Romanian Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to Romania, its history and culture. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“Regardless of genuine land reforms conducted by Prince Alexander Cuza, Romania remained a land of poor peasants and a narrow and corrupt elite, which divided into ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ camps under the façade of constitutional liberal monarchy that offered no genuine developmental energy, or social justice for the poor.”Globalization, Nationalism, and Imperialism.
“In 1941, Germany’s Eastern European allies joined in the conflict; Hungary and Slovakia reluctantly, and Romania enthusiastically.”
“In the Soviet design for a ‘socialist division of labor,’ Romania was to be an agricultural and light-industry country. That scheme was completely rejected by Gheorghiu Dej, and his successor Nicolae Ceaușescu, who industrialized Romania against Soviet wishes.”
“The collapse of communism was a murky and violent affair, which featured a genuine popular upheaval from below, elements of a military coup/mutiny, and an ambiguous foreign interference. What followed was the hegemonic rule of a former communist apparatchik Ion Iliescu.”

“Just as in neighboring Romania, during the era of hunger and freezing, when residents could buy new toothpaste only if they returned the tube of the old one, yet they would proudly say that more than seven hundred architects worked on the design of the ‘People’s Palace,’ the Demiurge of the ‘International Art Center’ said (with no less pride) that his construction approached the scale of the construction in Bucharest but without a single architect. Šećerana thus became a synthesis of Ceaușescu’s pretentious self-sufficiency and Cheval’s naiveté.”An Older and More Beautiful Belgrade.
“Many hectares of central Bucharest had to be cleared. Fourteen churches and monasteries, the whole Jewish quarter, and a range of buildings of both traditional and modern design were removed. This urban architectural monster is an agglomeration of styles—Renaissance, Rococo, Baroque, and Byzantine—with ideas from Transylvanian folklore. Everything is mixed and oversized. Hundreds of nuns from Moldovan monasteries spent years making lace curtains for windows up to seven meters tall.”

Books with a Romanian focus, contemporary topics on top,historical themes below:

“Mămăligă has functioned as an indicator of ethnic identity, social status and mores in Romanian narrative drama for well over a century and a half. More generally, it is not just a staple food but a cultural signifier, fitting into the category of ‘untranslatables.’”The Making of Mămăligă.
“Despite the pessimism of early twentieth-century medics and social analysts who at times sought to blame all the country’s misfortunes on it, maize continued to be a dominant crop throughout the twentieth century, and mămăligă the standard food of the majority of the population.”
“Khrushchev was personally disdainful of the Romanians, calling them mamalyzhniki (‘mămăligă people’) and even asserting provocatively during a visit to the country in 1957 that they did not know how to grow maize.”
“The modern standard word, porumb, is principally attested in Wallachia. In Moldavia, the more ususal term is păpuşoi, while in the western regions of Transylvania and the Banat, it is cucuruz.”

“As a general principle, many people not just in Romania but in all of Eastern Europe became informers because they had friends and families whom they wanted to protect. That is, they became informers because they were deeply embedded in social ties.”
The operation of the communist secret police is analyzed with the eyes of the ethnographer, herself a former target person.
“If the candidate agreed to become an informer, he would spend several months in a ‘novice’ status, during which he was trained in tactics, the kinds of observation and analysis his officer required, how to write reports, and so forth. He would then be invited to full informer status—an occasion that might be marked by a festive air, the officer and his superior wearing suits and ties, and serving coffee, food, and cognac. The candidate would write out his pledge to serve the organization in secret; then followed the ‘baptism,’ in which—very much as in secret societies the world over—the initiate would either choose or be given a new name”.

Understanding Romania, its past and present profiles, through the interpretation of key concepts like politics, property, progress, patriotism etc. in Romanian context. Also democracy, liberalism, constitution, nation, kinship, transition and Europe.

In the night of 2-3 March 1949, between two and three in the morning, all the aristocrats in Romania were roused from their beds by armed men under the command of the militia and the Securitate and loaded onto trucks. Across Romania, 2,972 families, 7,804 people in total, were taken from their palaces, country houses and agricultural properties. The collective trauma of 3 March swept away the differences in wealth and status between nobles, leaving only naked human beings.
The Dutch author talked to survivors of the destruction under Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and the psychological terror of Nicolae Ceaușescu as he was tracing the history of the Transylvanian aristocracy. He browsed old family albums and listened to commentaries to the photos, inserting them into the text together with pictures taken by himself.
“Four-fifths of the aristocracy lives abroad and will never come back. In those families the third generation no longer speaks the language.” Scholten reports about some of the few who try to recommence with the property returned in the frame of the remarkably farreaching restitution laws: houses, agricultural land, forests, shops, offices, banks, businesses and castles.

Why did the Transylvanian Saxons turn to eugenics as a means of self-empowerment in inter-war Romania? This monograph examines the conceptual and methodological evolution of the eugenic movement during this turbulent period.
“In contrast to most other German minorities in Romania, the roughly 250,000 Saxons had a firmly entrenched sense of national identity, strong urban and rural economies, established parliamentary and local political traditions, and a virtually omnipresent national Protestant church hierarchy, entrusted with the Saxon school system. Despite adamant assurances by its elites that these pillars of Saxon identity were historical fixtures, the realities of the geopolitical storm gath­ering over Europe; the flurry of new ideas on nationhood and race; and the grow­ing pressures exerted by an increasingly nationalist Romanian nation-build­ing project wreaked havoc on the Saxon economic, social, and political life.”
The Saxon case-study offers valuable insights into why an ethnic minority would seek to re-entrench itself behind the race-hygienic walls of a "eugenic fortress.”

“The prestigious award was made, Şăineanu prepared the book for the press, and Basmele române appeared—some one-thousand pages—with his author’s preface dated January 1, 1895.”Listening to the Languages of the People.
“The decision to reject Şăineanu’s naturalization was accepted by a vote of 79 to 2. He was soon to be cheered when King Carol expressed regrets at the Senate’s vote and went on to award Şăineanu a medal of merit for his publications.”
“Sturdza, head of the Liberal party, announced to the assembly that ‘he was voting against the Jew who has tried to introduce himself into the Romanian city by devious paths.’”
“In leaving Romania in 1901, Sainéan had said of his Influenţa orientală, ‘I am proud to give this book to the fatherland as supreme witness of my love for the Romanian language and people. If it is my fate to finish my days on foreign soil, you will see me always faithful to this language.’”

