King Carol II And The Myth Of Eternal Romania

The historiographical approach is one of the fundamental elements of the political system which propaganda may serve. The legitimation of a political regime and its leader through the national historical pantheon represents a necessary action for the dynamism of the propagandistic mechanism. The image of the "ideal prince", which is embodied by "the high royal person" of Carol II, is fulfilled by the long line of medieval princes, who support "the royal icon" with their temporal aura and their political virtues, which the historian – all of a sudden transformed into a real magician of the historical symbols – constructs and deconstructs. This is possible because "the high personification of history is reduced to the deeds and virtues of the central personage,"[1] who overshadows the image of the previous princes. By means of the national historical pantheon, "the central personage" rounds out his image of "leader" and representative for the quintessence of the national history. The magician – that is the historian – uses the historical imagination to sensitize and easily convince the masses. Hence, the historical imagination "becomes a support for misinformation and manipulation."[2] In a very carefully calculated alignment, the "princes of yore support the princes of today", a fact especially outlined in a fluid, unsettled society, where the periods of discontinuation are traversed by serious social turmoil. Ultimately, "history becomes an instrument of power."[3] Those in power try to mask the historical realities by exaggerating the historical reality, which stimulates the historical cycle in full action. "The official truth", which is propagandistic above all, is transformed into historical truth, the only valid and accepted truth[4]. King Carol II became "a Basarab of our times"[5]. He was compared to Pericles, Augustus, Leo X and Louis XIV[6] and posed as a new Brâncoveanu of the Romanian culture[7].The comparisons end in mythology and epic. The royal person assumes the attributes of the White King,[8] of the "Glorious Son", none other than the "Great Emperor of Heaven"[9]. The King should have been a Moses[10] and a "Basileus" of the Romanians[11]. The mythological image of the royal person was meant to be completely anchored in the present in order to endure as long as possible[12]. The historiographical propagandistic approach, which turns the historical truth into an "official truth", that the national historical pantheon is maneuvered to sustain, is one of the most important component of the propagandistic mechanism, with echoes in the collective imagination. Folklore and mythology Folklore took over the image of Prince Carol, granting him mythical attributes. The collective imagination is charged with telepathic aptitudes. Even from "the wilderness of Ceahlău", the deaf old woman Safta used to hear when "the little king sneezed or coughed." The horseman from Bărăgan "found himself yelling that the steppe shuddered" when the prince was riding his toy wooden horse. The rafter on river Bistriţa had "nightmares" when the prince skinned his knee while playing. Barely whispered, the prince's name "calmed the quarrels among women". He embodied "the whole exaltation of the nation!"[13] Although he was a "clumsy" and "shy" presence, Prince Carol "used to suddenly electrify the crowd gathered in the streets, on the balconies or on the roofs, acclaiming him deliriously". The parson Stan was one step away from death because he "did not mention the prince twice during the mass" as the "boozy" peasant Tache Jipa would have wished. The teenager Carol had become such a real Hollywood star that his portrait "shone everywhere, his walk was imitated by everyone", and his student and merchant uniforms "inspired adoration."[14] As a king, Carol II thought himself to be the embodiment of the Romanian ideals, which were to be found in his initiatives. The Romanians were proud to have "a great, hard-working and wise king at the helm of the country, as there is no other under the sun."[15] His return to the country was compared to "the Annunciation" and was "the greatest feast of our Nation." Thus, the 8th of June was celebrated every year; it became a real national feast, surpassing the 10th of May in its scope and splendor. In the middle of this truly national show was "Prince Charming with golden hair and his magical sword"[16], whose "new era" found resonance in his own words: "Rex sum, Romani nihil a me alienum puto!"[17] (I am king and nothing that is Romanian is alien to me.) He was hyperbolized and named "the greatest Restorer of the Romanian people" and the masses, in their turn, regarded their king "as a ruler who knows everything, judges everything, does everything only for his people."[18] To look towards the radiance of the august monarch was a risk for everyone, since he or she might have gone blind[19]. It was said that "no other reign and no other century knew such changes as during these first years of King Carol II's reign."[20] "Our" king was a writer and an artist, creator of "everlasting beauties, which in the end was a mere oratorical attribute."