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Nationalist Discourse in Contemporary Romania: Dan Puric’s „Cine Suntem”

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coperta

Excerpt:

Dar exista o alta Romanie. Orice popor are o virtualitate, orice popor are o dimensiune si o identitate care ies din contingent. Termenul de natiune este unul contingent. Natiunea este un construct istoric si unul politic. Neamul, nu! Neamul are origine transcendenta, zice parintele Staniloaie. Trece prin istorie, prin meteorologia istoriei, si dainuieste. In sensul acesta, de dainuire, ce poate sa ofere poporul roman Comunitatii Europene? Ce da el Comunitatii Europene?

El are ceva de oferit, de care Comunitatea Europeana nu are nevoie deocamdata. (115)

(…) Ziaristul spunea altceva: ca (migratia) ne mai schimba noua mentalitatea asta tafnoasa, regionala, nationalista. Eu vin si spun specialistului astuia in multiidentitate: un model care se poate da Europei este modelul dobrogean. Sunt 16 etnii acolo, care traiesc fara placute identitare. Ce-ar fi sa trimitem noi Europei un articol si sa intrebam: puteti trai fara placute identitare? Cum? Uite-asa: dupa modelul nostru. Printr-un metabolism de asimilare istoric, in Dobrogea sunt tatari, evrei, armeni, greci, nu mai stiu cati altii, bulgari, albanezi. Stau acolo si traiesc impreuna. Centralismul comunist a incercat sa-i egalizeze (monoculturalismul facut de societatile comuniste nu l-am inventat noi, romanii). Dar, pe dedesubt, era o fibra comunicationala extraordinara. Care nu avea nevoie de nici o ideologie. Noi n-aveam nevoie de multiculturalism. Acum se discuta de un fel de identitate multipla. Adica, ma faci navetist, plec dintr-o cultura in alta. Ma intreb de ce nu intra in Europa modelul dobrogean; unde unul manca pasca lui cu celalalt, oul de la Pasti il imparteau…, fara probleme ideologice. (119-120)

Dupa atata patimire, poporul acesta are o tristete hristica. Caci tristetea hristica nu e deznadejde, este doar suspinul lui Dumnezeu privind catre omul cazut. Statutul fiintal al romanului ca tristete ontologica nu-l paralizeaza pe acesta in credinta sa, ci din contra, paradoxal, il intareste. Caci adevarata nadejde crestina nu inseamna suspendarea necazului prin asteptarea optimista, ci folosirea acesteia, a suferintei, ca poarta ce-l duce spre pragul mantuirii. Felul acesta de a fi al romanului adevarat a spart zidurile inchisorilor comuniste, a spulberat piatra uitarii ce se asezase pe memoria cinstita a acestui neam.

Crestinismul omului romanesc s-a nascut dintr-o lumina aparte. Omenia, ca dat stramosesc al acestui neam, a fost aeroportul pe care a aterizat lin credinta crestina si din aceasta imbinare de rai si de inger a lui Dumnezeu s-a nascut Gradina Maicii Domnului, numita Romania. Peste ea a cazut necrutator, nedrept si barbar, istoria, iar dincolo de istorie, cu mult in afara ei, comunismul. (150-1)

The necessary preliminaries for the analysis of Dan Puric’s identitarian discourse need to take into account his theatrical persona, both on and off the theatrical stage, turned into the public figure who constructs the rhetoric of national identity. His media appearances weigh significantly in entertainment, through the role-playing, anecdotes, and jokes that he interprets; his speech is destined to reach a heterogeneous, television-watching audience, being delivered either in talk-shows or in non-academic conferences; his loquacity and spontaneity have won him the sympathy of his public, therefore his definitions of Romanian national identity pass to the listener smoothly, almost subliminally, as if they were products being advertised for. Confusion between theological preaching, mere opinions on the present political agenda, cultural activism and his theory on Romanians’ national identity is increased by this type of discourse. Not even in his explicitly entitled book, Cine suntem (Who we are), which supposedly offers the updated situation of our identitarian process – as he rightfully adjusts the question into “Cine mai suntem? (Who are we anymore?)”(Puric 144) – does he manage to convey a unitary text with a critical argumentation. Therefore, we will use in the present undertaking relevant fragments of the text which encompass Puric’s nationalist discourse and we will identify its ideological preferences and tendencies,  along with their tropological correspondences, drawing from  Bogdan Stefanescu’s typology of rhetorical strategies,  which builds upon Hayden White’s famous categorization of tropes within historiographic discourse.

