|Lajos Kazar: Facts against fiction|
The historical background
As shown by historical records, archaeological finds, and ancient Hungarian place-names, most of Transylvania was populated by Hungarians during the 10th-12th centuries. Until the mid 16th century, it was part of Hungary. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Saxons (Germans) were settled, in certain areas, especially in the south. After the occupation of large parts of Hungary by the expanding Turkish empire in the mid-16th century, Transylvania became independent and continued, for centuries to come, the traditions of Hungary. Towards the end of the 17th century, the Turks were driven out of Hungary, and Transylvania was subjugated by the Habsburg empire.
The first document mentioning Rumanians in Transylvania refers to the year 1210 A.D. [cf. B. Jancsó: Erdély Története (The History of Transylvania) , Cluj-Kolozsvár, 1931, p. 42]. Their number was, however, in the first centuries after their appearance, very low. This is apparent from the analysis of place-names. An investigation of the place-names of villages existing today gives the following picture: Before the end of the 13th century, the names of 511 villages in Transylvania and in the Banat appear in documents, of which only three are of Rumanian origin.
Up to 1400 A.D. 1757 villages are mentioned, out of which 76 (4.3%) have names of Rumanian origin (cf. Kniezsa, 1943, p. 158.). In the following centuries the number of Rumanians continued to increase: in the 1700s, they amounted to about 40% of the total population. During the 18th century, the number of Rumanians in Transylvania increased even more. The cause of this was mainly the immigration of peasants from Muntenia and Moldavia, the Rumanian countries, where they lived in squalor, being exploited by the Turks as well as by their own lords.
Although quite a few Transylvanian Rumanians were granted nobility by the Habsburgs during the 18th century, most of the Rumanians remained bondsmen and shepherds. Meanwhile, the ideas of the Reformation and Enlightenment have found vigorous resonance among the Hungarians and Saxons of Transylvania. In the spirit of these ideas, many of them considered that it was their duty to further the cultural advancement of the Rumanians. It was in Transylvania that the Rumanian language was first introduced as the liturgical language of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church, replacing Slavonic, which the common people did not understand. The first books in the Rumanian language were printed in Transylvania, on the initiative of Saxon and Hungarian noblemen and priests, who also paid the costs of publishing. In these books printed in southern Transylvania, in the second half of the 16th century by Dean Coresi, ,,we find the beginnings of our literary language" - C. Giurescu states in Istoria românilor, (Bucharest, 1975, p. 387). Almost a century had to pass until the first book in Rumania was printed in Muntenia (in 1640; cf. Istoria României in date, ed. C. Giurescu, 1971, p. 136). After the union of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church with Rome (in 1700), the number of Rumanian schools increased and Rumanian youths were in increasing numbers sent to foreign universities. Thus, a class of Rumanian intellectuals developed in Transylvania in an epoch in which this would not have been possible in the Rumanian countries of Muntenia and Moldavia. Ironically, it was this intelligentsia, whose existence would not have been possible without the help of the other nationalities of Transylvania (the Hungarians and the Saxons), which started the struggle for political rights of the Rumanians. One of the first and most important protagonists of these intellectuals was bishop Innocentius Klein, who forwarded a series of demands to the provincial government of Transylvania and to the Habsburg court in Vienna. In these, he asked for the recognition of the Rumanians as the fourth nation in Transylvania. One of his arguments was that the Rumanians outnumber any other single nation in the country, but more significantly he claimed that the Rumanians originated from emperor Trajan's colonists and have been living in the country ever since the Roman conquest. This is the first formulation of the theory of roman continuity in Dacia Traiana. It was to support a distinctly Rumanian political struggle in the first half of the 18th century.
The most important petition in this struggle was the Supplex Libellus Valachorum, forwarded to king Leopold II in 1791. Its authors are not exactly known but it is considered as the collective work of the leading Rumanian intellectuals of that time: S. Micu-Klein, I. Molnar-Piuariu, I. Budai-Deleanu, I. Mehes, P. Maior, Gh. Sincai and others. The main points were the following:
The Rumanians should receive all the civil rights the other nations possess: Rumanians should be admitted to the provincial Assembly and should be permitted to hold official positions in proportion to their number; they should receive the right to call together a national assembly, which could elect delegates who would represent them wherever this would be needed; Rumanian place-names should be used in all areas in which Rumanians are living; communities with a Rumanian majority should use the Rumanian name while in those in which the Rumanians are in minority, bilingual Hungarian-Rumanian or Saxon-Rumanian names should be used. (Incidentally in the text of the petition, the word 'Vlach' is used instead of 'Rumanian').
