Romania’s Csángó population is defined depending on the context and who makes that definition. A politically correct definition could be “the population (the Romanian and Hungarian speech with some variations) mainly from Moldova (Bacau County – North-East), of Catholic religion, with disputed origins: People who define themselves as living Csángós and other regions.”

The Csángós are studied, not only for the analytical aspects of their identity in the context of Romanian society, but because they are a perfect illustration of nation-building in the 21st century whose legitimacy still raise questions for fellow citizens.

The academic debate, may it be constructive or destructive, or formal or informal has serious impact on the population. Regardless of who is right, who manages to develop convincing arguments to handle the entire Catholic population, whether or not they are of Hungarian origin, they are subject to a “collective process that can lead to stigmatization of rejection reactions or internalization of stigma as Erving Goffman argues in the 1963’s “Stigma”.

Discrimination is centered around the rights of national minorities (the law on language use in administration and justice, the right to education in mother tongue language and the right to use in practicing religion). The Recommendation 1201 is the document cited in this regard. Articles 2, 3, 4, 5 of the Recommendation refers to the rights and freedoms that are covered by other documents, such as document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE (1990) or the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (UN, 1992). Of special importance for Romania is the Paragraph 3 of Article 7 regarding the use of language in administration and justice.

The public debate relates to the delimitation of the ethnic group, Csángó. The thesis debated for over 100 years is whether Csángós, understood as the majority of Catholic population of Moldova is of Romanian or Hungarian origin.

The public discourse and its implications

The implications of the existence of public debate takes place primarily in the political arena. Tri-polarized, the speech is as follows: First, the status assumed by the Romanian context Csángó is a reminder of the heterogeneity of a nation, built on the principle of diversity, not that of a “unitary state” of Daco-Roman descent. Ethnic impurity, based on grounds of religion or nationalism translates into being high or sometimes moderate. The second part of the public discourse, occurs on the AXIS Budapest (capital of Hungary) – St. George (capital of the Hungarian minority in Romania) and over the mountains to Bacau (where the majority of Csángós reside). The main issues involve territorial claims and the conversion of a community into an ethnic community, citing the linguist and religious criteria for membership. A third participant in the discourse is Italy, Csángós making contact with them through the Catholic Church (mainly during the process of  the Romanian migration to Italy).

Depending on the “external” interests the social structures are defined in one way or another. But the same can be done at the individual level, depending on the “domestic” interests. Assuming the social status of a role in the society brings personal benefits and it is limited to a single choice, but with strong social and political implications, especially in a society with very little tolerance.

“Labels” are created by different actors and they come with different benefits attached. Whether they are built on an ethnic Hungarian descent OR they consider themselves as being Romanian OR the point of difference is considered to be the religious one, Csángós are as real as possible. Although much research work on the subject supports research for the benefit of the people, this desire is clouded by the historical, political, or personal interest of researchers/institutions.

Alex Gotca (Romania), November 2010

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