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- Balance of Power - the third volume of the Alina Marinescu series by Monica Ramirez
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In short, the book firstly studies the past, approaching it as a data set of how the environment has shaped culture, secondly seeks to understand the present, and thirdly assesses future perspectives: what to keep, what to change, and what to dream anew, considering that conventional solutions have not sufficed to protect life on our planet. Skip to main content Skip to table of contents. Advertisement Hide. Costa Pinto. Front Matter Pages i-xiv. Front Matter Pages Land Use and Wetland Management. Pages Good Fisheries vs. Alina Huzui-Stoiculescu, Robert C.
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The Romanians discovered their Latinity in the seventeenth century. This was the period when the Slavonic language, which had been omnipresent in the Church, in chancery documents and in the earliest historical writings, began to give way to Romanian. A first, and still limited, opening towards Western culture occurred; a few young boyars went abroad to study and acquired a knowledge of Latin.
Moldavia had strong connections with Poland, and it was there that Grigore Ureche and Miron Costin, the greatest Moldavian historians of the seventeenth century, went to study. In the Chronicle of the Land of Moldavia, written in the s, Grigore Ureche noted the striking similarity between certain Romanian words and their Latin equivalents, and concluded that all the Romanians Moldavians, Muntenians and Transylvanians alike had a common origin in Rome. A few decades later, Miron Costin devoted one of his works to the formation of the Romanian people, thus initiating what was to become a constant, and even obsessive, preoccupation of Romanian 31 Dacia and the other Danubian provinces of the Roman Empire.
Hence, it was exposed to attack and could not be maintained for long. Although his title, On the Moldavian People, illustrates the distinction between Moldavians and Muntenians, he attributed the same Roman origin to both. Around , the most erudite of all of these Moldavian writers, Dimitrie Cantemir — , a former Prince of Moldavia, dealt with the same problem of origins in a substantial and thoroughly documented work entitled Chronicle of the Antiquity of the Romano-MoldoWallachians, in which the Moldavians and Wallachians were placed together in a direct line of descent from the Romans.
The historical facts were — or appeared to be — simple enough. Dacia had been conquered by the Romans in the time of the Emperor Trajan, in the course of two wars fought in AD —2 and —6. After 32 the final decisive defeat, Decebalus, the Dacian King, had committed suicide. Trajan and Decebalus came to constitute a double symbolic image of Romanian origins, in which their roles varied from one interpretation to another.
As late as the nineteenth century, Romanian historians, with a few exceptions, would not even hear of a Dacian component to the Romanian people. The sacrifice of Decebalus had been pointless. The Dacians had disappeared without a trace. The Romanians were pure Romans.
We are dealing here, of course, with the particular logic of foundation myths. All communities, whether traditional or modern, construct a mythology of their origins. Without it, you do not exist, or you exist in a diminished and marginal manner, not recognized for what you are. This is why communities hold so strongly to their foundation myths, endlessly commemorating and re-actualizing them. Hence the inclination to ideologize and politicize these first moments. Nothing is more present than the beginning! But which beginning?
We are faced with a choice, not something objectively given. There was a time when nobility of origins counted above everything else. An outstanding hero from a far-off land had greater worth than a foundation grounded on native soil. Thus foundations were attributed to external, prestigious acts of creation. At the origin of Rome, we find the Trojan Aeneas. The French and the English of the Middle Ages likewise invoked two Trojans, Francus and Brutus, whom they considered to be the distant ancestors of their respective monarchies.
For medieval and modern Europe, the principle mythological reference point was Rome. For the people of the Renaissance and of the eighteenth century, Latin culture lay at the base of any intellectual training, and Roman history constituted an apparently unsurpassable model.
The new imperial syntheses set out only to perpetuate albeit imperfectly! How could the Romanians resist such a temptation? If this sort of 33 mythology has seemed particularly essential to them, it has largely been because of certain complexes and frustrations. The two Romanian lands of the time, Wallachia and Moldavia, were relatively insignificant on the map of Europe, subject territories of the Ottoman Empire whose rights were frequently disregarded by more powerful states.
For the Romanians of Transylvania, the situation was even worse: they were peasants dominated by the Hungarian aristocracy. How could they fail to be seduced by the prospect of vengeance through history? This nation, whose present situation seemed so precarious, had once, through its Roman ancestors, been master of the world! And it could be presumed that a new glorious future awaited it. The Greek Catholics enjoyed certain cultural and religious facilities which were denied to the Orthodox. Greek Catholic Romanian schools were established, and a number of young men were able to continue their studies in Vienna or Rome.
The result was the emergence of the Transylvania School, which sought to enlighten the Romanians and obtain for them a status similar to that of the Hungarians and Germans. In their arguments, a key position was occupied by history, and especially the history of origins.
They insisted on the antiquity of the Romanians who antedated the other ethnic groups in Transylvania and on their Latin, indeed purely Latin, origins. What better response could there be to the contempt with which the Magyar aristocracy regarded their Romanian subjects? In Hungary more than in other European countries, Latin continued to be an official language used in administration and education until well into the nineteenth century.