The 'Libellus' claimed, as did earlier demands of this kind, that the Rumanians were first in Transylvania:
,,The Rumanian nation is by far the most ancient of all nations of our epoch, since it is certain and proved by historical evidence, by a never interrupted tradition, by the similarity of the language, traditions and customs, that it originates from the Roman colonists brought here at the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. by emperor Trajan . . .".
The ideas of the Enlightenment, the discovery of Latin as the ancestor of the Rumanian language and, above all, the political struggle for the rights of the Rumanians, inspired a new movement in Transylvania in the second half of the 18th century. This movement was called Scoala ardeleana (Transylvanian School). One of the first and most important works produced was Elementa linguae daco-romanae sive valachicae, the first grammar of the Rumanian language. Written by Gh. Sincai and S. Micu-Klein, it was published in Vienna in 1780.
The message of the Transylvanian School may be summarized briefly as follows: The Latin origin of the Rumanian language; the unity of this language spoken in Muntenia, Moldavia and parts of Transylvania; the theory of continuity, i.e., the idea that the Rumanian language developed in the same territory where the Roman colony of Dacia Traiana was situated.
Out of these three ideas, only the first two correspond to reality. In detail, however, many errors were propagated even with these. Thus, for instance, Sincai and Micu-Klein assumed that Rumanian derived from classical Latin. But it was P. Maior in particular who defended the idea that the Latin language spoken by the common people must have given rise to the neo-Latin languages, so also the Rumanian.
The aims of this vigorous intellectual movement were not primarily scientific. The study of Rumanian history and language was developed, in the first place, to be used in the struggle of Rumanian intellectuals for more political rights for their own people. This is also stated in several modern publications about the epoch in question.
Ideas about the glorious past and great importance to all mankind of one's own nation, and, in general, the ideology of romantic nationalism, were widespread in Europe in this age. Thus, several circumstances, internal as well as external, contributed to the development and to the strength of this Rumanian movement in Transylvania.
One of the most important works produced by the Transylvanian School is Istoria pentru inceputul rominilor in Dacia (The History of the origin of the Rumanians in Dacia) by P. Maior, published in Buda, the Hungarian capital, in 1812. The author was in that epoch a licenser of the press at the printing office in Buda.
The author's aim with this book was to provide arguments in the struggle for the rights of Rumanians living in Transylvania and to repudiate those authors who did not agree with the idea that the Rumanians originate from the soldiers and colonists of Trajan.
Maior's chief ideas concerning the origin of the Rumanians may be summarized as follows:
The Rumanians are descendants of those Roman colonists who were brought to Dacia by emperor Trajan after the conquest in 106 A.D. The Dacians were either exterminated in the war with the Romans or fled the country; the Rumanians are thus of purely roman origin, a ,,pure race". In 274 A.D, when the roman empire left Dacia Traiana, most of the population remained in the country and continued living there ever since those times, mainly as sedentary peasants.
Although many of these ideas have been refuted by later Rumanian scholars, this work and, in general, the entire ideology of the Transylvanian School did not only have strong influence upon Rumanian historical thinking but still affects writing of history in Rumania today.
Maior uses arguments of ,,historical logic", confuses assumption with facts and uses, not infrequently, extremely implausible hypotheses and wrong data, if they fit his reasoning. He does not refrain from attacking the person of the author whose ideas he does not like.
O. Densusianu and Al. Philippide
The Latin character of Rumanian had been generally accepted long ago and, almost generally, also the theory that it developed from Latin spoken in Dacia Traiana. There were, however, Rumanian scholars who were sceptical and sought alternative explanations, as for example Filaret Scriban, who asserted that the Rumanians were of Sarmatian origin. In general, however, Rumanian origins were not studied too intensely in that era. Nevertheless, in due course, knowledge about the Rumanian language increased.
During the last decades of the 19th century, Rumanian linguistics established itself as an independent discipline and professional linguists appeared who occupied themselves with problems of linguistics alone. Thus, the prerequisites for a new synthesis were created, for a fresh look upon a problem hitherto not studied by modern scientific methods: the question of the origin of the Rumanian language.
Ovid Densusianu (1873-1938), the disciple of Gaston Paris and Adolf Tobler, was a linguist in whom extensive knowledge of the Rumanian language, his mother-tongue, was coupled with a sincere, almost passionate desire for finding the truth. His chief work, Histoire de la langue roumaine (I: Les origines; II: Le seizičme sičcle) appeared in 1901.
