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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