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Ethnic Groups in Romania

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The nation of Romania is home to many people, but who are they? In this lesson, we'll talk about the major ethnic groups in Romania and see what ethnicity means to the nation today.

Romania

As you creep over the hills of Central/Eastern Europe, you may hear the howl of wolves as a flash of lightning illuminates ominous castles and you'll know: you've made it to Romania. Romania is not a place to travel lightly, since the majority of the population are vampires. True fact.

Okay, not a true fact. But, even if Romania isn't home to any real vampires, it is home to the world's most famous fictional one. Count Dracula was said to live in Transylvania, a historic region of Romania, and was possibly inspired by tales coming from the area's Bran Castle. As it turns out, Dracula is just one of many things Romania has given the world, but if the Romanian people aren't vampires, then who are they? Let's find out.

Romania
Romania

Romanian Ethnicity

Like most nations in this part of the world, the borders of Romania are meant primarily as the home of the ethnic group after which the country was named. You know what I mean: Italy is home to the Italians, Greece is home of the Greeks, Uzbekistan is home to the Uzbeks, and yes, Romania is home to the Romanians. About 86% of the people in Romania are ethnically Romanian. What does this mean? Well, the Romanian ethnicity is actually somewhat tricky, and draws from a number of sources.

Some scholars claim that the ancestors of Romanians came from southern Europe, south of the Danube River, but this theory is not accepted by all. Others claim their ancestors were indigenous to the Balkans. Either way, Romans entered the region in the late 1st/early 2nd century CE and encountered people they called the Dacians. Rome conquered Dacia in 106 CE, and many Romans married into Dacian populations, creating the general genetic stock of Romanians today.

This history can be seen in the Romanian language. Romanian is a Romance language, one of those to derive from Latin. In fact, Romanian is generally considered to be the most similar spoken language to extinct Latin, and shares a very similar grammatical structure. Within Romanian are Dacian words and remnants as well. Despite the strong influence of Latin, Romanian was not actually written with the Latin alphabet until the 19th century. Before that most Romanians used the Eastern European Cyrillic script.

Although it is closely related to Latin, Romanian was not often written in the Latin alphabet until the 19th century
Romanian

Ethnic Minorities in Romania

As for the non-vampire, non-Romanian citizens of Romania, the majority fall within two ethnic categories. The largest group of ethnic minorities in Romania are Hungarian, or Magyar. About 6.3% of the total population is Hungarian. Romania shares a border with Hungary, and for many decades both were parts of the Ottoman Empire and later the Austro-Hungarian empire.

After the end of WWI, large parts of Hungary were partitioned off. One section was added to Romania, and this region is where most Hungarians in Romania live today. The region is called Szekely Land, the Hungarians who live there belong to a distinct population called Szekelys, and this has been a source of ongoing tension between Romania and Hungary.

The Szekelys were used to operating with a great amount of autonomy throughout history, first in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and even in Romania until the rise of communism in 1968 eliminated ethnic distinctions. In 2012, ethnic Hungarians in Romania began protesting to regain their autonomy, and while the issue has raised tensions between Romania and Hungary, it has thus far been entirely a civil and diplomatic debate.

Flag of Svekely Land
Svekely Land

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