The Psychology Of The Romanian People

Chapter XII. The Current [1907] Psychological Traits of the Romanian PeopleAll foreigners that visited the Romanian countries were unpleasantly struck by the negative traits of our character. "They don't care, says Mr. X. Marmier, for the name of their master. What they know is that they live to work, to pay, to suffer and to keep quiet. Romanians inherit, from father to son, a tacit resignation that changes into apathy and this apathy is still backed by their ignorance." Marshal Moltke writes in this respect in his memories: "Never will the Romanian show his gratitude, even when the gift one makes goes far beyond his expectations; he responds with the same quietness to all the pressure he bears. In his perception, it is not wise to look happy and it is useless to reveal one's pain." The same thing is remarked by Le Cler when he writes that the Romanians seem quiet and indifferent: "Very rarely one can see their physiognomy stirred by anger or cheered by a smile, or lightened by enthusiasm." "Anger and cruelty are rare, especially with the peasants." "The peasant is sober, suffering, is satisfied with little, nothing can be more modest than his clothes and more frugal than his food, but he is devoid of energy and initiative." To what extent the remarks of these foreigners who traveled through the country are just, is not difficult to establish. All these spiritual negative traits that they ascribe to the Romanians and especially to the Romanian peasant must be true when we consider that the active revolutions, the fierce, persistent revolts are issues unfamiliar to the Romanian peasant, that the liberties and rights that he has formally enjoyed, were offered to them from others' initiative, from the benevolence of European powers. These liberties and rights, which they have gained, were brought from the West by Bratianu, Rosetti, Kogalniceanu for instance, not in the middle of flashes and thunders of revolution, as in the former times, when Moses brought to the Jews the tables of laws received from God on the Sinai. Doubtlessly, these negative traits are true when we realize that these rights and liberties, rightfully earned, are not a fact; for the peasant's complete civic indifference during elections is well known, as his total lack of will, his absolute yielding in front of all governments' pressures. "On his own initiative, for his own escape and against the daring oppressor, the Romanian – Mr. Manegutiu writes – seldom fights; he hesitates, he as he says; he too often; he too gladly if and this is Romanians' true cowardice." Any well dressed man gains respect with the Romanian who considers him entitled to ask favors and give orders, Marshal Moltke remarks. The same characteristic attribute, acknowledged especially with the Romanian peasant proves to exist with the bourgeoisie of our towns as well. In a study, Mr. C. A. Popescu entitles one of his chapters very significantly: The Civic Paralysis. The author of this study describes the political abstention of self-employed people, who avoid elections or vote with the government, like the clerks, and as an excuse for their passivity and resignation they give the well known reason that "they will not change the country." Mr. Popescu deems, rightfully we would say, that we are dealing here with the case of abulia, a disease of the will. Obviously, this disease of the will is true and still chronic, it has lasted for a long time. It is the ancient echo of a four-century period of passive humble historical life, submitted to others' will, which mercilessly burdens our soul.However, there is a difference between the Romanians from Wallachia and those from Transylvania and even between the Romanians from different provinces in Wallachia. This tinge of passiveness and resignation is more powerful in Moldavia, then in Wallachia, and less powerful in Oltenia. Proof of this is that both revolutions, from 1821 and 1848, took place and originated in Oltenia. Tudor and Magheru are Oltenia's sons. The Romanians from Transylvania are very different from those in Wallachia in this respect. Their power of resignation is considerably diminished, the energy of response to oppressions was spent much more with violent deeds, in brutality rather than in complaints and poetical sarcasm. The Hungarian aristocracy from Criscior felt, on the 12th of November 1784, the power of the arms of Romanian peasants enslaved by it for such a long time. This aristocracy paid then with the heads of 37 of its members the past oppressions. The same happened to the boyars from Brad, who paid for their crimes in the same way on the 5th of November, at the bridge over Cris River. Zarand, Ribita, and many other towns witnessed the same bloody scenes; in the latter, 41 Hungarian boyars were slaughtered. "The peasants, says Mr. Densusianu, were deaf and dumb to the requests of their rulers. Tied with chains by which they were brought to the edge of the village where they were handed to the gypsies to execute and bury them. In their fury, they spared neither the women nor the children of their rulers, and executed both their feudal rulers and those that didn't have any serf. The revolution was not only against the aristocracy, but against the entire Hungarian element." "…They dressed the women in Romanian clothes, forbade them to speak Hungarian, forced them to walk barefoot on the street, then all the captives, men and women, were compelled to perform all economic, domestic and agricultural activities of the peasants, including cleaning their garbage."