[Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Index] [HMK Home] Lajos Kazar: Facts against fiction

In 1568, for the first time in Europe, freedom of religion was legislated on at the national assembly of Torda, Transylvania, Hungary.


The aim of this small documentary book is to initiate a discussion which will, hopefully, clarify which camp of the encyclopedias presents the early history of Transylvania correctly and which may be in error. At stake is the provision of reliable information as is expected of all encyclopedias.

Since 1920, the year in which that portion of the Peace Treaty of Versailles which concerned Hungary was signed in the Trianon Palace, people interested in history, especially European history, have witnessed a strange confrontation among the writers of encyclopedia articles dealing with the early history of Transylvania which area had been allotted by the Great Entente Powers of WWI to the Kingdom of Rumania. For a while after 1920 almost all encyclopedias persevered with the traditional description as presented by the non-Rumanian encyclopedias until 1920. Then gradually a slow change began to take place, which became momentous after 1947, the year in which, as a result of WWII, the Paris Peace Treaty restituted the whole of Transylvania to Rumania.

In the 1888 Edinburgh printing of the Encyclopedia Britannica we find, with respect to the composition of Transylvania's population, the following relevant sentence:

,,.... by far the most numerous element, though long excluded from power and political equality, is formed by the Walachians or Romanians, 1,146,611 in number, a mixed race, not entitled to the descent which they claim from the early Roman colonists of Dacia,, (emphasis added).

At this juncture some preliminary explanation is called for. The 1893 Americanized Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago) has the same statement. The 1895 edition offers a long article under the entry ,,VLACHS" (which ethnic name has variants like Wallachian, Walachian and Wallack). There we read, inter alia:

,,Vlach, otherwise written Wallack, is a general name for all the members of the Latin-speaking race inhabiting eastern Europe,,(....) ,,the name is of foreign origin, the native Vlachs continuing to this day to call themselves 'Rumeni', 'Romeni' or even 'Romani'; and it is from the native pronunciation of the Roman name that we have the equivalent expression Rouman, a word which must by no means be confined to that part of the Vlach race inhabiting the present kingdom of Roumania."

After an explanation of the distribution of the Vlachs north of the Danube and south of it as far down as Greek Thessaly, Macedonia and some areas of Serbia and Bulgaria, we read:

,,The centre of gravity of the Vlach or Rouman race is at present unquestionably north of the Danube, and corresponds roughly to the limits of Trajan's Dacian province. From this circumstance the popular idea has arisen that the race itself represents the descendants of the Romanized population of Trajan's Dacia which was assumed to have maintained an unbroken existence in Walachia, Transylvania, &c., beneath the dominion of a succession of invaders" (emphasis added).

The popular idea mentioned above has grown into the now fairly well popularized Daco-Roman theory, ardently promoted by the reign of the late Nicolae Ceausescu, which is at the bottom of the Rumanians' historically based claim to Transylvania and surrounding areas.

After the formation of the said popular idea, there arose a long series of scientific discussions on its origin and consequences, for it implied, among other things, that the Wallachians of the Pindus area (in Greece) and in other southern regions of the Balkan Peninsula had migrated south from the present centre of the Wallachian race. As will be seen later on, the historical, archaeological and linguistic evidence makes that proposal questionable.

The said popular idea and its manifold shoots have influenced a number of encyclopedias. To illustrate, we now quote (in translation) from the West German Meyers Grosses Taschenlexikon (1981):

,,Since the beginning of the 10th century, there (i.e., on the soil of what is now known as Transylvania) arose small principalities of the autochthonous Rumanian population which, from the early 11th century on, succumbed to the Magyars/Hungarians. magyars, Transylvanian Saxons (since approx. 1150) and the Order of the Teutonic Knights (between 1211 and 1225 in Burzenland) were settled there...."

It is not specified when the ,,autochthonous Rumanian population" (,,einheimische rumänische Bevölkerun"G) had lived in the area in question. However, the 1889 edition of Meyers Konversations-Lexikon already stated the following (in translation):

,,The remnants of the Daco-Romans, the Rumanians or Wallachians, who had stayed behind particularly in the mountains, received later, since the 12th and 13th centuries, reinforcements by means of large groups of newcomers from among their tribal relations then living south of the Danube."

