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(trăn'sĭlvā`nyə), Rom. Transilvania or Ardeal, Hung. Erdély, Ger. Siebenbürgen, historic region and province (21,292 sq mi/55,146 sq km), central Romania. A high plateau, Transylvania is separated in the S from Walachia by the Transylvanian Alps and in the E from Moldavia and Bukovina by the Carpathian Mts. (of which the Transylvanian Alps are a continuation). In the north and west Transylvania borders on Crişana-Maramureş and in the SW on the Banat. The Transylvanian plateau, 1,000 to 1,600 ft (305–488 m) high, is drained by the Mureşul River and other tributaries of the Danube. Cluj-NapocaCluj-Napoca
, Hung. Kolozsvár, Ger. Klausenburg, city (1990 pop. 329,234), W central Romania, in Transylvania, on the Someşul River. The historic capital of Transylvania and the second largest city in Romania, it is the administrative center of an
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 is the chief city; other major urban centers are BraşovBraşov
, Hung. Brassó, Ger. Kronstadt, city (1990 pop. 364,307), central Romania, in Transylvania, at the foot of the Transylvanian Alps. The administrative center of the Braşov region, the city is a road and rail junction and a major industrial
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, SibiuSibiu
, Ger. Hermannstadt, Hung. Nagyszeben, city (1990 pop. 188,385), central Romania, at the foot of the Transylvanian Alps. There are mechanical engineering works and industries producing textile machinery, foodstuffs, and leather.
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, and Tîrgu-MureşTîrgu-Mureş
, Hung. Maros Vásárhely, city (1990 pop. 172,470), central Romania, capital of Mureş judet (district), in Transylvania, on the Mureşul River.
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Economically and culturally one of the most advanced regions of Romania, Transylvania is rich in mineral resources, notably lignite, iron, lead, manganese, gold, copper, natural gas, salt, and sulfur. There are large iron and steel, chemical, and textile industries. Stock raising, agriculture, wine production, and fruit growing are important occupations. Timber is another valuable resource. A sizable Hungarian minority, as well as Romani (Gypsies) and Germans, live in Transylvania.


The area now constituting Transylvania became part of the Roman Empire in A.D. 107. After the withdrawal (A.D. 271) of the Romans from the region it was overrun, between the 3d and 10th cent., by the Visigoths, the Huns, the Gepidae, the Avars, and the Slavs. The Magyar tribes first entered the region in the 5th cent., but they did not fully control it until 1003, when King Stephen I placed it under the Hungarian crown. The valleys in the east and southeast were settled by the Székely, a people akin to the Magyars. It is not known, however, whether they came into Transylvania with or before the Magyars.

In the 12th and 13th cent. the areas in the south and northeast were settled by German colonists called (then and now) Saxons. Siebenbürgen, the German name for Transylvania, derives from the seven principal fortified towns founded there by the Saxons. The German influence became more marked when, early in the 13th cent., King Andrew II of Hungary called on the Teutonic Knights to protect Transylvania from the Cumans, who were followed (1241) by the Mongol invaders. Large numbers of Romanians, called Vlachs or Walachians, were in the region by 1222, although the exact date that their penetration began is disputed. Originally seminomadic shepherds, the Vlachs soon settled down to agriculture.

The administration of Transylvania was in the hands of a royal governor, or voivode, who by the mid-13th cent. controlled the whole region. Society was divided into three privileged "nations," the Magyars, the Székely, and the Saxons. These "nations," however, corresponded to social rather than strictly ethnic divisions. Although the nonprivileged class of serfs consisted mostly of Vlachs, it also included some people of Saxon, Székely, and Magyar origin. A few Vlachs, notably John Hunyadi, hero of the Turkish wars, joined the ranks of the nobility. After the suppression (1437) of a peasant revolt the three "nations" solemnly renewed their union; the rebels were cruelly repressed, and serfdom became more firmly entrenched than ever.

