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Modernism: Representations of National Culture

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter V. Regionalism, autonomism and the minority identity-building narratives

Study on the reorganization of the unified Romanian state

Romul Boilǎ
Traduction de Mária Kovács

Texte intégral

1Title: Studiu asupra reorganizării statului român întregit (Study on the reorganization of the unified Romanian state)

2Originally Published: Cluj, Tip. Naţională, 1931

3Language: Romanian.

4The excerpts used are from the original, pp. 5–11.

About the author

5Romul Boilă [1881, Târnava-Mică (Hun. Tirnáva, present-day Romania) – 1946, Sighet]: lawyer and political theorist. His father was a village priest. He studied law in Cluj (Hun. Kolozsvár, Ger. Klausenburg) and Budapest. Between 1918 and 1920, Boilă was a member of the ‘Ruling Council,’ a political committee organized to facilitate the integration of Transylvania into Romania. He was the head of the ‘Communication and Food Department.’ Boilă was also a prominent member of the National Peasant Party, one of the main political parties of interwar Romania. Representing this party, he was elected a deputy, senator and eventually, between 1928 and 1929, the vice-president of the Senate. A respected authority on legal issues, Boilă participated in the ‘Council of Legislative Reform,’ instituted by the National Peasant Party government in 1930. After the communists took over in 1945, he was arrested and sent to prison. Boilă’s constitutional project did not have any practical effects during the interwar period or during communism. However, his ideas of federalism and regionalism were invoked during the 1990s in debates on devolution and decentralization, particularly in Transylvania and the Banat.

6Main works: Dreptul de alegător [The right of suffrage] (1905); Dreptul constituţional român [Romanian constitutional law] (1920); Anteproiect de constituţie [Preliminary constitutional project] (1921); Studiu asupra reorganizării statului român reîntregit [Study on the reorganization of the unified Romanian state] (1931); Memoriu [Memoir] (1934).


7On 2 December 1918, a day after the union of Transylvania with Romania was proclaimed by the Great National Assembly, an executive committee was nominated: The ‘Ruling Council.’ The main purpose of this committee was to supervise Transylvania’s political and administrative integration into Romania. Fifteen members were elected to the Council: Iuliu Maniu (President), Romul Boilă, Octavian Goga, Vasile Goldiş, Vasile Lucaciu, Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, Aurel Vlad were among them. These were the representatives of Romanians in Transylvania, both Greek-Orthodox and Greek- Catholic, who had directly participated in political debates on national issues of the final years of the Habsburg Monarchy and, finally, orchestrated the union of Transylvania with Romania.

8The functions of the ‘Ruling Council’ resided in both legislative and executive fields. The ‘Ruling Council’ held the legislative power, but civil courts that were independent from it exercised the judicial power. Boilă, as the main legal expert, was one of the architects of the legal doctrine of the ‘Ruling Council.’ He recalled this experience in Organizaţia de stat (The state organization), a book published in 1927. The ‘Ruling Council’ had been set up as an institution of regional government. It functioned until 1920, preparing the introduction of Romanian laws in the territories of Transylvania, the Banat, Crişana and Maramureş. The measures adopted by the ‘Ruling Council’ reflected the intentions of Romanians from these territories to unite with Romania as well as their explicit concern with their individuality and historical achievements. Through various laws, the ‘Ruling Council’ expressed its predilection for decentralization and regional specificity in the enlarged Romanian state.

9After 1918, however, in order to create a homogeneous national identity, a rigorous program of centralization was professed by the Romanian political elite in Bucharest. These policies aimed at eradicating regional differences. Boilă’s ‘Study’ represents a clear answer to the rigid centralization measures organized by governments in Bucharest. It also shows the political frustration felt by the Romanian elite in Transylvania, who did not manage—as hoped— to remove the Hungarian and German elite from key economic and political positions, but had to accept the role of the “messengers of centralization” representing the central government in Bucharest. By 1930, it had become clear that the battle against excessive centralization was lost, and the Romanian elite of Transylvania had to comply with the new situation.

10Boilă proposed a constitutional project that rejected the idea of centralization. Nevertheless, rhetorically the regionalist argument was based on the imperative of national unification. Greater Romania, argued Boilă, did not manage to construct a viable constitutional regime. He thus directly criticized the constitution of 1923 for having introduced only centralist laws. These laws did not achieve the expected result: the complete spiritual transformation of the Romanian nation. On the contrary, they antagonized the Romanians. Accordingly, a new constitutional edifice was needed if the Romanian state was to prosper. The new constitution acknowledged a central government, but the government’s powers were to be supplemented by the introduction of a diet and regional government for each historical province: Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania. Together these political institutions would constitute a National Assembly (Representanţa Naţională), the supreme political organism of the Romanian nation in the new state.

