Székely Land

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The historical Székely seats on the map of present-day Romania
Historical flag of Székely Land

The Székely Land[1][2] or Szeklerland[3] (Hungarian: Székelyföld, pronounced [ˈseːkɛjføld]; Romanian: Ținutul Secuiesc (also Secuimea); German: Szeklerland; Latin: Terra Siculorum)[4] is a historic and ethnographic area in Romania, inhabited mainly by Hungarians and Romanians. Its cultural centre is the city of Târgu Mureș, the largest settlement in the region.[4]

The Székelys (or Szeklers), a subgroup of the Hungarian people,[5][6] live in the valleys and hills of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, corresponding to the present-day Harghita, Covasna, and parts of Mureș counties in Romania.

Originally, the name Székely Land denoted the territories of a number of autonomous Székely seats within Transylvania. The self-governing Szekler seats had their own administrative system,[7] and existed as legal entities from medieval times until the 1870s. The privileges of the Székely and Saxon seats were abolished and seats were replaced with counties in 1876.

Along with Transylvania and eastern parts of Hungary proper, Székely Land became a part of Romania in 1920, in accordance with the Treaty of Trianon. In August 1940, as a consequence of the Second Vienna Award, the northern territories of Transylvania, including Székely Land, were ceded to Hungary, under Third Reich auspices. Northern Transylvania came under the control of Soviet and Romanian forces in 1944,[8][9][10] and were confirmed as part of Romania by the Paris peace treaties, signed after World War II, in 1947.

Under the name Magyar Autonomous Region, with Târgu-Mureș as capital,[11] 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
The flag of Székely Land voted by the Szekler National Council.

The ancient Period[edit]

Transylvania was populated by Thracian peoples in the First Iron Age. The area received a large influx of Iranian Scythians from the East in the first half of the first millennium BC. The Celts appeared in Transylvania in the La Tène period (c. 4th century BC).

Before the second century AD the current territory of Transylvania was the political center of the kingdom of Dacia. Dacian culture presence in southeastern Transylvania is marked by discoveries such as the flagship hoard Sâncrăieni (Harghita county) or Dacian fortresses in Covasna county (Cetatea Zânelor) or Jigodin (Harghita county).

Dacian Kingdom led by Decebal was taken after two wars, in 106 AD by the Roman Empire under the emperor Trajan, who began organizing the new Roman province of Dacia. Southeastern Transylvania was included in the provinces of Dacia Porolissensis, Dacia Apulensis and Meuse and fortified with numerous camps such as those at Inlăceni ( Praetoria Augusta) and Sânpaul (Harghita county) Breţcu (Angustia) and Oltenia (Covasna county) or Brâncoveneşti and Călugăreni (Mureș county).

After the fall of Roman Dacia, present-day territory of Szeklerland became part of the Thervingi kingdom "Gutthiuda". The migration of the Huns from the east pressured most of the German tribes to leave. In the Battle of Nedao the East Germanic Gepids defeated the Huns and founded Gepidia in the territory of present-day Transylvania.

The medieval period[edit]

The territory of Szeklerland was part of the Avar Khaganate. During this period, Avar and Slavic groups migrated into Transylvania. From around 900 to 1500 the area was under the control of the Hungarian state. The Szeklers presumably settled in Transylvania in the 12th century from present day Bihar and Bihor counties.

Ancient Hungarian legends suggest a connection between the Székelys and Attila's Huns. The origin of the Székely people is still 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. 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)[12] At Szekelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc) were held many national assemblies of the Székelys[13] A known exception is the 1554 assembly, which took place at Marosvásáhrely (Târgu Mureș) [14]

Modern era[edit]

Due to the Ottoman conquest Transylvania became a semi-independent polity. From the end of the 17th century, Transylvania was part of the Habsburg Hungarian kingdom and governed by imperial governors.[15] 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.

Szekely Land as envisaged by the autonomy supporters based on the historical Szekely seats.

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[16][17] 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."[18]

In 2014, the UDMR and the Hungarian Civic Party had a joint autonomy proposal for Szeklerland but the Szekler National Council also possessed its own suggestion.

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.


Main article: Székelys

In 2002 the estimated ethnic composition of Székely Land consisted of Hungarians (61%), Romanians (33%), Germans (3%) and Roma (3%).[4] The area forms a Hungarian ethnic enclave within present-day Romania.[1][5]

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.[19] 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%).

According to the 2011 official census, 609,033 Hungarians (56,8%) live in the counties of Covasna, Harghita and Mureș (out of a total population of 1,071,890 inhabitants). In Mureș county the Romanians are the most numerous (52.6%), while in the counties of Covasna and Harghita, the Hungarians make up the majority (71,6% and 82,9%).[20] The 2011 census compared to the data of the previous census (2002) also shows that the Romanian ethnic ratio in Szeklerland has been decreasing (due to emigration).[21]

Târgu Mureș is the home for the largest community of Hungarians in Romania (57,532 in 2011), but the town itself has Romanian majority (66,943 out of 127,849 inhabitants).[22]

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


The exact territory of present-day Szeklerland is disputed. The boundaries of the historical Székely seats and the present-day administrative divisions of Romania are dissimilar. According to Minahan its territory is an estimated 16,943 square kilometres (6,542 sq mi).[4] 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.

Tourist attractions[edit]

Fortified church of Aita Mare.

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Béla Tomka, A Social History of Twentieth-Century Europe, Routledge, 2013, p. 411
  2. ^ "Symbol of a Struggle". The New York Times. 6 February 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  3. ^ George Schöpflin, Nations, Identity, Power: The New Politics of Europe, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2000, p. 404
  4. ^ a b c d James Minahan, Encyclopedia of the stateless nations. 4. S - Z, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, p. 1810
  5. ^ a b 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"
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Józsa Hévizi, Thomas J. DeKornfeld, Autonomies in Hungary and Europe: a comparative study, Corvinus Society, 2005, p. 195
  8. ^ Kurti, Laszlo (2001). The Remote Borderland. State University of New York Press. p. 33. 
  9. ^ Hall, Richard C. (2014). War in the Balkans. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LLC. p. 249. 
  10. ^ the Armistice Agreement with Romania
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Voievodatul Transilvaniei. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  13. ^ ""capitalis sedes" - Cutare Google". Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Transylvania". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  16. ^ Kulish, Nicholas (2008-04-07). "Kosovo's Actions Hearten a Hungarian Enclave". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  17. ^ Manifesto of the Szekely Assembly
  18. ^ "World protests back Székely autonomy". Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  19. ^ Zsolt Árus. "The szeklers and their struggle for autonomy - SZNC - Szekler National Council". Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  20. ^ Tab8. Populația stabilă după etnie – județe, municipii, orașe, comune. "Rezultatele recensământului din 2011" Check |url= value (help). 
  21. ^ Horváth István, Tonk Márton, Minority politics within the Europe of regions, Editura ISPMN, 2014, p. 205
  22. ^ COMUNICAT DE PRESĂ 24 august 2012 privind rezultatele preliminare ale Recensământului Populaţiei şi al Locuinţelor – 2011 în judeţul Mureş (PDF) (Report) (in Romanian). National Institute of Statistics (Romania). 2012-08-24. p. 14. Retrieved 2015-04-04. 

External links[edit]