What respect for Roman tradition! But in fact, the Romanians were the real Romans! The three great historians of the Transylvanian School — Samuil Micu — , Gheorghe Sincai — and Petru Maior — — did everything in their power to annihilate the Dacians and highlight the Latin purity of the Romanians. The reality was not quite so simple, of course. The Dacians had not all perished, nor was there any way in which the Romanians could be pure 34 Romans where could anyone have got hold of so many pure Romans in the cosmopolitan Roman world of the second and third centuries?
In order to get rid of the Dacians, the historians either simply annihilated them arguing that the Dacian wars had been conflicts of unimaginable brutality, veritable wars of extermination or considered that they had fled or been banished from Dacia. The Romanians, Maior continued, had inherited this form of exclusivity and did not marry foreign women either. Thus he was able to demonstrate in an impeccable way that the blood of the Romanians was Roman in its totality.
The Hungarians, in contrast, presented a quite different aspect. First of all, their origins were far from noble. Then, having come to the Pannonian plain, they mixed with other peoples, as they had no women of their own race. The antithesis was perfect! The approach of the Transylvanian School survived well into the nineteenth century, not only in Transylvania but throughout the Romanian space, in the hands of the Latinists, who were dominant until after The most influential of these, the historian and linguist August Treboniu Laurian — — note the Latin forenames: the Transylvanians liked to give such names to their children — began his History of the Romanians with the foundation of Rome in BC, adopting a dating system to match.
The history of the Romanians was presented as a continuation of Roman history. The Romanians were Romans — no more and no less. This Latinism was also fed by the affirmation of national ideology in the nineteenth century. They too were Orthodox, and religion, with its reflections in culture, counted more than ethnic origin. Rome became a more powerful symbol than Byzantium, not 35 only for the Transylvanian Greek Catholics, but for all Romanians.
The invocation of Rome indicated a strong insistence on Romanian identity, but it also showed a desire for Westernization. This was a sign of political and intellectual maturity. With the foundation of Romania , and the proclamation of independence and of the Kingdom , the Romanians saw that they could manage on their own, that they represented something in their own right, without the support of the Romans. At the same time, historiography and linguistics began to move beyond the national-romantic phase and become increasingly professionalized. In the first place, the Roman colonization began to be seen in all its complexity.
With some regret, but rather more realism, it was accepted that all too few pure Romans would have settled in Dacia at that time. The common factor among them was, of course, the use of Latin. Archaeological discoveries subsequently provided material evidence pointing in the same direction. Latinism was abandoned, at least in its extreme forms, and a consensus was reached on the Daco-Roman, rather than pure Roman, origin of the Romanian people. The Romanians began to feel less ashamed of the Dacians, discovering all sorts of qualities in them: nobility, courage, a spirit of sacrifice and so on.
The phrase was taken out of context, however: Herodotus was in fact 36 underlining the otherness of the Getae in relation to the Greeks, attributing to them a certain primitivism and pointing out their more passionate than rational character. The spirituality of the Dacians and especially their religion, the cult of Zalmoxis, could likewise be developed into arguments in their favour.
Zalmoxis, certainly an interesting case, also came on the scene in the Histories of Herodotus. Already in Antiquity, a legend began to take shape around this passage. Since all of the relevant texts are Greek or, later, Roman , it is impossible to say what the real beliefs of the Getae and Dacians actually were. No representation of Zalmoxis of any kind is known in Dacia, either from pre-Roman or Roman times, even though the latter period was otherwise so rich in all sorts of divinities.
A whole library has been written, and a complex ancient and modern mythology has grown up, on the basis of almost nothing. In modern Romanian culture, Zalmoxis provided support at one time for the theory that Dacian religion was monotheistic. From this point of view, at least, the Dacians were thus more advanced than the Greeks and Romans, and closer to Christianity.
One single god to set against the host of divinities in Greco-Roman mythology! Belief in the immortality of the soul! Some more excitable enthusiasts went so far as to see in Zalmoxis a precursor of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is possible that what is attributed to Zalmoxis is no more than a projection into the Getic space of Greek Pythagorean conceptions. In contrast with the traditional approach, preoccupied with nobility of origins and dependent on providential intervention from outside, the modern interpretation inclines towards indigenous continuity going further and further into the past, even into prehistory.
This new approach has also been supported by the development of archaeology. Classical archaeology was interested in works of art and the monuments of the great civilizations. In these terms, Dacia could not compare with Greece or Rome. Modern archaeologists, however, are interested in any trace of life, however modest. And so the Dacians entered Romanian history. The Latinists had begun the national history with the Daco-Roman wars and the Roman conquest of Dacia, or even with the foundation of Rome.
By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the first chapter belonged to the Dacians. Xenopol — , took as its starting point the year BC —- the first mention of the Getae in the Histories of Herodotus. Until then, the Romanians had benefited from the great virtues of the Romans. Now, they benefited from the combined virtues of the Dacians and the Romans and from the additional historical right provided by the former as the earliest masters of the land.
It was not easy to reconcile the Romans and the Dacians, however. Which of them, after all, was to have priority? Once this game had been embarked upon, five answers were possible: 1 the Romanians were Roman this previously dominant response no longer convinced anybody ; 2 the Romanians were Daco-Romans, but more Roman than Dacian; 3 the Romanians were equally Dacian and Roman; 4 the Romanians were Daco-Romans, but more Dacian than Roman; 5 the Romanians were Dacian! Each solution had its adepts and the discussion is not yet closed — how could it be?
