History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness

History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness

History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness

History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness

Synopsis

Boia closely examines the process of historical culture and conscience in nineteenth and twentieth century Romania, particularly concentrating on the impact of the national ideology on history. Based upon his findings, the author identifies several key mythical configurations and analyses the manner in which Romanians have reconstituted their own highly ideologized history over the last two centuries.

Excerpt

Any intellectual project presupposes a prior definition of the concepts with which we are operating. In the present work we are dealing with history and historical myths. Let us be clear, therefore, about what we understand by history, and what we understand by myth.

The word history has two distinct meanings, which the general public, and indeed many professionals, often tend to confuse. History refers both to what really happened and to the reconstruction of what happened; in other words, it is both the past in its objective unfolding and discourse about the past. These two histories are far from being equivalent. The first is cancelled out as one event succeeds another, while the second lacks the means to “resurrect” events in all their fullness. What we usually call history is our discourse about history, the image, inevitably incomplete, simplified, and distorted, of the past, which the present never ceases to recompose.

In relation to real history, history as discourse presupposes a drastic filtering of the facts, their ordering in a coherent whole, the “dramatization” of action, and its investment with a well-defined sense. Real history is an unordered and inexhaustible deposit. Out of this deposit the historian (or, more generally, anyone who speaks about history), selects and orders. Historians are untiring producers of coherence and significance. They produce a sort of “fiction” out of “true” materials.

The same historical processes and the same facts are treated differently, often very differently, according to the standpoint from which they are observed. School textbooks published in different parts of the world amply demonstrate the impossibility of history being the same for everybody. Many things contribute to the differentiation of the discourse: the zone of civilization, the cultural inheritance, the mental context, the historical circumstances, the training of the historian, and, decisively, the spectrum of ideologies. Ideological and political pluralism is inevitably translated into historical pluralism.

Let us grant—for the sake of the demonstration—that it might be possible to establish the “absolute truth” of facts. Even then, their selection and their organization in hierarchy and sequence would still remain open to a variety of solutions. In reality, “facts” are themselves constructed by the historian, detached from a much broader context and set within an explanatory schema elaborated by the same historian.

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