Densusianu collected and weighed a vast amount of linguistic material which gave him a solid basis for the drawing of conclusions. He also recognized the key role the shepherd way of life of the Rumanians played in the history of their language. All the facts point to a territory in close contact with Italy not only until the 3rd century A.D. but very much later. At the same time, no linguistic phenomena indicate any contact with the populations which are known to have been living north of the lower Danube in the centuries after the abandonment of Dacia Traiana by the Romans. Densusianu concludes that the area in which Rumanian was formed must have been Illyria.
It is easy to imagine that, as I. Iordan put it, this book was ,,a revelation" (I. Iordan, Linguistica, 1975, p. 98. note 11). Finally, 90 years after P. Maior's History of the origins of the Rumanians in Dacia, every Rumanian had the opportunity to read a scientific treatise about the origin of his mother-tongue written by an objective and well-prepared Romance scholar. Fully aware of the importance of his findings and conclusions, Densusianu addresses future Rumanian philologists, trying to persuade them to break with tradition that impedes the progress of Rumanian philology:
,,Patriotism as it is conceived today in Rumania will impede the progress of Rumanian philology for a long time to come, hindering the investigators from seeking and telling the truth. The true patriot is not he who seeks to denature the facts and to deceive himself, and the scientist forgets his duty if he does not tell the truth no matter how painful it may be". (O. Densusianu; Histoire de la langue roumaine, 1901; in the 1975 edition, p.26).
Densusianu was not alone in Rumania in conducting impartial research with the passionate interest to find the truth about the origins of his mother-tongue. This scholar in Bucharest had a colleague in Iasi, the capital of Moldavia, who also wrote a large treatise about the problem: Alexandru Philippide (1859-1934).
The changed political situation
Between the two World Wars, much work was done in order to prove the continuity of the Romans (and Rumanians) from the 4th through the 11th centuries, especially by archaeological investigations in Transylvania. Constantin Daicoviciu expressed repeatedly his conviction that definitive archaeological proofs have been found; for example in his preface to D. Protase's Problema continuitâtii in Dacia in lumina arheologiei si numismaticii (The problem of the continuity in Dacia in the light of archaeology and numismatics). It should be pointed out, however, that opposite views were not suppressed: Originea rominilor by Al. Philippide appeared at that time and even a Hungarian book in which the history of the Rumanians is presented entirely according to the ,,immigrationist" view could appear in 1931 in Cluj-Kolozsvár. See B. Jancsó: Erdély története (The History of Transylvania), ed. Minerva.
Such opinions are entirely absent from the writings published in Rumania during the past three decades. Today, every text dealing with this problem, from newspaper articles to scientific treatises, defends unanimously the theory of continuity. The theory is not presented and treated as one of several possibilities, seriously questioned by several Rumanian and foreign scholars, but rather as an axiom.
A single exception would be a new edition of O. Densusianu's Histoire de la langue roumaine in 1975, but this publication in French reached only a very limited number of readers. Moreover, it was provided with a preface and notes in which Densusianu's arguments and ideas are criticized and ,,corrected".
Thus, the main idea of continuity is retained. More disquieting is the fact that the attitude of earlier epochs, in which the adversaries of this ,,Rumanian thesis" were considered people of bad intentions and enemies of the Rumanians still prevails.
In the most recent textbook for university students about the history of the Rumanian language, any idea opposing the theory is declared both un-scientific and chauvinistic!
However, several of Maior's arguments are still used, often in the same form as Maior presented them some 170 years ago. Thus, ,,logical" considerations, without any material evidence from written sources or any other data are still used extensively.
The main arguments in favour of the theory of continuity have been derived, for a long time, from archaeological investigations. This is the case also today; the arguments forwarded within the areas of history and linguistics (including onomastics) are mainly defensive in nature.
A number of settlements and cemeteries from the 4th and 5th centuries, but also from later epochs, have been considered to have been left by a Romanized population. Roman coins found north of the lower Danube are said to demonstrate the existence there of ,,Daco-Romans,,. The same significance is claimed for a number of objects of Christian character dated to the 4th and 5th centuries. Thus, an ex voto, from the 4th century, found near Medgyes (German Mediash, Rumanian Medias) in Transylvania with the inscription ,,Ego Zenovius votum posui" (I, Zenovius, have placed this present) is said to be:
,,a very important proof of the old age of Christianity in the Latin language in Dacia and of the continuity of the Daco-Roman population after the retreat of the legions" (Giurescu: Istoria românilor, 1975, p. 148). (The actual list given includes villages like Bicsad in the [county] of Oas, county Satu Mare, Racsa, etc.)
