Balkanalysis on Twitter Briefing with Dr Lucian Boia, July 2011

Bucharest, Romania— On July 9, 2011 contributor Maria-Antoaneta Neag held a briefing with Dr Lucian Boia, a Bucharest University history professor and one of Romania’s most prominent authors of historical studies. The briefing was held at the celebrated Cismigiu Park in Bucharest.

Talking about Romania’s place and role in Europe, Dr Boia cited one of his works, Romania, Borderland of Europe (Reaktion Books, 2001; French edition, La Roumanie: Un pays à la frontière de l’Europe, Belles Lettres, 2003, second edition 2007). Noting that Romania’s unique geography, overlapping Eastern Europe, the Balkan region and Central Europe makes it impossible to be defined by geographical criteria alone. For example, even tthough strictly speaking only the southeastern part of Romania (Dobrogea) belongs to the Balkans, Romania has always had strong cultural and historical links to the region.

The frontier metaphor fits Romania, noted Professor Boia, as historically it was the borderline of several empires: the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Several cultures and civilization models crossed the country and this led to the formation of a very diverse and complex identity. Romania’s historic diversity, according to Professor Boia also stems from the several different provinces that eventually united and formed Great Romania. Many diverse influences were assimilated, while the traditional mindset remained somehow intact. This symbiosis or synthesis translates into Romanians’ polarisation and adaptability. Romanians were influenced by the different inhabitants of different ethnic backgrounds and religions that lived in Romania; nevertheless, a sense of identity was perpetuated and survived during the country’s tumultuous history.

Nowadays, the modernization process and the influence of the West have divided the nation, creating dichotomies like urban-rural, nationalist versus pro-European factions and the elite versus the masses. Even though communism was not the only factor for Romania’s misfortunes, it disrupted the previous social order and annihilated Romania’s elites. With its rapid urbanization and industrialization policies of the 1960s and 1970s, communists torn up the traditional rural areas leading to large populations having to cope with the rush of big cities. A tour of Bucharest, the capital city proves the already mentioned paradox between its old traditional values and the modern achievements. Today, Romania still seeks its identity and the answers to some unsettled questions of its national history and Mr. Boia does not shy away from pointing out the inconsistencies.

Lucian Boia is a prominent Romanian historian who attempts to describe Romania, its myths and definitive moments in history. He proves a sense of historic maturity by challenging previous theories about the formation of the Romanian state, as well as national heroes. Mr. Boia’s most controversial book in this sense is History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness (Central European University Press, 1 Jan 2001)

Born in Bucharest on 1 February 1944, Lucian Boia is a professor at the History department of Bucharest University. With his highly readable style backed up by serious archival research and interjected with amusing asides reflecting a refined sense of humor, Mr. Boia is a reputed writer whose works have been translated into French, English, German and other languages and is a “must read” author for those interested in Romania’s past and historical myths.

Professor Boia’s oeuvre goes beyond Romania’s history and present-day reality. It also addresses topics such as Napoleon III, Jules Vernes, democracy, the Occident, the weather in the imagination and more. His latest works focus on the Romanian elite (Germanophils, Humanitas, 2008). He is currently finalising a more detailed synthesis about the Romanian intellectual elite from 1930-1950. The book is expected to become available to the public this autumn, during the Gaudeamus Book Fair and will be published by Humanitas (one of Romania’s leading publishers’ houses), which included Lucian Boia in its “Author’s series” collection. is an American research and analysis firm that provides dedicated coverage of the Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean regions, in areas ranging from politics and security to economics and culture. It draws on the expertise of its broad network of field analysts and reporters representing a number of various countries and professional backgrounds.

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