…"The peasant troops, wherever they went, left only the ashes and sad ruins of the boyars' houses. Thus, the traces of this dreadful extermination war, although covered by the new ruins of 1848-1849, are still visible today in Zarand county."If one can speak about a French, English or German mentality, it's not that easy to speak about a Romanian mentality. The latter can be defined rather by negative aspects; it's easier to say what it is not rather than what it is. It doesn't have steady general traits or fixed points that can be found in almost all its creations and manifestations. Lacking unity, the manifestations of the Romanian mind don't have a solid, constant mark of their own that could give a special imprint to the various pieces that form our mentality. The content of our ethnic soul is made up mostly of fragments and patches borrowed from the neighboring peoples, unabsorbed, undigested and too heterogeneous for a distinctive mark of our ethnic individuality to be laid on all of them. These patches are alien from one another, having no logical connection and no continuation. The content of our mind makes up not an alloy but an amalgam, it's not a whole yet but a sum. Our various stories, fairy tales, anecdotes, ballads, traditional songs, legends don't make up unitary cycles, as in the literature of other peoples, but represent separate, isolated pieces, with no connection between them. Nothing links The Arges Monastery to The Ewe Lamb [Miorita] or Corbea's ballad to that of Oprisan. Can one speak of a Romanian style in our ancient or modern sculpture and architecture? Even less. All our monasteries seem to be manufactured after the Oriental model. "Generally, our architecture, Mr. Bogdan remarks, is borrowed from Athos. It is indisputable that many of our churches and monasteries, the most beautiful ones, were erected by the craftsmen brought from Athos." The houses, the dwellings are the same here as in the entire Balkan Peninsula. We had no painting except that in the churches, which faithfully reproduces, in accordance with the Orthodox ritual, the composition, the background and the form of the Byzantine painting that became official, canonical in the Orthodox church. Our folk music on some occasions resembles that of the Slavs, on others that of Hungarians. Usually it is sad, drawling and monotonous. The only artistic manifestation that evinces some originality is the embroidery of our peasant women's weaving. The winding motifs on their blouses are of a particular beauty, show a delicate, distinguished and rather original taste, although many are found with the southern Slavs, especially with the Serbs. Starting with Mathew Basarab, the Romanian countries ceased to have any regular armies. Under the domination of the rulers that came from Phanar, the army degenerated completely. Constantin Mavrocordat gave the finishing stroke to our military forces, around 1740, "abolishing the class of cavalry men that were exempt from tax, destroying thus the rest of military power that still existed in the Romanian countries." Naturally, after a century and a half of complete lack of practice, the Romanians' warlike energy faded almost completely; unlike in Transylvania, where the Romanians' warlike energy and bravery were kept almost intact. "Being sober, says Laurençon, (the Romanians) could be turned into some real good soldiers; proof of this are the 6 infantry regiments of this nation, which Austria has and which, of course, are not overshadowed by others either in bravery or in discipline." A few decades, even a few years, of taking up arms again would be enough for the old war instincts to awaken. Actually, during the Organic Regulation, under Kiseleff, when a militia of the country and even regular troops were set up, the old military spirit rose from its ashes, the warlike instincts arose again and came out. Thus, around 1839, 10 years after these troops were set up, Raoul Perrin could write: "The Romanians have always been regarded, rightfully, as brave and courageous soldiers…Send a Romanian infantry battalion in front of the enemies and you will discover in it the heroic grimness of the Scythians and Dacians. If it must go ahead, it will advance in front of the smoking cannon hole; if you order it to stop an enemy army, it will not hesitate, it will be densely compressed, unassailable." Another Frenchman's remark, made around 1850, seems the closest to the truth in this respect. "The Romanian, says De Gerando, is not warlike by nature; yet, once enrolled, he serves like a good soldier. If he doesn't have the Hungarians' fury and zeal, he has more obstinacy to resist than the former. 'Strike to kill' is a saying of theirs. Something of the Roman value was still preserved and, comparing themselves with the Saxons whose peaceful ardor is used only in trade, they say: ten Saxons make one Romanian." We had to envisage though, the fact that De Gerando had examined the Romanians of Transylvania. Just as deep and damaging for the Romanian energy was the Orient's influence, which annoyed and enervated our will and character that were partially able to escape the unfortunate influence of the Turks. From this influence we preserve out traditional indifference, the belief in fatality, in destiny, luck, and the complete lack of self-confidence. The indifference and the fatality, a result of the most important traits of our history, and mostly an echo of the Orient's influence, are the clearest and most transparent features that can be traced in our soul and character. If more favourable social and historical circumstances tend to narrow and obscure this indifference and fatality, however, they still characterize us nowadays. They are for our character what sociability is for the French and what the energy of will is for the English, our most common, if not most characteristic, negative features. The indifference and the passive resignation are attributes that are present all the time and in all the actions of the Romanian peasant. We briefly remind how the peasants from the winegrowing regions saw the manna destroying the crop and had the example of people who sprinkled them with copper sulfate and still this didn't urge them to save their vineyards. They believed it was a sacrilege to fight God's will. In their mind was deeply rooted the idea that whatever happens to you or to your crops is sent by God and it is useless or it is a sin to oppose it. The same thing happened to the treatment of wheat with copper sulfate. Only with great difficulty could the practice of treating wheat with copper sulfate spread to parts of the village population. The rest continue to sow the wheat without treating it and produce blighted wheat, which has a very low value.Things are not different with the diseases that haunt our villages either. As, according to them, the disease comes from God, it is useless to run for doctors or to the pharmacy. The disease will pass just as it has come, that is, by God's will; whatever you do to make it go away, it's useless. At most, he can take the trouble to call the priest to read a prayer or to perform an extreme unction on the ill