Romanian Profile

*excerpts THE SOPHISTICATED PEASANTS The Romanians are a social phenomenon. As a nation among nations, they are westerners evolved in the East. They are Latins surrounded by Slavs. They are Romans two thousand years away from Rome. They are contemporaries re-produced on Trajan's Column.They are peasants with the utmost in sophistication. They farm instinctively, but are suspicious of machinery. They speak a language like Italian but the majority of their words are Slavonic. They are superstitious but religious at the same time. They are astutely intelligent, but refuse to be intellectual. They submit to invasion but preserve their identity. They support great wealth and extreme poverty. They produce striking beauty yet can live in filth. As a collective personality, the Romanians are Oriental in their souls although Latin on the surface. Their patience is almost unending but they are quick to explode in argument; they are peace-loving yet would disintegrate without controversy. They are passive but strong in their resistance; spontaneously adaptable, still difficult t influence. They are romantic but never escape from reality.They are charming yet cruel in their ridicule, warmly emotional but calculating, generous yet concentrate on the 'main chance.' They are opportunistic but lose interest after they have gained the advantage; they seize the moment, still adopt the long view.The Romanians are a people of colorful contrasts and extreme extremes, born in classic times, ravaged by barbarians, indentured to the Turks, dominated by the Byzantines, the Greeks, dictated to by the Hungarians, Poles, Austrians and others, seduced by the French and not recognized as a country until 1878. Yet they emerge with a character that defies this confusion, that is definitely, emphatically, unmistakably Romanian. This character was born of a Dacian shepherd and a Roman lass, whose progeny became dwellers with nature itself, epicureans with earthy values and a tough constitution. It developed in composition and grew in strength under the invasions of waves of barbarians. Slavs were added to the original Dacians and the Roman colonizers.Christianization was extended in Wallachia and Moldavia by the Byzantine Church and intrigue was introduced as a science by the Greek ruling emissaries of the Sublime Porte. With the intrigue came the Greek culture of the mind – the analytical clarity of the Mediterraneans – which evaporated as Greek, as it was quickly absorbed as Romanian. Following this permeation came the magnetic seduction by Paris and the synthetic adoption of French-Western artistic values, by those classes who would afford to visit the "Rive Gauche" and return.Today you find the cult of the mind imbedded as an element of character in all classes second only to emotional spontaneity as a national characteristic. The Greeks were more successful than the French because they came to Romania and did not make Romanians come to them, and because their main influence was middle class and thereby could infect those classes both above and below them. The French appealed to aristocracy; the upper and wealthy classes of Romania went to Paris yearning to prove themselves by Gallic standards, perhaps eventually to return to the country of their birth to demonstrate their cultural acquisitions.The Romanians are supple under the impulse of outside influences, rich in the variety of their characteristics, adroit, sensitive and artistic with a sureness of aesthetic standards. As creators in those realms above and beyond the daily struggle for existence, they have distinguished themselves by their spontaneous response to beauty, their instinctive good taste, their sense of the fitness of the concept to the subject matter, their effortless appreciation of nuance values, their heart for color, their innate feeling for composition and balance, and by their delightful delicacy in execution.Their attributes can be discovered in their visual arts, their literature and poetry, their music and their theaters. But they exist only as tour-de-force – some quite magnificent at that – if they are not founded on an element thoroughly Romanian at the core.The wealthier classes have worked in the fields of fine arts, and judged by the standards of the nationality of their work, they have produced objects of talent. But they have never succeeded in creating fine arts of their own class and nationality beyond the important attribute, or fine art of living – of dressing, of furnishing their homes, of eating, of enjoying their leisure time – which the academicians have not yet allowed to be raised to the status of capital letters. Thus, Romanians' significant contribution to the world's treasury of the visual arts stems from the peasants and the life of the village.Besides the soul to conceive, the artistic ability to create and the taste to produce beauty, the Romanians possess that attribute of articulation in both their fine arts and peasant arts which renders an effort a work of art: the quality of finish. Nothing seems to deter them from completing a project once they undertake it – although years may be consumed – and the level of workmanship is even throughout. Their patience, which is Oriental, accounts for the continuity and the consistency in their visual arts but it is this other attribute, this quality of finish, which deserves to stand alone. With it, the Romanians leave no loose ends, no distasteful reverse side to the view, no extraneous thoughts, and when they have completed the overall composition they capitalize on the details and find their real satisfaction in the total effect and effectiveness, the sheen of the finished product. ROMANIANS THROUGH FOREIGN EYES From the point of view of an outsider the fact that a line however thin has survived the numerous foreign invasions and the internal strife is interesting. And when that line extends backwards to the Romans of Caesar's time and before, in its psychological