|Stefan Pascu: A History of Transylvania|
1. What is historical truth? This is a difficult question and it may be maintained that it is impossible to write a thoroughly impartial and objective history. "The historian might pursue its course on the lines dictated by his own curiosity, skill, and ability, eventually arriving at whatever approximation of the truth that these provide him." 265 When Pascu writes, for example, about the economic situation of Transylvania towards the end of the 19th century, he may be said to pursue the course dictated by his own curiosity and arrives at an approximation of the truth. - However, there are circumstances and events, often simple, which are obvious for everyone familiar with the subject in question. There are also elementary rules of describing the past, which should not be violated. Thus, for example, quotations should not be torn out of their contexts. Pascu quotes Auxentius Durostorensis in a way which is false by all standards. He quotes certain sentences chosen in order to be able to draw the desired conclusions. It is sufficient to read the relevant text in its entirety to confirm this and state that the real conclusion is the opposite of what Pascu pretends (see above, pp. 34 - 35). Another example of unacceptable methods is the way Pascu writes about presumed Rumanian districts (tari) in Transylvania before the arrival of the Hungarians. As shown above, p. 32, in Voievodatul Transilvaniei, he indicates that the many "tari" he enumerates are only assumed to have existed, in Rumanian: vor fi existat. In the English version this is omitted, so that the reader is left with the false information that a large number of politically organized Rumanian districts existed in Transylvania in the 10th - 11th centuries.
2.A serious weakness of this treatise is the lack of references. Assertions are made which, upon checking, are shown to be entirely without a material basis. This is the case, for example, with Pascu's assertion that on the eve of the Tartar invasion, out of the population of Transylvania, "roughly 65 percent were Romanian" (cf. above, p. 56).
3. Although Pascu certainly knows them, he evades to mention important juridical categories of the state and the constitution, which could explain the internal differences between the Hungarian state and the young Rumanian kingdom. Through the entire presentation of the period between the 10th and the 19th century, Pascu disregards the contemporary social conditions in Europe and reflects back present day nationalistic ways of thinking into the past. This causes a biased view and a basically false writing of history. This is the more remarkable as Pascu is a Transylvanian himself, thus, he should know the great difference between the feudal nation and the concept of the nation in its modern sense. However, this attitude must be intentious, - otherwise it would not be possible to present the thousand years old Hungarian state as a historical interlude. The history of Transylvania before 1918 is an integral part of the history of Hungary.
4. Pascu's History of Transylvania is not really a scientific treatise but rather directed at laymen; and the author seems to reckon with the relatively scarce knowledge of the non-professional reader. The book is in its contents one-sided, tendentious and distorted, written in the spirit of extreme nationalism and the structure of the work is designed singularly from this viewpoint. 266
5. The book was written in the most tense period of the Hungarian-Rumanian relations, when Ion Lancranjan published his essay "Cuvînt despre Transilvania" [Essay about Transylvania], Bucharest, 1982; a literary work conceived in an intolerant, extremely chauvinistic spirit. 267 As stated by Andrew Ludanyi: 268
Rumania's assertion that Transylvania is the communal property, sphere of interest, and inheritance exclusively of the Rumanian people makes the existence of Hungarians and other minorities an inconvenience that must be overcome in some fashion, via emigration, assimilation, exclusion, or deportation.
About at the same time, European historiography started to revise the interpretation of events occurred at the beginning of the century. This did not mean that the conclusions drawn should affect everyday politics. Historical truth may be sought in an objective way and has a value in itself. New interpretations of events were tried also by Hungarian historians. However, Rumanian historiography, dominated by politicians, was not able to free itself from the traditional conditionings and saw in this endeavour a kind of ideological groundwork of politics striving at territorial revision.
6. Pascu describes the history of Transylvania almost exclusively from the viewpoint of the Rumanian population, (which shortly before the union in 1920 with Rumania made out 53%, thus, just above half of the inhabitants). The significance of the Rumanians is grotesquely magnified, while that of the other nationalities is neglected. In reality, these nationalities: the Hungarians (with the Szeklers) and the Saxons played a decisive, leading role in the history of Transylvania. Also the relations between the different Transylvanian peoples are described in a misleading way.
7. Besides its extreme nationalistic preconception, Pascu's book shows also the traces of a conservative Marxistic conception in its terminology and style.This was also pointed out by Paul E. Michelson's Foreword, p. XIV.
8. The thought system behind Pascu's writing of history is that of certain Rumanian political circles and aims at creating an ideological basis, a justification, of the present situation by reflecting the present day chauvinistic system of ideas back into the past, in which these could not have existed.
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It was mentioned above that the Rumanian national (irredentist) movement, dominated by an intolerant attitude vis-à-vis the non-Rumanian inhabitants, was only one of the political options of the Rumanians living in Transylvania. It has most of the time been stronger than the moderates and is still today a significant factor in politics. This movement strives for supremacy, for exclusivity in Transylvania, and does not recognize the right to existence of other folk groups (which had been living in the country for more than one thousand years). This ideology is based on an old fashioned, 19th century nationalism. Writing of history in this spirit, as shown in this book by Stefan Pascu, has always been and is still an important part of this chauvinistic policy. History is transformed in such a way that it explains and justifies the claims for exclusivity of the Rumanians: they were the autochthons, conquered and subdued by the ancestors of the Hungarians, who also have kept them centuries along in servitude.
