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Transylvania (Romanian: Ardeal or Transilvania; Hungarian: Erdély; German: ; Latin: Transsilvania. In other languages: Polish: Siedmiogród; Bulgarian: Седмоградско; Ардял; Трансилвания; Serbian: Трансилванија / Transilvanija or Ердељ / Erdelj; Turkish: Erdel) is a historical region in central Romania. Outside of Romania, it is strongly associated with the novel Dracula,[1][2][3] while within Romania the region is known for the scenic beauty of its Carpathian landscape and its rich historic heritage.


Transylvania was first referred to in a Medieval Latin document in 1075 as ultra silvam, meaning "exceedingly forested" (ultra meaning "excessively or beyond what is common" and the accusative case of sylva (sylvam) meaning "wood or forest").

The modern English name is probably taken from the Hungarian Erdély, which is derived from Erdő-elve meaning "beyond the forest" (a meaning first referred to in its Medieval Latin version in a 12th century document - Gesta Hungarorum). "Transylvania" means "beyond the forest" (trans meaning "across, over, beyond").

The German name Siebenbürgen means "seven fortresses", after the seven (ethnic German) Transylvanian Saxons' cities in the region (Kronstadt, Schäßburg, Mediasch, Hermannstadt, Mühlbach, Bistritz and Klausenburg). The Hungarian name Erdély is derived from Erdő-elve meaning "beyond the forest" in Hungarian (a meaning first referred to in its Medieval Latin version in a 12th century document - Gesta Hungarorum). This is also the origin of many other language's name for the region, such as the Polish siedmiogród.

The origin of the Romanian name Ardeal is controversial. The first known of occurrence of the Romanian name appeared in a document in 1432 as Ardeliu.[4] It may be a borrowing of the Hungarian name Erdély, as is the Romani name Ardyalo - in old Hungarian, Erdély was pronounced as Erdél. The initial Hungarian e- occasionally changes to a in Romanian (cf. Hung. egres "gooseberry" and Egyed, which became agriş and Adjud in Romanian). Another hypothesis is that the name is a result of an elision from the words aur and deal (gold and hill, respectively), resulting in Ardeal from the composed word Aur-deal. It may also take its origin from the Khazar word “Ardil-land” (Hebrew „Eretz Ardil”, „ארדיל”), from the Celtic "Arduenna" (forest), reflected in other names such as Arda, Ardal, Ardistan, Ardiche, Ardennes, Ardelt and Ardilla, or from the Sanskrit Har-Deal.

See also other languages.


In its early history, the territory of Transylvania belonged to a variety of Empires and States, including Dacia, the Roman Empire, the Hun Empire and the Gepid Kingdom[5] and the Bulgarian Empire[6]. As a political entity, Transylvania is mentioned from the 11th century as a voivodeship of the Kingdom of Hungary. It then became an autonomous principality under nominal Ottoman suzerainty in 1571. A few centuries later, in 1711, it was added to the expanding territories of Habsburg Monarchy, then became again a part of the Kingdom of Hungary within the newly established Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867. Since World War I, it has been part of Romania, apart from a brief period of Hungarian occupation during World War II.

Cluj-Napoca is today considered to be the region's capital, although Transylvania was also ruled from Alba Iulia during its period as an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire, and from Sibiu, where the Habsburg governor was located from 1711 to 1848. The seat of the Transylvanian Diet was itself moved to Sibiu for some time in the 19th century.

Since medieval times, the population of the region has been a mixture of ethnic Germans known as Saxons, Roma (also known as gypsies), ethnic Hungarians, including their largest group unique to the region, the Szekely, and ethnic Romanians, historically known as Vlachs.

The Ancient Kingdom of Dacia and Roman RuleEdit

The Kingdom of Dacia was in existence at least as early as the beginning of the 2nd century BC, and it reached its maximum extent under the rule of Burebista. The area now constituting Transylvania was the political center of the ancient kingdom, where several important fortified cities were built, among them Sarmizegetusa, near today's Hunedoara.

In 101-102 and 105-106, Roman forces under the Emperor Trajan fought a series of military campaigns to subjugate Dacia. After the suicide of the Dacian ruler Decebalus, parts of Dacia were incorporated into the Roman province of Dacia Trajana. The Romans built mines, roads and forts in the province. Colonists from other Roman provinces were brought in to settle the land and cities like Apulum (now Alba Iulia) and Napoca (now Cluj-Napoca) appeared.