The issue has provided an interesting ideological indicator. Romanians inclined towards the West prefer the Romans, while nationalists are more attracted to the Dacians. For the Romanian nation and state, at the height of the process of modernization and Westernization, Rome offered a symbol that could not be neglected, and the Roman connection had to be preserved.
This was far from simple, once it was acknowledged that the Dacians had not just disappeared. Long before the conquest of Dacia, he claimed, there had been a significant demographic flow from Italy towards the Balkans and the Danube. To begin with, Italian peasants had Romanized the Thracians and Illyrians; then together they had extended Romanizing influences north of the Danube, where, in Roman Dacia, they had become superior in numbers to the relatively small Dacian population.
This mural, by Costin Petrescu, inaugurated in , presents a pictorial history of the Romanians. The Daco-Roman fusion is symbolized by the idyll of a Dacian woman and a Roman legionary. The Emperor Trajan is presented as a conqueror. But Decebalus is missing! On the other hand, Apollodorus of Damascus, the architect who built the Danube bridge over which the Roman legions passed, is represented.
HCII 2014-06-22 Volume 1
Although the Dacians have not been excluded entirely, Roman symbols are clearly dominant. The Dacians were valorized to the full. But so were the Romans! In this symbolic composition, the Romans advance triumphantly while the Dacians are crushed to the ground. In the background can be seen the monument erected by Trajan at Adamclisi known in Antiquity as Tropaeum Traiani in Dobrogea in memory of his victory over the Dacians.
In the foreground, a Roman soldier and a young Dacian woman bending over the tomb of her loved ones who perished in the war appear as the Adam and Eve of the Romanian nation. In Roman Dacia, in the midst of a reduced indigenous population and in conditions of massive colonization, the Roman element was dominant.
However, Romanization also spread by means of a multiplicity of connections through the remainder of Dacia, the part not annexed by the Romans and whose population remained Dacian. Belief in the primacy of the Dacians continued to advance, however. Constantin C. Giurescu — , representative of this generation, shifted the balance in favour of the Dacians in his History of the Romanians Even in the Roman province, he considered, in spite of wartime losses, Dacians remained in the majority. The Romanians had started by considering themselves Romans, then passed through a Daco-Roman phase, and now they ended up as Romanized Dacians.
This last expression seems to correspond best to present-day historical consciousness. Stimulated by archaeological discoveries, but also by an inclination towards autochthonist nationalism, the Dacians have distanced themselves from the Romans. The Romanian language may be Romance, but Romanian blood is Dacian — the common perception of Romanian origins could be summed up in this way. Decebalus has thus had his revenge on Trajan. Some have gone even further, to the extent of completely eliminating the Romans. This is a solution symmetrical to that attempted by the Latinists, who sought to remove the Dacians from history.
But at least the Latinists had the argument of language on their side. However, mythology knows no impediments. Some Romanians consider themselves to be pure Dacians and seem very content with their choice! The tone was set by Nicolae Densusianu — , an erudite fantast and the author of a massive volume entitled Prehistoric Dacia published posthumously in The thesis he supported, by drawing on a bizarre amalgam of information and deduction, was that around BC Dacia had been the centre of a world empire incorporating Europe, the Mediterranean, Egypt, North Africa and a good part of Asia. It was from here, between the Danube and the Carpathians, that civilization flowed out over the whole world.
Dacian and Latin were merely dialects of the same language; it was not the Dacians who had ended up speaking Latin, but the Latins who spoke Dacian! In fact, all the Romance languages had their origin in Dacia. Here, Densusianu noted, the Dacians and the Romans engaged in dialogue without interpreters, thus proving that they could make themselves understood perfectly while speaking their respective languages! Much can be said about the Dacian language for the simple reason that nobody knows it; the few surviving words are 41 sufficient, however, to show that it was not at all similar to Latin!
Through mythological identification with the Romans, first of all, and then through an even more mythological amplification of Dacian civilization, the Romanians were compensating, in their imaginations, for the marginality of their history; they were shifting themselves from the periphery to the centre. The imaginary past offered what the real present could not offer. On the ideological level, the Daco-Roman synthesis meant the creation of an equilibrium between nationalism and Europeanism. The rejection of the Romans and the claim to an exclusively Dacian inheritance meant a distancing from the West and an immersion in autochthonism.
It was just such a historical interpretation that the extreme Right promoted in the inter-war period. In both variants, the Dacians were on the side of a Romania closed in on itself, with its own values. The Latin island isolated from its non-Latin neighbours became a Dacian island isolated from the whole world. The Dacians were put to work by Communist ideology in its intensification of nationalism, around , the year in which the 2,th anniversary of the foundation of the first Dacian state ruled by Burebista was celebrated with great pomp.
The line the Institute adopted was decidedly pro-Dacian. The ideal source for such an understanding is the sixth-century historian Jordanes, the author of a history of the Goths. Seeking to place the latter in a favourable 42 light, he assimilated them to the Getae, to whom he attributed a brilliant civilization. Quite against their will, the Dacians were of service both to the Goths and to the Romanian Communists! No authentic specialist upheld the thesis of pure Dacianism; it was propounded by false researchers — Communist Party activists and various nationalist intellectuals lacking in historical training.
