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The south-eastern part of Hungary

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Transylvania, the southeastern part of Hungary, called in German “Siebenburgen”, apparently from the old name of the City of Hermannstadt, once known as Sibinburg; in Hungarian the name is “Erdely” (cf. maps to article Austro-Hungarian Monarchy).

At the beginning of the Christian era what is now Transylvania was inhabited by Dacians, a Thracian people. In the second half of the first century King Decebalus united the various tribes of the Dacians into a homogeneous kingdom. He maintained his independence in successful battles against the Romans and forced the Emperor Domitian to agree to a disgraceful peace. Trajan conquered the country during the years 101-7 and made it a Roman province. From 260 Dacia swarmed with Goths and the Emperor Aurelian abandoned the country to them. During the great migrations the Goths were followed by the Huns; after the death of Attila the Huns were followed by the German Gepidw; these were succeeded by the Avars, the Petchenegs, and other tribes. Finally in the eleventh century the Magyars succeeded in getting control of Transylvania and were ruled by petty independent princes. In 1003 King St. Stephen, the organizer of Hungarian Christianity, overthrew the last of these princes. Stephen’s successor gradually gained the greater part of the country. It was intended that Transylvania should be the bulwark of western civilization against the onslaught of the barbarian hordes of the East. With this purpose in view the Hungarian kings brought German colonists into Transylvania. In the medieval charters these settlers were called Saxons, a name that is still retained. In 1211 King Andreas gave what is called Burzenland, that is the country surrounding Kronstadt, to the Teutonic Knights, who settled German peasants on it and built numerous citadels, as the Kreuzburg, Marienburg, the fortified castles of Rosenau, Bosau, etc. When in 1224 the Teutonic Knights placed their possessions under the control of the pope the king revoked his gift, and sought to drive the order out by force. The next year the order left Burzenland; having been summoned by Duke Konrad of Kujavien into the district surrounding the present Kulm to fight against the heathen Prussians. Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the knights the region preserved its German character, for Saxons had settled also in Burzenland. The manufacturing German towns that sprang up in the district became centers of a flourishing civilization and the main props of the Hungarian authority. The Magyars in Transylvania were ruled by a voivode, while the Germans formed a separate nation who were governed by the Count of Saxony. A third nation, the Szeklers in Szeklerland, apparently a branch of the Magyars, had a governor or Gespann of their own. The Wallachians or Rumanians (Blaci), who had settled in various parts of the country, were not on a political equality with the others; they appear chiefly as tenants of the great Hungarian landowners.

As one of the frontier bulwarks of Hungary, Transylvania was often obliged to defend itself against the incursions of foreign tribes. Thus it had to contend against the Kumanis and Tatars who traversed, in the thirteenth century, almost the whole of eastern Europe, plundering and burning as they went, and who in the years 1241-42 devastated the whole of Transylvania. The country also, for more than a century, resisted successfully the attacks of the Turks, who from the fifteenth century repeatedly forced their way into Transylvania along the rivers Danube and Maros. The numerous fortified castles of the country, the fortified churches, and the church strongholds, that are a peculiar feature of Transylvania, belong chiefly to this period of the incursions of the Tatars and Turks. The devastation wrought by the Turks, the misery that followed their incursions, and a revolt of the peasants led to a union of the three nations. This union was formed in 1437 for the common protection and defense of the country, utterly neglected by the Hungarian government. Even at this early date the alliance led to the growth of the idea of separation from the mother-country. This took place in the sixteenth century, and was due to the successful advance of the Turks. In 1526 the Hungarian King Louis II, a member of the Jagellon dynasty, was killed in the battle against the Turks at Mohacs. A part of the Hungarian nobility elected the Archduke Ferdinand I, brother of the Emperor Charles V, as King of Hungary, on account of a treaty of succession made by Waladislaus, father of King Louis; while another faction elected John Zapolya, Count of Zips. During the struggle between these two parties the Turks conquered almost the whole of Hungary, with the exception of the northern and extreme western sections. Transylvania now separated from Hungary, at this time under the rule of the Habsburgs, and John Zapolya made it an independent principality, although under Turkish suzerainty.

