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Could , not necessarily would. Moreover, the interwar period was not exactly conducive of leniency towards minorities: organicisms of all sorts, eventually developing into full-blown isolationistic corporatisms and violent fascisms, seemed to be the only alternative to the already brutal political philosophy of the nation-state.
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The latter, as we have come to realize during the twentieth century, can only function as a producer and manager of homogeneous populations, and sooner or later turns against any form of local identity, be it a regional variant of the normative majority identity or a minority identity; it took long decades for checks and balances to be devised for the taming of the modern nation-state, and their implementation is still contested today. This situation translates in terms of symbolic geography as follows: fragments of Romania belong to different European symbolic and historic regions, while Romania as a whole has trouble finding a stable and clear-cut symbolic location, as well as the associated political, economic, and institutional arrangements.
The symbolic path dependencies of Wallachia are the least problematic. But Romanians did do something else instead: they de-Balkanized Dobruja quite quickly and effectively, by forcing most of its Turkish and Bulgarian inhabitants to leave, and by colonizing ethnic Romanians from other provinces; gradually, other ethnic groups have virtually faded away: Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Albanians; Turks and Tatars are still around, but their presence is not significant enough beyond the sphere of ethnography. The medieval province was partitioned several times: the Habsburgs took Bukovina in , and turned it into a thriving periphery, enough to ensure the blossoming of German-language higher-education and largely Jewish culture in Czernowitz, peaking in the poetry of Paul Celan.
Due to Habsburg development, Bukovina was also a cradle of Romanian nationalism, and an efficient bridge to Western culture and civilization. Currently, with the exception of three southern counties, strategically included by Stalin in the former Ukraine, and now a part of this new nation-state, Bessarabia is the Republic of Moldova.
A millennium of coexistence has not produced solutions to all the social, ethnic, religious, and linguistic problems it has created, especially due to the clash between Hungarian and Romanian nationalisms — from the eighteenth century on- over the area. Transylvania is the cradle of both nations: it is a classic case of palimpsestic overlapping both now and in the past and competing symbolic geographies. To aggravate things, specific parts of Transylvania have been singled out by the two respective nationalisms as ethno-national shrines: the Szeklerland Szekelyfoeld for the Hungarians, as well as the Maramuresh and the Transylvanian Alps for the Romanians, to name the most important such prestigious subregions.
An interesting variation on these themes is the regionalist ideology of Transylvanism , a specific form of Landespatriotismus.
It was invented by Transylvanian Saxons, too far from the German lands and too different from the surrounding populations to be able to associate with them in a common symbolic geography, let alone in a common self-identity project. After WWI, Transylvanism was taken up by some Transylvanian Hungarians in their moments of despair when irredentism seemed hopeless , in response to a perceived disinterest in their fate on the part of post-Trianon Hungary.
This Hungarian exaltation of Transylvanian identity was also building on the aurea aetas of the seventeenth century, when the province had been a Hungarian Garden of Eden while most of what is Hungary today was a pashalik.
Economy, society, education, and the arts were blooming, whereas Protestantisms of all sorts were protected, including some radical splinter groups coming all the way from England and the Netherlands. The latter historical fact was anachronistically interpreted as tolerance for all denominations, and was explained by a tolerant genius loci that had to be restored despite the dire circumstances of the Romanian takeover.
The attitude squared with the traditional Kaisertreu of most Transylvanian Romanian elites, who were willing to improve the status of the Romanian minority in the framework of the Dual Monarchy — dreaming to play the Habsburgs against the more threatening Hungarians —, rather than work for the union with Romania. Today, the dilemma still applies. More than eighty years after Trianon, the Romanian nation-state seems still insecure. Finally, the Banat. The province prides itself on having been a Habsburg province for a long time.
In absolute fairness, one should also remember that Oltenia, the Western part of Wallachia, was under Habsburg rule for a similarly short period , and nobody claims that the Oltenia got any more mitteleuropaeisch as a result. More recent changes in the symbolic status of some Romanian regions are still waiting for their firm inclusion in the most popular forms of the national vulgate. Were they Romanian already? Not really, even patriotic Romanian historians had to admit, as the Romanian ethnogenesis is usually dated after the seventh century A.
But they were proto-Romanians , it is claimed; and proof that Romanians were born Christian, which explains why they have no documents attesting official Christianization from above, and they did not have to erect monumental cathedrals to mark forced Christianization. During the Cold War, things seemed clear-cut: being placed on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, the country fully belonged to Eastern Europe.
Back to square one, as it were. In Ce este Sud-Estul European? What Is the European South-East? Needless to say, I read such definitions quite loosely, and I distance myself from their epistemological-ideological biases such as behaviorism. I use the notion of bovarism as a figure, not as a concept, in the framework of a tropology of Romanian self-identity discourses. The various meta tropes of traditional rhetoric metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony , as well as the various emplotments romance, comedy, tragedy, satire shape the discourses of collective identity and symbolic geography, like any other discourses.
Thus, the form and the content, once more, are inextricably linked to one another. This form of national wishful thinking dates back to the s, when a large group of Moldavians and Wallachians were attending Paris schools and universities, and were developing, under the charismatic influence and protection of Jules Michelet and with the steadfast political-diplomatic support of Edgar Quinet, the project of modern Romania. In this project, the West was to play a paramount role: irrespective of their various ideological creeds, political allegiances, and vested interests, the Romanian generation of , as well as the ones that followed up to WWI, agreed on a program of systematic imitation of the West.
In the interwar period, when the imitatio nationis proposed by the autochthonists was dominant, E.
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The nineteenth-century Romanian call for the imitation of the West had preserved its relevance and urgency. Geocultural bovarism goes one step further into wishful thinking: Romanians have a tendency to imagine themselves as neighbors to France, rather than to the semi-barbarious and hostile Bulgarians, Ukrainians, and Hungarians; even the Black Sea and the benevolent Serbians are not worthy of their neighbor, Romania. They translate and disseminate the canon of Central European studies, they do local and regional history.
When escaping the stigmatizing realm of geography and symbolic geography by way of geocultural bovarism is not enough, the horizontal organization of the world is replaced with a vertical organization, one that frees the ethnic nation from the misery of history and geography, and elevates it next to a transcendental entity. From what we have seen so far, the cultural-political ideology of Transylvanism comes closer to ethnic ontology than to geocultural bovarism, at it is attempting to produce and institutionalize an imaginary autochthonous Geist.
As I will show in what follows, Romanians went further, and articulated a full-fledged ethnic ontology. Scholars of nationalism have routinely disregarded or discarded for being reactionary, delirious, potentially or directly murderous authors and discourses that aim at the indigenization of universals such as space, time, and Being.
Typically entangled in speculations about history, language, culture, destiny, and the like, such complex efforts to construct what I call ethnic ontologies have shaped and constituted the innermost core of both nationalisms and high-cultural canons.
By indigenizing universal categories or universalizing indigenous phenomena , an ethnic ontology is ultimately constructed. Thus, Being not just national character , space not just territory and landscape , time not just history , discourse not just language become the interactive building blocks of an idiosyncratic, resilient Weltanschauung.
Resilient, as it is, to insist on my earlier point, close to the core, if not the core of many ethno-national cultures.