is given in four state universities: the Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj, the University of Medicine and Pharmacology of Târgu Mures, the Drama University of Târgu Mures, and the Faculty of Hungarian Studies of the University of Bucharest. Denominational institutes include the Hungarian-language university level Protestant Theological institute of Cluj, The Catholic Theological University of Alba Iulia, and the Partium Christian University of Oradea. In 2001 the Sapientia University was established, with the support of the Hungarian state. Hungarian students in state universities may study in their native language in independent faculties and departments with their own budget. In the academic year 2007-2008, of a total of 52,420 students enrolled at the Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca (11,075 were Hungarian and 7,496 followed courses given in the Hungarian language). Learning opportunities in the Hungarian language are limited or entirely lacking in the field of science and technology, professional trends related to agriculture, and in the fields of law, music, and fine arts. Attempts have been made to revitalise Csángó culture and dialects, but without taking into account the cultural and linguistic differences which distinguish them from Hungary and Hungarian (Sandor 200, 2005).
Art. 11 of Law no. 304/2004 on judicial organization details the provisions of the Constitution on the use of mother tongue and interpreters in courts. Under the terms of this law, Romanian citizens belonging to national minorities have the right to express themselves in their mother tongue in courts. If one or more parties demand to express themselves in their mother tongues, courts must ensure the use of a certified interpreter or translator free of charge.
The use of Hungarian in local administration is regulated in Law no. 215/2001 on local public administration (→ Romania, 4.3). In localities where they form a majority, most Hungarians appear to use Hungarian when addressing public authorities in writing, but not when they live in dispersed communities (Benő and Szilágy, 2005). The Ministry of Communication and Information Society launched a service aimed at ethnic Hungarians, offering information concerning the phone numbers of Romtelecom customers. Especially in the Harghita and Covasna counties, goods are labelled also in Hungarian. As to the implementation of the laws on minorities, the data show that in localities which have a population of more than 20% minority inhabitants the bilingual indicators are displayed not only with the name of the locality, but they appear also on local institutions, such as city hall, police, post office, kindergarten, schools, in variable percentage. Data exist also on the possibility of using Hungarian when addressing the city hall (70% in the case that the legal conditions for it apply to the whole administrative unit, only 3% if they apply to an isolated locality (village) (DRI, 2006).
There are no statistical data or information available as to what extent the language is used in public services (electricity, gas, telephone companies, post office, railways, health services, etc.).
After 1989, several Transylvanian Hungarian social organizations with great traditions were re-established and numerous foundations were created. Currently, the number of registered Hungarian foundations and associations in Romania exceeds one thousand, and their activities range from the preservation of tradition and culture, education, and social welfare to research and economic development (Transylvanian Federation for the Fostering of the Native Language, Bolyai Society, Civitas Foundation, Collegium Transsilvanicum Foundation, Communitas Public Foundation, Transylvanian Carpathian Association, Association for Hungarian Public Education in Transylvania, Transylvanian Museum Association, Lajos Kelemen Society for the Protection of Historic Monuments, Korunk Fraternity Association, Janos Kriza Folklore Society, Kelemen Mikes Association for Public Education, Centre for Regional and Anthropological Research, Association of Hungarian Farmers in Romania, Guild for Hungarian Books in Romania, Federation of Hungarian Teachers in Romania, Hungarian Music Society in Romania). As regards religion, the vast majority of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania belong to four historical churches: Roman Catholic, Reformed (Calvinist), Unitarian, and Evangelical–Lutheran. The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), which is also a member of the European Democratic Union (EDU) and the European People's Party (EPP), is the major representative of Hungarians in Romania. The ethnic Hungarian Roman Catholics and Protestants use Hungarian during their religious services.
Mass media products available to the Hungarian minority are many and diverse as compared to the other minorities living in Romania. The two public wide-coverage TV stations broadcast several programmes in Hungarian, but there are also private Hungarian-language television and radio stations, like DUNA-TV which is targeted for the Hungarian minorities outside Hungary, particularly Transylvania. Non-state Hungarian-language television and radio stations are in Odorheiu Secuiesc, Miercurea Ciuc, Sfantu Gheorghe, Gheorgheni, Targu Mure, Cluj, Oradea, and Satu Mare. The Romanian Television Company broadcasts 3.5 hours of Hungarian-language programmes weekly, the Cluj studio 1.15 hours weekly nation-wide and 3.5 hours weekly regionally. There are currently approx. 60 Hungarian-language press publications receiving state support from the Romanian Government, as well as other private ones funded by different Hungarian organizations. In 2008, 16 daily newspapers appear to have been in Hungarian. The total number of Hungarian periodicals in 2008 was 100: 12 weekly newspapers; 27 monthly, bimonthly, quarterly cultural newspapers and journals; 15 scientific journals; 15 religious publications; 8 children’s magazines; 6 monthly literary reviews; 5 student magazines; 3 entertainment magazines; 3 cookery magazines; 2 art magazines; 2 pedagogical journals; and 2 tourism magazines. There is also an association of Hungarian journalists in Romania. The law on audio-visual media makes it mandatory for cable services to also broadcast programmes in the language of the relevant minority in the areas where the proportion of a minority is 20% or above. There are also Hungarian-language programmes in localities and counties where that ratio is well below 20%. By 2003, the number of media providing programmes in Hungarian increased from 20 to 90. There are many bookstores selling books written in Hungarian; however, only a few of the Hungarian-language press publications receive state support. The most important publishers of books in Hungarian are Pallas Akademia (Miercurea Ciuc), Mentor (Targu Mures), Polis (Cluj), and Kriterion (Bucharest). Transindex, an independent Hungarian internet website in Transylvania, came into being in 1999 as an experiment on a weekly basis, and then became a daily paper at the end of July 2001.