“The Romanian peasant fasts for half of the days of the year; and what does he fast on? Boiled vegetables and mămăligă: a diet based on vegetables especially designed to deprive the body of its strength and mortify it!”—from a monograph on health conditions in the Romanian Old Kingdom.
“There are entire counties, particularly in Vlaşca, Teleorman, parts of Dolj and in Gorj as a whole, where houses consist of holes, hovels dug in the ground.”
“Peasants believe that ‘all men are born with the goner’ (syphilis); it is enough to eat hot, salty food or pickles to trigger it. Hot chilli in particular, as well as salted carp, are foods that bring it out.”
“The peasant does not receive assistance either in illness, or at birth. Those who believe that the peasant is so dull-witted as to reject the doctor’s superior knowledge, or that the peasant woman ‘does not trust’ those who could enlighten her, are wrong.”

“Although based on asymmetric power and knowledge relations, the Ottoman government, and later independent Romania, profited from the commitment to free navigation, since it enabled their exports to reach European ports.”Engineering the Lower Danube.
“The new passage was finished in 1893. It would become a landmark of the river works on the Sulina branch. The inauguration ceremony gave Dimitrie Sturdza, the Romanian prime minister, the opportunity to fervently express his enthusiasm for the work of the European Commission of the Danube, calling it ‘one of the most beautiful institutions that the civilization of the 19th century has created.’”
“The Romanian ruling class saw in Dobrudja an opportunity to develop its own export outlet by building a modern harbor in Constanţa that was not under the jurisdiction of the ECD. This alternative way to the sea became a symbol of Romania’s newly gained economic independence and an articulation of its own rival modernizing project.”

“The Romanians had ‘a distinct quality,’ and the young Russian diplomat could not conceal his regret that ‘these eight million people foreign to the Slavs had settled here on the beautiful slopes of the Carpathians.’”—Russia on the Danube.
“Moldavia and Wallachia repeatedly constituted a battleground for the Ottoman, Habsburg, and Polish armies, while their elites remained open to diverse cultural and political influences. Seasoned by centuries of survival in a contested frontier zone, these elites revealed a remarkable ability to manipulate the official Russian rhetoric of protecting the Orthodox subjects of the sultan.”
“In the cultural domain, the period of Russian administration of the principalities gave an important impetus to the Westernization of the Moldavian and Wallachian elites that ultimately stimulated the formation of modern Romanian nationalism.”

Earlier items on the back list of the Central European University Press, with a Romanian focus:

  • History and myth in Romanian consciousness has been a genuine international success;
  • Similar in subject and impact to the previous is the one on Transylvanian identity;
  • The history of Gypsies in Romania is an important reading in the context of European integration;
  • A comprehensive description of the painful process of agricultural collectivization in Romania; the richly documented (also illustrated) volume acquaints the international academic community with this chapter of 20 th century European history;
  • A unique account of an intellectual in Ceauşescu’s Romania;
  • An essay on the role of aesthetic imagination in human society;
  • An account about the transformation of Romanian countryside focuses on two villages in Muntenia: Ceauşescu’s birthplace and a village that tried to resist communism;
  • A member of the European Parliament, former Romanian minister ponders about which way capitalism goes;
  • And which way go universities? This is the subject of the Bucharest sociologist’s book.

Other titles from the backlist, starting with contemporary topics:

“I experienced The Romanians are Coming as a rude reminder of my country’s visibility in Europe and Romanians’ unenviable status as ‘significant others’ in relation to a perceived ‘European’ core of values and economic prosperity.”—from the debate about the current state of East-West relations.
“The headlines included Nigel Farage’s apocalyptic scenarios of a Romanian invasion likely to increase criminality, steal ‘British jobs’, and put unbearable pressure on the UK’s welfare system.”
“By shocking and entertaining audiences with extremes of economic and cultural backwardness, the documentary presents Romanian immigrants and the Romania they flee as apparently lacking essential ‘European’ characteristics.”
“The show’s ambivalent messages both confirm and debunk stereotypes about Romanian immigrants. This gives it a broad appeal, offering immigrants as scapegoats for how the UK welfare system appears to have failed the struggling white British working-classes.”

“Life stories of migration published in Romanian for a Romanian public represent migration from altogether different positions than the stories representing Romanian migration to, for example, an American audience.”—on the transnational aspects of contemporary literature.
In her novel, “Ioana Baetica Morpurgo adopts radically different strategies, as she does not have to win over a ‘foreign’ audience, nor does she have to comply with traditional conventions of presenting migration as a journey of acculturation and assimilation.”
“Even the successful broker in the City, Traian, suffers from negative stereotyping: his British-born colleagues call him either Dracula or a communist.”
“The only viable alternative accessible to them is to put their bodies up for sale—either as orientalized wives of exotic beauty (Maria), as domestic workers (Sabina), or as sexual workers (Alina). The very mentioning of one’s nationality is traumatic.”

“The structurally corrupt Romanian system is in all likelihood not as consistently corrupt as it seems, less centralized, and less managed from a single power center than is often assumed.”—a volume on post-communist regimes.
“PSD politicians had the most prosecution procedures (255) directed against them, with the other two main parties PNL-PDL with 122-158, and RMDSZ 30 procedures, in accordance with their proportions. Based on these numbers, the DNA (National Anticorruption Directorate) maintains that politically motivated procedures do not occur.”
“In Romania (a country with very few highways), some employees of the state highway building firm rank highly on the list of the richest Romanians.”
“An important characteristic of Romanian civil society is that it is not so much the product of local society, nor deeply embedded in Romanian political life, but is instead intrinsically bound to global civil society and its institutional forms present in Romania.”

