Friday, 10. April 2020

Sfântu Gheorghe (Hungarian: Sepsiszentgyörgy) is the most significant city of the historical Three Chairs region (Hungarian: Háromszék), today being the seat of Covasna County. Furthermore it is Transylvania’s largest city with a Hungarian majority.

A brief history of our town

People lived in the areas surrounding Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) since the Stone Age. There are traces of several migratory people that can be found in the countryside. The first written mention of the settlement dates back to 1332; the city was named after Saint George, the first patron saint of the town’s church. In addition, Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) earned the “city title” in 1461, in the year of 1492 the city received from Báthory István, Prince of Transylvania, the “privileged city” status. Nevertheless, Saint George could keep its privileges with great difficulty; the neighboring Saxon city of Kronstadt (today Braşov/Brassó) had incessantly endeavored to deny our town the right to hold fairs.

Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) has been destroyed several times throughout its history. During the Mongol invasion of 1658 and the 1661 Turkish invasion most of the buildings were destroyed and, as a consequence, only a fraction of the population survived. According to the records extant from the late Middle Ages the market town’s population has witnessed great difficulties: seventeen-month drought, famine and plague epidemic decimated the population.

During the reign of Maria Theresa, on the grounds of a decree of the Empress, the Seklers were enrolled in border guard units, soldiers were drafted by force and the ones refusing service were facing long imprisonment. The population of Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) was not only incumbent on the heavy burden of military service, but also on maintaining the military. All the above mentioned facts can partly explain the enthusiasm accompanying the participation of out town in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

In addition, the Revolution of 1848 has been one of the most important periods in the history of Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy). Today’s County Library is the building where Gábor Áron’s famous assertion, “There will be cannon”, has been uttered. Gábor Áron was a legendary figure of the 1848 Revolution who contributed a great deal to the temporary success of the defensive battle with his cannons fabricated in the foundries from the Three Chairs region (English translation of Háromszék). Our town was visited by General Bem Józef himself; nevertheless the 1848 Revolution was soon defeated by the Austrian and Russian troops.

The Revolution was followed by a period of brutal repression when unfortunately the full archive of Háromszék was destroyed; Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) could barely manage to save something from its own archive. It is really shocking to know that the archives’ massive volumes were used by the Austrian and Russian soldiers as paving stones on the moody streets of the city. During this period Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) had to pay a considerable military indemnity; in addition asset confiscations and imprisonments were of everyday occurrence.

Life and normality returned only after the fall of the Bach system when the city was able to move forward again after a long period of underdevelopment. The city’s first mayor and the local council was elected in 1861. Afterwards came a swift recovery: the famous Székely Mikó College was built, the Székely National Museum was established and a hospital and an orphanage was also set up.

Furthermore, Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) was the first city from Seklerland with a weaving mill, and it was also the first settlement from Háromszék with electric power service. Moreover the first permanent Rococo style stage was inaugurated in Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy), being the third stage in Transylvania, after Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár) and Dej (Dés). We have thus established the first Sekler theater.

Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) has freemen like Jókai Mór, the renowned writer, and the widely honored politician, Kossuth Lajos.

As a result of the dramatic changes of the 20th Century Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) became part of Romania after the Treaty of Trianon. For a little while, between 1940 and 1944, as a consequence of the Second Vienna Award Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) became part of Hungary again. In spite of that, after World War II Northern Transylvania was re-annexed to Romania, thus Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) becoming part of Romania again. Between 1952 and 1960 Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) was part of the Hungarian Autonomous Region; in 1960 it was moved to the Braşov Region (former Stalin Region); and in 1968 it became the capital city of the newly created Covasna (Kovászna) County.
The years of Socialism, the Socialist urban developments have significantly changed the nature of a previously particular market town. Although these transformations have not been very favorable the city government has invested heavily in the modernization of Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) in the last 18 years and the current administration wishes to act in the same spirit.

Our town today

Today Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) is the capital city of Covasna (Kovászna) County, one of the most promisingly developing cities of the region. According to the preliminary results of the 2011 census, Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) has 54,312 inhabitants; the ethnic ration is divided as follows: 41,770 Hungarians, 11,921 Romanians, and a little over 400 citizens of Roma ethnicity.

The total number of households is 21,069 out of which 99% have electricity, 95% have potable water system and 67% of the households are connected to the sewerage system. Furthermore the city has a sports hall, athletics track, tennis courts, a beach, an indoor swimming pool and two ski slopes in the nearly Băile Şugaş (Sugásfürdő).

Among the cultural institutions the most important ones are the Tamási Áron and Andrei Mureşanu theaters, the Háromszék Folk Dance Group, the Székely National Museum, the Gyárfás Jenő Art Gallery, the Bod Péter County Library, Magam Contemporary Art Medium and the “Míves” House.

There is 1 day nursery, 7 kindergartens, 8 day care homes, 3 primary and 7 elementary schools in the city of Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy). The secondary education takes place in 5 theoretical high schools and another 5 technical colleges. The oldest one of these institutions is the Székely Mikó College. Higher education also takes place in Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy), at the Faculty of Business Administration, the Faculty of Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Political, Administrative and Communication Sciences of the Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár) based Babeş–Bolyai University.

Industrialization began in our town after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 with the establishment of the first Sekler Weaving Factory. The Tobacco Factory started its functioning some time later, in 1879. With the establishment of the Braşov-Târgu Secuiesc (Brassó-Kézdivásárhely) and Miercurea Ciuc (Csíkszereda) railway (1891-1897) Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) also latched on to the national railway network. The Olt Bridge was built in 1905 and the city’s electric power service had got going in 1908.

The 70’s of the 20th Century gave scope to subsequent major investments, the Socialist leadership from Bucharest establishing several heavy industrial plants in our town. The most significant out of these were the plant manufacturing auto spares and single-purpose machines and the plant manufacturing automotive electrical parts and electric motors. The furniture and plastic factory started its production by this time as well.

During the early 90’s the planned economy was replaced by the market-oriented economy this meaning the closure of many industrial units. The recent years have been characterized by greenfield, light industrial (ready made clothing cardboard manufacturing and textiles) and construction investments brought into effect mainly with foreign capital.

Băile Şugaş (Sugásfürdő) is a resort for recreation and winter sports situated in the outskirts of Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) and it has been created due to its special mineral waters. The waters of Băile Şugaş (Sugásfürdő) contain carbon dioxide with volcanic origins and their chemical composition is determined by the local rocks. Around 1840 people have searched for gold in this area and although they found only mica carbon dioxide has shot out from the excavated mines. Experts found out that carbon dioxide was a useful medical gas and thus they have built a mofetta. Subsequently several villas were established, as well as a bowling alley, restaurants and a music pavilion.

Furthermore, Băile Şugaş (Sugásfürdő) has designated hiking paths that are passable all year round. In addition, it is an exciting, exquisite place for winter sports enthusiasts; luminous ski-trucks and skilifts are awaiting the skiers.

Tourists and visitors can choose between 1 to 3 star hotels and 1 to 2 daisy guest houses. The city’s recreational center gives several possibilities for entertainment and leisure with its indoor swimming pool, sauna and aerobics room. There are also horse-riding possibilities in the nearby villages. Moreover, there are excellent restaurants in Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) where visitors can get acquainted mostly with the unique flavors of the traditional Transylvanian cuisine.

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