[21] "The Carol II Century", which was then "at the daybreak of its first decade"[22], was by no means peaceful, but the "creative" potential for security of the "high" royal authority was exaggerated. When Europe was agonizing in a semblance of stability, frequently exploding in violence and dictatorship, the king, "forger of light and founder of a new epoch", remained "like a shining lighthouse and as firm as a rock in the middle of the storm."[23] The king was attributed with mythical qualities. He was "asked for" saving the country from an "epochal war"[24]. The end of the "Carol II Century" resembled an unfinished Odyssey rather than the mythological significance assigned to it. Embodying the "glorious son of the Great Emperor of the Heaven"[25], Carol II posed as a unifier of minds and hearts – by virtue of his divine attributes – "protecting us from ourselves, anytime we felt the ground slipping from under our feet."[26] Through his divinely inspired acts upon which "the angels would throw incense", Carol II established the principle of reform by "removing any sign that his regime was improvised or provisional."[27] His Majesty "completed the masterpiece of the centuries" being "highly inspired" in a sense of illumination. Thus, he "was not similar to any king" because he was "the King of the Romanian Artistic Rebirth."[28] The propaganda between 1938 and 1940 promoted "new man" as a visible effect of the "new era of Carol II", which was to bear "the stamp of the sovereign's powerful, always active and permanently present personality."[29] Carol II wished to be a "forger of souls", a great revolutionary and a "founder of a new country", a "Great Scholar."[30] His royal image had roots in history. He was the new Basarab, the new Brâncoveanu and even the new Decebal, in the twilight of the folk myth. King Carol II was "that White Emperor whom an entire people had dreamt of, whom they had borne in their soul during centuries."[31] He was an emperor who returned on the "Blue Bird" to bring back peace and "to establish justice."[32] As Cezar Petrescu said, Carol II embodied a double authority: King and Fuehrer[33]. Thus, the royal personage was singled out among the autocratic regimes of Europe, with unique characteristics which raised him above other radical leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Tudor Arghezi tried to make the royal personality eternal, but the times had no patience to accomplish the "Carol II century."[34] The King was to be banished "by means of the institution he imagined and represented."[35] Propaganda shaped the attributes of the new political regime in the minds of the people. In 1938-1940 these aspects were common in Romania: "the New Regime", "the Romania of the Rebirth", "the New Era", "the Eternal Romania", "the Golden Age", etc."But what was yesterday's regime?" was the obsessive question. Carol II's regime of personal authority (1938-1940) frequently used the technique of propagandistic speeches. The royal message was presented by the king or by his ministers. I draw attention to the important role of Armand Călinescu, minister of the interior between 1938 and 1940. In his speeches he minimized the democratic regime which "fell" and "was not overturned", spotlighting the fundamental role of the "New Regime."[36] The distinction between "old" and "new" had to be convincing, and this fact was significantly present in the speeches honoring the first anniversary of the new regime. Thus, "the royal initiative was neither an ordinary act nor the exercise of a legislative prerogative, but it represented the affirmation of the fundamental role of our Monarchy. It manifested the full powers with which it was entrusted from the beginning". As a consequence, "the new constitution does not allow class differences. Every category of citizen may sustain its interests not by fighting, but in such a way that these interests harmoniously serve the general solidarity. The citizen is no longer regarded as a mere factor of productive work. The constitution allows him the right to take part in the leadership of the Country "only if he justifies himself by practicing a productive occupation and preserving the creative character of the Romanian Nation."[37] Carol II interjected himself into his speeches by using royal slogans, which became elements of a unique political system. The royal ideas, sometimes expressed in a literary way, revealed nuances of his paternalistic authority using expressions such as: "My wish is to understand", "in My opinion", "to unhesitatingly accomplish", etc. Some examples of this are: "Romanianism. I understand by Romanianism the pointing out of the latent virtues of this land, in order to turn it into one of the most powerful and proud nations of the world. This work is the creed of My Life. (the 8th of June, 1936)" "King.The Mission of the constitutional monarch is to harmonize the state needs with the existing popular currents, to supervise the preservation of continuity, to call and to bring together the new forces, which know and understand how to be part of this process, and to take care that all innovations apply with measure and provision. (the 6th of February, 1938)"[38] The royal image often used the myth of creation to enhance propagandistic discourse, blending with the adulatory masses and dominating as well as the old legends of universal