June 28, 2013

Transylvanian Jewish History In Hungary and Romania

For the final part of this series of posts I would like to discuss the history of the Jews in Transylvania. Many people think of the Jews as a minority everywhere, and in a lot of cases they are the minority. What people do not consider, though, is how long of a history the Jews have and how widespread it is. Jewish history takes place on almost every continent, because there have been Jews on almost every continent. It is said that the Jews were in Transylvania when it was called Dacia and the Romans ruled it. At this time the Jews were considered no different from other citizens and worked as tradesmen, creditors, and also acted as the middlemen in negotiations between Transylvania and other countries. 

However, when the Hungarian kingdom fell to Turkish expansion between 1526-1540, things started to change for the Transylvanian Jewish community. At this time Transylvania became an autonomous principality under the Ottomans. In 1623, Prince Gabriel Bethlen gave the Transylvania Jewish community trading privileges and freedom of religion from the Ottoman kingdom. For a time there were no restrictions on these privileges and freedoms. Restrictions were imposed in 1653, and Jews were forced to live in the capital, Alba, and nowhere else.
At the end of the 17th century things changed once again for Transylvania when the Austrians took over ruling Transylvania and it became known as the Great Principality of Transylvania. The Austrians conducted a regular census. Because of this, we know that the Jewish population grew in Transylvania while the area was under Austrian rule. The first general census in 1754 tells us that there were 107 Jewish families in Transylvania. By 1779 there were 221 Jewish families. In 1785-1786 there were 394 Jewish families. The 394 families consisted of 2,092 people. As was mentioned in previous posts, Transylvania was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. Just before the war the census reported that Jews made up 2.4% of the population. When Romania did their census in 1930, the Jews made up 3.5% of the population.
With the outbreak of World War II, northern Transylvania was given to Hungary, while southern Transylvania remained under the rule of Romania. In 1944 there were 131,633 Jews living in ghettos that were eventually sent to Auschwitz. At the end of World War II, the whole of Transylvania was once again under the rule of Romania. The census reported that there were 90,444 Jews living in Transylvania in 1944. In 1956 the census only recorded 43,814 Jews living in Transylvania. This decline was mainly due to emigration. Unfortunately, this number has continued to decrease over the years. In 2002, there were only 7,000 Jews living in Transylvania. The Jews have a lot of history and culture in Transylvania, and some of that remains to this day. It is up to us to seek it out.

June 27, 2013

Transylvania and Romania: A History

Okay, now onto the topic of history connections between Transylvania and Romania. As most people already know, Transylvania is a part of Romania today. For the majority of history, it was a part of the Hungarian kingdom and populated by Germans. So the question is: how did Romania get its hands on Transylvania? And, how were they able to keep Transylvania? 

There were three treaties involved in this process. There was the Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of St. Germain and the Treaty of Trianon. Each treaty played its own role in bringing Transylvania and Romania together. 

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, was the one that started things rolling. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was starting to fall apart, and the Empire had control of Transylvania at this time. The thing is that they did not make up the majority of the population. The majority of the population was actually Romanian. Within the Treaty of Versailles was the condition that Transylvania was now under the sovereignty of Romania. This went over pretty well with the general population, and especially the Romanian National Party. Romania was an ally of the Triple Entente, which was why they were granted Transylvania.

The Treaty of St. Germain, signed in 1919, was made in order to elaborate on what was stated in the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of St. Germain ordered the Austro-Hungarian Empire to be dissolved. Austria was forced to recognize the independence of other countries, including Hungary. This treaty redefined the borders specifically to Austria, and this would have included Transylvania. Unfortunately, Transylvania was not large enough to be independent, which was why it was given to Romania. That, and it already had a Romanian population and was already influenced by Romanian culture. 

The Treaty of Trianon, signed in 1920, was another treaty that specifically defined a country's borders. This time it was referring to Hungary, though, whereas the Treaty of St. Germain had referred to Austria. This meant that Transylvania was completely out of the hands of Hungary. Hungary was depleted to a fraction of its former size. It was forced to give up much of its lands, including Transylvania, despite the fact that they had controlled Transylvania since the Middle Ages. With the restriction set out in the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary would be able to try to take Transylvania back — they were somewhat successful and regained Northern Transylvania. After the end of the Second World War, Transylvania will forever be under the sovereignty of Romania.

