For someone who has never come to Romania, this country is mostly renowned for the performances of sport players who distinguished themselves through the years. Hagi and Nadia are names uttered almost involuntarily by a foreigner every time Romania is mentioned.
The composer George Enescu.
The Romanian cultural identity.
Situated at the crossroads of Eastern and Western civilizations, Romania has suffered from a multiplicity of influences through the ages.
The most important argument for building the modem concept of the Romanian nation was identified in the merging of the Roman civilization with the local Dacians, at the beginning of the 1st millennium AC.
The conjunction of Latinity with the mysteries of the Dacian civilization, whose traces can be found at Sarmizegetusa (in the Orastie Mountains), represented the starting point of a process that lasted for hundreds of years. The event which signals the beginning of this process is considered to be the Roman conquest of Dacia (during the reign of the Roman Emperor Traian, 106 AC). From then on, the influences which manifested themselves were multiple, the political and cultural factors which can be identified being, at the same time, Eastern and Western: Hungarian and Greek influences, Turkish and Jewish elements, Slavic and Tartar touches, Roma presence, but also German and French impresses marked the two millennia for which the progressing concept of the Romanian national character has to be taken into consideration.
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It would be hard to imagine the national identity without the ethnical minorities which had an impact on the culture in the Romanian space. The most important communities are represented by Szeklers and Hungarians which make up 7% Romania’s population. The Roma minority represents 1.7%. Other clearly defined and having their own customs are the Jewish, Armenian and Serbian communities, and there is also a strong Macedo-Romanian community.
From the Balkan influences which put their mark on the history of Southern Romania to the traditions preserved in the northern part of the country, and to the Central European accents claimed by the North-Western part of Romania, the Romanian identity retains the common aspects which marked the European mythology, giving birth to a number of mythical characters, long-lasting despite their dissimilarity to the historical reality. Having as starting point the personality of Vlad Tepes (1431 – 1476), mythical ruler in the Romanian history, Bram Stoker launched the character of Dracula. Until present times, more than 600 film productions had as main theme the character invented by the Irish writer, and fiction is always accompanied by references to actual dates and places from Romania.
Considered to be the most frequently invoked evocation of Romania, Stocker’s fictional work takes advantage of the complexity of the multiple aspects which define the Romanian identity. In the first half of the 20th century, the period considered to be the peak of the Romanian modem history coincides with the moment of emergence of a generation of Romanian intellectuals who left their mark on the Western civilization from exile. In the 1920s, the ones who made their debut in Bucharest were Eugen Ionescu (1909 – 1994), the playwright who changed the appearance of European theatre, by adding the absurd as a dynamic dimension to art performance; Mircea Eliade (1907 – 1986), historian of religions and the author of a fictional literary work with initiatory accents, and Emil Cioran (1911 – 1995), the essay writer who impressed the French world. The initiators of one of the most influential cultural movements of the 20th century, the Dadaism, were also born and started their work in Romania. Tristan Tzara (1896 – 1963) and Marcel Iancu (1895 – 1984), the originators of the movement that changed the landmarks of modem culture, set off in Romania, Dadaism being the essential element for the following explosion of the surreal movement in France and all over the world and, later on, of pop art.
The French environment is also responsible for the assertion of the greatest Romanian composer, George Enescu (1881 – 1955), called “the genius of our generation” by his former school colleague in Paris, Maurice Ravel. Even nowadays, after more than 70 years from its opening night, his opera “Oedipe”, which is based on the well-known ancient myth, remains one of the most challenging compositions of cultured music.