The region’s ethnic Hungarians have been campaigning for greater autonomy, with Hoki Sport Club Csikszereda in the vanguard.
"A city of 38,000 on a plateau in eastern Transylvania, Miercurea Ciuc is famous for three things: its status as one of Romania’s coldest places; its brewery, where the country’s Ciuc beer is produced; and its ice hockey team, which has won the last six Romanian league championships. Outside the Vakar Lajos rink, where the Hungarian name of the team, Hoki Sport Club Csikszereda, is printed on the ice. But the name on the front of the team’s blue-and-white hockey jerseys is not Miercurea Ciuc. It is Szekelyfold, the Hungarian word for the Szekely Land, a former province of the Kingdom of Hungary. Printed on the ice at the Vakar Lajos rink is the Hungarian name of the team: Hoki Sport Club Csikszereda. The fans at the team’s home games chant the Szekely Land anthem in Hungarian.
The Szekely Land, named for a warrior tribe that dates to the Middle Ages, is a Hungarian-dominated area of Romania, covering three counties in the center of the country. The roughly 1.2 million Hungarians represent Romania’s largest ethnic minority, about 6 percent of the country’s population. The fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I marooned millions of Hungarians in what is now Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Serbia. The Szekely found themselves cut off and subject to a policy of assimilation, including heavy restrictions on the use of their language, under the former communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu. But for the past two decades, the region’s ethnic Hungarians have been campaigning for greater autonomy, with Hoki Sport Club Csikszereda in the vanguard. Romania may be a soccer country, but in Csikszereda, ice hockey is the only game in town. The hockey club functions much like the storied Spanish soccer club Barcelona, which kept alive the flame of Catalan nationalism under the repressive rule of General Franco."