“Romania approached—after a dictatorship collapse in 1989—patronal democracy and it has oscillated around this ideal type ever since. No pattern change has happened in spite of the numerous sequences that are involved in dynamic equilibrium.”the momentous endeavor of analyzing post-communist regimes.
“In patronal democracies like Romania and Bulgaria, ruling parties that are nominally left or right-wing are also patron’s parties, granting a legitimizing camouflage for competing patronal networks.”
“Local governments may become corrupt, captured or criminal even when the entirety of the state is not. In Romania so-called ‘local fiefdoms’ (baronni locali) are constructed around local elected leaders, county council presidents and mayors, and the leaders of local institutions.”
“Had either Traian Băsescu or Victor Ponta got the monopoly of political power, they would have made an autocratic breakthrough and instituted patronal autocracy. They just never had a chance.”

“After a violent dictatorship collapse, involving the execution of general party secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1989, Romania approached patronal democracy, and it has oscillated around this ideal type since.”A Concise Field Guide to Post-Communist Regimes.
“The period from 1996-2004 was the most liberal period of Romania to date, under Prime Ministers Victor Ciorbea, Mugur Isărescu, and Adrian Năstase. However, that this latter was later found guilty in two corruption cases indicates that this period was not devoid of actors engaging in informal practices, while formal institutional constraints remained strong, and actors were not able to simply step over them.”
“Traian Băsescu has clearly shown the intention of building a single-pyramid patronal network and transforming the country into a patronal autocracy.”
“Since 2014, the country has moved back to the more competitive landscape of patronal democracy under President Klaus Iohannis.”

“The dominant approach to Romanian populism treats it as a pathology inherent to democratic transitions, a position grounded on a sharp distinction between reasonable forms of democracy and its degeneration. A second strategy treats populism rather as a symptom, that is, a marker for other democratic difficulties and complexity, treating populism in Romania as a proxy, or a substitute, for radical politics within democracy.”
The past twenty-five years of east-central Europe are explored in a collective volume in the perspective of intellectual history.
“Due to their shallow and erratic adherence to political ideologies, most Romanian political parties devolved, without difficulty, their political identity towards a strong populist mode. A constant type of populism since the early 1990s is a notable combination of hopes of technocratic governance and the eternal return of anti-corruption crusades.”

“The Romanian example shows how demanding the implementation of the complete acquis communautaire is and what enormous efforts were required by legislators, who, during the same period, also had to implement thousands of other legal acts required by the acquis.”
A book on the expansion and institutionalization of intellectual property norms in the twentieth century.
“What the Romanian legislators have ultimately and rather impressively achieved, certainly as the ‘law on the books,’ is a mature and modern example of copyright law, influenced in no small part by the seven EU copyright directives.”

“When the deportation of Hungarian Jews under Adolf Eichmann’s command began, my father and his brother had the luck to find themselves in Romania. The Romanian fascists and antisemites were corrupt and venal, and therefore easily bribable, whereas the Hungarians were not, which meant the possibility of escape from the former was greater than from the latter.”—The Passport as Home.
“Rock music represented a solid rebellion against the German infused high culture that especially my mother instilled in me during my childhood in Romania.”
“Various Timişoarans became successful in North America, Israel, Australia, and a scattering of countries in western Europe, pursuing careers in business, the law, arts, and in the academy. None, however, had a more successful career than Ioan Holender, who became the longest-serving general director in the history of the Vienna State Opera.”

The comparative review of the control of political parties over the media in Eastern Europe reveals that in no other EU member state does such a low share of population watch public state television as in Romania. Commercial channels of domestic media investors (“moguls, barons, oligarchs…”) dominate the market. The printed press market is both underdeveloped and “overpopulated”—no wonder that almost all newspapers have been making losses under the impact of the global economic and financial crisis. This, in spite of the nontransparent redistribution of public money through hundreds of state agencies, from local municipalities to the Romanian Railway Company. The media are therefore an easy target for political pressure. Outlets are often instruments for political advantage, are strongly polarized in political terms, although tend to switch sides every now and then.
Notwithstanding, the analysis showed definite improvement as the media policies of two successive governments were compared, Năstase’s between 2000–2004 and Popescu-Tăriceanu’s between 2004–2008.

“Romania’s post-communist wars of memory are waged by heteroge­neous armies and on several fronts. Historians are just one regiment, and not even that regiment is homogenous. It includes genuine democrats who suffered under the former regime, national communists, and former Securitate informers marked by their past.”
Developments in post-communist memory politics in Romania are discussed in a comparative collection.
After 1966, “without having pronounced the words ‘Bessarabia and northern Bukovina,’ a green light had practically been given to Romanian historians to give went to what was to be turned into the dominant narrative of collective trauma.”
“Gradually the Romanian historians began to make a distinction between the Iron Guard and the regime of the marshal. The former continued to be described in largely pejorative terms and to be depicted as peripheral to Romanian society. Marshal Antonescu, however, began to be exonerated and to be depicted as a personality whose decisions were a reflection of a '“no-choice' situation imposed on him by Romania’s post-1940 international situation.”

“The late Tony Judt argued that the real test for the EU was Romania’s accession, considering its pending structural problems. The piece generated anger among Romanian intellectuals and produced reactions both pro and con. Nevertheless, one cannot deny the nature of the difficulties with which Romania is faced, among them that of an unmastered past.”
“December 1989 is still a controversial historical topic. The pace and amplitude of the events, the role played by the Army in the repression and then in the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the role of the nomenklatura in forming the new power structures, the violent chaos after December 22, as well as the so-called ‘terrorists,’ who were never identified, have generated several hypotheses regarding the fall of communism in Romania.”
“One must greet President Băsescu’s political will, the first post-1989 Romanian head of state that dared to begin the vital procedure of exorcizing the communist-Securitate demons.”
“Decommunization and defascization must be inextricably linked if Romania is to participate in building a shared European memory.”

