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Return Migration in a Romano-Catholic Csangos Village in Romania

Elena Tudor


As a recent emigration country, Romania has experienced rising international mobility for labour purposes. Especially in the first years after 1989, the community of origin was highly influential as far as Romanians’ decisions to leave the country was concerned and their resources to do so. Communities of origin, as well as ethnicity and religion, also played an important role in the way the migration experience evolved, in the emigrants’ potential or actual return, and in shaping international migration networks after 1989.1

This paper is written and published under the aegis of the Research Institute for Quality of Life, Romanian Academy as a part of programme co-funded by the European Union within the Operational Sectorial Programme for Human Resources Development through the project for Pluri and interdisciplinary in doctoral and post-doctoral programmes Project Code: POSDRU/159/1.5/S/141086. Working on this paper was also supported by the CNCS-UEFISCDI grant PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-0210.

E. Tudor (*)

Centre for Migration Studies, University of Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania © The Author(s) 2017

E. Sideri, L.E. Roupakia (eds.), Religions and Migrations in the Black Sea Region, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-39067-3_4

This chapter focuses on the specific patterns of return migration in a Romano-Catholic village from Romania—Cleja, Bacau County.2 Regarding confessional demographics, Romania is predominantly Orthodox, with 87 per cent Orthodox Christians, 5 per cent Romano-Catholics, followed by 3 per cent Reformed, 2 per cent Penticostal, 1 per cent Greco-Catholics and 3 per cent other religions, according to the 2011 census. The inhabitants of Cleja (“Clejeni”) identify themselves as Csangos (in Romanian, ceangai)— they call themselves ceangai since they speak both Romanian and the Csangos dialect (the latter in Romanian is called ceangaieste, a dialect which combines archaic Hungarian with Romanian influences). The Csangos belong to the Romano-Catholic confession. The situation here is particularly interesting as this ethnic and religious minority finds itself caught between political, social and national interests pertaining to Hungary and Romania (Cotoi 2013). While in discussions people refer to themselves and the inhabitants of the village as Csdngos, only very few of the Csangos in Cleja3 and in the other villages in the area declared themselves as Csangos at the census. Also, even fewer declared themselves to be Hungarian.

According to census data for 2011 gathered by the National Institute of Statistics (hereafter NIS), Cleja is one of the Romanian communes with the highest rates of international migration. Hungary, Italy and Spain are the main destinations, followed by Israel and Portugal, and other countries such as France and Greece that appear as new destinations explored by migrants. The commune also appears to be quite developed in terms of infrastructure, mainly due to its location (almost two-three hours from Bucharest), which facilitates economical labour force ties with the nearby cities. Its history of migration and the intensive migration flow that is taking place at present also plays a role in this through the money migrants have sent or brought home to their families.

I am particularly interested in return migration and the effects of the process of migration on the community of origin. My study aims to answer the following questions: What are the migrants’ return intentions and what are the factors that intervene in their development? How is return seen in terms of success? What are the attitudes towards migration in the area of origin? How are the choices of migrants shaped in terms of destinations? I focus the analysis on the ethnic and religious specificity of this particular community, trying to underline the relation between the religious and ethnic identity of the village and the migration experiences of its inhabitants.

The chapter principally discusses the temporality of return migration, which can be seen as permanent or as another step in the migration process, followed by another exodus from the motherland to a foreign destination. In this sense, we can see in Cleja that temporary and circulatory migration are the pattern, with returnees being more open to opportunities they can find in other destination countries, due to information gathered during their past experiences abroad. On account of the economic crisis, apart from the regularisation of Romanian’s migration within the EU, another parameter that plays a major role in migrants’ willingness to reorient towards new destinations is the information that potential migrants have on the availability of accommodation and jobs abroad, information which is primarily obtained through networks.

The case study relies on in-depth interviews conducted in Cleja in August 2012 with key informants being returnees, and relatives of migrants and non-migrants. The results of this study form part of a community research project on migration funded by the Soros Foundation and conducted in eight villages located in different regions of Romania.

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