man when it is thought that the disease comes from God. However, if there are signs that the disease comes from the devil, the villager heads somewhere else, at the conjurers with their exorcisms. Only in the case when the disease comes neither from the devil nor from God, but from people, the peasant heads towards doctors and hospitals. The hospitals are especially full of people that were injured or cut in various incidents, most frequently after they had drunk. Usually, they are careful to get certificates that they can show in court, at the trials that always follow such events.Anyone can imaginarily reconstruct the sight that the domestic and economic life of Romanians illustrated in such times. "The excesses that the Turkish undisciplined hordes make cannot be imagined, said the French Lefebvre; they plunder and oppress the whole country; often destroy entire villages and slaughter the unarmed inhabitants, that is why the Moldavian made a habit of hiding in mountains and forests, taking with them all their valuable belongings…I have also found out that each family keeps a sort of one or two-horse cart for this, to ensure the means of escape when necessary." The author of these lines was writing what he had seen in Galati around 1778, and what he saw obviously mirrors Romanians' way of life from the earliest times. "The Tartars, he wrote, 80,000 in number, plundered and laid havoc in the entire Moldavia in seven days. They took 40,000 men as slaves and spread terror and grief in all corners of the country." The Count of Salaberry is unsurpassed in illustrating the distressful picture of those times: "Nature gives everything, the Romanian cannot enjoy it, he is a slave and hides. While nature adorns itself with all its glamour in order to get man's attention and console him of the wants of life, the Romanian runs and hides; he dwells underground, buries his existence and the few belongings for fear the Turks might spot and strip him. One doesn't spot any house, any dwelling situated so as to see and be seen from afar; except for a few towns, a few scattered hamlets, there are cellars everywhere, underground huts, isolated, hidden by a few pieces of wood and always away from the highway." Salaberry wrote around the beginning of the 19th century these lines that reinforce and marvelously complete those of Lefebvre. "The Turks' invasions, Nicolae Kretulescu writes, were frequent in almost all the country. The estates owned by the boyars on the banks of the Danube on an area of several kilometers were known only by their name without producing any income. The towns close to the Danube were invaded, the townsmen left their houses taking whatever they could with them and running wherever they could, through the forest, the mountains, and when they returned to their houses found nothing left of them, everything had been plundered, burnt, destroyed. The boyars ran to Sibiu and Brasov." This state of affairs lasted until the times of Marc Girardin, who writes around 1852: "From Galati to Bucharest, on a 7-8 hour journey, I saw only five villages and three trees. It is true that I traveled on the highway. And here, things are upside down compared to other countries. Elsewhere the highways attract inhabitants, here they drive them away; for on these highways, the Turks' plundering and ravage take place. Therefore, the villages had to hide underground." Elias Regnault, around the same date, writes the following: "In Romania, the highways chase their inhabitants away, one doesn't see any human being on their side. The Turks came on them; people fled in terror; both houses and villages were moved and settled far away, in the hollow of some dale, on the slopes of some mountain. When the plunderers pursued their prey, reaching some hidden village, the inhabitants that survived the invasion hurried to gather their few belongings and went to rebuild their huts in an even more isolated place. Because of these permanent migrations, the villagers always changed their location; the barbarian invasions established a mobile geography on the country's area."As everything is made up of experiences, everything is done in our country quickly, in a hurry. "The Romanian, Mr. Radulescu-Motru remarks, is in a rush at work, just like at war. He works wonders with the haste. The peasant accomplishes in a few hours of group work, a job that he couldn't have performed even in a week." Mr. Motru captured and formulated quite well this fundamental feature of the Romanian character that makes it so different. "Between the working days of the Romanian, says Mr. Motru, there are long periods of holidays' rest, moments lavishly wasted. We are whimsical with time, as we are with the land. A waiting moment exasperates us and exhausts our patience, but we can handle just fine a few months' indifference. Our field worker gets tired as soon as he is constrained to a too rigorous discipline. He likes the irregular rhythm that we find with the primitive man; days of hard work followed by long holiday breaks; extremely intense strain, but not continuous"…"A whole year the Romanian idles, and in the last days of the year he works double tide…" "There is nowhere else more fret, more turmoil, and less disciplined work as with our people… In us, there lives the soul of our primitive shepherd and farmer ancestors, a soul that puts itself about a few months a year and hibernates the rest of the time. We are capable of any virtue as long as it doesn't entail too long a persistence."It is very natural for the Romanian peasant to be so little capable of prolonged work and effort and so inferior in this respect to the people from cultured societies. France, England, Germany didn't experience the wonder of the moving map in their past. In order to face so many different hardships and dangers, in order to get at least the minimum of their work results from their oppressors of all kinds: Turks, the fiscal authorities, boyars – the Romanian peasants had to be naturally gifted with a lot of skillfulness and cleverness. Fortunately, the skillfulness, artfulness and the indispensable hypocrisy were inherited from their ethnic ancestors: the Dacians and the Romans. The artfulness, the skillfulness, the deceit and the hypocrisy, which we have seen as important traits of the Dacians' and Romans' psychology, were preserved with the Romanians of