Ceangăi / Csángó
Total population

(1,266 persons declared to be Csangos
(2002 census)[1]

6,471 Hungarians in Moldavia[3]
(4373 in Bacău county, 1992 census)[4])
Regions with significant populations
Romania (Moldavia), Hungary (Tolna)

Romanian (the biggest part of the Csángós are monolingual Romanian speakers[5])

Csango, an old dialect of Hungarian;[6][7]
Roman Catholics (almost exclusively)

The Csango people (Hungarian: Csángók, Romanian: Ceangăi) are a ethnographic group of Roman Catholic faith living mostly in the Romanian region of Moldavia, especially in Bacău County. Their traditional language, Csango, an old Hungarian dialect, is currently used by only a minority of the Csango population group.[5] Because of intensive oppression from local authorities and the lack of Hungarian-language education in public school system, there has been a sharp decline in the number of native or second language speakers of the Csango language, making it a severely endangered language by the 2000s.

Etymology of Csángó

It is has been suggested that the name Csángó is the present participle of a Hungarian verb csángál meaning "sound unpleasant"; purportedly a reference to sibilation, in the pronunciation of some Hungarian consonants by Csángó people.[8][9][10]

Alternative explanations include the Hungarian word elcsángált, meaning "went to", or the phrase csángatta a harangot "ring the bell".

History, culture, identity

Middle Age sources

Csángós ("Tchangeï") in Moldavia (1861)

Perugia, 14 November 1234: Pope Gregory IX to Béla IV, king of Hungary

"In the Cuman bishopric - as we were informed - is living a people called Vallah and others, Hungarians and Germans as well, who came here from the Hungarian Kingdom."

Roman, 13 April 1562: Report of the Habsburg Agent, John Belsius, to the Emperor Ferdinand the First

"On the day of the 10th of April, Despot Vodă left Hîrlău (Horlo) to Tîrgul Frumos (Zeplak = Széplak) finally on the 12th to the fortress of Roman (Románváros)" Despot Vodă ordered me to write these: Alexandru Moldoveanul forced all the nations, with no exceptions, to be baptized again and to follow the religion of the Moldavians, taking them away from their own religion, he appointed a bishop of the Saxons and the Hungarians, to rebuild the confiscated churches and to strengthen their souls in their beliefs, and his name is Ian Lusenius, and is Polish."

After 1562: Notes of the Humanist Johann Sommer about Saxons in Moldavia, from his work about the Life of Jacob-Despot, the Ruler of Moldavia

"Despot was unyielding in punishment, especially against the ones who don't respect the sanctity of marriage, -according to the habit of those people-: this habit was copied by the Hungarians and Saxons living here, in this country (Moldavia). He started to build a school in Cotnari, which is mostly inhabited by Hungarians and Saxons."

Iași, 14 January 1587: Bartolomeo Brutti's letter to Annibal de Capua

"These Franciscans are very few and they speak neither German, nor Hungarian, so they can't take spiritual care of these catholics, 15000 in number.

Roman 1588: The First Jesuit Mission in Moldavia: Written by Stanislaw Warszewicki

"In the whole region in 15 towns and in all the neighborhood villages there are Hungarians and Saxons, but most of them don't know how to read, don't even recognize the letters."[11]

Miron Costin (17th century Moldavian writer): Grausame Zeiten in der Moldau 1980 (German translation) Chapter 18 par 28 about a Csangos massacre of a few German soldiers

Munich Codex: Hussite translation of the New Testament to Hungarian dated in the text in 1466 in Moldavia Hungarian edition (text original Old Hungarian with modernized script, foreword, introduction in modern Hungarian, dictionary in German and Hungarian)link

2001 Report of the Council of Europe

For centuries, the self-identity of the Csangos was based on the Roman Catholic religion and the Hungarian language spoken in the family.[6] It is generally accepted by serious scholars (Hungarian but also Romanian) that the Csangos have a Hungarian origin, and that they arrived in Moldavia from the west.[6] Some Romanian authors claim that the Csangos are in fact "magyarised" Romanians from Transylvania. This theory has also to be dismissed; it is not conceivable that these "Romanians" could persist in using a "foreign" language after centuries of living in Romania surrounded by Romanians speaking Romanian.[6] Whatever can be argued about the language of the Csangos there is no doubt that this is a form of Hungarian.[6]

The Council of Europe has expressed its concerns about the situation of the Csángó minority culture,[7] and discussed that the Csángós 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. The Council also mentioned that (although not everybody agrees on this number) it is thought that between 60,000 and 70,000 people speak the Csángó language. It has also expressed concerns that despite the provisions of the Romanian law on education, and repeated requests from parents there is no teaching of the Csángó language in the Csángó villages, and, as a consequence, very few Csángós are able to write in their mother tongue. The document also discussed that the Csángós make no political demands, but merely want to be recognized as a distinct culture and demand education and church services in the Csángó language.