characteristics, this fact is important. It is something of a geographic, historic and socio-anthropologic phenomenon to find vestiges of Roman culture – both intellectually and socially – in this remote corner of the Balkans. But the vestiges are here in the character and personality of the people, in the physiognomies and body structure of some of the individuals, in the aesthetics of their production, in the variety and scope of their visual arts, in their language, in some of the ecclesiastical terminology and in physical, archaeological objects. From the cross fertilization with the Romans of the original Dacians, Wallachia and Moldavia gave to the world an enduring human product.This statement is of course only one person's point of view. It is made without burden of qualifying clauses because it sets forth an impression. Other foreigners at other times have made observations which shed light on the Romanians and their country, and give balance to this somewhat categorical statement. Their observations seem little affected by the passing of time and are frequently as revealing of the national and professional character of the authors as of the subjects.Psycho-analysis of national character is a new subject field. But travelers and commentators from ancient times have analyzed with relish the conflicting national, racial and social elements in Romania. Invariably each writer has felt he must solve the question as to whether the Romanians are a Latin people or a Slavonic people and almost invariably he has taken an extreme position. To possess characteristics of one racial strain presumably precludes possessing those of the other. And as for having both the Latin and the Slavonic with the Oriental thrown in, the multiplicity of the traits and the variations from peasant to boyar are too confusing to encompass. It is the rare observer who concludes they are Levantine.What the Romanians themselves are most proud of in their racial heritage is their relationship to the Roman conquerors who were also subsequently the creators of the Renaissance. And their pride appears to be fully justified since this relationship has been thoroughly documented.In the 6th century, when Western Europe had turned away from the people of Romania, the Goth historian, Jordanes, used the name Romania in the same sense in which the peasants today say "Ţara Românească." [Romanian Land] On the other hand, the Byzantine writer Chalcondyles, during the 15th century did not disagree; he wrote that the Romanian language resembles in every way the Italian. Lucius in his description of Dalmatia carries the resemblance further and relates it to their modes of living and customs. On the Roman Catholic side, as early as the 12th century, the Archbishop of Zagora wrote to Pope Innocent III that the Wallachians inherit Roman blood. The Pope used this relationship to bring more Romanians into the Catholic Church.About 300 years ago, a traveler in this country arrived at many conclusions quite opposite from those of this writer. He is quoted by way of contrast for the high color he gives to the Romanian people of Moldavia and to his own reactions to them."God Almighty has not created upon the face of the earth a more vicious people than the Moldavian; for the men are all of them murderers and robbers. It is calculated, that since the time that Vassili became Beg, about twenty-three years ago, he has put to death more than 14,000 robbers by register of judgment. And yet, he condemned not to death for the first crime, but used to flog and torture and pillory the criminal, afterwards setting him at liberty. For the second perpetration, he would cut off an ear; and for the third, the other; it was only for the fourth commission that he put to death."As to their wives and daughters, they are utterly destitute of modesty and character, and though the Beg cuts off their noses and puts them in the pillory and drowns many of them, so as to have caused some thousands of them to perish, yet he proves too weak to correct their manners." [Paul of Aleppo, Travels of Macarius, London 1936]Both points of view – of Paul of Aleppo and of this writer – agree on the existence of one human element in the character of the Romanian people: their dynamic vitality.Above all, the Romanians value comments of an Italian who will take a position on their Latin origin.Bruto Amante, an Italian writer, said:"Like the ancient Romans, the Romanians possess initiative and they have the manly features of our forefathers; in their language we find the most authentic traces of the Latin language and in their traditions and customs everything that is known of the traditions and customs of the proud rulers of the world."More Roman than Italy itself, Romanian has managed far better than the former to perpetuate her traditions." [La Romania, Rome, 1888]Another Italian writer, Ugo Alimenti, took the Romanians' Roman origin as a matter of course and went on to describe them in highly complimentary terms:"The typical Romanian is handsome, strong and comely; it is not unusual, more especially among the peasants and mountain people, to meet men with long hair, a Roman nose, proud mien, and expressive features who at first sight reveal their Roman origin and whose pride recalls to mind the Rome Transteverines who are the representatives of the purest type of the sons of Romulus." [La Romania, Turin, 1903]A British consul stationed in the Principalities between 1814 and 1818 was string in his contradiction. Of the Wallachians and Moldavians he wrote:"…They have no peculiar turn of features which may be called characteristic; from long intercourse with foreign nations, their blood seems to have become a mixture of many. The Eastern black eye, and dark hair, the Russian blue eye and light hair, the Greek and Roman nose, and those features which distinguish the Tartars, are equally common amongst all the orders of these two nations." [William