When the main Hungarian army and King Louis II were slain (1526) in the battle of Mohács, John Zapolya, voivode of Transylvania, took advantage of his military strength and put himself at the head of the nationalist Hungarian party, which opposed the succession of Ferdinand of Austria (later Emperor Ferdinand I) to the Hungarian throne. As John I he was elected king of Hungary, while another party recognized Ferdinand. In the ensuing struggle Zapolya received the support of Sultan Sulayman I, who after Zapolya's death (1540) overran central Hungary on the pretext of protecting Zapolya's son, John II. Hungary was now divided into three sections: W Hungary, under Austrian rule; central Hungary, under Turkish rule; and semi-independent Transylvania, where Austrian and Turkish influences vied for supremacy for nearly two centuries.

The Hungarian magnates of Transylvania resorted to a policy of duplicity in order to preserve independence. The Báthory family, which came to power on the death (1571) of John II, ruled Transylvania as princes under Ottoman, and briefly under Hapsburg, suzerainty until 1602, but their rule was interrupted by the incursion of Michael the Brave of Walachia and by Austrian military intervention. In 1604, Stephen Bocskay led a rebellion against Austrian rule, and in 1606 he was recognized by the emperor as prince of Transylvania. Under Bocskay's successors—especially Gabriel Bethlen and George I Rákóczy—Transylvania had its golden age. The principality was the chief center of Hungarian culture and humanism, the main bulwark of Protestantism in E Europe, and the only European country where Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, and Unitarians lived in mutual tolerance. Orthodox Romanians, however, were denied equal rights.

After the Turkish defeat near Vienna (1683), Transylvania vainly battled the growing Austrian influence, and its alliance with Turkey under Emeric Thököly and with France under Francis II Rákóczy proved fatal to its independence. In 1711, Austrian control was definitely established over all Hungary and Transylvania, and the princes of Transylvania were replaced by Austrian governors. The proclamation (1765) of Transylvania as a grand principality was a mere formality. The pressure of Austrian bureaucratic rule gradually eroded the traditional independence of Transylvania. In 1791 the Romanians petitioned Leopold II of Austria for recognition as the fourth "nation" of Transylvania and for religious equality. The Transylvanian diet rejected their demands, restoring the Romanians to their old status.

In 1848 the Magyars proclaimed the union of Transylvania with Hungary, promising the Romanians abolition of serfdom in return for their support against Austria. The Romanians rejected the offer and instead rose against the Magyar national state. In the fighting that followed (1849) between the Hungarians and the Austro-Russian forces (supported by the Romanians and most of the Saxons), the Hungarian republic of Louis Kossuth was suppressed. The ensuing period of Austrian military government (1849–60) was disastrous for the Magyars but greatly benefited the Romanian peasants, who were given land and otherwise favored by the Austrian authorities. However, in the compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867, which established the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Transylvania became an integral part of Hungary, and the Romanians, having tasted equality, were once more subjected to Magyar domination.

After World War I the Romanians of Transylvania proclaimed at a convention at Alba IuliaAlba Iulia
, Hung. Gyulafehérvár, Ger. Karlsburg, town (1990 pop. 73,383), W central Romania, in Transylvania, on the Mureşul River. It is a rail junction and distribution center for a winemaking region, where grain, poultry, and fruit are raised.
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 (1918) their union with Romania. Transylvania was then seized by Romania and was formally ceded by Hungary in the Treaty of TrianonTrianon, Treaty of,
1920, agreement following World War I in which the Allies disposed of Hungarian territories. The internal chaos in Hungary that followed the dissolution (1918) of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy delayed the signing of a peace treaty with the Allies of World War
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 (1920). The expropriation of the estates of Magyar magnates, the distribution of the lands to the Romanian peasants, and the policy of cultural Romanianization that followed were major causes of friction between Hungary and Romania. It was now the turn of the Magyar and German nationalists to complain of Romanian oppression. During World War II, Hungary annexed (1940) N Transylvania, which was, however, returned to Romania after the war. Many of the Saxons of Transylvania fled to Germany before the arrival of the Soviet army, and most of the remaining Saxons followed after the fall of the Communist government in 1989. Since the end of Communist rule, ethnic Hungarian parties have sought autonomy for those parts of the region where Magyars form a majority.


