Intermarriage in Transylvania, 1895–2010

by Ioan Bolovan (Volume editor) Luminita Dumanescu (Volume editor)
©2017 Edited Collection 210 Pages


This book reconstructs the perceptions about mixed marriages across generations, starting from a detailed analysis of the statistical background and a description of this phenomenon in the historical past, and then focusing on the case history of families. As ethnic and religious diversity has long been an important source of social tension in Transylvania, mixed marriages have the potential to link the communities and act as a bridge between ethnic groups. Considering the multilevel analyses, the time frame from 1895 to nowadays as well as the historical past of Transylvania, this volume has a strong multidisciplinary character, predicated on a combination of historical, demographical and sociological methods.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction (Ioan Bolovan / Luminiţa Dumănescu)
  • Part I: Mixed Marriages Reflected in Historical Sources
  • Churches and Interfaith Marriages in Transylvania: From 1895 to the Present (Ioan Bolovan / Marius Eppel)
  • The Law of Marriage in Romania, 1890–2010 (Luminiţa Dumănescu)
  • The Quantitative Dimension of Mixed Marriages in Transylvania at the End of the Long Nineteenth Century (Ioan Bolovan)
  • The Quantitative Dimension of Mixed Marriages in Transylvania in the Interwar Period (Bogdan Crăciun / Daniela Mârza / Mihaela Hărăguş / Ioan Bolovan)
  • Considerations on Ethnically Mixed Marriages in Transylvania in the Last Few Decades (Mihaela Hărăguş)
  • Perception versus Reality: Representations of Mixed Marriages in the Collective Imaginary of Modern-Day Transylvania (Daniela Mârza)
  • Part II: Mixed Marriages in Contemporary Society
  • Formation of Mixed Marriages (Mihaela Hărăguş)
  • Choosing a Spouse: The Importance of Religious Denomination and Ethnicity (Marius Eppel)
  • Choosing the Language to Be Spoken in Mixed Marriages: A Bridge or a Border between Communities (Daniela Mârza)
  • Being a Child in a Mixed Family in Present-day Transylvania (Luminiţa Dumănescu)
  • Displaying ethnicity through the practices of mixed couples from Transylvania (Viorela Telegdi-Csetri)
  • The Table of Tables
  • The Table of Figures
  • Index

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Ioan Bolovan, Luminița Dumănescu


Currently, Europe is witnessing seemingly unprecedented population mobility, a phenomenon that requires objective analysis and proper historical contexualisation. One of its main consequences is that it brings to light anew the challenges of multi-ethnical and multi-confessional coexistence. Being part of a particular ethnic or religious community, regardless if it consciously assumed or simply inherited, is a critical element of human identity. In a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional area, this essential feature of affinity, often under the influence of historical and political factors, may lead to adversative and antagonistic references to the “other”.

This is the case of Transylvania, a distinct region of present-day Romania. Since the Middle Ages, other ethnic groups have settled in this territory, next to the native Romanians: Hungarians, Germans, Jews, Armenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Gypsies and others. The presence of these minorities among Romanians has not been unitary either chronologically (they arrived at different points in time) or demographically (some of them, like the Hungarians or the Germans, settled in greater numbers than others – the Serbs or the Slovaks). This map conferred this area a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional character. Thus, Transylvania had for centuries a population consisting of three dominant ethnicities (Romanians, Hungarians, Germans) and six confessions: Orthodox, Greek-Catholic, Protestant, Roman-Catholic, Evangelical and Jewish. Transylvania comprises several historical provinces: historical Transylvania or Erdely, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș. These territories were conquered in the eleventh and thirteen centuries by the Kingdom of Hungary, after 1541 by the Ottoman Empire and, in the seventeenth century, it became part of the Habsburg Empire as a distinct province, with its own administrative institutions. During the Revolution of 1848–1849, Transylvania was annexed by Hungary. The liberal diploma issued on 20 October and the new fundamental law of the monarchy issued in February 1861 restored the autonomy of the provinces within the Habsburg Empire. The Ausgleich of 1867 determined the administrative inclusion of Transylvania in Transleithania, the Hungarian part of the dualist monarchy, being integrated, economically and politically, in the Central Europe.

