Transylvanian immigration (18th century)

In the 18th century a new wave of people moved from Transylvania into Moldavia. They settled predominantly along the river Siret, some in villages with a history of Catholic peoples, but many founded new settlements. The Moldavians called these people Ungareni, because they came from Transylvania which was part of Hungary, as opposed to being Magyar/Maghiar by family ancestry. This practice of using the term Ungareni for Transylvanian is also used to refer to aspects of culture such as costume and dance.

Catholics in the Siret valley

Catholics in the Siret valley

In the late 19th century it was realised that there were non-Magyar elements in the group collectively identified as csángó which has led to a range of theories attempting to identify a possible historic origin related to other populations from Europe to Asia; Cuman, Pecheneg, ancient Turkish, Hun, Atelkuz Magyar, etc. The theory of Cuman origin still persists today in articles about the csángó.

An alternative is the possibility of a Romanian element among the peoples moving from Transylvania, the evidence of the non-Moldavian Romanian dialect being overlooked. The oppression and exploitation of peasants by the noble estate owners with enforced recruitment into the Austrian army led to many of thousands of Romanians and Hungarians crossing the Carpathians to Wallachia and Moldavia.

Transylvanian Romanian dialect

The majority of the csángó concentrated in the region of Roman and Bacău speak Romanian in a specific Transylvanian dialect, which must have been learnt in Transylvania and not in Moldavia. This csángó Romanian dialect is more widespread than the csángó Hungarian dialect, but is diminishing fast.

A number of facts may support this theory:

  • These csángó were reported at the time to be bilingual in Romanian and Hungarian suggesting that they arrived with both languages.
  • Observations from the time recorded that they wore Romanian costumes, and were Catholic.
  • The “Magyarisation” of some the family names from 1825 when Hungarian priests worked in the csángó villages.
  • Some complaints about the “blind national fanaticism” of the missionaries, and nearly to their expulsion.

Why would Romanians be Catholic?

In Transylvania, after the Unio trium in 1438, the civil rights of the Romanians were reduced further. This gave rise to conversions to Catholicism which was legally considered to be Hungarian identity independent of ethnic origin, very often becoming members of the Greek Catholic church. This can be seen in the immigrants from Transylvania by their Greek Catholic communities within the Hungarian speakers in Moldavia that are clearly of Romanian ancestry.

In the Székely region of south east Transylvania, the number of villages with minority Romanians reduced from nearly 400 villages in the mid-18th century to less than 300 villages in the mid-19th century, and has reduced even further since.

1780 Petru Zold uses the term Csango in a letter, the term latter adopted by Hungarian scholars, comments on them as wearing Romanian costume, and mostly being bilingual in Romanian and badly spoken Hungarian.
1787-1788 Concern raised regarding the lack of Hungarian speaking Catholic missionaries in Moldavia. Those in Moldavia were Italians, and could learn Romanian more easily. The Pope was not concerned, however two Hungarian missionaries were sent to Moldavia.
1796 Gospel in Romanian published at Kalocsa. A copy was found in Neamț county in 1962. Presumably for Romanian Catholics.
1825 Six Hungarian priests placed in Moldavia every year. But, by 1859 the payments were made to the “San Antonio” college in Rome and the gradual withdrawal of the Hungarians.
1837 Gego Elek sent to study the Csango by the Magyar Society of Sciences found so many non-Magyar elements in language, costume, appearance, customs and way of lift that he concluded that they of Cuman origin without considering a Romanian origin.
1844 Jernei Janos noted that the Hungarian language had disappeared, or was close to, in the Csango villages.
1902 Gustav Weigland adopted the Cuman hypothesis on the basis of their sibilant pronunciation which he assumed without proof to be of Cuman origin.
1914 Karacsonyi Janos theorised that the Csango were descendents of the Cabars, without any linguistic or ethnographic connections.
1946 They are given minority status in Romania and more than one hundred Hungarian schools were founded in Moldavia. Only the school in Lespezi continued to exist in 1959.
Published on 13th August 2018