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Ardeal / Transilvania
Historical region of Romania
Apuseni Mountains near Arieșeni, Alba County
Apuseni Mountains near Arieșeni, Alba County
Historical flag
Historical coat of arms
Coat of arms
  Transylvania   Banat, Crișana and Maramureș   Bukovina, Dobruja, Moldavia, Muntenia and Oltenia
  Banat, Crișana and Maramureș
  Bukovina, Dobruja, Moldavia, Muntenia and Oltenia
Coordinates: Coordinates: 46°46′0″N 23°35′0″E / 46.766667°N 23.583333°E / 46.766667; 23.583333
Country Romania
Largest cityCluj-Napoca
 • Total100,290 km2 (38,720 sq mi)
 • Total6,789,250
 • Density68/km2 (180/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+3 (EEST)

Transylvania (Romanian: Ardeal or Transilvania; Hungarian: Erdély; German: Siebenbürgen) is a historical region in central Romania. To the east and south its natural border is the Carpathian Mountains, and to the west the Apuseni Mountains. Broader definitions of Transylvania also encompass the western and northwestern Romanian regions of Crișana and Maramureș, and occasionally Banat.

Transylvania is known for the scenery of its Carpathian landscape and its rich history. It also contains Romania's second-largest city, Cluj-Napoca, and other iconic cities and towns such as Brașov, Sibiu, Târgu Mureș, Alba Iulia and Sighișoara. It is also the home of some of Romania's UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Villages with fortified churches, the Historic Centre of Sighișoara, the Dacian Fortresses of the Orăștie Mountains and the Roșia Montană Mining Cultural Landscape.

It was under the rule Agathyrsi, part of the Dacian Kingdom (168 BC–106 AD), Roman Dacia (106–271), the Goths, the Hunnic Empire (4th–5th centuries), the Kingdom of the Gepids (5th–6th centuries), the Avar Khaganate (6th–9th centuries), the Slavs, and the 9th century First Bulgarian Empire. During the late 9th century, Transylvania was reached and conquered by the Hungarian conquerors, and Gyula's family from seven chieftains of the Hungarians ruled it in the 10th century. King Stephen I of Hungary asserted his claim to rule all lands dominated by Hungarian lords. He personally led his army against his maternal uncle Gyula III and Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1002; it then belonged to the Lands of the Hungarian Crown until 1920.

After the Battle of Mohács in 1526 it belonged to the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom, from which the Principality of Transylvania emerged in 1570 by the Treaty of Speyer. During most of the 16th and 17th centuries, the principality was a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire; however, the principality had dual suzerainty (Ottoman and Habsburg).[1][2]

In 1690, the Habsburg monarchy gained possession of Transylvania through the Hungarian crown.[3][4][5] After the failure Rákóczi's War of Independence in 1711[6] Habsburg control of Transylvania was consolidated, and Hungarian Transylvanian princes were replaced with Habsburg imperial governors.[7][8] During the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian government proclaimed union with Transylvania in the April Laws of 1848.[9] After the failure of the revolution, the March Constitution of Austria decreed that the Principality of Transylvania be a separate crown land entirely independent of Hungary.[10] After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the separate status[11] of Transylvania ceased, it was incorporated again into the Kingdom of Hungary (Transleithania) as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[12] After World War I, Transylvania became part of Kingdom of Romania by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. In 1940, Northern Transylvania reverted to Hungary as a result of the Second Vienna Award, but it was reclaimed by Romania after the end of World War II.

In popular culture, Transylvania is commonly associated with vampires because of the influence of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula and the many subsequent books and films that have been inspired by the tale.[13][14]


The earliest known reference to Transylvania appears in a Medieval Latin document of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1075 as ultra silvam, meaning "beyond the forest" (ultra meaning "beyond" or "on the far side of" and the accusative case of Sylva (sylvam) "woods, forest"). Transylvania, with an alternative Latin prepositional prefix, means "on the other side of the woods". Hungarian historians claim that the Medieval Latin form Ultrasylvania, later Transylvania, was a direct translation from the Hungarian form Erdő-elve.[15] That also was used as an alternative name in German überwald ("beyond the forest") (13th–14th centuries) and Ukrainian Залісся (Zalissia). Historical names of Transylvania are:

