Szekely Land

The eastern realms of the Carpathians, known as Szekely Land (Tara Secuilor in Romanian, Szekelyfold in Hungarian), are home to the Szekelys, ethnic Hungarians who live and communicate almost exclusively in their Hungarian dialect. Highly organised as a group, they publish their own local booklets and maps (often with place names obstinately written in Hungarian only, making it very frustrating for foreigners to figure out where they are through all those consonants) and have nourished a flourishing cultural life. Yet this is mainly since 1990, as during the Communist regime their population tended to be either roundly ignored or actively suppressed.

A good deal of tension still exists between Romanians and Hungarians, the former resenting the latter's often poor knowledge of Romanian, and the latter carrying lingering resentment of feeling forcibly excluded from society. The question of historical claim to Transylvania is not a settled one, despite 20th-century events which place it squarely in Romanian hands. Some Hungarians and historians feel justified in calling the territory traditionally Hungarian.

The origins of the Szekely (pronounced say-kay) people are disputed. Debates rage as to whether they are descendants of the Huns, who arrived in Transylvania in the 5th century and adopted the Hungarian language; or whether they are Magyar» who accompanied Attila the Hun on hlk campaigns in the Carpathian basin .mil later settled there. Three 'nations' wcii I recognised in medieval Transylvania, tin Szekelys, the Saxons and the nobles.

During the 18th century the Szekelys sul fered at the hands of the Habsburgs, wltn attempted to convert this devout Protestant ethnic group to Catholicism. Thousand1, of young Szekely men were conscripted into the Austrian army. Local resistance throughout Szekely Land led to the nuts sacre of Madefalva in 1764, following whii li thousands of Szekelys fled across the bordct into Romanian Moldavia.

Following the union of Transylvania with Romania in 1918, some 200,000 Hungai ians - a quarter of whom were Szekelys fled to Hungary. It was during this period that the Szekelys composed their own na tional anthem (see the boxed text on pi33), in which they beg God for help in the sur vival of Transylvania. Today many Hungar ian tourists flock to the area, especially the 'capitals' of Odorheiu Secuiesc and Mier curea Ciuc, to live out pastoral customs considered 'authentic' and already lost in their motherland.

Maps

Cartographia's Tara Secuilor, Szekelyfold, Szekely Land map (€3.50) includes a detailed map of the region complete with lengthy historical explanations in Hungarian.

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