Some Romanians succumbed nonetheless, and thus a current of opinion developed which can still be encountered today in all sorts of pseudo-historical interpretations. There is a sort of nationalist religion for which Dacia represents the centre of the world. Novels are written on this theme, and of course we still hear the ritual invocation of Zalmoxis, slave of Pythagoras, god of the Getae and protector of the Romanian people. The mythological approach tends towards simplification and promotes racial purism: the Romanians cannot be other than Romans, Dacians or DacoRomans. The idea of a more complex ethnic and cultural mixture, indeed one which has varied from one period to another, rarely enters the discussion.
And yet what is striking about Romania is precisely the multitude and variety of the elements which have gone to make it up. First of all, even the apparently simple components, the Dacians and the Romans, conceal a great diversity. The ancient writers distinguished between Dacians and Getae, both of whom were branches of the Thracian people.
The nucleus of the Dacians was in Transylvania. Among the authorities invoked was the first-century- BC geographer Strabo, who had written that the Getae and Dacians spoke the same language. Once again, it 43 was a case of the uncritical use of ancient sources. A Geto-Dacian people may exist from the modern, national point of view, but it certainly did not exist in Antiquity.
In fact, the Dacian space was fragmented, even if the tribes spoke similar languages or dialects of the same language. Moreover, the Dacians were not alone. The Scythians, a people of Iranian origin who came from north of the Black Sea in present-day Ukraine , settled in the eastern part of their territory, and especially in Dobrogea, known in Antiquity as Scythia Minor.
From the west came the Celts, some of whom remained in Dacia. Somewhat later, Bastarnians and Sarmatians peoples of Iranian origin, like the Scythians also settled in Dacian territory. Not to mention the Roman colonists, who themselves had a wide variety of origins. In the thousand years that followed the Roman withdrawal, an impressive series of migrations affected the present-day territory of Romania. Indeed, sources of the time speak only of them, ignoring the Daco-Romans. The list is long, featuring Goths and Gepids Germans , Huns and Avars from Central Asia , Slavs, Magyars, Pechenegs and Cumans of Turkish origin and, finally, Tatars, the great invasion of being the last migratory wave before the foundation of the Romanian states.
However, even after this millennium of migrations, the Romanians were not left alone; their space continued to attract foreigners from all directions, whether as guests or as conquerors. Although, as I have already shown, this ethnic, cultural and religious mosaic was still apparent around , the tendency in Romanian historiography has been to regard all of these elements as superficial and transitory with the possible exception of the Slavs.
The file on the Slavs is, indeed, significant. While they settled in the present territory of Romania in the sixth and seventh centuries, they crossed in larger numbers to the south of the Danube especially after , when the Byzantine defences on the river collapsed , Slavicizing the northern half of the Balkan peninsula. Thus were born the Bulgarians, the Serbs and the other Slavic Balkan peoples. Had it not been for the Slavs, Romanity might well have survived both north and south of the Danube, and today there might have been a vast Romania incorporating its own present territories plus 44 Bulgaria and former Yugoslavia!
On the other hand, the opposite process might have been brought to completion: total Slavicization, north as well as south of the Danube, resulting in a purely Slavic land. What is certain is that the assimilation of the Slavs did not mean their disappearance without trace, but rather the enriching of the Romanian synthesis. While this may seem a natural conclusion, it was hard for modern Romanian historiography to accept it in a period when the Romanians had decided to finish with the Slavic world and to look exclusively westwards.
It goes without saying that the Latinist School, having eliminated the Dacians, did not wish to hear about the Slavs. When, in a subsequent phase, the Dacians were rehabilitated, the Slavs were not. Hasdeu, the tireless upholder of the Dacians, showed no inclination to treat them with the same good will — an apparently curious choice for the first Romanian Slavicist! In his view, Slavic influence had come relatively late and was the result not of ethnic mixing but of borrowing in the political and religious spheres.
In other words, the Slavs had not affected the essence of the Romanian people and culture. A few decades later, when the critical spirit had progressed and the problem of origins had been de-dramatized to some extent, Ioan Bogdan — , the first truly professional Romanian Slavicist, presented things in a quite different light. For him, the Slavs were a constitutive element of the Romanian synthesis.
Even if they were granted a certain role, the Slavs remained in a secondary position: an addition, perhaps an important one, but no more than an addition, to a synthesis that had already taken shape. However, with the affirmation of a nationalist brand of Communism under Ceausescu, things went to the other extreme. If even the Romans were no longer favoured, how much less the Slavs!
This meant that subsequent influences, including that of the Slavs, could not have affected the basic Romanian stock in any profound way. It is not at all easy in Romania to evoke the role of the Slavs in the past with scholarly detachment, as they are all too present around Romania today. The fact that Communism, in its anti-national phase, also made use of the Slavs in its attempt to destroy Romanian national feeling does not make things any simpler. However, I believe that Ioan Bogdan was right. The racial-linguistic approach of the Romantic period now seems completely out of date.
In speaking about the Slavs, we cannot ignore the profound cultural impact of the Slavonic model in the Romanian Middle Ages. With the exception of language and even here we must note a significant Slavic infusion and the use of Slavonic as a language of culture , the Romanian lands in the Middle Ages come across as similar to the Slavic countries of the region. A people does not remain fixed over time. It is a fluid synthesis 46 and in any case a cultural, not a biological, one.