“Compared with the communist regime in Romania, when the pressures from authorities was for Gypsies to declare themselves Romanians, leading to many people conforming to this request, after 1990 the official pressures was the opposite.”
A monograph about the ways the Roma are identified, classified and counted across Europe.
At the 2011 census the Roma could choose among the following 19 categories: rom, băieş, boldean, caştal, căldărar, cărămidar, cocalar, gabor, geambaş, lăieş, lăutar, pletos, rudar, spoitor, ţigan, ţigan de mătase, ursar, vătraş, and zavragiu. (The Romanian ethnic category had 7 different labels, Hungarian had 3, and German had 6.) And yet, they massively hid their Roma identity.
“We are not Roma because we don’t speak the Romani language. We speak only the Romanian language. We don’t know another language. So, why should they call us Roma? We have declared ourselves Romanians.” And: “In my identity paper it is written that I’m Romanian so Romanian I am. Roma people know the Romani language, whereas I know only the Romanian language”

“When I was back in Timişoara, sugar, butter, oil, and flour were rationed, while milk, eggs, and meat implied the same endless queues, before they would disappear altogether from Romanian stores.”—recollection from the years before 1989, alongside with a rich panoply of other remembrances of the communist era.
“Why haven’t I ever considered pursuing a career in the Securitate?”—publishing houses promoted well-written spy novels whose main characters were Securitate officers, so nice and so devoted to the fight against ‘evil’ that they rarely failed to win the sympathy of the reader.”
“Arguably, the Romanian Revolution of 1989 had three major features that made it so special in the context of the 1989 events in East-Central Europe: it occurred unexpectedly, unfolded violently, and had an ambiguous outcome.”
“The TV program Memorialul Durerii brought into everyone’s home the image of feeble old men and women—from interwar politicians to humble peasants—who spoke about their destinies being broken in the communist prisons. In contrast, and to viewers’ general astonishment, healthy-looking former torturers interviewed in the same series showed no remorse.”

“The interviews with officer Nicolae show that the police force of socialist Romania served not only to legitimize the regime, but also to delegitimize it.”Making Sense of Dictatorship.
“The popularity and sympathy Nicolae enjoyed were due to his being an ap­proachable officer. When a grocer offered him something ‘under the counter,’ he did so in the hope that Nicolae would turn a blind eye to other misdemeanors in return. This shows that it was common knowledge that policemen were amenable to corruption”.
“His summoning to the Securitate office gave him quite a scare. He went to church with his daughter afterwards and paid the priest for a prayer, thanking God that he had managed to get off so lightly.”
“Even after 1976, when ‘gradual regime decay’ had long since become apparent, the police force was used as an effective means of regime legitimization. Regime legitimacy and the loss of legitimacy were not necessarily opposites, but rather comprised two sides of the same coin in the Socialist Republic of Romania.”

The Republic of Moldova has been the par excellence place for history politics ever since its 1991 founding. In this context, discussing the holocaust in Bessarabia is gaining momentum.

“To appeal to Romanians’ national pride and lend credibility to their new regime, the neo-communists hailed the Romanian Revolution as ‘the first revolution broadcast live on television.’ Post-communist myths are deeply rooted in the cultural memory of Romanian society, as their origins can be traced to the nineteenth century, the era of the national paradigm’s construction.”
A book on the place of myths in the memory politics in a number of East-European countries.
“The low presence of women in all political structures during the last twenty-five years in Romania can be attributed to the post-communist propaganda that demonized women’s presence in politics based on a mythology that women in the communist-era leadership were numerous and incompetent.”
The biography of Miron Constantinescu, a key figure of the communist regime, idealizes his underground activism with its repercussions, the prison sentence. “There is nothing heroic in these histories. It is only the story of a sect with few adherents, some of whom were socially marginalized, or intellectually mediocre, and sometimes prone to betray their comrades.”
“The myth of Alba Iulia was used to develop a new, organic, and transcendent concept of the nation, with the Transylvanian Iuliu Maniu, the ‘hero’ of Alba Iulia, as its destined leader. The myth had a powerful simplifying role and was modulated by a drive to manufacture ideological legitimization.”

"In Romania the idea of 'getting rid of the gypsies' existed ever since the deportations to Transnistria during World War II. From the point of view of the Romanian government mass Roma emigration following EU accession in 2007 serves a similar purpose."
Statements and debate between leading East European Roma activists about the fate and future of their people.
"What is needed is an effective system of public administration that works for everyone. If the Romanian social services would only function as they should by following their own regulations, this would be far more beneficial than any specific Roma strategy could be. If the government does unveil a new strategy this will probably be with the aim of attracting a few helpful headlines and will be used as a bargaining chip in the Schengen negotiations."
"Domestic violence was widespread in Romania, where men smacked their wives as a matter of course and other people ignored this, minding their own business. But in Spain when there were such incidents the police arrived and even arrested Roma husbands, causing consternation among the Roma who couldn't understand how such a thing could happen."

The analysis of the dramatic transition from communism to capitalism in rural communities is based on 54 village studies. The Romanian findings are matched against experiences in Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Slovak villages.
The irony about immediate post-socialist developments in Romania was that, while this was the country where something close to an armed insurrection had taken place, the political, economic and social change that followed was the least revolutionary. An apparently radical privatization law was passed in August 1991, but the government was reluctant to implement it, and the precise relationship between the funds involved remained opaque. In addition, the post-socialist impotence of local authorities in Romania was extreme and their task enormous.

Peculiar aspects of transition: "during the transition period, when the young democracy was supposed to be built in Romania, schools and local authorities as well as non-Romani parents felt the freedom to declare that they preferred not to have their own children sit next to Romani children."

"The apple is rotten at the core. The first decade of Romania's post-1989 experience presented a striking paradox: the most abrupt break with the old order resulted in the least radical transformation." The volume on re-interpreting 1989 is the latest in the series edited by a team led by V. Tismaneanu. Another quote: "two lost decades since 1989, when pale images of economic and political pluralism have been created and the state has remained substantially unreformed and still shaped around clientelistic interests." The book matches Masterpieces of History, flagship publication of CEU Press (see excerpts at bottom).