The difficulty encountered in analyzing Dan Puric’s text was to separate the patriotic, over-emotional fragments from a coherent, systematic, self-reflexive discourse on Romanian national identity. His tendency is to exacerbate preeminent cultural and historical figures, to use sentimentalism and to make exaggerated use of metaphor, poetic language and quotes from various Romanian priests, poets, philosophers or Western postmodern thinkers and linguists. Being a collection of interviews, conferences and speeches, the book offers the possibility of identifying and selecting the fragments which depict “nationalism as a form of self-consciousness, which conceives one’s identity in relation to collectivities”, focusing on the nation’s “internal cohesion” and reacting against the “external coercion” (Stefanescu); in Puric’s view, his mission is to recapture the foundational myth of Divine emanation which has been torn apart by ages of foreign occupation and Communist torture. He considers his endeavor a vital exercise of anamnesis which should be done in order to regain the national conscience forgotten along the way. For him, ‘nation’ is a contingent concept, an empty historical and political construct meant for administrative purposes; therefore, it is not this notion he is trying to recuperate and refill with meaning, but the Romanian neam, which has transcendental origins (Puric 115). We will come back and discuss the rhetorical implications of him insisting upon the notion of neam in the analysis of his use of “archetropes”  in shaping an ideologically charged nationalist discourse.

Puric’s nationalist theories are heavily influenced by and anchored in the Romanian neonationalist movement at the beginning of the 20th century, popularized through Nichita Crainic’s magazine Gandirea, starting with 1926. The movement appeared as a reaction to the democratic tolerance of urban influences upon the traditionally rural Romanian community, brought in by the Hungarian and Jewish minorities. Nicolae Iorga’s propaganda of anti-Semitic nationalism and, three decades later, Nichifor Crainic’s manifesto regarding the ethnocratic state, in which minorities inhabiting the Romanian space were called “invaders”, “colonizers” or surreptitious infiltrators (Sugar 227), have deepened the roots of xenophobia in the nationalist discourse. As stated in Stefanescu’s study, there is still a certain “xenophobic infamy” associated with Romanian nationalist policies, although significant progress has been made in harmonizing ethnic conflicts; however, the historical tradition of intolerance in nationalist discourses – identifiable also in the Communist regime and in the 1990’s – still haunts the mentality of both the Romanian society and the foreign public opinion on the Romanian nation. If we look at the present political discourses in Romania, national identity is defined, on the one hand, as opposed either to the Eastern Europe or Balkan identity, or to the Hungarian, Roma, Ukrainian or other ethnic minorities; it is assimilated, on the other hand, to the Western European Union and to the United States.

Puric excludes, in his concept of nationalism, the intolerance based on ethnic, religious or racial grounds, and he stands against adapting and applying external, foreign policies and social norms, practiced by other nations or communities, to Romania, situating himself against the official nationalist discourse and tendencies. Moreover, he reevaluates Titu Maiorescu’s theory of “forme fara fond” (forms with no content) and supplements it with the neonationalist view on the actual substance of Romanian culture, residing in Orthodox Christianity – manifested through the belief in divine predestination, altruism and togetherness. (Sugar 237) The motivation of such a long-going pursuit of defining the inherent specificity of the Romanian people (see his upcoming volume, „The Romanian Soul”), as Dan Puric is neither a historian, nor a politician or a cultural analyst, could be explained by taking into consideration John Hutchinson’s “paradigmatic figure of the national community” (Hutchinson and Smith 123), the artist, for whom the perpetually evolving community represents a source of creativity. In Hutchinson’s terms, the artist who engages into a reconstruction of the sense of belonging to a historic, unique, organic community by reassessing its traditional values in cultural societies is a cultural nationalist. Rather mystical than rational, the cultural nationalist’s endeavour is “to inspire a spontaneous love of community in its different members by educating them to their common heritage of splendour and suffering” (124). Perhaps intuitively, realizing the absence of a contemporary Romanian cultural nationalist, Puric adopted this posture.