It is well known from Roman history that around 270 A.D., but by 275 at the latest, on the command of Emperor Aurelian, the entire population and military planted in Provincia Dacia had been withdrawn and settled south of the Danube in what later became Bulgaria. In abandoned Provincia Dacia all dwellings, public buildings, aqueducts, bridges, mines etc. had to be destroyed lest they be used by the Goths who had made their irruptions for decades.

Meyers Konversations-Lexikon asserts that ,,remnants of the Daco-Romans, the Rumanians or Wallachians,,, i.e., a population which is said to have arisen from the intermarriage of the defeated Dacians and the victorious Romans, stayed behind. Meyers Grosses Taschenlexikon seems to build on that assertion; moreover, it must have assumed that those ,,remnants" flourished over the centuries and had, by the early 10th century, their own ,,small principalities".

As we have seen, in the 1880's and 1890's the Encyclopedia Britannica firmly denied the claim of the Rumanians living in the Kingdom of Rumania, and in that eastern part of the Kingdom of Hungary which is now generally referred to as Transylvania, that they could rightfully call themselves the descendants of the ,,early Roman colonists of Dacia,,. The conflict in this regard between the Encyclopedia Britannica and the other two named sources is quite evident. One may well ask: were the Rumanians in 1981 more entitled to roman, or Daco-roman, descent than back in 1888?

Were there any relevant historical, archaeological, linguistic or other scientific discoveries made prior to 1889 which would have supported the quoted categorical statement of Meyers Konversations-Lexikon of that year? Or did the writer of the quoted article rely on the popular idea so facile and so conducive to build theories on?

The diametrically opposing views presented by the named British and German encyclopedias foreshadow the controversy surrounding the so called Daco-roman theory.

In the present book, a random sampling of encyclopedias (as they could be received in and into Australia) has been presented from the point of view of their description or other treatment of the early history of Transylvania.

A marking has been effected according to the acceptance or rejection or ignoring of the Daco-roman theory before and after 1920. Relevant sentences or sections have been quoted -- in English translation, where necessary -- from each encyclopedia treating of the early History of Transylvania (non-treatment is also noted). For the benefit of non-specialists some explanatory remarks have been added. Also, a listing of works, by no means exhaustive, scrutinizing the Daco-roman theory has been incorporated, with emphasis on those which have been found by recent scholarship to have essentially withstood criticism over the years. Some quotes and/or extracts have been provided.

In order to throw the spotlight on the conflicting views and to allow the reader to form his or her judgment on the validity of the Daco-roman theory on the basis of which official Rumania claims historical right to Transylvania, even to further large portions of the once very extensive Dacian and roman empires in and outside of the Carpathian Basin, we presented a series of questions for consideration, questions which hitherto have not been clearly put to, and answered by, a number of writers of articles on Transylvania and/or Rumania.

Surely now, after the collapse of dictatorial regimes in Hungary, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, East Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, and following the disintegration of the Soviet Russian and Yugoslavian conglomerates, the time has arrived, especially in Europe, for a thorough revision of the historiographies of a number of areas. To allow questionable notions to be printed in encyclopedias without due warning as to their validity would be unforgivable from the point of view of intellectual honesty. To contribute even by default, to the deprivation of millions of people of their basic individual and ethnic rights on the ground of questionable historical claims after the collapse of regimes which have kept those people in abject servitude for many decades would be just as unforgivable.

The question ,,Wallachian/Rumanian homeland since 70 B.C.?" in the title of this book refers to the fact that in 1980, when The 15th International Congress on Historical Sciences was held in Bucharest, at the behest of its ,,high Patron", his Excellency Nicolae Ceausescu, the President of the Socialist Republic of Romania,,, President of the Academy of Sciences (Academia Republicii Socialiste Romania), extraordinary propaganda activity was exerted throughout the world to disseminate the news that the year 1980 marked the 2,050th anniversary of the birth of Rumanian statehood on the soil of Transylvania. That birth of statehood is said to have been the beginning of the reign of the Dacian king Burebista (?70-44 B.C.). Many people wondered why back in 1930 no mention whatever had been made of the surely more momentous 2,000th anniversary? (The relevant reproductions are from a leaflet containing the program of The 15th International Congress on Historical Sciences.)

Dr. Lajos Kazár

Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University. G.P.O. Box 4. Canberra, A.C.T. 2601. Australia

 [Table of Contents] [Previous] [Next] [Index] [HMK Home] Lajos Kazar: Facts against fiction