The separation from the rest of the empire of the Habsburgs was greatly aided by religious discord. On account of the active intercourse between the Holy Roman Empire and the Germans, in particular, of Transylvania, the writings of Luther and the other Reformers were circulated in Transylvania as early as 1521, and the new doctrine spread rapidly, especially among the nobility, who meant to seize the lands belonging to the Church. Zapolya’s revolt against Ferdinand, the secularizing in 1556 of the Diocese of Weissenburg by the nobles, and the lack of priests, all were of advantage to Protestantism. In 1544 the whole Saxon nation decided to adopt the Augsburg Confession, which in 1557 was placed on a parity with the Catholic Church. From the year 1554 the teachings of Calvin also gained ground in Transylvania, and in 1564 Calvinism received full recognition and was placed on a parity with the two other denominations. During the reign of John Sigmund, son of John Zapolya, the doctrines of Socinus also spread in Transylvania and the adherents of these teachings, the Unitarians, were granted the free exercise of their religion in 1571. In addition, there were also Anabaptists and other sects in the country. Consequently the Catholic Faith declined more and more, its members became the minority of the population, and were robbed of nearly all their Church lands. The exercise of the Catholic worship was forbidden in a large part of the land, and the diocese was only nominally filled for over a century and a half. In 1579 Prince Christopher Bathory called in the Jesuits for the protection of the Catholic Faith, but they were driven away in 1588, and all their later attempts to return were frustrated by force.

The period of the Turkish suzerainty over Transylvania lasted for a century and a half. During this era the country was nominally a constitutionally governed principality, for the prince had the administrative aid of a Council of State and a diet, but in reality the nobility governed, as they had the right to the free election of a successor after the death of the ruling prince. Yet this right was often illusory on account of the pressure exercised by the Turks. A number of the princes of this era gained reputation by the part they took in European affairs. Among these were: John Sigmund Zapolya (1541-70), Stephen Bathory (1571-75), afterwards King of Poland; Sigmund Bathory (1581-1602), Bethlen-Gabor (1625-29), the two rulers named George RakGczy (1630-61), who were allies of France in the Thirty Years War, and Michael I Apafy (1662-90). The feeling constantly grew in Transylvania that the supremacy of the Turks, who repeatedly interfered in the internal affairs of the country, was discreditable. This and the influence of a strong party in favor of the Habsburgs, which had always existed in the country, led several times to the union of Transylvania with the Austrian monarchy, as in the years 1551-56, and 1598-1602. The final connection with Austria was brought about by the successful advance of the imperial army after the second siege of Vienna by the Turks in. 1683, and the reconquest of Hungary by Austria in 1684-85. Transylvania was separated from Turkey and the oath of loyalty to Leopold I as King of Hungary was confirmed by several treaties between the emperor and the Transylvanian estates, the most important of which was the Leopoldine Diploma of December 4, 1691. On his side Leopold recognized all the rights of the three political nations of Transylvania and confirmed the former liberties of the four confessions recognized in Transylvania. In 1697 Prince Michael II Apafy renounced all his rights for a pension and the title of a prince of the empire, while the Porte withdrew all claims to Transylvania in the Peace of Karlbwitz (1699). In this way Transylvania was once more won for the Hungarian Crown and the Habsburg dynasty. The Hungarian revolt under Francis II Rakoczy threatened the loss of Transylvania again, as his adherents proclaimed him ruler of the principality (1704), but after a few years the revolt was suppressed.