Wilkinson, An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, London, 1820]Another diplomat, a Frenchman, writing thirty-five years earlier, agreed with his Latin cousins. He spoke of the Moldavians particularly, since he served as secretary to the Prince of Moldavia from 1785 to 1787:"The Moldavian people, unlike most people in our times, is not a conglomeration in which one finds traces of countless nations, agricultural, nomad, savage, civilized conquering and conquered. The Italian and Spaniard are no more Latin than their language is. In the Moldavian people one recognizes the height and sturdy constitution of the Roman soldiers and those who have seen the features of the conquerors of the Dacians in the reliefs on the column raised in memory of Trajan's conquest, are delighted to find them again in Moldavia in the face of the descendants of these Dacians."The Moldavians have moral qualities which it were vain to seek among their neighbors."They have not lost any of the original characteristics of their forefathers. Any unfair demand revolts them. Their gestures are expressive and their face reflects interest. I confess that one of the things that delighted me most was to find that tradition of the ancient Roman freedom four hundred miles from Rome and 18 centuries after Cicero." [Comte de Hauterive, Memoire sur l'Etat Ancien et Actuel de la Moldavie presentee au Prince Alexandre Ypsilanti en 1787, Bucharest, 1902]A century and a half later an American scholar wrote:"If not entirely Balkan on geographical grounds, Romania (the old Kingdom at least) is nine-tenths Balkan by heritage. Its folklore, music and language betray innumerable points of contact with the other Balkan countries. Turkish and Greek influences, as well as Slavic, have left a forcible imprint upon the people." [John I. B. McCulloch, Drums in the Balkan Night, New York, 1936]Disagreeing sharply is a French historian in 1855 who stated that:"Nothing has been able to impair the soul of ancient Italy in that stubborn population. No alien element has influenced it, neither the Turks nor the Russians, nor the Greeks, nor the boyars who belong to no nation. So great is the Romanian peasant's power of assimilation that it is he who absorbs all the mixture introduced to change him." [Elias Regnault, Histoire Politique et Sociale des Principautes Danubiennes, Paris, 1855]Count Hermann Keyserling, a German philosopher, wrote of the Romanian boyar and peasant classes, taking a strong anti-Latin position:"To make out that this people and country belongs to the Latin cultural group is sheer humbug. The Roman language alone does not entitle one to do this. It is a question of mentality and that is not Latin in any way whatever. The mentality of the educated class is Byzantine-Greek, which is not surprising in view of the fact that until recently the ruling aristocracy was almost of purely Greek origin…"…The mentality of the Romanian masses is that of the southern Russians. I did not come across any people or conditions in Romania that would not have seemed just as right on the banks of the Dnieper. They are the same easy-going, kind, unpractical people with exactly the same cast of mind." [Das Spektrum Europas, Heidelberg, 1928]But it took a Frenchman, whose common characteristic with the Romanians – sensitivity – is the most valuable quality in analyzing another nationality, to see the Romanians more in the round, more acutely, more perceptively, than any other writer.Henri Focillon had behind his analysis the tradition of his countrymen, an intense cultural interest in Romania and a trained appreciation of the artistic."The Romanian people is strong and charming, ready to assimilate all forms of culture and very faithful to its own. A people endowed with a powerful imagination and subtle gaiety, it is sensitive and sound, rustic and refined. Not Latin, but of sturdy Dacian stock imbued with Latin or rather Mediterranean intelligence.""On the banks of the river with many mouths, formerly haunted by navigators and held firmly by the Greek settlers, in the mountains which the imperial legions crossed, it has kept the ancient Mediterranean characteristics, not merely words and endings, but certain ways of feeling, of understanding and of reasoning. To this is added a powerful homogeneity. Romania, whose political unity is only recent, has been a nation for aeons past. In what does its strength lie? In its language, which it has never given up even when it was attacked and almost submerged by attempts to distort it; in its customs, traditions, heroes; in its songs, deliciously sad or gay, and finally in its arts sometimes sprung from its own soil like a living plant and sometimes associated with personal significance." [Exposition de l'Art Roumain, Ancien et Moderne, Paris, 1925]The general psychological traits of the Romanians are dealt with revealingly by a Frenchman, two Englishmen and a Russian, all writers of standing. Their approaches to a people they knew and liked are typical of their own nationalities. In fact, they see the Romanians against the background of the character of their own people, as indeed every commentator must do in some part.In 1931, Lucien Romier looked at the Romanians somewhat in the same way as Focillon. However, he distinguished with insight between characteristics of the two Principalities and even broke down Wallachia into its two separate sections:"The Wallachians have the same liking for criticism, for nimble reasoning, the same aptitude for pleading in one way or another and for furnishing a logical justification for the passions, the same love of theories and gambling, the same desire to show off and climb socially, the same genius for patronage which favors personal politics, the same eager courtesy tinged with irony, and at times with cynicism. All the old background, of placidity or thoughtlessness characteristic of the Carpathian peasant used to managing on very little, often gives brilliancy to their schemes and apathy