See K. Verdery, Transylvanian Villagers: Three Centuries of Political, Economic, and Ethnic Change (1983); M. G. Lehrer, Transylvania: History and Reality (1987).

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Black Church in Brasov, Transylvania (Romania), in the shadow of which Vlad the Impaler committed some of the atrocities for which he is so well known.


(pop culture)

Transylvania (literally, “the land beyond the forest”) is the area of north central Romania most identified in the public mind with vampires. Its reputation derives from being designated as the home of Dracula in Bram Stoker‘s novel. At the beginning of Dracula (1897), Jonathan Harker traveled from Budapest, Hungary into northern Transylvania, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He described the land as one of great beauty but a wild and little known place. His final destination was Castle Dracula, a location not noted on any map. Although Harker’s destination was a fictional site, the land he moved through was very real. Stoker had never been to Transylvania but had read about it in books at the British Museum, particularly Emily Gerard’s Land Beyond the Forest. Transylvania was the center of a powerful state in the first century C.E. The territory was partially conquered by Trajan in 106 C.E.

Over the next several centuries, the merger of the Roman and native people created the distinctive people known today as the Romanians. Christianity of a Roman Latin variety made its initial entrance into the area at this time, although over the centuries the Romanians aligned themselves with the Eastern Orthodox Church headquartered in Constantinople. The area was subject to numerous invasions, more or less successful, by a variety of nomadic people. Most importantly, in the tenth century, incursions and eventually conquest by the Hungarians began.

By the thirteenth century, Hungary claimed hegemony in Transylvania, although the various divisions continued to be ruled by the local territorial lords, the voevades. The Hungarians engaged in several acts of social engineering. First, they persuaded the Szekely people of western Transylvania to move into the mountainous area in the east and assume the task of border control. The Szekelys emerged as great warriors. Secondly, to improve the economy, the Hungarians invited Germans into southern Transylvania and gave them generous tax benefits. Although they originated from throughout Germany, these people became known as the Saxons. They were most prominent in the towns that controlled the mountain passes between Transylvania and Wallachia, located immediately south of the Carpathians. (Today, many of the towns of Transylvania have three names—one each in German, Hungarian, and Romanian.) By the fourteenth century, there were four main groups in Transylvania: Hungarians, Hungarian-speaking Szekelys, Saxons, and Romanians. The Romanians, although a majority of the population, were the conquered people, and measures to suppress them began in earnest.

The Roman Catholic Hungarians launched systematic conversion efforts directed at the Orthodox population. Specific laws were passed to disenfranchise the Romanians, culminating in the 1366 ruling that called into question the traditional status of any Romanian aristocracy who refused to become Roman Catholic and whose loyalty to the Hungarian crown was questionable. Hungary’s increasingly oppressive controlled many Romanians to cross the mountains into Moldavia and Wallachia.

The migration south promoted the organization of an independent central government in Wallachia in the fourteenth century, although by the next century, it found itself in a constant battle with the Hungarians to the north and the Turks to the south, both of whom wanted to control it. It was in that tension that Vlad Dracul came to the Wallachian throne in 1436. He came to the throne at the same time that John Hunyadi, an outstanding Romanian, emerged in Transylvania. Hunyadi became the governor of Transylvania and his power rivaled that of the king. Hunyadi’s reputation promoted the cause of his son, Matthias who, at a point of weakness in the Hungarian royal family, became king of Hungary in 1458. Vlad Dracul opposed Hunyadi and was killed in 1447.

Prior to ascending to the throne, Vlad Dracul was the commander of the guard in Transylvania. He settled in Sighisoara around 1430 and, a short time after his arrival, his son (also named Vlad) was born. The son, later to become known as Vlad the Impaler, was too young to succeed his father in 1447, but eventually gained the throne within months of Hunyadi’s death in 1456. As the ruler of Wallachia he claimed the Transylvanian districts of Amlas and Fagaras. More importantly, he moved against the Saxon merchants of Sibiu (for housing his relatives who were claimants to his throne) and Brasov (whose mercantile policies worked against Vlad’s attempt to build the Wallachian economy).

Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, was Wallachian (although he was born in Transylvania), and most of the activities he was famous for occurred there. Bram Stoker placed the fictional Count Dracula in northeastern Transylvania. To arrive at Castle Dracula, Jonathan Harker passed through Klausenburgh (Clug-Napoca) and traveled to Bistritz (Bistrita). This section of Transylvania was correctly identified as territory traditionally ruled by the Szekelys and thus he identified Count Dracula as a member of the traditional ruling class. The issue was confused as Stoker attempted to merge the fictional Count Dracula with Vlad the Impaler, the man known for his battles against the Turks and the “bravest of the sons of the ‘land beyond the forest.’” Stoker also identified Dracula as the arch vampire. Transylvanian vampire lore was merely a variation of the vampire beliefs found throughout Romania and shared by neighboring groups of Slavs and Gypsies. Historically, the land had no particular reputation as a home to vampires.

Today, Transylvania has become a major tourist attraction, drawing people not only for skiing in the Carpathian Mountains and the wine, but for Dracula buffs. There is now a Count Dracula Hotel at the middle of the Borgo Pass that hosts a variety of tours and events annually. The Golden Krone (Crown) Hotel in Bistriz serves the same meal eaten by Jonathan Harker in Dracula. Vlad the Impaler’s birthplace in Sighisoara and his palace in Tirgoviste provide stopping places for tourists heading northward from Bucharest, and further development seems inevitable. Transylvania’s reputation as a home to vampires has been furthered by numerous novelists and movies such as Transylvania 6–5000 (1985), Love at First Bite (1979), and the various adaptations of Dracula.


Bodea, Cornelia, and Virgil Candea. Transylvania in the History of the Romanians. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982. 181 pp.
Florescu, Radu R., and Raymond T. McNally. Dracula: Prince of Many Faces. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1989. 261 pp.
Mackenzie, Andrew. Dracula Country. London: Arthur Barker, 1977. 176 pp.
Mehedinti, S. What Is Transylvania? Miami Beach, FL: Romanian Historical Studies, 1986. 121 pp.
Miller, Elizabeth. “Typing Transylvania.” In Elizabeth Miller. Reflections on Dracula: Ten Essays. White Rock, BC: Transylvania Press, 1997: 47–68.
Walker, Gerald, and Lorraine Wright. “Locating Dracula: Contextualizing the Geography of Transylvania.” In Carold Margaret Davison, ed. Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Sucking through the Century, 1897–1997. Toronto: Durndun Press, 1997: 49–74.

Transylvania Press see: Eighteen-Bisang, Robert

The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Rumanian, Transilvania), a historic region in northern Rumania.

There is evidence of human existence in Transylvania as early as the Paleolithic period. From about the middle of the first millennium B.C., the area was inhabited by Geto-Dacians of Thra-cian origin, who were united in tribal confederations from the fourth through second centuries B.C. The Celts appeared in Transylvania in the third century B.C. The first century A.D. saw the formation of a Dacian early slaveholding state with its center in Transylvania. From the early second century A.D. until 271, Transylvania was part of the Roman province of Dacia. From the third through sixth centuries, Goths, Huns, Gepids, and Avars overran Transylvania. Slavs settled in the region in the sixth and seventh centuries, and according to some sources, the Vlachs, a Romanized people, became associated with the area in the late ninth century. In the tenth century certain Hungarian tribes migrated to Transylvania.

