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Székely Land

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The historical Székely seats on the map of present-day Romania
Historical flag of Székely Land
The flag of Székely Land voted by the Szekler National Council.

The Székely Land or Szeklerland (pronounced [ˈseːkɛj], Hungarian: Székelyföld. Old Hungarian alphabet: DLÖFLYEKÉSZ, Romanian: Ținutul Secuiesc (also Secuimea), German: Szeklerland, Latin: Terra Siculorum)[1] (Hungarian: Székelyföld; Romanian: Ţinutul Secuiesc; German: Szeklerland; Latin: Terra Siculorum) is a historic and ethnographic area in Romania, inhabited mainly by the Székelys, a subgroup of the Hungarian people[2][3] in eastern Transylvania. Its territory is roughly 16,943 square kilometres (6,542 sq mi).[1]

The Székelys live in the valleys and hills of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, corresponding to the present-day Harghita, Covasna, and parts of Mureş Counties in Romania. In 2002 the estimated ethnic composition of Székely Land consisted of Hungarians (61%), Romanians (33%), Germans (3%) and Roma (3%).[1] The area forms a Hungarian ethnic enclave within present-day Romania. Its cultural center is the city of Târgu Mureș, the largest settlement in the region.[1]

Originally, the name Székely Land denoted an autonomous region within Transylvania. It existed as a legal entity from medieval times until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867[citation needed], when the Székely and Saxon Seats were dissolved and replaced by the county system.

Along with Transylvania, Székely Land became a part of Romania in 1920, in accordance with the Treaty of Trianon signed on 4 June 1920 at the Grand Trianon Palace in Versailles, France. In August 1940, as a consequence of the Second Vienna Award, the Székely Land was ceded back to Hungary, under Third Reich auspices. It was returned to Romania by the peace treaties signed after World War II at Paris, in 1947.

Under the name Magyar Autonomous Region, with Târgu-Mureş as capital,[4] parts of Székely Land enjoyed a certain level of autonomy between 8 September 1952 and 16 February 1968. There are territorial autonomy initiatives with the aim to obtain self-governance for this region within Romania.


A Székely village in Covasna County, with the Southern Carpathians in the background
Székely flag - Kurultáj, 2014

Ancient Hungarian legends suggest a connection between the Székely people and Attila's Huns, but the origins of the Székely people are widely debated. The Székely Seats were the traditional self-governing territorial units of the Transylvanian Székelys during medieval times. (Saxons were also organised in Seats.) The Seats were not part of the traditional Hungarian county system, and their inhabitants enjoyed a higher level of freedom (especially until the 18th century) than those living in the counties.

From the 12th and 13th centuries until 1876, the Székely Land enjoyed a considerable but varying amount of autonomy, first as a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, then inside the Principality of Transylvania, and finally as a part of the Habsburg Empire. The autonomy was largely due to the military service the Székely provided until the beginning of the 18th century. The medieval Székely Land was an alliance of the seven autonomous Székely Seats of Udvarhely, Csík, Maros, Sepsi, Kézdi, Orbai and Aranyos. The number of seats later decreased to five, when Sepsi, Kézdi and Orbai Seats were united into one territorial unit called Háromszék (literally Three Seats).

The main seat was Udvarhely Seat, which was also called the Principal Seat (Latin: Capitalis Sedes)[5] At Szekelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc) were held many national assemblies of the Székelys[6] A known exception is the 1554 assembly, which took place at Marosvásáhrely (Târgu Mureș) [7]

As a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Transylvania became again part of the Kingdom of Hungary within Austria-Hungary and ceased to exist as a separate legal or administrative entity. In 1876, a general administrative reform abolished all the autonomous areas in the Kingdom of Hungary and created a unified system of counties. As a result, the autonomy of the Székely Land came to an end as well. Four counties were created in its place: Udvarhely, Háromszék, Csík, and Maros-Torda. (Only half of the territory of Maros-Torda originally belonged to Székely Land.) The isolated Aranyosszék became a district of Torda-Aranyos county.

