Transylvania ("Transilvania" in Romanian; "Erdély" in Hungarian, "Siebenbürgen" in German; "Urdul" in Turkish, "Siedmiogrod" in Polish) is a historic region that forms the western and the central parts of Romania.

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 History
3 Tourist attractions
4 See also
5 External Links


A high plateau, Transylvania is separated in the South from Walachia by the Transylvanian Alps and in the East from Moldavia and Bukovina by the Carpathian Mountains (of which the Transylvanian Alps are a continuation). The northern and the western regions of Transylvania (Crişana-Maramureş/Körösvidék-Máramaros/Kreischgebiet-Maramuresch) border Hungary and the southwestern region (Banat/Bánát/Banat) borders Serbia. The Transylvanian plateau, 1,000 to 1,600 feet (305-488 m) high, is drained by the Mureş/Maros/Mieresch River, the Someş/Szamos/Somesch River and other tributaries of the Danube (Dunare/Duna/Donau). Cluj-Napoca/Kolozsvár/Klausenburg is the chief city; other major urban centers are Timişoara/Temesvár/Temeswar, Braşov/Brassó/Kronstadt, Sibiu/Nagyszeben/Hermannstadt and Târgu-Mureş/Marosvásárhely/Neumarkt. Economically and culturally one of the most advanced regions of Romania, Transylvania is rich in mineral resources, notably lignite, iron, lead, manganese, gold, copper, natural gas, salt, and sulphur. 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. Sizable Hungarian and German minorities, as well as Gypsies, live in Transylvania (this is reflected above in the names of the cities and areas, which all have historical names in Hungarian and German along their official - Romanian - names).

Map of Romania with Transylvania in yellow


Ancient times

The area now constituting Transylvania was the political center of the Dacia, then it was conquered by the Roman Empire in 107. After the withdrawal (271) of the Romans from the region it was overrun, between the 3rd and 10th century, by the Visigoths, the Huns, the Gepidae, the Avars, and the Slavs.

Middle Ages

The early history of Transylvania during the Middle Ages is largely unknown due to the lack of any written or archeological evidence.

There are two different theories, hotly debated between the Romanians and the Hungarians:

  • Daco-Roman continuity - after the Romans withdrew from the province, the Romanized Dacian population continued to live in Transylvania during the Great Migrations.
  • Romanian migration teory - the Romans killed all the Dacians in the 2nd century wars and withdrew all the population to South of Danube, then the Romanians, migrated from Western Balkans to Hungarian-ruled Transylvania in the 12th century.

For more about this debate, see: Origin of Romanians.

The Magyar tribes first entered the region in the 8th century when they settled the Pannonian plain. The valleys in the east and southeast were settled by the Székely, peoples with uncertain origin, but thought to be akin to the Magyars.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the areas in the south and northeast were settled by German colonists called (then and now) Saxons, with the purpose of securing the borders. Siebenbürgen, the German name for Transylvania, derives from the seven principal fortified towns founded there by the Saxons. The German influence became more marked when, early in the 13th century, King Andrew II of Hungary called on the Teutonic Knights to protect Transylvania from the Cumans, who were followed (1241) by the Mongol invaders.

The administration of Transylvania was in the hands of a royal governor, or voivode, who by the mid-13th century controlled the whole region. Society was divided into three privileged "nations", the Magyars, the Székely, and the Saxons. These nations, however, corresponded to social rather than strictly ethnic divisions. Although the nonprivileged class of serfs consisted mostly of Romanians, it also included people of Saxon, Székely, and Magyar origin. Few of them succeded to enter the ranks of the nobility, most notably Janos Hunyadi (Iancu de Hunedoara in Romanian), captain of Hungary and hero of the Turkish wars, who was of Romanian ancestry. After the suppression (1437) of a peasant revolt (the "Bobâlna revolt") the three "nations" solemnly renewed their union; the rebels were cruelly repressed, and serfdom became more firmly entrenched than ever. Hunyadi's son the Transylvanian Matyas Hunyadi went on to become one of Hungary's greatest Kings.

