History of Transylvania - Historic Encyclopedia Entries

Meyer 1902-1909

Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1902-1909, Article : Siebenbürgen (excerpts)
         Herodotus names the Agathyrses as the oldest inhabitants of the country; later the state of the Dacians emerged. On the ruins of the latter Emperor Traianus 101-107 A.D. established the Roman province Dacia (see there, and under Decebalus). Already in 275 Dacia came under the rule of the Goths, then of the Huns, in 452 under the rule of the Gepids, and finally under the Avars. When the Magyars invaded, the thinly populated land was without a master. The kings of the Arpad Dynasty occupied and colonized it in longer periods of time, at first Stephan I., then Ladislaus I., who settled the Szekely as "border guards" in the country's eastern marches. But only the German colonists called into the country by Geza II. (1141-1161), "Saxons" and "Flandrians", settled the northeastern corner, the valleys of both Kokels, and the southern regions, where Hermannstadt, and later Kronstadt, flourished. The Saxons, the privileges of whom were confirmed by Andreas II. (in the Andreanum), under their own Comes (Saxon Count), together with the Magyars and the Szekely, formed the three nations, the Magyars and Szekely were ruled by the Vajda (Voivod, stadholder of the king), the Saxons by the Gespan. The Romanians, who immigrated under Anfreas II., maintained the status of rightless serfs. In 1427, and then in 1459 the three nations allied to protect their mutual liberties. In the meantime, Turkish raids began, which were courageously repelled by Voivod Johannes Hunyadi (1440-1442) and by the generals of Matthias Corvinus (1479). After the Battle of Mohacs Transylvania swore allegiance to its Voivod Johannes Zapolya as its prince, who, under the suzerainty of Sultan Suleiman II. separated Transylvania from Hungary. After the death of Johann (1540) the treaty of Grosswardein (1538) aiming at the union of both countries became obsolete. Only now the guardian of Johann Siegmund, who was still a minor, Martinuzzi (see there) with the collaboration of the estates, on the diets of Torda (1542 and 1544) organized Transylvania as a national principality. In the year 1551 Martinuzzi, caused by the greediness of the Turks, handed over the country to Ferdinand I. of Hungary, who soon after had himk murdered, in consequence of which the Estates in 1556 recalled Johann Siegmund and his mother Isabella from Poland. Under his rule (1556-1571) the Lutheran, Reformed and Unitarian Confession were codified and given equal recognition; Sabbatians and Anabaptists were not tolerated. For the moment the country was spared religious persecutions. Transylvania only had to pay a tribute of 10,000 golden Florins annually. From 1571 to 1576 Stephan Bathori ruled, who then was elected King of Poland. He was followed by his brother Christoph, and in 1581 by Siegmund Bathori (see there), under whom the "Turkish and Jesuit Era" set in. Despite the extinction of opposition within the Estates, leaning on Emperor and King Rudolf was an unsuccessful policy, as it caused revenge raids by Turks and Tatars, and interimistic even the rule-by-force of the Vlach Voivods Michael and Radul. After the fourth and final resignation of Sigismund, Transylvania again came under the control of the Imperial general Basta, whose reign of terror in 1604 was ended by Stephen Bocskai. Elected prince of Transylvania, Bocskai coerced Emperor Rudolf to sign the Treaty of Vienna (1606), which ceded the so-called Partes (parts) and three Upper Hungarian Comitats to Transylvania. He was succeeded by Siegmund Rakoczi and Gabriel Bathori (1608-1613). After the assassination of the latter, Transylvania under Gabriel Bethlen (1613-1629) and Georg Rakoczi I. (1629-1648) experienced its zenith. In alliance with the German Protestant princes, with France and Sweden, both princes, from the east, shatterede the position of power of the Habsburg Dynasty, and enlarged their territory in the Treaties of Nikolsburg (1621) and Linz (1645) by the acquisition of 7 Upper Hungarian Comitats, also theu secured Hungary its constitution and freedom of religion. With Georg Rakoczi II (1648-1660) difficult times returned to Transylvania. The princes who were appointed or elected after the deposition of Georg by the Sultan (Rhedei, Barcsai, Kemeny) were not able to establish roots, and under Michael Apafi (1661-1691) Transylvania declined. In consequence of the reconquest of Ofen and the liberation of Hungary the Principality of Transylvania lost its support (see Teleki I.) Based on the Treaty of Blasendorf (1687) it was occupied by Imperial