The Language Rights of the Moldavian Csango (with special reference to the effectiveness of rights in education).

Szilvia Mesterhazy


The Moldavian Csango live in the territory of Romania, between the Eastern Carpathians and the River Szeret. The ethnic group numbers close to 240 000 and of these about 62 000 speak Hungarian. Moldavia was never a part of Hungary and due to the isolated situation of this community the historical development of  the Csango territory has followed a particular course of  its own. Furthermore, the insularity of  the Csango has made it possible for them to preserve the ancient traditions of  their culture; however, with respect to language, it can be said that the Hungarian-speaking Csango represent a group in which Hungarian can be considered as an “endangered” language. The essential basis of the awareness of  identity among the Hungarian Csango of Moldavia is the Roman Catholic Church.

The Hungarian language is used by the Csango exclusively within the family and in informal situations.  They do not know what is regarded as “standard”  Hungarian and they are only capable  of using the local Hungarian dialect in a restricted way: in their case language exchange has almost completely taken place.

The relevant international documents, which have been signed by Romania, apply to the Csango as well. Moreover, several recommendations (for example, from the Advisory Committee supervising the implementation of the Framework Agreement between Romania and Hungary) state that the debate about how this ethnic group should be regarded means that they can in no way be excluded from the sphere of minority protection.

In the 1950s the Hungarian language was introduced into a number of schools in Moldavian settlements; however, in 1958/59 an official order abolished this process. From the end of the 1980s the teaching of  Hungarian culture and language began anew. This was complemented  by a secondary school education which could take place in Transylvania or Hungary; later it was possible to participate in higher education courses conducted in the Hungarian language.  Both the linguistic and specialised knowledge of  the Csango students were on a very low level; this is why they were unable, or at least hardly able, to fulfil the requirements in Hungarian instituttions. It became obvious that only an educational strategy  based on a gradual approach could produce results. The elements of such a strategy were the following: for students at the primary level language learning would take place externally (i.e. not within the framework of a school); language teaching would take place during school vacations; at the secondary level they would learn using Hungarian in the Gyimesfelsolok Lyceum in Transylvania; after this would be further education through the medium of the Hungarian language; and eventually they could gain a diploma in an institution of higher education as a teacher of Hungarian. In this ethnic group it is perhaps necessary that its own intellectuals try to stop the process of  language “meltdown” and exchange. The plan outlined above is designed to serve this purpose.