Gorbachev to Reagan: Mr. President, you say that the English and French missiles are not defending West Germany. Well, who will defend the GDR? And Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria? Who will defend them? That argument does not work. October, 1986
Face to face conversations of superpower leaders at the end of the Cold War on a thousand pages.
Baker to Bush: Gorbachev’s strategy of promoting the stable international environment necessary for perestroyka is threatened by the accelerating political changes now affecting every country in the region except Romania. November, 1989
Bush to Gorbachev
: We don’t differ. Self-determination is a value we endorse and it is openness that permits self-determination. Western values does not mean the imposition of our system on Czechoslovakia, the GDR or Romania. December, 1989
Gorbachev to Bush
: I promise you that tomorrow there will be talk of Poland’s western territories, about Transylvania, Macedonia. About a million Turks live in Bulgaria. In a word, if we do not keep the issue of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders under control, chaos will break out from which we will never extricate ourselves.
When Moldovans started talking about joining Romania, the population of one-third of its territory immediately objected, they do not want to leave. July, 1991

"In the context of Ceauşescu’s ideological conflict with Gorbachev’s reformist agenda, General Antonescu was gradually rehabilitated as a patriot, a savior who rescued the country from the fascist terror and a fighter for Romania’s territorial integrity against Stalinist Russia.”—Battling over the Balkans.
“In postcommunist Romania, Antonescu was presented as a martyr for the national cause and, in a major departure from the communist interpretation, a victim of communist repression.”
“Păunescu takes a step further: Antonescu, he claims, deported Bessarabia and Bukovina Jews to Transnistria in order to save them from the starvation that ethnic Romanians were enduring back at home.”
“Prestigious intellectuals such as Tudoran, Manolescu, and Liiceanu preferred to popularize the opinions of Revel and Courtois rather than that of Besançon, and they did so by using provocative concepts (‘Red Holocaust,’ ‘monopoly on suffering,’ ‘Judeocentrism’) that are widely popular in radical-right circles.”

In the Soviet bloc playwrights used the stage to voice their denunciation of the oppressive political regime by drawing from the classical plays of Shakespeare, Molière, or Chekhov. The study includes the analysis of the work of three Romanian dramatists.
Nic Ularu’s The Cherry Orchard, A Sequel enacts dramatic metamorphoses that bring to the stage the violent rise of the Bolsheviks in the early days of the Soviet Union. A politically meaningful performance to a contemporary audience by inserting in the original play the brash beginnings of communism.
Matéi Vișniec’s Richard III Will Not Take Place or Scenes from the Life of Meyerhold speak to the audience in terms of the contemporary realities that make Meyerhold, the famous theater director, the protagonist of his own tragic life and death at the hands of Stalin’s executioners.
Vlad Zografi’s Peter or The Sun Spots captures on an immediate level Tsar Peter the Great’s despotic rule and depraved behavior during his visit to France in scenes that foreshadow, on an extended level, Stalin’s autocratic system and thus suggest a direct lineage from the White to the Red tsar in modern times.

Max Herman, known as Maxy (1895-1971) was a key figure of the Romanian avant-garde, who turned his avant-garde experience into advanced propaganda. Maxy followed the requirements of Zhdanovist socialist realism yet in 1952 was “unmasked” as a “formalist deviant.” Having survived the wave of purges, Maxy consolidated his position as a leading official artist of the regime. He wanted to appear as an innovator but he wanted to appear as a professional servant of the regime.
Artistic interactions both within the Soviet bloc and with the west between 1945 and 1989 are presented and analyzes in a collective book with 35 contributors.
Richard Demarco from Edinburgh did a lot to popularize Central European modern art in the world. His exhibition, Romanian Art Today (1971) had very little to do with the context, that is, Romania of the early 1970s. The Romanian origin was the only common characteristic of all the artists. Instead of any analysis of art and the historical context of the rise of the Romanian neo-avant-garde, the critics tried to find in the works of contemporary Romanian artists some kind of national essence. The nationalization of the avant-garde was the price of its appearance in the West.

“I slipped her an envelope containing 500 dollars under the Athenee cafe’s marble topped table—recalls the reporter of the New York Times in his memoirs —and asked if she would consider emigrating to Israel. In those days Romania was selling its remaining Jews, some 250,000, to Israel, for cash and for Jaffa oranges—the equivalent of about 4,000 dollars each”.
“Ceauşescu, barely five feet three inches tall, entered from another door, greeted me with a soft handshake and gestured for us to sit down—he in the middle and me to his right. He then proceeded to read my heavily edited questions and his very stilted responses”.
“What I learned over the three decades filled me with awe and delight in the unique examples of beauty created by Romanians in music, art, architecture, poetry, prose, and philosophy. I also became acquainted with the many horrors and the few good moments of their political history. I even learned a little Romanian”.

The book that reassesses the effects of 1968 is particularly rich about how Ceauşescu profited from the wave of global revolt (including from hosting de Gaulle in May ’68).

A Bucharest-born Romanian-Briton was behind the huge book distribution program of the CIA that spanned 35 cold-war years, reached hundreds of thousand East-Europeans and involved a broad network of institutional and private supporters in the west. Ironically, there was a period around 1970 when the program met the least difficulties in Romania from all communist countries. Nevertheless even in this "liberal" early Ceauşescu era fewer Romanians had a chance to travel than others in the bloc.

“Comrade, you committed to strengthen your work discipline to honor the November 7 anniversary. You did not carry out this commitment and you have been late repeatedly.”—from a book on labor under communism.
As Ceauşescu put it in 1977: "Those suffering from mild disability say they experience pain here and there, but you cannot possibly evaluate them. We should eliminate the category of mild disability. Mild disability pensions should not exist.”
“The strike of 1977 in the Jiu Valley bears striking resemblance to the British strike of 1974 and the United States coal miners’ strike in 1977–78. All three were the result of rank and file discontent, and all managed to force both the state and coal companies to the negotiating table by threatening the energy supply. Such strikes suggest at least some common elements of worker agency across ideological divides.”

Essays reach back to the expansion of Stalinism in east Europe.

The collectivization of agriculture in Romania was one of the longest and most arduous campaigns of social engineering in the countryside launched in post-1945 Eastern Europe, involving a war against the peasantry lasting more than 13 years. Collectivization served not only as a main form of “class struggle” in the countryside, but also as an instrument of repression against certain ethnic or religious groups.
Based on a wealth of archival materials, a critical overview of the main stages and features of the process of collectivization in Romania, comparing it with similar campaigns that took place in the former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. Resistance and repressions are also discussed.

“Repeated surveys have revealed that about half or more of those surveyed say that life was better during communist times. The Romanian respondents may think that in a hypothetical ideal world, state-lead communism would have delivered its promised results and the state would have promoted general welfare.”—One Hundred Years of Communist Experiments.
“Two enormous scandals shook the intellectual circles of late Romanian communism. Both were chapters in a Ceaușescu’s bizarre ‘cultural revolution.’ A state visit to China and Korea exposed the semi-illiterate leader to a version of dictatorship that resonated with his own ideal of Stalinism, one he could adapt to Romanian conditions.”
“A 1974 article by Edgar Papu that at first went almost unnoticed turned in only a few years into a missile with countless warheads. Nothing—or almost nothing—in his biography anticipated his career as the flag-bearer of a retrograde cultural-ideological trend, and his complete subjection to the ultra-reactionary forces in Romanian culture.”

