3. Rethinking National Identity after National-Communism? The case of Romania

Cristina Petrescu, University of Bucharest

It is common knowledge that during the Cold War Romania was one maverick member of the WTO. Its position with regard to the invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 was only the most visible manifestation of the policy pursued by the Romanian communist regime in relation to the Soviet bloc in general, and the Soviet Union in particular. Beginning with the withdrawal of the Red Army from Romania in 1958, the Bucharest authorities constantly aimed at achieving greater degrees of autonomy within the communist camp, while pursuing a rapprochement with the other—“imperialist”—camp. In short, while the Cold War mobilized—roughly speaking—half of the world against the other half, communist Romania tried rather to distance itself from both camps and play the independent. Such a foreign policy required a different kind of mobilization within the framework of the two camps, and a corresponding reformulation of the official ideology. It was the merge of Marxist-Leninist dogmas with tenets of interwar far-right nationalism that gave birth to the ideology of Romanian national-communism, which was not only “national”, but also “nationalistic.” In such circumstances, history dethroned Marxist philosophy from its leading place among the disciplines meant to support the official ideology. During the last two communist decades, in Romania it was history that supplied mobilizing arguments and offered through some of its practitioners supporting evidences meant to illustrate the theses on the national history formulated first by party apparatchiks, as it will be illustrated.

More specifically, this paper follows the process of amalgamating the pre-communist and early communist, Stalinist, historical narratives into one and unique story, whose main argument was the Romanians represent the Latin island of the East that fought continuously and unanimously throughout two millennia to fulfill the national identity by achieving unity and independence. It was obviously a heroic narrative meant above all to substantiate the Romanian Communist Party’s ambition of displaying its alleged independence from Moscow. At the same time, it must be taken into account that it represented a reconstruction of the past that offered a simple but appealing answer to the question: Who are the Romanians? Through schooling, this became the major ingredient of national identity for the generations who went out of the educational system in the 1970s and the 1980s. It can be said, ironically enough, that it was the Romanian communist regime that succeeded in fulfilling the building of the Romanian nation. What happen then after the end of communism? Theoretically, demobilization should have followed immediately. Practically, this paper illustrates, the national communist codification of the national narrative was indeed revived here and there, but without really touching its main tenets because such an endeavor would have implicitly triggered a rethinking of national identity. In order to achieve its goal, this paper focuses on the successive historical writings aiming at covering the entire national history of the Romanians since the emergence of history as a profession in the second half of the 19th century. These works have been most influential sources for textbooks, historical novels and, more recently, cinematic narratives, which represent on their turn the main sources of historical knowledge for the average, layman Romanian.

Defining the Romanian National Identity

As the “invention” of the Romanianness is one of the most paradoxical but least researched cases of East-Central Europe, this first part of the paper briefly summarizes the main stages in the formulation of national identity to which three successive generations of intellectuals contributed. Above all, the Romanian national identity was shaped, above all, by a myth of origin and ethnic descent, which defines two crucial elements: the ancestry, that is to say the founding fathers of the ethnic community, and the spatial origins, that is to say the attachment to a geographical framework. Ever since the first recorded response to these crucial identity questions was formulated, there was little variation. The symbolic geography of the nation is to a great extend overlapping to the current territorial borders of the nation-state; what is left outside today is of marginal importance for the construction of the self. [1] As for the origins, the answer has always included the assumption that the Romanians are directly descending from the ancient Romans; their language bears witness. The local population before the Roman conquest, the Dacians, did also play a role in defining the ancestry, sometimes matching that of the Romans, but only rarely surpassing it. The Romans have been crucial not only for defining the special identity, conferring uniqueness in contrast to the surrounding non-Latin ethno-cultural groups, but also for conferring special dignity in virtue of antiquity and pedigree. [2] In contrast, the Dacians are fundamental in defining the homeland, and implicitly the territorial attachment to it. Prior to the Roman conquest, the Dacians had a political autonomous organization that encompassed the entire national territory of the modern Romanian state that—except for an ephemeral state established at the turn of the XVII-th century by Michael the Brave—represents the only unique form of political organization in the geographical area that is considered the homeland of the Romanians.

Taking into account the preserved sources, it can be said that the Latin origin of the Romanians was first asserted in a series of 17th century Moldavian chronicles, the first writings of the sort known to have been written in the Romanian language in this medieval state. [3] It was the time when the “networks of discursive literacy” in vernacular languages were emerging due to “print capitalism.” [4] It was also a time of decay as compared to the recent as well as the more distant past, of political instability and military confrontations. It could be argued that these chroniclers, aristocrats by birth and learned people with a cosmopolitan education—they were attending Polish universities and, consequently knew Latin and Polish—were responding to a crisis of identity.

The Latin origin of the Romanians would become the credo of an entire generation of middle class Transylvanian intellectuals in the 18th century. This represented once again a response to a different crisis of identity. In the multi-ethnic Transylvanian milieu, the identity of the Romanians had been religiously-based: they were a Christian-Orthodox community. The conversion to Catholicism under Maria Theresia generated a crisis of identity. To this, the Romanians responded by adopting a secular self-definition, which would be elaborated and reproduced from generation to generation. [5] The Roman origin was meant to confer them dignity and reverse the uneven identity relationship with the socially and politically dominant group of the Hungarians. To the idea of the Latin descent, the so-called Transylvanian School added that of the continuity in Transylvania, which conferred them an ascendant on the Hungarians, who only came in this region in the 10th century. [6] It was the Transylvanian School which began to search for its “roots” during a first phase of scholarly interest to turn then, in the second generation of political activists, [7] the discourse on identity into an elaborated ideology of the nation. Thus, they created a cultural legacy of tremendous importance for all Romanians in the 19th century.

Nevertheless, it was the wide-spread adoption by the Moldovan and Wallachian elites of the 1848 generation—on their turn experiencing a crisis of identity—that marked the transformation of the Latin origins into the very basis of the emerging national identity. After centuries of isolation in the Ottoman Empire, the Treaty of Adrianopole in 1829 opened the two Principalities to the West, allowing the sons of boyars to study at Western universities. It was in Paris or Berlin that these young aristocrats had to define who they were, so they gradually transformed themselves from Moldo-Wallachians into Romanians. [8] The first systematic encounters between the revolutionary elites in Transylvania, Moldova and Wallachia during the turmoil of 1848, which represented an important moment of common socialization, also influenced the adoption of this unique collective identity. It was this generation of 1848 that understood that in order to define national identity the Romanians were in great need to forge a common history out of entangled, but mostly parallel stories. [9]

This was no easy task. As compared to other new nation-states in East Central Europe, no medieval state—with the exception of the one-year “union of Michael the Brave” in the beginning of the 17th century—encompassed the entire or at least the larger part of the territory of the Romanian modern state. However, one might agree today that by the communist takeover, historians succeeded in articulating a plausible national narrative to substantiate the construction of the national identity. Three issues shaped above all the writings on the past of the ethno-cultural community of the Romanians and their attachment to a territory defined as the homeland: their ancient—two thousand year old—roots, their continuity and their unity on this territory. Under communism, historians would add a fourth crucial issue of Romanian history: the continuous fight for independence. One should also be reminded that the pre-communist Romanian national narrative was teleological. In fact, only such a perspective would have been able to offer a key for writing a unique story by combining several separate historical-political evolutions. The “end of history” was for the pre-communist historians the accomplishment of the nation-state in the aftermath of WWI. National history was also ethnocentric, as all national histories of the time were. The Romanian historians reconstructed the past of their community ignoring any interaction with other communities living on these territories. Even after WWI, when the enlarged Romanian nation-state included areas inhabited by other ethnic groups, the past was narrated as if the Romanians were always alone on the geographical framework defined in the beginning of each historical narrative. [10] As for the view on the Romanian nation, the ethno-cultural community was perennial for them, as it was to all the historians of the time. [11] The terms mostly used by historians to designate the national community were: neam, a word of Hungarian origin, was used as synonymous with the word popor of French origin. Both referred to an ethno-cultural community, as it was the case with other groups in Central and Eastern Europe. [12]

Methodologically, the professional historians of the late 19th or early 20th centuries were mostly obsessed by the archival sources which they were frantically collecting and editing in order to write a comprehensive national history based on sound evidence. Thus, their narratives were primarily political, reflecting a perspective from above and referring to the deeds of the “great men” of the past. [13] On the one hand, the faith in the archives made them confident that their writings represented the “truth.” On the other, it was the careful observance of professional standards that helped the pre-communist historians to avoid some of the fallacies of the subsequent periods. Historicizing the periods they reconstructed, all were unanimous in making a crucial difference between the evidences given by medieval chronicles that some were aware of the common Latin origin of the Romanian speaking communities in Moldova, Wallachia and Moldova, and the idea of uniting these communities in a single state, which occurred to the political elite only centuries later. [14]

Up to the communist takeover, the legacy of Romanticism was not entirely removed by the critical reading of the sources, thus the past was selectively reconstructed in such a way as to include only the “glorious deeds” worthy of making the Romanians proud of their ancestors. However, the professional honesty did not allow these historians to see the medieval ruler Michael the Brave, who united shortly the all Romanians in the beginning of the 17th century, as anything else than a conqueror, which had nothing to do with the establishment of the nation-state in the late 19th century and early 20th century. [15] As it will be further shown, it was national-communism that transformed Michael the Brave into the first “unifier” of Romania, building one of the most beloved stories of the national narrative.

For Romanian pre-communist historians, who in fact witnessed the “Union of 1918,” this represented the very accomplishment of the entire historical development. Themselves representatives of the liberal upper and upper middle classes, all pre-communist historians were identifying themselves with the political elites that made Greater Romania. Placing Romania in a comparative European perspective, pre-communist historians interpreted the political union of the Romanians in a single nation-state as the result of the concerted activity of the local political elites, which had been, on the one hand, influenced by the example of the western states, and on the other, able to take advantage of the favorable international context in the aftermath of the Crimean War and later of WWI. [16] In this respect, it is interesting to note that the elite-oriented research performed by pre-communist historians brought the interpretation of the “formation of the Romanian state” closer to those of the current proponents of constructivism in the study of nationalism than it would be later the case of the communist historians. None had ever interpreted the entire history as a series of failed attempts to fulfill it, as the communist historians would do later.

