In the 19th century, the Romanian intellectuals and society were trying to achieve the nation state.
In the 19th century, the Romanian intellectuals and society were trying to achieve the nation state. In order to build a nation state, historians and philologists resorted to scientific arguments and equally to fake ideas. Fake patriotism mobilized latent energies that eventually had a positive impact on national emancipation.
In mid 19th century, at the end of the Crimean War, between 1853-1856, the fate of the Romanian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia was decided. The national movement that had emerged in the last decade of the 18th century was asking for the union of the two principalities in one state, which was to put an end to the Ottoman influence. This could only happen if the great western powers could be persuaded of its necessity, and consequently the Romanian elites resorted to all means possible to reach their political objectives. One of the means was to falsify medieval documents in order to present a better state of affairs that had preceded the Turkish invasion in Europe and the Turkish conquest of the Romanian Principalities.
The best known instance of false patriotism was Huru’s Chronicle, which is supposed to be the official chronicle of 13th century Moldavia attesting to the Latin origin of Romanians. The one who wrote the chronicle was Huru, the alleged chronicler of prince Dragoș, the founder of the principality of Moldavia.
Mircea Anghelescu is a professor at the Faculty of Letters of Bucharest University and he wrote a book entitled ‘Mystifictions’, which tackles fakes, apocryphal stories, farces and other mystifications in the Romanian literature. One of the chapters is devoted to Huru’s Chronicle, which Professor Anghelescu considers a typical manifestation of a historical period.
Mircea Anghelescu: “There are special conditions that create such contexts in which false patriotism emerges. The context of this phenomenon is related to what is called the establishment of historical periods. When the critical mass is created, there emerges the idea which someone will implement right away. There were talks about attempts to preserve independence, about fighting, as Romanians were surrounded by enemies, so it was very difficult to maintain a certain degree of autonomy. It is that very historical moment that requires and supports the emergence and dissemination of false patriotism. A famous fake that preceded the 19th century fake belongs to a Maltese monk named Giuseppe Vella. In the 18th century he claimed that certain anodyne Arab religious manuscripts were chronicles that included testimonies about land possessions in Malta. It was Emperor Napoleon who had to intervene to save Giuseppe Vella. This phenomenon can change the economic order in a country and produces consequences.”
False patriotism mobilized energies and the critical spirit was suspended. Higher-level thinking was more important than academic debate, and the Romanian intellectuals borrowed the practices of the epoch.
Here is Professor Mircea Anghelescu with more: “On the eve of the 1848 revolution, which required, through the proclamation of Heliade Rădulescu, the return to a state of affairs existing prior to the Ottoman invasion, people would say: ‘we are not making a revolution, we want restitution’ which meant a return to the old laws. The proclamation must have been a source of influence for one of the members of the Sion family, who thought that the idea of ‘being ancient’ could be used to attest to the old tradition of his own family, because he wanted to enroll his sons at a noblemen’s school in Petersburg, Russia. However, no one could ever prove who the real creators of fake documents were, or the creator of Huru’s Chronicle. This fake document, which was published, dates back to the period following the Crimean War, when the future of the Principalities depended on the decision of the Congress of Paris (1856). How did the fake actually emerge? One of the beneficiaries, who was naïve and not willingly involved in the creation of the fake, was the descendant of a boyar family named Boldur-Lățescu. He claimed that he had simply gotten in the possession of the document. Nobody however asked him about how he got in its possession. Who had given it to him, had it been found in the archives? Nowadays, when we have a legalistic perspective of history, this would be the first question to ask.”
Like any fake, Huru’s Chronicle was proved a fake much later, after the requests of the Romanian politicians had already been met. Mircea Anghelescu is back at the microphone: “Language was the first argument used by the people of the time in the discussions that peaked and found a resolution towards the end of the 19th century. They compared the oldest document in the Romanian language, credited as an important document, which dated to the late 16th century and had a perfectly intelligible text, with Huru’s Chronicle. The chronicle was absurd, the words observed the Latin order in a sentence. It also included forms derived from Latin etymons, most probably taken from Cantemir’s writings. The fake would have been striking if the public had had some sense of history, or at least the experts. Critical sense emerges with the development of objective research. So, the first argument was the language. The second argument was related to knowledge about ancient epochs. This chronicle included many credentials: date of writing, signature of the author similar to a notarized document. In the 14th and 15th centuries nobody would have thought of that. The fake document also included descriptions of the Romanians’ way of organization, similar to that of the Israelite tribes mentioned in the Bible. Everything was ordered according to ecclesiastical rules and the rulers were some sort of bishops. There are descriptions of their dresses, white and red gowns with buttons that showed their position in the hierarchy. But these elements emerged much later in history.”
False patriotism was not an imposture but rather a means of reaching political purposes. And Machiavellianism used for the public good is an art, not a moral judgment. (translation by L. Simion)