Analyzing the rhetoric of Puric’s nationalist discourse becomes imperative when his ideas gain wide popularity amongst the Romanian people. He is invited to prime time talk shows on national holidays, he keeps his conferences in the Hall of the Romanian Athenaeum, he reaches his audiences through various media; therefore, the counter-discourse offered by Puric which challenges the legitimacy of the official nationalist discourse becomes mainstream. It is significant, in this context, to identify the ideological tendency of his rhetoric by tracing the “modes of historiographic consciousness” (White) leading to the ideological choices.

In Cine suntem, we can not speak about a single “archetypal mental pattern” (Stefanescu); the purpose of the discourse is felt throughout the text: it tries to transmit a set of ideas and a value system for the members of society, regarding both their spiritual collective identity and the more pragmatic, socio-political choices. His ideology is a – sometimes paradoxical – mixture of conservative, radicalist and anarchist attitudes, out of which the predominant one seems to be the latter.

Considering Stefanescu’s system of four archetropes defining mechanisms and correspondences between the tropology of discourse and the ideological preferences hidden in the subtext, Puric’s favorite tropes  map his nationalist discourse. By his extensive use of metaphor, symbol and personification in describing the Romanian neam, he is inscribed in the tradition of Anarchic Nationalism, promoting an irrational self-identification and empathy and pleading for the rupture between the socio-political impositions (constructed under the “nation”) and the authentic, essential, traditional spirit of the “neam”. The neam is seen as a natural and harmonious organism which has survived the “aberrant history” because of its unitary and solid backbone, the Christian faith. For him, the foundational myth which has helped the Romanian people in surviving the deviant political systems is Christian, the Romanians being God-given under the holy sacrament and their land being named the Garden of Virgin Mary (Puric 151). Faith, courage, wisdom, Christian dignity, and the strength to transform tragedies into reflection and atonement are, in Puric’s view, the hallmarks of Romanian identity. Given its transcendental and encompassing value, the neam is able not only to survive the superficial socio-political contracts, legislation, unions, but also to escape them and generate a natural model of self-governance: “Eu vin si spun specialistului astuia in multiidentitate: un model care se poate da Europei este modelul dobrogean. Sunt 16 etnii acolo, care traiesc fara placute identitare. Ce-ar fi sa trimitem noi Europei un articol si sa intrebam: puteti trai fara placute identitare?”/”Let me tell that multiidentity specialist this: a model for Europe is our own Dobrogea model. There are 16 ethnicities living there with no identitarian labels. What if we’d send an article to Europe and ask them: can you live with no identitarian labels?” (Puric 120) Western policies such as political correctness, multiculturalism and assimilation are mocked because of their contractual character, while Romania is seen as superior for hosting various cultures or ethnic groups who have been historically and organically assimilated. Taking Dobrogea as a representative model for Romania is a faulty synecdoche, as it is sufficient to go up or left on the map in order to clash with the conflicts between Romanians and Rromas, Hungarians, and other ethnic groups. It is common in nationalist discourses to offer a coherent version of history in order to achieve continuity and Puric tries to bridge the past and the projected future, as well; however, the downside of this technique is the omission or distortion of simple facts – not only are there mystifications and exaggerations of Romanian figures and events for the benefit of its image, but the selection of representative parts for the whole nation is, obviously, biased.

