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Title: Csángó  
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Subject: Finno-Ugric languages, Hungarian language, Chango, Music of Hungary, Bacău County, Kaval, Miercurea Ciuc, Adjud, Zăbala, Great Hungarian Plain
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Ceangăi / Csángó
Total population

1,370 persons declared to be Csangos
(2002 census)[1]
6,471 Hungarians in Moldavia[2]
(4373 in Bacău county, 1992 census)[3]

119,618 persons declared Catholic faith in Bacău County (2002 census) [4]

maximum estimated population of 260,000[5] (Council of Europe report)
Regions with significant populations
Romania (Moldavia), Hungary (Tolna)
Csango, an old dialect of Hungarian;[5][6] Romanian
Roman Catholics (almost exclusively)

The Csango people (Romanian: Ceangăi, Hungarian: Csángók) are a Hungarian ethnographic group of Roman Catholic faith living mostly in the Romanian region of Moldavia, especially in the Bacău County. Their traditional language, Csango, an old Hungarian dialect is still in use, though the larger part of them speak Romanian.


The etymology has been explained by a Hungarian word meaning "which sounds unpleasant", referring to the peculiar sibilating way in which they pronounced certain Hungarian consonants.[7][8][9]

The "Csángó" word only understood by the Hungarian language. It can mean "went to" (from "elcsángált"), or "ring the bell" (from "csángatta a harangot").

History, culture, identity

Middle Age sources

Perugia, 14 November 1234: Pope Gregory IX to Béla IV, king of Hungary

"In the Cuman bishopric - as we were informed - is living a people called Vallah and others, Hungarians and Germans as well, who came here from the Hungarian Kingdom."

Roman, 13 April 1562: Report of the Habsburg Agent, John Belsius, to the Emperor Ferdinand the First

"On the day of the 10th of April, Despot Vodă left Hîrlău (Horlo) to Tîrgul Frumos (Zeplak = Széplak) finally on the 12th to the fortress of Roman (Románváros)" Despot Vodă ordered me to write these: Alexandru Moldoveanul forced all the nations, with no exceptions, to be baptized again and to follow the religion of the Moldavians, taking them away from their own religion, he appointed a bishop of the Saxons and the Hungarians, to rebuild the confiscated churches and to strengthen their souls in their beliefs, and his name is Ian Lusenius, and is Polish."

After 1562: Notes of the Humanist Johann Sommer about Saxons in Moldavia, from his work about the Life of Jacob-Despot, the Ruler of Moldavia

"Despot was unyielding in punishment, especially against the ones who don't respect the sanctity of marriage, -according to the habit of those people-: this habit was copied by the Hungarians and Saxons living here, in this country (Moldavia). He started to build a school in Cotnari, which is mostly inhabited by Hungarians and Saxons."

Iași, 14 January 1587: Bartolomeo Brutti's letter to Annibal de Capua

"These Franciscans are very few and they speak neither German, nor Hungarian, so they can't take spiritual care of these catholics, 15000 in number.

Roman 1588: The First Jesuit Mission in Moldavia: Written by Stanislaw Warszewicki

"In the whole region in 15 towns and in all the neighborhood villages there are Hungarians and Saxons, but most of them don't know how to read, don't even recognize the letters."[10]

(German translation) Chapter 18 par 28 about a Csangos massacre of a few German soldiers

Munich Codex: link

2001 Report of the Council of Europe

For centuries, the self-identity of the Csangos was based on the Roman Catholic religion and the Hungarian language spoken in the family.[5] It is generally accepted by serious scholars (Hungarian but also Romanian) that the Csangos have a Hungarian origin, and that they arrived in Moldavia from the west.[5] Some Romanian authors claim that the Csangos are in fact "magyarised" Romanians from Transylvania. This theory has also to be dismissed; it is not conceivable that these "Romanians" could persist in using a "foreign" language after centuries of living in Romania surrounded by Romanians speaking Romanian.[5] Whatever can be argued about the language of the Csangos there is no doubt that this is a form of Hungarian.[5]

The Council of Europe has expressed its concerns about the situation of the Csángó minority culture,[6] and discussed that the Csángós speak an early form of Hungarian and are associated with ancient traditions, and a great diversity of folk art and culture, which is of exceptional value for Europe. The Council also mentioned that (although not everybody agrees on this number) it is thought that between 60,000 and 70,000 people speak the Csángó language. It has also expressed concerns that despite the provisions of the Romanian law on education, and repeated requests from parents there is no teaching of the Csángó language in the Csángó villages, and, as a consequence, very few Csángós are able to write in their mother tongue. The document also discussed that the Csángós make no political demands, but merely want to be recognized as a distinct culture and demand education and church services in the Csángó language.