  • Bulgarian: Седмиградско, romanized: Sedmigradsko, Трансилвания Transilvanija
  • Croatian: Sedmogradska, Erdelj (hist.), Transilvanija
  • German: Siebenbürgen, Transsilvanien
  • Hungarian: Erdély
  • Latin: Ultrasilvania, Transsilvania
  • Polish: Siedmiogród, Transylwania
  • Romanian: Ardeal, Transilvania
  • Russian: Трансильвания, romanized: Transil'vaniya, Седмиградье
  • Serbian: Ердељ/Erdelj, Serbian: Трансилванија/Transilvanija
  • Slovak: Ardieľ, Sedmohradsko
  • Transylvanian Saxon: Siweberjen
  • Turkish: Erdel, Erdelistan
  • Ukrainian: Семигород, Залісся Zalissiya, Трансильванія Transyl'vaniya
  • Yiddish: זיבנבערגן‎, romanized: Zibnbergn, זימבערגן Zimbergn, טראַנסילוואַניע Transilvanye

In Romanian, the region is known as Ardeal (pronounced [arˈde̯al]) or Transilvania [transilˈvani.a]; in Hungarian as Erdély [ˈɛrdeːj]; in German as Siebenbürgen [ziːbm̩ˈbʏʁɡŋ̍] (About this soundlisten); but historically as Erdel or Erdelistan; see also other denominations.

  • The German name Siebenbürgen means "seven castles", after the seven (ethnic German) Transylvanian Saxons' cities in the region. This is also the origin of the region's name in many other languages, such as the Croatian Sedmogradska, the Bulgarian Седмиградско (Sedmigradsko), Polish Siedmiogród, Yiddish זיבנבערגן (Zibnbergn), and Ukrainian Семигород (Semyhorod).
  • The Hungarian form Erdély was first mentioned in the 12th-century Gesta Hungarorum as Erdeuleu (in modern script Erdeüleü) or Erdő-elve. The word erdő means forest in Hungarian, and the word elve denotes a region in connection with this, similarly to the Hungarian name for Muntenia (Havas-elve, or land lying ahead of the snow-capped mountains). Erdel, Erdil, Erdelistan are derived from Hungarian Erdély.
  • An occurrence of the form Ardeliu in a Church Slavonic document written by a Romanian chancellery is attested in 1432. The Romanian Ardeal is derived from the Hungarian Erdély.[16][17][18]


Kingdom of Hungary in 1190, during the rule of Béla III
Greater Romania, in the interwar period
Romania's territorial losses in the summer of 1940, showing Northern Transylvania being ceded to the Kingdom of Hungary. The region was returned to Romania after World War II.
Historical Romanian borders

Transylvania has been dominated by several different peoples and countries throughout its history. It was once the nucleus of the Kingdom of Dacia (82 BC – 106 AD). In 106 AD the Roman Empire conquered the territory, systematically exploiting its resources. After the Roman legions withdrew in 275 AD, and the Roman citizens moved south to the Danube into Dacia Aureliana, it was overrun by a succession of various tribes, bringing it under the control of the Carpi, Visigoths, Huns, Gepids, Avars, and Slavs.

There are very few records about the ethnic composition of Transylvania after the Roman withdrawal. "But we have to mention that fourth-century Graeco-Roman sources mention only Goths north of the Danube."[19] Sozomen wrote this about the areas ruled by Visigoths north to the Danube in his Ecclesiastical History in the 5th century: "For the Goths who inhabited the regions beyond the Danube, and held several barbarian nations under their sway".[20] Ananias of Shirak in the 7th century in his book The Geography mentions that „On the south side (of the Danube) is Thrace proper and on the north side the large country of Dacia, where dwell the Slavs [who form] twenty-five tribes”.[21] This description fits into the testimony of Russian Primary Chronicle: „Over a long period the Slavs settled beside the Danube, where the Hungarian and Bulgarian lands now lie. In 6396-6406 (888-898 CE) the Magyars(=Hungarians) passed by Kiev over the hill now called Hungarian, and on arriving at the Dnieper, they pitched camp...Coming out of the east, they struggled across the great mountains, and began to fight against the neighboring Vlakhs and Slavs. For the Slavs had settled there first, but the Vlakhs had seized the territory of the Slavs. The Magyars subsequently expelled the Vlakhs, took their land, and settled among the Slavs, whom they reduced to submission. From that time this territory was called Hungarian.” [22] Historians Petrukhin and Rayevskiy accuse the 1930 translation as intentionally mistranslating "voloh" for political reasons. They argue that these people could only be the Franks (Francia was considered the successor of the Roman Empire, and the "Vlach" word often meant "Roman" at that time[23]) as the chronicle says that Vikings conquered territories up to the country of the English and "voloh" people west of the Baltic Sea and describes the "voloh" as a people that came after the Slavs.[24][25]

Blachernae, the suburb of Constantinople named after a "Scythian" Duke Blachernos, is sometimes identified as related with the name of the Vlachs.