I know this post did not actually talk much about Romania and really focussed on one main event. (Well, it was three events but they all came from the one event of the end of World War I.) The thing to consider is that this one short period in time completely changed Transylvania. They were no longer under the rule of Hungary or Austria-Hungary. They had been ruled by Hungary since the Middle Ages. To be put under the sovereignty of Romania was a huge deal to Transylvania.

June 26, 2013

Transylvania, Germany and the Transylvanian Saxons

Continuing from the previous post, I'd like to talk about Transylvanian history where it connects to other cultures, and today I'd like to specifically discuss the connections between Transylvania and Germany, mainly about the Transylvanian Germans- some of whom were known as the Transylvanian Saxons. I know that there is so much more to talk about within the general topic of Transylvanian and German connections, but this is where it all began. I would like to focus on the medieval era when the Germans were first brought to Transylvania. The Germans were moved into Transylvania in three different stages. 

In the first stage, the Germans were brought to Transylvania by King Geza II of Hungary in the middle of the 12th century, and as many Saxons have recorded this was via invitation to the Kingdom of Hungary. His main intention was to use the new inhabitants to guard the borders and protect the Hungarian kingdom- using the Germans as extra bodies in the area which was not as populated as other areas. There were other reasons for choosing Germans though. They were great at mining and would be able to build up the growing economy, giving the King much needed money to fight wars against the Ottoman Turks and the Mongols. The Germans mostly came from Luxembourg and the Moselle River region. They settled first in what would later become Altland. This settlement was based around the town of Hermannstadt. This first phase took the remainder of the 12th century to become fully established.

Once the first phase was established, the second phase began during the beginning of the 13th century. This phase consisted mainly of bringing more Germans into Transylvania and spreading them out more. They started bringing Germans from various areas and moving them to Transylvania. This time they came from the Rhineland, Thuringia, Bavaria, and some left France to go to Transylvania. They started a new settlement, centring on the town of Nösen — what would later become Bistritz — which is located on the Somes River. The land surrounding this settlement became known as Nösnerland during the 13th century. From this point the Germans continued to spread and gain a greater foothold in Transylvania. 

The third phase of Germans settling in Transylvania came as a result of King Andrew II of Hungary introducing the Teutonic Knights to Transylvania in 1211. They were brought in to kind of replace the Germans in guarding the borders against the Carpathians. The Knights did a fair amount to contribute to the area, economically. They helped build castles and helped establish settlements. One of the towns they helped establish was Kronstadt. Burzenland was the name of the region surrounding Kronstadt. The actual colonization of Burzenland was mainly made up of settlers Altland. By 1225, King Andrew II became really nervous with how much power and influence the Knights were having on the area, so he expelled them from Transylvania. This meant that the border was once again being defended by the German settlers who had moved to Burzenland. 

In the end the northeast border was defended by Nosnerland Germans, the southeast by Burzenland Germans, and in the south by Altland Germans. This meant that the majority of Hungary’s eastern border was being defended by the Germans. Specifically the Germans who had settled in Transylvania and then spread out from there.

June 25, 2013

Transylvania and Hungary

 I was really happy to see that I have gotten some more requests for posts. Today will be the first in a four part series about different major points in Transylvanian history that involve other parts of the world. The four posts will be about the Transylvanian historical connections to Hungary, Germany, Romania, and the Jewish culture. To start us off I will discuss two of the connections Transylvania has to Hungary. This post will mainly be about the Hungarian Conquest during the Middle Ages.

The whole conquest took place over three centuries. It was a slow process, but progress as made nonetheless. In the beginning there were three main men who fought against the Hungarians. They were Gelou, Glad, and Menumorut. It is said that all three took part in separate battles during the beginning of the Hungarian Conquest.