in carrying them out."In the west (i.e. Oltenia) the persistence of the Latin streak which is very marked and the continuous infiltration of elements from Macedonia and from the Balkans have instilled much more practical common sense into the race. In the east towards the lower Danube, the skeptical shrewdness of mind in the ingenuity of the Greeks have left their mark as has the nonchalance of the Turks. Muntenia, situated between the two, preserves the smiling cheerfulness of the little princely courts of the plain and the fashionable prestige of Bucharest."What the soul of Wallachia lacks is the consciousness of a long history and of the obligations of making the efforts which self-confidence imposes."When he likes, the Wallachian is the most charming of men, but this very charm seems a gratuitous and ephemeral gift depreciated beforehand by the certainty that men cannot foresee what the next day may bring forth. Mediterranean criticism mixed with Oriental fatalism and with the disappointments caused by a long succession of abusive regimes has given the Wallachian the instinct to live from day to day for fear of getting nothing in the end if he waits too long."The Moldavian (the northerner especially) is a personage with deeper impulses, made of stouter stuff who is not only keen on getting on in life but also wants to create something to leave behind him when he dies. That is a sign that Moldavia has a bolder and stronger history than Wallachia." [Au Carrefour des Empires Morts, Paris, 1931]A contemporary Englishman was more persistent perhaps than any other Anglo-Saxon, certainly any other contemporary Anglo-Saxon, in getting to know the Romanian peasants. He singled out qualities attractive to him in such a way as to comment critically on the British approach to life: "…I found this gently ironic look in the faces of most of the men in authority whom I met in the country. It acted as a second voice while they were speaking, seeming to say: 'You must listen because the vocal sounds I am making are very important. On the other hand, you know, we are in a lovely country and the wine is good, the women beautiful, there's plenty of everything and no need to hurry. Life is excellent fun. There is nothing really to worry about.' It is this apparent lack of seriousness which foreigners do not understand. Western Europeans know that a sense of humor is in most cases fatal to material success so if they possess it they try to forget the fact. Accordingly, they distrust a man who does not treat officialdom and big business with deep respect. They may, it is true, have their tongue in the cheek, but they keep it there while their eyes are glues to the main chance. But most Romanians really do think it is all a game. They fall in with the play acting of other nationalities and sometimes take it very seriously even as children do. But they do not deceive themselves into thinking that what they are doing is vital to their existence or has high moral values. Internationally that is their greatest misfortune. Such light-mindedness is deeply shocking to us with our high codes of right, and wrong, so conveniently high that we cannot always distinguish them. A sense of humor, after all, is only a sense of proportion and would go a long way to solving the world's troubles…" [J. D. Hall, Romanian Furrow, London, 1923]Another Englishman, writing also in modern times, follows up this thought:"Romanians are the jolliest of men, they shrug their flexible shoulders and persuade you to have a drink when things are going badly – they try to forget unhappiness. A Bulgar will give you sound advice to be patient in your adversity, but he will leave you with a distinct feeling that God's will is better understood by lighting a candle in church than by drinking a glass of tzuica. The austerity of the Bulgar makes him more understandable to the congenitally repressed Englishman who is so often outraged by the seemingly idle follies of the carefree Romanian." [Philip Thornton, Ikons and Oxen, London, 1939]Most revealing and of pointed importance are the […] observations made by the Russian Ilya Ehrenburg, a leading social commentator. In 1945, he interspersed his observations inevitably with allusions to Marxism:"Romania impresses the visitor by its contrasts. Luxurious Bucharest and not far away the coal mines of Jiu Valley where the miners live in underground hovels and crawl into their dens like wild beasts. There is plenty of contrast in Bucharest too, a skyscraper and next to it a hovel, luxurious motor cars and oxen, a lady with a Parisian hat and a barefooted peasant woman in a cotton frock. The boyar's palace with decorative birds, with Della Robia pottery in the stables and Louis XIV closets, and next to it a miserable hovel. Choice French cookery and a life of starvation. Literary salons where Mallarmé adepts wrangle with Tristan Corbière adepts and millions of illiterates who instead of a signature affix a cross…"'What a poor country,' strangers were wont to say, gazing at the peasants dreaming of mamaliga (cornmeal porridge). But Romania is really a very rich country. Her soil is fertile and has wheat and rice and cotton and tobacco and grapes. And that soil has besides large, still very large quantities of oil, coal and iron. There are also forests and salt and many other riches. The country has been poor because the men who governed it had only one thought in their mind, namely to get rich. Between the people and the handful of Bucharest drones there was a wide precipice…" [In Romania, Graiul Nou, Bucharest, September 29, 1945]Ehrenburg further wrote:"I once read in a French book that the Romanians are extremely lazy. Probably the writer had only had the opportunity of meeting 'Bucharest loungers' with Levantine habits, who combined roseleaf jam with champagne and Eastern laziness with the Western one… Although the Romanian people was not poisoned by the years of fascism, the same cannot be said of the Romanian