The Peoples of Transylvania

The Peoples of Transylvania


The races embrace Hungarians, Szeklers, Flemish, Saxons, Germans, Wallachs, Armenians, Bulgarians, Servians, Russians, Italians, Greeks, Jews, and Czigány or Gypsies. The Saxons have still the manners of the fatherland. There are few marriages of affection. Divorce may be had on the smallest pretence. The language is Low German. The Ugri or Hungarians have been confounded with the Turkish tribe, called Uighurs. Ugorien probably means "high land," from Ostiak, ugor, "high."

The Magyars are of the Asiatic type; the eye is large and flashing, eyebrows large and bushy, moustache thick, teeth large and white, complexion often tanned with the sun. They are strong and well-proportioned. Some of the finest men are found among the lower orders. They are more polished than the Szeklers, are patriotic, hospitable, benevolent, possess much national pride, and take little interest in industrial pursuits, but are great politicians. The women age quickly. The Szeklers occupied the province as early as the eleventh century. Their identity with the Huns is doubtful. The name is from Magyar, szék, "seat," hely, "place". They are of medium stature, and more closely knit than the Magyar. The cranium is flat, face mostly oval, nose small and curved, mouth small, lips slightly raised, chin rounded, eyes fine and flashing, complexion somewhat tawny, hair usually black, but in the highlands sometimes fair. They are energetic, and enduring, and make good soldiers. They are of a sanguine temper, independent, sober, thrifty, hospitable, unostentatious, and more enthusiastic than the Magyar. They are neat and cleanly in their persons and home. Beggary is a rarity. The lower orders are somewhat sensual, obstinate, and ambitious. The people speak Hungarian, but have a broader accent than the Magyars. They seldom speak German; but are generally acquainted with the Wallachian. They are either Calvinists or Unitarians.

More than half the peoples of Transylvania are Wallachs. They are most numerous in the central and western districts. The race is brachycephalic, and approaches the Vendic type. The cranium is greater than that of any of the Austrian races, except the Slavonians, Magyars, and Czigány. Most of the Wallachs are dark; but some are fair. They are great horse and cattle dealers, and are engaged in agriculture, and as drivers of the public conveyances. Their dwellings often swarm with vermin. They are superstitious, idle, and improvident, have little regard for law or authority, are great thieves and cowards, have a mania for incendiarism, and are prolific; they all wear woollen trousers and sandals. About Naszod they are of the better sort, well dressed, and the women are pretty. They are of the Greek or united Greek Church. The base of their language is Latin; it contains many words from Greek, Slavonic, Turkish, and German; it is now the fashion to disuse words not derived from Latin, and to introduce others from French, Italian, and Spanish, which the peasants do not understand. Some Wallachs speak German.

There are three Armenian towns. Great part of the trade is in the hands of Armenians and Greeks. The Armenians first came from Moldavia into Transylvania in 1672; others arrived at a later period. They are of middle size, some are rather stout; the eyes, hair, etc., are dark; the ladies are handsome, and make good housewives. The Armenians are a quiet, civil, hospitable people, scarcely troubling themselves about anything but trade. Though sharp in business, they are honest, and are much liked by the Magyars, with whom they often intermarry, but not with the Saxons. They speak both Magyar and German. At Számos Ujvar, where they have a church, they converse in Armenian. Their dress, manners, habits are the same as those of the Hungarians; they were originally of the Greek church, but are now nearly all Roman Catholics. According to some, the Jews arrived in Transylvania towards the end of the first century; there was a later influx at the taking of Constantinople. They dwell in and near market towns, and in villages among the Wallachs, are of the Rabbinite sect, and now enjoy full political rights and religious liberty. In external appearance the race peculiarity is unchanged; there have been no intermarriages. They acquire the Magyar, and when speaking it, it is scarcely possible to detect any difference between their pronunciation and that of the Magyars; it is otherwise when speaking German.

The Czigány entered Transylvania in 1420, and probably had their name from the Persian zangi, an Egyptian, Ethiopian, Moor, Negro. They are very dark and of middle stature, but there are many fine men; they are capable of enduring any amount of cold or heat, and live to an advanced age. The most common diseases are measles, smallpox, and weakness of the eyes, occasioned by the smoke of their dwellings. They are fond of carrion, and are very dirty. They are found in all the markets. Some are carpenters, turners, pan-makers, or horse-dealers; others wash gold from the rivers. Their most usual occupation is working in iron; they are skilful farriers and blacksmiths, and better field labourers than the Wallachs.

In no part of Europe is the gypsy language better preserved; here it maintains its grammatical peculiarities; this is accounted for by the fact that here they have not been persecuted, but have been allowed to herd together. It has many words from the Turkish, Wallachian, Magyar, Slavonic, German, Latin, and Greek; its vocabulary differs much from other gypsy dialects. Many gypsies also speak the Wallachian, and they are generally acquainted with the language, and conform to the religion of the district; their real religion is a mixture of fatalism and fetishism. In government returns they are set down as Christians. The located gypsies are generally honest, and the females virtuous. Some are skilled in music: they place a violin in their children's hands at an early age, and keep them in constant practice; they do not play from notes, nor perform many tunes, but execute with great perfection, and are generally led by a Hungarian. The musicians are looked upon as the gypsy nobility. The gypsies sometimes intermarry with the Wallachs. They have a sort of regular government, rather nominal than real; their chiefs are distinguished by the Slavonian title, Voyvode.

Journal of the Anthropological Society of London, 1869.

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