In December 1918, in the wake of the First World War, Romanian delegates from throughout Transylvania voted to join the Kingdom of Romania; this move was internationally recognized in the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. The Romanian language officially replaced Hungarian in the Székely Land, but Székely county boundaries were preserved, and Székely districts were able to elect their own officials at local level and to preserve Hungarian-language education.

In 1940, Romania was forced to cede Northern Transylvania to Hungary in the Second Vienna Award; this territory included most of the historical Székely areas. Hungarian authorities subsequently restored the pre-Trianon structure with slight modifications.


Main article: Székelys
Szekely land as envisaged by the autonomy supporters

The population of the Székely Land (according to the 2002 census) is 809,000, 612,043 of them Hungarians, accounting for 75.65% of the total.[8] The Hungarians represent 59% of the populations of Harghita, Covasna and Mureș counties. The percentage of Hungarians is higher in Harghita and Covasna (84.8% and 73.58% respectively), and lower in Mureș County, not all of which falls inside the traditional region (37.82%).


Following the territory's return to Romania after World War II, a Magyar Autonomous Region was created in 1952, which encompassed most of the land inhabited by the Székely. This region lasted until 1968 when the administrative reform divided Romania into the current counties. Roughly speaking, present-day Harghita County encompasses the former Udvarhely and Csík, the latter including Gyergyószék; Covasna County covers more or less the territory of the former Háromszék; and what was once Maros-Torda is mostly part of present-day Mureş County. The former Aranyosszék is today divided between Cluj and Alba counties.

After the fall of communism, many[who?] hoped that the former Magyar Autonomous Region, abolished by Nicolae Ceauşescu's regime, would soon be restored again. This has not happened; however, there are Székely autonomy initiatives[9][10] and further efforts from Székely organisations to reach a higher level of self-governance for the Székely Land within Romania.

On 2 February 2009, Romanian President Traian Băsescu met the Hungarian President László Sólyom in Budapest and discussed the issues of minority rights and regional autonomy. Băsescu affirmed "The Hungarian minority will never be given territorial autonomy."[11]

Currently, the UDMR and the Hungarian Civic Party have a joint autonomy proposal for Szeklerland but the Szekler National Council also possesses its own suggestion.


The exact territory of present-day Szeklerland is disputed. The autonomy proposal of the Szekler National Council consists of about 13,000 km2. This size is close to the extent of the historical Székely Land. However, it does not contain the region of Aranyos Seat. The UDMR's autonomy project covers a slightly bigger territory. It includes the whole territories of Mureș, Harghita, and Covasna counties.

Important centers of the Székely Land are Târgu-Mureş (Marosvásárhely), Miercurea Ciuc (Csíkszereda), Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy), and Odorheiu Secuiesc (Székelyudvarhely).

Constitutional issues[edit]

Article 1 of the Romanian Constitution defines the country as a "sovereign, independent, unitary and indivisible national state." It has often been argued[by whom?] that, as a result of this provision, any ethnic-based territorial autonomy, including that of the Székely Land, would be unconstitutional.

Tourist attractions[edit]

Fortified church of Aita Mare.

Image gallery[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d James Minahan, Encyclopedia of the stateless nations. 4. S - Z, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, p. 1810
  2. ^ Sherrill Stroschein, Ethnic Struggle, Coexistence, and Democratization in Eastern Europe, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 210 Cited: "Székely, a Hungarian sub-group that is concentrated in the mountainous Hungarian enclave"
  3. ^ Ramet, Sabrina P. (1992). Protestantism and politics in eastern Europe and Russia: the communist and postcommunist eras 3. Duke University Press. p. 160. ISBN 9780822312413. ...the Szekler community, now regarded as a subgroup of the Hungarian people. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Kulish, Nicholas (2008-04-07). "Kosovo's Actions Hearten a Hungarian Enclave". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  10. ^ Manifesto of the Szekely Assembly
  11. ^

See also[edit]

External links[edit]