No real peace and coexistence between the three major folk groups in Transylvania is possible as long as these utterly false concepts are taken as truth by the majority, or even by a significant number of the Rumanians.
In the 20th century, two great wars and several minor ones were fought in Europe. Two totalitarian systems rose and fell in this century, both of which used the falsification of reality (present and past) as a very efficient weapon in their striving for more power. Now that these powers have disappeared, also their spiritual base of lies and falsifications should be eradicated. A radical change in writing of history is therefore a prerequisite of a durable peace. For Rumania, such a change would imply the disposal of the theory of Daco-Roman continuity. This should be substituted by the description of the development of the Rumanian people from the ancient Balkan population who were Romanized during the Roman period there, and their wanderings towards the north-east beginning in the 11th-12th centuries. Also the subsequent history, thus, for example the relation between the different folk groups in Transylvania should be described without prejudice.
There is today some reason to hope that these ideas will, some day, be generally accepted.There have always been and there are even today Rumanian historians and linguists who wanted to do research without prejudice and political considerations: Ioan Bogdan (1864 - 1919), professor of history at Bucharest University, the most important Rumanian slavist; Dimitrie Onciul (1856 - 1923), the founder of the critical school of Rumanian historiography. Radu Rosetti (1853 - 1926) pursued research of the past without idealizing it. Constantin Giurescu (1875 - 1918) distinguished himself from other historians of his period by using a much richer documentation. - Some years after the first World War, historians started to criticize Nicolae Iorga's strongly nationalistic and biased method of writing history. In 1931, a new programme for Rumanian historiography was proclaimed in the Revista Istorica Româna by Gheorghe Bratianu, Constantin Giurescu, and Petre Panaitescu. They stated that historians should seek the truth without political considerations. To give an example, we refer here only to P. Panaitescu, who studied carefully the documents of the surrounding peoples, (especially those of the Poles,) in order to see the history of the Rumanians objectively and in its context. His monograph on Michael the Brave is a masterpiece of writing history based on facts revealed by careful research (cf. above, p. 92).
Ovid Densusianu (1873 - 1938) wrote the first scientific history of the Rumanian language, based on a vast material, showing its close connections with the Balkan languages. He explicitly warned his colleagues of doing research according to preconceived, nationalistic ideas. Alexandru Philippide (1859 - 1933) concluded his research about the Rumanian language with the thesis that it developed, until the 7th century, south of the lower Danube. Also the history of the Rumanian language by Alexandru Rosetti contains the facts that confirm Densusianu's conclusions, and this may be said also about much of the writings of Ion I. Russu. (It should be remembered that their works appeared mainly in a period when there was no freedom of research and publishing.)
The majority of the Rumanian people in Transylvania, who are living together with or near the Hungarians and Saxons, also want peace between the different nationalities. Also many politicians would like to act according to the traditional Transylvanian spirit of tolerance and cooperation. They know that different folk groups can live in the same state, that they all contribute to the richness of life and culture and that such a situation does not menace any folk group, nor the stability of the state - to the contrary. There are, fortunately, a number of examples of this in Europe.
Clarifying the past is one of the prerequisites of this. We hope that the present book, by disclosing the prejudiced, chauvinistic writing of history, will contribute to a return of Rumanian historiography to its predecessors who sought only the truth, because "the real patriot is not he who wants to falsify reality and to deceive himself, and the scientist forgets his duty if he evades telling the truth, however painful it may be". 269
266 Pascu's History of Transylvania seems to have been ordered by a single person; something suggested by the fact that in the Hungarian version (p. 7), a quotation from N. Ceausescu is found.
267 Lancranjan continued the tradition of those Rumanian politicians who strived to exclusivity for one (the Rumanians) of the three major peoples in Transylvania, totally ignoring the others: "Transylvania is not and cannot be a simple eastern Switzerland, because on both sides of the Carpathians, one single people, one single will, ( un singur popor, o singura vrere have lived and worked, loved and dreamt, since the most ancient times..." (p. 136; emphasis added). It appears from the present volume that this is not true; the Rumanians started to settle in Transylvania earliest at the beginning of the 13th century, among Hungarians, Saxons, and Slavs. Of course, Lancranjan's attitude does not correspond to modern, humane standards, also without regard to history or numerical considerations. - For more details about Lancranjan's essay see the critical survey below.
268 Andrew Ludanyi, "Ideology and Political Culture in Rumania: The Daco-Roman Theory and the 'Place' of Minorities", p. 230; in: Transylvania. The Roots of Ethnic Conflict , ed. J.F. Cadzow, A.Ludanyi, L.J. Elteto, The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, 1983.
269O. Densusianu, Histoire de la langue roumaine, ed. 1975, Bucharest, p. 26.
|Stefan Pascu: A History of Transylvania|