Polemics & Exchanges

On Rumanian Distinctions

I wish to thank Chronicles for the insightful parts of Derek Turner’s recent “Letter From Rumania” (“What Civilization Remains,” Correspondence, June).  Some portions are extremely lively and convey a vivid picture of his experiences there.

As an informed reader, however, I was struck by the one-sided view the article imparts in several ways to the common reader.  To the uninformed reader, aside from Bucharest, it might seem as if the whole of Rumania were Transylvania—and as if the whole of Transylvania were just a bit Rumanian, perhaps not even Rumanian at all.

Focusing on Transylvania’s minorities was not per se an unwelcome idea.  Indeed, beginning with the 12th century, Transylvania’s Saxon settlers contributed a lot to the urban civilization of that province conquered and occupied by Hungary shortly before.  On the other hand, the native population, the underprivileged majority (Mr. Turner calls them “Vlachs”) constituted for many centuries the province’s pariah, most of the time deprived of all rights.  The approach in which the focus is predominantly on the Saxon and Hungarian presence is bound to distort much of the historical realities of a province where the native Rumanian population has been for centuries an essential component...

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