Romanian Historical Imagery under Scrutiny

romanian historical imagery under scrutiny 'The Encyclopedia of Romanian Imaginariums' is an ample piece of research dedicated to literary, linguistic, religious, and artistic imagery

'The Encyclopedia of Romanian Imaginariums' is an ample piece of research dedicated to literary, linguistic, religious, and artistic imagery, and its third volume is dedicated to historical imagery. 'More than the other collective representations, the historical imaginarium is born from the meeting between imagination and human action politically, socially, or culturally.' This is the belief of the makers of this encyclopedia about the way in which people in the past have imagined their leaders, mythologized them, or simply day dreamed about the future, thus making history. In Romania, researching the historical imaginarium has a certain tradition, as historian Sorin Mitu, coordinator of the third volume, told us:

“The truth is that historical imagery has been studied in Romania for about 40 years, starting in the '70's and '80s. For instance, Prof. Alexandru Dutu, from the University of Bucharest, was the first to do a history of mentalities, but also offered an opening into the study of imagery. Jumping forward, to the '80s, we had Prof. Sorin Antohi, who also had solid contributions and promoted this area of research. And we also have Prof. Lucian Boia, who was the most consistent, insistent, and productive promoter of this direction of research in Romanian historiography. Therefore this generation of historians is prepared for this type of approach. I tried to bring together in this volume a number of well seated authors, with a solid body of work on these themes, able of producing a synthesis of studies and a working instrument.”


Just like the other four volumes of 'The Encyclopedia of Romanian Imaginariums', the volume dedicated to history has 20 chapters written by 20 researchers from the university centers in Cluj, Iasi, Sibiu, and Bucharest. We asked historian Sorin Mitu what topics they deal with, and he gave us the example of the so-called 'providential leader'.

“The 'providential leader', the modern savior, structured the hopes and desires of people, from Alexandru Ioan Cuza or Carol I, to Corneliu Zelea-Codreanu, Carol II or Nicolae Ceausescu, to the saviors of today, such as Ion Iliescu, Traian Basescu, or Klaus Iohannis. Obviously, we did not make a descriptive or evaluative history of what these providential leaders did, but we tried to shed light on the way in which they charmed the crowds, and how then the crowds felt let down, and tried to seek other saviors. I tried to get into the inner mechanisms, the psychological relationship we have with our leaders.”



History, therefore, can provide us with a model of reflection on our political behavior of today, in relation to our political leaders. We went on to ask about how people related to their everyday lives, leaving aside leaders or major historical events. Sorin Mitu pointed us to the chapter on escapism:

“This is perhaps one of the most representative areas of imagination, escapism, the wish to day dream, to escape everyday humdrum. Maybe it would have been better to have more such areas, but for the time being we plumbed issues related to traveling, death, the way in which scenery is perceived. These are topics that make us emotional, structure our psyche, and could not be missed here. Without a doubt, these are highly interesting issues, and shape a different type of history. We are interested, obviously, in how many soldiers died at the battle of Podul Inalt, but we are also interested in why they died, and how their sacrifice was perceived. Imagery, just as the history of mentalities, is a more humane history, closer to the quotidian. There is much to discuss, and one hundred or two hundred years ago such a history could have been deemed as minor. But in fact it is the part of the iceberg that stays under the water, the most palpable part of reality, and it is a link between us, the people of today, who have our own imagery, and those to thought and dreamed in the past, in a different way than in the present.”


Among the 20 chapters written by the 20 contributors to the volume 'The Encyclopedia of Romanian Imaginariums' are those dedicated to ethnic minorities, such as the German or the Hungarian ones.
Publicat: 2021-01-03 14:00:00
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