Deșteaptă-te, române!

November 26, 2016 by Lucian Mogosanu

Nationalism, especially of the utterly retarded type, is a dying faith1. It may have been born out of legitimate causes and may even have addressed some legitimate issues at its time, but as much as it may upset some historians, the fact is that it was only a fad. However, unlike the typical fad that lasts a generation or two at most, this one somehow managed to seemingly outlive its fad status by remaining in the collective memory for almost two centuries. One may hypothesize that most of its existence was due to pure inertia, but truth be told, we don't know; nationalism seems alive for now, but it smells funny.

Given this rather bleak context, Romania's National-fad Liberal-fad Party-fad2 entered this summer's race for local elections with a rather shitty paraphrase of the country's national anthem as a slogan. This, plus the fact that Romanian parliamentary elections are nigh and that Romania's national day is even nearer, gives us the opportunity to (re)read, (re)analyze and give a hopefully accurate3 translation of said anthem for those who don't understand the language. So without further ado, let us proceed:

Awaken thee4, O Romanian, from that slumber of death,
(Deșteaptă-te, române, din somnul cel de moarte,)
Into which have buried you the barbaric tyrants
(În care te-adânciră barbarii de tirani)
Now or never make for thyself5 another fate,
(Acum ori niciodată croiește-ți altă soarte,)
To which shall bow even your cruel foes.
(La care să se-nchine și cruzii tăi dușmani.)

Now or never let us give proof to the world6
(Acum ori niciodată să dăm dovezi la lume)
That through these hands still courses a Roman7 blood,
(Că-n aste mâini mai curge un sânge de roman,)
And that in our chests we preserve with pride a name
(Și că-n a noastre piepturi păstrăm cu fală-un nume)
Triumphant in battles, a name of Trajan8.
(Triumfător în lupte, un nume de Traian.)

Behold, great shadows9, Mihai10, Ștefan11, Corvinus12,
(Priviți, mărețe umbre, Mihai, Ștefan, Corvine,)
The Romanian nation, your great-grandchildren13,
(Româna națiune, ai voștri strănepoți,)
With their arms armed14, with your fire in their veins,
(Cu brațele armate, cu focul vostru-n vine,)
"Life in freedom or death"15 all shout.
("Viața-n libertate ori moarte" strigă toți.)

Priests, lead with your crosses for the host is Christian16,
(Preoți, cu crucea-n frunte căci oastea e creștină,)
The slogan is liberty and its purpose all-holy.
(Deviza-i libertate și scopul ei preasfânt.)
We better die in battle, in wholesome glory,
(Murim mai bine-n luptă, cu glorie deplină,)
Than being slaves again upon our ancient land.
(Decât să fim sclavi iarăși în vechiul nost' pământ.)

I skipped a few verses, but that's mostly it. Now, let's state a few simple facts about 2016's Romania in relation to Andrei Mureșanu's poem.

One. Romanian speakers in Maramureș are very different people from the ones in Olt; not necessarily ethnically and not necessarily in the language they speak, but in the way they freely govern themselves.

Two. Urban Romania, especially the one from Bucharest, and rural Romania are essentially two different countries. We leave aside details such as the fact that a big part of the so-called cities are in fact villages in disguise17, we lean on the fact that city dwellers are increasingly alienated from villagers.

Three. A significant part of Romanians are functionally illiterate (and numbers are growing, I might add), and quite a few of them are completely illiterate (and probably growing). The National Liberal Party, like any other party in Romania, is currently unable to handle this issue.

Four. These aspects considered, a fall back to an agrarian society might not be such a bad outcome. Sadly, an evolution to a post-Romanian society might be inevitable.

So if there was an awakening, I must have missed it.

  1. While some of the alarmist media outlets would have you believe the exact opposite, you'll be wondering yourself: how come nationalism is dying?

    Well, there was a time when people used to learn the principles upon which their nation was built. Knowing their national anthem wasn't an option, uttering it daily was quite a common thing, while studying the struggle of the people who founded the nation was an obligatory step towards education -- that is, being human.

    Well, no more! Nowadays' kids are entitled, they are empowered, they are the future. They have rights, they have smartphones, so who the fuck is supposed to educate them anymore.

    In other words, the cultural fundament of nation-states is eroding, and with immigrants coming to a city near you it's eroding fast; and one day it's going to crack; not today, not tomorrow, maybe not even the day after that, but one day it will, and you might be unlucky enough to live to be part of the show; and if not, then your children will be. And no so-called nationalist party will be able to stop that. 

  2. National-fad because, as we mentioned, the dumb nationalism promoted by the so-called party is a fad. Looking at Romanians' trust in politicians, we can firmly state that 2016's older (born and raised communist) people are disappointed, while a large portion of the 25-something-to-35 citizens are highly skeptical that anything good can come out of "Romania". For all we know and care, the regions inside the Carpathian arc would after all these decades be better off separated from the pile of shit that is Bucharest's central "leadership".