In the 9th century Bulgarians ruled Transylvania.[26] It is a subject of dispute whether elements of the mixed Daco–Roman population survived in Transylvania through the post-classical era (becoming the ancestors of modern Romanians) or the first Vlachs/Romanians appeared in the area in the 13th century after a northward migration from the Balkan Peninsula.[27][28] There is an ongoing scholarly debate over the ethnicity of Transylvania's population before the Hungarian conquest (see Origin of the Romanians).

During the late 9th century, Transylvania was reached and conquered by the Hungarian conquerors. Hungarian medieval chronicles claimed that the Székely people descended of the Huns who remained in Transylvania, and later allying with the returning Hungarians conquered together the Carpathian Basin.[29][30][31][32] According to Gesta Hungarorum, the Vlach (Blacorum, Blacus) voivode Gelou ruled part of Transylvania before the Hungarians arrived, historians debate whether Gelou was a historical person or an imaginary figure. Gyula's family from seven chieftains of the Hungarians ruled Transylvania in the 10th century. King Stephen I of Hungary asserted his claim to rule all lands dominated by Hungarian lords, he personally led his army against his maternal uncle Gyula III and Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1002.[33][34][35][36] Some historians assert Transylvania was settled by Hungarians in several stages between the 10th and 13th centuries,[37][38] while others claim that it was already settled,[39] since the earliest Hungarian artifacts found in the region are dated to the first half of the 10th century.[40] Place names derived from the Hungarian tribes evidence that major Hungarian groups settled in Transylvania from the 950s.[41][42] After the Battle of Kosovo and Ottoman arrival at the Hungarian border, thousands of Vlach and Serbian refugees came to Transylvania.[43] Nevertheless, Romanians constitued an important part of Transylvania's population even on the eve of the Mongol Invasions.[44][45]

Between 1002 and 1526, Transylvania was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, led by a voivode appointed by the King of Hungary.[46][47] After the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Transylvania became part of the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom. Later, in 1570, the kingdom transformed into the Principality of Transylvania by the Treaty of Speyer, which was ruled primarily by Calvinist Hungarian princes. The Eastern Hungarian king became the first prince of Transylvania, according to the treaty, the Principality of Transylvania continued to be part of the Kingdom of Hungary in the sense of public law, which stressed in a highly significant way that John Sigismund's possessions belonged to the Holy Crown of Hungary and he was not permitted to alienate them.[48]

The Habsburgs acquired the territory shortly after the Battle of Vienna in 1683. In 1687, the rulers of Transylvania recognized the suzerainty of the Habsburg emperor Leopold I, and the region was officially attached to the Habsburg Empire. The Habsburgs acknowledged Principality of Transylvania as one of the Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen,[49] but the territory of principality was administratively separated[50][51] from Habsburg Hungary[52][53][54] and subjected to the direct rule of the emperor's governors.[55] In 1699 the Ottomans legally acknowledged their loss of Transylvania in the Treaty of Karlowitz; however, some anti-Habsburg elements within the principality submitted to the emperor only in the 1711 Peace of Szatmár, and Habsburg control over Principality of Transylvania was consolidated. The Grand Principality of Transylvania was reintroduced 54 years later in 1765.

The Hungarian revolution against the Habsburgs started in 1848. The revolution in the Kingdom of Hungary grew into a war for the total independence from the Habsburg dynasty. Julius Jacob von Haynau, the leader of the Austrian army was appointed plenipotentiary to restore order in Hungary after the conflict. He ordered the execution of The 13 Hungarian Martyrs of Arad and Prime Minister Batthyány was executed the same day in Pest. After a series of serious Austrian defeats in 1849, the empire came close to the brink of collapse. Thus, the new young emperor Franz Joseph I had to call for Russian help in the name of the Holy Alliance. Czar Nicholas, I answered, and sent 200,000 men strong army with 80,000 auxiliary forces. Finally, the joint army of Russian and Austrian forces defeated the Hungarian forces. After the restoration of Habsburg power, Hungary was placed under martial law. Following the Hungarian Army's surrender at Világos (now Șiria, Romania) in 1849, their revolutionary banners were taken to Russia by the Tsarist troops and were kept there both under the Tsarist and Communist systems (in 1940 the Soviet Union offered the banners to the Horthy government).