all times, for all the time the latter needed them. The aspect of the historical life we are concerned with now, the economic and fiscal conditions that the peasants had to cope with further developed these traits. We should also remind that the boyars asked the peasants to work "at a stretch" on the field and at the court, as we have seen above. Regarding the fisc, we should remember the multiplication of the four quarters of the tax that, from four, reached twenty a year. Also, let's not forget the procedure of the rulers coming from Phanar, who diminished the value of money in the eve of tax gathering and raised it afterwards. How could the peasants bear and pay these taxes? How did they pay them? With huge difficulty. Even today there are some old people who can tell us what they saw in their earliest days of childhood. They paid them, for the chief magistrates and the agents of those times invented tortures and ordeals, which could have served as an example to the inquisitors from Spain. Thus, they say that the agents of the court took the paupers that couldn't pay the taxes and laid thick trunks of trees on their stomach to smother them, or hanged them in smoke on the chimney above the burning fireplace or, finally, they burned and maimed them with heated iron chains. Constantin Golescu wrote around 1820: "I maintain that there were Christians who, because of not being able pay certain amounts, were hanged head downwards in pigsties that were set on fire." It is recounted that the peasants who didn't have money to pay the taxes, were tied and brought to the boyars' courts and, in mid winter, the agents hanged them almost naked by the yard's fence, so that the empty feet, hanging downwards, should be put and bound in pools of water. During the night, when the water started freezing, heart-rending lamentations woke up the boyars from their castles and upon hearing the terrible torments, their hearts softened and, opening their pockets, they paid for the taxes of those miserable men, whose feet froze together with the water in pools. In such circumstances, the peasants, freeholders and knights, became serfs and sold their plots of land to those who agreed to free them from taxes, ordeals and tortures. There was so much sufferance in the villagers' past that it's surprising how the people who worship and kowtow to Christ's ordeal, don't suspect when they pass by a shy and humble coat that under that coat there lives a man who obviously counts more Christ-like people among his ancestors. To avoid these ordeals and tortures, to save the food morsel of their children from the boyars' servants and the fiscal agents, the Romanian peasants had to hide, cheat, steal and lie. All foreigners ascertained this and almost all of them left valuable notes and remarks on these attributes of the peasants. For instance, Thornton writes that the native Romanians become lazy because they cannot better their fate through work, as they become con artists, tricksters and liars, because the lie is always employed for discovering and wrenching away their few savings. "The ill-will, Count Salaberry writes, the injustice and the oppression, whose playing toy they usually are, force them to be vigilant at being deceived and thus, they end by becoming themselves the deceivers." Laurençon makes the same remark, when he notices that "The serfdom they live in and the extortion that is inflicted on them, made them cunning and deceiving. The mistake belongs to the governments, not to them." The mistake belongs especially to the form of government. In Laurençon's opinion, "the so strangely vicious form of government forces them to resort to tricks that in any country would be considered lies and double-dealing. However, one has to be deft to cheat on some under-delegates, who try in their turn to cheat on a supreme, tyrannical government." "The Romanians, said Le Cler, are cunning; under the pretence of complete indifference, they hide profound simulation." This is how Romanians from everywhere are, for De Gerando writes on the Transylvanians that "they have the cunning, the slave's weapon." History and the economic conditions that the historic circumstances of our nation created for the peasants, led to an intact, if not accentuated and exaggerated preservation of these traditional attributes. They are, however, even more visible with the peasants. Actually, our entire history abounds in such deeds. We mention briefly Michael the Brave's equivocal behavior towards the emperor of Germany and towards the Turks. In the emperor's presence, he protested extremely energetically, loyal to the former and full of hatred for the Turks and meanwhile he wrote to the Sultan "swearing to drink the blood of his own children if he is not loyal to him."His duplicity with the Hungarian nobility from Transylvania, to whom he promised the freedom of Transylvania and at the same time his settlements with Rudolf to conquer it for the latter, is known as well.Characteristic in this respect are also Stephen the Great's means. At Podul Inalt he wins the day by well-deserved artfulness – the hidden trumpets story. In the Cosmin forest, he slaughtered the Polish army by a trap. It is also worth mentioning Basarab's behavior to Charles Robert, with whom he made peace and to whom he promised to get in Transylvania on the best path; instead, the former dragged the Hungarian king, with all his army, in the worst gorges of the Carpathians and destroyed his army and the king hardly escaped by running. The same was Romanians' behavior towards their Christian allies against the Turks. Under Vlad Dracul, it is known how the Romanians betrayed their brothers-in-arms by siding with the pagans at the decisive moment. Who doesn't find the echo of Decebal's and the Dacians' psychology in these habits? Basarab, Mathew, Stephen, are figures that resemble that of Decebal. These habits are deeply rooted with the Romanians, due to them we could make our way through the walls of misfortunes and perils that history lavishly put up before us. Even in their daily contacts and business, the peasants have an instinctive drive to deceive and cheat each other. Their juridical documents are complicated, with all sorts of conditions and combinations. An eminent jurist told me that he avoids, on principle, the peasant trials, for they are the most difficult to