Ancestral inheritance is continually diluted, and contemporary connections are more important than origins. Ancestors end up counting less for themselves and more for the ways in which we use them to mark our identity. It is certain that the Romanians of today resemble the British different as they are more than they do the Dacians and the Romans. In fact, they do not resemble the latter at all: they lived 2, years ago, and had a quite different mentality and way of life than we do. At a certain point, the idea took shape that the Romanians came from south of the Danube, from an area hard to pinpoint exactly but probably in the north-west of the Balkan peninsula.
This migration, it was argued, happened either quite late, around the thirteenth century, or somewhat earlier, beginning in the ninth century.
It has become a veritable dogma in Hungarian historiography and a permanent bone of contention between Hungarian and Romanian historians. Why did this situation arise? For a wide variety of reasons, both historical and political. The northern half of the Balkan peninsula was part of the Roman Empire for some eight centuries, long enough to permit the consolidation of a thriving Roman lifestyle. To the north of the Danube, on the other hand, in the present-day territory of Romania, the Romans ruled only half of Dacia; moreover, the extent of Romanization in this province is open to question, as it belonged to the Empire for only years from AD to , when it was abandoned as the Romans withdrew to the Danube.
Here, the most diverse hypotheses have free rein, given the paucity of sources referring to the area north of the Danube during this period. Internal written sources are particularly lacking. But even external ones tell us very little, or at least very little that is reliable, about the Romanians. For some aspects of the period, archaeology has been able to make up for the lack of written sources. Unfortunately, archaeological material cannot tell us what language they spoke. Finally, but no less significantly, ideological and political factors have come into play.
It is obvious that the denial of Romanian continuity corresponded to Austro-Hungarian objectives in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And it continues to be the sole interpretation espoused by contemporary Hungarian historians, for whom it serves to ensure chronological priority for the Magyars in Transylvania. Of course, the affirmation of Romanian continuity is no less politicized an option, though this time, one that favours the Romanians, Romanian national ideology and the Romanian nationstate in other words, the identification of ancient Dacia with Greater Romania. It is interesting that some arguments are common to both immigrationists and Romanian nationalists.
The notion that the Dacians were exterminated, invoked by the Latinists in their obsession with the purity of Romanian blood, has served the purposes of the immigrationist thesis equally well: what better argument could 48 there be for immigration than the emptying of Dacia of its indigenous inhabitants? Conversely, the non-Romanization of the Dacians, upheld by the nationalist extreme of pure Dacianism, has provided a further argument in support of the hypothesis that the Romanians and their language expanded from outside the present space of Romania, given that all serious linguists consider Romanian to be a Romance language.
On what do the immigrationists base their thesis? And what about the similarities between Romanian and Albanian in particular a series of words common to both? These tend to suggest that the two peoples were neighbours in an initial phase. The Slavic element in the Romanian language and in Romanian culture and society is likewise Balkan in nature. The Romanian upholders of continuity have ready replies to all of these arguments.
They explain the similarities to Albanian in terms of a common Thracian, or Dacian, substrate. The words in question are thus precisely the Dacian element in the Romanian language. This is unfortunately an unverifiable hypothesis, as the Dacian language and indeed the language of the Thracians in general is unknown. The only certainty remains the similarity to Albanian which moreover includes a number of words of Latin origin, some of them almost identical in the two languages. The Slavic elements in Romanian, and the Slavic influence on the Romanians in general, can, on the other hand, be explained by the assimilation of the Slavs north of the Danube, a process completed and amplified by the later influence of the Slavonic political and cultural model.
Thus the silence of the sources cannot be considered an argument against continuity. Medieval documents generally refer to the dominant elements in military and political terms. In any case, the Balkan Vlachs also appear late in the sources. A migration on such a large scale hardly seems credible. And if the sources do not mention the presence of Romanians north of the Danube, they also do not mention any migration of Romanians from the south. In other words, they say nothing about the formation of the Romanian people north of the Danube, but they also say nothing about its formation in the Balkans.
And yet the Romanians exist! Romanian historians, the upholders of continuity, have likewise elaborated very different scenarios. On top of this, historians and linguists have not been in perfect agreement on the matter. A number of Romanian linguists — including some of the most famous — have even embraced the immigrationist theory in general, linguists cannot ignore the Balkan character of the Romanian language.
This is where Roman colonization and Romanization, the necessary premises for the formation of the Romanian language and people, took place. The greater part of Muntenia, Moldavia and Maramures remained under the control of the free Dacians. It includes half of Romania and, on the other side of the Danube, half of the Balkan peninsula. It was within these limits that the solution had to be sought.
This, he decided, was the region where the Romanian people had been formed, and from where it had gradually spread between the fourth and fourteenth centuries. Xenopol gave the privileged role to Transylvania. Why, he asked, must it be a case of either south or north of the Danube, and not one of both south and north? The Danube was not a frontier: the Romans ruled, and the Latin language was spoken, on both banks of the river.
The cradle of the Romanian people was thus, according to Onciul, Roman Dacia together with Moesia the northern part of the Balkan peninsula, part of the present-day territory of Bulgaria and Serbia. His was therefore a compromise or synthesizing solution between continuity and immigrationism. The debatable points in the theory of continuity were dealt with those curious similarities to Albanian, for example without sacrificing what was essential: the persistence of the 50 Romanian element in the territory of Romania, or at any rate in part of it certainly in Transylvania, the principal bone of contention.
