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Assessment for Magyars (Hungarians) in Romania

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Magyars (Hungarians) in Romania, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 1 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Romania Facts
Area:    237,500 sq. km.
Capital:    Bucharest
Total Population:    22,400,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

It is unlikely that the Hungarians in Romania will engage in rebellious action against the government. Although there is a degree of territorial concentration and the group is well organized, the attitude of the leadership in the Hungarians' main political group, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (DUHR also referred to as DAHR or UMDR) is predominantly moderate and inclined towards cooperation. The DUHR have pledged to pursue their demands via peaceful negotiation and have achieved success based on this strategy of compromise.

Protests rarely occur, although verbal opposition to certain issues is present. In particular, Hungarians demand restitution of government-seized churches and other properties. They also want increased limited regional autonomy.

Analytic Summary

In Romania, Hungarians are primarily concentrated in the northwestern province of Transylvania, though some dwell in other regions of the country (GROUPCON = 1). The region of Transylvania at the turn of the century was a part of Hungary. The region was transferred to Romania by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. During World War II Transylvania was reoccupied by fascist Hungary, but was later again recovered by Romania after the latter withdrew from the Axis and joined the Allies once it was clear that Hitler was losing the war. Within Transylvania presently, the Hungarians are the majority in two counties (Covasna and Harghita), located in the horseshoe of the Carpathian Mountains (in the eastern part). They speak Hungarian, a Fino-Ugric dialect (LANG = 1), and are either Roman Catholic or Protestant, in contrast with the majority population, which speaks Romanian and is in majority Christian Orthodox (BELIEF = 1). Historically, the Hungarians formed the ruling class in Transylvania, for a long time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There is a long history of tensions between them and the majority of Romanians, whose rights were not recognized under the monarchy. At the end of the First World War, Romania acquired Transylvania and with it a large proportion of Hungarians, who were given limited rights. In the first years of the Communist regime, the Hungarians enjoyed a brief period of territorial autonomy that ended in 1956. Their situation degenerated with the rise into power of a nationalist leader and the moment of 1989 found many of them engaged in an underground battle against the system.

In terms of birth rates, the Hungarians share the same low numbers with the rest of the population, of which they represent about 7 percent. There are many enterprises owned by members of the Hungarian community and there are no indications of systematic economic discrimination against them (ECDIS03 = 0). Politically, the Hungarians are represented at all levels of the administration, from city councils to county governor, based on the results of local elections (POLDIS03 = 1). In general elections, the Hungarian party has won seats in every legislature since 1990 (the year of the foundation of the new democratic Romanian state), and they have sent representatives to two consecutive cabinets, including the present one.

The grievances of the Hungarian minority have been focused on several issues: limited local autonomy in the regions where they form the majority (AUTOGR501-03 = 1); the right to use their mother tongue in the public administration and tribunals (CULGR401-03 = 1); the right to have instruction at all levels of education in their mother tongue; and restitution of church property confiscated by the communist regime. Part of these demands has been already fulfilled by the government, at times under the pressure of regional bodies.

The Hungarians organized rapidly and effectively since 1990 in various associations based on religion or culture. They later melted under the aegis of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (DUHR also referred to as DAHR or UMDR), which assumed the task of political representation of the community. It is unclear how deep the divisions are within the Union, but during the national conferences of the past decade it became evident that there was a strong radical current asking for rapid and substantial changes counterbalanced by a more moderate wing, proponent for a gradual negotiated approach. Support came for the Union not only from among local people, but also from the government in Budapest. Especially under the leadership of Viktor Orban and his party, the Hungarians government initiated measures that allow it to distribute funds for the protection and cultural survival of Hungarians elsewhere. The link with Hungary was and continues to be very strong, both at the official level (help from the government in the form of financial and logistical measures) and at the level of the society, with many cultural and other types of associations crossing across the border.

Currently, the Hungarians are part of the government and try to push for their demands. The relationship between the Hungarians and Romanians seems to have improved consistently over the past years. The government has met many of the cultural demands of the ethnic group, and no major protests or rebellions have been mentioned in the sources in recent years. (PROT03 = 0, REB03 = 0).


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