Csángók – Magyars Outside the Carpathians


Csángók – Magyars Outside the Carpathians

Top and right side, Gyimesbükk: Csángó musicians Timár Viktor (violin) and Antal Tibor (double bass); Csángó performers; Petrás Mária; Bottom left: Csángó pilgrims at Csíksomlyó (photos EPF)

The Csángó Anthem

Csángó Magyar, Csángó Magyar,   Csángó magyar, csángó magyar,
What have you become, Csángó Magyar?   Mivé lettél, csángó magyar?
You're a down-and-out bird,   Ágról szakadt madár vagy te,
Rejected, forgotten.   Elvettetve, elfeledve.
You settled in a wasteland,   Egy pusztába telepedtél,
Which you called a country.   Melyet országnak neveztél.
But you have neither country, nor homeland,   De se, országod se hazád.
Only the Lord God thinks of you.   Csak az Úristen gondol rád.
A foreign language covers you, oppresses you,   Idegen nyelv beborít, nyom,
Italian priestlings pester you.   Olasz papocskák nyakadon.
You can't sing, or go to confession,   Nem tudsz énekelni, gyónni,
Nor pray in your mother's tongue   Anyád nyelvén imádkozni.
My God, what will become of us?   És Istenem, mi lesz velünk?
Our children and we will be lost!   Gyermekeink, s mi elveszünk!
They are destroying our beautiful language   Melyet apáink őriztek,
Which our fathers had guarded.   Elpusztítják szép nyelvünket!
We hear that Hungary still stands,   Halljuk, áll még Magyarország,
Lord our God, please bless it too!   Úristenünk, Te is megáldd!
That they might have mercy on us,   Hogy rajtunk könyörüljenek,
And not allow us to be lost!   Elveszni ne engedjenek!
Because we too are Magyar,   Mert mi is magyarok vagyunk,
Having come from Asia.   Még Ázsiából szakadtunk,
Lord God, help our lot,   Úristen, sorsunkon segíts,
Don't let Csángó Magyars be lost!   Csángó magyart el ne veszítsd! 

This is the Csángó anthem (put into modern Hungarian), the lament of a forgotten people.

It is estimated that the Csángók living in various regions inside and outside the Carpathians number 320,000, with the largest concentration of 180,000 living in Moldavia, of whom only 40,000 still speak Hungarian.  (Statistics vary: According to another source, the Csángók in Moldavia number approximately 240,000, with Hungarian-speakers numbering 62,000).    

The core of the ethnic group of Csángók was presumably left to serve as border guards at the time of the Conquest in the 9th century. In the 12th-13th centuries, various kings settled Hungarians from Transylvania and the Upper Tisza area beside them.  In the 15th-17th centuries, groups of Hungarian Hussites and refugees from Transylvania joined them.   The 1764 massacre of Madéfalva by the Austrian Habsburgs sent many Székelys fleeing across the Carpathians.  It is their descendents who today form the majority of the Hungarian-speaking Csángók of Moldavia.  Most of them speak Hungarian closer to today’s Székely dialect, with some archaic words.   In the northern part of Moldavia, a smaller group speaks the Hungarian of the Middle Ages, which is hard to understand by today’s Hungarian-speakers.

In addition to Moldavia, Csángók live also in the Gyimes area of Transylvania, along the old 1000-year border, around the Tatros River. They raise and breed livestock and work at logging.  They are descendents of Székelys as well as of Csángók from Moldavia who settled there at the end of the 17th century when the line of defense was pushed forward to the entrance of Gyimes Pass.

The word Csángó was first mentioned as a personal name in a Latin document dated 1400.  (It was mentioned in several others later.)  As designating a people, it was first mentioned in a Romanian-language chronicle in 1675.  A marriage lawsuit, brought before the bishop of Gyulafehérvár in 1762, mentions the bride having been a Csángó

Origin of the name ”Csángó” has been a matter of debate.  Some derive it from the word ”csángál”, singing off-key, or speaking in a jarring manner, based on the fact that the Csángó dialect is sibilant, or hissing;  others apply the word ”csángál” to mean ”roaming, drifting”, referring to the Székelys who fled from Transylvania at the time of the Madéfalva massacre.

The Csángó folk costume is distinctive.  Groups of Csángók always attend the annual  Csíksomlyó pilgrimage, walking as many as four days each way.

An internationally known Csángó artist today is Petrás Mária. She is a prize-winning ceramicist and csángó folksong singer, whose work we described in the December 2015 issue of Magyar News Online, using one of her ceramics in the header as well.  In addition to Hungary, she has had exhibits in Italy, France and Canada.  She has given folk song concerts with the Muzsikás Ensemble of Hungary, as well as the world-famous Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and at Carnegie Hall in New York. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Prima Primissima Prize (2013) and the Magyar Érdemrend tisztikeresztje (2019).