The Dacians rebelled frequently, and due to increasing pressure from the local populace and the Visigoths, the Romans abandoned the province during the reign of the Emperor Aurelian in 271. As across much of Europe, a period of chaos and conquests followed after the collapse of Roman rule. The territory fell under the control of the Visigoths and Carpians until they were in turn displaced and subdued by the Huns in 376, under the leadership of their infamous warlord Attila. After the disintegration of Attila's empire, the Huns were succeeded by Gepids of Eurasian Avar descent. The region was also influenced during this period by massive Slavic immigration.

At the beginning of the 9th century, Transylvania, along with eastern Pannonia, was incorporated into the First Bulgarian Empire. After a brief period of Bulgarian rule, the territory was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary.

Transylvania in the Kingdom of HungaryEdit

The early 11th century was marked by the conflict between King Stephen I of Hungary and his uncle Gyula, the ruler of Transylvania. The Hungarian ruler was successful in these wars, and Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of Hungary. The Transylvanian Christian bishopric and the comitatus system were organised. By the 12th century the ethnic Hungarian Szeklers were established in eastern and southeastern Transylvania as a border population of ready warriors, and in the 12th and 13th centuries, the areas in the south and northeast were settled by German colonists called Saxons.

In 1241-1242, during the Mongol invasion of Europe, Transylvania was among the territories devastated by the Golden Horde. A large portion of the population perished. This was followed by a second Mongol invasion in 1285, led by Nogai Khan.

Following this devastation, Transylvania was reorganized according to a class system of Estates, which established privileged groups (universitates) with power and influence in economic and political life, as well as along ethnic lines. The first Estate was the lay and ecclesiastic aristocracy, ethnically heterogeneous, but undergoing a process of homogenization around its Hungarian nucleus. The other Estates were Saxons, Szeklers and Romanians (or Vlachs - Universitas Valachorum), all with an ethnic and ethno-linguistic basis (Universis nobilibus, Saxonibus, Syculis et Olachis). The general assembly (congregatio generalis) of the four Estates had few genuine legislative powers in Transylvania, but it sometimes took measures regarding order in the country.

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A key figure to emerge in Transylvania in the first half of the 15th century was John Hunyadi. His military campaigns against the Ottoman Empire brought him the status of Transylvanian governor in 1446 and papal recognition as the Prince of Transylvania in 1448.

After the suppression of the Budai Nagy Antal-revolt in 1437, the political system was based on Unio Trium Nationum (The Union of the Three Nations). According to the Union, which was explicitly directed against serfs and other peasants, society was ruled by three privileged Estates of the nobility (mostly ethnic Hungarians), the Székelys, also an ethnic Hungarian people who primarily served as warriors, and the ethnic German, Saxon burghers.

The only possibility for Romanians to retain or access nobility in Hungarian Transylvania was through conversion to Catholicism. Some Orthodox Romanian nobles converted, becoming integrated into the Hungarian nobility. These circumstances marked the beginning of a conflict between ethnic Hungarian Catholics and ethnic Romanian Orthodox in the territory of Transylvania which in some regions remains unresolved to this very day.[7]

Transylvania as an Independent PrincipalityEdit

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The 16th century in Southeastern Europe was marked by the struggle between the Muslim Ottoman Empire and the Catholic Habsburg Empire. After the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent overran central Hungary (see Ottoman Hungary), Transylvania became a semi-independent principality where Austrian and Turkish influences vied for supremacy for nearly two centuries. It is this period of independence and Turkish influence that contributed to Transylvania being seen as exotic in the eyes of Victorian Englishmen such as Bram Stoker, who wrote the famous novel Dracula in 1897.[8]

Due to the fact that Transylvania was now beyond the reach of Catholic religious authority, Protestant preaching such as Lutheranism and Calvinism were able to flourish in the region. In 1568 the Edict of Turda proclaimed four religious expressions in Transylvania -Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism and Unitarianism, while Orthodoxy, which was the confession of the Romanian population, was proclaimed as "tolerated" (tolerata).

The Báthory family began to rule Transylvania as princes under the Ottomans in 1571, and briefly under Habsburg suzerainty until 1600. The latter period of their rule saw a four-sided conflict in Transylvania involving the Transylvanian Báthorys, the emerging Austrian Empire, the Ottomans Empire, and the Romanian voivoideship (province) of Wallachia. This included a brief period of Romanian rule after the conquest of the territory by Wallachian voivod Michael the Brave.