11In addition to the technical arguments concerning decentralization, Boilă also presented cultural arguments. Using Germany and Yugoslavia as examples, he suggested that Transylvanians’ embitterment with the central government in Bucharest could be eliminated, if a new power relationship between these provinces and the administrative centre of Romania was provided. Only decentralization, claimed Boilă, could effectively value the human and symbolic resources offered by Transylvania. Yet, it was essential that the new cultural politics would not create a cleavage between regional and central powers. Regionalism and regional traditions, emphasized Boilă, were important for the definition of the Romanian nation as a whole. By treasuring the regional spiritual values, the spiritual strengths of the nation were enhanced and perpetuated. Preserving the autonomy of the historical regions in Romania was a “natural necessity,” and decentralization the process through which such a necessity was implemented.

12After 1989, the regionalist tradition was revived in Romania, particularly in Transylvania and the Banat, and not only by the Romanian majority. Claiming regional identity, Romanian and Hungarian intellectuals and politicians alike suggested that allegedly distinct cultural customs and mentalities survived in these regions, notwithstanding their inclusion in the unified Romanian state after 1918. Although Boilă’s arguments played an important role in shaping some of the political and cultural debates in post-communist Romania about regionalism and de-centralization, none of them led to a political federalization of Romania, as some Transylvanian regionalists had hoped.


Study on the reorganization of the unified Romanian state

14Today, almost 13 years after the unification of the Romanian principalities with the Old Kingdom, we are forced to admit that the unified Romanian state has not yet achieved the proper and satisfactory state organization, although meanwhile, a unitary constitution has been produced.

15The reasons for this unfortunate state are numerous. Let us review some of the most important ones. Those that led the state almost exclusively during the 13 years did not think seriously for one minute to introduce a healthy constitutional and parliamentary life. This would have meant, in fact, the loss of their political supremacy. Therefore, for years after the unification, for different alleged reasons, they postponed the making of a constitution, which would have had the role to set the organization of the unified Romanian state on a new and solid basis. Afterwards, declared by the Constituency a Parliament that was elected and set up by means of fraud and falsehood—i.e. quite contrary to the fundamental principles of the constitution—in the year 1923, a constitution was issued, but except for the liberal party, no other Romanian party had contributed to its writing. Such a constitution was far from being appropriate for the realities and exigency of the new state of facts. Neither did the makers of it consider it sacrosanct and healing in the light of the great interests of the unified State, but they asked that it should be obeyed and vowed on it only when someone touched some stipulations meant to vouchsafe certain matters of political and material interest for the governing party. […]

16But what shows the falsity of state life in relation to the constitution is the total absence of accountability of those that act politically or economically on behalf of the nation. Who could punish those who are responsible, if the making and lasting of the most important factor of punishment and control of the Parliament is completely and fundamentally compromised?

17In such circumstances, the prestige of the state authority has fallen to an alarming level. The state is led by dilettantes, who—unembarrassed and unscrupulous— change the organic laws in opposition with the clear provisions of the constitution. Thirteen years have not been enough to create an economic situation that could safeguard us from the great economic crises in the world, although everyone emphasizes that we used to be one of the richest countries in the world. […] Our educational system at all levels is subjected every year to some radical changes. Fundamental principles are approached with unheard ease. The economic crisis is due to a great degree, besides the repercussions of the global phenomena, to the political instability, the unreliability of justice, the labile and sometimes non-existent control, then to the faulty management of the badly informed and inappropriately qualified bodies. There is no part of the state life that shows a different icon but that of terrifying chaos. […]

18The governing system of the unified Romanian state, inaugurated since the unification, has produced in other fields, too, deviations that especially for those in the unified provinces, meant disappointment and horrible disillusion. For instance, this happened in the first place as concerns the citizens’ liberties. Not once in the 13 years since the unification, we have seen the sons of the provinces, who used to be persecuted by the gendarmes of the oppressors in the past, being persecuted by the Romanian gendarmes today, limited in their freedom of movement and offended in their individual freedom. Let us remember the elections, which a greedy government turned into a civil war, stained by the blood of brothers chained in neo-slavery!

19The practitioners of a new exclusive and ferocious regionalism, serving personal and group interests, accuse all those in the united provinces of regionalist mentality. But who will not see the ostracism of our “brothers” in the “freed” provinces, and their exclusion from the natural and rightful validation that all the citizens of our unified state should have? Instead of strengthening the much craved for spiritual unification, the brothers and fighters for the same ideal are mutually suspicious of and inimical toward each other. The thirteen years since the unification have passed without having reached our goal: the completion of the spiritual unity of the Romanian nation.