Redefining National Identity under Communism

After the communist takeover, national history, as everywhere in the Soviet bloc, was completely rewritten, according to new political and methodological guidelines. The political implication upon historical writing meant above all the glorification of the supporting role of Russia—taken in this instance as the political ancestor of the Soviet Union—for the political development towards greater liberties of its smaller allies, the satellites in Eastern Europe. The methodological implication was obviously the reinterpretation of the entire national history on the basis of the Marxist historical materialism, whose consequence was the emergence in history of a new hero: “the people,” always progressive in comparison either to the reactionary local leaders or to the oppressing neighboring empires. [17]

It is very interesting to observe that, in the case of Romania, the political imperatives in rewriting the national narrative, although radical, [18] did not alter the main tenets of Romanian history, as already defined by the pre-communist historiography. True, the emphasis of the connections with the Eastern “brother” was a twist that might have threatened the very essence of their national identity: an island of Latinity in a sea of Slavs (and Hungarians). The Slavs, mentioned hitherto only as one of the many migratory groups coming and going during the dark millennium between the Roman withdrawal and the establishment of the medieval states, became after 1945 the third important cultural group—apart from the Dacians and the Romans—in the “ethno-genesis” of the Romanians. [19] The Slavs, although never dethroned from their place as the third most important cultural group in the making of the Romanians, have though never ever replaced or downplayed the importance of the Romans or the Dacians. At the same time, the Latin origins were never a matter of controversy under communism. What is more, the idea of continuity on the current territory was placed from the very beginning above any scientific questioning. On the contrary, the interpretation already given by the pre-communist historians was dressed in Marxist language and promoted as such by the historians of the Stalinist period: it were the wealthy people, the exploiters, who left Dacia in 274 at the request of Emperor Aurelian, while the “slaves” and the poor strata of the Latin population remained on the north of the Danube, considering the withdrawal as liberation from those who exploited them. In short, the Roman withdrawal contributed by default to the establishment of a new ethnic group of Latin origin, the Romanians, which comprised exclusively the exploited class, the poor, who represented the really “progressive” actors of history in the Marxist interpretation. [20] This hypothesis fitted so well the Marxist interpretation of history, that it was reproduced by all the subsequent versions of the national history produced up to the end of communism. [21] After all, the Latin origins and the continuity on the territory were issues conflicting with the Hungarian narrative, not with the Soviet one.

Apart from this slight revision regarding the origins of the Romanians in history, the national narrative had to be rewritten in such a way as to stress the connections and the influence of Russia during centuries. This operation implied another, more significant turn: the influence of the western civilization and above all the idea that it was this civilization that served as a model for the historical development at least during the last two centuries had to be overlooked. However, the first issue to be emphasized about the political imperatives in reshaping history is that exactly because they illustrated current politics they were the least durable. In Romanian historiography, the glorification of the Soviet Union and subsequently of Russia was gradually removed after 1958. This year was a twofold turning point for Romanian historiography: politically, it was the moment of the Soviet withdrawal that marked the beginning of a new policy in the relations with the USSR, while professionally coincided with the reintegration of many pre-communist historians just released from prison. [22] Of course, the Romanian communist historiography never returned to the thesis that the Russians did nothing good for the Romanians, which characterized the work of the pre-communist historians, nor did it ever underline again the essential role of western models during the modern period. In fact, national history would be again rewritten this time overlooking all external—Western or Eastern— influences throughout the Romanians’ history, and at the same bringing back the local pantheon of heroes. Consequently, the national narrative became much more ethnocentric than it was ever before the communist takeover.

The only issue where the official line dictated by the Soviet interests conflicted with the pre-communist historical narrative was that of the territorial attachment to the homeland as defined in pre-communist historiography, i.e. to Greater Romania. The postwar territorial redefinition implied rather marginal loses: it regarded only Bessarabia and part of Bukovina, [23] leaving untouched the region of Transylvania, the “cradle of Romanianness” and the very hearth of the homeland. [24] Correspondingly, the homeland was redefined in all historical periods since the times of the Dacians and the Roman conquest in such a way as to coincide with the new borders of communist Romania. In the long run, this proved to be effective in generating a new way of imagining the nation: today very few Romanians consider that Bessarabia or the truncated Bukovina should return to the motherland. [25] However, it is worth noting that Bessarabia was not totally erased from the national narrative. In fact, a totally unexpected event helped the Romanian Communist Party invoke from time to time this lost region, whenever the alleged independence from Moscow had to be displayed. In 1958, a Polish historian discovered in Amsterdam some hand-written comments of Karl Marx on the Romanians. These were in fact reading notes taken by the founding father of the communist ideology meant to illustrate his theses with diverse examples. As these notes were following mostly a French author, who on its turn inspired himself from the writings of the Romanticist Romanian historian Nicolae Bălcescu, their overlapping with the pre-communist national narrative is not surprising. [26] Beyond all sorts of comments on the exploitation of the Romanians by the three neighboring empires, it was the mentioning of the loss of Bessarabia to Russia in 1812 that interested the Romanian communist elite. [27] In short, under the umbrella of Marx, the communist historiography could cautiously make reference to the pre-communist homeland whenever appropriate. [28]

Turning to the methodological reinterpretation of history on the basis of historical materialism, the first issue to be noticed is that for the first time ever it was attempted to give more importance to concepts and definitions, which in essence was obviously a legitimate trend. [29] For the writing of the national narrative, this implied first of all the introduction of the concept of the nation, obviously in the understanding given to it by Stalin. As mentioned, pre-communist historians usually referred to the community of the Romanians using popor or neam as synonyms and as concepts that defined a perennial ethno-cultural group, geographically located inside and outside the Carpathians, on the alleged territory of Roman Dacia. According to Stalin, the nation is a community with more attributes: it is “a historically constituted stable community of people, formed on the basis of the common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” He maintained that the nations implied a certain economic stage of development necessary to surpass the economic isolation, which was characteristic only to the capitalist society. At the same time, Stalin insisted that a nation existed only all the attributes were present, not only some of them, making in this way the economic argument indispensable. [30] To sum up, Stalin’s definition introduced for the first time ever in Romanian historiography the idea that the community called nation emerges only in capitalism, which on the one hand challenged the perennial pre-communist self-perspective promoted in historical writings, and on the other linked nations to the common market.

What was the result of this novelty? The modernity of the nation influenced very little the perspective on national identity and national history. Of course, such a source as Stalin could not have been disregarded. [31] Romanian historians, however, confined themselves to consider the nation just as the last stage in the historical development of the already existing historical community of culture. The continuity between the two forms of communities was simply taken for granted, thus the perennial view was reproduced with only a minor footnote. On the contrary, the idea of the common market bounding together all the Romanians generated a new line of arguments in favor of the historical unity of the Romanians. Initially, economic arguments were only used to explain the emergence of the nation-state: it was the intensification of commerce between the two principalities at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries that had created the premises for the union of 1859. The bourgeois class in the making needed a larger internal market in order to expand economically, thus they pushed for the union. The nation-state in communist historiography was no longer the result of the skilful diplomacy of the political elite, but a historical necessity. [32] However, the economic attributes of the nation—the existence of the common market—were later projected back in history in order to underline the unity of the ethno-cultural group over centuries. [33] As commerce was crossing the Carpathians regardless of political borders ever since there were records in the archives, the research on the “economic exchanges” between medieval Moldova, Wallachia and Transylvania flourished under communism. In short, the Stalinist definition of the nation only reinforced the existing perspective on the synchronic and unitary development of the ethno-cultural community of the Romanians in history. [34]

More generally, Marxism was instrumentalized in order to explain the entire historical evolution from one mode of production to another by the existence of class struggles. This meant first of all the development of the previously marginal research on social and economic issues in history. Marxism had been already tested in western historiography following the economic depression of the 1930s, but mostly to interpret the English and French revolutions. [35] In postwar Soviet dominated countries, however, Marxism led to a fallacious reading of the past. One prominent example is the alleged decisive role played by the bourgeoisie in the revolutions of 1848 that marked the collapse of feudalism and the rise of capitalism in countries where such a social group barely existed. In the case of Romania, nevertheless, Marxism had also a different effect upon national history. On the one hand, the addition of social and economic analyses supported in fact the homogenization of the Romanians’ history to an extent that the political history written by the non-Marxist interwar historians could have never been able to achieve. While the narration of events underlined that the Romanians’ historical evolution was maybe similar, sometimes entangled, but mostly separate until the accomplishment of the nation-state, social-economic history illustrated that the “people from below” did not live that differently throughout the ages. In short, the parallel existence of the same mode of production on the entire historical territory was a stronger unifying principle for the national narrative.

On the other hand, class struggle required the introduction of a new agency in history: the “progressive” collective actor “the people”. Initially intended to depopulate history of its pre-communist heroes—monarchs and bourgeois politicians—“the progressive people” always opposed the reactionary local leaders and/or the exploiting neighboring empires. [36] The first historical synthesis produced under communism in Romania stated from the introduction that “the masses—the producers of the material goods and cultural artifacts, the promoters of social progress—are the real makers of history.” [37] The new hero of the Marxist historiography, “the people,” who was experiencing the same historical stages at a given time, provided the common narrative on the Romanians’ past with substance than it could have ever been extracted from the analysis of the separate political evolutions under various leaders. Feudalism, which allegedly began in all the territories inhabited by the Romanians roughly at the time of the establishment of the first political organizations known from documents, offered a unifying base at the time when a common history of events could not have been written any longer. What is more, feudalism became synonymous with the struggle for independence against the “Turkish joke and other foreign exploiters”. [38] The almost contemporary rules of János Hunyadi [Iancu de Hunedoara]—the Hungarian governor of Transylvania whose family had remote Romanian origins,—Vlad the Impeller, the voievod of Wallachia, and Stephen the Great, the “voievod” of Moldova, all of whom waged war against the Turks, were interpreted as a race in which one passed the anti-Ottoman fighting flag to the other. [39] Capitalism, although harder to document because of the quasi-inexistence of the bourgeoisie, it served though in harmonizing the separate histories as it opened in all the territories inhabited by Romanians with the Revolution of 1848. What is more, it was interpreted that the revolutionary struggle in 1848 in Moldova, Wallachia and Transylvania represented “a unitary action because of the common anti-feudal and national claims.” [40] In short, the primitive Marxism that the Romanian historians used in order to reshape national history created a homogenized conception about the Romanian past that the pre-communist historians, however nationalist, never had. [41]