After the Ausgleich of 1867, the Principality of Transylvania was once again abolished. The territory then became part of Transleithania,[34][36] an addition to the newly established Austro-Hungarian Empire. Romanian intellectuals issued the Blaj Pronouncement in protest.[56]

The region was the site of an important battle during World War I, which caused the replacement of the German Chief of Staff, temporarily ceased German offensives on all the other fronts and created a unified Central Powers command under the German Kaiser. Following defeat in World War I, Austria-Hungary disintegrated. Elected representatives of the ethnic Romanians from Transylvania, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș backed by the mobilization of Romanian troops, proclaimed Union with Romania on 1 December 1918. The Proclamation of Union of Alba Iulia was adopted by the Deputies of the Romanians from Transylvania and supported one month later by the vote of the Deputies of the Saxons from Transylvania.

The national holiday of Romania, the Great Union Day (also called Unification Day[57]) occurring on December 1, celebrates this event. The holiday was established after the Romanian Revolution, and marks the unification not only of Transylvania but also of the provinces of Banat, Bessarabia and Bukovina with the Romanian Kingdom. These other provinces had all joined with the Kingdom of Romania a few months earlier. In 1920, the Treaty of Trianon established new borders, much of the proclaimed territories became part of Romania. Hungary protested against the new state borders, as they did not follow the real ethnic boundaries, for over 1.3 or 1.6 million Hungarian people, representing 25.5 or 31.6% of the Transylvanian population (depending on statistics used),[58][59] were living on the Romanian side of the border, mainly in the Székely Land of Eastern Transylvania, and along the newly created border.

In August 1940, by the Second Vienna Award, with the arbitration of Germany and Italy, Hungary gained Northern Transylvania (including parts of Crișana and Maramureș) totaling over 40% of the territory lost in 1920. This award did not solve the nationality problem, as over 1.15–1.3 million Romanians (or 48% to more than 50% of the population of the ceded territory) remained in Northern Transylvania while 0.36–0.8 million Hungarians (or 11% to more than 20% of the population) continued to reside in Southern Transylvania.[60] The Second Vienna Award was voided on 12 September 1944 by the Allied Commission through the Armistice Agreement with Romania (Article 19); and the 1947 Treaty of Paris reaffirmed the borders between Romania and Hungary, as originally defined in the Treaty of Trianon, 27 years earlier, thus confirming the return of Northern Transylvania to Romania.[34]

From 1947 to 1989, Transylvania, along with the rest of Romania, was under a communist regime. The ethnic clashes of Târgu Mureș occurred between ethnic Romanians and Hungarians in March 1990 after the fall of the communist regime and became the most notable inter-ethnic incident in the post-communist era.

Geography and ethnography

Turda Gorges seen from the west end, in Cluj county
Geogel, Romanian Orthodox wooden church
Geographical map of Romania

The Transylvanian Plateau, 300 to 500 metres (980–1,640 feet) high, is drained by the Mureș, Someș, Criș, and Olt rivers, as well as other tributaries of the Danube. This core of historical Transylvania roughly corresponds with nine counties of modern Romania. The plateau is almost entirely surrounded by the Eastern, Southern and Romanian Western branches of the Carpathian Mountains. The area includes the Transylvanian Plain. Other areas to the west and north are widely considered part of Transylvania. In common reference, the Western border of Transylvania has come to be identified with the present Romanian-Hungarian border, settled in the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, though geographically the two are not identical.

Ethnographic areas:

Administrative divisions

The area of the historical Voivodeship is 55,146 km2 (21,292 sq mi).[61][62]

The regions granted to Romania in 1920 covered 23 counties including nearly 102,200 km2 (39,460 sq mi) (102,787–103,093 km2 in Hungarian sources and 102,282 km2 in contemporary Romanian documents). Nowadays, due to the several administrative reorganisations, the territory covers 16 counties (Romanian: județ), with an area of 100,290 km2 (38,722 sq mi), in central and northwest Romania.