“Many people, especially in Bukovina and Moldavia, had no opportunity to acquire new clothes and had spent the war years in rags. Farmers could be seen huddling in holes together with their cattle.”Ireland's Helping Hand to Europe.
“At the beginning of 1946, the Red Cross could use a ship but this method of transport was only used five times as it took almost a month to reach Romania and as important thefts occurred during the unloading process in Constanţa.”
“Gheorghiu-Dej and his followers were not particularly active in helping a population in distress and got involved in relief operations only because it was good propaganda. Foreign supplies that reached Romania were often arbitrarily distributed by the communists.”
“The United States was becoming reluctant to send supplies to areas under Soviet control, but George Marshall agreed to send 7,000 tons of cereals to Romania as it was estimated that the country would be without food at the end of March 1947. The Romanian government was unable to pay for this food.”

“The Italian army occupied a permanent position between the Hungarian army to the left and the Romanian army to the right; east of the Romanian army, the 6th German Army continued to lay siege to Stalingrad.”—Stalin’s Italian Prisoners of War.
“According to some accounts, the Russians did not usually beat the prisoners themselves, deeming such methods ‘fascist.’ Instead, the thrash­ings were normally carried out by the Romanians in charge of discipline. The Romanian hierarchy and the Jews alike are in absolutely normal physical conditions, and wear very elegant uniforms.”
“Between March and April 1945, Romanian prisoners held in several camps asked Stalin to be allowed to participate in the war against the Ger­mans. Their requests were accepted.”
“Out of the 10,000 repatriated Romanian soldiers and noncommissioned officers, 1,700 were antifascists, including 700 who had attended the antifascist schools.”

“Hătcărău commune: on August 30, 1944, Russian soldiers took two barrels of wine from Simion Banu and sacks full of oats from Constantin Cristea. The nun N.N. was raped. Ciorani commune: resident Mihalache Petre was shot dead, and afterwards 60,000 lei, a watch, and a ring were taken; 300,000 lei from Chirilă Chiriţa; 250,000 lei from Gheorghe Stănescu; 180,000 lei and a watch from Gheorghe Popescu. Adâncata commune: two horses, corn, oats, and birds from Ion Gheorghiu.” (Reports of the Romanian General Inspectorate of the Gendarmerie.)
This documentary collection on the Soviet occupation of Romania, Hungary, and Austria is the result of an academic collaboration between many historians from these three countries.
“The Allied Control Commission cannot help but note completely unsatisfactory progress in implementing the armistice agreement, which can be explained by a lack of desire and goodwill on the part of the Romanian government to assure fulfillment of the armistice clauses by Romanian authorities. Thus far, not all German and Hungarian subjects living on Romanian territory have been interned…” (Vinogradov to Sănătescu, November 1944)

“Between 1940 and 1944, during Hungarian rule, Northern Transylvanian Jewry were exposed to several waves of atrocities: firstly, to expulsion and deportation to Galicia; secondly, to the ‘Holocaust by bullets’; thirdly, to extermination by work, hunger, and disease during the forced labor service; and, finally, to the mass deportation to Auschwitz and the almost total destruction in German Nazi camps.”
The book presents the newest trends in the study of the Shoah in Hungary, and prevailing aspects of Holocaust remembrance.
“Romanian policy-makers prioritized the economic exploitation of the Jewish communities and the utilization of the expertise of Jewish intellectuals and skilled workers for the economy. A Decree Law in 1940 excluded all Jews from armed service, but also stipulated that Jewish experts could be employed by the Ministry of Defense, were allowed to wear the uniform and should be paid regular fees.”
“More than three-quarters—125,000 to 130,000 members—of the Jewish community of Northern Transylvania perished during the Holocaust, while the losses among the Southern Transylvanian Jewry were around 1,000 people out of a total of 42,000.”

“For Panait Istrati, the Primakov affair was the trigger for his criticism of the Soviet Union as well as the door closing behind him and wiping out the last of his great utopian expectations… Istrati’s continued belief in left-wing ideals made him far more threatening and credible than enemies of other political colors.”—from a book on intellectuals and the totalitarian temptation.
“The Führer respected Antonescu’s experience as a military planner. He also admired his leadership qualities and his dedication to the Axis. Antonescu had, of course, his own country’s interests uppermost in his mind, but in following Hitler, he served the Nazi cause.”
“Unlike Georg Lukács, who remained until the end faithful to his Leninist bet, Cioran understood that he had been wrong. He confronted his infamous past. Unlike Lukács or Carl Schmitt, he made peace with the values of democratic liberalism. He carried his cross with dignity, agonized, and went through the mill.”

“Ironically, the rebellion in the Peloponnese in 1821 also ended the ascendancy of the Phanariot elite that had until then acted not only as an agent of Hellenization for their Orthodox retinues of humble Bulgarian, Albanian, Vlach, and Romanian origins, but also mediated their integration into Ottoman governance, creating a significant class of Orthodox Christians who had a stake in the legitimacy of Ottoman imperial rule.”
By exploring the development of ethnic diversity and national tensions, the contributors to this volume challenge the readers to engage in a new way of thinking about the region and Balkan studies.
“Demographers continued the Ottoman practice of placing all Orthodox Christians into one group and counted Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians, Serbs, and Gagauz together as part of the Orthodox Christian religion, regardless of which Orthodox Church they followed.”
“In 1989 Michael Sharif found ‘xenophobic communism’ to be a defining feature of Ceauşescu’s Romania, Zhivkov’s Bulgaria, and increasingly Milosevic’s Serbia.”
“In Epirus, those Aromanian speakers that did not leave for Romania are Greek identified, and it is rare to find anyone under forty who is an active speaker of Aromanian.”