The final and most radical step in the process of transforming the national narrative into on that corresponded to the new ideological priorities of the communist elite occurred under the Ceauşescu regime. As he tried to give substance to his alleged independent position in the Soviet camp, he turned after 1968 gradually to national history in order to look for a suitable pedigree for the RCP. Local historical heroes became more important ideological references than Marx and Lenin themselves: in short, Ceauşescu modestly placed himself in direct descendance from the ancient Dacian kings (not the Roman ones), going through the medieval rulers up to the first local prince of united Romania in the 19th century (carefully avoiding subsequent German dynasty that made the modern Romanian state). Thus, Romania’s repositioning within the Soviet camp was mirrored in historical writing in quite a radical way. The national narrative codified under Ceauşescu represented a new teleological reading of the past, but one which managed to reconcile the pre-1945 and post-1945 versions of national history. As argued above, the “end of history” in the pre-communist version was the accomplishment of the nation-state. The Marxist narrative, written as a history of class struggles that led the Romanians from primitive communism to socialism, envisaged an end in the “communist society,” yet not accomplished. Interestingly enough, the two teleological readings of the national history were merged in a quite original way: the communist party was defined as the only true follower of the social and national aspirations of the Romanian people throughout its entire history. This was in fact an older idea of the communist repertoire. Ghoerghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Romania’s first communist dictator, had launched it in 1951, at the thirtieth anniversary of the party, and reiterated it in 1961, at the fortieth anniversary of the party. [42] However, it was Nicolae Ceauşescu who transformed it into the backbone of the national narrative. In 1966, at the forty-fifth anniversary of the party, he declared the Romanian communist party the logical inheritor of the centuries-old struggles of the Romanian “people” for achieving its “unity and independence.” In this way, national history became the prehistory of the Party, [43] while the cherished attributes of the party: unity—meaning the lack of dissenting voices—and independence—meaning the alleged autonomy from the Soviet Union—were projected upon the entire history of the ethno-cultural community.

Finally, the official codification of the national narrative occurred in 1974 with the issuance of the founding document of Romanian national-communism—the Communist Party’s Program—which opened with a 38-page long version of national history. Four main ideas, which became “sacred themes” of the national-communist historiography, shaped the history of the Romanians, according to this political document: (1) the ancient roots of the Romanian people; (2) the continuity of the Romanians on the actual territory from the ancient times until present; (3) the unity of the Romanian people throughout its entire history; and, (4) Romanians’ continuous struggle for independence. Briefly summarized, the past of the Romanians was interpreted in the following way: “the entire history of the Romanian people appears like a continuous series of class struggles, of fights led by the popular masses for liberty and social justice, for defending the national identity and for independence, for progress and civilization.” [44] Consequently, read backwards, all historical episodes were interpreted either as failed attempts to achieve the unity—among which most prominently features the episode of Michael the Brave, who became indeed the hero who envisaged the nation-state—or as struggles for the independence from the Turks, the Austro-Hungarians or the Russians. [45] As for the making of the nation-state in the 19th-20th century, that was interpreted as the work of the entire Romanian people throughout the centuries. [46]

As shown above, the first three ideas were present from the very institutionalization of history as a scientific discipline in Romania. The first two, i.e., the ancient roots and the continuity of the Romanians, were developed as a result of the polemics with historians from the neighboring countries, most notably Hungarians, and represented the main ingredient of national identity and the defining element of the national homeland. Since state-building and professionalization of history took place simultaneously in the second half of the 19th century, the third theme, i.e., the unity of the Romanian people in spite of its separate histories was always present in the historical writings of the period. As for the fourth, the incessant struggle for independence, this is a characteristic of all the historiographies of the small countries of East-Central Europe, continually confronted with the much more powerful neighboring empires. As Romania tried to emphasize its independent position within the communist camp, the centrality of the struggle for independence in the national-communist historiographical canon was, naturally, a reflection of daily politics. What made the national communist narrative indeed exceptionally unprofessional was that the two last ideas—the unity and the independence—became axioms that shaped each historical episode since the emergence of the Romanians in history and up to the establishment of the communist nation-state.

What is more, the above mentioned ideas became the yardstick of any historical writing. Once the history was interpreted by party apparatchiks, the role of the professional historians was confined from then onwards only to the discovery of new evidences meant to illustrate the theses on the national history formulated by the communist party. However, since these theses overlapped to the “tradition” in Romanian historical writing, they were willingly embraced by many historians. The most damaging effect though originated in the very definition of a blueprint for all historical writings, which was unparalleled in the Soviet camp, to my knowledge. In this way, the 19th century Rankean idea that history is an objective science that can only be one was politically imposed upon historians. The direct consequence was that any professional debate over conflicting interpretations was no longer allowed: as objective history is only one and that version is that of the party, then it follows that any dissent from it was at the same time politically incorrect and professionally erroneous. The party national narrative became also the blueprint for the unique compulsory textbook utilized in schools, and, therefore, the source of knowledge about the past for every citizen. To sum up, under the last stage of communism in Romania, national history was reformulated in such a way as the “people”, used alternatively for the lower classes and the ethnic community, were the moving forces in history. As social differences had been already erased by the regime, this answer was meant to erase ethnic and regional differences as well. The imaginary collective actor, “the people,” constantly aiming throughout centuries at achieving its unity and independence became the source of national identity. It was a simple, but strong answer to the question: Who are the Romanians. Thus, the end of the Cold War did not implicitly trigger its rejection, as it will be further shown.

Rethinking National Identity after National-Communism?

Since historical writing was so ideologically controlled under communism, one of the major consequences of the Revolution of 1989 was that the historians found themselves confronted with an unprecedented public interest in discovering the past. As in the rest of the former Soviet bloc, appeals for writing the “true” history of the country abounded. However, the end of communism did not lead to the immediate collapse of this unique and compulsory version of national history, which was for almost two decades prior to 1989 the only legitimate narrative on the Romanian’s past. This part of the paper follows the development of historical writing once the ideological control of the party was removed in an attempt to asses to what extend the historical sources of national identity were questioned. The collapse of communism allowed problems constantly obscured before 1989 to reach the surface. First, the ethnocentricity of the national history was challenged by the non-Romanian ethnic communities who claimed a rightly deserved place in the national narrative. Minority-related problems, above all those involving the relation with the Hungarian community, and the Jewish sufferings during WWII, as well as the Romanian contribution to the Holocaust, required resolute answers not only from politicians, but from historians as well. The two problems, although related had different political and historiographical implications. The general problem of the minorities, their rights and their place in national history, and in particular that of the Hungarian community living in Romania, emerged as an imperative in early post-communism in reaction to the xenophobic policies of the Ceauşescu regime. This problem however had deeper roots. As known, after WWI, by incorporating new territories, Romania was suddenly transformed from an almost ethnically homogenous state into one in which ethnic minorities made up 25% of the population. Since then, the place that the non-Romanians should occupy in a history of Romania remained an open and never resolved question. As already mentioned, before the communist takeover, the history of the Romanians was written as if the Romanians had been alone on their homeland. The communist regime tried initially to accommodate the minority groups in the national narrative, but in a totally inadequate manner. The “people,” the lower classes in national-communist parlance, were whenever appropriate regarded as a multi-ethnic group characterized by a class solidarity that was directed against the upper classes, which in most of the cases were very conveniently non-Romanian, i.e. Hungarian in Transylvania, or Greek in Moldova and Wallachia. In this way, the members of the other ethnic groups were either “reactionary” forces in history to the extent they represented the dominant groups or, if “progressive,” then they were melted into the larger Romanian community. Most problematic was the history of the multiethnic Transylvania, in which many Hungarian heroes were simply transformed into Romanians, such was the case of János Hunyadi / Iancu de Hunedoara or Gyorgy Dozsa / Gheorghe Doja.

In reaction, one of the first waves of post-communist research covered the history of the minority groups living on the Romanian’s homeland. Gradually, it was acknowledged that the past of the Romanians was entangled with that of the other ethnic communities living together on the territory the Romanians regard as their homeland. The earlier works concentrating on these topics have been authored by NGO activists, among whom some were former human rights dissidents, [47] but generally such contributions fail to take an historical perspective. As for the historians who have addressed the topic, they came mainly from two “camps.” The nationalistic “camp” continued to keep alive topics such as the Hungarian interwar revisionism, in order to remind all that the claims over Transylvania are not yet abandoned by the western neighbors. [48] A younger, Western-educated generation of historians has indeed provided modern, balanced approaches to the subject, which attempted to illustrate for instance the interaction between Romanians and Hungarians in Transylvania. [49] The number of books covering the problem of minorities grew steadily, as research on such topics had greater chances to receive foreign sponsorship. [50] Many of the books that covered the problems of the minorities living in Romania had the merit of studying systematically for the first ever the history of a neglected, hitherto silent community, such is the Roma. [51]

However, post-communist research on the non-Romanian communities living on the Romanian’s homeland did not trigger a genuine reconsideration of Romanian national history. True, some short revised versions of the national narrative, which tried to do justice to the non-Romanian historical characters, do exist. [52] However, ethnocentricity of the national narrative was not really challenged by any of the attempts to cover the non-Romanian communities whose histories were entangled with that of the Romanian-speaking group. In this respect, the first post-1989 national history of the Romanians, a work of great proportions than any other previous such endeavor, confirmed once more that the re-professionalization of history after communism is going to be a long and painful process. Liberty of expression and free circulation of information are necessary but not sufficient steps. Ideological constraints were lifted after the Revolution of 1989, but many of the historians who dominate key institutions continued to write history in the way they used to do it under communism without even being aware how old-fashioned they are. What is more, they disseminate among the younger generation the views on Romanian history that they once acquired under national-communism. This post-communist version of the national narrative, which hardly represents a “new” history of the Romanians, is an illustration of this trend. [53]

