The history of the Csángós

Moldavian Csángó Hungarians were first mentioned in historical sources in the thirteenth century. According to today’s generally held view, they came from the Carpathian Basin to their present place of living to guard the eastern frontiers of the medieval Hungarian kingdom. In the fifteenth century, Hussite heretics from South Hungary took refuge here from the inquisition. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wars and epidemics made the number of the Csángós decrease considerably, and it started to increase again only from the second half of the eighteenth century, when Szeklers immigrated to Moldavia in greater and greater number after the massacre in Mádéfalva (Siculeni) in 1764. This was the time when Gyimes, the so far uninhabited pass of the Eastern Carpathians became peopled.

The Csángó Hungarians in Gyimes and mostly in Moldavia are a community that have lived separated from the motherland and as a minority for centuries. Among people with different language and religion, their culture became isolated and thus – and also because of the Turkish reign in Moldavia until 1861 – conserved. Therefore, they still have many features of traditional, pre-industrial societies.

Today only a fragment of the circa 250,000 Moldavian Csángó Hungarians speak Hungarian, about 60,000 people. However, they cannot use their mother tongue in administration, school and church.

Not having an intellectual class, a real political interest group or any other independent institutions, Moldavian Hungarians are defenceless against globalisation, modern nationalism and economic recession in Eastern Europe.

At the beginning of the new millennium – due to Hungarian foreign political efforts – the international public follows the difficulties of the Moldavian Csángó Hungarians as well as their cultural values with special attention.

On 23 May 2001 the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe unanimously accepted the report of Finnish rapporteur Tytti Isohookana Asunmaa (Csango minority culture in Romania, Doc. 9078 4 May 2001). This report says: “Csangos 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.”

On 6 June 2001, the committee gave voice to its worries about the situation of the Csángó minority in Romania again.

On 9 October 2001, during his visit in the Vatican, Hungarian president Mádl Ferenc gave thanks to the Apostolic Holy See for their role in achieving that the Council of Europe officially declared the language of the Csángós Hungarian language. The President was informed by the Vatican that they had made steps in order to have the consequences drawn and to make the practice of religion in Hungarian possible.

In September 2002 – after nearly fifty years – Hungarian could be taught as a school subject (as a chosen foreign language) in two Moldavian Csángó villages, Klézse (Cleja) and Pusztina (Pustiana).

Since February 1 2012, the supervision and management of the Csángó Educational Program has been carried out by the Hungarian Teacher’s Association of Romania. The Hungarian Government ensures the basic operation of the program with the assistance of the State Secretariat for National Policy and the Bethlen Gábor Alapkezelő Zrt. The Csángó Educational Program, supervised by Hungarian Teacher’s Association of Romania, is attended by about 2.000 children at 29 locations with the help of 44 teachers. The educational program is also supported by NGOs in close cooperation with the Hungarian Teacher’s Association of Romania. Connected to the programme were established the Godparents for the Moldavian Csángó Hungarians Association and the Foundation for the Moldavian Hungarian Education, both functioning in Hungary. The aim of the organizations is to improve the teaching conditions of Hungarian language and to make the Csángó culture more widely known to Hungarians living in Hungary and abroad.

László Sólyom, President of the Republic of Hungary, during his visit to the Vatican on 6 November 2006, received a private hearing to Pope Benedict, where they had a conversation about Hungarians beyond the border among others. During his meeting with the State Secretary of the Holy See the President of the Republic of Hungary proposed a legal solution for the Csángó Hungarians in Moldova to be able to celebrate their mass in Hungarian.

In October 2009, it was a historic event in Moldova: Petru Gherghel, Roman Catholic bishop of Moldova and Ferenc Cserháti, assistant bishop of Esztergom kept the mass together at Lábnyik. This unprecedented ceremony was the closing record of the Csángó Conference organized by László Teleki Foundation. The Csángó Hungarians have been asking the Bishopric at Jászvásár since 1990 to allow the Hungarian mass to be held. A request from a group from Pusztina reached even the Vatican, but they have got only a promise so far. At the ceremony, Bishop Petru Gherghel encouraged the believers to pray to the Lord in their mother tongue.

Organizations and grants

The Moldavian Csángó Hungarians Association is the largest interest organization of the Moldavian Hungarians. In the past 27 years, the NGOs established in Moldova (Szeret-Klézse Foundation, Association for Külsőrekecsin, Főnix Association, Association for Pusztina House) represent mainly local interests. In 2010 was formed the Moldavian Csángó Council in which all Moldavian organizations are represented and the Hungarian Teacher’s Association of Romania as well.

In the open tender system of Bethlen Gábor Alapkezelő Zrt. all Moldavian Hungarian organizations have the opportunity to apply for their programs.

In 2016, the Hungarian Government decided about a cross-border nursery development programme. From the amount available for Transylvanian developments, also benefit the Csángós.

The case of Csángó Hungarians at international level

In the past 27 years, the problems of the Csángó Hungarians have already crossed the Hungarian and Romanian borders, as in the meantime the European minority protection institutions have also noticed this particular ethnic, linguistic, cultural and denominational community.

On 23 May 2001 in Istanbul, the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted the Finnish rapporteur Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa’s report about the Csángós and made his recommendation for Romania at 9 points. The recommendation stated that in accordance with the Romanian Constitution and the Education Act should be provided the education in the mother tongue and also the possibility that in Csángó villages the Roman Catholic ceremonies to be held in the Csángó language, and to be allowed to sing their religious songs in their own language.

The traditional Csángó culture, based on the archaic Hungarian language, is the responsibility of the citizens of the European Union, besides the citizens of Transylvania and the mother country, as the ancient Hungarian language spoken by this community and the traditional culture represent a European cultural value.