In the early 11th century, Transylvania came under the rule of Hungary. In the 11th and 12th centuries the Hungarian kings settled Szeklers and “Saxons” in the area, and the process of feudal-ization began. Transylvania was invaded by the Mongol-Tatars in 1241. From the 12th through 16th centuries, the region was ruled by voivodes, who were usually Hungarian magnates. By the middle of the 13th century, towns had sprung up in Transylvania, and in the 14th century guilds of craftsmen appeared. In the 15th and 16th centuries the peasants rose in antifeudal rebellions, including the Peasant Revolt of 1437–38 and the Dózsa Rebellion of 1514. The bulk of the peasantry was completely enserfed by the end of the 17th century.

In 1541 the Transylvanian principality was formed; it was relatively independent, but it recognized the suzerainty of the Turkish sultan. At the turn of the 17th century, Transylvania, together with Walachia and Moldavia (Moldova), was briefly under the rule of the Walachian hospodar Michael the Brave. During the 17th century, Transylvania was an object of contention between the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires, and it played a significant role in the Kingdom of Hungary’s struggle against the Haps-burgs. Hapsburg troops occupied Transylvania in 1687, and the Hapsburgs attained international recognition of their dominion over Transylvania at the Karlowitz Congress of 1698–99.

Capitalist relations appeared in the feudal milieu in the second half of the 18th century. Brutal feudal exploitation led to the Transylvanian Peasant Uprising of 1784–85. The development of capitalism contributed to the expansion of the national liberation movement among the people of Transylvania, including the Rumanians, who were the most oppressed group in the population. During the revolution of 1848–49 in Hungary, the peasants of Transylvania seized some of the landowners’ estates. In 1854 the Hapsburgs reaffirmed the personal freedom of the peasants, which had been proclaimed in 1785 and revoked in 1790; the peasants were granted the lands that they had seized during the revolution of 1848–49. With the formation of the Austro-Hungar-ian monarchy in 1867, Transylvania was incorporated into the Hungarian kingdom.

The first workers’ associations in Transylvania appeared in the late 1860’s. The Rumanian National Party of Transylvania was formed in 1881; among its demands were the equality of all nationalities and the autonomy of Transylvania within the framework of the Hapsburg Empire. Influenced by the Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia, Transylvania’s proletariat engaged in a broad political struggle; a general political strike took place on Sept. 15, 1905, in support of universal suffrage. On Oct. 31,1918, Transylvanian and Hungarian working people took part in a general strike, which grew into the bourgeois democratic revolution that concluded the disintegration of Austria-Hungary. The Grand National Assembly, which was held in the city of Alba Iulia on Nov. 18 (Dec. 1), 1918, unanimously endorsed a resolution proclaiming the union of Transylvania and Rumania. The Treaty of Trianon (1920) recognized the union.

In 1940 northern Transylvania was annexed by Hungary, which was governed at that time by the Horthy regime. The Soviet Army and Rumanian forces liberated Transylvania from the fascist troops in October 1944. The Treaties of Paris (1947) restored the Rumanian-Hungarian border of Jan. 1, 1938, and northern Transylvania was returned to Rumania.

L. E. SEMENOVA (to 1948) and V. N. VINOGRADOV (1848 to the present)

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wheat Harvest (Transylvania)

Late summer
In Transylvania, a region of Romania that was at one time part of Hungary, the gathering of the wheat harvest in late summer reflects traditional customs that have been largely supplanted by modern agricultural methods elsewhere. Here the owner of a farm must still rely on friends and neighbors to gather the crops. When the last sheaf is harvested, a wreath made of wheat and wild flowers is taken to the farmer's house by young girls in traditional dress. The other farm laborers lie in wait for the procession and carry out a mock ambush by drenching everyone in water. When the landowner first appears in the harvest field, the harvesters tie him up and demand a ransom for his release.
When the procession arrives at the landowner's house, poems in his honor are recited. The wreath is hung in a special place where it will remain until the next harvest. There is a feast for everyone, followed by dancing to the music of a gypsy band. A special delicacy associated with the harvest feast is gingerbread cookies. In fact, elaborately shaped and decorated gingerbread cookies are considered a part of the region's folk art tradition.
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 530
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a region of central and NW Romania: belonged to Hungary from the 11th century until 1918; restored to Romania in 1947
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005