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Total population
(est. 500,000 – 700,000)[1][2][3]
(532 of them declared themselves as Székelys at the 2011 Romanian census)[4])
Regions with significant populations
Romania (mostly in the counties of Harghita, Covasna and parts of Mureş), southern Hungary and the rest of the world
Predominantly Roman Catholic, with Hungarian Reformed and Unitarian minorities
Related ethnic groups
Hungarians, other Ugric peoples

The Székelys (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈseːkɛj]), sometimes also referred to as Szeklers (Hungarian: székelyek, Romanian: Secui, German: Szekler, Latin: Siculi), are a subgroup[5][6] of the Hungarian people living mostly in the Székely Land. A significant population descending from the Székelys of Bukovina lives in Tolna and Baranya counties in Hungary and in certain districts of Vojvodina, Serbia. In 1952 the former province of Mureş (with the highest concentration of Székely population) was legally designated as the Hungarian Autonomous Region. It was superseded in 1960 by the Mureş-Hungarian Autonomous Region, itself divided in 1968 into three non-autonomous districts, Harghita, Covasna and Mureş.[7]

In the Middle Ages, the Székelys, along with the Transylvanian Saxons, played a key role in the defense of the Kingdom of Hungary against the Ottomans[8] in their posture as guards of the eastern border. With the Treaty of Trianon of 1920, Transylvania (including the Székely Land) became part of Romania, and the Székely population was a target of Romanianization efforts.[9] In post-Cold War Romania, where the Székelys form roughly a half of the ethnic Hungarian population, members of the group have been among the most vocal of Hungarians seeking an autonomous Hungarian region in Transylvania.[10] They were estimated to number about 860,000 in the 1970s and are officially recognized as a distinct minority group by the Romanian government.[7] However, the Romanian government does not recognize the existence of a Székely Land.[citation needed]

Today's Székely Land roughly corresponds to the Romanian counties of Harghita, Covasna and central and eastern Mureş. Based on the official 2011 Romanian census, 1,227,623[11] ethnic Hungarians live in Romania, mostly in the region of Transylvania making 19.6% of the population of this region. Of these, 609,033 (according to the 2011 Romanian Census) live in the counties of Harghita, Covasna and Mureş, which taken together have a Hungarian majority (58%).[12] The Hungarians in Székely Land therefore account for half (49.41%) of the Hungarians in Romania. When given the choice on the 2011 Romanian census between ethnically identifying as Székely or as Hungarian, the overwhelming majority of the Székelys chose the latter - only 532 persons declared themselves as ethnic Székely.[4]


II. Budapest Székely Ball

The Székelys derive their name from a Hungarian expression meaning "frontier guards".[7] The Székely territories came under the leadership of the Count of the Székelys (Latin: Comes Siculorum), initially a royal appointee from the non-Székely Hungarian nobility who was de facto a margrave; from the 15th century onward, the voivodes of Transylvania held the office themselves. The Székelys were considered a distinct ethnic group (natio Siculica)[13] and formed part of the Unio Trium Nationum ("Union of Three Nations"), a coalition of three Transylvanian Estates, the other two "nations" being the (also predominantly Hungarian) nobility and the Saxon (that is, ethnic German) burghers. These three groups ruled Transylvania from 1438 onward, usually in harmony though sometimes in conflict with one another. During the Long War, the Székelys formed an alliance with Prince Michael the Brave of Wallachia against the army of Andrew Cardinal Báthory, recently appointed Prince of Transylvania.


The origin of the Székelys has been much debated. It is now generally accepted that they are descendants of Hungarians (or of Magyarized Turkic peoples) transplanted to the eastern Carpathians to guard the frontier, their name meaning simply "frontier guards".[7] The Székelys have historically claimed descent from Attila's Huns[7] (repeated in Procopius's De bello Gothico),[7] and believed they played a special role in shaping Hungary. Ancient legends recount that a contingent of Huns remained in Transylvania, later allying with the main Hungarian army that conquered the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century. The thirteenth-century chronicler Simon of Kéza also claimed that the Székely people descended from Huns who lived in mountainous lands prior to the Hungarian conquest.[14]

After the theory of Hunnic descent lost scholarly currency in the 20th century two substantial ideas emerged about Székely ancestry:[15]

  • Some scholars suggested that the Székelys were simply Magyars,[15] like other Hungarians, transplanted in the Middle Ages to guard the frontiers. Researches could not prove that Szeklers spoke a different language.[15] In this case, their strong cultural differences from other Hungarians stem from centuries of relative isolation in the mountains.
  • Others suggested Turkic origin as Avar, Kabar or Esegel-Bulgar ancestries.[15]

Some historians have dated the Székely presence in the Eastern Carpathians as early as the 5th century,[15] and found historical evidence that the Székelys were part of the Avar[10] confederation during the so-called Dark Ages, but this does not mean that they were ethnically Avar.

Researches indicate that Székelys undoubtedly spoke in Hungarian.[16] Toponyms at the Székely settlement area also give proof of their Hungarian mother tongue.[16] The Székely dialect does not have more Bulgaro-Turkish loan-words derived from before the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin than standard Hungarian does.[16] Even if the Székelys had been a Turkic stock they had to lose their original vernacular at a very early date.[16]

Székely people in the Kingdom of Hungary


The Székely live mainly in Harghita, Covasna and Mureş counties. They identify themselves as Hungarians, but they maintain a somewhat distinct ethnic identity from other Hungarians.[17] Hungarians form a majority of the population in the counties of Covasna and Harghita.