The one ethnic community whose history in Romania aroused the hottest debates was - no wonder - the Jewish one. The communist regimes from the countries that took active part in the Holocaust as allies of Nazi Germany—Romania, and Hungary—were reluctant to acknowledge the scale of this phenomenon as the WWII had to be portrayed as a confrontation between communism and fascism, in which the destruction of Jewry was at best a footnote. Thus, the very consideration of a traumatic episode such as the Holocaust as being part of Romanian history stirred genuine protests among historians as well as politicians. Until 1989, the problem of Jewish sufferings and the Holocaust, in spite of the regime’s careful strategy to formally avoid any form of anti-Semitism, was ambiguously approached. [54] Initially a taboo, the subject was tackled by party-selected historians only in the 1970s. Their research, however, played down the number of the victims and argued that the Romanian authorities should not to be blamed for the atrocities committed against the Romanian Jews. [55] Such an interpretation gave way to the gradual recuperation of the figure of Antonescu by the Ceauşescu regime. [56] More generally, before 1989, the local population’s participation in the persecution of Jews was overlooked, while the responsibility for the Holocaust was put on Germany solely. After 1989, when survivors of the Holocaust asked that this terrible episode be properly addressed, controversies emerged not only in Romania, but throughout East-Central Europe. [57] Since these countries just emerged from communism, most of their inhabitants wanted to learn first about the sufferings of the majority in the Stalinist camps and not about, in their views, the ordeals of another minority, which, in many cases was taken as responsible for the imposition of communism. Others acknowledged the legitimacy of the Jewish pressure, but held that any such endeavor must take into account not only the atrocities made in the name of race, but also those made in the name of class. [58]

The debate on the Holocaust surfaced first in the public sphere, promoted by non-historians, and only then it took roots in professional circles as well. Nevertheless, with the opening of the archives, historical research gradually fixed the boundaries of the debate. Most professional historians recognized unanimously that Holocaust must be part of Romanian history, but controversies on two issues aroused. First, around the degree of responsibility that the Romanians themselves had: while some simply stated that the Romanian authorities are guilty for the killings of the Jews on the territories under their administration during WWII, [59] others tried to illustrate the ambiguous position of the Antonescu government, which refused the deportations to Auschwitz and, implicitly, spared this community of a more cruel fate. [60] The second controversy is related to the scale of the Holocaust in Romania. The very negligent Romanian bureaucracy was not very good in keeping the records, so the number of the Jews killed could be placed between a minimum of 120,000 and a maximum of 410,000. [61] If the later figures, which came out after the opening of the Ukrainian archives, are correct, then Romania becomes the country that had the highest contribution to the Holocaust of all the Nazi allies.

To what extent the Romanian anti-Semitism is at the origin of this horror continues to be a subject of controversy. However, much in the direction of institutionalizing a debate on this tragic historical episode was accomplished also due to external diplomatic pressure. The Romanian presidency established in 2003 an International Commission for the Study of Holocaust, which produced a Report that acknowledged the Romanian responsibility for the death of 280,000-380,000 Jews. [62] In this awkward way, the Holocaust was the first negative episode in Romanian history that, for political reasons, was accepted as part of the national narrative.

The ideological intrusion of the communist regime had once been instrumental in obscuring and distorting the historical writings related to this shameful part of Romanian history. However, at a more general level, the refusal to consider the Holocaust as intrinsic part of the national narrative has deeper origins than the national-communist codification of history, which go back to Romanticist period. Thus, neither the non-Romanian groups nor the negative episodes in which Romanians were involved ever had a place in the Romanian national narrative. It was only in the middle 1990 that the pre-communist sources of the national-communist version of national history began to be critically re-assessed. A radical break with the past, in the form of a historiographical “tremor,” occurred with the publication of the works of Lucian Boia, a professor at the University of Bucharest, and one of the most “unorthodox” Romanian historians of the post-1989 period. His post-communist writings shook the idea of “national” history shared by a majority of the academic community in Romania. Ironical and deliberately polemical, Boia discusses the way in which main hypotheses regarding fundamental issues in Romanian historiography changed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, from generation to generation, according not only to the advancement of research but also to the political imperatives of the nation-building process. [63]

Compared to any other previous historical writings in post-communist Romania, his approach introduced two iconoclastic messages. The above mentioned intended revisions of the national history—related to minorities in general, and the problem of the Romanian Jewry and the Holocaust in particular—implied rather the inclusion of something previously non-existent in the narratives that reconstructed the past of the Romanians. Boia’s approached touched upon the very idea that history could be objectively written, and implicitly that of the uniqueness of the national narrative. Obviously, such an idea is rather old among professional historians across the world, who long ago acknowledged that historical writings cannot reflect history “as it really was.” In Romania of the 1990s, however, such a message was an absolute novelty. As shown above, the codification of the national narrative by the national-communist regime reinforced politically the idea that national history is only one when written according to the professional standards of Rankean origins. In 1989, after a long period of ideological intrusion and cultural isolation from the professional evolution of the discipline in the West, many historians returned to the pre-communist historical traditions and continued to ignore the developments that hitherto shaped historical writing. Thus, Boia’s book simply shook the idea that historical narratives could only be “true” and consequently unique. Within the historical profession, conflicting interpretation that challenged the national narrative gradually emerged, as it will be further shown.

The second implication of this book and Boia’s subsequent writings [64] was the invitation to systematically reconsider not only the national-communist historical master narrative, but the entire “national” tradition of historical writing, to which many Romanian historians wanted to return after 1989. In a historiographic milieu still lacking systematic and concerted methodological imports from the West, the “national tradition” was generally perceived in early post-communism as the only basis for the renewal of historical writing. In Romania, not even the so-called critical school of interwar historians—whose professional manifesto was the revision of the national narrative by strictly taking into archival documents—was ever able to overcome the legacy of the 19th century national-Romanticism and continued to a great extent to promote the glorious perspective on the national past characteristic to the previous generations. In such a professional context, Boia’s first and foremost merit was the initiation of a more critical approach to the entire pantheon of national history, not only of its flamboyant version promoted under national-communism.

Although these ideas were rather implicit than explicit in his books, they have been received with great enthusiasm especially by the new generations of students. His writings became quickly popular and stirred public debates because they emerged at a time when a new audience tired to listen dusty stories about the past was prepared and interested in discovering a fresh message. Thus, what might be perceived to a great extent as a “one-man show” triggered a new trend in historical writing in Romania, under whose umbrella not only the young historians but also those professionals keen to distance themselves from the compromised “collaborators” of the communist regime found themselves together. Gradually, not only the national-communist codification of the national history, but also the Romanticist heroic narrative about the past were deconstructed by monographs authored mostly by historians in search to create for themselves a new professional identity. [65] It is difficult to do justice for all as only their mentioning would stretch this paper beyond its scope. It is worth though mentioning few directions into which individual efforts were coordinated. The positive appraisal of the medieval rules was questioned, as well as the idea of the common fight against the Ottoman threat in the three Romanian principalities institutionalized by the communists, were dismissed. [66] Instead, historians tried to re-place the Romanian principalities in the larger European context and consider the anti-Ottoman struggles as part of the wars between Christianity and Islam. [67] At the same time, the subordination of Wallachia and Moldova to the Ottoman Empire—the much-praised alleged independence under the Turkish rule—was re-discussed in such a way as to downplay the heroic Romanian resistance. [68] More interesting is the reconsideration Transylvania’s place in Romanian history, as the past of this region was more entangled with that of Hungary and Austria than with the other two Romanian principalities. [69] New monographs revisited several episodes in the history of this multicultural area and stressed its distinctive political, social and cultural character, which originates in the influence of the western neighbors. [70] Also, the impact of Greek domination in Wallachia and Moldova, the so-called Phanariot rule, previously interpreted as a period of foreign oppression, was revisited and its French-inspired Enlightenment influence upon the two principalities acknowledged. [71] Finally, the union of 1859 between these two principalities, the first step in the accomplishment of the nation-state, was interpreted in a de-ideologized manner, after fresh reading of the sources revealed that the decision was far from being unanimously embraced. [72]

It must be also mentioned that the non-heroic treatment of the great figures of the past was not welcome by a considerable part of the historical profession. Above all, many disliked Boia’s critique of the cult of the medieval ruler Michael the Brave, who, in 1600, united under his leadership for one year the three principalities inhabited by Romanians – Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania – which would become only after the WWI part of the same state, Greater Romania. Ever since Nicolae Bălcescu, a historian and a leading 1848 revolutionary from Wallachia, wrote his book, The Romanians under Michael-Voievod the Brave, this condottiere’s short lived union was considered one of the “finest hours” in Romanian history. [73] As mentioned, according to the teleological scheme devised by national-communist historiography, that historical moment was re-interpreted as an anticipation of the union of 1918, “the centuries-old dream of all Romanians.” The general audience proved to be even less prepared for such a dramatic turn after decades in which national history was only one, as the public debates that surfaced with the launch of alternative history textbooks in 1999 illustrates. For laymen socialized under communism, national history remained to this day the one and only they learned in school. Behind any other version can only be Hungarian irredentism. [74]

To sum up, the reappraisal of the past did not affect but part of the small community of the historians. Even among professionals, their effect was limited as long as the mainstream interpretations of the emergence of nations and nationalism in history remain practically unknown to this day in Romania. That these theories that underline the modern and constructed nature of the nation were taboo in the culturally autarchic communist Romania might be explainable. After 1989, once the barriers of communication with the outside academic world were removed, these theories could have challenged the perennial view on the nation. However, only the work of few historians was influenced by such works. [75] Most notable, the late historian of mentalities Alexandru Duţu attempted to give a reply to these theories by developing his own model of nation-building. His approach is based on two concepts: (1) that of organic solidarity, specific to the private sphere, which includes the family, the parish, the voluntary associations and the like; and (2) that of organized solidarity, which is promoted by the center of power in search of legitimacy. The latter can be found throughout history, from the stage of the elderly councils to the modern state. Contrary to evolutionary model promoted by modernist-constructivist authors, Duţu holds that the two types of solidarities do not correspond to two different stages – pre-modern and modern – but coexist. It was the modern state, however, which gave priority to the organized solidarity. In cases of nation-building such as that of Romania, the transformation from an imperial province into a national state took place primarily by relying on organized solidarity, but not exclusively, since organic solidarity had also a role to play. [76] However, his premature death hampered him to further develop this theory, so that his endeavor had a rather limited impact upon historical writing in Romania.