The 16 counties are: Alba, Arad, Bihor, Bistrița-Năsăud, Brașov, Caraș-Severin, Cluj, Covasna, Harghita, Hunedoara, Maramureș, Mureș, Sălaj, Satu Mare, Sibiu, and Timiș.

Transylvania contains both largely urban counties, such as Brașov and Hunedoara counties, as well as largely rural ones, such as Bistrița-Năsăud and Sălaj counties.[63]

Since 1998, Romania has been divided into eight development regions, acting as divisions that coordinate and implement socio-economic development at regional level. Six counties (Alba, Brașov, Covasna, Harghita, Mureș and Sibiu) form the Centru development region, other six counties (Bihor, Bistrița-Năsăud, Cluj, Maramureș, Satu Mare, Sălaj) form the Nord-Vest development region, while four (Arad, Caraș-Severin, Hunedoara, Timiș) form the Vest development region.


Largest cities of Transylvania, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș historical regions in Romania
"INSSE report" (2016 population by place of residence)
Rank County Pop. Rank County Pop.
1 Timișoara Timiș 331,927 11 Reșița Caraș-Severin 87,864 Brașov
2 Cluj-Napoca Cluj 321,754 12 Alba Iulia Alba 74,212
3 Brașov Brașov 290,283 13 Hunedoara Hunedoara 73,799
4 Oradea Bihor 222,229 14 Deva Hunedoara 70,090
5 Arad Arad 178,462 15 Zalău Sălaj 69,497
6 Sibiu Sibiu 169,480 16 Sfântu Gheorghe Covasna 64,826
7 Târgu Mureș Mureș 149,718 17 Mediaș Sibiu 58,290
8 Baia Mare Maramureș 147,203 18 Turda Cluj 56,985
9 Satu Mare Satu Mare 121,972 19 Lugoj Timiș 47,445
10 Bistrița Bistrița-Năsăud 93,388 20 Sighetu Marmației Maramureș 43,959

Cluj-Napoca, commonly known as Cluj, is the second most populous city in Romania (as of 2011 census), after the national capital Bucharest, and the seat of Cluj County. From 1790 to 1848 and from 1861 to 1867, it was the official capital of the Grand Principality of Transylvania. Brașov is an important tourist destination, being the largest city in a mountain resorts area, and a central location, suitable for exploring Romania, with the distances to several tourist destinations (including the Black Sea resorts, the monasteries in northern Moldavia, and the wooden churches of Maramureș) being similar.

Sibiu is one of the most important cultural centres of Romania and was designated the European Capital of Culture for the year 2007, along with the city of Luxembourg,[64] and it was formerly the centre of the Transylvanian Saxon culture and between 1692 and 1791 and 1849–65 was the capital of the Principality of Transylvania.

Alba Iulia is a city located on the Mureș River in Alba County, and since the High Middle Ages, the city has been the seat of Transylvania's Roman Catholic diocese. Between 1541 and 1690 it was the capital of the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom and the latter Principality of Transylvania. Alba Iulia also has historical importance because at the end of World War I, representatives of the Romanian population of Transylvania gathered in Alba Iulia on 1 December 1918 to proclaim the union of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania. In Transylvania, there are many medieval smaller towns such as Sighișoara, Mediaș, Sebeș, and Bistrița.


Historical population

Ethno-linguistic map of Austria-Hungary, 1910.

Official censuses with information on Transylvania's population have been conducted since the 18th century. On May 1, 1784 the Emperor Joseph II called for the first official census of the Habsburg Empire, including Transylvania. The data was published in 1787, and this census showed only the overall population (1,440,986 inhabitants).[65] Fényes Elek, a 19th-century Hungarian statistician, estimated in 1842 that in the population of Transylvania for the years 1830–1840 the majority were 62.3% Romanians and 23.3% Hungarians.[66]

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the Hungarian population of Transylvania increased from 24.9% in 1869 to 31.6%, as indicated in the 1910 Hungarian census (the majority of the Jewish population reported Hungarian as their primary language, so they were also counted as ethnically Hungarian in the 1910 census). At the same time, the percentage of the Romanian population decreased from 59.0% to 53.8% and the percentage of the German population decreased from 11.9% to 10.7%, for a total population of 5,262,495. Magyarization policies greatly contributed to this shift.[67]

