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 Territorial and Administrative Changes Within the New Transylvania

The territorial-administrative reorganizations and the constant changing of place names, which the Romanian state carried out between 1925 and 1968 in its province of Transylvania, are extraordinary phenomena, almost unique in the Danubian region. Contrary to international usage, the place names have been changed with every change in political parties and modification in the state structure.1 The Romanianized place names often bear no relation to the original historical (Hungarian or German) place names. The primary reason for changing them has been that the traditional names did not sound Romanian. The new place names are in many instances variations on those of localities in the Old Kingdom, or they are names of noted Romanians.2

The frequent changes in provincial and local administration not only ran counter to the spirit of the historical traditions and patterns but were frequently carried out in a manner detrimental to the national minorities. These changes were part of a latent policy of assimilation and exerted a negative influence on the development of the minorities--on their population, their education and in general on every manifestation of their intellectual, economic, and social life. Every new administrative measure, every new territorial alteration tended to narrow further the rights of the national minorities.


Until 1925, the enlarged Romania which had emerged after World War I retained the old Hungarian units of administration in the areas annexed from the former Magyar kingdom: the system of counties or vármegye,3 which had existed since the time of King Stephen, (970-1038) was continued. Then, in 1925,4 Romania divided its new territory into three provinces: the Banat/Bánság with three counties; Crisana-Maramures/Körösvidék-Máramaros with five counties; and Transylvania proper with fifteen counties. However, the new law also proved to be a turning point in Transylvania's territorial-administrative history in several other respects:

a) The territorial unity of historical Transylvania was violated for the first time when two parishes from the old Bistrita-Nasaud/Beszterce-Naszód County were transferred to Suceava County in the Regat.5

b) The historical names of some of the Transylvanian counties were altered, as well as some of the villages and towns.

c) Some of the ancient county seats were moved to new towns, a measure clearly designed to ensure that wherever possible a majority of the town's population would be Romanian.

d) The most significant change, however, was the new territorial division of the counties. The boundaries of all but two counties (Maramures and Caras-Severin) were redrawn, and again the purpose was primarily to create a relative Romanian majority in as many counties as possible.

The 1925 Public Administration Act and its county division were changed on numerous subsequent occasions, modified in accordance with the interests of the frequently changing governments. The process was finally halted by a new Public Administration Law6 introduced by the royal dictatorship of Carol II on August 14, 1938. This new law divided the country into ten provinces and placed the counties, which by now had lost their significance and even their legal identity, under the authority of the royal governors of the provinces; the law also excluded all forms of self-government. The purpose of this new territorial arrangement was political: to weaken further the role of the national minorities, particularly the Hungarians.7

After the dissolution of Greater Romania in 1940, the provinces were abolished. The fragmented counties which resulted from the new frontiers drawn by the Vienna Award were merged, both by the Hungarian and by the Romanian governments, with the various neighboring counties.



After the Second World War the territory of Northern Transylvania was returned to Romania. The county boundaries of the 1925 Public Administration Act were essentially restored and remained in effect until 1950, with one exception. In 1948 a new constitution abolished Romania's historical provinces8 (to emphasize the unitary character of the country) and divided Romania into new provinces, counties, districts, and parishes. By that time the territory of historical Transylvania had been significantly reduced.9

A new law of the Romanian People's Republic from 5 September 195010 once more abolished the county system and redivided the country, with the Soviet Union as a model, into regions (regiune), districts (raion), villages (comune), and towns, each with its own people's council or soviet. By 1952, however, the number of regions had been reduced to 18,11 and in 1956 they were reduced yet again to 16;12 by 1968 the area, names, and number of districts and their boundaries had again been altered on countless occasions.

The present system of counties came into effect on February 16, 1968, the result of a new territorial-administrative reorganization which divided the territory of Romania into 39 counties (judet), 236 towns and cities, and 2,706 parishes.13 The purpose of the new county network was to improve the position of the ethnic Romanians, so once again historical traditions were completely ignored in drawing up the new boundaries: areas which had been united historically, geographically and ethnographically were dismembered and portions of them attached to faraway county seats with which they had had no previous connection of any sort.14 Of the 39 counties in the new county system, 16 are in Transylvania; thus, of the 22 or 23 old Transylvanian counties, six have been abolished.15 As a result of the various boundary revisions, by 1966 the territory of Transylvania had already been reduced to 99,837 square kilometers.