When the main Hungarian army and King Louis II were slain (1526) in the Battle of Mohács, John Zapolya, voivode of Transylvania, took advantage of his military strength and put himself at the head of the nationalist Hungarian party, which opposed the succession of Ferdinand of Austria (later Emperor Ferdinand I) to the Hungarian throne. As John I he was elected king of Hungary, while another party recognized Ferdinand. In the ensuing struggle Zapolya received the support of Sultan Sulayman I, who after Zapolya's death (1540) overran central Hungary on the pretext of protecting Zapolya's son, John II. Hungary was now divided into three sections: West Hungary, under Austrian rule; central Hungary, under Turkish rule; and semi-independent Transylvania, where Austrian and Turkish influences vied for supremacy for nearly two centuries.

The Hungarian magnates of Transylvania resorted to a policy of duplicity in order to preserve independence. The Báthory family, which came to power on the death (1571) of John II, ruled Transylvania as princes under Turks, and briefly under Hapsburg, suzerainty until 1602, but their rule was interrupted by the incursion of the Romanian prince Michael the Brave of Walachia and by Austrian military intervention. After the grand victory against Turks at Calugareni in 1595, Michael the Brave gained control of Transylvania in 1599, after the battle of Selimbar, in which he defeated Báthory's army. In May 1600 he conquered Moldavia, uniting for the first time all three Romanian principalities. However, the Romanian union did not last long and Michael the Brave was assassinated on August 9, 1601.

In 1604, Stephen Bocskay led a rebellion against Austrian rule, and in 1606 he was recognized by the emperor as prince of Transylvania. Under Bocskay's successors - especially Gabriel Bethlen and George I Rákóczy - Transylvania had its golden age. The principality was the chief centre of Hungarian culture and humanism, the main bulwark of Protestantism in Eastern Europe, and the only European country where Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, and Unitarians lived in mutual tolerance. Orthodox Romanians, however, were denied equal rights.

After the Turkish defeat near Vienna (1683), Transylvania vainly battled the growing Austrian influence, and its alliance with Turkey under Emeric Thököly and with France under Francis II Rákóczy proved fatal to its independence. In 1711, Austrian control was definitely established over all Hungary and Transylvania, and the princes of Transylvania were replaced by Austrian governors. The proclamation (1765) of Transylvania as a grand principality was a mere formality. The pressure of Austrian bureaucratic rule gradually eroded the traditional independence of Transylvania. In 1791 the Romanians petitioned Leopold II of Austria for recognition as the fourth "nation" of Transylvania and for religious equality, but the Transylvanian diet rejected their demands, restoring the Romanians to their old status.


In 1848 the Magyars proclaimed the union of Transylvania with Hungary, promising the Romanians abolition of serfdom in return for their support against Austria. The Romanians and the Saxons rejected the offer and instead rose against the Magyar national state. In the fighting that followed (1849) between the Hungarians and the Austro-Russian forces (supported by the Romanians and the Saxons), the Hungarian republic of Louis Kossuth was suppressed. The ensuing period of Austrian military government (1849-1860) was disastrous for the Magyars but greatly benefited the Romanian peasants, who were given land and otherwise favored by the Austrian authorities. However, in the compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867, which established the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Transylvania became reunited with Hungary.

In 1918 Transylvania joins Romania, which reunites for the first time in what Romanians consider its natural borders. On the 1 December, 1918, the Romanians of Transylvania assembled in Alba Iulia proclaimed the "unification of all Romanians from Transylvania, the Banat, Crisana and Maramures with Romania for all ages to come". Romanian forces in Transylvania drove into Hungary in 1919, after the communist forces there gained ground under Bela Kun. The unification of all the lands inhabited by Romanians was mentioned in the Versailles peace treaties after the First World War (1919-1920), and sanctioned by the crowning of King Ferdinand I of Romania and Queen Maria of Romania at Alba Iulia in the year 1922. See also: List of Transylvanian rulers

Tourist attractions

See also

External Links