It is interesting, in this case, his understanding of Romanians’ relevant history, the one which is faithful to the national identity. The communist past is completely separated from the natural evolution of events: it represents the invader, the criminal outsider who has imposed himself over the inside rules of the Romanian people, and tainted the “honest memory” (150) of the neam. He never mentions the Romanian people during the Communist regime as being active, but only passive; cruel things have happened to them, they were forced to endure, they were killed, tortured, they were the victims of external weapons. Along with this unfortunate period came the following one, continued in the present. This time, the Romanian people are again the passive figures: they are anesthetized, put to sleep, bought, so that they are in the posture of victims without them realizing it. The present system, sarcastically called “ghiveciul national”, encourages ignorance, indulgence, and confusion. Intellectuals are perhaps his strongest competition, as they are accused of trying to deconstruct and demystify Romania’s identity, politicians are corrupt and blasphemous, and the people are lost in “an ocean of ignorance”. Therefore, he opposes both the present and the recent past. Unlike an anarchist, who would not praise any kind of alternative state or legal authority, Dan Puric turns to the Conservative Nationalist tradition of the 19th century in an attempt to reassess the true values of the Romanians who only then have managed to surface, to be acknowledged and to shape the nation from within. He quotes from Mihai Eminescu, Titu Maiorescu and “Junimea”, Scoala Ardeleana, Mihail Kogalniceanu, admiring and almost conjuring representative figures of Romanian conservative nationalists in order for him to demonstrate the weight of their theories of Romanian-ness. He also shares with the conservatives the idea that a value should not be democratically prioritized, but it should be left to follow its own path and consider it as the basis for solid constructions. He encourages the development of the neam, not the reinventing of its identity. He does not, however, specifically propose a conservative ideology for Romania, and, at least in the present collection of texts, he lacks the self-reflexive irony of a conservative nationalist’s rhetoric, mentioned in Stefanescu’s system of ideological mental patterns.

The antithesis which marks Puric’s disapproval of the official political discourse, namely the relationship between Romania and the Western states, could mark a Radicalist tendency. As defined in Stefanescu’s text, “The Arch-Radical shares with the Anarchist a commitment to discontinuity both in his call for abrupt or revolutionary change and in his concern with the singularity of his nation.” (Stefanescu) He advocates for a drastic change of perspective in what regards international affairs, and highlights the distinctiveness of Romania in comparison to a formal union of Western states. His more materialistic, rational and analytical discourse on foreign affairs, diplomacy and global economy lacks, however, concrete alternatives of social and political practices which would permit Romania to cut off from foreign alliances.

Although his theories are the product of different, sometimes diverging ideological influences, the centrality of the Romanian neam, the focus on a God-given, transcendental community and the irrational manner of reassessing the archetypal connection between the Romanian people and their distinctness from the political authorities or unions suggest an anarchist choice of rhetoric. His speech is both theological, as he preaches for the redemption of the Romanian people and their embracing Christian values, and nationalistic, as he encourages people to become aware of their own collective national identity – of their language, faith, myths, literature, history – for their own survival as a neam.

Works Cited:

Hutchinson, J. & A.D.Smith. Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Print

Niessen, James P. “Nationalismul Romanesc: o ideologie a integrarii si a mobilizarii.” Nationalismul est-european in secolul al XX-lea. Ed. Sugar, F. Peter, Bucuresti: Curtea Veche, 2002. 226-250. Print

Puric, Dan. Cine Suntem. Bucuresti: Platytera, 2008. Print

Stefanescu, Bogdan. “On The Discrimination of Nationalisms: The Rhetoric of Identity in Romanian Culture”, in Krytyka no. 11/nov. 1999, Kiew. <http://stefanescu-optional.blogspot.com/

Written by Adriana

Ianuarie 15, 2013 at 2:13 am

Post-Revolutionary Attitudes: Review of „Năravuri Româneşti”, by Ruxandra Cesereanu

