Recent Posts

Archives

Topics

Meta

Culture

Transylvania today is a surprisingly diverse region, with Hungarians, Romanians, Roma and Saxons all living side by side, sometimes harmoniously, sometimes not.  Claims to ownership of Transylvania and to who was there first still pollute relations between nationalists in the Romanian and Hungarian communities, but most people feel a need to get on with things and put history behind them.  There has been a genuine meld in the cultures and traditions of these communities over the centuries and it is hard for foreigners to see any meaningful difference between them.

Southern Transylvania in particular was once occupied mainly by Saxons, originally of German descent.  These German settlers began migrating in large numbers in the late-twelfth century from the Luxembourg and Mosel regions, followed over the course of the centuries by settlers from other parts of Germany and then Austria, in more latter years. 

Saxon numbers in Romania have plunged dramatically in the last 60 to 100 years, partly through emgration to the New World, and then more insidiously because of Russian retribution for the damage done by Nazi Germany to her country in WWII.  Constant discrimination made life difficult for Saxons throughout the late 20th Century and when Ceausescu agreed a deal to exchange Saxons for valuable hard currency, large numbers decided to leave the country to start a new life in Germany.  After Ceasescu was deposed in 1989 and emigration restrictions were lifted, virtually the entire Saxon populations of Transylvania and the Banat region decided to give up their lives in Romania and go to Germany.  Today, there are probably only about 15,000 Saxons left in Romania, most of whom are elderly and beyond childbearing age. 

 The Saxons have left a rich cultural heritage observed in the slightly different traditions of Transylvanian Romanians, and a “race memory” amongst the Romanians of love and sadness at their departure.  They have also left a stunning and medieval architecture almost untouched by the modern world that is only now beginning to be looked after and safeguarded, to prevent further deterioration.