Hungary, like Austria, the other part of the dualist monarchy, was one of the most heterogeneous states in ethnic and denominational terms. In 1910, at the last census before the fall of the monarchy, the Transylvanian ethnic map included 55.3% Romanians, 34.6% Hungarians, 8% Germans, 0.2% Slovaks, 0.09% other minorities (Ruthenians, Croatians, Serbs). The confessional map completed this ethnic puzzle; while the Romanians belonged to the two denominations associated with their nationality – Orthodox (27.6%) and Greek-Catholic (30.3%), the Hungarians and the Germans were divided between the Reformed (15.9%), Roman-Catholic (13.5%), Evangelical (7.9%), and Unitarian (3%) denominations. The Jewish denomination represented 2.5%1.

Until the First World War, Transylvania was almost exclusively administered, both at the central and at the local administrative levels, by Hungarians and Germans, the ← 7 | 8 → Romanians being excluded from the political and administrative life of the province, even though they were its oldest and most numerous population. Despite the situation revealed by figures and percentages, the Romanians had a lower economic and political status when compared with the Hungarian minority, who assumed the political, administrative and economic command in Transylvania. In other words, the Romanians were indeed the most numerous inhabitants of Transylvania, but, at the same time, they were a minority in Hungary, the part of the dual monarchy which incorporated Transylvania in 1867. Under these circumstances, it is clear why the Hungarians had enjoyed rights and privileges and constituted the upper class of Transylvania. These differences were truly reflected in their identity perception, in their self-image and the image that other Transylvanian ethnic groups had developed about them.

This complex situation has often generated tensions and conflicts between the ethnic groups, violence and ravage and even deaths for all sides.

After 1918 Transylvania became a part of Romania and the new government in Bucharest was confronted with the complex ethnic and confessional realities of Transylvania. 40% of the Transylvanian population was composed of minorities, and the newly formed state had serious problems with their integration. World War II brought new trauma for all inhabitants as a result of the so-called Vienna Award (Dictate), which divided the Transylvanian territory between Romania and Hungary. From 1940 to 1944 numerous expulsions of both Romanians and Hungarians occurred, abuse and violence being perpetrated against the civil population, which harshly damaged interethnic relations.

The communist regime tried, after 1945, to level all social and ethnic differences, but succeeded in doing that only partially due to the exacerbation of nationalism, especially during Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime. This generated long-term consequences in terms of ethnic relations, especially those between the Romanians and the Hungarians. Their ethnic coexistence was deeply affected and this happened not only at the upper level of the elites, but also among ordinary people. Remembering mutual confrontation and violence during the war influenced the collective memory and perpetuated suspicion, mistrust, creating, therefore, reluctance and reserve at the level of intercultural communication.

Even after the collapse of the communist regime, Transylvania was the scene of local ethnic tensions and conflicts (Târgu Mureș, March 1990). From the ideological point of view, the period we intend to analyse was dominated by nationalism; this meant that individual identification with an ethnicity or confession was often antagonistic to the “other,” alterity being perceived as a threat instead as an enrichment of social life. This exacerbated the concern for national identity and, in this process, ethnicity became synonymous with national survival2.

This ethnic and confessional diversity shaped certain demographical behaviours. Over the centuries, the Romanians’ relations with other ethnic groups in Transylvania have not always been peaceful, but neither have they been extremely troubled. Beyond the confrontations – often triggered by ideological reasons – between the Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, Jews and other people, there were specific moments when they fought and built together, moments when they found “meeting areas,” became relatives and assumed a common destiny. Mixed marriage was, in our opinion, one of these ← 8 | 9 → “meeting areas”. We perceive mixed marriage as a scene where ethnic and confessional diversity creates positive effects, also generating social cohesion. The aspects we described before were completed by Transylvania’s continuous oscillation between Central and Eastern Europe. That is why we focused in this volume on Transylvania as one of the best choices for a case study on mixed marriages.