The percentage of the Romanian majority has significantly increased since the declaration of the union of Transylvania with Romania after World War I in 1918. The proportion of Hungarians in Transylvania was in steep decline as more of the region's inhabitants moved into urban areas, where the pressure to assimilate and Romanianize was greater.[59] The expropriation of the estates of Magyar magnates, the distribution of the lands to the Romanian peasants, and the policy of cultural Romanianization that followed the Treaty of Trianon were major causes of friction between Hungary and Romania.[68] Other factors include the emigration of non-Romanian peoples, assimilation and internal migration within Romania (estimates show that between 1945 and 1977, some 630,000 people moved from the Old Kingdom to Transylvania, and 280,000 from Transylvania to the Old Kingdom, most notably to Bucharest).[59]

Current population

According to the results of the 2011 Population Census, the total population of Transylvania was 6,789,250 inhabitants and the ethnic groups were: Romanians – 70.62%, Hungarians – 17.92%, Roma – 3.99%, Ukrainians – 0.63%, Germans – 0.49%, other – 0.77%. Some 378,298 inhabitants (5.58%) have not declared their ethnicity.[69] The ethnic Hungarian population of Transylvania form a majority in the counties of Covasna (73.6%) and Harghita (84.8%). The Hungarians are also numerous in the following counties: Mureș (37.8%), Satu Mare (34.5%), Bihor (25.2%), and Sălaj (23.2%).


Romanian farmers working their land in Maramureș

Transylvania is rich in mineral resources, notably lignite, iron, lead, manganese, gold, copper, natural gas, salt, and sulfur.

There are large iron and steel, chemical, and textile industries. Stock raising, agriculture, wine production and fruit growing are important occupations. Agriculture is widespread in the Transylvanian Plateau, including growing cereals, vegetables, viticulture and breeding cattle, sheep, swine, and poultry. Timber is another valuable resource.

IT, electronics and Automotive industry industries are important in urban and university centers like Cluj-Napoca (Robert Bosch GmbH, Emerson Electric), Timișoara (Alcatel-Lucent, Flextronics and Continental AG), Brașov, Sibiu, Oradea and Arad. The cities of Cluj Napoca and Târgu Mureș are connected with a strong medical tradition, and according to the same classifications top performance hospitals exist there.[70]

Native brands include: Roman of Brașov (trucks and buses), Azomureș of Târgu Mureș (fertilizers), Terapia of Cluj-Napoca (pharmaceuticals), Banca Transilvania of Cluj-Napoca (finance), Romgaz and Transgaz of Mediaș (natural gas), Jidvei of Alba county (alcoholic beverages), Timișoreana of Timișoara (alcoholic beverages) and others.

The Jiu Valley, located in the south of Hunedoara County, has been a major mining area throughout the second half of the 19th century and the 20th century, but many mines were closed down in the years following the collapse of the communist regime, forcing the region to diversify its economy.

During the Second World War, Transylvania (the Southern/Romanian half, as the region was divided during the war) was crucial to the Romanian defense industry. Transylvanian factories built until 1945 over 1,000 warplanes and over 1,000 artillery pieces of all types, among others.[71]


George Coșbuc, Romanian poet, translator, teacher, and journalist, best known for his verses describing, praising and eulogizing rural life

The culture of Transylvania is complex, due to its varied history and multiculturalism. Its culture has been historically linked to both Central Europe and Southeastern Europe; and it has significant Hungarian (see Hungarians in Romania) and German (see Germans of Romania) influences.[72]

With regard to architecture, the Transylvanian Gothic style is preserved to this day in monuments such as the Black Church in Brașov (14th and 15th centuries) and a number of other cathedrals, as well as the Bran Castle in Brașov County (14th century), the Hunyad Castle in Hunedoara (15th century).

Notable writers such as Emil Cioran, Lucian Blaga, George Coșbuc, Ioan Slavici, Octavian Goga, Liviu Rebreanu, Endre Ady, Elek Benedek and Károly Kós were born in Transylvania. Liviu Rebreanu wrote the novel Ion, which introduces the reader to a depiction of the life of Romanian peasants and intellectuals of Transylvania at the turn of the 20th century. Károly Kós was one of the most important writers supporting the movement of Transylvanianism.