Under the rule of Austria the country was made a separate crown land. The ruler of Austria who was Prince of Transylvania did not reside in the country, consequently, the Transylvanian Royal Chancellery (Excelsa Cancellaria regia Transylvanue Aulica) was formed at Vienna as the chief authority for the exercise of the princely rights. Its head was a chancellor and the orders of the chancellery were imperative upon the royal board of government (Excelsum regium Gubernium) which had been established at Hermannstadt in 1713, and which was moved to Klausenburg in 1790. This board directed the administration of the country, supervised the churches and schools, and formed the supreme court. Laws were issued by the ruler in conjunction with a Diet consisting of one chamber. In 1765 Maria Theresa raised the principality to the rank of a grand principality, by which nothing, in reality, was changed. In 1715 the Catholic Diocese of Transylvania was reestablished with its see at Karlsburg. Thus for a century and a half Transylvania formed a distinct crown land of the Austrian monarchy, and was independent of Hungary. This arrangement was fundamentally changed by the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-49. As early as the decade 1830-40, the desire for the union of Transylvania with Hungary was constantly and increasingly expressed in Hungary. These efforts failed, however, on account of the opposition of the Saxons, who fought energetically for political independence from Hungary and municipal self-administration. Nevertheless, despite the opposition of the Saxons, the union with revolutionary Hungary was proclaimed in the Transylvania Diet on May 30, 1848, and thus Transylvania became involved in the defection from the Habsburg dynasty. After the suppression of the revolt with the aid of Russia the supremacy of the Austrian Crown was absolute in Transylvania, as in Hungary, during the years 1849-60, after which the country received the right of self-administration once more, and the chancellery for Transylvania was formally reestablished at Vienna. By the treaty of adjustment between Austria and Hungary in 1867 the Magyar efforts for the control of Transylvania met with complete success. Its independence as a crown province was annulled and it was united with Hungary. The Transylvanian chancellery at Vienna and the supreme court at Klausenburg were abolished, the Transylvanian Diet was dissolved, the municipal independence of the Saxons was destroyed, and in 1876 the country was divided into fifteen counties. Since then Transylvania has been nothing more than a Hungarian province and the non-Hungarian part of the population, the Germans and Rumanians, are at the mercy of an arbitrary Magyarization by the Hungarian government.

The area of Transylvania is 21,578 sq. m.; in 1900 its population was 2,476,998. Of this number, as regards religion, 13.3 per cent were Catholics of the Latin Rite, 28.2 per cent Uniats of the Greek and Armenian Rites; 30.3 per cent Orthodox Greeks; 14.7 per cent members of the Reformed Church; 9 per cent Lutherans; 2.6 per cent Unitarians; 2.1 per cent Jews. According to nationalities, 32.9 per cent were Magyars; 9.3 per cent, German; 56.5 per cent, Rumanians; 1.1 per cent, Serbs; the remainder were mainly Gypsies or Armenians. There exists for the Catholics of the Latin Rite the Diocese of Transylvania with its see at Karlsburg. Since 1897 the bishop has been Gustav Karl, Count Maj-16th von Szekhely, a member of the Hungarian House of Lords. The cathedral chapter consists of ten members, of whom 3 are appointed by the king, and 7 by the bishop. In 1912 the diocese contained: 16 archdeaconeries, 229 parishes, 398 secular priests, 226 regular priests, 354,145 Catholics, 2 houses of Minorites with 29 members; 24 houses of Franciscans with 153 members; 1 of the Piarists with 44 members; 1 of Mechitarist monks with 2 members; 9 of Franciscan nuns with 187 Sisters; 4 of Sisters of Mercy with 56 Sisters; 1 of Ursuline nuns with 37 Sisters. There are 229 parish churches and 2200 dependent churches. The Uniat Catholics have the Archdiocese of Alba Julia Fogaras and its suffragan the Diocese of Armenierstadt. The Orthodox Greeks are under the direction of the Oriental Greek Rumanian Archdiocese at Hermannstadt. The Reformed, or Protestants of the Helvetic Confession, are under the bishop at Klausenburg; the Lutherans are under the bishop at Hermannstadt; the Unitarians have a representative consistory at Klausenburg.


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