intellectual class. Amongst the professors there are real opponents of culture and the Iron Guard has still adherents among the students. How did men whom you would expect to be the promoters of progress get into the reactionaries' camp? In order to understand this, a few words must be said about certain distinctive features of the Romanian intellectual world."When you hear any one talk Romanian the mixture of Latin and Slav roots strikes you forcibly. What words are closer to man than bread and love? The word bread is of Latin origin and the word love is of Slav origin. I spoke of linguistics because the structure of the Romanian language does to a certain extent show the development of Romanian culture; it would appear that Romanian intellectuals drink at two fountains, the French one and the Russian one. Nevertheless, the Romanian leaders have long since closed the road toward one of these fountains. Romania was cut off from Russian culture." [Ibid., October 4, 1945]Despite this gap between "the people" and "the drones" there is one Romanian trait which is shared by all classes and which has been pointed out by writers of all times, – that of national vitality. Two Frenchmen, one a historian, another a journalist, writing in the middle of the 19th century, expressed this characteristic with the dramatic sweep of history; undoubtedly they were impressed by the efforts of two Principalities in the throes of birth to constitute themselves a nation.The first, the historian, said in 1856:"…There is a still more astonishing proof of the strong vitality hidden within that nation. From the Bosphorus to the Archipelago, to Prussia and to the Alps there were about twelve to fifteen peoples. All were conquered, subjected and incorporated into other states; all of them succumbed in turn – and amongst them were some formidable ones which are still so today – some were absorbed by Tutkey, then very powerful indeed and the others by Austria. One only, the one that had been most trampled upon by the barbarian invasions of the early centuries and had suffered most in the fray of the Middle Ages, because it was isolated and it had so many foes to fight that it did not know on what side to strike first, escaped and preserved a shade of independence…" [Paul Bataillard, Les Principautes de Moldavie et Wallachie Devant le Congres, Paris, 1856]The second, the journalist, made the following comment a year later:"…The population which inhabits Wallachia and Moldavia at present can at least boast of having accomplished the exceptional feat of remaining itself by preserving its Romanian origin, its primitive character and its national physiognomy. That feat is all the more astonishing because the Romanians were in the path of the big Asiatic migrations and their nationality should have been submerged ten times over in the flood of the barbarian hordes who made the valley of the Danube their caravanserai for so long. But when they appeared, killing, looting, and burning, the sons of the old Trajan settlers would take refuge in inaccessible forests and unapproachable mountains. Then after those living waves had receded leaving nothing but ruins in their wake, the Romanians would leave their retreat and once again take possession of the soil of their ancestors. Thus it came about that when that vast movement of nations stopped, the Romanians had not mixed their blood with the blood of any other people and had preserved intact their territory, their nationality, their language, their religion…" [Amédée de Cesena, Le Constitutionnel, Paris, January 12, 1857]Poverty is at the root of the peasants' problem but has failed to weaken them, in fact has sharpened his weapons against his overlords, the boyars, according to the French historian, Elias Regnault, quoted previously:"The deep sufferings of the Romanian peasant have stifled in him the need for material well-being but they did not lessen in the very least his aspirations for freedom. It is exactly the other way about with the boyars who no longer remember what freedom is and want nothing but the enjoyment of luxury. So that no hope for a regeneration must be put in the boyars, the whole future of the Romanian homeland rests on the peasant. Those who live on his sweat and grow fat on his substance accuse him of laziness and apathy. But why should he make any big efforts when each furrow he digs is a profit for others, when each seed he sows is an ear of corn for his oppressors? Why should he trouble to add anything to his poor furniture when each improvement in his cottage means new exactions? There is a big reason, a profound logic in his disgust for work – he does not work for himself."…Poverty, as a rule so apt to breed apathy and despair, has not impaired in the slightest the intellectual faculties of the Romanian peasant and has not roused in him any fierce passion. His conception has remained quick and mobile, lively and penetrating." [op. cit.]The peasant's manner is explained by the years of subjugation by the Turks according to an Italian writing in 1939:"Under an indolent appearance – consequence of the long contact with the Turks – the Romanian peasant conceals a lively spirit, inherited from the Dacian and Roman ancestors and a supple intelligence. Usually the travelers and scholars have observed that the Romanian peasant shows a ceratin diffidence and is sometimes even artful and capable of malice. I do not believe that these observations correspond to reality even if they seem probable, if one thinks of the long past of vicissitudes the Romanian peasant has suffered and of the economic servitude he has endured for such a long period."The Romanian peasant has a marked natural ease; strong, elastic, he moves with an innate elegance which even the persons belonging to the bourgeoisie could envy. The blood which runs through his veins – blood of ancient shepherds and of tenacious laborers – is the purest Romanian blood. The shepherds have not mixed with