Transylvania has a very rich and unique religious history from the other regions of Europe. Since the Protestant Reformation, different Christian denominations have been coexisting in this religious melting pot, including Romanian Orthodox, other Eastern Orthodox, Latin Catholic and Romanian Greek Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Unitarian branches. Other faiths also are present, including Jews and Muslims. Under the Habsburgs, Transylvania served as a place for "religious undesirables". People who arrived in Transylvania included those that did not conform to the Catholic Church and were sent here forcibly, as well as many religious refugees. Transylvania has a long history of religious tolerance. This has been ensured by its religious pluralism. Christianity is the largest religion in Transylvania. Transylvania has also been (and still is) a center for Christian denominations other than Eastern Orthodoxy, the form of Christianity that most Romanians currently follow. As such, there are significant numbers of inhabitants of Transylvania that follow Latin Catholicism and Greek Catholicism, and Protestantism. Even though before 1948, the population of Transylvania split between Eastern Orthodox, Greek Catholic other forms of Christianity, during the Communist Period the Orthodox Church was much more favored by the state which has led to Eastern Orthodoxy being the religion of the majority of Transylvanians.[73][74] UBB, located in Cluj-Napoca is the only university in Europe that has four faculties of theology (Orthodox, Reformed, Roman Catholic, and Greek Catholic).[75]

1930 2011
Denomination Number Percent Number Percent
Eastern Orthodoxy 1,933,589 34.85 4,478,532 65.96
Greek Catholicism 1,385,017 24.96 142,862 2.10
Latin Catholicism 946,100 17.05 632,948 9.32
Mainline Protestantism 1,038,464 18.72 675,107 9.34
Evangelical Protestantism 37,061 0.66 339,472 4.70

There are also small denominations like adventism, Jehovah's Witnesses and more.


  • Nowadays, there is a very small number of Muslims (Islam) and Jews (Judaism), but back in 1930, with 191,877 inhabitants, Jews represented 3.46% of Transylvania's population.[76]
  • Atheists, agnostics and unaffiliated account for 0.27% of Transylvania's population.

Data refers to extended Transylvania (with Banat, Crișana and Maramureș).[77][78]

Tourist attractions

Corvin Castle, Hunedoara (Hungarian: Vajdahunyad, German: Eisenmarkt)
Râșnov Citadel, Râșnov (Hungarian: Barcarozsnyó, German: Rosenau)
Biertan fortified church, Biertan (German: Birthälm, Hungarian: Berethalom)
Bran Castle, Bran (Hungarian: Törcsvár, German: Törzburg)
Turda salt mine
  • Bran Castle, also known as Dracula's Castle
  • The medieval cities of Alba Iulia, Cluj-Napoca (European Youth Capital 2015), Sibiu (European Capital Of Culture in 2007), Târgu Mureș and Sighișoara (UNESCO World Heritage Site and alleged birthplace of Vlad Dracula)
  • The city of Brașov and the nearby Poiana Brașov ski resort
  • The city of Hunedoara with the 14th century Corvin Castle
  • The citadel and the Art Nouveau city centre of Oradea
  • The Densuș Church, the oldest church in Romania that still holds services[79]
  • The Dacian Fortresses of the Orăștie Mountains, including Sarmizegetusa Regia (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • The Roman forts including Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana, Porolissum, Apulum, Potaissa and Drobeta
  • The Red Lake (also known as Lake Ghilcoș)
  • The Turda Gorge natural reserve
  • The Râșnov Citadel in Râșnov
  • The Maramureș region
    • The Merry Cemetery of Săpânța (the only one of that kind in the world)
    • The Wooden Churches (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
    • The cities of Baia Mare and Sighetu Marmației
    • The villages in the Iza, Mara, and Viseu valleys
  • The Saxon fortified churches (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • The Apuseni Mountains:
  • The Rodna Mountains
  • The Salina Turda Salt Mine: according to Business Insider—one of the ten "coolest underground places in the world".