disentangle and one can hardly grasp, from the labyrinth of provisions and conditions, the truth that the peasants have become so dexterous in concealing. For instance, an adoption is complicated and completed with a sale, a sale is complicated with an adoption. In their transactional documents they will never show the real prices and sums; they will write either more or less, according to the circumstances. They have especially developed a true masterliness in the art of hiding their feelings, ideas and intentions. They are not used to being exact with their statements, assertions or denials. They are afraid of any question and answer as equivocally and deceivingly as possible. For instance, at a deputy election, a very influential candidate asks a peasant if he has decided to vote with him. What could the peasant answer? – May we be hale and hearty, Mr. A. Only with great difficulty can one find out the state of their crops. When you ask them, they will instinctively give you false answers. Moreover, if one asks them about the area of land they own one can be certain that the truth will never come out. Usually, no matter what you will ask the Romanian peasant, it is well known that the answer he will give deserves very little trust. And it is very natural for that to happen. Across their entire history, the Romanians concealed their nature; they snatched their life from the sword of invaders and oppressors through deceit and cunning. They had to cheat, conceal, lie and betray in order to save their life. Here is the conversation of a peasant reproduced by Mr. Radulescu-Motru:"Do you think I show my grievance to the merchant? God forbid. He would ask the price tenfold. Only the novice dashes in and asks for the thing he needs. As far as I'm concerned, when I enter the merchant's shop, I pretend to look for something else, and only at the end do I ask, casually, for what I need. Otherwise, I couldn't afford the price." Nevertheless, there is a feature of the Dacians' and Romans' character that, despite all the misfortunes of our history, seems to have been kept almost intact with the Romanians: a deep propensity for independence, an unvanquished need for liberty. This deeply felt need for independence and liberty turned into a sort of strong repulsion for any kind of submission. The Romanian began to detest obeying orders, depending on someone else's will or disposition. In our country, all people would have liked to be their own masters and have no master above them. That is why, as I have shown in the previous chapters as well, our past was torn by endless quarrels and fights between the country's boyars and ceaseless fights between the claimers to the throne. The Romanian boyars, especially after the Basarabs' heredity to the throne was destroyed, came to forbid the settlement of any ruler on the throne of the country; each of them wanted to be ruler or al least to occupy the highest offices. Everyone's propensity for absolute liberty can be naturally translated in everyone's impulse to master, rule and govern. Jealous of their liberty, everyone could ensure his by stealing that of others. This is how there appears in history ancient Rome, which could ensure its liberty only by repressing that of the whole ancient world. The same way, the French people's liberty, won in the Great Revolution, couldn't be ensured but by suppressing the whole of Europe. According to this natural tendency, all boyars in the high offices yearned ardently for the rule and all boyars with no functions yearned to get the highest positions. In the annals of our history there are only two cases of boyars who didn't have this yearning: the seneschal Constantin Cantacuzino and the boyar Ionita Sturdza. These two unique cases seem really monstrous. In their turn, the peasants didn't have a greater wish than that of being made boyars. Hence, the saying: I – a boyar, you – a boyar, who will pull our boots, reproach words that the boyars must have often addressed to the peasants who became boyars. To which, doubtlessly, the peasants must have retorted with the other saying, very popular as well: each is a boyar in his own business. When Oltenia was occupied by Austria, the statistics found an extraordinarily large number of boyars and petty boyars. Although always subjugated, the peasants have kept alive inside them the propensity for absolute freedom – this solid, profound propensity that they inherited in their blood from Dacians, Romans and Slavs. "The Moldavians, Count D'Hauterive writes, lost nothing from this original nature, which rebels against any new oppression… They are always ready to oppose the boyars, the subprefect at the trial and to denounce the latter to the ruler. They are not afraid of trekking the whole country in order to come to the divan and submit the boldest supplications themselves…I confess that this living tradition of the old Roman liberty is something that I didn't in the least expect to find here and I was very glad to find it 400 leagues from Rome and 18 centuries after Cicero." Somewhere else, the same observer writes: "The Moldavians fear too long rules. They don't like too often changes either, but they consider the instability of the rulers' power a means for defending themselves against their tyranny."It is known that the boyars very often reached their goals. They succeeded in changing the rulers and the boyars from their offices very often. Yet, what did the peasants do for the success of their pursuit of liberty? Since they couldn't become all boyars, in order to rid themselves from the heavy taxes and all sorts of labor obligations, the peasants had two means: either they emigrated over the Danube and the Carpathians, or they took to the forest and became outlaws and bandits. The entire 18th century abounds in emigrations and migrations. The word migration was for them a common word. The deplorable state in which the Romanian countries were found in that century is known, almost all their population had fled, and they remained desolate. Likewise, the extent to which the gangs, outlawry thrived, the prestige this institution had among peasants and how it fascinated the masses. Iancu Jianu, Bujor, Tunsu are the most popular heroes and with their biographies any Romanian, even nowadays, begins his literary culture. This freedom spirit intensified in the Romanian countries