Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Context pt 1: Romania

I thought I ought to provide some context, as you probably don’t know much about Romania. I am basing this assumption on my own ignorance before I came here, and as some of my readers are actually Romanian, my contextual writings here will probably be pulled apart as naïve uninformed bollocks. And rightly so. But uninformed bollocks are what make up his blog (and the vast majority of the entire Internet to be honest). The only question I have is whether to start big and go small (i.e. Romania -> Transylvania -> Szekelyfold -> Csikszereda) or to go the other way around. As you will no doubt be painfully aware by now, my writing style tends to leap clumsily from topic to topic like a drunken mountain goat, so this concern about how to organise my writing is a complete waste of my (and your) time. Apologies. I ‘ll try to have more respect for your precious minutes in the future.

So, we’ll go big to small, and hang the consequences.


As all of you are probably aware (unless the Foxnews morons have already got here), Romania is a fairly large country in Eastern Europe, the capital of which is Bucharest. It’s kind of hexagonal (bear with me here), and on the six borders (i.e. the six borders which I have just created with this arbitrary and frankly ludicrous attempt to geometrize the nation) you will find in order (running in clockwise order from the top one first): Ukraine, Moldova, the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Serbia & Montenegro, and Hungary. I’d draw you a picture of that to make it clearer, but I don’t think I can in this blog. Instead, here (is a link ) to the Lonely Planet’s map.

On the hexagon you have drawn (you did draw it, right?) draw a vertical line down from the right hand side of the top to the middle of your diagram and then horizontally left across to the middle of the left hand side. This represents the Carpathian Mountains. Everything in that top left corner is Transylvania. The bottom half of the diagram is Walachia. And the bit you have left (next to Moldova) is Moldavia. Try not to get Moldavia and Moldova mixed up as there’ll be a test later. This more or less represents the division of the country into its constituent three regions. One expression I have learnt while here is “South of Braşov”. This refers to things which are, how can I put this, less than perfect. If you put Braşov on your hexagon diagram at that Carpathian elbow, you will see that what “South of Braşov” actually means is “Walachian”. I’m sure people from Walachia don’t refer sneeringly to things “South of Braşov” for obvious reasons. Possibly for them, it’s “North of Braşov” which is a mark of contempt.

Historically, I’m on much more shaky ground. Ask me to describe countries in terms of geometrical shapes and I’m your man, but ask me to sum up thousands of years of history in a few pithy sentences without offending anyone, and I am definitely not your (or anyone else’s man). Basically, the first civilization that was here was the Dacians. Most of the country was occupied by Rome (hence, “Romania” and the language being Latin based). Where it gets complicated and the capacity to upset comes into play is in the history of Transylvania (which I’ll try and cover in my next contextual update). Basically it has been contested by Hungarians and Romanians for centuries, and still is. Historians on both sides produce vast works of research proving that either the Magyars colonized a largely empty region and were welcomed by the people that did live there* or that the Romano-Dacian population of Transylvania were the original and populous inhabitants of the region and that they were occupied and oppressed by the Hungarians. What is clear is that over the course of centuries Transylvania has been ruled by various empires. At the end of the First World War the three provinces of Romania were “unified” (Hungary was on the wrong side in that conflict), and since then (aside from a period in WWII when it was occupied by the Nazis) has remained largely the same country – although some bits ended up in the USSR after WWII. The Communist regime was overthrown in 89 in Eastern Europe’s only bloody revolution (only about 1000 people died, but that’s way more than in all of the other countries’ rush to the West). Ironically given that fact, it was the country that changed least following the revolution, as the members of the communists who had been plotting to overthrow Ceauşescu and take the party reins in order to preserve their power, used the opportunity presented by the popular uprising to take that power instead. Now I’m getting onto shaky grounds, and probably setting myself up for trouble with the authorities so I'll stop.

Here’s a fairly brief and unbiased account from the Lonely Planet - history

Here’s a longer and more comprehensive but much more Romania-centric history

And one more, from

(* I have to say that I'm broadly sceptical of this account as it sounds suspiciously like the Zionist contention that Palestine was basically empty until the Jews arrived. A position which I know to be utter bollocks)

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