The Transylvanian Peasant Revolt, 1784-1785

A.) Causes for the Rebellion

With the death of Maria Theresia in 1780, Joseph II., Emperor since 1765, really was in charge. He regarded himself an enlightened monarch and impatiently decreed reforms, many of which aimed at the reduction of corvee labour the peasants had to work for the nobility. In most regions, the nobility resisted. In Transylvania, the nobility was largely Hungarian and Roman Catholic or Calvinist, the peasantry largely Vlach (Romanian) and Orthodox. Many of the Transylvanian nobles were comparatively poor; they regarded the services the peasants owed them essential.

B.) The Peasant Revolt of 1784-1785

In October 1784, Transylvanian peasants in the Apuseni region took up arms; the rebellion quickly spread throughout the country.. Under the leadership of Vasile Nicula Urs called Horia (Horea), Ion Oarga called Closca and Giurgiu Marcu called Crisan they turned on noble estates and killed a number of nobles. The peasants' force swelled to 30,000. They did not turn against Habsburg rule; when Habsburg forces appeared on the scene, they disbanded. The leaders were arrested, publicly tortured and executed.
In 1785, serfdom was abolished within the lands of the Hungarian crown.

The Horea-Closca Revolt of 1784--85: Some Observations, from Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict (1983)
Avram Iancu, from Anablandiana

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 1st 2003, last revised on November 19th 2004

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