The notion of Transylvania was internationalized from the Latin ‘trans sylvania’, meaning the territories beyond the forests. It was used to denote the area between the Carpathian chain of mountains, with ever shifting borders in different historical times. The Romanian name Ardeal and the respective Hungarian one Erdély, stands for the same geoghraphical concept. Only the German definition Siebenbürgen differs, indicating the seven Saxon forts, which were erected at the beginning of the 12th century.
The diversity of ethnic, cultural and religious groups in Transylvania is due to its complex history and many occupations. First, it was an autonomous region called Dacia, then it was incorporated within the great Roman Empire. When the latter dissolved, many migrant populations inhabited the area until it was again included within a larger construct, the Kingdom of Hungary. In the Ottoman times it had an individual status as Principality of Transylvania, but had to pay vassal fee, until it was annexed to the Habsburg Empire. At first it was under the direct jurisdiction of the empire, only namely attached to the Kingdom of Hungary, but in 1867 became an integral part of the Austrain-Hungarian Empire. After the 1st World War, with the Treaty of Trianon (1920) Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and Transylvania was attached to Romania. Apart from the interwar years of the 2nd World War, when Transylvania was rejoined to Hungary, the area beyond the forest, belonged and belongs to Romania.
Transylvania therefore is home to historical epochs of people’s cultures where kings, princes, artists, men of science, priests, different ethnic and religious groups lived and created. Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons, Jews and Armenians built forts and churches in Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Secessionist styles, fashioned art and crafts, unique folk music, -dance and –garments, and left the mores of living together with Nature behind.
Today, the percentage of minorities has radically decreased, especially with the Saxon mass-migration in the communist times and the Jewish Holocaust. The two most significant ethnic groups (besides the majority Romanians) are the Hungarians and the Roma population. Its multifaceted personality however, remains intact, since the influences of each nation in part linger obvious in the architecture and urban landscape of many parts of Transylvania. The heritage is invaluable and perpetual in time.
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