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The Calvinist magnate of Bihar county Stephen Bocskai managed to obtain, through the Peace of Vienna (June 23, 1606), religious liberty and political autonomy for the region, the restoration of all confiscated estates, the repeal of all "unrighteous" judgments, as well as his own recognition as independent sovereign prince of an enlarged Transylvania. Under Bocskai's successors, Transylvania passed through a golden age for both many religious movements and for the arts and culture. Transylvania became one of the few European States where Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans and Unitarians lived in peace, although Orthodox Romanians continued to be denied equal recognition.

Within the Habsburg EmpireEdit


After the defeat of the Ottomans at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the Habsburgs gradually began to impose their rule on the formerly autonomous Transylvania. Apart from strengthening the central government and administration, the Habsburgs also promoted the Roman Catholic Church, both as a uniting force and also as an instrument to reduce the influence of the Protestant nobility. In addition, they tried to persuade Romanian Orthodox clergymen to join the Greek (Byzantine Rite) Catholic Church in union with Rome. As a response to this policy, several peaceful movements of the Romanian Orthodox population advocated for freedom of worship for all the Transylvanian population, most notably being the movements led by Visarion Sarai, Nicolae Oprea Miclăuş and Sofronie of Cioara.

From 1711 onward, the princes of Transylvania were replaced with Austrian governors and in 1765 Transylvania was declared a grand principality.

The revolutionary year 1848 was marked by a great struggle between the Hungarians, the Romanians and the Habsburg Empire. Warfare erupted in November with both Romanian and Saxon troops, under Austrian command, battling the Hungarians led by the Polish born general József Bem. He carried out a sweeping offensive through Transylvania, and Avram Iancu managed to retreat to the harsh terrain of the Apuseni Mountains, mounting a guerrilla campaign on Bem's forces. After the intervention by the armies of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, Bem's army was defeated decisively at the Battle of Temesvár (Timişoara) on 9 August 1849.

Having quashed the revolution, Austria imposed a repressive regime on Hungary, ruled Transylvania directly through a military governor and granted citizenship to the Romanians.

The 300-year long special separate status came to an end by the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 (German: Ausgleich, Hungarian: Kiegyezés), which established the dual monarchy and reincorporated Transylvania into the Kingdom of Hungary. On 20 June 1867, the Diet was dissolved by royal decree, and an ordinance abrogated the legislative acts of the Cluj-Napoca provincial assembly. The department of the interior inherited the responsibilities of the Transylvanian Gubernium, and the government reserved the right to name Transylvania's royal magistrates as well the Saxon bailiff of the Universitas Saxorum. Hungarian legislation also came to supersede the Austrian code of civil procedure, penal law, commercial law, and regulations for bills of exchange. The new unity of Austria-Hungary created a process of Magyarization affecting Transylvania's Romanians and German Saxons.

As Part of RomaniaEdit

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Since the Austro-Hungarian empire had begun to disintegrate after the end of the First World War, the nationalities living inside proclaimed their independence from the empire. The 1228-member National Assembly of Romanians of Transylvania and Hungary, headed by leaders of Transylvania's Romanian National Party and Social Democratic Party, passed a resolution calling for unification of all Romanians in a single state on 1 December in Alba Iulia.[9] This was approved by the National Council of the Germans from Transylvania and the Council of the Danube Swabians from the Banat, on 15 December in Mediaş. In response, the Hungarian General Assembly of Cluj reaffirmed the loyalty of Hungarians from Transylvania to Hungary on December 22, 1918. (See also: Union of Transylvania with Romania)

The Treaty of Versailles placed Transylvania under the sovereignty of Romania, an ally of the Triple Entente, and after the defeat in 1919 of Béla Kun's Hungarian Soviet Republic by the Romanian army, the Treaties of St. Germain (1919) and Trianon (signed in June 1920) further elaborated the status of Transylvania and defined the new border between the states of Hungary and Romania.[10][11] King Ferdinand I of Romania and Queen Maria of Romania were crowned at Alba Iulia in 1922 as King and Queen of all Romania.

Transylvania retained a certain degree of autonomy between december 1918 and april 1920.[citation needed] During this period, a regional governement called The Dirigent Council had competencies in domains such as the public services. First, The Council was located in Sibiu, then it was moved to Cluj. The autonomy of Transylvania was finally abolished with the Constituton of 1923. As a result, Transylvanian Romanian leaders Iuliu Maniu and Alexandru Vaida-Voevod declared their opposition to the king.[citation needed]

In August 1940, the second Vienna Award granted the northern half of Transylvania to Hungary. After the Treaty of Paris (1947), at the end of World War II, the territory was returned to Romania. The post-WWII borders with Hungary, agreed on at the Treaty of Paris, were identical with those set out in 1920.