The final question is though if all these new and timid developments in Romanian historiography were able to trigger a redefinition of national identity. The communist regime had once offered a simple, unique, compulsory, but convincing answer to the question of who the Romanians are. It was produced by the party, but reproduced everywhere, from academic writings to historical fiction, from textbooks to feature films. Especially the latter category continue to be a very popular genre in post-communist Romania; in particular, the historical cinematic narrative on Michael the Brave is until today the second most popular Romanian film of all times, seen by more than 13 million viewers. [77] The main tenets of the national-communist version of national identity were never revisited in any post-communist public debate. One event nobody dared yet to revisit in a fresh monograph is the Union of 1 December 1918. The crowning event of history in the pre-communist period, reinterpreted under communism as the unanimous expression of the Romanian people’s will throughout centuries, the Union of 1918 is celebrated since 1989—for the first time in history—as Romania’s national day. Although many historians would agree today that this event was rather a great gift to the Romanians rather than the greatest achievement historical ever, none has authored a potentially unpopular revisionist monograph of this event. [78]

Even more interesting to note is that, while demobilization of historical writing touched at least partially the more remote periods of the past, recent history, which had to be totally rewritten, was interpreted in perfect consonance to the national-communist argument. If one follows public debates as well as the historical reconstructions of the communist period in present day Romania, one will be amazed of the similarity between the pre-1989 interpretation of the past 2000 years and post-1989 interpretation of the recent past. Under communism, the entire history was a series of continuous struggles for unity and above all independence from the more powerful neighboring empires, which failed for centuries, but were finally achieved in the 19th and 20th centuries. After communism, the post-war history is written as a series of revolts against an alien power—the USSR—that imposed an adverse regime to which the Romanians tried hopelessly but courageously to resist from day one up to the very end. In short, the Romanians continued to be the innocent victims of history even under communism. Their bravery however led to the collapse of 1989. [79] In short, such interpretation of the recent past perfectly fits in continuation to the heroic national narrative encompassing the past since the Dacians, as it was defined under national-communism.

This raises a more general question about the relationship between the past, respectively its codification into a national history, and national identity. In East-Central Europe, since the 19th century, the past was researched to a great extent in order to define the national identity of ethno-cultural groups emerging into new nations. More than in the case of the civic-political nations of Western Europe, historians were instrumental in supporting the process of nation-building. Today, after almost two centuries of continuous reproduction of national identity through schooling, what is the role history should continue to play? In post-communist Romania, historians have rewritten episodes of the past in tune with the current standards of the discipline. This however had a limited impact upon the national master narrative. Neither the above mentioned single post-communist national history, the collective work of a large group of historians, nor the new textbooks did include major revisions of the narrative about the past of the Romanians, with the exception of the Holocaust. In this respect, it is very telling that neither the Latin Origins of the Romanians nor their continuity on the homeland territory was seriously debated. When one attempted to do this, the public opinion was outraged. [80] These two ideas might not mean much for the average Romanian, but they are taken for granted. Without them, who would after all the Romanians be?


[1] The current Romanian nation-state was established in three major steps. It first emerged in the aftermath of the Crimean War through the union of two principalities under the Ottoman suzerainty, Moldova and Wallachia, subsequently renamed Romania. In the aftermath of the First World War, it included new territories inhabited in majority by Romanians, but previously under Austrian-Hungarian or Russian rule. Finally, the borders were slightly redrawn in the aftermath of the Second World War by awarding the Soviet Union the province incorporated in 1918 from the Russia and some other smaller parts.

[2] In the analysis of the Romanians’ myth of ethnic descent, I am indebted to Anthony D. Smith, “National Identity and Myths of Ethnic descent,” in Idem, Myths and Memories of the Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 57-95. Smith distinguishes first between genealogical and ideological myths, according to the type of solidarity among the members of the ethnic group: biologically- or culturally-based. Then, he deconstructs the myth in various components, which were classified in the following categories: myths of temporal origins, myths of location and migration, myths of ancestry, myths of the heroic age and myths of regeneration. Finally, Smith argues that such myths have consequences on collective actions which can be tied to a common sense of special identity, special dignity, specific territory, and specific autonomy.

[3] Grigore Ureche (1590-1647) is the first author writing in Romanian to ever affirm that “the Romanians ... are all coming from Rome [Rîm]” in his chronicle of Moldova. See Grigore Ureche Vornicul and Simion Dascălul, Letopiseţul Ţării Moldovei (The Chronicle of Moldova), ed. Constantin C. Giurescu, (Craiova: Scrisul Românesc, n.d.), 80. Miron Costin (1633-1691), who had studied in Poland, continued the chronicle of Moldova from where it was left by Ureche, but also authored writings in Polish about the history of Moldova and Wallachia, using Latin and Polish sources. His work considered most important in Romanian culture is De neamul moldovanilor: Din ce ţară au ieşit strămoşii lor (About the Moldovan people: From what country came out their ancestors), where he maintained the cultural affinity of all Romanian-speaking populations in Moldova, Wallachia and Transylvania, as well as their common Latin origin. Both chronicles were used by Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723) as sources for his own historical writings, in particular for Hronicul vechimii Româno-Moldo-Vlahilor (The Chronicle of the Romanian-Moldavian-Wallachians), which is counted among the sources red by the Transylvanian school writers. The Moldavian chronicles were edited by Mihail Kogălniceanu, a historian trained in Germany and the most prominent politician from the 1848 generation in Moldova. The first edition dates from 1852, then the second edition, which came twenty later, after the Union of the two principalities included also some chronicles of Wallachia.

[4] See the argument developed by Benedict Anderson in order to explain the emergence of the national communities together with the emergence of modernity. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983, new and rev. 1991).

[5] Sorin Mitu, National Identity of Romanians in Transylvania (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001). The Transylvania intellectual response to their crisis of identity has various sources, but it seems that it also originates in the Moldovan chronicles, via the work of Dimitrie Cantemir.

[6] The idea of the nation as formulated by three subsequent generations in Transylvania was meant “to harmonize the patriarchal Orthodox tradition of an essentially rural world with the dynamic spirit of urban Europe.” Keith Hitchins, The Idea of Nation: The Romanians of Transylvania, 1691-1849 (Bucharest: Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică, 1988), 89.

[7] The three phases defined by Miroslav Hroch in the emergence of a national movement fit perfectly the three generations of the Transylvanian School. It is interesting to note though that this comparative study was never applied for the Romanian case. Miroslav Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe: A Comparative Analysis of the Social Composition of Patriotic Groups among the Smaller European Nations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 3-24.

[8] For an account on the shift in the world-view of the 1848 generation due to their encounter with the West, which radically changed Romania, see Neagu Djuvara, Între Orient şi Occident: Ţările Române la începutul epocii moderne (1800-1848) (Between the East and the West: The Romanian Principalities at the beginning of modernity, 1800-1848) (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1995).

[9] The first attempts to write a unified history of the Romanians were made prior to this generation. The first author who ever wrote a history of all Romanians, Hronica românilor şi a mai multor neamuri, based on a life-time work of collecting a large corpus of sources and addressed to the Romanians themselves was the Transylvanian Gheroghe Şincai (1754-1816). His work was though not published but in periodicals and only fragmentary until his death, and only later, after 1843, in volume. It never enjoyed much popularity because of his dry style, so it remained important as a first attempt to write a unified history of Romanians on large documentary base. It is worth mentioning that this history begins with the foundation of Rome in 86 A.D.

[10] All national narratives were entitled “the history of the Romanians,” and referred also to the Romanians that were outside the national borders, even in the interwar period. The difference between the history of the Romanians, which included the past of all Romanian communities, inside or outside the national borders, and the history of Romania, which should have included all the other ethnic groups living in the confines of the state, is underlined by C.C. Giurescu in his collection of articles Probleme controversate în istoriografia română (Controversial problems in Romanian historiography) (Bucharest: Albatros, 1977).

[11] The name of the Romanians is another matter of controversy. Although descending from the Moldovan chronicles, it was selectively used up to the XIX-th century. Until then, the Romanian speaking population self-identified in various ways, while the others were referring to them as Vlachs. On the social meaning of the name Romanian, see C. Giurescu, “Despre rumâni” (On the Rumanians) in Idem, Studii de istorie socială (Studies of social history), ed. C.C. Giurescu (Bucharest: Editura Universul, 1943). His son however maintained in his compendium of national history that Romanians is the name of an ethno-cultural community of Latin origin. See C.C. Giurescu, Istoria românilor din cele mai vechi timpuri şi pînă la moartea regelui Ferdinand, (The history of the Romanians from the remotest times to the death of King Ferdinand) (Bucharest: Editura Cugetarea, 1943), 62-63. A more nuanced interpretation was given by P.P. Panaitescu, who argued that the preservation of this name all throughout centuries and in spite of the political separation is evidence for the “unity of the Romanian people.” Comparing the formation of the Romanian nation-state with that of then others, he concluded that it was the name of the ethnic group in which the name of the state originates, and not the name of a state that unified several ethnic communities under one single umbrella. See Panaitescu, Interpretări româneşti: Studii de istorie economică şi socială (Romanian interpretations: Studies of economic and social history) (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 1994), 65-82.

[12] On the meaning of neam and popor in the collective identity formation of the Romanians, see Victor Neumann, Neam, popor sau naţiune? Despre identităţile politice europene (Bucharest: Curtea Veche, 2005), 117-146.

[13] For a synthesis of the opposition “old” to “new” history, see the concise summary given by Peter Burke in “Overture: The New History, Its past and Its Future” in Idem, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Writing (University Park, Penn.: The Pennsylvania University press, 1991), 1-23.

[14] A. D. Xenopol, Istoria Românilor din Dacia Traiană, (The history of the Romanians in Traian’s Dacia) vol. 6 (Iaşi: Tipo-Litografia H. Goldner, 1893), 512-526; Constantin C. Giurescu, Istoria Românilor din cele mai vechi timpuri pînă la moartea regelui Ferdinand, 262-265, and 285-294.

[15] Constantin C. Giurescu, Istoria românilor, vol. 2, (Bucharest: All, reprint 2007), 180-213; Nicolae Iorga, Istoria Românilor, vol. 5 (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, reprint 1998), 221-356.