The Territorial Distribution of the National Minorities

In the territories of present-day Romania, the national minorities -- primarily the ethnic Hungarians and to some extent the ethnic Germans -- have with minor changes remained in their original historical places of settlement; and their territorial distribution to some extent is an indication of their social organization and structure.


One part of the ethnic Hungarian population lives in almost self-contained enclaves; others, while in regions that can still be clearly delineated, are intermingled with the Romanian people or with other national minorities; and there are also scattered groups of Hungarians living in urban areas or beyond the Carpathians, in the territory of the Regat. Approximately 60 percent of the Hungarians still form a connected, compact ethnic group in sizable areas of Transylvania (the Szekler region, Bihor, Satu Mare, Salaj and Cluj Counties); a further 30 percent live in the Transylvanian towns and cities (in certain urban areas they constitute the overwhelming majority of the population) or in their suburban areas, or elsewhere in scattered groups; while a further 8 percent are found beyond the Carpathian Mountains in areas where there are small linguistic islands. Table II-1 shows the distribution of Hungarians in the various regions of Romania as of 1979. The estimated figures are based on indirect calculations and deductions and contradict official government statistics.16

According to the March 15, 1966 census,17 the Hungarians constitute an absolute majority in two of Transylvania's sixteen counties: Harghita and Covasna; they exceed 40 percent in two other counties, 30 percent in one county, 20 percent in two counties, and 10 percent in four counties. To a greater or lesser extent, there are Hungarians in all the 39 counties of Romania.

As a result of resettlements and frontier changes carried out during the Second World War, only part of the second-largest national minority in Romania, the Germans--except in the territory of the Old Kingdom--has been able to stay in their original areas of settlement: in Transylvania there were about 170,000 (47.4%), in the Banat, inclusive Arad, 159,738 (44.5%), Satu Mare 6,482 (1.8%), Maramures about 3,430 (1.0%), Bucovina about 2,200 (0.6%), Bucharest 5,002 (1.4%), and in other areas about 11,880 (3.3%), total 358,732 people.18

The Ukrainian-Ruthenian nationality is the most numerous Slavic group in Transylvania -- 55,000 individuals, most of them living in an almost ethnically pure block in part of Maramures County in Northern Transylvania, an area adjacent to the Soviet Carpatho-Ukraine. The greater share of the Lipovans, who are of Russian nationality (about 32,000 people) as well as the Turkish-Tatar ethnic group was settled in northern Dobrugea. Czech, Bulgarian, Serbian, and CroatKarashovan ethnic groups are to be found in the Banat.




Distribution of Hungarians in the Various Regions in Romania (1979)

Area Hungarian
in Area
% of Total
in Area
Along the Romanian-Hungarian frontier,
including the one-time Partium and the Banat
710,000 31.0
Szekler region, with the Tirgu Mures area 690,000 30.7
The Cluj area together with Mezoseg region,
Kalotaszeg and the Aries (Aranyos), Mures
(Maros) and Somes (Szamos) river valleys
200,000 8.8
The Brasov, Fagaras, Sibiu, and the Jiul Valley area 130,000 5.7
Other Transylvanian urban areas and scattered
300,000 13.5
The Old Kingdom (Regat) 240,000 10.3
Total 2,270,000 100.00

The Romanian Census and the Distribution of the National Minorities

 Determining the exact numbers of the national minority populations in Romania in the period following the annexation of Transylvania is a task fraught with difficulties. Romania was the only European state that failed to conduct a census in accordance with the international regulations after the conclusion of the First World War. Romanian demographic literature, though it often refers to the 1920 demographic register,19 does not recognize it as an official census. The validity of these 1920 data, based largely on estimates, is highly debatable, but nonetheless it offers some guidance as the first population register issued by the Romanian authorities after the First World War. According to the 1920 compilation, the population of the enlarged Romania was about 16.8 to 17.1 million. The distribution of the population is given in Table II-2.

