Northern Transylvania

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Romania in 1940 with Northern Transylvania highlighted in yellow
Romania's territorial losses in the summer of 1940
Demonstration in Bucharest's Palace Square celebrating Northern Transylvania's return, March 1945

Northern Transylvania is a region of Transylvania, with an area of 43,591 km2 (16,831 sq mi),[1] situated within the territory of Romania. The population is largely composed of both ethnic Romanians and Hungarians; and the region contains some major Romanian cities such as Cluj-Napoca, Oradea, Târgu Mureș, Baia Mare and Satu Mare.

The region has a varied history. It has become part of Romania since 1918 (officially since 1920), but between 1940 and 1944 it has been annexed to Hungary, by the Second Vienna Award.On March 19, 1944, following the occupation of Hungary by the Nazi Germany army through Operation Margarethe, Northern Transylvania came under German military occupation. After King Michael's Coup, Romania left the Axis and joined the Allies, and, as such, fought together with the Soviet army against Nazi Germany, regaining Northern Transylvania. 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 Treaty of Trianon, 27 years earlier, thus confirming the return of Northern Transylvania to Romania.


Miklós Horthy's entrance in Satu Mare in the autumn of 1940

Prior to World War I, Transylvania had been a semi-independent principality (Principality of Transylvania) under Ottoman sovereignty, a province (Principality/Grand Principality of Transylvania) of the Habsburg Monarchy/Austrian Empire, and part of the Kingdom of Hungary within the Austro-Hungarian Empire (from 1867 to 1918). The dual monarchy dissolved after the war. In December 1918, Transylvanian political organizations of ethnic Romanians and ethnic Hungarians each expressed loyalty to their respective homelands. The treaties of Saint-Germain (1919) and Trianon (1920) reflected the victory of the Allied Powers, granting Transylvania to Romania.

In June 1940, after Romania was forced (as a consequence of Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact) to settle a claim to Soviet Union over Bessarabian and Bukovinian territories, Hungary attempted to regain Transylvania, which it had lost in World War I. Germany and Italy pressured both Hungary and Romania to resolve the situation in a bilateral agreement. The two delegation met in Turnu Severin but the negotiations failed due to a demand for a 60,000 square kilometres territory on Hungarian side and only a population exchange on Romanian side. To impede a Hungarian-Romanian war in their "hinterland", the Axis powers pressured both governments to accept their arbitration: the Second Vienna Award.

Historian Keith Hitchins (Hitchins 1994) summarizes the situation created by the award:

Far from settling matters, the Vienna Award had exacerbated relations between Romania and Hungary. It did not solve the nationality problem by separating all Magyars from all Romanians. Some 1,150,000 to 1,300,000 Romanians, or 48 per cent to over 50 per cent of the population of the ceded territory, depending upon whose statistics are used, remained north of the new frontier, while about 500,000 Magyars (other Hungarian estimates go as high as 800,000, Romanian as low as 363,000) continued to reside in the south.

Population of Northern Transylvania, as per 1930 Romanian census:[2]

Ethnic map
County Population Romanians Hungarians Germans Jews Others
Bihor (only the ceded part) 305,548 136,351 130,127 2,101 20,420 16,549
Ciuc 145,806 20,976 120,627 439 2,383 1,381
Cluj (only the ceded part) 256,651 141,607 85,284 2,669 16,057 11,034
Maramureș 161,575 93,207 11,174 3,239 33,828 20,127
Mureș (only the ceded part) 269,738 115,773 121,282 11,271 9,848 11,564
Năsăud 145,574 103,897 7,488 21,211 6,450 6,528
Odorhei (only the ceded part) 121,984 5,430 112,375 454 1,250 2,475
Sălaj 343,347 192,821 107,662 16,010 13,380 13,474
Satu Mare 294,875 178,523 74,191 9,530 23,967 8,664
Someș 219,355 169,942 33,870 351 10,546 4,646
Trei Scaune (only the ceded part) 127,769 17,505 105,834 760 707 2,963
Târnava Mică and Târnava Mare (only the ceded parts) 2,931 401 1,642 659 49 180
Total Northern Transylvania 2,395,153 1,176,433 911,556 68,694 138,885 99,585
Procente 100 % 49,11 % 38,05 % 2,86 % 5,79 % 4,15 %

Before the arbitration, in 1940, according to the Romanian estimates, in Northern Transylvania there were 1,304,903 Romanians (50,2%) and 978,074 (37,1%) Hungarians.[2] One year later, after the arbitration, according to the Hungarian census, the population of Northern Transylvania has dissimilar ratios, it counted 53.5% Hungarians and 39.1% Romanians.[3] Hungary held Northern Transylvania from 1940 to 1944. Ethnic disturbances between Hungarians and Romanians continued during this period, with some Hungarians pursuing discrimination, harassment, or extreme violence against Romanians (see Treznea massacre, Ip massacre).

Like Jews living in Hungary, most of the Jews in Northern Transylvania (about 150,000) were sent to concentration camps during World War II, a move that was facilitated by local military and civilians. Some of the Romanian population in this region fled or was expelled, and the same happened with many Hungarians in Southern Transylvania. There was a mass exodus; over 100,000 people on both sides of the ethnic and political borders relocated.

The Second Vienna Award was voided by the Allied Commission through the Armistice Agreement with Romania (September 12, 1944) whose Article 19 stipulated the following: "The Allied Governments regard the decision of the Vienna award regarding Transylvania as and void and are agreed that Transylvania the greater part thereof) should be returned to Romania, subject to confirmation at the peace settlement, and the Soviet Government agrees that Soviet forces shall take part for this purpose in joint military operations with Romania against Germany and Hungary."

This came after King Michael's Coup following which Romania left the Axis and joined the Allies. Thus, the Romanian army fought Nazi Germany and its allies in Romania, regaining Northern Transylvania, and further on, in German occupied Hungary and Czechoslovakia (e.g. Budapest Offensive & Siege of Budapest and Prague Offensive).

The 1947 Treaty of Paris reaffirmed the borders between Romania and Hungary, as originally defined in Treaty of Trianon, 27 years earlier.


Countyside landscape, Sălaj County

Northern Transylvania is a diverse region, both in terms of landscape and population. It contains both largely rural areas (such as Bistrița-Năsăud County [4]) as well as major cities, notably Cluj-Napoca, the second largest Romanian city. Centers of Hungarian culture, such as Miercurea Ciuc and Sfântu Gheorghe, are also part of the region. An important tourist destination is Maramureș County, an area known for its beautiful rural scenery, local small woodwork, including wooden churches, its craftwork industry, and its original rural architecture.

See also


  1. The Holocaust in Northern Transylvania
  2. 2.0 2.1 Charles Upson Clark (1941). Racial Aspects of Romania's Case. Caxton Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Károly Kocsis, Eszter Kocsisné Hodosi, Ethnic Geography of the Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Basin, Simon Publications LLC, 1998, p. 116 [1]

External links

  • Hitchins, Keith (1994), Romania: 1866-1947, Oxford History of Modern Europe, Oxford University Press<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  • Map