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Ruxandra-Cesereanu-Naravuri-romanesti          The collection of texts in Ruxandra Cesereanu’s volume gathers political stands and mentality  essays written for various magazines (Revista 22, Romania Libera, Suplimentul de Cultura), either as pamphlets, or as small studies of recent history, which are part of her more ample research on the Communist resistance, Revolution and Gulag, Romanian stereotypes,  prejudgments and violent imaginary. The imperative of post-communist political, social and cultural development in Romania is, in her view, the ethical engagement in establishing and recognizing the crimes of the totalitarian regime, proposing the following as a logical procedure: identifying the members of the regime who have supported and encouraged the violation of human rights and properly excluding them from the democratic government. Her endeavor in outlining basic moral judgments and principles for the Romanian post-communist state is motivated by her belief that “today’s argotic and corrupt Romania is less likely to be saved through culture, but more through moral directions.”(29) She is one of the intellectual elites who, having studied and written literature and scientific works, discards cultural models as “perisabile si uneori zadarnic-orgolioase”, therefore unfit for a proper observation of the Romanian society: “intelectualii au intepenit in ideile lor fixe si in bataliile lor conceptuale. Ma intereseaza, in schimb, cruciada interioara a romanilor.” (29) Whether or not she is referring to the ideological quarrels of the past 20 years in Romania, the liberals versus the conservatives, the leftists, neo-Marxists or the intellectuals embracing capitalism, her discourse is not ideologically charged (although she actively supported President Basescu in 2007 against the Parliament referendum, but only as a manifest against the legacy of Communism and political corruption). She aims at reestablishing the ethics of the political agenda in correctly judging and expressing the crimes of Communism in a transparent manner in order for any similar type of coercion to be avoided in the future and she also pleads for the moral purification of the Romanian people as a necessary step towards a healing of the Communist trauma in the collective consciousness.

The major official attempts at establishing a moral direction of the post-revolutionary society are, according to Cesereanu’s texts, the following: firstly, Proclamatia de la Timisoara, which later became the manifesto of the upheaval in the University Square in Bucharest (22nd of April – 13th of June, 1990), also known as Golaniada; secondly, the Trial of Communism bringing the official condemnation of the crimes of Communism, and thirdly, the lustration law, mentioned in the Proclamatie in the 1990’s (point 8), put forward by the Liberals in 2005 and rejected in 2010 as “unconstitutional” by the Constitutional Court, after having been called “undemocratic, anti-constitutional and violating human rights” by the Social Democrats. (Hotnews.ro) We will focus on the first two actions in the subsequent lines.

Proclamatia de la Timisoara (March 11th, 1990, coordinated by writer George Serban and the “Timisoara” Society) proposed the return and reestablishment of the anticommunist principles and beliefs of the 1989 Revolution. Because of the distortions and resistance orchestrated in the immediate period following the Revolution, the role of the Proclamation was to officially reassess eight fundamental laws, ideals of the inception of the Revolution in Timisoara, among which the following were clarified: the Revolution in Timisoara was not anticeausist, but anticommunist, therefore its object was not Nicolae Ceausescu himself, but the entire totalitarian regime and active members of the Romanian Communist Party. This distinction is relevant in the discussion on the lustration law, pointed at the political elite of Communist Romania. The following matters of the Proclamation contribute to what Ruxandra Cesereanu calls an attempt of “re-Europeanization of Romania” (38) – the question of whether or not Romania had been integrated in the European landscape before the Gheorghe-Gheorghiu Dej ruling is debatable and will be left aside – through the display of a model of tolerance, cooperation and freedom of expression among Romanian citizens of different age, ethnicity and political views, which dismisses red nationalism and propaganda.

Points 7 and 8 of the Proclamatie focus on the necessary ethical conditions in electing the post-communist political rulers, Cesereanu emphasizing its character of justice: because of the severe degrees of involvement in the Communist repression, the former Communist activists and Securitate officers were to be restricted from participating in three subsequent elections and prohibited from submitting their candidature to the presidential office (40). The Proclamation explained that in order to have a true revolution, both sides of the social organism had to be revolutionized: the structural program (ideology) and the collective consciousness (moral attitudes); it was supposed to represent for Romania what Cesereanu calls the spiritual, moral and ideologic document of the 1989 Revolution (41), and some of its principles were applied in other ex Communist states such as the Czech Republic or Poland.