After World War II and especially after the fall of Comunism, Transylvania lost almost all of the German-speaking population, most of whom have emigrated to Germany.

From the late 1990s a growing number of ethnic Hungarian political leaders have pressed for decentralization and devolution in Transylvania.

Historical coat of arms of TransylvaniaEdit

The Diet of 1659 codified the representation of the privileged nations in Transylvania's coat of arms. It depicts:

  • A black turul on a blue background, representing the medieval nobility, which was primarily Magyar.
  • The Sun and the Moon representing the Székelys.
  • Seven red towers on a yellow background representing the seven fortified cities of the Transylvanian Saxons

(The red dividing band was originally not part of the coat of arms.)

Geography and ethnographyEdit

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The Transylvanian plateau, 300 to 500 metres (1,000-1,600 feet) high, is drained by the Mureş, Someş, Criş, and Olt rivers, as well as other tributaries of the Danube. This core of historical Transylvania roughly corresponds with nine counties of modern Romania. Other areas to the west and north, which also united with Romania in 1918 (inside the border established by peace treaties in 1919-20), are since that time widely considered part of Transylvania.

See also Administrative divisions of the Kingdom of Hungary. In common reference, the Western border of Transylvania has come to be identified with the present Romanian-Hungarian border, settled in the Treaty of Trianon, although geographically the two are not identical.

Administrative divisionsEdit


The historical region covers 16 present-day counties (Romanian: judeţ) which include nearly 103 600 km² of central and northwest Romania. The 16 counties are:

The most populous cities are:


Historic definitions of Transylvania vary geographically. The 2002 Romanian census classified Transylvania as the entire region of Romania west of the Carpathians. This region has a population of 7,221,733, with a large Romanian majority (74.69%). There are also sizeable Hungarian (19.60%), Roma (3.39%), German (0.73%) and Serb (0.1%) communities. [12] [13] The ethnic Hungarian population of Transylvania, largely composed of Szekely, are the majority in the counties of Covasna and Harghita.

The percentage of Romanians has increased since the union of Transylvania with Romania after World War I in 1918. This is due to the emigration of non-Romanian populations, the extermination of the local Jewish population in the Holocaust, assimilation and internal migration within Romania (estimates show that between 1945 and 1977, some 630,000 people have moved from the Regat to Transylvania, and 280,000 from Transylvania to the Regat, most notably to Bucharest).[14] The assimilation process between Transylvania and surrounding Romania slowed during the first stages of the communist era, when the local ethnic Hungarian population was granted political autonomy, but accelerated under the Ceauşescu regime.

For people connected to Transylvania's cultural life see: List of Transylvanians.

Economy Edit

Transylvania is rich in mineral resources, notably lignite, iron, lead, manganese, gold, copper, natural gas, salt and sulfur.

There are large iron and steel, chemical, and textile industries. Stock raising, agriculture, wine production and fruit growing are important occupations. Timber is another valuable resource.

Transylvania accounts for around 35% of Romania's GDP, and has a GDP per capita (PPP) of around $11,500, around 10% higher than the Romanian average.

Tourist attractionsEdit

Transylvania in fictionEdit

Transylvania's long history of Muslim Turkish influence, as well as its late industrialization (which meant that in the late 19th century, Transylvania was still mostly covered with wilderness), created an orientalist fascination with the region by a number of notable Victorian writers. Following the publication of Emily Gerard's The Land Beyond the Forest (1888), Bram Stoker wrote his gothic horror novel Dracula in 1897, using Transylvania as a setting. Due to the success of the latter work, Transylvania became associated in the English-speaking world with vampires. Since then it has been represented in fiction and literature as a land of mystery and magic. For example, in Paulo Coelho's novel The Witch of Portobello, the main character, Sherine Khalil, is described as a Transylvanian orphan with a Romani mother, in an effort to add to the character's exotic mystique.


  4. Pascu, Ştefan (1972), Voievodatul Transilvaniei, vol. I, pp. 22
  5. Béla Köpeczi (editor). History of Transylvania. Atlantic Research and Publications, Inc.. Retrieved on 2007-01-29.
  9. December 1 - Romania National Day. Honorary Consul of Romania in Boston. Retrieved on 2008-01-12.
  10. Bachman, Robert D. (1989). Romania: A Country Study. Retrieved on 2008-01-12.
  11. Trianon, Treaty of. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved on 2008-01-12.
  12. 2002 Census official results:[1]
  13. Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Centre database:[2]
  14. Varga, E. Árpád, Hungarians in Transylvania between 1870 and 1995, Translation by Tamás Sályi, Budapest, March 1999 , p. 27.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit


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