Romanian political ideas around 1918

romanian political ideas around 1918 WWI brought about the Entente powers’ victory and a fundamental change in Europe’s geopolitical map.

WWI brought about the Entente powers' victory and a fundamental change in Europe's geopolitical map. New states were born out of the ashes of the former empires, while others extended their territory. Romania was in the winners' camp and on December 1st 1918, together with the provinces of Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania, inhabited by a majority Romanian-speaking population, set the basis of the Greater Romanian Kingdom.


The most important ideas that underlay the construction of this political edifice took a clearer shape in the years of WWI, especially in the case of the Romanians from Austria-Hungary. The after-1918 historiography books insisted on the scope of the event and accentuated the sacrifice of the Romanian nation for the union of all Romanians into one single state around the figure of a monarch that embodied both identities. The Communist regime seriously distorted the reality of December 1st 1918, turning it into a thousands-of-years struggle of an entire people to form the "unitary nation-state".


However, the ideas that accompanied the fight for the rights of the Romanian ethnics in Austria-Hungary had a much more convoluted history. Far from being united in their goals and means of reaching these goals, the Romanians in Transylvania often had conflicting views on matters related to the policies and national rights of their co-nationals. One such case was the conflict between the newspaper Tribuna and the National Romanian Party over the election tactics, a conflict that many saw as fratricidal. This case was relevant for the social and political context of the 1890s, marked by the radicalism of a new generation of young intellectuals championed by Octavian Goga and Octavian Tăslăuanu. It was around that time that the idea emerged that while parties would divide a nation, culture would unite it.


One of the most popular ideas was federalism. Emerging in the first half of the 19th Century, federalism spread quickly among the intellectuals who were seeking the modernization of the state. In Austria-Hungary, the idea was even more successful because the structure of that dual state allowed a reform in this respect. Historian Răzvan Paraianu, from the Petru Maior University in Targu Mures, says the Romanian federalist Aurel C. Popovici was among the leading Romanian nationalist thinkers:


"Aurel C. Popovici was one of the greatest nationalists of the 19th century, and he wanted to federalize the Austro-Hungarian Empire on a nation by nation basis. His theory was that the central and eastern European nations could not survive by themselves caught between what he called the great German race and the great Slavic race. Sooner or later, Popovici said, these two would clash, and all these nations, such as Romanians and Hungarians, would be crushed between the two great forces, the two great races, as he called them. Popovici died before the Great War ended in 1917, in exile, at a time when Romania was in dire straits. Only at the end did he realize that there was no hope for the empire because of the totally uninspired policies run by the Istvan Tisza government."


The coming war precipitated things, and radical solutions became more popular. Here is Răzvan Paraianu:


"We should say that early in the war, the Tisza government had a relatively favorable position towards Romanians, who had surprised him with their enthusiasm for mobilization. He tended to take into consideration some national demands. Things changed dramatically after Romania joined the war against Austria-Hungary. At that time, many Romanians in the area of Brasov welcomed with open arms the Romanian army. That being said, after the Romanian army was forced to retreat, the Hungarian government had a vindictive policy not only towards people who had shown their enthusiasm for the Romanian army attacking the empire, but against Romanians in general. For instance, church schools were suspended and were turned into state schools. They attempted an ethnic conversion of the Romanian population. A lot of priests and teachers were interned in camps, taken from home and moved, in order not to stir up popular malcontent. Towards the end of the war, when things did not go as planned for the Habsburg and German armies, the discontent was about to explode. It was not the discontent of Romanians only, it was general discontent. Bolshevik revolutions were erupting in Budapest, Vienna and Germany. Against this background, Transylvanian Romanians started believing that Romania had become a solution for all the chaos that an entire society and state was sinking into."


Greater Romania formed on 1 December 1918 by the will and vote of the National Assembly in Alba Iulia and some Transylvanian Romanian leaders such as Iuliu Maniu, Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, Vasile Goldiş, and the leaders of the Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches. All those statesmen saw in the new political construction that was Romania an end to uncertainty, and hope in a new model of state and society. 


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Publicat: 2015-11-30 13:54:00
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