1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Transylvania

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23667841911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 27 — Transylvania

Transylvania[1] (Lat. Transsilvania; Ger. Siebenbürgen; Hung. Erdély; Rumanian, Ardeal), a former principality (Grossfürstentum) occupying the extreme eastern portion of the kingdom of Hungary. It is bounded by Hungary proper on the W. and N., by Bukovina on the N.E. and by Rumania on the E. and S., and has an area of about 21,000 sq. m.

Transylvania has the form of an irregular circle, and is a high plateau of a mean altitude of 1000–1600 ft. above sea-level, surrounded on all sides by mountains. These are known under the general name of Transylvanian Mountains (q.v.), which are the south-eastern continuation of the Carpathian system, and fill the interior of the country with their ramifications. On the west or Hungarian side there are comparatively easy passes into the interior, but on the east and south frontiers the lofty mountains give Transylvania the aspect of a huge natural fortress. Among the highest peaks are Negoi (8345 ft.), Bucsecs (8230 ft.), Pietrosu (7544 ft.) and Königstein (7352 ft.). There are numerous valleys, ravines and cañons in the network of mountains covering the interior of the country. The principal plains are: in the valley of the Szamos near Dés and Besztercze (Bistritz); in the middle course of the Maros the beautiful Hátszeg valley; the fertile Cibin valley around Nagy-Szeben; the valley of the Aluta near Csik-Szereda, and the one extending from Reps to the Roteturm pass; and lastly the beautiful and fertile Burzenland in the vicinity of Brassó. The altitude of the valleys generally increases towards the east of Transylvania, the lowest depression being found in the western part of the Maros valley. Almost in the centre of the country lies a fertile plain about 60 m. in length and 50 m. in breadth, called Mezöség or the Transylvania plain. The principal rivers of Transylvania, which are either tributaries of the Theiss, or flow direct into the Danube, are: the Maros, which rises in the mountains forming the eastern wall of Transylvania, and taking first a northern course flows through the country from east to west; its principal affluents are the Görgeny, the Great and Little Kokel or Nagy and Kis Kuküllö, the gtrell (Sztrigi) and the Cserna on the left, and on the right the Ampoly and the Aranyos, which is rich in auriferous sediments. The Aluta (Alt or Olt) rises not far from the Maros, but takes a southerly direction and pierces the Carpathians at the Roteturm pass, to enter Rumania; its principal tributaries in Transylvania are the Vargyas, the Homorod, the Cibin and the Burzen. The Szamos, formed by the junction of the Great (Nagy) and Little (Kis) Szamos, whose principal affluent is the Bistritz; the Zsil or Jiul; and the White and the Swift Körös are the other principal rivers. The largest lake of Transylvania is the Czeger or Hodosser See, 13 m. long, situated near Szamos-Ujvar, while a great number of small but beautiful mountain lakes are found. The climate of Transylvania is healthy; hot summers alternate with very cold winters, but the rainfall is not great. Transylvania abounds in mineral springs of all kinds, especially saline and chalybeate, the principal ones being found at Borszek, Elöpatak, Homorod, Rodna, Tusnád and Zaizon.

The principal occupations of the inhabitants are agriculture, cattle-rearing and mining. Of the total area of Transylvania 22.6% is arable land; 16.5% meadows and gardens; 9.5% pastures and 0.5% vineyards; while 37.3% is covered by forests and 13.5% is unproductive soil. The vegetation of Transylvania is luxuriant, except of course in the higher mountain zones. Fruits abound, as apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, chestnuts and almonds; mulberries are also cultivated. The vine flourishes best in the valley of the Maros. The chief crop is maize; but wheat, rye and other grains, potatoes, saffron, hemp, flax and tobacco are also grown. On the boundary mountains the trees are mainly coniferous; in the interior oaks, elms, beeches and ashes are conspicuous.

Bears, wolves, foxes, boars and various varieties of game are found, and on some of the mountains the chamois. There is abundant pasturage on which excellent cattle are reared; and in some districts buffaloes are bred for draught purposes. More important is the breeding of a sturdy race of horses, thousands of which are annually exported. The mountains maintain large flocks of sheep, of which two kinds are distinguished—with a fine short-stapled and a coarse long-stapled wool respectively. Silkworms are bred, and some silk is spun; and the export of honey and wax is not inconsiderable. Transylvania possesses the richest gold mines in Europe, and this metal is also “washed” in some of the streams, chiefly by gipsies. The gold is often found in conjunction with tellurium (first discovered in Transylvania in 1782) and is extracted principally at Nagyág, Kapnik-Bánya, Zalatna and Vöröspatak. In 1900 the value of the gold extracted was £300,000. Silver, copper, lead and iron are worked to some profit, while arsenic, alum, graphite, marble, porcelain, precious and building stones are also found. Coal is mined in the valley of the Zsil, but the abundance of timber has retarded its exploitation. Some of the saline springs yield salt enough to render their evaporation profitable. The principal places where salt is extracted are at Maros-Ujvár, Dés-Akna, Kolozs, Torda and Vizakna. In 1900 the value of the mineral products, except salt, was £1,000,000.