20All these findings and the painful state in which we are entitle us to believe that the blame for the great disaster which reaches to the foundations of the most significant goods of our existence as a state and nation is on the system of government which has been established since the unification. A centralizing system, which now and then raises its hideous head, destroys everything by lack of organization and prevents the success of the country and the happiness of its sons in the provinces who have run so enthusiastically to the bosom of the motherland.

21Let us muster up courage to stand up against the wave. We must change the entire state organization radically. After experiencing what we have had, we cannot trust any method, however nicely presented and however loudly announced by those interested. We are getting close to the twelfth hour, when we will be unable to save anything. The unified Romanian state is only entitled to exist if it lies, without any reserves, on the fundament of a stately life, penetrated by the purest constitutionalism. It must be seen and examined what kind of organization best guarantees the maintenance and development of goods that are the basis of a constitutional life. Before anything else, we must develop the possibility to establish responsibilities so that we can apply punishments to all those who work in the name of the state, regardless of the position that they hold. We must find a state mechanism to serve the mentality, the degree of general, judicial, social and economic culture of the different fractions of our nation, guaranteeing citizens’ liberties and providing thus for a healthy emulation within our people. The new organization will have to resolve the issue of minorities and religion. Class struggle must be prevented and attenuated by the appropriate agreements, and especially it must be guaranteed that the maximum degree of social justice will be achieved.

22The new organization must gather the maximum energies and be a stimulant of progress in all fields. Having absolute trust in the power of life of the Romanian nation, thus setting out for the common goal, which is the institution of a solid and honest constitutional state organization, we will be able to achieve, in time, the most important guarantee of the future: the spiritual unity of the nation.

23The present project, researching and analyzing all the possibilities, is trying to provide an adequate solution without touching the unity and indivisibility of the unified Romanian state—through its new organization, with the widest possible application of the principle of decentralization.

24First, the project renounces the idea of centralized and exclusionist governance and legislation, in which it sees the cause of evil. The central Parliament, the only body of legislation, was compromised not only through the illegal and false manner of setting up since the unification, but also through its methods of work. Instead of the central Parliament the ‘State Council’ has been introduced which, by its composition, and wide attributions that it is granted, and the small number of members, will be in the situation to carry out with authority all that the Parliament lacking in all these has not been able to accomplish. This central body made up of the most distinguished sons of the nation will be the constant and inexhaustible expression of the unity and indivisibility of the state.

25A central government has been set up, whose members will be recruited from the members of the ‘State Council’ after the parliamentary principle, but the administration, or rather the execution of the common issues, except for the foreign affairs and the army, has been assigned as the attribution of the decentralized organization.

26The biggest innovation is the introduction of the diet and the provincial government, which, through their operation—organized in three provinces: Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania—will be called upon to be the depositories of the constitutional State life together with all the advantages they will have, such as: genuine, not falsified parliamentary life, dominance of public liberties, accountability of public servants at all levels, honest public life, lawfulness, security and consistence of justice. […]

27This is not the right place to debate with the adversaries of decentralization. This does not stop us from briefly emphasizing some objections that have been raised and will be raised again by those who combat wide scale decentralization in our country. Their supreme argument is that decentralization prevents the course of spiritual unification and the technical consolidation of the new Romanian state. We could readily answer simply this: centralization so far has prevented it and failed. But we will refer to more relevant examples in the life of peoples. The past and present provide us with enough material. […]

28We do not ask for political separation, but a more emphatic decentralization, a genuine decentralization. But decentralization serves the national idea and stops irredentist actions also. In the decentralized state the centrifugal currents and the extremist fractions lose their supporters and weaken. They are channeled in the decentralized life of the bodies of local provinces. If in the economic world, through the system of incentives, the production capacity will be strengthened, in the life of villages a wider and more direct participation of the citizens strengthens their solidarity, develops the citizens’ dignity and love for the common country.

29Decentralization means, on the one hand, an important saving, and on the other hand, it is a stimulant for the validity of all initiatives and forces working for the development of the national economy. Decentralization wipes out jealousy and regional antagonism, replacing them with noble emulation and the affirmation of an increasingly fecund solidarity. Decentralization replaces the reckless mass currents in their aiming for mystical goals, with positive work for the achievement of concrete and practical goals. Decentralization does not destroy parties, but annihilates their tendency to gain political hegemony that is so damaging to the general interests. And finally decentralization strengthens the prestige and the power of the head of state, who will intervene more frequently and of course with more success in the management of state affairs.


Mária Kovács (Traducteur)

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