Romania's dumb nationalism

00b August 24, 2013 -- (asphalt)

I was discussing in the footnote of a previous article that, I quote:

The only novel taught in Romanian schools in the first eighth grades is, as far as I know, “Baltagul” (“The Hatchet”), written by one of the first Romanian communist writers, Mihail Sadoveanu. The novel attempts to make a parallel with the myth of Isis and Osiris, at the same time introducing traditional Romanian themes and motifs. I suppose the only reason they keep it in the curriculum is a dumb sense of nationalism.

The fact is, I was at least partially wrong by assuming that the only (or the main) reason for that is the "dumb sense of nationalism" of Romanians. The fundamental reason is in fact Romania's lack of relevant literature, which makes this nationalism dumb in the first place. And unfortunately, it's not the only aspect that does.

As you might have probably noticed from my name, I am Romanian and proud to be so, only not for the reasons invoked by most Romanians. What are these reasons, then? you might wonder. Let me, for the purpose of enlightening you, enumerate a couple of them.

First of all, Romanians like to see themselves as an oppressed nation from a historical point of view. They like to believe that the Dacians who inhabited Romania's geographical space 2000+ years ago were somehow "oppressed" by Romans after Trajan's Dacian wars, when in fact historical sources show that Dacian rulers were nothing but meddlers into the affairs of the Roman Empire, so they were bound to get burned sooner or later1. Served them right, I say. Romanians also view the so-called "Romanian states"2 as oppressed either by the Hungarians or by the Ottoman Empire, and as gatekeepers for the so-called "gates of Europe", a fact which is false, given that the Ottoman Empire invaded Vienna without any resistance from the "Romanian states". What's more outrageous is that Wallachian and Moldavian rulers were nothing but docile puppets put to rule by the Ottomans themselves, that is, until the Russians intervened and gave us a kick in the ass to give the Turks a kick in the ass3.

TL;DR, the history of "Romanians", a nation called so by the guys that came up with this dumb nationalism in the first place in the first half of the 1800s. Inspired by an adventurer in the second half of the 16th century called Mihai Viteazu ("Michael The Brave"), who messed with European powers (much like Burebista before him), attained power over the three "Romanian states" for a short time and then got murdered, they decided that since there are people who speak the same language in all the three regions, these just had to be united. Who cared about the ethnic and cultural diversity of the entire northern Balkans and who the heck cared about the opposing interests of said regions and powers that influenced them? Apparently no one, so they somehow managed to pull two unions, which some Romanians opposed at their respective times. But I'll have to give them credit, they managed it, it was something pretty damn big, unlike many previous "victories".

Secondly, Romanians have this bad habit of taking various famous persons of Romanian origin and calling them Romanian. Local newspapers made a campaign called "De ce iubesc Romania" ("Why I love Romania")4, related to this. However, Ștefan Odobleja, the scientist, was not Romanian, since he discovered proto-cybernetics in France. Henri Coandă was not Romanian, since he did most of his work in France, Belgium and Germany. Eugène Ionesco was not Romanian, as he spent most of his life in France. Victor Babeș, a well-known name in biology and medical sciences, was not Romanian, as he made most of his breakthroughs abroad. Need I go on? Sure, they might have been born in Romania, they might have had Romanian citizenship, but the fact is, Romania never did anything to help them make their discoveries. The most it did was give them a kick in the proverbial butt and drive them abroad, where these highly gifted people could innovate. But no, not in Romania, because Romania always had other priorities. Sure, this country has been, is and most probably will be a source of great minds. I'm really not sure, I think it must be a fluke or something.

Despite all this, and I feel the need to repeat myself, I am proud to be Romanian. I was born and raised here, I've lived a fairly good life so far, so, as a personal view, Romania is a pretty cool country, although sometimes it doesn't really seem much of a country. Also, I've met Romanians that are good, honest people and I'm sure I'll meet many more, which gives me the hope this nation (also known as "we") has the chance of redeeming itself, and that is mostly by growing up and out of our stupidity and acknowledging our sorry past.

  1. Don't believe me, read for yourself and prove me that my interpretation was wrong.

  2. Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania, the latter actually part of Hungary, Habsburg Empire and so on.

  3. And to our surprise this we did, without much help from the Russians.

  4. An incorrect Romanian title, since it lacks diacritics. The correct spelling would have been "De ce iubesc România". And y'know, we're talking about the name of the country they claim to love. It's not malice, it's sheer incompetence, as per Hanlon's razor.