As a result of the war, Romania had more than doubled its territory, but it had not attained a level of economic, cultural, or moral development sufficient to deal with its new tasks, and primarily with the problems of the national minorities. At the time of the annexation it appeared that the minorities would receive the same treatment as the Romanians--that there would be free scope for their ethnic, cultural, economic, and social development; but soon after Romania took over its new territories, hope for equal treatment was dashed by measures such as the 1921 agrarian reform and the restrictions enacted in the sphere of education. That agrarian reform, as well as the general deterioration of economic life, the corruption in the new Romanian administrative system, the general insecurity of the national minorities and the policy of oppression against them all exerted a negative influence on their development.



1920 Population of Romania

 National Group Number Percent
Romanian 11,545,300 71.9
Hungarian 1,463,600 9.1
German 713,600 4.5
Jewish 778,100 4.9
Ukrainian 500,500 3.1
Russian 174,300 1.1
Bulgarian 351,300 2.2
Gypsy 133,000 0.8
Turkish and Tatar 222,400 1.4
Gagaus (Turkish tribe) ------ ------
Slovak 26,900 0.2
Serbian 52,600 0.3
Polish 35,000 0.2
Other 48,700 0.3
Total 16,045,300 100.0

Source: note 19.

As a result of the war, Romania had more than doubled its territory, but it had not attained a level of economic, cultural, or moral development sufficient to deal with its new tasks, and primarily with the problems of the national minorities. At the time of the annexation it appeared that the minorities would receive the same treatment as the Romanians--that there would be free scope for their ethnic, cultural, economic, and social development; but soon after Romania took over its new territories, hope for equal treatment was dashed by measures such as the 1921 agrarian reform and the restrictions enacted in the sphere of education. That agrarian reform, as well as the general deterioration of economic life, the corruption in the new Romanian administrative system, the general insecurity of the national minorities and the policy of oppression against them all exerted a negative influence on their development.



1930 Population of Romania

By Language By National Origin
National Group Number Percent Number Percent
Romanian 13,180,936 73.0 12,981,324 71.9
Hungarian 1,554,525 8.6 1,425,507 7.9
German 760,687 4.2 745,421 4.1
Jewish 518,754 2.9 728,115 4.0
Ruthenian-Ukrainian 641,485 3.6 582,115 3.2
Russian 450,981 2.5 409,150 2.3
Bulgarian 364,373 2.0 366,384 2.0
Turkish, Tatar, Gagaus 288,073 1.6 282,663 1.6
Gypsy 101 ,015 0.6 262,501 1.5
Serbian, Croatian, Slovene 47,724 0.3 51,062 0.3
Other (Czech, Slovak, Polish,
Greek, Armenian, etc.)
148,475 0.7 222,786 1.2
Total 18,057,028 100.0 18,057,028 100.0

Source: note 20.

The first official Romanian census, and at the same time the last one prior to the outbreak of World War II, was conducted in 1930 and provided more reliable data concerning the ethnic and national breakdown of Romania's population.20 The data indicate that of Romania's total population, 28.1 percent, about 5,075,704, were members of national minorities.

This 1930 census showed 18,057,028 inhabitants in the whole of Romania and their distribution according to language and national origin, as given in Table II-3. For Transylvania the 1930 census showed a population of S,549,806 divided according to their language and national origin, as shown in Table II-4.

The classification on the basis of language and national origin merits a closer look. The difference between the mother tongue and the ethnic origin of 129,000 people among the Hungarians, for example, can only be explained by the categorizing itself, false evaluation of mixed marriages or religious affiliation, or the manipulation of the data on individuals. Only in a very small number of cases can it be explained by the adoption of Hungarian as a mother language by ethnic Jews, Germans, Gypsies, and other minorities. In areas with a mixed population, for example, the local authorities and the environment can often play a decisive part in the classifications. For example, in the case of mixed marriages, if the husband was Romanian, the whole family was declared to be Romanian.



