National Identity of Romanians in Transylvania

National Identity of Romanians in Transylvania

National Identity of Romanians in Transylvania

National Identity of Romanians in Transylvania


This meticulously researched and elegantly written book is the most authoritative study of the emergence of modern Romanian identity in Transylvania during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Based upon a plethora of contemporary published sources, Mitu approaches national identity from a variety of perspectives - from within the Romanian community itself and their reaction to the image others had of them.

The author sheds new light on the problems of self-evaluation using a method he describes as "functional analysis" to examine a complex set of ideologies and propaganda. This approach helps the reader to understand the intricate web of contemporary Romanian nationalism.

National Identity of Romanians in Transylvania appeals to scholars of modern Romanian history, those focusing on the Habsburg Monarchy and the study of modern nationalism. The book is an important contribution to the expanding debate on nationalism and national identity from an East European perspective.


Motivations, conceptual background

The starting point of the present study was, as should perhaps be the case with any scientific undertaking, a simple intellectual curiosity, a self-questioning as to a certain phenomenon of social reality. Yet by means of a process which I find extremely telling of what “scientific research” and “objectivity” mean in the area of the social and human sciences, this self-questioning gradually turned into a boundless “wonder”, an experience of the order of surprise, bordering on sheer obsession.

I am referring to the interest I felt in one aspect of Romanian social reality: the impressive emphasis laid on the Nation, on the ideology surrounding it, and on the symbolic relationships individuals establish with this collective entity, that is, on their national identity. Within Romanian culture, the nation, as conceived during the early stages of the modern age by intellectuals searching for new forms of social cohesion, is a far cry from a mere ideological construct or an “imagined community”: it is rather a fundamental frame to which the whole society is referred.

The elements of which it consists, the so-called national values, are decontextualised, divorced from the web of the other values with which they naturally belong in a “democratic” cohabitation, and become the top values of a rigid and artificial axiological hierarchy. Whether one is male or female, peasant or gentry, dull or smart, poor or wealthy, Catholic or Orthodox, matters less than what is seen as the major legitimising co-ordinate: one’s belonging to the nation. Being a Romanian is, in the eyes of those intellectuals who are the leading voices of the national ideological discourse, the most wonderful and meaningful thing, even at the level of the individual’s private life. Nor is this a matter of mere personal option or private affinity (that would be absolutely legitimate), but a statement of an overall social principle.

The majority of studies that have tackled the “national question” or the Romanian “spirit” so far, although undoubtedly remarkable in many cases for their analytical or speculative approach, have remained indebted to such an exclusive perspective, whereby the conceptual background against which they develop their arguments consists of the very system of values of the national discourse they endeavour to analyse. Thus, the angle from which these researchers view nationalist . . .

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