Gelou was a leader of the Romanians in Transylvania, and apparently a Romanian himself. It was said that Gelou held his capital in Doboka. It is also mentioned that Gelou was defeated by one of the seven Hungarian Dukes. There is some debate about the existence Gelou, though. Some sources believe that Gelou was just a fictional character. These sources were mainly Hungarian historians. They believed that the anonymous Romanian author of Gesta Hungarorum made up the character Gelou. The Hungarian historians believed that Gelou was based on a legendary enemy of the Hungarian nobility.

The second Transylvanian leader was Glad. He was considered a legendary leader to the Transylvanians. He was a ruler in southern Transylvania in the Vidin region. He had authority over both the Slavs and Vlachs. The Hungarians sent an army against Glad in order to subdue the populations between the Morisio and Temes rivers. It was when the Hungarians tried to cross the Temes River that Glad attacked them. It is said that Glad’s army consisted of Cuman, Bulgarian and Vlach support. It was the following day that Glad was defeated by the Hungarians. Yet, once again, this Transylvanian leader is considered a fictional character by Hungarian historians. Romanian historiographers believed the battle between Glad and the Hungarians took place in 934 AD. The Hungarian historiographers believe that Glad never existed and that the Hungarians actually fought against Ahtum, who was a duke of the same area that Glad ruled. They ruled in different centuries though. Ahtum was defeated by Stephen I of Hungary, along with some Byzantine assistance. Either way, Hungary did come out as the victors.
Thirdly there was Menumorut. He was said to be the Duke of the Khazars between the River Tisza and Ygfon Forest near Transylvania. There are some reports that Menumorut refused to turn over land to the Magyar ruler of the time. It was then said then that the Magyars attacked Zotmar and Menumorut’s own castle in Bihar. They defeated him and took over the land that they wanted. There is another report is that Menumorut decided to wed his daughter to the Magyars. It was Menumorut’s great-great-grandson who became Stephen I, King of Hungary.

It is kind of weird that there are so many controversial reports about the history between Transylvania and Hungary. I have learned that history is a fluid thing, and there will always be gaps. It is when someone tries to fill in all of the gaps and make a storyline fit perfectly that I really start to doubt what they are saying. This is why I mentioned that there was more than one side to the story of each man I mentioned in this post. Who knows which report is correct? I certainly don’t. Maybe you do. Feel free to share with me your thoughts on the matter.

June 20, 2013

Is Transylvania a Place that Should Have Special Status?

Transylvania, once a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, a principality of its own, and now a part of Romania, has been an integral part of that country since 1919. World War One changed how the makeup of Central and Eastern Europe were viewed.  This created tensions and would eventually explode into World War Two.  Hungary wanted the return of its land, and Romania viewed Transylvania as a part of its history- or at least cultural history.

Before 1919, and the Paris Peach Conferences it was viewed as special to the ethnic Romanian population in the area, because it was a dream of theirs to be a part of a united country of Romanians- the dream was made more of a reality in 1859 and Wallachian and Moldavian independence from the Ottoman Turks.

Before that it could not be a part of "Romania" because the country of Romania was not founded until 1859, when the unification of the two principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia happened. However, in 1599 and 1600 the three principalities which would become Romania united under Michael the Brave.  This was not a special status as it was a political unification under one ruler.

Does this mean that since Transylvania, which has a large population of Romanians and Hungarians needs or deserves some sort of status within Romania?

 Most people will point to Scotland and England as a good example of this sort of ''special status" but the culture and people are different.  They were united long before due to blood relations between James I of England and Elizabeth I of England.  Then it was a simple growth in economic relationships, and over time, the populations learned to co-exsist, but there was already a foundation.

In Scotland, there is also a foundation for wanting special status within the land, they are the seemingly junior partner, and although they are politically close to England, there were also ties with France.

The populations of England and Scotland are much closer in numbers than the Romanian Hungarian populations of Transylvania.  (The total population who identify as Hungarian in 2002 was 6.6% of the total Romanian numbers, although if the numbers were focused on Transylvania alone, they would be higher.)

Should this be an issue?  Possibly there are a number of groups who might wish, based on their views, to have more freedoms in Romania; however, Romania itself is a stable country and there will, like the United Kingdom, be challenges.