1930 Population of Transylvania

By Language By National Origin
National Group Number Percent Number Percent
Romanian 3,233,362 58.2 3,208,804 57.8
Hungarian 1,481,164 26.7 1,355,496 24.4
German 542,068 9.8 545,138 9.8
Jewish 109,868 2.0 178,799 3.2
Gypsy 43,000 0.8 107,202 2.0
Other 140,344 2.5 154,367 2.8
Total 5,549,806 100.0 5,549,806 100.0

Source: note 20.

Nationality data based on religious denominations has proved fairly reliable in the multi-denominational Romania, but it can also be a source of distortion if it is used as a means to manipulate the numerical differences between the majority nation and the national minorities. For example, Romanian censuses in many cases categorized citizens who--like the majority of Romanians--belonged to the Greek Catholic (Uniate) or the Orthodox denominations, but were not of Romanian nationality, as Romanian.

It is interesting to compare two statistical tables of denominations, both dating from the same period. Table II-5 shows the denominational distribution and increase in the Transylvanian population from 1924 to 1933, based on the preliminary data of the 1930 census published in 1934. Table II-6 uses the same source.21 A comparison between the two tables reveals that the numbers of the national minorities' churches, with the exception of the Jewish denomination, are noticeably lower in Table II-6, while the total for the entirely Romanian Eastern Orthodox Church is 200,000 higher than in Table II-5, even though both sets of statistics date from the same period. What is more, one can draw interesting conclusions about the growth of the various nationalities by observing the natural increase within the various religious denominations.



Population of Transylvania in 1934 According to Religion

Average Natural Increase in
Denominations in 1934 Denominations 1924-1933
Number of
of Total
Percent of Increase
Eastern Orthodox 1,932,356 34.8 12,434 27.1 6.4
Greek Catholic
1,385,445 25.0 17,261 37.6 12.5
Roman Catholic 947,351 17.1 5,921 12.9 6.3
Reformed(Calvinist) 696,320 12.6 5,707 12.4 8.2
274,415 4.9 1,840 4.0 6.7
Jewish 192,833 3.5 1,623 3.5 8.4
Unitarian 68,330 1.2 628 1.4 9.2
Other 51 ,313 0.9 467 1.1 9.3
 Total 5,548,363 100.0 45,881 100.0 8.3

In the decade under discussion, the Eastern Orthodox Church, numerically the strongest Romanian Church, to which 60 percent of the Transylvanian Romanians (except for the Ukrainian/Ruthenian ethnic groups) belong, shows the lowest natural rate of growth: only 6.4 per thousand. In contrast, the other major religious group, the Greek Catholic (Uniate) Church, shows the highest natural growth rate; its adherents also included, however, members of other nationalities. The largest rate of increase among the religious denominations was in the Hungarian Unitarian Church (9.2 per thousand); second place went to the Jews (8.4 per thousand); third to the Hungarian Reformed Church (8.2 per thousand); the Roman Catholic Church was in last place (6.3 per thousand), at least in part because this Church included the Swabian population which had a low birthrate.



Population of Transylvania in 1934 According to Religion

Average Natural Increase in
Denominations in 1934 Denominations 1924-1933
Number of
of Total
 Percent of Increase
Per 1,000
Eastern Orthodox 2,156,324 38.9 12,434 27.1 5.7
Greek Catholic
1,219,515 22.0 17,261 37.6 13.5
Roman Catholic 881,377 15.9 5,921 12.9 6.6
670,733 12.1 5,707 12.4 8.3
Jewish 282,706 5.1 1,623 3.5 5.7
266,076 4.8 1,840 4.0 6.8
Unitarian 66,519 1.2 628 1.4 9.2
Other -- -- 467 1.1 --
Total 5,543,250 100.0 45,881 100.00 8.1

The conclusions reached differ, however, from the official statistics, if calculations are made with the 8.8 per thousand ratio for the period between 1920 and 1930. The natural increase in uniformly Hungarian areas, such as 10.3 per thousand in the Szekler region, was higher than the Transylvanian average and considerably higher than the 6.8 per thousand rate in those Transylvanian counties with an overwhelmingly Romanian population. If a comparison of this natural increase is made between and among the various Transylvanian counties between 1920 and 1939, an inverse relationship emerges between the percentage of Romanians in any county and the natural increase: the higher the Romanian population in a geographical area, the lower the average natural increase in that area. (See Table II-7).

