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Vol. 1, No. 2 (2019)

Journal of Romanian Studies, 1, no. 2 (2019)

Special issue: Romania and the Paris Peace Conference (1919). Actors, Scenarios, Circulation of Knowledge

Guest editor: Svetlana Suveica

Editors: Lavinia Stan, Margaret Beissinger, Radu Cinpoeş

Contents Page


Svetlana Suveica

Introduction: Romania and the Paris Peace Conference (1919). Actors, Scenarios, Circulation of Knowledge (pp. 9-26)

Lucian Leuștean

Romania, the Paris Peace Conference and the Protection System of “Race, Language and Religion” Minorities—A Reassessment (pp- 27-46)

In 1919, Ion I. C. Brătianu, the Romanian Prime Minister and head of his country’s delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, vehemently op‐ posed the establishment of a system of minority protection and preferred to resign rather than agreeing to sign the treaty by which the Romanian state accepted such obligations. Romania was finally a founding member of the League of Nations and a participant from the very beginning in the protec‐ tion system of the minorities “of race, language and religion” endorsed by the organization. In spite of the genuine enthusiasm that the leaders in Bu‐ charest showed to the general targets of the League, the issue of minorities’ protection remained a delicate subject. Romanian and foreign historians dealt extensively with this topic, but a fresh view based on new archival findings and a balanced approach is necessary.

Gavin Bowd

Between France and Romania, between Science and Propaganda. Emmanuel de Martonne in 1919 (pp. 47-64)

In the aftermath of the Great War, the geographer Emmanuel  de Martonne, who began his scientific work in Romania and was a vocal advocate of that country’s intervention in the conflict, placed his knowledge and prestige at the service of redrawing the frontiers of what would become Greater Romania. This article looks at the role of de Mar‐ tonne as traceur de frontières during the Paris Peace Conference, notably his manipulation of ethnic cartography. At the same time, as this partisan use of “science” shows, de Martonne is also a propagandist for the Roma‐ nian cause and post‐war French influence. Thus, his confidential reports  on the “lost provinces” of Transylvania, Banat, Bessarabia and Dobrogea must be seen in parallel with his published interventions and the place he occupies in a wider Franco‐Romanian lobbying network. During the sum‐ mer of 1919, de Martonne’s participation in a French mission universi- taire to Romania plays a diplomatic role at a delicate stage of the Paris negotiations. The fate of his scientific interventions is also subject to the vicissitudes of the war’s aftermath and to the weight of lobbies hostile to Romanian territorial claims, notably on Hungary and Russia, two coun‐ tries plunged into civil war.

Doina Anca Cretu

Humanitarian Aid in the “Bulwark Against Bolshevism”: The American Relief Administration and the Quest for Sovereignty in Post‐World War I Romania (pp. 65-88)

Abstract: This article examines the diffusion of humanitarian assistance via the American Relief Administration (ARA) in Romania immediately after World War I. This exploration is articulated around two “arenas” of the as‐ sistance process. First, it follows the initial behind‐the scenes negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference and subsequent diplomatic tensions around the conditions of aid. Second, it addresses the practices and meaning of ARA’s assistance beyond Paris, on the Romanian ground. This analysis shows that post‐war destruction, social vulnerability and fear of anarchy and Bolshevism enabled the Romanian leadership to seek and access ARA’s humanitarian aid. Romanian state officials of the time contested ARA’s con‐ ditional humanitarianism, seeing it as a challenge to economic and political autonomy. Ultimately, the quest for sovereignty defined by the Greater Ro‐ mania project informed the state leaders’ reception of American humani‐ tarian agendas and efforts after World War I.

Svetlana Suveica

Against the “Imposition of the Foreign Yoke”: The Bessarabians Write to Wilson (1919) (pp. 89-112)

This article discusses the little‐known effort of the “Bessarabian delegation” in Paris against the recognition of the 1918 union of the region with Romania. During the Paris Peace Conference, representatives of the former Bessarabian elite worked along with Russian political émigrés and diplomats to gain Allied support for the anti‐Bolshevik campaign and the recognition of Russia’s interest in her former Western gubernias, including Bessarabia. While planning Bessarabia’s return to Russia, the Bessarabians claimed that allowing the inhabitants to express their will through a plebi‐ scite was the only “just” solution for the territory contested by Russia and Romania. The three appeals, addressed in 1919 to the American President, offer “evidence” of the Romanian regime’s abuses in the region, the failure of the American Relief Association in Romania to reach Bessarabia, and the unfair and abusive character of the food distribution in the poorest Roma‐ nian region. While appealing to issues of high sensitivity for the Americans, the “Bessarabian delegates” hoped to persuade the American delegates to reject a decision over Bessarabia that legitimized Romania’s rights over the territory, and back Russia’s interest in the region instead.

Gábor Egry

Made in Paris? Contested Regions and Political Regionalism during and after Peacemaking: Székelyföld and Banat in a Comparative Perspective (pp. 113-134)

After World War I, when boundaries were redrawn in Europe, two territories were contested. Székelyföld, the eastern‐most part of the de‐ funct dualist Hungary, was predominantly inhabited by Hungarians. Banat, which was to become a borderland of Greater Romania, was home to four significant ethnic groups (Serbian, Romanian, German and Hungarian) and a thriving Jewish community. These historically distinct regions were united with Hungary after the Settlement (Ausgleich) in 1867, but when borders were redrawn they were portrayed as specific entities within distinct na‐ tional spaces. This article compares how different state and non‐state ac‐ tors capitalized on the distinct nature of Banat and Székelyföld, how differ‐ ent types of arguments were deployed, and how proxies for a plebiscite (na‐ tional councils, mass assemblies and demonstrations, deputations and memoranda to the Paris Peace Conference) were used to sway the decision to include these regions in Hungary or Romania. These efforts were part of a broader repertoire championing national goals, but in both cases the his‐ torical peculiarities and the pre‐1918 local social realities fueled regional identities that were distinct from Transylvanianism. The symbolic recogni‐ tion of these regions as the most authentic Hungarian and Romanian ones during the mobilization of the masses around the Peace Conference rein‐ forced Banat and Székely regionalism, which was then used by rival Hun‐ garian and Romanian nationalist politicians to question the other nation‐ ality (distinguishing Székelys from Hungarians or emphasizing the loyalty to Hungary of certain Banat Romanian groups before 1918) leaving the Banat and Székelyföld entangled with different varieties of nationalism.

Florian Kührer‐Wielach

“A Fertile and Flourishing Garden.” A Political Assessment Ten Years after Versailles (pp. 135-152)

The present study examines reflections on the institutional and mental unification process of “Greater Romania” ten years after it was recognized by the Peace of Versailles and the subsequent treaties of Saint‐Germain‐en‐Laye (1919) and Grand Trianon (1920). A first section outlines the relationship between the government and the opposition or the struggle for the future design of state and society. The second section subjects the paradigmatic text “10 Years of Greater Romania” by the important Transylvanian politician Alexandru Vaida‐Voevod (1872–1950) to critical discourse analysis with a focus on the interplay between discursively awakened hope and real‐political disillusionment, which led to a sustained loss of faith in the possibility of realizing a democratic, pluralist society.

Review Essay

George Kordas

Antisemitism, Holocaust and Memory in Eastern Europe: Romania from the Peasant Revolution until Today

Book Reviews

Roxana Bratu, Corruption, Informality, and Entrepreneurship in Romania.
(Review by Clara Volintiru)

Mircea Vasilescu, Cultura română pe înțelesul patrioților.
(Review by Cătălin Constantinescu)