At the time of this report's release, the Vatican expressed hope that the Csangos would be able to celebrate Catholic masses in their liturgical language, Csango.[11]

Comments of the government of Romania, dissenting opinion on behalf of the Romanian delegation

The situation of Csango community may be understood by taking into consideration the results of 2002 census. 1,370 persons declared themselves Csango.[1] Most of them live in Bacău County, Romania, and belong to the Roman Catholic Church. During the last years, some statements identified all Catholics in Bacău County (119.618 persons according to 2002 census) as Csango. This identification is rejected by most of them, who did identify themselves as Romanians.[4]

The name Csango appeared relatively recently, being used for the first time, in 1780 by Petru Zold.[12] The name Csango is used to describe two different ethnic groups:

  • those concentrated in the county of Bacǎu (the southern group) and in the area surrounding the city of Roman (the northern group). We know for certain that these people are not Szeklers. They are Romanian in appearance, and the majority of them speak a Transylvanian dialect of Romanian and live according to Romanian traditions and customs. These characteristics suggest that they are Romanians from Transylvania who have joined the Romanian Catholic population of Moldavia.
  • those of Szekler origin, most of whom settled in the valleys of the Trotuş and the Tazlǎu and, to a lesser extent, of the Siret. Their mother tongue is the same as that spoken by the Szeklers, and they live side by side with Romanians.[12]

Hungarian sources

Their music shows the characteristic features of Hungarian music and the words of their songs are mostly Hungarian, with some dialect differences.[13]

The anthem of the Csangos refers to Csango Hungarians multiple times.[14][15]

The Csangos did not take part in the language reforms of the Age of Enlightenment, or the bourgeois transformation that created the modern consciousness of nationhood (cf. Halász 1992, Kósa 1998). They did not have a noble stratum or intelligentsia (cf. Kósa 1981) that could have fashioned their consciousness as Hungarians (Halász 1992: 11). They were "saved" (Kósa 1998: 339) from "assimilation" with the Romanians by virtue of their Roman Catholic religion, which distinguished them from the majority Greek Orthodox society.[16]

Romanian sources

The Csangos, the Roman Catholic inhabitants of the western part of Moldavia, have been the object of numerous disputes between Romanians and Hungarians regarding their origin, their culture, their traditions and the ethnical minority they belong to.[17]

Official Romanian censuses in Moldavia indicate the following:[18]

year Roman Catholics in Moldavia Hungarians in Moldavia
1859 52,881 37,825
1899 88,803 24,276
1930 109,953 23,894
1992 240,038 3,098


Hungarian sources

In 2001 the Romanian authorities banned the teaching of the Hungarian language in private houses in the village of Klézse, despite the recommendation of the Council of Europe.[19] From 1990, parents in Klézse (Cleja), Pusztina (Pustiana) and Lészped (Lespezi) requested several times that their children have the opportunity of learning the Hungarian language at school, either as an optional language, or as their native language, in 1-4 lessons a week. At best their petition was registered, but in most cases it was ignored. Seeing the possibility of organizing Hungarian courses outside school, they gave up the humiliating process of writing requests without results. The MCSMSZ maintains its standpoint according to which the community should claim their legal rights, but the population is not so determined. Leaders of the school inspectorate in Bacău County, as well as the authorities and church, declared at a meeting that they were opposed to the official instruction of Hungarian in Csángó villages. In their opinion the Csángós are of Romanian origin, and sporadic requests for teaching Hungarian at schools reflect not a real parental demand, but Hungarian nationalist ambitions.[20]

In the village of Arini (Magyarfalu in Hungarian) the village mayor and the Romanian-only teachers of the state school, filed a complaint with the local police about the "unlawful teaching activities" of Gergely Csoma. Csoma teaches Hungarian as an extracurricular activity to the children of Arini. Following the complaint, the local police started what Csango activists have described as an intimidation campaign among the mothers of those children who are studying their maternal language with the said teacher.[21]

In 2008 members of the European Parliament sent a petition to the European Commission regarding the obstruction of Hungarian language education and the alleged intimidation of Csango-Hungarian pupils in Valea Mare (Nagypatak).[22] The leader of the High Commission on Minority Affairs responded to the petition of László Tőkés MEP in a written notice that they would warn Romania to secure education in the mother tongue for the Csangos of Moldavia.[22]

Romanian sources

The idea of turning Romanian communities from Moldavia into servants of Hungarians, Poles, Germans, Austrians, Italians has been pursued by convincing Romanians from Moldavia to become Catholics. The only ones who realized the danger were the local people who persistently resisted this switching their ethnic identity into Magyars. From 1225 to 1925 numerous missionaries from western countries have been sent here to preach Catholicism and in addition making the newly converted people embrace Magyar language and nation.[17]

