Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Modernization and Propaganda: Periodicals, Ecclesiastical Circulars and the Romanian Society in Transylvania during the Modern Period

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Modernization and Propaganda: Periodicals, Ecclesiastical Circulars and the Romanian Society in Transylvania during the Modern Period

Article excerpt

Introduction

Transylvania is an important part of present-day Romania. Here, throughout time, several peoples have settled alongside the Romanians. The ethnic composition of the population in the province has historically comprised Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, Jews, Armenians, etc., belonging to 7 religions: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran, Mosaic and Unitarian. Prior to World War I, medieval Hungary and, subsequently, the modern Hungarian State, in which Transylvania was included, promoted a policy of ethnic-confessional uniformity and of assimilating the inhabitants of different nationalities. The measures taken by the Government in Budapest affected their inter-ethnic and, implicitly, confessional proportions. After 1918, Transylvania was united with Romania and the Government in Bucharest integrated the province within the Romanian State. Before World War I, the Romanians in Transylvania had not had a state of their own in which they could enjoy all the rights and freedoms the other inhabitants of the province benefited from, even though Romanians had represented, throughout the centuries, two thirds of the province's population. At the 1910 Census carried out by the Hungarian authorities in Budapest, Romanians still accounted for over 55% of Transylvania's total population, in spite of the demographic policies imposed by those who ruled over this territory1.

The research hypothesis we advance in this study, supporting it with examples, is that beyond their Christian mission, the Romanian Churches in Transylvania had specific characteristics resulting from the conditions in which the Romanians had lived in the province before 1918. Ever since the early Middle Ages, the Romanians, who were indigenous to Transylvania, had belonged to the Christian Church led from Byzantium. Orthodoxy had been the religion practised not only by the Romanians in Transylvania, but also by those across the Carpathian Mountains, living in the other provinces of present-day Romania. After 1700 and the conquest of Transylvania by the Austrians, a part of the Orthodox Romanians of Transylvania converted to the Greek-Catholic Church United with Rome, so to this day the Romanians in this province belong in nearly equal confessional proportions to the Orthodox and the Greek-Catholic Churches. However, this does in no way diminish the value and importance of the two confessions for the Romanian national body in the province, as the role played by the Romanian Churches in the modernization processes that Transylvania underwent during the modern period and, in particular, in the decades leading up to World War I, was visible and undeniable. Over the centuries, periodical and occasional publications (including circulars issued by metropolitans, bishops or archpriests) served as important communication instruments between the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the faithful2. After the mid-19th century, periodicals and other publications transmitted not only an ecclesiological, but also a cultural-scientific, medical, demographic, civic and, sometimes, even political content. The books, brochures and newspaper articles necessary for the organization of religious services and for the Christian education of the population prevailed among the texts printed by the Greek-Catholic and Orthodox Churches, but there was also a considerable number of circulars, brochures and articles published in ecclesiastical newspapers that popularized information regarding other daily needs of the Romanians than those of a strictly religious nature. As pertinently noted in a valuable monograph on the state of the Romanian nation in Transylvania during the 1848 Revolution (a statement that has, in any case, a higher degree of validity for the modern period), "starting at the top level of the elite, where the arch-hierarchs of the two denominations, Andrei Çaguna and loan Lemeni, activated, and going all the way to the level of the masses, where the priests acted not only as spiritual leaders but also as the political and military headsmen of their communities, the Romanian nation manifested, during those years, in the spirit of a genuine unity in diversity, the foundation of diversity being ensured by its confessional component. …

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