anybody and have remained as they were when history for the first time marked their existence; elements warranting the certain and progressive preservation of the bourgeoisie itself and a sure guarantee for the future of the race." [Salvatore Sibilia, Caratteri Etnici e Costumi del Popolo Romeno, Florence, 1937]In 1873 a German traveler found a link between the two classes:"The Romanians who do not belong to the upper ten thousand show a marvelous adaptability in borrowing the ways and manners of society people and the newly rich sprung from the lowest ranks of the people never seem out of place in their new setting. The Romanians are extremely sociable and are passionately fond of the theater, of parties and of dancing. Generally, the evenings are spent in conversation and in card-playing; the refreshments consist of preserves and tea; alcoholic drinks are banned. The most uneducated Romanians fascinate one at first sight. In no other part of the world, and that even in the very lowest classes, are words handled with more elegance and is more care taken to avoid a flagrant betrayal of ignorance and superficiality. What then shall one say about those young men who have studied in Paris or at German universities?" [Xavier Kieffer, Esquisse d'un Voyage en Roumanie, Altkirch, 1873] SOCIAL CLASSES…This sophistication [of Romanian peasants] takes the form of trusting nature instead of men, trusting the natural, instinctive impulses in man but not his machinations, his systems, theories, ideologies, forms of government. They reject the intellect as an instrument to solve the world's problems. Their convictions were born and have been developed through disillusioning experience, literally through centuries of invasion and devastation from without and of the most extreme exploitation within by their own governors and rulers. It is no wonder that they choose the yardstick of nature, not the yardstick of man, to select the values for their lives. The Romanian peasant might well point with pride to his way of life for the benefit of people in the more "modern", "progressive" sectors of industrialized societies. He has personal freedom and is not regimented, he is always occupied and has no unemployment problem, and he lives in a community atmosphere of alertness, of awareness of what is going on in his country, and in the world. When his crops fail, he suffers but rarely starves, because his constitution is accustomed to a low-calorie diet; even the prospect of starvation will not persuade him to build up a stockpile, since the chances have been 20 to 1 in history the "authorities" will confiscate all he cannot hide. He is a long-suffering, easy-going, relaxed, hospitable, long-viewed, philosophical individual who fills his life – somewhat perforce – with emotional values not manufactures ones.But the peasants have no talent for government, no interest in becoming politicians. They come out from their fields to defend their country's frontiers but return to their farms when the danger has passed. The peasants are a closed corporation in their villages, self-centered with individual approaches to life; they won't take group responsibility because they love their life with the soil too much to leave it. History has proven to them that the soil of Romania is their only reality and to it the peasants inevitably return. Consequently, few peasants ever acquire the objectivity and selflessness necessary to give up what is certain and secure, to venture forth to the city and offer their efforts to improve the condition of an impersonal somewhat vague national commonweal.If the peasants are the foundation of the social edifice, the upper social classes are the superstructure with the slimmest poles of support running from one to the other. This class is the feudal aristocracy, the landholding hierarchy, the princely families, the boyars, the dealers in international affairs, the negotiators with the invaders. They are from Romania and rule the country, but in a sense they don't live in it and are not really a part of it. The peasants, the masses, the country itself are their responsibility in a distant detached sort of way and they maneuver them like chess pieces in a long distance match where the men on the common board are never touched.This class of people had lived off the efforts of the peasants for hundreds of years. In general, the upper classes are more interested in themselves than their peasants and are more international, judged from the peasant viewpoint, than Romanian. […]What this class produces is worthy of consideration even if it does not contain an essential Romanian substance, even if it is more French or Greek than Romanian. The very indirection, the espousing of other cultures, the respect for and feeling of closer affiliation with the more cultivated French and the disdain for the peasant and his culture is in itself part of the total Romanian character and personality. It is dilettante, shallow, superficial, bitter, transitory and could evaporate just as the Greek nationals did in this country after their 1821 revolt. […]In the 1870's the famous French writer and politician, Joseph Reinach, had this to say in a typical French approach to the peasants:"At Pitesti, I came upon a horse fair… Except for a few tradesmen from Bucharest, I saw only Wallachian plainsmen on the hill on which the fair was taking place. They are a fine race of men, tall, well set-up with regular and very refined features, and long locks falling over their shoulders. The delicacy of their hands and feet is almost feminine. They remind me of beautiful gilt bronze statues. Their attitude is that of the ancients. They still wear under their big sheepskin coats the costume of their forefathers, depicted on Trajan's Column, namely the open shirt and wide breeches kept up by a leather belt. They lead a hard life, sleep on straw, live on cheese and fruit and thrive on it. What strikes one is their superb indolence which is