[16] From all the writings of the interwar period, it is worth mentioning the answer given by arguably the most gifted interwar Romanian historian, Gheorghe Brătianu (1898-1953), to the question who the Romanians are. Less inclined to write national narratives, he authored a short book on the making of the Romanians, written after the territorial losses of 1940, when Greater Romania no longer existed. Gheorghe Brătianu, Origines et formation de l’unité roumaine (Bucharest: Imprimeria Naţioanlă, 1943), 213-304.

[17] George Schöpflin argues that the two directions in the writing of history were the destruction of the national pantheon of heroes and their replacement with the collective anti-hero “the people”, and the glorification of the Soviet Union and its great leader Stalin. George Schöpflin, Nations, Identity, Power: The New Politics of Europe (London: Hurst & Company, 2000), 152.

[18] For more on the radical changes in historical writing after the communist takeover, see the dissident manuscript of historian Vlad Georgescu, confiscated by the secret police in 1977, when the author was arrested for trying to establish a flying university on the Polish model. The manuscript was published only posthumously, after the collapse of communism. See Vlad Georgescu, Politică şi istorie: Cazul comuniştilor români, 1944-1977 (Politics and history: The case of the Romanian communists, 1944-1977) (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1991), 9-50.

[19] The influence of the Slavs was already acknowledged in historiography. However, they had been considered at best the most important of the other migratory groups, but never able to match the input of the two founding groups: the Dacians and the Romans. For instance C.C. Giurescu considered that the Slavs played in the Danube area a similar role to that of the Germans in the West. See his Istoria românilor, vol. 1, 197-221.

[20] Regarding the Roman withdrawal, Mikhail Roller, the most prominent historian of the Stalinist period, even quotes C.C. Giurescu—who had reproduced in his history of the Romanians the above interpretation first given by A.D. Xenopol—in spite of the fact that he was already in prison at the time when the volume was printed. Mihail Roller, Probleme de istorie: Contribuţii la lupta pentru o istorie ştiinţifică a R.P.R. (Historical problems: Contributions to the fight for a scientific history of the Romanian Popular Republic) (Bucharest: Editura Partidului Muncitoresc Român, 1951), 56-74.

[21] The first work of great proportions comprising in four huge volumes of 8-900 pages each only the history up to the achievement of state sovereignty in the aftermath of the Turkish-Russian war of 1877-78—restated the same explanation. C. Daicoviciu et. al, Istoria Romîniei (History of Romania) Vol. 1, Comuna primitivă. Sclavagismul. Perioada de trecere la feudalism (Primitive communism. Slavery. The period of transition to feudalism) (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Române, 1960), 466. Under Ceauşescu, the issue of continuity would receive an even greater attention. A volume that reviews all the controversies and the new evidences for continuity is Nicolae Stoicescu, Continuitatea Românilor (The continuity of the Romanians) (Bucharest: Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică, 1980).

[22] On the Soviet-Romanian dispute over the removal from the history text books of the instrumental role of the Soviet Union in liberating Romania from the Nazi troops, see the testimonies left by a former nomenklatura member, Paul Niculescu-Mizil, O istorie trăită (A lived history) (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 1997), 147-163.

[23] The former region was the part of historical Moldova incorporated in 1812 in the Russian Empire, while the latter was part of the Habsburg Empire since 1775. Both were integrated in Greater Romania in the aftermath of WWI, reoccupied successively during WWII by the Soviets, the Romanians, and again by the Soviets. The former ended as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova, the latter as part of the Ukrainian Republic. Historian Ioan Lupaş from the University of Czernowitz authored in the interwar period the histories of these two regions, which were to be integrated in the national narrative. Both were reedited in post-communism as part of the recuperation of the past. See Ioan Lupaş, Istoria Basarabiei (History of Bessarabia) (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1991); Idem, Istoria Bucovinei (History of Bukovina) (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1992).

[24] The importance attached to Transylvania was reiterated under communism by C.C. Giurescu in his Transilvania în istoria poporului român (Transylvania in the history of the Romanians) (Bucharest: Editura Ştiinţifică, 1967).

[25] For the role of this new map in culturally producing and reproducing a new way of imagining the nation, see Dragoş Petrescu, “Communist Legacies in the New Europe: History, Ethnicity and the Creation of a ‘Socialist Nation’ in Romania” in Konrad H. Jarausch and Thomas Lindenberger, Conflicted Memories: Europeanizing Contemporary Histories (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007), 37-54.

[26] Karl Marx, Însemnări despre români: Manuscrise inedite (Notes on the Romanians: Unpublished manuscripts), ed. A. Oţetea and S. Schwann (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Române, 1964), 106. Karl Marx’ notes on the history of the Romanians were to a great extent summarizing the book of a XIX-th century French author, Elias Regnault, as the editor themselves illustrate by comparing this books with Marx’s manuscript. Regnault on his turn documented himself from the works of Nicolae Bălcescu. Also, given that his work was published at the time of the Crimean War, it is not surprising that it was anti-Russian. Marx had adopted this view as this coincided with his ideas about Czarist Russia.

[27] However, their publication was postponed until 1964, when it coincided with the so-called “Declaration of April.” This was considered the fundamental document that symbolized the Romanian communists’ break with the Soviet concept of socialist internationalism and emphasized their commitment to the principles of national independence and sovereignty, full equality, non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states and parties, and cooperation based on mutual advantage. For the text of the declaration, see “Declaraţie cu privire la poziţia Partidului Muncitoresc Român în problemele mişcării comuniste şi muncitoreşti internaţionale adoptată de Plenara lărgită a C.C. al P.M.R. din aprilie 1964” (Declaration on the position of the Romanian Workers’ Party in the problems of the international communist and working movement adopted by the enlarged Plenum of the Central Committee of the RWP in April 1964) (Bucharest: Editura Politică, 1964).

[28] Both national narratives of smaller proportions authored under Ceauşescu made one-sentence references, without comments, to the incorporation of Bessarabia in 1918 and to its loss to the Soviet Union in 1940. Miron Constantinescu, Constantin Daicoviciu and Ştefan Pascu, Istoria României (History of Romania) (Bucharest: Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, 1969), 418, and 522; Andrei Oţetea, et al., Istoria Poporului Român (The History of the Romanians) (Bucharest: Editura Ştiinţifică, 1970), 318 and 390.

[29] “An important responsibility lies on our historians-that of elaborating, through the concerted efforts of a large group of researchers, a history of the Romanians which would formulate on the basis of Marxism-Leninism everything that was done in the field of history and push forward solutions for basic problems of our history-related to the formation of the Romanians, the contemporary history and the periodization of history.” This was meant, according to the Secretary General of the party, to teach the activists that road of fights taken by the party in history. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Articole şi cuvîntări, 1955-1959 (Bucharest: Editura Politcă, 1960).

[30] The definition given to the nation by Stalin was preserved in Romanian textbooks not only until 1989, but even beyond due to the fact that the name of the author had been obscured when became undesirable, but in lack of other definitions, this was preserved and taken for granted by several generations of students. By the time communism collapsed, no one remembered whom this definition belonged, so it was replaced only a decade later with the occasion of the introduction of new textbooks. For excerpts from Stalin’s work on Marxism and the national question, see John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, eds., Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 18-21.

[31] Roller made it clear that the nation must not be confused with the people [popor]. The nation and the national ideas have their origins not far back history, but at the end of the feudal mode of production. Accordingly, he emphasized the difference between the formation of the “national state”—which could not have been established prior to the emergence of the bourgeoisie and establishment of the capitalist society—and the centralization of medieval states, which in Romania occurred only briefly under Michael the Brave. See Roller, Probleme de istorie, 152-154.

[32] Lenin was quoted to underline that the development of capitalism meant the necessity of enlarging the market by abolishing the tax barriers and bringing territories under the same centralized administration. P. Constantinescu-Iaşi et al., Istoria Romîniei (History of Romania), vol. 4: Formarea şi consolidarea orîndurii capitaliste, 1848-1878 (The formation and the establishment of the capitalist mode of production, 1848-1878) (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Române, 1964), 243.

[33] “A characteristic in the development of the Romanian countries was the endurance of the economic, political and cultural connections between the territories on both sides of the river Milcov [the river that separated Moldova from Wallachia], and between both and Transylvania.” This is a quotation from the chapter dedicated to the Union of 1859 in Miron Constantinescu, Constantin Daicoviciu, and Ştefan Pascu, Istoria României, 331.

[34] For an overview of the research in this direction see Radu Manolescu, “Legături economice între ţările române în feudalism, secolele XIV-XVIII” (Economic exchanges between the Romanian principalities in feudalism, XIV-th to XVIII-th centuries) in Ştefan Stefănescu, ed. Naţiunea română: Geneză, afirmare, orizont contemporan (The Romanian nation: Genesis, assertion, contemporary prospects) (Bucharest: Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică, 1984), 253-277. This volume reunited professionally unequal studies, but the general argument was that the Romanian modern nation had deep roots in history, so it only represent a last stage in the development of the Romanian people [popor], understood as an ethno-cultural community.

[35] John Burrow, “Marxism: The Last Grand Narrative?” in Idem, A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century (London: Penguin Books, 2007), 486-493.

[36] “In order to have a history of the Romanians, we need to take into account the people, who had been neglected by the bourgeois historians consciously and almost completely.” Roller, Probleme de istorie, 34.

[37] C. Daicoviciu et. al, Istoria Romîniei (History of Romania), vol. 1: Comuna primitivă, Sclavagismul, Perioada de trecere la feudalism (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Române, 1960), IX.

[38] Roller, Istoria R.P.R., 121-263. A Oţetea et al., Istoria Romîniei (History of Romania), vol. 2: Feudalismul (Feudalism) (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Române, 1961).

[39] Successive chapters were entitled in such a way as to create the illusion that Vlad the Impeller continued the anti-Ottoman fight began by Hunyadi, while Stefan crowns the efforts of the two predecessors. Miron Constantinescu, Constantin Daicoviciu, Ştefan Pascu, Istoria României, 155-169.

[40] P. Constantinescu-Iaşi et al., Istoria Romîniei (History of Romania), vol. 4: Formarea şi consolidarea orîndurii capitaliste, 1848-1878 (The formation and the establishment of the capitalist mode of production, 1848-1878) (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Române, 1964), XIII, and 37-175.

