By Ioan Aurel Pop, president of the Romanian Academy
Bucharest, December 4, 2023 – # rbj – In the context of the great holiday on December 1, many of us wonder how our national edifice was built? Some know how to give correct answers, referring to sources and judicious specialized works, others give superficial or malicious answers, with ideas taken out of context and even with the elimination of Romanians as the subject of this act. Today, 105 years after the completion of Romania as a whole, it is good to know that, until the Union of 1918 was reached, our daily union continued to take place, centuries in a row, starting with the first mention of the name Wallachia (Romania, Wallachia ), a fact that happened towards the end of the first millennium of the Christian era.
The Romanians entered history as a ready-made neo-Latin Christian people, together with the Italians, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese and others, that is, through the 9th and 10th centuries, after Christ, and since then, following the old tradition inherited from the Roman state, they formed organized communities. Nicolae Iorga wrote, perhaps, the most beautiful words in prose about Romania and its ancient countries: “In the old days, Romanians did not make any distinction regarding the lands they inhabited; for them, all the land inhabited by Romanians was called Wallachia. Wallachia was also Muntenia, and Moldova, and Transylvania, and all the parts that stretched to the Tisa, all the places where Romanians were found. They didn’t have a special name for the special lands they lived in, and everything was lost for them in this big, overwhelming and very beautiful word, Wallachia”. And he adds, clarifying: “Romania once had a meaning that many have forgotten and some have never understood; it meant all the land ethnographically inhabited by Romanians”. Therefore, “Romania” was everywhere where there were structured groups of Romanians, which is why Romania is a country of countries. Today, after so much time since these reflections, Nicolae Iorga’s conclusions seem to some too sentimental, too far-fetched and even too patriotic or nationalistic, haloed by a romantic atmosphere and influenced by the obsession of our union, which those of the generation from 1900 they lived it once. But beyond the metaphorical and warm language, the great historian’s words reveal a great truth.
In 1918, an old reality became official
Romania was not formed in 1918, but then an old reality was formalized, also recognized internationally, through treaties. The “dominion of the whole Wallachia” has existed since the 14th century, south of the Carpathians, and that Wallachia assumed the mission of reconstituting the political unity of the people whose name it bore. Romania was not formed late, only Romania on the map was allowed to function late and was legally completed only between 1848 and 1918. First, Wallachia south of the Carpathians was united with Wallachia from Răsărit (Moldova between the Carpathians and the Prut), in 1859 (according to the program formulated in 1848), then the independence of this nucleus was conquered from Romania and Dobrogea was integrated into it (1877-1878), and then, at the end of the Great War, united with Bessarabia (on March 27/ April 9, 1918), Bucovina (on November 15/ 28, 1918) and Transylvania (on November 18/ December 1, 1918). It was the only major country program that I fully accomplished. Transylvania with the adjacent provinces represents about 40% of the territory and population of present-day Romania. The Romanians paid for this huge crime with their blood. Romania at the beginning of the 20th century (137,000 square km) fought militarily starting only in 1916, but the other Romanians (more than half of them then), living mainly in Austria-Hungary and Russia, they fought from 1914 to 1918 and sacrificed by the hundreds of thousands. The war ended for the Romanians and Romania only in 1919, with the end of the great military campaign to stop the advance of Bolshevism towards the center and west of Europe. Romania’s entry into the war, in 1916, was inevitable, and King Ferdinand’s decision was judicious. The decision was taken with difficulty, because the Romanians wanted their complete union, and this seemed impossible: if Romania had decided to fight alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary, then, in case of victory, it could only obtain the recognition of the union of Bessarabia, and if he had entered on the side of England, France and Russia, then, still betting on victory, he could have hoped for the consecration of the union of Bucovina, Transylvania, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș. The union of all the historical Romanian provinces seemed to belong to the realm of the fantastic. And yet this miracle was accomplished in 1918.
Obviously, the internal and international circumstances were favorable to us: the war was won by the Entente, that is, by the camp in which Romania was also; the entry of the US into the battle in early 1917 had been decisive for victory; the outbreak of revolutionary movements in Russia had facilitated the struggle for emancipation from Bessarabia and its union with Romania; the 14 points of American President Woodrow Wilson, delivered on January 8, 1918 in Congress, had opened the way for the self-determination of peoples and the new political architecture of Europe; the weakness and fall of the old empires (German, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Tsarist) had favored the hopes of freedom of the subject peoples.
A huge effort of national will
However, without the collective subject called the Romanian people – then led by a responsible elite, by great statesmen and not by petty politicians – the union could not have been done. It is about a huge effort of national will, supported both by the Romanians from the Danube and the Carpathians and by those from the diaspora, located from Paris and London to Washington and New York, Romanians who put themselves at the service of their people , which needed not only a cultural homeland, but also a political one. All social and professional categories since then, from intellectuals to peasants and from politicians to clerics, sent their elected and appointed representatives to vote (in Chisinau, Chernivtsi and Alba Iulia) for the union.
Consequently, we must know that December 1 does not celebrate the union of Transylvania with Romania, but rather the formation of whole Romania, following all the acts of 1918 (the union of Bessarabia, Bucovina, Transylvania, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș). From 137,000 square km, Romania reached 296,000 square km. The acts of the Romanians since 1918 were fully legal and democratic, a fact for which they were recognized by the international community.
And if some still doubt the historical justice done on December 1, 1918, they have no say in doing it. History has demonstrated the justice of the unification decisions, given the fact that the Romanians held the demographic majority (absolute or relative) in all the provinces united in 1918. Romania did not take “the lands of the Country” from anyone unjustly, it did not seize parts of foreign countries, but gathered together the old Romanian countries that Nicolae Iorga was talking about. The decisions of 1918 were taken democratically, at the level of democracy at that time, which is why they were accepted by the international community. We have the duty to glorify, consequently, the National Day, because it always reminds us how and why we have a country and in what way it was made by the will of the people.