The Hungarian system of cultural institutions is made up of several hundred associations, foundations and federations ranging from the preservation of culture to arts. Its infrastructural base is the Association for Hungarian Culture in Transylvania (EMKE), networking some 12 "Hungarian houses". Hungarians have 10 drama theatres/ theatrical companies: 7 are state-funded and are based in cities of Romania where the Hungarian population is either significant in number (Târgu Mureş, Satu Mare, Cluj, Oradea, Timişoara, Arad) or forms the majority of the population (Sfântu Gheorghe). Furthermore, 3 theatres are funded by local authorities in regions where Hungarians are the majority (Gheorgheni, Miercurea Ciuc, Odorheiu Secuiesc). There are also Hungarian sections within the puppet theatres from Sfântu Gheorghe, Targu Mures, Satu Mare, Cluj, Oradea, Timişoara. The only Hungarian opera house is in Cluj-Napoca. At present two national (state-funded) universities (located in Cluj-Napoca and Targu Mures cities) have Hungarian sections within their acting, directing and puppet-acting departments which also showcase their performances. Finally, there are 3 Hungarian theatrical companies in Targu Mures, Sfantu Gheorghe and Odorheiu Secuiesc which are privately funded. Professional Hungarian dancing in Romania is represented by the Maros Folk Ensemble (formerly State Szekler Ensemble) in Târgu-Mureş, the Harghita Ensemble, and the Pipacsok Dance Ensemble. Amateur theatre plays an important role in the cultural life of the Hungarians in Romania, especially in the fields of tradition maintenance, folk dance and folk music, creative folk art, poetry recital and theatrical acting. There are frequent performances, gatherings, and festivals of Transylvania’s amateur actors in the whole of Romania and in some cases, beyond its borders, in the Carpathian Basin. Among them, a folk song competition in Satu Mare, a musical composition competition in Zalău, various poetry recital contests, puppet plays, and theatrical festivals can be listed. Many groups also often participate in gatherings and festivals in Hungary. There is also a Hungarian Music Association and an Association for Hungarian Culture in Transylvania. The Association of Csángós-Hungarians was founded in 1989. For the Moldavian Csángós, the Catholic faith has been their chief element of identity as a distinct community since the Middle Ages. The official language of religious services for Moldavian Csángós is however Romanian, although some Csángós have requested that some services are provided in Hungarian.
Hungarian is scarcely used in the professional sphere and at the workplace. According to a recent survey, the vast majority of Hungarians living in Hungarian-majority towns or villages seem to use the language at the workplace, much less if they live in dispersed communities (Benő and Szilágy, 2005).
Among Hungarians, the social prestige of Romanian is quite high. Hungarian-Romanian bilingualism is asymmetrical, mainly because, when Hungarians communicate with Romanians, the common code is basically Romanian, since most Hungarians in Romania are bilingual (while most Romanians cannot speak Hungarian) (Benő and Szilágy, 2005). A survey carried out in 2007 on a representative sample of the Hungarian population of Romania between 18-45 years of age yielded some interesting data concerning language use within the family. These data are based on an evaluation of language use by a number of respondents, who assessed both their own Hungarian language use with their grandparents, parents and children, and the language use of their offspring with their grandparents. Parents with their grandparents: 98,2%; parents with their parents: 97,9%; children with their grandparents (parents’ parents): 92,5%; children with their parents: 91,4%. These data reveal a comparatively high level of intergenerational language retention. By contrast, the Csángós use their dialects only in their own villages or in domains connected strongly to their villages. If two Csángós from different villages meet, they tend to switch to Romanian (Sandor 2005). An opinion poll conducted in 2008 by the Centre for the Research of Interethnic Relations (EDRC) reveals that the general improvement in the relations between Hungarians and Romanians is a factor which leads to a more extensive use of Hungarian, by Romanian nationals, and of Romanian by the Hungarian minority when they come in contact. In the case of conversation with family and friends, 62.7% of the Hungarians declare that they use Romanian, and 45.5% Hungarian. 12.2% of the Romanians declare to be able to use Hungarian in a conversation. However, it appears that 60% of the Romanians living in areas where the Hungarian population is in majority can speak Hungarian fluently or almost fluently (EDRC).
Romania has signed several agreements with Hungary, including the Treaty between the Republic of Hungary and Romania on Understanding, Co-operation and Good Neighbourhood (16 September 1996), and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Hungary and the Government of Romania (22 December 2001). Another important bilateral agreement is the Law on Hungarians Living in Neighbouring Countries (the so-called “Status Law”) concerning the granting of the Hungarian Certificate, which entitles its holders to various benefits on the territory of Hungary (2001). Other agreements have been signed in the following years.
The cultural prestige of the Hungarian language in Romania, its use and transmission seem to be quite high. In such a situation, its use and preservation heavily depend on the legal status of the language and on the constructive cooperation between the state and civil society. Among various factors, a positive element for the maintenance of the language is also the existence of a denominational difference between Hungarians and Romanians (→ Romania, 3.2) (Benő and Szilágy, 2005). By contrast, the Csángós dialects of Moldavia are spoken by a small and dwindling number of people, with most of the Csángós having become Romanian monolinguals. The situation is worsened by linguistic fragmentation, the absence of a written standard and by the negative attitude shown by Csángós towards their dialects (Sandor 2005).