At the time of this report's release, the Vatican expressed hope that the Csangos would be able to celebrate Catholic masses in their liturgical language, Csango.[12]

Comments of the government of Romania, dissenting opinion on behalf of the Romanian delegation

The situation of Csango community may be understood by taking into consideration the results of 2002 census. 1,370 persons declared themselves Csango.[1] Most of them live in Bacău County, Romania, and belong to the Roman Catholic Church. During the last years, some statements identified all Catholics in Bacău County (119.618 persons according to 2002 census) as Csango. This identification is rejected by most of them, who did identify themselves as Romanians.[13]

The name Csango appeared relatively recently, being used for the first time, in 1780 by Petru Zold.[14] The name Csango is used to describe two different ethnic groups:

Hungarian sources

Migration of the Hungarian Csángós

Their music shows the characteristic features of Hungarian music and the words of their songs are mostly Hungarian, with some dialect differences.[15]

The anthem of the Csangos refers to Csango Hungarians multiple times.[16][17]

The Csangos did not take part in the language reforms of the Age of Enlightenment, or the bourgeois transformation that created the modern consciousness of nationhood (cf. Halász 1992, Kósa 1998). They did not have a noble stratum or intelligentsia (cf. Kósa 1981) that could have fashioned their consciousness as Hungarians (Halász 1992: 11). They were "saved" (Kósa 1998: 339) from "assimilation" with the Romanians by virtue of their Roman Catholic religion, which distinguished them from the majority Greek Orthodox society.[18]

Romanian sources

The Csangos have been the object of numerous disputes between Romanians and Hungarians regarding their origin, their culture, their traditions and the ethnical minority they belong to.

Official Romanian censuses in Moldavia indicate the following:[19]

year Hungarians in Moldavia
1859 37,825
1899 24,276
1930 23,894
1992 3,098


Hungarian sources

In 2001 the Romanian authorities banned the teaching of the Hungarian language in private houses in the village of Klézse, despite the recommendation of the Council of Europe.[20] From 1990, parents in Cleja, Pustiana and Lespezi requested several times that their children have the opportunity of learning the Hungarian language at school, either as an optional language, or as their native language, in 1-4 lessons a week. At best their petition was registered, but in most cases it was ignored. Seeing the possibility of organizing Hungarian courses outside school, they gave up the humiliating process of writing requests without results. The MCSMSZ maintains its standpoint according to which the community should claim their legal rights, but the population is not so determined. Leaders of the school inspectorate in Bacău County, as well as the authorities and church, declared at a meeting that they were opposed to the official instruction of Hungarian in Csángó villages. In their opinion the Csángós are of Romanian origin, and sporadic requests for teaching Hungarian at schools reflect not a real parental demand, but Hungarian nationalist ambitions.[21]

In the village of Arini (Magyarfalu in Hungarian) the village mayor and the Romanian-only teachers of the state school, filed a complaint with the local police about the "unlawful teaching activities" of Gergely Csoma. Csoma teaches Hungarian as an extracurricular activity to the children of Arini. Following the complaint, the local police started what Csango activists have described as an intimidation campaign among the mothers of those children who are studying their maternal language with the said teacher.[22]

In 2008 members of the European Parliament sent a petition to the European Commission regarding the obstruction of Hungarian language education and the alleged intimidation of Csango-Hungarian pupils in Valea Mare (Nagypatak).[23] The leader of the High Commission on Minority Affairs responded to the petition of László Tőkés MEP in a written notice that they would warn Romania to secure education in the mother tongue for the Csangos of Moldavia.[23]

Romanian sources

The official Romanian point of view changed in 2006, when President Băsescu condemned communism during a joint session of the Romanian Parliament and called it an illegitimate and barbaric regime. Therefore, President Basescu has established a presidential committee for analyzing the Romanian communist dictatorship, which consists of leading Romanian historians and personalities. This committee has prepared a 700-page document, which analyzes the atrocities, the oppressiveness, the collectivization of the regime and its negative effect on the economy and society. The document describes the situation of the ethnic minorities during the communist regime. On page 536 3 paragraphs describe the forced assimilation of the Csangos in Moldova and the responsibility of the Catholic Church.


