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The Székely or Szeklers (Hungarian: Székely; Romanian; Secui; German: Szekler) are a Hungarian ethnic group living in Transylvania in Romania. Unlike most other ethnic minorities of Romania, Szeklers are tighly concentrated in an area known as Székelyföld (Szekler land). Based on the latest Romanian statistics, approximately 670,000 Székely live mostly in Harghita, Covasna and parts of Mureş counties, accounting for an important part of the Hungarian minority in Romania. There is a Szekely initiative to attain autonomy for a Székelyföld region, on the model of the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia.

This group has largely succeeded in preserving its traditions to an extent unusual even in Central and Eastern Europe. The most comprehensive description of the Szekely land and traditions was written between 1859-1868 by Balázs Orbán in his masterpiece, "Description of Székely land".

The Szeklers are of uncertain origins, subject to much debate among themselves and among scholars. A widespread theory asserts that they descend from the warrior tribes settled by the Hungarians in the border mountains to defend against invasions from Tatars and other menacing people from the east. Székely people adhere proudly to a Hungarian identity. They have a slightly distinct Hungarian dialect, but most of the differences from modern Hungarian consist of archaic words and phrase constructions, as well as a particular intonation.

In medieval times, the Szeklers were part of the Unio Trium Nationum ("Union of Three Nations") a coalition of the three Transylvanian Estates, the other two nations being the (predominantly Hungarian) nobility and the Saxon (ie ethnic German) burghers. These three nations ruled Transylvania, usually in harmony though sometimes in conflict with one another. The Romanian inhabitants, who largely belonged to the class of serfs (which also included many Hungarians), were Orthodox and were not allowed to political representation. The Szeklers were considered the best warriors of medieval Transylvania.

Contents

Controversy about origins

Theories have been advanced suggesting Avar, Gepid, Scythian, or Hunish ancestry, and some have dated their presence in the Eastern Carpathians as early as the fifth century. Some have also suggested the Székely, like the Hungarians, are simply descended from the Magyars, and that cultural differences with other Hungarian groups stem from their relative isolation in the mountains.

Many scholars believe in a two-fold Hungarian migration of Transylvania and the Pannonian Plain, one prior to the main Magyar conquest of the Pannonian Plain in 896. According to this theory, the Székelys or Szeklers are a Hungarian group that settled in Transylvania during this first migration.

Another possible source of the Székely people is Hungary itself: they might be Hungarians who moved to Transylvania to protect the borders of the country.

Others believe that Szeklers had different origins, such as Turkic origins. A small number of scholars believe that the Székelys are related to the Scythians who may have joined the Magyars on their trek westward.

By County

The Szeklers live mainly in Harghita, Covasna and Mureş counties

CountySzeklersPercentage of the population
Harghita275,84184.61%
Covasna164,05573.81%
Mureş227,67339.26%

See also

External links

In Hungarian language


de:Székler fr:Székely hu:Székely ja:セーケイ人 ro:secui

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