from the very beginning. Chalcondyle noticed, around the mid-16th century, that "the Romanians don't like to keep the same form of government and perfectly agree not to obey the same rulers permanently, for they change them as they like, calling one after another to administer and run their businesses." Over the years, there are several peculiarities of the Romanians' character deriving from this exaggerated and perturbed spirit of freedom. Let's quote, among others, the excessive divorce practice, that frightened all the foreigners that visited us and observed our manners. "With this easiness for parting, one of them writes, marriage is a perpetual trial that man and woman experience with the other. In these circumstances, adultery, as we have it, with the repression of laws, would be almost a progress for the Romanians, for what kind of promiscuity feeling is not cast upon this society through a too great easiness to part? Marriage in Romania resembles a sort of mazurka where ladies dance one round with a gentleman, another round with another gentleman." "In Romania, Pertusier wrote, the most sacred bond of liberty becomes at the same time an object of trade and a game. Men get married, animated by the seductions of fortune; a frivolous whim will finally be discarded." The excessive habit of undoing the marriage is doubtlessly a trace of the old spirit of freedom and independence. This feature of character was not destroyed. It persisted throughout our history, from Radu the Great who dismissed the Patriarch Nifon because he opposed one such divorce trying thus "to ruin our customs", to Bibescu who, from his throne, consecrated our individual traditional freedom. Regarding the same independence spirit, preserved and exaggerated with the Romanians, we must also quote the repulsion the Romanians, especially our peasants, feel for engaging themselves as servants. "The deep sufferance of the Romanian peasant, Regnault remarked, stifled the need of a decent life, but didn't diminish in any way his propensity towards freedom." Indeed, the Romanian peasant prefers dire poverty than being a servant. It is to be noticed that in Romania, the servants are unanimously Hungarians and Bulgarians. Especially the former, have offered the best servants – as it was ironically remarked by an excellent perceptive spirit whose words remained familiar; whereas the Romanians would rather starve than come to the towns as servants. Even when poverty brings them to it, they are good for nothing and seem to be struck by a natural incapacity to obey orders and carry out the tasks. It might seem surprising, but we must notice that this is a feature of character we share with the English. Only the English, as far as we know, have this repulsion towards domesticity. As in our country the Hungarians, in London the Germans are the only and the best servants. English servants are rare and very deficient. This feature of character that we share with the English and which, we hope, is auspicious, is not the only one. We will see presently that we have others, as well. Linked to this profound love of independence is a sort of pride, a noble vanity that the Romanians often show. Everybody knows the story about Tudor Vladimirescu who, on visiting a great boyar in Craiova, didn't want to sit, as he was asked to, and answered to his friend that he wouldn't sit for fear of not being forced to stand up in front of a boyar who might drop by. Mr. De Gerando tells the following scene remarked by him in Transylvania. One day, a rich peasant who returned from Fejérvar, where he had received a great sum of money, met on the way an administrator riding a horse that he felt like buying. "How much is this horse?" he asked. The gentleman found the question insolent and proudly answered: "This horse is too splendid for you." "As you say," said the peasant. "All right, one hundred ducats" (the horse was not even worth ten). "One hundred ducats? Get down. Here they are." And he stretched out his hand full of gold. This dignified spirit of independence is daily shown in all the actions of the Romanian peasant. And when he seems different, his humble and submissive air, for instance, is not sincere, but completely superficial, in order to deceive. The humbleness of the peasant is a means of deceiving, an appearance that suits him, since he is by nature quite an opportunist. The Romanian sprightly and lively imagination, says a French anonymous writer, likes to wander in the realms of the miraculous. "Legends are numerous in Romania, where the people are very superstitious, and all of them are patriotic or religious," the same author adds. "The Romanian is by nature a man of taste, especially regarding all the things that appeal to the senses; he loves luxury, even ostentation, but an elegant one." Consequently, the Romanian has an orator's temperament. His oration is a sequence of spiritual verbal gestures that fall lightly, deftly, skillfully and elegantly. However, what distinguishes the Romanian not only from the Oriental European peoples among whom he lives, but, it can be said, from all peoples, is the liveliness and cleverness of his spirit, the spark of a subtle refined intelligence, apparently modest, shy and unpretentious up to humbleness. The mental qualities of the Romanian are not apparent. On the contrary. The Romanian's appearance, at first sight, doesn't let us suspect what is lying beneath. This is because over the core of superior and abundant qualities a thick layer of hardships accumulated during 10-15 centuries. One has to go deep under the surface level of a Romanian's appearance to discover the precious metal of his soul and his mentality. "The poverty, Regnault writes, usually producing despair and stultification, didn't diminish any intellectual faculty of the Romanian peasant. With him, the perception remained intense and sharp, he apprehends quickly and moves easily." "The lazier the body is, the livelier the Romanian's spirit is." In this respect Desprez notices that "the Romanian peasant, distressingly oppressed by Hungarians and Saxons in Transylvania and by his own boyars in Moldavia and Wallachia, kept on his wide forehead, framed by black hair, and in his mild eyes, with thick eyebrows, all the signs of a brisk piercing mind who learns quickly and operates easily. His lively sprightly imagination, indifferent