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Introducing Székely Land

Technically it’s wrong to call this central patch of Transylvania on the eastern realms of the Carpathians ‘Hungarian Transylvania’, but going around much of Székely Land (Ţara Secuilor in Romanian, Székelyföld in Hungarian) it can feel that way. It’s so near to Saxon towns Braşov and Sighişoara, yet the spirit of many towns – such as Odorheiu Secuiesc (Székelyudvarhely in Hungarian) and Miercurea Ciuc (Csíkszereda in Hungarian), where ethnic Hungarians comprise the majority, or the even-split of Târgu Mureş (Marosvásárhely in Hungarian) – feels almost foreign.

The area is home to many Székelys, ethnic Hungarians who live and communicate almost exclusively in their Hungarian dialect. A level of tension still exists between Romanians and Hungarians, who battled each other during WWI and WWII, and mention of Székely Land or ethnic Hungarians not learning the Romanian language in some parts of Romania will bring out verbal editorials; as does any notion of Romania’s treatment of the Hungarians in the 20th century. In Târgu Mureş’ main Orthodox church you can see a peasant Jesus dressed in Romanian costume being tortured by nobility in Hungarian costumes. Statues of Romulus and Remus stress Romania’s Latin roots, purposefully placed during communist times to undermine the Hungarians’ claim. Things haven’t entirely settled, as one Hungarian-Romanian noted: 'I tell my son he's Romanian, as am I, but when a Transylvanian person hears my accent, I'm immediately treated as something less than a full-blooded Romanian.'