Monday, March 15, 2010

History Today #1

WARNING: This post contains History – yeah, like you had to learn at school. If you think it’s long, tiresome and irrelevant to you personally, you’d be right. You may of course simply scroll to the bottom and watch the video, but if you persist with this attitude you will remain in darkness forever.

Over the last months Mr Gaw has been putting me right on the subject of History. I’d never bothered much with it before: I knew that William the Conkerer invaded in 1666 and would have o’er-run us with his Mongrel Hoards had it not been for Sir Charlie Drake, The Queen Mum and a couple of late goals from Pickles the Dog. All logical, joined up, cause-and-effect thinking... but that was about it. I even shunned the subject at O-Level, preferring instead to take a long, hard squint at the pointillistic miasma of phenomena that likes to call itself “Science”. But now I live in a land where history is important and must once again put on my thinking cap...

Transylvania was once a Roman colony, but for nearly a millenium, up until 1920, was generally part of Hungary, and contained a heady mix of Magyars (Hungarian speakers), Germans, Jews, Gypsies, Armenians and (generally making up the majority for as long as there’ve been records) Romanians. Hungarians came to Transylvania at the very end of the 9th century, that much is known; Romanians came here, hmm, well, it depends who you ask. Eh? So, is history, like, relative?? Is it possible that, as Nigel Molesworth (right) always maintained, everything that skoolboys are taught is wrong?? There are two main theories regarding the origins of the Romanian people. One stuck to, particularly by Romanian communists during those times, like shit to a blanket; the other clung to intransigently by Hungarian Nationalists like pit-bulls to a Gypsy. The debate is absolutely fundamental to the very heated question of who should be in charge here, and has often descended to Newman and Baddiel levels (see below). The deciding issue is who was here first, whether "Romanians" (tradionally thought to be left over from the Roman colony) were still here when the Hungarians arrived; but unfortunately the period under scrutiny – approx. 275AD to 899AD - is “dark” here even by Dark Ages standards. I shall now try to describe the two opposing theories - plus the “compromise” theory - briefly yet adequately. I shall fail. I shall then present my own, more credible, versions of events. You, the blogging public, may then vote for the one you wish to become the official version to the exclusion of all others! :-)

#1: The “Daco-Romanian Continuity” Theory (Romanians)

Romanians are descendants of the Dacians, present when the Romans arrived, who then learnt Latin, and stayed here. There’s archaeological evidence that communities did survive after the Romans departed, and tiny indications that Latin may have still been used here (perhaps as a lingua franca) and that the Dacians were Christianised and therefore Latinised (some current church Romanian supposedly comes directly from a Roman source). Early Hungarian stories also follow this line! Transylvania is Romanian!!

#2: The “Immigrationist” Theory (Hungarians)

Romanians are descendents of Latin-speaking pastoralists migrating from Southern Europe, probably ancient Illyria – some Romanian words can be traced to similarities in Albanian – and arriving here after the Hungarians. The Dacians were supposedly killed or removed en masse when the Romans left – reports at the time support this - and after then archaeology appears to give no indication that communities here spoke any version of Latin. Early Hungarian stories are about as credible as Jeffrey Archer! Transylvania is Hungarian!!

#3: The “Admigration” Theory (Appeasementists, Intellectuals and Homosexuals)

Two groups of Latinophones coalesced: one in southern Europe (say, Illyria) and one in what’s now Romania. Migrants from the former joined up with latter, greatly increasing their numbers and forming “the Romanian people”. No contradictions, everybody goes home happy.... you’d think.

#4:The “Dracula” Theory (Right-Thinking People)

The un-dead and therefore timeless Mr Dracula was based on Vlad Ţepeş (Romanian), his most famous screen incarnation was Béla Lugosi (Hungarian), and Bram Stoker (who never set foot here) had him down as a Székely. He therefore unites all the major ethnic groups... nice... and if you disagree he’ll shove a stake up you.

#5: The “Zsa-Zsa Gabor” Theory (Wrong-Thinking People)

With all her marriages and chat-show appearances, Ms Gabor is supreme commander of the shock-troops of Magyarisation, the natural successor of Árpád and Attila the Hun (not a Hungarian, but that doesn’t stop every 2nd Hungarian boy being named Attila...) It was clearly her ancestors who raped the honest, noble Romanians peacefully minding their own business in the Carpathian Basin!!

#6: The “Blake’s 7” Theory (Left-Thinking People)

As detailed in episode 13 of the second series (1979), but which was never shown for fear of destabilising the Warsaw Pact and precipitating a Third Word War. Blake, Avon et al. travel through a wormhole in the space-time continuum and arrive in Dacia just as Emperor Aurelian withdraws his colonists and transports Dacians to lives of slavery elsewhere; they cop off with some of the local skirt and hole up in the hills; it is their offspring who are the true progenitors of all Romanians. Hurrah!


Conclusion: Frankly, having looking at the arguments, there’s virtually no evidence for theory #1, though the paprika-botherers can’t really prove theirs either. (Archaeological evidence here is feeble... and there’s no trace of Blake’s ship The Liberator; linguistic “proof” however is much more interesting, involving Aromanians, Istro-Romanians, Proto-Romanians and the Balkan sprachbund, and will be the subject of a future post – ha, suffer!) So, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the Romanians are largely arrivistes, bolstered maybe by returnees, and only just possibly joining up with a few Romanised groups who managed to survive here during that period. I’ve now got to break it to my (Romanian) wife....

33 comments:

Alice Scradcza said...

Very boring. Why you not talk about Nikolai Bernardos and the invention of the first practical carbon-arc welding machine?