to the daily concerns, likes to go back to the former times, when it roamed at ease through wonderland." "With people from the nobility class, Le Cler writes, there is to be noticed a sum of qualities, a real distinction, a sharp intelligence and a great easiness to speak all languages. When they strive, they succeed in the most difficult enterprises." The Romanian woman herself stands out by the same spiritual qualities. "The Romanian women, says Pertusier, accumulate great vivacity and naturalness and, with too little an effort, they could pretend to rival the most distinguished European women." The Romanians are probably the most superstitious people in Europe and to an extent that only the Russians might also reach. Superstition reigns in all classes of Romanian society, from the most uneducated peasant, up to the most refined intellectual. The Romanian can be an atheist, a free thinker, but his atheism and his freedom of thought are laid on a foundation of superstitions, which they finally adjust to. Even the most intelligent and cultured Romanian cannot rid his spirit of the multitude of fantastic reminiscences and beliefs. And if he is dominated by superstition then, the uneducated population, especially from the villages, enwraps all its daily activities, from the most common and trivial ones, to the noblest and most significant ones in an opaque veil of superstitious customs. There is no step of his social life that the peasant should not surround with several bizarre and absurd customs and practices: exorcisms, spells, doings and undoings and all sorts of senseless, useless customs. However, the number of superstitious pagan holidays is terrifying. Besides the legal holidays, there are 140 holidays, from the 365 days of the year that are celebrated throughout the country, depending on the region. And they have the strangest and most absurd names and pretexts: the birds' engagement, the mice's wedding, the crows' Tuesday, the worms' Monday, the wolves' holiday, the Seal, the ill-omen Wednesday, and so on. Considered from a different point of view, Romanians' rich and superior intelligence, merged with remainders of pragmatic spirit inherited from the Romans, gave the Romanian a sarcastic spirit and his natural talent for mocking and satirizing. The fact that a certain amount of pragmatism is not alien to the Romanians was shown above in the turn that the religious spirit had with us. The blend of pragmatism and the resourcefulness, refinement and natural liveliness of the Romanians' spirit gave birth to the wonderful, admirable and abundant satirical literature of mocking anecdotes, piercing stories and jokes, biting epigrams. From the entire Romanian mentality, the satirical epigrammatic spirit is the clearest, most precise and best-defined characteristic. In this respect, the Romanian was and still is better than in any other. It is worth noticing that this is again a mental feature that the Romanian has in common with the English and the Romans. The similitude between English humor and irony and Romanian popular irony and satire is so great that one might confound them. Indubitably, with the English as well as with the Romans, satire and irony are the result of a mentality that applies poetry in the pragmatic domain, for humor and satire have practical effects and they are, as we have said, a means of punishing bad manners and improving them. Especially with the Romanians, irony and sarcasm appeared from the peculiarities of the people, more intelligent, with a sharper spirit, situated in the middle of less delicate people with a lazier, less sharp intelligence and thus, in an obviously inferior position to the Romanians. Proof is the fact that Romanians' irony and humor are particularly aimed at the neighboring peoples. Romanians have always laughed especially at the Serbs and Bulgarians, Hungarians and Turks. They have always considered themselves superior to these neighbors. And from the awareness of this superiority were derived all the jokes and ironies they made on their account. For instance, even today the Romanian laughs at the Serb, whom he considers stupid, hence the saying: green horse and clever Serb; he also laughs at the Bulgarian, whose head, he says, is empty as a pumpkin. However, the gypsies are an endless source of humor for the peasants. And the bad manners of the Romanian aristocracy, as well as those of the poets, were the target of the most biting popular stories and satires. They created a very rich literature of refined, well-structured anecdotes and epigrams. Around the mid-19th century, the terrible, revolutionary, strong wind that blew across the West, sent its blasts to us and cleaned the country, for a moment, of the lazy and idle atmosphere of the Orient. This revolutionary wind awakened in us the ancient consciousness and energy, and the state of inactivity and protests was interrupted for a moment, from 1850 to 1880. In this time interval they worked much, even too much, and because they worked too much, they worked insufficiently. They endorsed a lot of laws taken directly from the civilized nations, a lot of patterns of thought and action models, sometimes inappropriate with the simplicity of our nature. Therefore, the boyars, always unhappy, instead of starting to work and reform, were writing supplications and acid criticisms and sent them daily to Constantinople, Petersburg, Vienna, they even wandered in Transylvania and elsewhere. This later generated an amplification of our critical and negative spirit even more intense as it wasn't manifest in supplications sent to Constantinople any more, nor through wanderings, but through the press, speeches at public meetings or embittered invectives that the atmosphere of all cafés abounded in. The activity, the endeavor made between 1858-1888, under the influence of the strong impulse coming from the West, stopped as soon as this impulse stopped or decreased in intensity. And then, the old apathy came back and our intelligence, being unable to find in ourselves enough energy for creating and reforming, started again to waste itself in deconstructive criticisms, in words.Beginning with 1880, roughly, the Romanians spent 30 years to criticize what had been done in a 5-6 year interval, between 1860 and 1866. Having now the necessary respite, which the contemplation offers in the long