The Moldavian "csango" and other Catholics

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Please note: I understand that this challenges some common beliefs in identity of the Csango which have become politically associated with nationality.


Please read our views on 'Identity' which clarifies some 'Nationality' issues

Csango and "Nationality"

These pages discuss the peoples of Catholic religion living in Moldavia who are all or partially referred to as csango. Our interest is in the peasant culture and our initial introduction to the Csango was through the folk dance movement, but this is tainted with nationalistic ideals. There are polarised nationalistic views which aim to prove either that the Csango are "Hungarian" or "Romanian". The real situation is a more complex study of identities (from an anthological view) and historical possibilities. 

The limited genetic research to date shows the csango (and Szekely) to have a substantial genetic pool close to Iranian, but are not close to the Uralic groups of the Magyar, possibly supporting the view that they have origins in Alans or Huns.  The research does not compare to an admix of Romanian as would be expected, but only to the Hungarian admix of Slav-German-Hungarian.

Csango and identity

The common feature of all csango is that they have ancestry in Transylvania. The term Csango in its widest use includes Hungarian speakers that moved from Transylvania to Bucovina in the 18th century, the Hungarian speaking peoples in the villages of the Gyimes pass, and a number of villages near to Braşov in Transylvania. The term first appeared in documents in the late 18th century. There are many suggested derivations of csango. Two examples are given below:

An 'identity' is governed by how a group choses to identify themselves and how they are separated by their neighbours, this may have no correlation with criteria such as nationality, genetic ancestry, culture, religion, or language. An ethnographical definition for the Csango based on anthropological identity could be defined as:

For a non nationalistic discussion see Kapalo, J., The Moldavian Csango: 'National Minority' or 'Local Ethnie'?.(REF)

The Hungarian ethnographers generally define the Csango by the use of Hungarian dialects which leads to a northern group (near Roman), a southern group (near Bacău) and a Szekely group. The later Szekely group having moved from Transylvania only in the late 18th century and 19th century, whereas the former have history from medieval times. It is also common to define Catholics of Moldavia as Csango which includes greater numbers of people with different histories.

The Romanian language is fast replacing Hungarian, and those moving away from the geographic location assimilate into the Romanian towns. This speed of this assimilation is likely to increase in the future as rural depopulation is an inevitable consequence of modernisation in Romania.

Who are the Csango?

All these groups of peoples are generalised under the single term of csango, but to understand one must separate them by their various origins, histories and circumstances, and separate the religious and nationalistic politics that overwhelm many of the common beliefs. The following table summarises the Catholics of Moldavia which amounted to 240,000 people in the 1992 censes.

Circumstances Religion Ancestry Language Culture Where now Numbers 1992
Catholics from medieval times of Cumania Catholic Cuman, Hungarian, Romanian Romanised Romanised   low
People who moved from Transylvania to Moldavia in the middle ages Catholic Hungarian dialect Hungarian, but being replaced by Romanian Romanised Sabaoani and neighbouring villages (north of Roman) and Valea Seaca and neighbouring villages (south of Bacau) 34,000 Catholics in these villages
(17,700 dialect Hungarian speakers), others suggest fewer
Szekely who fled from the 1764 massacre Catholic Szekely Szelely dialect of Hungarian & Moldavian Romanian Still some Szekely Moldavia - in particular Trotus and Tazlau valleys, and south of Bacau ~25,000
Szekely who moved to Bucovina in 1775 when it became part of the Austrian Empire Catholic Szekely Szelely dialect of Hungarian Szekely now relocated to Deva (Transylvania) and Hungary ~1000 in 1940
Peoples from the Szekely region of Transylvania who moved to Moldavia from the 18th century Catholic Szekely Szekely dialect of Hungarian Szekely Moldavia - in particular Trotus and Tazlau valleys, and Siret valley south of Bacau and north of Roman 70,000 Catholics
(45,000 Szekely  Hungarian speakers), proportion Hungarian vs Romanian debatable
Catholic Szekely Romanised Romanised
Catholic Romanian Transylvanian Romanian / Szekely  Hungarian Romanian
Catholic Romanian Transylvanian Romanian / Szekely  Hungarian Romanian, but 'Magyarised'
Greek Orthodox Romanian Transylvanian Romanian / Szekely  Hungarian Romanian <2000
Former Hapsburg region of Bukovina Catholic Polish, German, Ukrainian       9,500
other Catholics outside villages with Hungarian speakers. Catholic can be debated! Romanian Romanian   ~127,000


Ciubotaru, Ion H. (1998), Catolicii din Moldova, Iasi

Giurescu, Constantin (1972) Chronological History of Romania, Bucharest

Guglielmino, C R, De Silvestri, A, Beres, J (2000), Probable ancestors of Hungarian ethnic groups: an admixture analysis, Ann. Human Genetics, 64, pp124-159

Kapalo, James A. (1996), The Moldavian Csángós: 'National Minority' or 'Local Ethnie'?

Martinas, Dumitru (1999), The Origins of the Changos, The Center for Romanian Studies, Iasi

Tánczos, Vilmos (1998), Hungarian in Moldavia, Teleki László Foundation,


© Eliznik2005, First issue Jan-02, Last updated Aug-05