Thus the Romanians became heirs to the whole of eastern Romanity a conception strongly supported by Nicolae Iorga. At the same time, there was a tendency to blur the border between Roman Dacia and that part of the territory which had remained Dacian a border that cut across modern Romania. Iorga, too, identified an early but hypothetical Romanian Land, which embraced all of the Romanian territories.
Whatever some historians say, it is still difficult to understand how regions that were not colonized by the Romans could have become Romanized. Commercial contact alone, however close it may be, is not sufficient to make people give up their language and adopt another. There must have been a Romanian expansion in the Middle Ages, if not from south of the Danube, then at least from the south-west of Romania corresponding to Roman Dacia towards the north and east. Communism did not trouble itself with such subtleties; instead, it took radical steps, as was its wont. On the other hand, it decided that the Romanian people had been formed precisely in the entire territory of present-day Romania.
Especially under nationalist Communism, the dispute with Hungarian historiography caused a pronounced emphasis to be placed on continuity. In fact, they confused material traces and ethnic characteristics including language , and the results they obtained were equivocal and two-edged. Following a first phase of DacoRoman continuity, there is a complete change in the archaeological record around the year , with the arrival of the Slavs.
Everything is different: the character of dwellings, their contents, even funerary customs. Curiously enough, the archaeologists of the Communist period concluded from this that there had been uninterrupted Romanian ethnic continuity! In strictly archaeological terms, in fact, there was discontinuity. Much ink has been spilled over the Dridu culture named after a village in the Danube plain , which can be identified from the eighth century in both Romania and Bulgaria.
Romanian researchers consider it to have been Romanian; the Bulgarians, on the other hand, along with other non-Romanian specialists, regard it as a Slavic cultural synthesis. Some see the Romanians present everywhere, while for others they have disappeared! According to the second variant, they were simply swallowed up by the Slavs, much as happened in other places where the Roman imprint was wiped out as a result of invasions Britannia, Pannonia, the north of the Balkan peninsula, North Africa etc. Ultimately, the archaeological discoveries lend support to both theories: continuity and immigrationism.
The result of the match is a nil-nil draw. Two perfectly opposed scenarios, constructed out of the same material, stand face to face. This, too, is an original aspect of Romanian history, a special case in European historiography. Will the enigma ever be resolved? We have to accept the fact that history does not provide answers to all our questions, and, even worse, it sometimes confuses us with contradictory answers. But what would happen if it were proved that the Romanians really did arrive from somewhere in the Balkans?
Nothing would 52 happen! I do not believe that anyone would think of returning them to the other side of the Danube, evacuating the Serbs and Bulgarians in the process! This would be a stupid game. But it could also become a bloody one. History is used as an alibi everywhere; the real problems are those of the present, not the past.
Romania is what it is not because Dacians and Romans lived there two thousand years ago, but because Romanians are nowadays in the majority in all of its provinces, including Transylvania, and because they wanted, and still want, to live in a Romanian state. If they were to become a minority in Transylvania, like the Serbs in Kosovo, what use would historical continuity be to them? Although they are less numerous than the Romanians, the Hungarians are also at home in Transylvania, regardless of when they arrived there.
The peoples of Central and South-eastern Europe have to learn to leave the majorityminority dichotomy behind and look towards the future rather than back to the past. The extravagant theory that it is actually Dacian does not even merit serious discussion. For Romance scholars, it is a fascinating language which has evolved far from the other members of its family, and independent of them. It has assimilated specific elements Slavic, Turkish, Greek and Hungarian which differentiate it even more from the western Romance languages while largely lacking the Germanic borrowings which predominate in these.
Certainly, it is the most original of the Romance languages. Where vocabulary is concerned, however, things are rather more complicated, and there has been no shortage of polemics around the subject. The results of his study were surprising — the more so as the Romanians had hitherto been educated in a spirit of respect for their Latin inheritance. In other words, Romanian vocabulary was two-fifths Slavic and only one-fifth Latin. Latin words were hardly more numerous than those of Turkish origin.
It can be imagined what emotions were aroused by this calculation in Romania. Either Cihac was mistaken, or the Romanians were no longer Roman, even in linguistic terms! It is an illusion to imagine that statistics is an objective and exact science. Accuracy depends upon what is counted and how! But the real problem does not reside here, as B. Hasdeu showed in a fundamental study. It is not surprising that it should have been a Romanian who came up with this idea; at the time, a fierce battle was raging in Romania around the question of origins.
Who uses all the words of a language? Most of them we do not even know; others occur only occasionally in normal speech. There are, however, words we use again and again. In Romanian, it is possible to formulate whole sentences using only words of Latin origin, but it is impossible to put together a sentence using exclusively Slavic, Turkish, Greek or Hungarian elements. The essential Romanian vocabulary is thus to a large degree Latin — though this claim should not be exaggerated. Some 54 other Latin words have taken on quite different meanings in Romanian compared with the western Romance languages.