The industry of Transylvania, although not very developed, made some progress during the last quarter of the 19th century, and is mostly in the hands of the “Saxons.” The principal branches are brewing, distilling, flour-milling, sugar, leather, paper, petroleum-refineries, cloth and earthen wares. The production of linen from flax and hemp is a home industry throughout Transylvania. The commerce is fairly active, and is mainly in cattle, dairy products, wood and wooden articles, and petroleum.

The population in 1900 numbered 2,456,838. Until 1848 the chief influence and privileges, as well as the only political rights, were divided among the three “privileged nations” of the Hungarians, Szeklers and Saxons. The first are the descendants of the Magyar conquerors. The Szeklers are of disputed origin, but closely akin to the Magyars (see Szeklers). The Saxons are the posterity of the German immigrants brought by King Geza II. (1141-1161) from Flanders and the lower Rhine to cultivate and repeople his desolated territories. At first these were known as Teutones, Teutonici Hospites and Flandrenses, but since the beginning of the 13th century the general name of “Saxons,” as tantamount to “Germans,” has prevailed. They are generally the most advanced section of the population. Their literary language is High German, but their spoken language is more of the Low German character. The Hungarians and Szeklers together number 814,994, and the Saxons 233,019, but by far the most numerous element, though long excluded from power and political equality, is formed by the Rumanians, 1,397,282 in number, who are spread all over the country. The gipsies of Transylvania, who are heard of under a voivode or prince of their own in 1417, are estimated at 50,000; many of them have taken to agriculture or gold-washing. Jews, Armenians, Bulgarians, Ruthenians and Greeks are also represented in the medley of peoples. The Magyars are mostly Roman Catholics or Unitarians, the Germans Protestants, and the Rumanians adherents of the Greek Church.

Transylvania, which was completely incorporated with Hungary in 1868, forms since 1876 one of the seven large administrative divisions into which Hungary was divided in that year. It was subdivided into fifteen countries, and contains the following principal towns: Kolozsvár, Brassó, Nagy-Szeben, Maros-Vásárhely, Besztercze, Fogaras, Torda, Segesvár, Gyula-Fehérvár, Dés, Szamos-Ujvár.

History.—Transylvania formed part of the Roman province of Dacia. After the withdrawal of the Romans the country became for centuries the prey of the various peoples who swept across it in their restless migrations. At the beginning of the 11th century (1004) Stephen I. of Hungary made himself master of the land, which was thenceforward governed as a Hungarian province by a voivode. As mentioned above, King Geza II. introduced German colonists, who founded Nagy-Szeben (Hermannstadt), and in 1211 King Andreas II. called in the German Teutonic orders, who settled in the Burzenland. These German colonists were granted special privileges, and founded many of the Transylvanian towns. As by the death of King Louis II. in 1526 the Hungarian crown fell to the house of Austria, the voivode John Zapolya succeeded in rendering himself independent. He and his successors, who were generally elected by the people, were supported by the Turks against the House of Austria, while the difficult nature of their country preserved them on the other hand from becoming too dependent on their powerful allies. After the defeat of the Turks at Vienna in 1683, their influence in Transylvania waned, and in 1699, by the peace of Carlowitz, the Porte acknowledged the suzerainty of Leopold I. of Austria over Transylvania. By the Leopoldine diploma of 1691 Leopold had guaranteed the ancient rights and laws of the land, and united it formally with the Hungarian crown. In 1765 Maria Theresa made it a grand principality (Grossfürstentum). The efforts of the Rumanian inhabitants to secure recognition as a fourth “nation,” and the opposition of the non-Magyar population to a closer union with Hungary, led to troubles early in the 19th century, culminating in 1848. In 1849 Transylvania was divided from Hungary by an imperial decree, and became an Austrian crown-land; but in 1860 Transylvania became an autonomous province, with a separate Diet, and a high executive power of its own. The Diet assembled in Nagy-Szeben in 1863, decreed the complete separation from Hungary, the union with Austria, and the recognition of the Rumanians as the “fourth nation.” But the Hungarian government did not recognize this Diet, and the Diet assembled at Kolozsvár in 1865, in which the Hungarians had the majority, decreed again the union with Hungary. By the compromise of 1867 Austria granted the union of Transylvania with Hungary, which was completed in 1868. Transylvania lost every vestige of autonomy, and was fully and completely incorporated with Hungary. Since that time the Magyarization of the principality has steadily been carried through, in spite of the bitter protests and discontent of both the Saxons and Rumanians. A Hungarian university was founded at Kolozsvár in 1872; and Hungarian is recognized as the official language.

See F. Umlauft, Die Länder Österreich-Ungarns in Wort und Bild, vol. xiii. (Vienna, 1881); E. A. Bielz, Siebenbürgen (3rd ed., Hermannstadt, 1903); L. H. Gebhardi, Geschichte des Grossfürstentums Siebenbürgen (Vienna, 1803); S. Szilágyi, Monumenta comitialia regni Transsylvaniae, vols. i-xxi. (Budapest, 1880—1898); F. Teutsch, Geschichte der Siebenbürger Sachsen (2 vols., 3rd ed., Hermannstadt, 1899).

  1. The Latin name appears first after the 12th century, and signifies “beyond the woods,” i.e. from Hungary; the Hungarian and Rumanian name both mean “forest land.” The German name is usually derived from the seven principal fortified towns or “burgs,” founded by the German colonists, though some authorities prefer to connect it with the Cibin Mountains on the south frontier.