“The mismatch between the Bismarckian urban-biased developmental path of the two major parties and the predominantly rural fabric of interwar Romania was highlighted by King Carol II, who subsidized sociological inquiries into village life to show the miserable condition of the peasantry.”—from a collection of essays on nationalism and the economy.
“One key problem in Romanian nation-building was the near-absence of indigenous economic elites, with a majority of businessmen in Romania having Hungarian, German, or Jewish backgrounds. Thus the development of professions through public-sector employment served as a means to create an indigenous elite comprising of the free professions, bureaucrats, and lawyers. By contrast, Romanian peasants, perceived by Romanian nation-builders of the nineteenth century as the uncorrupted core of the Romanian nation long before the existence of the Romanian state, were excluded from this vision of the modernized nation-state.

“In the 1930s, Romanian intellectuals and nationalist circles looked with great interest towards the proposals offered by the European totalitarian and authoritarian right, which seemed to indicate a ‘third way’ between the liberal capitalist West—of which the Great Depression seemed to declare bankruptcy—and Soviet communism.”——big powers interfering into middle Europe.
“Hoping to get Western support in the Transylvanian dispute, the Hungarians were hurrying to leave the Axis before Romanians.”
“Soviet ambitions to establish a dominant role along the Danube were further reinforced with the information given by the British about their March 1943 postwar arrangements with the Americans, in which Washington showed its apathy towards Romanian and Hungarian affairs.”
“Vyshinsky orchestrated attacks in the Romanian press on Maniu in the beginning of December 1944. He also wanted to appeal to the broad circles of Romanian population using the ‘Transylvanian question.’”

“All armies displayed appalling carelessness for the sick and wounded, the most extreme example being the Romanian army: more of its soldiers perished due to cholera and other diseases than were killed in action.”Philanthropy, Conflict Management, and International Law.
“Romanian cavalry arrived near the Bulgarian capital. There seemed to be no way out. In Sofia, members of the local intelligentsia set up a society for collective suicide.”
“Many previous supporters of Bulgaria did not stand up for the country during the Romanian invasion, like pioneer of Slavic studies Louis Leger’s return of a significant Romanian medal awarded him by Bucharest.”
“In Romania, complaints were aired that the Carnegie Report did not discuss the ‘civilizing role’ of that country’s intervention in the Second Balkan War.”
“The 1924 volume grouped Trotsky’s writing in three parts: … the third on postwar Romania. He juxtaposed the Bulgarian army of ‘free, literate peasants, possessing the vote’ and the ‘Romanian army of serfs.’

“The American Indian is also a Rough Rider; in his own way of getting on and off the unsaddled horse he wins admiration from connoisseurs” (Gazeta Bucovinei, July 2, 1906).”—Staged Otherness.
“The show was described as an ‘ethnographic map—a model of images and knights’ or a ‘True slice of the American life’” Kronstădter Zeitung July 16, 1906).
“People did not have a neutral attitude toward America. The imaginary was fueled from various sources, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was perceived as an opportunity to piece together all the previously available scattered information.”
“The people of Banat and Transylvania, branded as ‘backward,’ generally repositioned themselves as more ‘civilized’ than the ‘primitive Indians’ but not quite as ‘progressive’ as North Americans.”
„Queen Mary of Romania fondly reminisced over the hero of her childhood, Buffalo Bill.”

“The explanation of Catholicism’s failure is based on the following: the Romanian Orthodox Church is in the Romanian language, and it has been so at least since the 17th century. The Roman Church never agreed to make such sacrifices.”—The Rise of Comparative History.
“Tying the peasants to the land in Poland and in Livonia does not indicate a regime truly different from that introduced by the edicts of the Russian Tsars or by the contemporary decrees of the Moldavian and Wallachian princes. The economic interests that determined the evolution of serfdom turned out to be quite analogous to those imposed by the fiscal necessities of Russia and Romania.”
“Originating from the Romanized Illyro-Thracians, merging with colonists brought by the Romans from all over the world, then spreading over the whole Balkan continent, Romanians speaking different dialects appeared after 976, which is the date they were first mentioned in Byzantium.”
“Among the Romanians, Slavic love songs rendered the Latin verb amare obsolete.”

“Bessarabians perceived the Romanians of the Kingdom as ‘Moldavians, mixed with Hungarians and Bulgarians, who speak a corrupted language’ and have a king of ‘foreign faith’.”
“Eminescu’s confidence in the civilizing mission of the Romanian nation-state in the region remained unshaken. ‘The nine million Romanians have assembled over the centuries more numerous and more beautiful treasures than ninety million Russians will ever be able to assemble’.”
“Iorga might seem to be the exact opposite of Eminescu in terms of his position within the Romanian intellectual establishment and national discourse.”
The works of three Romanian intellectuals and publicists of Bessarabian origin who articulated different visions of Bessarabia are discussed: Bogdan P. Hasdeu, Constantin Stere, and Dimitrie C. Moruzi.
“Russian and Romanian intellectuals and elites engaged in symbolic competition over Bessarabia without eliciting any significant responses from the region itself. The Bessarabian intellectual stratum was negligible before the early twentieth century.”

Nicolae Iorga (1903), Aurel Constantin Popovici (1908), Mircea Eliade (1927), Nichifor Crainic (1935), Lucian Blaga (1936), and Emil Cioran (1936). Some of the best known names of Romanian intellectual legacy appear with short biography, succinct presentation and a specimen from a work that fits best into the subject of “anti-modernism.” This is the title of the concluding volume of the grand CEU Press undertaking of Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe 1770–1945, a challenging comparative collection of essential primary sources, accompanied by introductory essays and contextual analyses.
In the first four volumes Romanians are represented by the Supplex Libellus Valachorum (1791), Maior (1812), Golescu (1826), Kogălniceanu (1843), Bălcescu (1850), Brătianu (1853), Russo (1855), Bărnuţiu (1867), Maiorescu (1868), Budai-Deleanu (1875), Eminescu (1881), Caragiale (1893), Râmniceanu (1903), Popovici (1906), Ibrăileanu (1909), Dobrogeanu-Gherea (1910), Lovinescu (1924), Boilă (1931), and Gusti (1937).