Slavic words incontestably form the second constitutive element of the Romanian language despite the marginalizing of some of them, or their doubling, and even replacement, with neologisms, usually of French origin. Grammatical structures and phonetics have also been touched by Slavic influence. A large number of words concerned with the human body, elements of nature, the peasant household, agriculture and cattle rearing, and social and military organization are Slavic in origin.
There are also a number of Slavic prefixes and suffixes which are used to form families of words and which give a more general Slavic colouring to the Romanian language. The Slavs also passed many personal names, and an impressive number of place names, to the Romanians. It is possible, in fact, to speak of a broader oriental influence, as some Turkish words may have been borrowed by the Romanians before the Ottoman period from the Pechenegs, Cumans and Tatars , while Turkish was the intermediary through which a series of words from Arabic and Persian entered the 55 language.
The Turkish adoptions consist mostly of nouns with a concrete meaning, denoting material things or elements of civilization. Many entered popular speech as the result of prolonged Romanian-Ottoman contact and the adoption of Turkish products, techniques, customs and fashions from the fifteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century.
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The pre-modern terminology of architecture and urbanism likewise shows a profound Turkish influence, although some of these words have suffered a depreciation as the oriental model has been left behind. Similarly, maidan once meant an open space or marketplace; now it means a neglected piece of waste ground. A considerable number of medieval and modern Greek words have also entered Romanian. In the Middle Ages, the Greeks offered the Romanians an important political, religious and cultural model.
This period saw a veritable invasion of Greek words. There is also a body of words of Hungarian origin. Not many are in everyday use, but a few are important. But where are the Dacians? Did they leave no linguistic inheritance? Hasdeu, who rescued them from the fury of the Latinists, was also the first to try to delimit the Dacian element in Romanian, identifying more than 80 possible candidates.
But most of the etymologies he proposed have not stood the test of time. Other researchers have picked up the torch, however. The recent specialist in the problem, I. Russu, came to the conclusion that some words belong to the Dacian substrate. Together with their derivatives, they would account for around 10 per cent of the basic word stock of Romanian. Such enthusiasm seems a little excessive, and the ideological dimension of the project is evident. Current exploration is centred on the parallels between Romanian and Albanian, whose shared words with the exception, of course, of those of Latin origin are taken to be, in the case of Romanian, Dacian.
Ultimately, any word for which no other origin Latin, Slav etc. On the other hand it is clear that the Dacians, and the Thracians in general, adopted Latin after their own fashion. This is probably the explanation for certain peculiarities shared by Romanian, Bulgarian and Albanian three languages which otherwise belong to completely different families.
Later on in this book, I will deal with the process of Westernization unleashed in the nineteenth century and the significant effects this had on the language. What remains, apart from the dominant mark of Latinity, is the remarkable and picturesque mixture that is the Romanian synthesis: the reflection of a troubled history, subject to varied influences and interferences. Of all other languages, the closest to Romanian is Italian. I would say that, paradoxically, Romanian resembles Italian more than 57 Italian does Romanian!
A Romanian who hears Italian spoken can understand quite a lot those Roman ancestors count for something, after all! In any case, an Italian will never speak Romanian perfectly. Are the Romanians closer to the Italians or to the Bulgarians? Who can say? But the Thracian substrate, the Slavic component, the Orthodox faith, oriental influence and a long common history mean that they are close to the Bulgarians and other Balkan peoples too. In the end, Romania is simply Romania — not an easy country to classify! To the south, the Danube completes this symbolic geography of Romania: an enclosed space between three rivers, with an area of some , sq km, comparable with that of Italy or the British Isles.
Rivers, then, are perceived as natural borders, separating Romanians from Others. But what about mountains? The Carpathians divide Romanian territory in two. It is possible to claim almost anything about the role of geographical factors in history, as indeed about the causes of historical evolutions in general.
It is not easy to say what Romania would have been like without the Carpathians — or the British Isles if they had not been isles! What is certain is that the Danube and the Carpathians are the lines of resistance of the Romanian space. However, the Romanians have not looked towards the sea very much, as it never had anything like the significance which the 59 mountains and Danube have had for them.
It was only towards the end of the first century AD that Decebalus reunited the greater part of Dacia under his rule. But this second attempt to create a Dacian kingdom also came to nothing. As a result of their two wars against the Dacians, the Romans extended their dominion over the Danube and the Carpathians. Three distinct zones now took shape within the present-day territory of Romania. For the next years, the western regions made up Roman Dacia. The east and the north remained in the possession of the free Dacians. Dobrogea, on the other hand, which had been included in the Empire as early as 28 BC, initially formed part of the province of Moesia before becoming a province in its own right, under the name of Scythia Minor; it was to remain under Roman, later Byzantine, rule until the seventh century.
After the Romans abandoned Dacia, the region remained open to invasion, and its fragmented and only vaguely politically structured territory came under the control of a succession of different masters. Almost everything about this millennium remains a matter of hypothesis, beginning, as we have seen, with the presence of Romanians north of the Danube.
If we accept the thesis of continuity, there remains the question of what sort of political formations the Romanians lived in, and what their relations were with the dominant peoples and states in this part of Europe. An interesting hypothesis concerns the socio-political role of the Slavs. According to this thesis, Slav conquerors made up the ruling class. The condition of the Romanians would indeed have been that of peasants subject to a Slav aristocracy which was, of course, assimilated in the course of time, and which later constituted the Romanian boyar class.