Now it is a peculiar fact that not a single name of those villages and areas in which these putative ,,Daco-Romans,, lived is of Rumanian origin: -oas derives from Hungarian Avas (Avas 'scrubby, bushy'), Orasul Nou, earlier Ioaras: from Hungarian Ujváros (Abaújváros) ('New Town'), mentioned in a document from 1270 A.D. as Nova Civitas or Wynarus (=Wywarus) and in 1370 as Wyuaras, Wyuaros. (The modern Rumanian form is thus the translation of Hungarian Ujváros).
Satu Mare, earlier Satmar, from Hungarian Szatmár, first mentioned in a document from 1213 as Castrum Zathmar (the name originates from a German personal name; the modern Rumanian name developed by popular etymology; it means 'Great Village').
Bicsad is borrowed from Hungarian Bikszád or Bükszád (Hungarian bükk 'beech', szád 'opening'), mentioned in a document from 1478 as Bykzad.
Racsa, Hungarian Ráksa, is first mentioned in a document (from 1493) as Rakos, in another from 1512 as Raksa. (These data were taken from C. Suciu: Dictionar istoric al localitatilor din Transilvania, Bucharest, vol. I and II, 1967, 1968).
As regards the value of these pictures in proving ,,the continuity of the 'Daco-Romans' in the Carpathian region", no comments are necessary, exactly as it is not necessary today to point out, for example, that Rumanian birau 'judge' does not derive, as P. Maior believed, from Latin vir magnus but from Hungarian bíró 'judge'.
A new interpretation:
Today the trend seems to be the opposite of this. It is now argued that the most important part of the ancestors of the Rumanians were the Dacians, autochthonous in the whole territory of present day Rumania.
Giurescu describes this relatively new concept as follows: In Dacia Traiana, roman domination lasted for only about 170 years. In Pannonia and in Britannia, the Romans were in power twice as long and still, no lasting roman population developed in these countries. Why? - Giurescu asks.
,,Because only with functionaries and people coming from other areas no new aspect, no new life may be imprinted in a territory". (Giurescu, 1975, p. 127).
Romanization was successful in Dacia, says Giurescu, because the Romans
,,.....represented a superior civilization, a material and cultural creation which synthesized an entire evolution of hundreds of years and as such, it won over the autochthones. These, increasingly convinced and drawn by the advantages of Roman life, learned the language of the conquerors, took their names and were Romanized,, (Giurescu, 1975, p. 127).
Romans, i.e., people from Italy, were very few in Dacia Traiana, states Giurescu rightly (pp. 95 and 125). The colonists in that province were mostly Thracian, Illyrian, Pannonian, people from the East and Greeks. But the number of all these together ,,did not exceed that of the autochthones, the Dacians" (p. 135). And this people ,,is on the basis of our nation as the most significant ethnic component" (p. 62; emphasis added).
The festivities in 1980 of ,,the creation of the first centralized and independent Dacian state" emphasize this new trend. One may ask whether the 2000th anniversary was celebrated in 1930? No anniversary of any kind was even mentioned then! This is no surprise, since the year 1980 as the 2050th anniversary of the first Dacian state was chosen quite arbitrarily. Neither the year in which king Burebista seized power, nor any period of time during which he united the Dacians is recorded. On the basis of a few, vague descriptions, one may guess that these events happen between 82 and 70 or even 60 B.C. What then, is the reason for this remarkable celebration?
The West German publicist Viktor Meier gives, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 18, 1978, a concise answer:
,,One wonders why exactly 2050 years and whether this is known with any precision. Professor Hadrian Daicoviciu of the University of Klausenburg, (German ,,Klausenburg,,; Hungarian ,,Kolozsvár,,; Rumanian ,,Cluj,,), as the successor of his father, the leader of Rumanian research on the Dacians, gives a plausible answer: The leadership asked the scientists for a date in the near future which would be suitable for an exhaustive presentation of the significance of the Dacians in Rumanian history".
 Constantinus Porphyrogenitus, 905-959 A.D. Byzantine emperor, erudite scholar; cf. Fontes Historiae Dacoromanae, II ed. H. Mihaescu et al., Bucharest, 1970, pp. 656-668.
 Istoria româniei, ed. C. Daicoviciu, Bucharest, 1960, vol. II, p. 47.
 Cf., for example, two articles by R.S. Popescu in Limba româna, Bucharest, XXII, 4, 1973, pp. 309-314 and XXIV, 3, 1975, pp. 263-266; I. Kniezsa GGGKeletmagyarország helyneveiGGG (The place-names in eastern Hungary), in Magyarok és románok, (Hungarians and Rumanians), ed. J. Deér and L. Gáldi, Budapest, 1943, pp.111-113.
|Lajos Kazar: Facts against fiction|