hours of café life and having also enough material before us to criticize, our spirit, craving for practice, proceeds to tear off mercilessly, in embittered criticisms, men and deeds. Everything that happened since 1860 is daily destroyed in words through all mediums, and everything that is done today, no matter by whom, is pierced by the most venomous epigrams. At the Court of Justice, at the University, at the railway, and especially in editorial offices and cafés, a critical overwhelming spirit envenoms and heats up daily. All imaginable and unimaginable things are being criticized there, everything that exists, everything that is thought and written in Romania and abroad. Many times, we even see those that undertook a positive, energetic and beneficial activity seized by the stream of this powerfully negative spirit, diverted from their activity and taken on the slipperiness of this destructive spirit. Indeed, having a subtle and sharp intelligence, which serves a weak, lazy and idle will and an almost inexistent energy, the Romanians' spirit, creating very little, has all the time to criticize, tear and destroy everything that it encounters. It will be the more severe and bitter, the more it can remain stranded in the realm of absolute principles, the more it dares not descend in the world of facts and activities, a relative world that must be full of concessions and compromises. With us, the logic destroys the activity with its numerous and severe criticisms. To these circumstances propitious for our critical spirit we can also add the fact that very many Romanians often go abroad and, coming back, compare what they saw there with what they see in our country. By all means, we cannot stay close to the Western countries, which benefit from an old civilization. Compared with the Germans and the French, our realities are fatally insufficient, imperfect. In this comparative imperfection, our critical spirit finds rich daily nourishment. Everything is admirable and perfect with the foreigners, everything is bad, insufficient and worthy of being criticized in our country. The people visiting France and especially those who didn't see it but have heard of it from people who fugitively visited it, would set Wallachia on fire. Being unable to do this, they do it in effigy and waste in severe criticisms, unawares, even the little energy that might have been used in a beneficial reforming action. Therefore, usually all those who admire the French realities and criticize ours, never actually tried to imitate the French management structure in our country. At most, they imitated the superficial things and actions: fashion, manners, customs.On the Romanians' temperament, on their nature and sociable character, besides those shown at the beginning of this chapter, we confine ourselves to quote the opinions of foreign observers, the way they judged us according to the impressions the Romanians made on them. The Romanian peasants, according to Regnault, "in their external features, are all similar: people with vigorous appearance, with a handsome profile, with long black hair framing a wide forehead, with thick eyebrows shading the eyes, not so bright but mild and sympathizing, having the subtlety of the Italian look, where irony rather than cunning refinement reigns." De Gerando also thinks that "the Romanian peasant belongs generally to the meridional type…However, some have fair hair, blue eyes and suggest an origin different from Italy." A meridional race, the Romanians seem to have attracted the foreigners' attention through a pleasant appearance, which is not devoid of a certain kind of beauty. According to D'Haussez, their strong but nicely proportioned traits, a long face shaded by moustaches and by very black hair and a slender stature distinguish the Romanians." "The blood, in Bucharest, is too beautiful, Count de la Garde writes, the men under the huge kalpaks that they wear on their head, and that make them ugly, have virile and harmonious traits. The women are beautiful and often posses a charming talent." Raoul Perrin writes in the same way: "Romanians are generally tall, robust, their stature is elegant…Women are well built, their waist, which doesn't go over the medium size, is lithe and of a pleasant coquetry. They are brown, gentle, kind and obliging."Regarding the character, almost all the foreigners that have visited and have got acquainted with our country, agree to admit that "the Romanians are, generally, a gentle-hearted and well-intentioned people… Actually, besides, they are also lazy and soft." Recordon writes in his letters on the Romanians that "on their physiognomy one discovers the mildness of character." And Le Cler considers that "cruelty and anger are rare especially with the peasants." "The Romanian peasant, Pertusier writes in his memoirs, is neither malignant nor passionate; he is not made for the feeling of revenge, and in the times when he could have got his revenge on the boyars, he was satisfied with parodying and mocking at him." The Romanians' sociable and hospitable character was again very much tested and appreciated by the foreigners. "The Romanian peasants, Regnault writes, are benevolent and hospitable, but those from Moldavia and Wallachia had so much to suffer from the foreigners' visits, that they do not gladly trust a newcomer and one does no longer find with them old charity customs that the Romanians from Transylvania still preserve." De Gerando focused especially on the Romanians from Transylvania and he wrote the following: "Romanians are very hospitable. However poor they might be, they never hesitate to give half of their onion and bread to a man in need. Romanians show this hospitality even to a stranger. They use to lay on the roadside vessels with water for the travelers that may pass by their gates in the evening; near the vessels with water, the rich also lay bread for the ones coming at night… In fairs, young girls walk with their clay vessels full of water and give the thirsty to drink." Finally, the French writer Le Cler admirably summarizes the Romanians' temperament, nature and psychology in these admirable and comprehensive words: the race is Western, for it reminds one, as far as the language and the physiognomy are concerned, of the Italians and the Spanish; its customs are Oriental.

by Dumitru Drăghicescu (1875-1945)