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The hypothesis of the ethnic origin of social categories supported in the Romanian case by historians such as Petre P. Panaitescu 2 and C. Giurescu was evidently inspired by similar situations in, and interpretations of, the histories of France and England, the French aristocracy having been formed by Frankish conquest, and that of England by Norman conquest from France such interpretations enjoyed a considerable vogue in the nineteenth century, particularly due to the work of the French historian Augustin Thierry.
The expansion of the Hungarians towards Transylvania began with their settlement in the Pannonian plain in AD The twelfthcentury chronicle of Anonymus mentioned in Chapter ii refers to three small Romanian or Slav-Romanian principalities which submitted to the Hungarians though the point is disputed by Hungarian historians. By around , Transylvania had already been organized as a principality known by the Slavic — or Romanian-of-Slavic-origin — term voivodate within the Hungarian kingdom. The first Bulgarian tsardom held dominion on the other side of the mountains though it is hard to say in what form and to what extent.
This had been founded after the invasion of the Bulgars, a people of Turkic origin, in AD , followed by their settlement in the northern part of the Balkan peninsula where they were Slavicized, leaving only their name to the Bulgarians of 61 today. In the early eleventh century, the Byzantines destroyed this first Bulgarian state and returned to the Danube. Here too there is an interesting historical dispute. Or, on the contrary, was Bulgaria itself created by Romanians? The Romanian space began to take on a more stable form in the course of the thirteenth century.
Around the middle of the century, there is mention of a number of statelets south of the Carpathians, dependent on the Hungarian crown.
Their unification, in the first decade of the fourteenth century, resulted in the creation of Wallachia. Just in time, it might be said, as the Hungarians, who already had control of Transylvania, were getting ready to extend their domination beyond the Carpathians too. In , at the battle of Posada, the voivode of Wallachia, Basarab, won a resounding victory in the mountains over King Charles Robert of Hungary.
This is one of the key dates of Romanian history: the moment when Wallachia was truly born. The Romanians were latecomers to history. The medieval period effectively began in the Romanian lands in the fourteenth century, at a time when it was coming to an end in the West and the Renaissance was approaching.
They could not — according to the feudal hierarchy of the Middle Ages — be placed on a level of equality with the neighbouring kingdoms. The King of Hungary claimed from the beginning to be the suzerain of the two lands.
In order to counter these Hungarian pretensions, the princes of Moldavia, who were initially vassals of Hungary, took an oath of vassalage to the kings of Poland. Wallachia remained closer to Hungary; there, manifestations of independence alternated with periods in which the relation of vassalage was recognized.
One fact that was highlighted was the remarkable vitality of the Romanian lands, which succeeded in maintaining their existence — by war and by diplomacy — in adverse conditions, while formerly powerful countries like Hungary and Poland not to mention the Balkan states fell, were swallowed up by even greater powers and disappeared for a time from the stage of history.
It is indeed a consolation, but one that cannot completely cancel out the frustrating memory of having played a secondary role for too long. The unfortunate system of succession to the throne or rather the lack of any real system came as a supplementary handicap. The succession was neither hereditary nor simply elective but a mixture of the two: hereditary in principle, with two dynasties Basarab in Wallachia and Musatin in Moldavia , but without the Western criterion of transmission of the throne in the direct line.
Not only sons but also brothers or more distant relatives could aspire to princedom women were excluded from the start. At first, selection worked within reasonable limits. In time, however, the pretenders multiplied. Even illegitimate sons succeeded to the throne, and, in these conditions, there were of course men who only pretended to be sons of a prince. Such was the case with Michael the Brave, the most renowned of all of the Romanian voivodes, who declared himself to be the posthumous son of the voivode Petrascu the Good; modern historians seem less than convinced of this relationship, which would in any case be impossible to prove.
In time, very distant relatives appeared who were not really relatives at all; some adopted the name Basarab in order to be more convincing. In a final phase, not even this formality mattered anymore; the rulers were now appointed by the Turks anyway. How were rulers chosen, whether from within the dynasty or from outside it?
In principle, they were picked by an assembly of boyars, sometimes by a larger assembly of the country. However, in the absence of a strict procedure unless a prince had made his son an associate on the throne, thus theoretically ensuring his succession , conflicts were numerous. In addition, help was sometimes sought from outside, providing an excuse for the Hungarians or Turks to intervene.
In these circumstances, not all reigns reached their natural term; some rulers were deposed or killed. There were, however, a few long reigns, and it is to them that the most lasting political and cultural achievements belong. But these are the exceptions. The norm was frequent changes of rule, short reigns of a few years at the most and an instability which increased with each century that passed. The general instability of this part of Europe was aggravated by internal instability — too much instability!
In fact, there is a marked note of anarchy about the history of the Romanians. How could anything durable be built out of it? We can see here the origins of a distrust of history, a lack of confidence in any long-term project. The mythological image is of an uninterrupted struggle in which the little Romanian lands won many glorious victories against a vast empire. The Romanians thus preserved their national existence while at the same time defending Christian Europe.
The historical reality was, as usual, more complex and substantially different. The Turks began their expansion into the Balkans around the middle of the fourteenth century. Towards the end of the century, the two tsardoms into which Bulgaria was divided were conquered, and the Ottoman Empire reached the Danube, the border of Wallachia.