The need for this volume comes from the fact that ethnic and religious diversity has long been an important source of social tension in the area to which we refer and, despite the progress registered in recent decades, we still cannot say that the coexistence of different ethnic groups or denominations is free of trouble. The researches conducted so far have considered mainly the conflicting aspects of ethnic and confessional diversity. However, in theory, a mixed marriage can be regarded as a space where those differences are managed towards consensus and good cohabitation, indicating the extent to which the members of different groups are able to accept each other as equals; a place where diversity has not a negative connotation, but may be seen in its positive forms; more than that, for a long time, through the descendants exposed to the cultures of the parents, mixed marriages can lead to positive changes regarding alterity.

The subject of mixed marriages has been approached both in Romania and in Central Europe, but only in fragmentary manner and for restricted areas, in terms of space and time. For instance, a Hungarian team researched the intermarriage in Košice (Slovakia) for the period 1920–1991, but they focused only on six case studies. In 2003 a conference upon mixed marriages in Central Europe was organised in the Czech Republic and the conference’s volume comprises some of the characteristics of mixed marriages in this area. Jeroen Smits has questioned international theories on mixed marriages, confronting them with the situation in former Yugoslavia. The author’s conclusion is that there is no direct connexion between social cohesion and intermarriage3. As regards Romania, and especially Transylvania, the phenomenon of mixed marriages has been approached since the interwar period, from different perspectives. There have been some authors4 who have used a demographic, quantitative analysis, to prove the loss of national identity through intermarriage in the Transylvanian cities during the interwar period. Vladimir Trebici5 mentioned the influences of the social context on mixed marriages but he did not offer a detailed analysis. In the recent past (after the fall of communism) we can mention some attempts to investigate mixed marriages, carried out both by Romanians and Hungarians. Tóth Péter Páll6 studied intermarriage from the political and historical perspectives. Ana Tucicov-Bogdan7 was preoccupied by the psychological aspects of intermarriage and their social implications. Also, in the last 15 years, at the Centre for the Resources for the Ethnocultural Diversity, Levente Salat, Horváth István, Lucian Nastasă-Kovács have developed a few projects focused on the interethnic relations in Transylvania in the post-communist period, but have approached mixed marriage only tangentially. Horváth István8 and Tamás Kiss have studied the phenomenon from the perspective of its impact upon the ← 9 | 10 → Hungarian people living in Transylvania nowadays. Finally, we have to mention the collective works coordinated by Corneliu Pădurean9 with the reserve that the studies published in these volumes are rather introductive, heterogeneous, unable to offer a complete imagine or long-term perspectives on mixed marriages.

In general terms, the subject of mixed marriages can be found in the following research types: historical (Pădurean, Bolovan, Brie), related to the study of minorities (Kiss Tamás, Horváth István) or psycho-sociological (Ana Tucicov Bogdan). Still, all these researches have a restrictive character, regardless of time limits, the ethnic groups which were studied, or the aspects of mixed marriages which were taken into consideration. Moreover, many of these researches have been influenced by the ideologies which dominated the society at that time, such as nationalism. Consequently, this volume aims to provide a major research, which integrates the demographical, historical and sociological aspects of mixed marriages, for as long a time period as necessary to draw a complete perspective.

International literature in the field shows that the partner choice is an old preoccupation of sociology, in the attempt to explain why individuals marry inside the group they belong to (endogamy) or, on the contrary, why they marry outside their group (exogamy), and why persons marry persons with a similar status (homogamy). Research of ethnic intermarriage may be motivated by the question whether different ethnic groups will integrate each other and the indigenous population10. Research on confessional intermarriage is interested in the way the church controls the life choices of its members, and research on socioeconomic homogamy was developed by researchers that studied social stratification, or marriage patterns in connection with social mobility. All types of research on intermarriage characterise social differentiation through the description of patterns of social interaction. Interaction among social groups offers a fundamental way of describing group boundaries, which form the social structure. Because marriage is an intimate and long-term relationship, mixed marriage and heterogamy most often reveal not only the existence of interactions between group boundaries, but also the fact that members of different groups accept others as their social equals11. Intermarriage could thus be seen as an intimate link between social groups, while endogamy or homogamy could be seen as a form of group closure.