troops. The temporary success of Thököly, who had been elected Prince of Transylvania by the estates, caused Leopold I. in the Diploma Leopoldinum 1691 to recognize the constitution and privileges of the three nations. Transylvania was not reintegrated into Hungary, but as a separate crownland entrusted to a gubernium (later the Transylvanian chancellery in Vienna). The son of Apafi, Michael II., already in 1697 had to renounce his claim. In 1703 a part of Transylvania swore loyalty to Franz Rakoczi II., but already in 1708 was forced into submission by General Rabutin. In 1765 Maria Theresia elevated Transylvania to a Grand Principality. Joseph II. abolished the privileges of the three nations, and by his too hasty reforms he caused the rebellion of the Vlach serfs under Hora and Kloska (1784), to which several thousand nobles fell victim. Leopold II. restored the old order. Under Franz I, and Ferdinand V. here too the Estates demanded Liberal reforms, the Magyars and Szekely under Nicholas Wesselenyi (see there) demanded the union with Hungary, while the Saxons opposed the latter. At the begin of the 1848 movement the Klausenburg Diet on May 30th opted for the union, which was proclaimed in the Hungarian basic laws sanctioned by Ferdinand V. on April 11th. When the Romanians lead by Bishop Schaguna failed to achieve their recognition as the fourth nation (of Transylvania), and when the commander of Transylvania, General Puchner, on the basis of the Imperial rescript of October 3rd 1848 renounced his obedience to the Hungarian cabinet Battyany, the race war broke out in Transylvania. The Vlachs, under the leadership of advocate Jan kn took up arms to support the Imperial forces and to annihilate the Magyars (bloodbath of Zalatna), and already at the end of 1848 almost all of Transylvania was submitted to Austrian rule by Puchner and Corps leader Urban. But Bem succeeded to reconquer the larger part of Transylvania for Hungary. But when Russian troops under Lüders invaded in February 1849, Bem had to retreat into the Banat in front of overwhelming forces. The Imperial constitution of March 4th 1849 again separated Transylvania from Hungary and given the status of crown land, but at the end of 1849 by decree lost the historic autonomy of its three nations. In 1851 the Transylvanian Military Frontier was dissolved and her districts placed under civilian rule. By the patent of October 20th 1860 a new era began also for Transylvania; first, the country's old constitution and the Transylvanian chancellery were restored, In 1863 the diet convened in Hermannstadt, elected according to a new law. It decided to recognize the February constitution and to send a delegation to the Austrian Reichsrat. But under Belcredi in 1865 the old electoral law was restored, which assured the Magyars and Szekely the majority, who now opted for the union with Hungary. By Imperial rescript of February 17th 1867 this union was implemented, the Transylvanian chancellery abolished, and in June the Transylvanian diet dissolved. Transylvania was integrated into the motherland and since is represented in the Hungarian diet by 75 delegates. At the same time the administration was reorganized. On January 1st 1868 the supreme court in Klausenburg was abolished, the land partitioned in 15 comitats, the autonomy of Saxon royal soil was abolished, 40,000 Romanians were made co-owners of the Saxon national treasury. Since the Magyars attempt to magyarize the country by the introduction of the Magyar language in office and writing; namely the traditional Saxon particular law step by step was abolished. In recent times the Romanians attempt to energetically resist Magyarization, which caused the Hungarian government since the resignation of Banffy to take a milder stand toward the Saxons. The cabinets Szell and Khuen-Hedervary found the Saxons on the benches of the governing party. During the struggle of parliament against Fejervary they remained neutral; after the appointment of the cabinet Wekerle (in April 1906) they joined the Constitution Party which supported the government. They continued in their support despite disapproving the elementary school law which threatend the autonomy of their schools. But the Romanians fought the last-mentioned law; the Romanians in 1906 for the first time had the right to vote. Their importance grows because of increasing numbers and material progress. The position of the Szekely is worst, which results strong immigration of the latter to Romania.
source in German, posted by Zeno


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First posted on March 14th 2009

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