creation. With such a profound metamorphosis, the King was able to create a "new cycle of Romanian history". King Carol II, the "Saving Ruler" built the mythical image of a "state founder", conceiver of souls, perfecting himself and legitimizing his authority, resorting to the power of the princely aura. Festivism Another important component of the authoritarian regime was festivism which, with the constitutive symbols (the uniform, the parade, the feast of homage, other types of signs etc.), put into practice the content of the discourse, establishing a direct relationship between its message and the collective imagination. Maneuvered with the propagandistic mechanism and absorbed by it, the latter became the key of the political exercise for legitimating any totalitarian regime. Thus, the uniform and its accessories "play a magic role". Its bearer belongs to the world of those initiated, "not obeying the rules of the civil society, but abiding by a superior law and answering a superior call."[39] By putting on a uniform another act takes place. Namely, the artificial, "superficial", social, economic differences, those belonging to the exterior world are all annulled. On the other hand, a uniform is not only "an egalitarian symbol", but also "a highly elitist symbol" that separates the initiated from the novices, a symbol to which every individual from outside the closed circle of the "equals" and privileged may aspire. The uniform is the exterior side of the mythical construct which allows the Ruler to legitimize himself. His image in the uniform of legitimization is followed by those "similar to him", the wearers of uniforms. Thus, every wearer of a uniform is "the live embodiment" of the Ruler. He cannot tolerate "his subordinates to be criticized, because they always act in his name."[40] The myth-construct of the Ruler finds its practical expression in festivism. The content of the myth unfolds in successive images and symbols. The march of the heroic Romanian national pantheon develops under the eyes of the crowd eager to consume images, thus provoking the collective imagination to aspire to initiation. King Carol II cultivated his own image almost obsessively through a variety of uniforms and clothing accessories. He was for many a genuine "king of the carnival"[41], but, from a propagandistic perspective, he skillfully manipulated the "carnival" for the benefit of his own image. The uniform was quickly adopted in civilian life, and the organizations had their own uniforms: the Front of the National Rebirth, the Country's Guards, the Bowmen and the Bowwomen, the He-Hawks and She-Hawks, etc. The uniform, as a symbol of the authoritarian regime, enhances the value of the "official truth", making it visible. The "official truth" created by "the new regime" is legitimized through image and symbols and opens the way for initiation[42]. Ironically, the leftist regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu took the outfit of the Country's Guards and transferred it to Pioneers. The red scarves with a tri-colored band, the white caps, the white shirts, etc. were the creation of Carol II's regime. The pre-school children, named the He-Hawks and the She-Hawks, later became the Country's Hawks, with a similar outfit. Only the colors were different. Mainly between 1938 and 1940, Carol II took advantage of festivism on every public occasion, cultivating his image as the "Saving Ruler", the "Providential Ruler", reaching the highest level of the personality cult. The single party and the corporate state. The Romanian case: 1938-1940 The single party is the main element of the political mechanism specific to the authoritarian regime. It has the mission of absorbing the energetic forces of the nation in order to integrate them into the major objectives of the political regime. The single party is the binding agent of the corporate state, the institution meant to set its mechanism in motion. It is invested with the historic mission of "creating the transparent society", extending then "a limitless power over all the collectivities."[43] The leader is confounded with the single party which he manipulates to his own benefit and for his own image. In the collective imagination, the single party becomes a substitute for the leader and the regime which he patronizes. According to the features of the single party, "the state exists", it does not need to justify anything and "the society is at its feet". The society "does not have to play the function of legitimization and the total state does not generalize anything but total control."[44] The state takes hold of the whole society by means of the single party and the leader is neither "an organism" nor "a representative". He is "arming" and "soul". The totalitarian phenomenon is indissolubly related to the single party – the primary compulsory link of a totalitarian state. The monopolistic party "is armed with an ideology which confers it an absolute authority and which, as a result, becomes the official truth of the state. The latter is expressed by propagandistic discourse, by the journalistic and historiographical approach and by festivism[45]. The objective of the single party "is not only the seizing of all the political functions by placing party members or achieving a complete fusion of the state and the party. After seizing the power, the party becomes a kind of propaganda organization in favor of the government." As a consequence, the system is total only "because the leading party will not tolerate any other kind of parties, any opposition or any freedom of political opinions."