Using statistical data, it is difficult to determine the direction of demographic development of the German nationality in this period since there are no suitable data from earlier years to compare with the 1930 figures. The ethnic population of the Banat stagnated as a result of the low birthrate and the amount of emigration;22 on the other hand, a considerable increase can be shown among the German peasantry of Bessarabia.



 The Natural Increase in the Homogeneous Areas in Transylvania, 1920-1939 

Estimated Population
July 1, 1930
Natural Increase per 1,000



Areas Total Romanian Hungarian Other 1920-1929 1930-1939 1920-1939
Counties with
overwhelming Romanian
population: Alba,
Fagaras, Hunedoara
629,067 83.1 11.1 5.8 8.3 5.3 6.8
Over 70 percent
Romanian counties:
Somes, Severin,
Turda, Bistrita
Nasaud, Caras
984,737 75.6 10.6 13.8 7.6 6.4 7.0
Over 60 percent
Romanian counties:
Sibiu, Bihor,
Arad, Cluj
1,451,417 61.9 26.5 11.6 8.3 6.9 7.6
Over 30 percent
Romanian counties:
Satu Mare,
Maramures, Salaj,
Tirnava Mica,
Braaov, Mures,
Tirnava Mare,
2,044,364 49.5 26.9 23.6 9.5 8.5 9.0
Counties with over-
whelming Hungarian
population: Odorhei,
Ciuc, Trei Scaune
410,980 9.7 89.0 1.3 11.0 9.5 10.3
For all of
5,520,565 58.3 26.7 15.0 8.8 7.4 8.1

Source: Recensamantul general al populatiei Romaniei din 29 decemvrie
vol. 11, Bucharest 1938, pp. 1-180.



1948 Population of Romania by Language

National Group Number Percent
Romanian 13,597,613 85.7
Hungarian 1,499,851 9.4
German 343,913 2.2
Russian 39,332 0.2
Ukrainian 37,582 0.2
Serbian, Croatian, Slovene 45.447 0.3
Bulgarian 13,408 0. 1
Czech and Slovak 35,143 0.2
Polish 6,753 --
Jewish 138,795 0.9
Greek 8,696 0.1
Albanian 735 --
Armenian 6,987 --
Turkish-Tatar 28,782 0.2
Gypsy 53,425 0.3
Other 15,639 0.2
lndeterminable 523 --
Total 15,872,624 100.0

Source: note 25.

The period from l920 to 1930 does not show a sufficient demographic perspective to draw basic conclusions about either the natural shift in the ratio between the country's national minorities and its Romanian majority or the changing demographic structure. An analysis of the reliability of official statistics will be discussed later.

The next official census conducted in 1941 did not include the territories of Northern Transylvania, Bessarabia, Northern Bucovina, and Southern Dobrugea -- all taken from Romania early in the war. At the beginning of 1941 the Hungarian authorities conducted a census in Northern Transylvania,23 and in the spring of 1941 the Romanians did the same in Southern Transylvania.24 One categorization used in the Romanian census was that of "ethnic origin"; this was also the last census whose results were published in terms of each locality. Combining the results of both censuses, the population of Transylvania was 5,9l3,305, of which 2,610,000 or 44.1 percent were not Romanian.



1948 Population of Transylvania Classified According to Language

National Group Number
Romanians 3,752,269
Hungarians 1,482,000
Germans 332,066 a
Other 194,792 
Total 5,761,127

a Including 157,105 Transylvanian Saxons, 171,022 Banat Swabians, and 3,939 Szatmá r Swabians.
Source: note 25.

The Second World War brought about radical changes in the composition of the nationality population in Transylvania, as well as in Romania as a whole. The numbers of the three large national minorities--Hungarian, German, and Jewish--were reduced considerably by resettlement and population losses discussed earlier.