[41] It is interesting to note that the Hungarians and the Germans living on the Romanian’s homeland were given a place in the Romanians narrative: as long as they were part of the exploited masses, they were the natural allies of the Romanians. However, the Hungarian nobility was always the enemy. This duality permitted the switch between an inclusive concept of the nation and an exclusive one. The inclusion of the exploited Hungarians and Germans in the Romanian national narrative on the basis of their “common struggle” against the exploiters is explicit in A Oţetea et al., Istoria Romîniei (History of Romania), vol. 2, X.

[42] For Gheorghiu-Dej’s speeches, see Scînteia (11 May 1951), and Gheorghe-Gheorghiu-Dej, 40 de ani de luptă sub steagul biruitor al marxism-leninismului (40 years of struggle under the victorious banner of Marxism-Leninism) (Bucharest: Editura Politică, 1961).

[43] Nicolae Ceauşescu, “Partidul Comunist Român - Continuator al luptei revoluţionare şi democratice a poporului român, al tradiţiilor mişcării democratice şi socialiste din România: Expunere la adunarea festivă organizată cu prilejul aniversării a 45 de ani de la crearea Partidului Comunist Român” (The Romanian Communist Party-Continuator of the revolutionary and democratic fight of the Romanians, of the traditions of the democratic and socialist movements in Romania: Speech at the festive meeting organized in order to celebrate the forty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the RCP) in Nicolae Ceauşescu, Opere alese (Selected works), Vol. 1 (1965-1970), (Bucharest: Editura Politică, 1982), pp. 145-46.

[44] Romania was the only communist country, to my knowledge, where national history was part of the official party documents. In fact, the codification of national history was done for the first time in 1974, with the occasion of the XI-th Congress of the Romanian Communist Party. See Programul PCR de făurire a societăţii socialiste multilateral dezvoltate şi înaintare a României spre comunism (The Program of the RCP for the foundation of the multilaterally developed socialist society and for Romania’s advancement to communism) (Bucharest: Editura Politică, 1975), 27-51. For the quotation, see p. 29.

[45] “The short rule of Michael the Brave, of only 8 years, through all that was accomplished, was crucial not only for that time but also for the following centuries. Two great aspirations of the Romanian people were achieved: the independence of the country and the political unity of all territories inhabited by the Romanians. … The deeds of Michael the Brave set an example and stimulated the patriotic forces in their fight for independence and national unity. Miron Constantinescu, Constantin Daicoviciu, and Ştefan Pascu, Istoria României, 202. “In support to the fight of Michael the Brave was the unity of language of the majority of the population in the three countries, the consciousness to belong to the same people.” Andrei Oţetea et al. Istoria românilor, 160-161.

[46] For instance, the popular gathering in Alba Iulia on 1 December 1918 received several rows in the volume authored by Gheorghe Brătianu. This event is only mentioned as a solemn moment that marked the public announcement of the union. Gheorghe Brătianu, Origines et formation de l’unité roumanine, 271. In the communist histories, this event was amply commented as representing “the adamant will of all Romanians” to unite in a single state, which was crucial in making of the historical decision. In short, the masses accomplished the nation-state. “The Union of 1918 is the work of the entire Romanian people.” Miron Constantinescu, Constantin Daicoviciu, and Ştefan Pascu, Istoria României, 422-425.

[47] Gabriel Andreescu is perhaps the most influential author in this respect. See, especially, his Naţionalişti, antinaţionalişti…: O polemică în publicistica românească (Nationalists, anti-nationalists…: A polemic in the Romanian press) (Iaşi: Polirom, 1996), and Ruleta: Români şi maghiari, 1990-2000 (The roulette: Romanians and Hungarians, 1990-2000) (Iaşi: Polirom, 2001).

[48] See, for instance, Ion Calafeteanu, Revizionismul ungar şi România (Hungarian revisionism and Romania) (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 1995). Openly anti-Hungarian writings were also published. See, for instance, the volume – whose authors are not specified – produced at the European Center for Historical Researches and Studies in Venice, sponsored by Josif Constantin Drăgan. See 896 e.n.: Mogyoria=Ungaria (896 A.D.: Mogyoria=Hungary) (Bucharest: Editura Europa Nova, 2000).

[49] Sorin Mitu, Geneza identităţii naţionale la românii ardeleni (The genesis of national identity to the Romanians in Transylvania) (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1997), translated as National Identity of Romanians in Transylvania (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001); Toader Nicoară, Transilvania la începuturile timpurilor moderne, 1680-1800: Societate rurală şi mentalităţi colective (Transylvania at the beginning of modern times, 1680-1800: Rural society and collective mentalities) (Cluj: Editura Dacia, 2001). The interaction between Romanians and Germans was best covered by Thomas Nägler, Românii şi saşii pînă la 1848 (Romanians and Saxons until 1848) (Sibiu: Editura Thausib, 1997).

[50] In this respect, the most systematic approach was taken by the Cluj-based Center for Resources and Cultural Diversity. The above-mentioned Lucian Nastasă with Andreea Andreescu and/or Andreea Varga have published several carefully edited volumes of documents under the auspices of this center: Ţiganii din România, 1919-1944 (Gypsies of Romania, 1919-1944) in 2001; Maghiarii din România, 1945-1955 (Hungarians of Romania, 1945-1955) in 2002; Evreii din România, 1945-1965 (Jews of Romania, 1945-1965) in 2003; Maghiarii din România, 1956-1968 (Hungarians of Romania, 1956-1968) in 2003.

[51] Viorel Achim, Ţiganii în istoria României (Gypsies in Romania’s history) (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 1998).

[52] The first domestically produced synthesis was A sincere history of the Romanian people – which consciously replicates the title of Charles Seignobos’ work Histoire sincère de la Nation française – authored by Florin Constantiniu, which should be credited for the “sincere” effort to de-ideologize the teleological narrative promoted in communist Romania after 1974. See Florin Constantiniu, Istoria sinceră a poporului român (The sincere history of the Romanian people) (Bucharest: Univers Enciclopedic, 1997).

[53] It was the Romanian Academy of Sciences that undertook the most important collective project to write the first post-1989 comprehensive work on Romanian history. Actually, this large-scale project was initiated in the middle 1970s, but the outcome was never published under communism. Since the latest large-scale synthesis in Romanian historiography was authored in the 1960s, the project was resumed in the middle 1990s, and volumes published until now cover national history until 1947. This synthesis, however, is “new” only due to its scale as compared to the previous endeavors, but not because of its content. Many authors have already stated publicly that this synthesis is based on materials written under Communism. Istoria Românilor (History of the Romanians) vols. I-IX (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 2001-2008).

[54] It should be noted that during the late Ceauşescu period manifestations of anti-Semitism were allowed to surface in press through the voice of the most active “court poets,” the same persons who heavily contributed to the cult of Ceauşescu’s personality. In this respect, the weekly Săptămîna, with its journalists Eugen Barbu and Corneliu Vadim Tudor, was the most illustrative example. It is not by chance that the latter has become the leader of the Greater Romania Party, the post-communist right wing party, which promoted an anti-Semitic, anti-Hungarian, and pro-authoritarian rhetoric in the 1990. Nevertheless, until the very end and in spite of its crescent nationalism, the regime of Ceauşescu did not officially encourage anti-Semitism.

[55] Aurică Simion, Preliminarii politico-diplomatice ale insurecţiei române din august 1944 (Political-diplomatic preliminaries of the Romanian insurrection of August 1944) (Cluj: Dacia, 1979).

[56] This tacit rehabilitation was made through the voice of the Italian-based, controversial personality of Josif Constantin Drăgan, which continued after the fall of communism the same trend. See Iosif Constantin Drăgan, Antonescu: Mareşalul României şi războaiele de întregire (Antonescu: Romania’s Marshall and the unification wars) (n.p.: Fundaţia Europeană Drăgan, 1990). From among the local historians, see Gheorghe Buzatu, România cu şi fără Antonescu: Documente, relatări, studii şi comentarii (Romania with and without Antonescu: Documents, reports, studies and comments) (Iaşi: Editura Moldova, 1991) and idem, România şi războiul mondial din 1939-1945 (Romania and the World War of 1939-1945) (Iaşi: Centrul de Istorie şi Civilizaţie Europeană, 1995)

[57] The general perspective over the Holocaust in former communist countries was ranging from total negation to trivialization by comparison to the Gulag. See Michael Shafir, Între negare şi trivializare prin comparaţie: Negarea Holocaustului în ţările postcomuniste din Europa Centrală şi de Est (Between negation and trivialization by comparison: The negation of the Holocaust in postcommunist countries of East-Central Europe) (Iaşi: Polirom, 2002).

[58] This is in fact the position of a large majority of Romanian intellectuals. See debates in Revista 22 (Bucharest), aroused with the occasion of the establishment of the International Commission on the Study of Holocaust in Romania in October 2003; www.revista22.ro.

[59] Between 1940 and 1944, the region of Northern Transylvania, which is now part of Romania, was under Hungarian administration, so that the Jewish victims from that region cannot be added to the overall figure of Jews who lost their lives during the WWII because of a decision taken by Romanian authorities. Obviously, this does not absolve the Romanian government for what happened in the territories under Romanian administration, which included Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transnistria, territories that today are no longer part of Romania. In Wallachia, Moldavia, and the part of Transylvania under Romanian administration, the number of victims was smaller due to the fact that there were pogroms but practically no deportations from these territories. At the same time, in Bessarabia and Bukovina the extent of the atrocities committed against Jews was much larger and, implicitly, the number of casualties was considerable. The highest number of victims, however, was registered in Transnistria, the Ukrainian territory occupied by the Romanians in 1941, where most of the Romanian Jews were deported.

[60] For instance, Radu Ioanid underlines that Romania ranks second only after Germany in terms of participation to the Holocaust: this country organized its own process of extermination, unlike Hungary, where the Holocaust was organized by the Germans. Moreover, Ioanid argues, one can say that at least once Romania succeeded in being proto-chronic in comparison with the West since, as he puts it, its Holocaust was initiated before the German one. See Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu (The Jews under the Antonescu regime) (Bucharest: Editura Hasefer, 1997). See in comparison Dinu C. Giurescu, România în al doilea război mondial, 1939-1945 (Romania during the Second World War, 1939-1945) (Bucharest: Editura All, 1999), translated into English as Romania in World War II (Boulder: East European Monographs, 2000).

[61] This figure was calculated by Jean Ancel in his Transnistria, vol. 3 (Bucharest: Atlas, 1998), 300-303.