Festivals and events

Film festivals

  • Transilvania International Film Festival, Cluj-Napoca – Romania's biggest film festival
  • Gay Film Nights, Cluj-Napoca
  • Comedy Cluj, Cluj-Napoca
  • Humor Film Festival, Timișoara[81][82]

Music festivals

  • Golden Stag Festival, Brașov
  • Gărâna Jazz Festival, Gărâna
  • Peninsula / Félsziget Festival, Târgu-Mureș
  • Untold Festival, Cluj-Napoca – Romania's biggest music festival
  • Toamna Muzicală Clujeană, Cluj-Napoca
  • Artmania Festival, Sibiu
  • Rockstadt Extreme Fest, Râșnov
  • Electric Castle Festival, Bontida, Cluj-Napoca


  • Sighișoara Medieval Festival, Sighișoara
  • Sibiu International Theatre Festival
  • Festivalul Medieval Cetăți Transilvane Sibiu

Historical coat of arms of Transylvania

Blue, red and yellow shield with an eagle, the sun, moon and seven castle turrets
Transylvanian coat of arms

The first heraldic representations of Transylvania date from the 16th century. The Diet of 1659 codified the representation of the privileged nations (Unio Trium Nationum (Union of the Three Nations)) in Transylvania's coat of arms. It depicted a black eagle (Turul) on a blue background, representing the Hungarians, the Sun and the Moon representing the Székelys, and seven red towers on a yellow background representing the seven fortified cities of the Transylvanian Saxons.[83] The flag and coat of arms of Transylvania were granted by Queen Maria Theresa in 1765, when she established a Grand Principality within the Habsburg monarchy.

In 1596, Levinus Hulsius created a coat of arms for Transylvania, consisting of a shield with a rising eagle in the upper field and seven hills with towers on top in the lower field. He published it in his work "Chronologia", issued in Nuremberg the same year.[84] The seal from 1597 of Sigismund Báthory, Prince of Transylvania, reproduced the new coat of arms with some slight changes: in the upper field the eagle was flanked by a sun and a moon and in the lower field the hills were replaced by simple towers. The coat of arms of Sigismund Báthory beside the coat of arms of the Báthory family, included the Transylvanian, Wallachia and Moldavian coat of arms, he used the title Prince of Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldavia. A short-lived heraldic representation of Transylvania is found on the seal of Michael the Brave. Besides the Wallachian eagle and the Moldavian aurochs, Transylvania is represented by two lions holding a sword standing on seven hills. Hungarian Transylvanian princes used the symbols of the Transylvanian coat of arms usually with the Hungarian coat of arms since the 16th century because Transylvanian princes maintained their claims to the throne of the Kingdom of Hungary.

While neither symbol has official status in present-day Romania, the Transylvanian coat of arms is marshalled within the national Coat of arms of Romania, it was also a component of the Coat of arms of Hungary.

In popular culture

Lugosi as Count Dracula

Following the publication of Emily Gerard's The Land Beyond the Forest (1888), Bram Stoker wrote his gothic horror novel Dracula in 1897, using Transylvania as a setting. With its success, Transylvania became associated in the English- and Spanish-speaking world with vampires. Since then it has been represented in fiction and literature as a land of mystery and magic. For example, in Paulo Coelho's novel The Witch of Portobello, the main character, Sherine Khalil, is described as a Transylvanian orphan with a Romani mother, in an effort to add to the character's exotic mystique. The so-called Transylvanian trilogy of historical novels by Miklós Bánffy, The Writing on the Wall, is an extended treatment of the 19th- and early 20th-century social and political history of the country. Among the first actors to portray Dracula in film was Bela Lugosi, who was born in Lugos (now Lugoj), in present-day Romania. There is also an American animated movie franchise called Hotel Transylvania. The Principality of Transylvania is also a playable nation in Europa Universalis IV.

See also



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Further reading

  • András Bereznay, Erdély történetének atlasza (Historical Atlas of Transylvania), with text and 102 map plates, the first ever historical atlas of Transylvania (Méry Ratio, 2011; ISBN:978-80-89286-45-4)
  • Zoltán Farkas and Judit Sós, Transylvania Guidebook
  • Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water (New York Review of Books Classics, 2005; ISBN:1-59017-166-7). Fermor travelled across Transylvania in the summer of 1934, and wrote about it in this account first published more than 50 years later, in 1986.
  • Pop, Ioan-Aurel; Nägler, Thomas; Magyari, András (2018). The History of Transylvania, vol. I-III. Cluj-Napoca: Romanian Academy, Center for Transylvanian Studies – Romanian Cultural Institute. ISBN 978-606-8694-78-8. 
  • Köpeczi, Béla; Makkai, László; Mócsy, András; Szász, Zoltán (1994) (in en). History of Transylvania. I-III. New Jersey: Atlantic Research and Publications. ISBN 963-05-6703-2. 

External links