It is difficult to estimate the exact number of the Csángó because of the elusive nature and multiple factors (ethnicity, religion and language) of Csángó identity.

As far as ethnic identification is concerned, in the census of 2002, 4,317 declared themselves Hungarians and 796 declared themselves Csángó in Bacău County, reaching a total of 5,794 out of the county's total population of 706,623. The report of the Council of Europe estimates a Csango population ranging from 20,000 to as many as 260,000 (the total Catholic population in the area).[6]

The Council of Europe had in 2001 estimates that put the total number of Csángó-speaking people between 60,000 and 70,000.[7]

According to the most recent research executed between 2008 and 2010 by Vilmos Tánczos, faimous Hungarian folklorist, there has been a sharp decline in the total number of Csángó-speaking people in Eastern Romania. Tánczos set their number to roughly 43,000 people. Moreover, he found out that the most archaic version of Csángó language, the Northern Csángó was known and regularly used by only some 4,000 people, exclusively the older generation above the age of 50. It can be said, therefore, that the Csángó Hungarian dialect is in high risk of extinction. In fact, when applying the UNESCO Framework to measure language vitality, this dialect fits the category of "Severely Endangered". [24]


  1. 1 2 Archived March 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. http://recensamant.referinte.transindex.ro/?pg=8
  3. "Center for Documentation and Information on Minorities in Europe - Southeast Europe (CEDIMSE-SE) : Minorities in Southeast Europe" (PDF). Edrc.ro. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
  4. Arno Tanner, The forgotten minorities of Eastern Europe: the history and today of selected ethnic groups in five countries, East-West Books, 2004, p. 124
  5. 1 2 http://adatbank.transindex.ro/html/cim_pdf438.pdf
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Csango minority culture in Romania". Committee on Culture, Science and Education. Council of Europe. 2001-05-04. Retrieved 2008-09-29.
  7. 1 2 3 "Recommendation 1521 (2001) — Csango minority culture in Romania". Parliamentary Assembly. Council of Europe. Archived from the original on 2005-12-17.
  8. Alexandru Ciorănescu, Dicţionarul etimologic român, Universidad de la Laguna, Tenerife, 19581966 ceangău
  9. Erdmann D. Beynon, "Isolated Racial Groups of Hungary", Geographical Review, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Oct., 1927), pp. 604
  10. Anna Fenyvesi (2005). Hungarian Language Contact Outside Hungary: Studies on Hungarian as a Minority Language. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-58811-630-7.
  11. Archived October 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. "Csángó anyanyelvű oktatás". Népszabadság (in Hungarian). 2001-11-14. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
  13. "Comments of the government of Romania on the second opinion of the Advisory Committee on the implementation of the framework convention for the protection of national minorities in Romania" (PDF). Government of Romania. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 5, 2009. Retrieved 2008-10-11.
  14. 1 2 "Appendix 2 — Dissenting opinion presented by Mr Prisǎcaru on behalf of the Romanian delegation". Delegation from Romania. Council of Europe. 2001-05-04. Retrieved 2008-09-29.
  15. Palma Szirmai. "A Csángó-Hungarian lament". 11. University of Illinois Press: 310–325. JSTOR 850268.
  16. "Csángó Himnusz" (PDF). Székely Útkereső (cultural and literary magazine). 1998. p. 6.
  17. Horváth, Dezső (1999). "Eleven csángó". Mivé lettél, csángómagyar?. Hungarian Electronic Library. ISBN 963-9144-32-0.
  18. Balázs Soross. ""Once it shall be but not yet" – Contributions to the complex reality of the identity of the Csangos of Moldavia reflected by a cultural anthropological case study".
  19. Tánczos Vilmos. "A moldvai csángók lélekszámáról". Kia.hu. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
  20. "Betiltották a csángók magyaróráit" (in Hungarian).
  21. "The Moldavian Csángós want to learn Hungarian". Homepage of the Hungarian Csángós.
  22. "Rumanian Atrocities Against the Csango Minority". Homepage of the Hungarian Csángós. Archived from the original on July 6, 2007.
  23. 1 2 "The issue of Hungarian Education in Moldova, Romania in front of European Parliament". The Association of the Csango Hungarians of Moldova. 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-09-29.
  24. Siarl Ferdinand, Situation of the Csángó dialect of Moldavia in Romania, Hungarian Cultural Studies, 2016
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