[62] The International Commission on the Study of Holocaust in Romania “was conceived from the very beginning as an independent research body, free of any influence and political consideration. The Commission’s budget and composition were approved under Government Decision no. 227 of 20 February 2004 and no. 672 of 5 May 2004, respectively. At the invitation of the President of Romania, Mr. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace prize laureate and honorary member of the Romanian Academy, accepted the chairmanship of the Commission. The Commission’s aim was to research the facts and to determine the truth about the Holocaust in Romania during World War II, and the events preceding this tragedy. The results of the research by the Commission are presented in this Report, based exclusively on scientific standards.” See Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, and Mihai Ionescu, eds., Raport final (Final report) (Bucharest: Polirom, 2005), 7 (388, for the number of Jews that died during WWII under Romanian administration).

[63] Lucian Boia, Istorie şi mit în conştiinţa românească (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1997), translated into English as History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001).

[64] Besides the above-mentioned work, Boia wrote a second book along the same lines, Jocul cu trecutul: Istoria între adevăr şi ficţiune (Playing with the past: History between truth and fiction) (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1998). Otherwise, most of his works were published in France, some even before the fall of communism, and only some were translated later into Romanian. His quite impressive bibliography in French includes: L’Exploration imaginaire de l’espace (Paris: La Découverte, 1987); La fin du monde: Une histoire sans fin (Paris: La Découverte, 1989; Romanian translation, Bucharest: Humanitas, 1999); La Mythologie scientifique du communisme (Caen-Orléans: Paradigme, 1993; second edition, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2000; Romanian translation, Bucharest: Humanitas, 1999); Entre L’Ange et la Bête: Le Mythe de l’Homme différent de l’Antiquite a nos jours (Paris:Plon, 1995); Pour une histoire de l’imaginaire (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1998); Pour vivre deux cents ans: Essai sur le mythe de la longévité (Paris: In Press, 1998); Le Mythe de la Démocratie (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2002). Boia also provided a brief synthesis of Romanian history, which focuses on issues of national characterology, intended for a foreign audience. The book was first published in English as Romania: Borderland of Europe (London: Reaktion Books, 2001), subsequently translated into Romanian as România, ţară de frontieră a Europei (Bucharest: Editura Humanitas, 2001).

[65] Boia’s message had also a rare quality among historical writings: it was so attractively formulated that it triggered a new fashion, that of deconstructing not only the national-communist historiography, but also the entire “national” tradition. Unfortunately, Boia’s message was sometimes misunderstood by its readers and followers, who paid no attention to the context in which each of the narratives about the past developed. Several volumes edited by Boia, which comprise the works of his students at the University of Bucharest, are illustrative in this respect. Completely ignoring the complexities of their respective historical contexts, some of the authors did nothing more than ridicule traditional reconstructions of the past. See Lucian Boia, ed., Mituri istorice româneşti (Romanian historical myths) (Bucharest: Bucharest University Press, 1995), and idem, Miturile comunismului românesc (Myths of Romanian Communism) 2 vols. (Bucharest: Bucharest University Press, 1995 and 1997). A one-volume edition, gathering the most representative studies from the two volumes on the myths of Romanian communism, was subsequently published in 1998. See Lucian Boia, ed., Miturile comunismului românesc (Myths of Romanian communism) (Bucharest: Nemira, 1998).

[66] Ovidiu Cristea, Acest domn de la miazănoapte: Ştefan cel Mare în documente inedite veneţiene (This senior from the North: Stephen the Great in Venetian unedited documents) (Bucharest: Corint, 2004); Ştefan Andreescu, Vlad Ţepeş: Dracula (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 2nd rev. ed. 1998).

[67] With regard to the establishment of medieval Wallachia see Şerban Papacostea, Românii în secolul al XIII-lea: Între cruciată şi imperiul mongol (The Romanians in the 13th century: Between crusade and the Mongolian Empire) (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 1993). See also his Geneza statului în Evul Mediu românesc: Studii critice (The genesis of state in the Romanian Middle Ages: Critical studies) (Bucharest: Editura Corint, 1999). For Moldova, see Ştefan Gorovei, Întemeierea Moldovei: Probleme controversate (The foundation of Moldavia: Controversial problems) (Iaşi: Iaşi University Press, 1997).

[68] This represented a crucial question for the pre-communist historians, who argued that the Turks did not submitted to full subordination the Romanian principalities because they did not need it, since the road to Europe went to Belgrade. See P. P. Panaitescu, “De ce n-au cucerit turcii Ţările române?” (Why didn’t the Turks conquer the Romanian Principalities?), in Interpretări româneşti (Romanian interpretations) (Bucharest: 1947, reprint Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 1993), 111-118 (pages refer to the reprint edition). For the post-communist responses to the same question, see Mihai Maxim, Ţările Române şi Înalta Poartă: Cadrul juridic al relaţiilor româno-otomane în Evul Mediu (The Romanian Principalities and the Porte: The legislative framework of the Romanian-Ottoman relations during the Middle Ages) (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 1993); and Viorel Panaite, Pace, război şi comerţ în Islam: Ţările Române şi dreptul otoman al popoarelor, secolele XV-XVII (Bucharest: All, 1998). Translated into English as The Ottoman Law of War and Peace (Boulder, Co.: East European Monographs, 2000).

[69] Ovidiu Pecican, Arpadieni, angevini, români (Arpadians, Angevins, Romanians) (Cluj: Editura Fundaţiei Desire, 2001), and Originile istorice ale regionalismului românesc (The historical origins of the Romanian regionalism) (Cluj: Etnograf, 2003).

[70] Ioan Drăgan, Nobilimea românească din Transilvania: 1440-1514 (The Romanian nobility from Transylvania: 1440-1514) (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 2000); Cristina Feneşan, Constituirea principatului autonom al Transilvaniei (The Establishment of the Transylvanian autonomous principality) (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică, 1997).

[71] Neagu Djuvara, Între Orient şi Occident: Ţările române la începutul epocii moderne, 1800-1848 (Between Orient and Occident: The Romanian Principalities at the beginning of modern times, 1800-1848) (Bucharest: Editura Humanitas, 1995).

[72] Mihai Cojocariu, Partida Naţională şi Constituirea Statului Român, 1856-1859 (The National Political Group and the Establishment of the Romanian State, 1856-1859) (Iaşi: Iaşi University Press, 1995). Also, the origins of the upper classes who prepared the Union in the two principalities were reconsidered on a non-Marxist basis in Alexandru-Florin Platon, Geneza burgheziei în principatele române: A doua jumătate a secolului al XVIII-lea-Prima jumătate a secolului al XIX-lea – Preliminariile unei istorii (The origins of bourgeoisie in the Romanian Principalities: The second half of the 18th century – The first half of the 19th century: Preliminaries to a history) (Iaşi: Iaşi University Press, 1997).

[73] See Nicolae Bălcescu, Românii supt Mihai-Voievod Viteazul (The Romanians under Michael the Brave) (Bucharest: Minerva, 1977).

[74] Apart from the political connotations of the controversy or the failures of the historical profession it reflected, the textbook debate uncovered serious problems of perception, at all levels of Romanian society, regarding the role and the meaning of teaching “national” history. Of all these problems, the most troublesome was the almost general questioning of the idea that several interpretations of the past could perfectly well coexist. For most of the Romanians, history cannot be but one: what everyone learned in school, in short, the national-communist narrative. Emblematic is the editor’s article in one of the populist daily newspapers, Adevărul, authored by the leading post-communist journalist Cristian Tudor Popescu, entitled “How many histories does Romania have?”

[75] From among such works, one can mention Victor Neumann, Neam, popor sau naţiune? Despre identităţile politice europene (Bucharest: Curtea Veche, 2005).

[76] Alexandru Duţu, Idea de Europa şi evoluţia conştiinţei europene (The idea of Europe and the evolution of European consciousness) (Bucharest: Editura All, 1999).

[77] Top ten of the most popular Romanian movies of all times include 7 historical cinematic narratives: third place-“Michael the Brave” (1971) with 13,330,000 viewers and fourth place-“Dacians” (1967) with 13,112,000 viewers, both by Sergiu Nicolaescu, who was the most prolific director of historical movies in communist Romania; fifth place-“The Şoimăreşti Clan” (1965) with 13,050,000 viewers; sixth place-“Tudor” (1963) with 11,450,000 viewers; seventh place-“The Column” (1968) with 10,510,000 viewers; eight place “The Outlaws” (1966) with 8,086,000 viewers, and tenth place-“Stephen the Great” (1975), with 7,380,000 viewers. See www.cotidianul.ro, 29 July 2008, accessed on 29 July 2008. The movies of Sergiu Nicolaescu were also released on DVD by a Bucharest daily this year in 90,000 to 100,000 copies. See www.adevarul.ro, 16 August 2008, accessed on 16 August 2008.

[78] The only monograph dedicated to this event that tries to emphasize the ambiguities and inconsistencies of Greater Romania is authored by a Romanian-born American scholar. See Irina Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation-Building & Ethnic Struggle, 1918-1930 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995); translated into Romanian as Cultură şi naţionalism în România Mare, 1918-1930 (Bucharest: Editura Humanitas, 1998).

[79] For more on this, see Cristina Petrescu and Dragoş Petrescu, “The Piteşti Syndrome: A Romanian Vergangenheitsbewältigung?,” paper presented at the conference “The Solace of History in Coming to Terms with Dictatorial Pasts: Southern and Eastern Europe Compared,” Warsaw and Kazimierz Dolny, Poland, organized by the Leipzig Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe (GWZO) and the Warsaw University; forthcoming in a 2009 issue of East-Central Europe.

[80] In particular, one of the new alternative textbooks—which tried to be more revisionist—was characterized as “anti-national” because it presented the “history of a people without identity.” It was accused of representing the Hungarian interests and its alleged claims over Transylvania because it dared to question the continuity of the Romanians on the present day territory of the country. For more on this, see Cristina Petrescu and Dragoş Petrescu, “Mastering vs. Coming to Terms with the Past: A Critical Analysis of the Post-Communist Romanian Historiography” in Sorin Antohi, Balzes Trencsenyi and Peter Apor, eds., Narratives Unbound: Historical Studies in Post-Communist Eastern Europe (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2007), 311-408.