natural to them and which is in such contrast to the muscular energy which they constantly display."The women are grace personified; they are both dreamy and sensual, frail and sturdy, and look charming in their bright costume which consists of an embroidered shirt, a loose waistcoat worked with gold arabesques and a red and blue apron. On their black hair they wear hairnets and sequins. But these lovely blossoms fade quickly because they are too eager to live, and bloom too early under the hot rays of the scorching sun. After thirty, weary of love and worn-out by the hardships of life, they become wrinkled, bent and with hardly any transition, the fairies become horrible hags. The men's beauty, on the other hand, increases with age. This morning, as I was leaving the railway station, I met the ideal Nestor type. He was an old sunburnt beggar, bare-chested, with white hair flowing over is shoulders. He had a long bushy beard, the nose and the eyes of an eagle, and stood leaning on his beggar's staff as proudly as the King of Pylos leant on his gold scepter." [Voyage en Orient, Paris, 1879]A Spanish poet, who was Secretary in the Spanish Legation in Bucharest during World War I, created in words the atmosphere of the peasant world which is sympathique, when he wrote:"We felt the intensity of life in the country as soon as we set foot in the village. Both eyes and soul are catered to. The Romanian peasant, who is the dandy among the European peasants, leads a life of elegant poverty. Who has taught these humble folk to mix colors with such infallible good taste? Painted ornaments and exquisite flowers enrich the façade of their houses and embroideries enrich their garments. A man dressed in white garments girded with a scarlet sash stands on a verandah with his arms resting lightly on a carpet floating in the wind."To fully understand that life made up of luxury and poverty, of poetry and bitterness, your eyes must have gazed upon a young peasant-girl dressed in her native garb sitting on the porch of her house. You will then discover that this people indulges in color, as some indulge in drink, to forget its disillusion." [Ramon de Bastera, L'Obra di Trajano, Madrid, 1921]By travelers of all nationalities the traits of character of the peasants invariably discussed are laziness, patience, docility, suspiciousness and hypocrisy. The moral position taken on these virtues and shortcomings sheds light on the nationality and personality of the writer.A Russian prince, married to Mathilde Bonaparte, writing in the 1830's, found the peasants of Wallachia lazy and intemperate and those of Moldavia precisely the opposite."The very appearance of the Wallachian peasant interests one in his favor… There is much to be done for the improvement of the manners of this robust race of peasants of the field. Like Virgil's husbandmen, they would be happy did they but know the benefits which Heaven has showered upon this beautiful land, the object of their pride, but which can continue noble and truly Roman only on condition of being rendered fruitful and productive… the Wallachians would produce much and cheaply, could they rid themselves of their habits of idleness and intemperance, and their love of holidays, too frequent in the religious observance of the rustic population." "…The Moldavians are robust, temperate, hard-working, inured to the most opposite extremes of temperature. Their features differ from those of the Wallachian people: their countenances are less open; and the habit they have preserved of wearing their beards and their hair long gives an almost savage expression to their physiognomy… Amongst the Wallachians on the contrary we meet with a large development of stature, and a great amount of beauty." [Anatole de Demidoff, Travels in Southern Russia and Crimea; through Hungary, Wallachia and Moldavia during the year 1837, London, 1853]The British Consul, who has already been quoted, in his typically moralistic approach is harsh in his criticism:"Man, the chief work of nature, is here of a dull and heavy disposition; with weak passions, no strength of mind, and betraying a natural aversion to a life of industry or of mental exertion. Moral causes may indeed produce such effects upon the human frame; but there, those of a physical kind evidently act in unison with them, and with equal force." [Wilkinson, op. cit.]The Secretary to the Prince of Moldavia, also cited previously, disagrees with the Britisher completely, when he says:"…There are some who accuse the Moldavian peasants of being lazy and cunning; I shall always impugn the statements of those who run down an oppressed people." "When indolence is intentional it is not always a vice. Here it is a means to an end and if you see the Moldavians, when their interests demand an increase of activity, you realize that they are not born lazy." [Hauterive, op. cit.]A Catholic priest, who was also an Austrian diplomatic agent, has his explanation of laziness and other characteristics: the government was to blame."If one bears in mind that a despotic and often tyrannical government contributes to make them vile and defiant they will appear in the eyes of an impartial observer more worthy of compassion than blame. Oppression makes them suspicious and often they cheat in order not to be cheated. They avoid work as much as they can because they know from past experience that the more they possess the more they will be obliged to contribute. That is why they do not try to discover anything useful and badly neglect agriculture which is so necessary and so generally encouraged. On the other hand, the land is so fertile that with very little trouble they get out of it what they need. As a matter of fact all mechanical arts are practiced either by the gypsies or by the foreigners from nearby countries who make much profit out of them, due t the fact that they are more favored than the nationals. Having become lazy by force of circumstance, they extend that laziness