“The Walachian (Romanian) language emerged since the 16th century in Walachia and Moldavia with the use of (Old) Cyrillic for writing the East Romance speech of the inhabitants of these two Danubian Principalities, as borrowed from (Old Church) Slavonic. The process culminated in the publication of the Cyrillic-based Walachian translation of the Bible in 1680 in Bucharest.”Words in Space and Time.
“The official switch to the Latin alphabet in 1860 in Walachia and three years later, in 1863, in Moldavia was connected to the 1859 union of the Danubian Principalities. They were renamed as the Romanian United Principalities in 1862, before becoming the nation-state of Romania in 1866.”
“It was Russia’s repeated attacks on the Ottomans that actually made it possible for Romania to emerge as a unified nation-state in 1866. At the same time, like the state, the language was firmly renamed as Romanian, and its official script was changed as well, from Cyrillic to Antiqua, or the ‘French alphabet.’”

“As an ethnographer, I was in contact at this time with Iorga and Murgoci’s Institutul Balkanic in Bucharest. I gave them several manuscripts for publication.”
Besides collecting material for his scholarly work in Paleontology, Geology and Albanian Ethnography, the eccentric Transylvanian Baron was keen about other political developments.
“I was concerned about the Romanian question in Transylvania. The Romanians who lived there told me quite openly that they were waiting for the death of Emperor Franz Josef to rise up against the Hungarians as they were confident that, when Franz Ferdinand took the throne, they would no longer have to fear the army since Franz Ferdinand was a good friend of the Romanians and Aurel Vlad.”

“Xenopol set the start of Romanian history in 513 B.C., Herodotos’s first reference to them.”Byzantium after the Nation.
“The problem re-emerged in the management of ‘medieval’ discontinuity. This discontinuity was problematic for the Romanians, given the gap between the Daco-Getae and the appearance of the Moldo-Wallachian kingdoms of the Late Middle Ages, but chiefly because of the Romanians’ cultural ‘Slavicization.’”
“The distancing from the ‘Byzantine Commonwealth’ stemmed from the Romanians’ attempt to shake off the influences of their long coexistence with the Slavs. The medieval rulers of Moldavia and Wallachia were consequently transformed into ‘islands of Latinism’ within a Slavic flood.”
“The true political content of Iorga’s Byzantium after Byzantium—thesis: if the Romanians were recipients of the great Byzantine cultural heritage, then they were untouched by the consequences of the Slavic flood.”

“In the kingdom of Romania, the postulate of a Daco-Romanian continuity, which had been genuinely medieval in contour and structure throughout its entire substance, was just one of the competing hypotheses of Romanian ethnogenesis.”The Historical Construction of National Consciousness.
“The Romanian ‘founding of the state’ currently stands at an order of magnitude several millennia ago, and a myth of autochthony has been fused with an intensified tendency of cultural myths (Romanians who were intensely Christian an uncertain length of time ago versus heathen Magyars) and myths of self-characterology (sturdy, humane Romanians versus ‘wild,’ conquering Magyars).”
“Szücs made it clear that there was a profound structural difference between premodern and modern forms of national sentiment and was also adamantly against the instrumentalization of these premodern cultural codes for the purposes of reviving political nationalism (both in the forms of national communism and anti-communist ethno-populism).”

Christ said: "Get back, nâjit, and go into the deserted forests and go into the horns of the stags and of the rams and stay there till the sky and the earth pass away. Fear the Lord who sits on the Judgement throne of the entire world and may this serve you as an order, beginning of the beginnings and of all the diseases, and get out of the servant of God Dimitrie, of his head, of his nostrils, of the crown of his head, of his eyes, of his teeth, of his ears and of all his joints".
In contemporary Romanian, the word nâjit is used mainly in popular language. Its principal meaning is that of disease. Scholars trace back this Romanian folk charm, which has its Slavic and Greek counterparts, to an antique prototype involving Artemis of Ephesos. Essays analyze and compare popular healing texts and other forms of verbal magic in all corners of Europe from the Atlantic to the Ural.

The book on the deeds and vicissitudes of Jesuit communities spans as far as Cluj, Alba Iulia and other places in Transylvania and Moldavia. A quote from the book: “The accomplishments of Jesuit historians active in the Habsburg region were largely oblivious to the Romanian Orthodox cultural tradition. Moreover the engagement of Jesuits with Eastern Rite Christianity is similarly devoid of a significantly spiritual element.”

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Plenty of other CEU Press books carry references to Romanian history and culture (starting with older themes):

  • The Gesta Hungarorum of Anonymus, familiar to Romanian historians for long, is available now in a Latin-English bilingual publication.
  • The volume that presents excerpts from east European travel writings contains the following Romanian authors: N. Soutzo and D. Golescu from the 1820s, followed by Kogălniceanu and Iorga, early 20 th century pieces from by N. Mihăescu-Nigrim, M. Sebastian and C. Petrescu, ending up with T. Mazilu from 1973. Iorga’s and Sebastian’s writings are analyzed in the collection of essays on travel writing.
  • A highly successful biographical reference book contains entries on the following Romanians: M. Baiulescu, C. Botez, Princess A. Cantacuzino, E. Djionat, E. Gjika, (Dora d’Istria), E. Meissner, S. Nădejde, E. Negruzzi, E. de Reuss Ianculescu, A. Voinescu, and A. Xenopol.
  • Expressions of Lutheran identity of the Saxon community in Transylvania.
  • The comparative study of liberal nationalism in eastern Europe includes also the Romanian varieties.
  • The intellectual history of early emergence of socialism, along with Balkanic neighbours.
  • The Legion of the Archangel Michael is discussed in the book on ideologies and identities. The sensitive issues of prostitution and anti-semitism in Romania are explored in the not much less sensitive context of eugenics and racial nationalism in their historic survey in eastern Europe.
  • How new churches were built in communist Romania.
  • A seminal volume on the 1989 revolutions.
  • On the reorganization of Romanian police.
  • How did the East-European mindset adapt to capitalism? The comparative analysis of eight countries, Romania being very much in focus.
  • The comparative analysis of the restitution of confiscated property after the fall of the communist regime in eastern Europe.
  • Together with twenty-eight more post-communist transition countries, the political and economic performance of Romania is also examined as part of a search of varieties of transition models.
  • A critical analysis of post-communist Romanian historiography, and its museums, memorials and monuments.
  • The communist past evoked by Pişcu and Chifu.