The first post-war demographic data on national minorities in Romania were published in the census of January 25, 1948.25 The data are fairly reliable and provide a basis for further calculations, because the events of the war, the resettlements and other large-scale movements connected with the stabilization of the altered frontiers had by then largely come to an end. Furthermore, the old statistical office carried out the calculations. On the other hand, since the 1948 census refers to nationality only in terms of language and the official Romanian statistics in the post-1945 period have not indicated religious denominations, it is difficult to carry out precise evaluations of nationality. The number of those with Yiddish as their mother tongue, for example, does not provide a realistic figure of the Jewish population, a large proportion of whom spoke Hungarian, German, or Romanian as their mother tongue. Similarly, in the post-war period, many Germans did not dare to claim German for their mother tongue, fearing reprisals and forced resettlement.

According to the 1948 census Romania had a population of 15,872,624 broken down in terms of language as shown in Table II-8. Compared with the data of the 1930 census, the 13.5 million Romanian-speakers of l948 were confronted by 2.28 million who spoke the languages of the national minorities. The population of Transylvania in 1948 was 5.76 million -- roughly one-third of Romania's population. The distribution of that population according to language is given in Table II-9, which shows a significant decline in the national minority populations, especially the Germans and the other nationalities, as a result of the war and the territorial annexations.



1956 Population of Romania Classified According

to Language and National Origin

National Origin Language
National Group Number Percent Number Percent
Romanian 14,996,114 85.7 15,080,686 86.2
Hungarian 1,587,675 9.1 1,653,700 9.4
German 384,708 2.2 395,374 2.2
Jewish 146,264 0.8 34,337 0.2
Ukrainian 60,479 0.4 68,252 0.4
South Slav 46,517 0.3 43,057 0.3
Russian 38,731 0.2 45,029 0.3
Tatar 20,469 0.1 20,574 0.1
Turkish 14,329 0.1 14,228 0.1
Bulgarian 12,040 0.1 13,189 0.1
Other 182,124 1.0 121,024 0.7
Total 17,489,450 100.0 17,489,450 100.0

Source: note 26.

The 1948 census data show that the number of Romanians in Transylvania increased after the Second World War to the same extent as the national minorities diminished. Considering the losses suffered in the war, this was largely the result of new settlement. Demographic development from 1910 to 1948 shows that without affecting settlements from the Regat, and excluding war losses, the Romanian population of Transylvania in 1948 could not have been significantly larger than in 1910.



1956 Population of Transylvania Classified According to

National Origin and Language

National Group National Origin Language
Romanian 4,051,603 4,081,080
Hungarian 1,583,631 1,616,199
German 368,255 372,806
Jewish 43,814 9,744
Other 185,009 152,483

Source: note 26.

The census of February 21, 1956,26 which was conducted according to the regions (regiune) of that time, categorized the population as it had been in the 1930 census, according to language and national origin. Table II-10 shows the 1956 population of Romania classified according to both of these categories. And Transylvania, according to the 1956 figures, had a population of over 6 million, broken down as shown in Table II-11.

What is striking about an analysis of the data from 1956 census are both the rapid growth of the Romanian population of Transylvania in comparison with that of the national minorities and the discrepancies between the national origin and mother tongue categories of the minorities.

The next official census conducted March 15, 196627 showed the total population of Romania at 19,103,163, divided according to national origin as shown in Table II-12. According to these figures, the non-Romanian population amounted to 2,356,653 or 12.2 percent. Transylvania, after various parishes were transferred to the Old Kingdom, had a population of 6,719,555, distributed according to ethnic composition as shown in Table II-13.

The periods covered by these censuses, 1948-1956 and 1956-1966, deserve close attention for several reasons. First is the surprisingly large actual increase in the numbers of Transylvanian Romanians from 58.2 percent in 1930 to 68.05 percent in 1966, coupled with a small increase in the national minority population, particularly in the second ten-year period. The sudden weakening in the national minorities' population was the result either of emigration, assimilation, or a statistical bias toward underestimation.


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