to their manner of living." [Stefan Raicevich, Voyage en Vallachie et en Moldavie, Paris, 1822]The boyars come in for a great deal of criticism at all periods of history. The Russian prince just quoted defines the privileged class as he saw them in the 1830's. […]"…Up to this time the lives of the privileged class have remain impressed with the improvident fatalism which oriental customs, and an order of things so long precarious, had instilled into their habits. Nothing can be more elegant than their personal state and retinue, which is always somewhat theatrical, but if we remove ourselves from the presence of the chief of the house, and throw a glance at his tribe of tattered and idle retainers, at his equipages, too numerous to be elegant, at his vast and dilapidated mansion, we are struck with the melancholy and wretchedness lying beneath this appearance of luxury. The refined manners of the master, the gracious air and talents of the women in this family, the facility and correctness with which the languages of Central Europe are spoken by them; the taste, the tact, the very frivolity of the conversation – everything combines to show that this society is equal to the most distinguished in Europe; but, beyond the door of the drawing-room, a filthy and repulsive crowd of idle servants and gypsies scattered about the anterooms, and sleeping on the very staircases remind you that you are in Wallachia and that all civilization has not shaken off the muddy crust which envelops it, and deprives it of all its luster." [Demidoff, op. cit.]The specific qualities, or rather vices, of the boyars have been described as personal vanity and indulgence, toadying to foreign invaders, and oppressing the peasants. In the middle of the 19th century a boyar himself had this devastating comment to make:"Our customs are to a certain extent the customs or rather the vices of all the peoples who have governed or protected us. We have borrowed our debauchery from the Russians, and our lack of honesty in business from the Greeks; from the Phanariot princes we get a mixture of meanness and vanity and from the Turks their indolence and idleness; the Poles have given us divorce and that ant-hill of low-born Jews whom you see swarming in our streets. These are our customs." [Saint Marc Girardin, Souvenirs de Voyage, Paris, 1852 and 1853]An English Protestant reverend, accompanying his Ambassador to the court of the Sublime Porte at Constantinople, in 1818 wrote in his memoirs:"…Formerly, it was the practice for the Boyars, like their ancestors the Scythians, to ride on horseback, from which they seldom were seen dismounted in the streets. It was only about thirty years ago that they adopted the more effeminate habit of riding in carriages; and this practice is congenial to their vain and indolent disposition, that now they would not cross to the opposite side of a street without entering into them. But the circumstance which most distinguishes Bucharest, is melancholic dissoluteness of manners among all classes. The town abounds with wine-houses; and, to attract customers, a number of women are kept in each house, who are ready at a call to dance and sing for the guests. To these houses the Boyars repair from their own families and pass their evenings among the most shameless class of females that ever disgraced the sex. In this way it is that Bucharest is rendered infamous for profligacy beyond any other city in Europe. The number of this unfortunate class is so great, that it was proposed to lay a capitation tax to them, as the most profitable source of revenue that could be resorted to and it is expected that the proposal will be carried into effect…" [Rev. R. Walsh, Narrative of a Journey from Constantinople to England, London, 1828] […]Another Britisher, equally moral in his approach, found the boyars equally sinful, during the same period."…Money is their only stimulus; and the means they generally employ to obtain it are not the efforts of industry, nor are they modified by any scruples of conscience. Habit has made them spoliators; and in a country where actions of an ignominious nature are even encouraged, and those of rapacity looked upon as mere proofs of dexterity and cunning, corruption of principles cannot fail to become universal. The prodigality of the boyars is equal to their avidity; ostentation governs them in one manner, and avarice in another; they are careless of their private affairs, and, with the exception of a few more prudent than the generality, they leave them in the greatest disorder; averse to the trouble of conducting their pecuniary concerns, they entrust them to the hands of stewards, who take good care to enrich themselves at their expense, and to their great detriment. Many have more debts than the value of their whole property is sufficient to pay; but their personal credit is not injured by them neither do they experience one moment's anxiety for such a state of ruin." […]"In the habitual state of inaction, brought on by a natural aversion to every serious occupation which he does not immediately relate to personal interest, both sexes, enjoying the most extensive freedom of intercourse with each other, are easily led to clandestine connexion; the matrimonial faith has become merely nominal." [Wilkinson, op. cit.]The decline and fall of the boyar class was forecast in the middle of the 19th century. […]"Formerly, the boyars used their wealth for the good of their country; today the boyars pay no taxes and while owning all the riches in the country leave all the paying to the peasants who own nothing. Formerly, the boyars were the strong, brave men who fought the invader and ensured the independence of the Romanian homeland; today the boyars are first in paying court to the foreigners and the most eager entertainers of the invaders, they give up their houses to them and they are their accomplices and partners in all shameful deeds and in all plunderings. [Wilkinson, op. cit.]