The natives were forced to subject to the will of the missionaries in order to avoid conflicts with the authorities who had political understandings which were more important than the well- being of the Christians.[17]

In these schools, teachers specially trained in Magyar language have been brought and they were paid according to the presence of their students in classes because they didn’t have anyone to teach. These teachers have been repeatedly banned from the communities they visited, the villagers manifesting a very hostile attitude towards the missionaries, telling them: "Go home, we are Romanians!" [17]

The official Romanian point of view changed in 2006, when President Băsescu condemned communism during a joint session of the Romanian Parliament and called it an illegitimate and barbaric regime. According to him, his intention is not a witch-hunt, but to discover the truth and to ask for a historical apology from the victims. Therefore President Basescu has established a presidential committee for analyzing the Romanian communist dictatorship, which consists of leading Romanian historians and personalities. This committee has prepared a 700 page document, which analyzes the atrocities, the oppressiveness, the collectivization of the regime and its negative effect on the economy and society. The document describes the situation of the ethnic minorities during the communist regime. On page 536 3 paragraphs describe the forced assimilation of the Csangos in Moldova and the responsibility of the Catholic Church.

"The assimilation policy of the communist regime had fatal effect on the Csango community in Moldova, which counts a population of appr. 60,000, and lives in the counties of Bacău and Neamț. The first attempts of the forced assimilation of the Csangos in Moldova date back to the time between the two world wars, in which process a significant role was played by the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church in order to protect itself from the forced integration with the Orthodox church tried not to prevent the assimilation of the Csangos. Therefore, they did not provide education and religious services in Hungarian for the Csangos.

The Csango anthem

The Csango anthem:[14][15][23][24]

Hungarian Lyrics

English Translation

Csángó magyar, csángó magyar,
Mivé lettél, csángó magyar.
Ágról szakadt madár vagy te,
Elvettetve, elfeledve.

Csángo Hungarian, csángó Hungarian,
What did you become, Csángó Hungarian.
You are a bird fallen down from the tree
Abandoned, forgotten.

Én Istenem mi lesz velünk?
Gyermekeink, s mi elveszünk!
Melyet apáink őriztek,
Elpusztítják szép nyelvünket!

Oh My God, what will happen with us?
Our children and us will lost!
What was kept by our fathers,
They are killing our language!

Egy pusztába telepedtél,
Melyet országnak neveztél
De se országod, se hazád,
Csak az Úristen gondol rád.

You settled down on a steppe,
that you called homeland.
But you don't have country, no home,
Only the God takes care of you!

Halljuk, áll még Magyarország,
Úristenünk, te is megáldd!
Hogy rajtunk könyörüljenek,
Elveszni ne engedjenek.

We hear Hungary is still standing,
Lord of us, you too bless it
to be compassionate to us,
not to let us lost.

Idegen nyelv bébortja nyom,
Olasz papocskák nyakadon.
Nem tudsz énekelni, gyónni,
Anyád nyelvén imádkozni.

You're oppressed by foreign language
Italian priests stand on your neck
you're unable to sing or confess,
pray in your mother tongue.

Mert mi is magyarok vagyunk,
Még Ázsiából szakadtunk.
Úristen, sorsunkon segíts,
Csángó magyart el ne veszítsd!

Because we are also Hungarians,
Already split from Asia.
Our God, help our destiny,
Don’t let the Csángó Hungarian be lost.


It is difficult to estimate the exact number of the Csángó because of the elusive nature and multiple factors (ethnicity, religion and language) of Csángó identity.

As far as ethnic identification is concerned, in the census of 2002, 4,317 declared themselves Hungarians and 796 declared themselves Csángó in Bacău County, reaching a total of 5,794 out of the county's total population of 706,623. The report of the Council of Europe estimates a Csango population ranging from 20,000 to as many as 260,000 (the total Catholic population in the area).[5]

In terms of religious affiliation, the total number of Roman Catholics in Moldavia is 236,564 (2002 census),[25] but only 43% of these live in settlements where Hungarian is spoken. As far as language use is concerned, the Council of Europe gives estimates that put the total number of Hungarian-speaking Csángó people between 60,000 and 70,000.[6]

Art and culture


External links

  • Homepage of the Hungarian Csángós
  • "Dumitru Mărtinaş" Roman-Catholic Association
  • Association of Csángó-Hungarians in Moldova
  • Ceangaii, the Roman Catholic from Moldova
  • Council of Europe Recommendation 1521 (2001) on the Csango minority culture in Romania
  • Song of the Csangos — National Geographic Magazine
  • (Romanian) Fundaţia culturală Siret
  • (Romanian) Comunitatile catolice din Moldova
  • Romanians Roman-Catholics Museum (csángó museum)

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