The mountains of Eastern Europe is home to Székely Land, an ethnic Hungarian region hoping for its own autonomy.
Part of modern day Romania, Székely Land sits in the central part of the country, and is the most eastern part of Transylvania and the Carpathian mountains.
Groups of Székely people migrated to southern parts of Transylvania as early as the 11th century, moving north-east soon after to what subsequently became Székely Land. In 1438 the “Union of the Three Nations”, sometimes referred to as the “Three Nations of Transylvania”, was formed in response to a peasantry revolt. The Székely formed one of the three estates (thanks to their military expertise), along with the Saxons and the nobility. The Saxons and Székely organised their land into “seats”, enjoying tax exemptions and privileges not afforded to other parts of the Hungarian Kingdom. The Székely seats were self-governing and operated as such right up until the 19th century.
After the end of the First World War, Transylvania voted to become part of the newly formed Romania, and, as a result, Romanian replaced Hungarian as the official language of Székely Land. There was a short-lived attempt to form a Székely Republic, but it was ultimately unsuccessful. The region did, however, initially manage to ensure its boundaries were still clearly defined, elect their own officials and preserve Hungarian as a language through their education system, although this was gradually suppressed by Romanian authorities over the following decade.
After the Second World War a Magyar Autonomous Region was formed, but was broken up under Nicolae Ceaușescu’s dictatorship. There was brief Székely hope that this autonomy would reemerge after the fall of Communism, but no such laws were passed.
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For a large chunk of the 20th century, from medieval times until the late 19th century, Székely Land had its own automatous political system within Transylvania. Article 1 of the Romanian Constitution states that “Romania is a sovereign, independent, unitary and indivisible National State”, meaning any political autonomy to Székely Land, or any other region within Romania, would be unconstitutional.
The Székler National Council was formed in 2003 to represent Széklerrights and interests in Romania, with an aim of achieving autonomy similar to the Székely seat system (explained above) that the region historically governed with.
The Szeklers are of Hungarian, or Magyar, descent. Székely Land’s ethnic population is nearly two-thirds Hungarian and one third Romanian, with small German and Roma minority populations. The vast majority of Romania’s ethnic Hungarian population live in Székely Land.
Unlike the majority of Romania, the predominant religion is Roman Catholic, with Romanian Orthodox (the most popular across Romania as a whole) the second largest.