Mixed marriages act as a connecting element within a society, and their existence has the potential to reduce the probability of violent conflicts among different ethnic groups and to increase the social cohesion of the society. Mixed marriages do not connect only two individuals, but also the groups to which they belong. When among the members of different groups there are many marital relations, there are also other social contacts among them: children from different groups have the opportunity to meet each other in school, in the neighbourhood, during leisure activities. Mixed marriages form a bridge between these groups and often connect the social networks of the two spouses. New contacts and interpersonal relationships could appear, crossing group boundaries. Intermarriage lowers the salience of cultural distinctions for the new generations, making it less probable for the descendants of such marriages to identify with only one group. This fact seems to hold even when the couple socialize ← 10 | 11 → their children only in the culture of one group, if intermarriage is common in society12. Through mixed marriage, people might lose their negative attitudes toward other groups. Although personal interactions can sometimes lead to conflicts, accentuating economic and cultural differences, when the relationship is intimate, the interaction gives people the possibility to understand individual variety among the members of a group, and, by doing this, they can reduce their prejudices and stereotypes.

The topic of mixed marriage has been studied in connection with three broad categories of factors: the preferences of marriage candidates for certain characteristics of the spouse, third parties’ interferences in the selection process and the constraints of the marriage market where the candidates are looking for partners13. These factors are most often considered as complementary elements of the same theory, which distinguish the sociological approach from the psychological or economic approach to marital choice.

This perspective of the three broad categories of factors as complementary elements will characterise our own approach to mixed marriage. The most important aspects in the evaluation of the resources of the potential spouse are socioeconomic resources (which maximize income and social status) and cultural resources (preference for someone who is similar). Cultural similarity leads to interpersonal attraction and, thus, it is a precondition for initiating a relationship with someone and it also encourages people to establish long-term relationships. Individuals prefer to marry someone with similar cultural resources because this helps them to develop a common lifestyle inside marriage, which produces social confirmation and affection.

This book is the result of research conducted within the framework of the project Mixed Marriages: Between an Exercise in Tolerance and a Modern Expression of Indifference, 1895–2010, a CNCS project implemented under the coordination of Professor Ioan Bolovan at Babeș-Bolyai University, in the period 2011–2016. The team consisted of: Ioan Bolovan, Luminița Dumănescu, Mihaela Hărăguș, Marius Eppel, Daniela Mârza and Bogdan Crăciun, who were briefly joined by Viorela Telegdi-Csetri.

Considering the depth in which we analysed the mixed marriages, the time frame (1895 to nowadays) as well as the historical past of the period of reference, our volume has a strong multidisciplinary character, predicated on a combination of historical, demographical and sociological methods. The purpose of this volume was the reconstruction of perceptions about mixed marriages, across generations. We started from a detailed analysis of the statistical background and a description of the historical past of mixed marriages and then we focused on the case history of families as a specific method for our analyses. Our goal was to give answers to questions such as:

How did the inhabitants of Transylvania regard the issue of mixed marriages in the past centuries and how do they regard it nowadays?

Which were the determinant factors of mixed marriages in Transylvania, considering different social and historical contexts?


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (May)
mixed marriages interfaith marriage educational homogamy marriage market national identity ethnic identity
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2017. 210 pp., 13 fig., 29 tables

Biographical notes

Ioan Bolovan (Volume editor) Luminita Dumanescu (Volume editor)

Ioan Bolovan is professor at Babeș-Bolyai University, and one of the main Romanian specialists in historical demography and population history. Luminița Dumănescu is senior researcher at the Centre for Population Studies, BBU. She has been focusing on family and childhood history and on historical demography


Title: Intermarriage in Transylvania, 1895–2010
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