    Liberal-fad because liberalism is going through its own death for one, and on the other hand because today's Romanian liberalism has nothing to do with (the now traditional, go figure!) pre and interbellum liberalism.

    Party-fad because Romania has started* the trend that's now followed by the entire Western "politics", namely that of utter idiocracy.

    * Or has it, now? at least the Western politics of the late '80s seemed more or less sane looking from this part of the world, although I'd guess they only seemed that way. From many points of view that's when it also started going into a rot, given that this is when the sexually liberated pot consumers of the '60s were starting to gain power. 

  3. Semantically rather than poetically. For the record, this is a very good exercise in understanding both languages. Who knows, I may even revisit it from time to time to remake it and/or polish it. 

  4. The awakening mentioned in the text is supposed to evoke the image of opening eyes. So the persona is impelling the reader to take a good look around them and in the mirror, and to realize what's going on.

    While I admit that it's a very good nationalist message, this is also quite ironically what Romanians haven't been doing for the last, oh, half a century or more. Is it because the anthem's song sounds so fuckin' depressing? I have no idea. 

  5. Literally "tailor for thyself", which has the connotation of taking one's destiny into their own hands.

    This is entirely different from choosing another fate for oneself, which is how we figure out that the so-called NLP's slogan is only targeted at mediocre sheeple. 

  6. Romanian speakers of those times were as far as I can tell eager to show the world their to-be nationality, more so that the Transylvania that was then part of the decaying Austrian Empire harbored establishment-hating "revolutionaries" such as the poem's author.

    Or maybe not so much establishment-hating as desperately in need to be recognized. I guess history is pretty vague here? 

  7. Romanian speakers of those times were also keen to emphasize that the so-called Romanians are rightful descendants of Rome ("De la Rîm ne tragem"), despite the fact that there was no real mention of "Romania" before then.

    Although they did make a very valid point stating the fact that the language's preservation, or at least its grammar's preservation -- including in Transylvania -- is somewhat mysterious. Genetically speaking Romanians aren't Romans more than they are Slavs or Cumans or Pechenegs, not unlike other peoples in the geographical area. Even so, the Latin spoken in said area was and is the vulgar Latin, closely related to Sardinian and to some degree with Romansh. 

  8. Y'know, the guy who brought back home to Rome a darn good amount of his times' bitcoins after kicking Decebalus' ass. 

  9. I.e. ghosts of the past, inextricably tied to the nation's present state of affairs, etc. 

  10. Michael the Brave, first leader to rule Wallachia, Moldavia and Ardeal simultaneously, for a very brief while before his murder. 

  11. Stephen the Great, longest-living ruler of a Romanian Principality, namely Moldavia. Historical anecdotes say he was actually a small fellow who founded a lot of churches, killed a shitload of Ottomans and fucked at least as many women. Historical jokes say most of the people from the historical region* are descendants of Stephen.

    * Including my mother's side of the family tree, for the record. 

  12. Hunyadi Mátyás, also known as Matthias Corvinus, one of the greatest kings of Hungary, plus a couple of other joints. He had bit of a love-hate relationship with rulers from the Romanian Principalities, but most importantly, he beat the shit out of Ottoman armies on several occasions.

    Generally speaking though, the Hunyadis had quite an impact on Transylvania. 

  13. Here the author either makes an enumeration of the two entities, i.e. the abstract entity named "the Romanian nation" and the entirety of its people, or he downright confuses the two. I can't tell. 

  14. Clearly "with their arms weaponized" doesn't work too well in terms of poetry and it's not too precise in terms of meaning, while "with weapons in their arms" puts emphasis on the weapons rather than the people. So "arms armed" it is, no matter how funny and pleonastic it sounds. 

  15. Awww, you thought Mel Gibson was the first to say that? How cute! 

  16. The author seems to be deliberately vague here. On one hand he mentions the noble goal of fighting for freedom*, on the other he puts priests, who are supposed to be peaceful and all, in the first line.

    This means two things. The first, priests aren't exactly all that peaceful, since it's a tradition for Romanian soldiers to be blessed by priests, e.g. when they're going to fight abroad; in fact the church and the army were for a long while the two most trusted institutions in Romania. The second, the Romanian army rarely (if ever) fought to conquer, it almost always fought either in defense or as subordinate to higher powers.

    This is all accurate up to the present moment. You might think Tolkien was original and all, until you find out that Gandalf's famous Balrog phrase was (anecdotally) uttered by Romanian soldiers during the WWI Battle of Mărășești... only in that broken Latin we previously mentioned.

    * Yes, the very same noble goal those Middle-Eastern guys have... from their point of view, at least. 

  17. Because, oh heck, I have to say it. Because socialism, especially the flavour practiced by Romanians -- not Ceaușescu, not the Communist Party, but the entire fucking mass of Romanians -- before December '89 had to work under the pretense that we're scientific, and developed, and words! 

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