The manifestation in the University Square in Bucharest used Proclamatia as a “symbolic constitution” (42), to which other democratic rights were added: free circulation of information in mass-media, the authorization of independent radio and television stations, the autonomy of mass-media, naming a civil as Minister of Interior, pressing charges against the military officers involved in the repression of the Revolution and the promulgation of Point 8 in the Proclamatie. (43) Cesereanu speaks about the symbolism of Golania, which gathered thousands of people in the square, seen as a ground zero, an agora or even a symbolic Parliament. The manifestation had turned into an anti-communist happening (45), where freedom of expression, irony and parody actually gave the feeling of a new, post-modern age. The University had become sacred and morally legitimated, a “spiritual fortress”, “a citadel of the intellectuals” (46) whose democratic status exceeded the less expansive democracy planned for the 1990s. Ruxandra Cesereanu suggests a genius loci of the University Square where one of the few authentic moments of communion between Romanians (15) took place.

The second attempt of determining a moral purification of the Romanian people, this time a successful undertaking, was to highlight the urgent need of a public, official condemnation of the Communist regime by the first man in the state, president Basescu. How would a trial of Communism look like and what would one expect to come out of it? Is it a pathetic spectacle? Or is it an alternative to the deficient educational system which supports ignorance and amnesia instead of recollecting the past? Or can it simply be reduced to rhetoric? Cesereanu gives three main reasons for a necessity of condemning the crimes of Communism: first of all, she speaks of an internal revolution which has not taken place alongside the exterior one and which is badly needed for the collective morality; second of all, at the level of the European Union, it would count as a synchronization with the other states of the former Soviet Bloc who have officially condemned the regime (and as we like to think of ourselves as part of the European states, the gesture would at least bring us closer to their level of morality and civilization); last of all, giving a more pragmatic approach, a trial would protect the Romanians from hypocritical political figures and would at least have them more informed and less vulnerable to manipulation. The blurry, unsteady history of Communism in Romania (which leads to a high possibility of it being transformed into fiction) should get stabilized through information and moral judgments; Cesereanu names the institutes and historians which provide scientific works on the Romanian Gulag in an attempt to succeed into making the trial of Communism a priority for Traian Basescu, since neither Ion Iliescu (“nemernicul”, homo sovieticus), nor Emil Constantinescu (“mediocrul”) have considered the problem imperative. We are aware of the final rapport committed by the Presidency, also known as Raportul Tismaneanu, which led to the 2006 official condemnation of Communism, discourse described by Cesareanu as “a key moment of ethical implications and a politically-moral turning point for Romania” (84). The discourse symbolically attested the complete separation from the Communist regime and engaged into a historically healthy dealing with the past: founding a Museum of Communist Dictatorship in Bucharest, elaborating a history manual about the dictatorship, pronouncing a day of commemoration for the victims of the regime and modifying the restrictive access to the archives of that period.

The ethical trial of Communism is an ongoing process  and it will probably be kept this way – if not on purpose, then because of the ethical crisis of other branches, as well: Ruxandra Cesereanu exemplifies the failure of the Romanian Orthodox Church to maintain the right standards for which they gained the people’s vote of confidence; the economic crisis also brought the ethical crisis of capitalism and the distrust into the political agenda and public discourse. The latest surveys show that 78% of the people questioned sustain that neither they, nor their families have been (negatively) affected by the Communist regime. (Sondaj 16) The current situation influences the collective consciousness, making the investigation of Communist crimes incapable of determining what Ruxandra Cesereanu calls a “moral purification” (73)

Works Cited:

Cesereanu, Ruxandra. Naravuri romanesti. Texte de atitudine. Iasi: Polirom, 2007

Galantonu, Dimitrina. “Curtea Constitutionala – Legea lustratiei este neconstitutionala”. HotNews.ro, 7 Jun.2010. 12 Dec.2010 < http://www.hotnews.ro/>

IICCMER/CSOP. “Atitudini si opinii despre regimul comunist din Romania. Sondaj de opinie publica.”. IICCMER, 9 Dec. 2010. 12 Dec.2010 < http://www.crimelecomunismului.ro/>

“Proclamatia de la Timisoara”. 8 Mar. 2009. 12 Dec. 2010

< http://proclamatia.wordpress.com/>

Written by Adriana

Ianuarie 15, 2013 at 1:28 am