Brief Excursus On A Romanian Paradox

Strangely enough, in all the periods of political, economic and/or military infeudation either to Turkey or to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Germany or to Russia, or to the Soviet Union, the Romanian Principalities and Romania always nurtured the illusion of "autonomy" from the center – moreover, they agreed to any material or spiritual sacrifices to save this "autonomy". Even the 1940 amputation of the country was accepted by the political class in the name of the same principle. Was this translation into heroic sublimity of a political or military failure a normal compensation for the Romanians' wounded pride? Or should we infer that the "salvation of the state", no matter what it takes, means to Romanians more than the price to be paid by society? Did this obstinacy hide the fear of historical disappearance, a – let's say – "Polish syndrome", although Poland never ceased to exist, despite four "partitions", i.e. disappearances of the state? Or maybe each political class deemed necessary any sacrifice of the country only in the name of a self-seeking continuity of its own power, even if it was granted by yet another "suzerain power"? Was then the political nationalism of this class just a cover story destined to lend a fake sublime nuance to the mere wish for subsistence of a group? I may never find an answer to these questions that I suddenly feel rising to the surface of the text, although they wriggle throughout the subtext of the entire book. Because no answer will ever be proven with irrefutable arguments. Any answer does nothing but project onto history the contented or desperate image that I – or the reader – have at a given moment about his nation and its elite.[…]What never fails to amaze me in this book is the perpetual "fall into pre-modernity" of the Romanian elites educated in the most modern spirit, whenever a political crisis occurs. This Romanian paradox is not the only one, although it is the most general and explains perhaps the precariousness of the state and the inner rifts of modern Romanian culture. We should be asking ourselves what is exactly modern about this state and this culture. How deep is the modern layer, and how well does it resist the pressure of modern history? Or: How can we control this constant tension between the modernity of our (recent) formation and our automatic pre-modern reflexes before danger? How can we become aware of these dangers by reflecting on a more (consistently) modern reaction to them? The Romanian Paradox, Univers, 1998

by Sorin Alexandrescu