[46] Eventually, the party and its leader "may realize they have become the prisoners of their own myths"[47]. The phenomenon is very interesting and "the case of Romania is one which can be seen as classic. The counter-myth of Carol II proved to be as the myth itself[48]." The result is that the leader "is to a large extent the possessed servant of the myth which he maneuvers, exposing himself to danger, as all wizards do."[49]The first single party in the modern history of Romania – the Front of National Rebirth – was born "quickly and calmly" together with the authoritarian regime, with the help of the royal decree from the 16th of February, 1938. Armand Călinescu, the main artisan of the corporatist system of Carol II, wished to channel "the great mass of population" by creating the single party to govern and to allow "the political forces to channel the interests of the people in directions favorable to the interests of the party." Armand Călinescu wished F.N.R. not to be an "old type" of political party. He considered it "an intellectual and spiritual movement."[50] The representatives of F.N.R. had no right to elect or to be elected for any leading positions. This movement lacked an official program or doctrine, even if it was defined extensively and substantially[51]. But notions such as "social harmony" or "national solidarity" were objects of attention during its propagandistic campaigns[52]. Although it was not the only corporative organization in Romania, F.N.R. did not manage to attract the interest of the masses in spite of the number of the members which increased significantly in less than one year[53]. During this period, there was much ado about the fact that the Romanian totalitarian system was not similar to other European systems. Nevertheless, the regime of personal authority of Carol II took on aspects of the totalitarian political mechanism, trying to imbue it with national content, but in haste and by improvisation. For this he used a series of local "particularities" such as invoking the medieval tradition which permitted Carol II to pose as the savior of "Great Romania" and as the creator of "Eternal Romania"[54]. The myth of "Eternal Romania" – the final product of the propagandistic imagination The myth of "Eternal Romania" was to be the quintessence of the Carol II myth, its completion and fulfillment. The myth of "Eternal Romania" completed the pantheon of modern Romanian mythology, fulfilling the unifying myth realized in 1918 by the forming of Great Romania. The myth of "Eternal Romania" rose during the years of personal authority. It was a myth "built" vertically and meant to strengthen profoundly the national success of 1918, while the Gordian knot was "the royal person". It is interesting that the countries neighboring Romania created myths aiming at a horizontal, territorial expansion: "Great Hungary", "Great Germany", "Great Bulgaria", Russia and its soviets wished to reconquer lost territories. This proved to be very dynamic. They were myth-constructs with an offensive character, while the myth of "Eternal Romania" was defensive and preserved what had already been obtained and was not to be lost. The confrontation between the two myth-constructs between 1938 and the summer of 1940 was decisive. In the last analysis, it was an open confrontation among the leaders who maneuvered the two myths, for instance Miklos Horthy and Carol II. The neutrality of Romania, decreed in September 1939, and its constant defensive position on the scene of international political life, balancing between the two confronting sides, practically expressed the principles of the myth of "Eternal Romania", actually strongly bound to the person of King Carol II, considered to be its creator[55]. "The founder of the myth": this propagandistic metaphor clearly expressed the strengthening of the idea of personal authority. The whole propagandistic political mechanism was meant to serve the edification of "Eternal Romania": the discourse, the journalistic and historiographical approach, and the propagandistic festivism. The myth of "Eternal Romania" was strongly related to the return to the princely tradition, which King Carol II was trying to adopt according to the characteristics of the modern political system: constitution, legislative congress, the Crown Council, etc[56]. The personal authority legitimized by the medieval tradition of authority – unique on the European totalitarian scene – elaborated in detail the supreme symbol which included the Nation-State: "Eternal Romania". The myth of "Eternal Romania" remained only a theorized myth-construct, practically uncompleted because of the short time Carol II had at his disposal, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, because of the lack of substance of the regime of personal authority, in spite of the specific political mechanism set in motion. The medieval tradition of authority – the element of legitimization whi