County Hungarians % of county population
Harghita 257,707 84.62%
Covasna 150.468 73.74%
Mureş 200,858 38.09%

The Székelys of Bukovina, today settled mostly in Vojvodina and southern Hungary, form a culturally separate group with its own history.[citation needed]


Székely pottery (stove tile)

An autonomous Székely region existed between 1952 and 1968. First created as the Magyar Autonomous Region in 1952, it was renamed the Mureş-Magyar Autonomous Region in 1960. Ever since the abolition of the Mureş-Magyar Autonomous Region by the Ceauşescu regime in 1968, some of the Székely have pressed for their autonomy to be restored. Several proposals have been discussed within the Székely Hungarian community and by the Romanian majority. One of the Székely autonomy initiatives is based on the model of the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia.[18] A major peaceful demonstration was held in 2006 in favor of autonomy.[19] Since 2013 thousands of ethnic Hungarians march for autonomy every year on March 10 in Targu Mures, Romania. [20] March 10 is the anniversary of the execution in Targu Mures in 1854 of three Szeklers who tried to achieve national self-determination.[21]

Demonstration for the Autonomy of Székely Land - 2013, Budapest


Áron Tamási, a 20th-century Székely writer from Lupeni, wrote many novels about the Székely which set universal stories of love and self-individuation against the backdrop of Székely village culture. Other Székely writers include the folklorist Elek Benedek, the novelist József Nyírő, the television and film writer Louis Székely and the poet Sándor Kányádi.[citation needed]


The Székely Sun and Moon
Flag of Székely National Council, one of the main political organizations of the Székelys[22]

The Sun and Moon are the symbols of the Székely, and are used in the coat of arms of Transylvania and on the Romanian national coat of arms. The Sun and the Moon, the symbols of the cosmic word, are known from Hungarian grave findings from the period of the Hungarian conquest.[23] After the Hungarians became Christians in the 11th century, the importance of these icons became purely visual and symbolic. The Székelys have succeeded in preserving traditions to an extent unusual even in Central and Eastern Europe. A description of the Székely Land and its traditions was written between 1859–1868 by Balázs Orbán in his Description of the Székely Land.

Image gallery

See also


  1. Archivum Ottomanicum, Volume 20, Mouton, 2002, original from: the University of Michigan, p. 66, Cited: "A few tens of years ago the Szekler population was estimated at more than 800.000, but now they are probably ca. 500.000 in number."
  2. Piotr Eberhardt. Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-century Central-Eastern ... Retrieved 2013-11-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Judit Tóth and Endre Sík, "Joining and EU: integration of Hungary or the Hungarians?" In: Willfried Spohn, Anna Triandafyllidou, Europeanisation, National Identities and Migration: Changes in Boundary Constructions between Western and Eastern Europe, Psychology Press, 2012, p. 228
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Nota metodologica" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Ramet, Sabrina P. (1992). Protestantism and politics in eastern Europe and Russia: the communist and postcommunist eras. 3. Duke University Press. p. 160. ISBN 9780822312413. ...the Szekler community, now regarded as a subgroup of the Hungarian people.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Sherrill Stroschein, Ethnic Struggle, Coexistence, and Democratization in Eastern Europe, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 210 Cited: "Székely, a Hungarian sub-group that is concentrated in the mountainous Hungarian enclave"
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 "Szekler people". Encyclopædia Britannica.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Piotr Eberhardt. Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth-century Central-Eastern Europe. M. E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY and London, England, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7656-0665-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Ramet, Sabrina P. (1997). "The Hungarians of Transylvania". Whose Democracy?: Nationalism, Religion, and the Doctrine of Collective Rights in Post-1989 Eastern Europe. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 67–69. ISBN 978-0-8476-8324-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Székely". Columbia Encyclopedia. 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Romanian Population census of 2011 (Romanian)  – recensamant 2002 --> rezultate --> 4. POPULATIA DUPA ETNIE
  12. "CESCH- Recensamant Populatie 2011 CV Hr". 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2013-11-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "The Székelys in Transylvania". Retrieved 2013-11-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Kevin Brook: Jews of Khazaria, Rowman & Littlefield Publisher, UK, 2006, page 170 [1]
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Cathy O’Grady, Zoltán Kántor and Daniela Tarnovschi, Hungarians of Romania, In: Panayote Dimitras (editor) Center for Documentation and Information on Minorities in Europe — Southeast Europe (CEDIME-SE) MINORITIES IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE, Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center, 2001, p. 5
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Makkai 2001, pp. 415-416.
  17. Stroschein, Sherrill (2012). The Realm of St Stephen. London: Cambridge University Press. p. 77. ISBN 1-107-00524-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. (Romanian) României îi este aplicabil modelul de autonomie al Cataloniei (The Catalan autonomy model is applicable in Romania), Gândul, 27 May 2006
  19. "HUNSOR ~ Hungarian Swedish Online Resources". Retrieved 2013-11-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Global post". MTI. Retrieved 2014-03-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "All Hungary Media Group". Retrieved 2014-03-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "The symbols of Szekler National Council | SZNC - Szekler National Council". Retrieved 2013-11-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. András Róna-Tas, Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History, Central European University Press, 1999, p. 366


  • Makkai, László (2001). Transylvania in the medieval Hungarian kingdom (896-1526), In: Béla Köpeczi, HISTORY OF TRANSYLVANIA Volume I. From the Beginnings to 1606, Columbia University Press, New York, 2001, ISBN 0880334797

External links