Gadjo Dilo said...

Alice, duckie, because that would be simply too exciting for this hour on a Monday morning :-)

inkspot said...

Just like the Irish (whoever they are) in other words. Honestly it's hard to believe history is a subject.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Inky, aah no, different, I'd say: weren't Ireland's noble Mesolithic stone-age inhabitants subject to brutal colonisation by Celtic hoards and forced to drink Guinness and listen to Enya? ;-)

Gaw said...

Gadjo, I'm impressed. You've obviously cottoned on to history's main use, which is to aggravate relationships between different ethnic groups. I think you should try to establish that it was a Hertfordshire-based tribe of ancient Britons that first settled Romania. Good luck with the wife.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I hope that breaking your theory to the spouse will not cause any broken bones, Gadjo. It;s an interesting theory you have there, but you should try it outside of Romania to start with, and better under a nickname. Oh, right...

Gadjo Dilo said...

Gaw, thanks you for your learned endorsement, I shall quote it in embossed gold lettering on the front cover of my forthcoming book "How Hertfordshire Hung Out The Huns".

Snoopy, great to hear from you again. She'll wait until I'm asleep before she makes her move with the rolling pin. My nickname is actually from Gypsy language, so I've asking for it for a long time. :-)

worm said...

Isn't it a fact that the Romania is the spiritual home of the New Romantics?

Pearl said...

And now my head hurts.

Stop trying to make the American think!

:-)

Pearl

Brit said...

I strongly favour the Zsa-Zsa Gabor theory. And isn't worm thinking of the Emo Goths rather than the New Romantics, whose spiritual home was France under Louis XIV?

Gorilla Bananas said...

The Dacians were obviously Romanised. Why else would they call the country 'Romania' after the Romans had left? You keep prattling on about the Hungarians, but where do you stand on the Slovak question? Fact: Count Dracula hired Slovaks to move his coffin around.

zmkc said...

Did I spend too long in Hungary - Transylvania is the lost heartland of the Magyars and that is that, surely?

Lulu LaBonne said...

I'd vote for anything involving Zsa.

Looking forward to this book - great title "How Hertfordshire Outhung The Huns" if that doesn't get you beaten up nothing will

Nikos said...

I agree with Alice although it would probably be more interesting to chart the history of heroic welding machine failures.
Aren't Romanians descended from Greeks?

Kevin Musgrove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Musgrove said...

The Romanians are descended from proto-Friesians who determined that the Schleswig-Holstein Question was going to be too easy for words and went on a pub quiz night tour of the Danube.


(I got the tricky stuff right-ish then mispelled bloody "Danube")

No Good Boyo said...

A beloved and long-retired Hungarian colleague once "explained" Transylvania in one of the most bizarre communications I have ever received. I'll see if I can track it down and post it for you. Gyppo knows who I mean.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Worm, New Romantics would get blank looks here and rightly so. I like your use of "the Romania", like "The Ukraine" or "The Argentine".

Pearl, Americans need to think, Mr Obama wills it! Just imagine it's a dispute between the Cherokee and the Iroquios about who was the first in the Northern Plains, or something.

Brit, La Zsa Zsa will thank you personally for this: I've already given her your phone number and she's writing the wedding invitations at this very moment!

Bananas, you make a good point if an entirely incorrect one. The Slovak Question mainly involved Slokaks, who had their own Hungarian-related issues at the time, and Dracula never spoke Slovak as far as memory serves.

zmkc, yep, Transylvania is the lost heartland of the Magyars - I couldn't have put it more succinctly myself. But we have to ask ourselves why it was lost. I see I'll have to write more about this :-)

Lulu, Zsa Zsa it is then. It's the best day's work Hertfordshire ever did and this book will prove it!

Nikos, you agree with Alice? What is wrong with you, man?? Romanians may well be descended from Greeks, and they will prove this if needs be.

Kevo, intransigent, partisan adherence to dubious interpretations of history is the reason we don't have pub quiz-nights in Romania! (BTW, T think you're entitled to misspell "Danube", seeing as how every country spells it differently.)

Boyo, oh yes, please send me this communication. I would even happily talk to this friend of yours, though I suspect he doesn't need me to tell him where he's right :-)

Madame DeFarge said...

But what did the Romanians ever do for us? Or am I thinking of someone else? And didn't Mary Magdalene go and live among them too? Which explains all the red-haired ladies in Romania? Or am I thinking of Scotland? I get so confused.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Madame, it is confusing isn't it. This place was the Crossroads Motel for most of the invading tribes from the Steppes, so we've got a fair mixture of genes. But the redheads are mainly of the Wella or L'Oreal variety.

Pat said...

I'd like to know what Mrs Gadjo thinks. I suspect it may be simpler:)

Gadjo Dilo said...

Hi Pat! Yes, Mrs Dilo thinks - as they all instructed to do during her schoolyears - that theory #1 is a perfectly adequate explaination. But luckily she's not too hung up on the idea to stop her having Hungarian friends.

Susan said...

No Molesworth theory then?

Samus said...

Wow, you managed to summarize the "Who was here first!" issue in one page and even draw a conclusion!
We're trying to solve this puzzle for centuries without luck. Maybe we (Magyars and Romanians) should all try to become British in the hope that we'll become as smart as you are!

Eryl Shields said...

What I always do in these situations is check Wikipedia, they know everything.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Susan, ahh yes, there should have been a "Molesworth Theory" - an opportunity missed!

Samus, nice to meet you. It's a thorny issue indeed, one of the thorniest, but I was determined to have a go and try to approach an unbiased conclusion. The debate is not over, of course - for instance, maybe they may suddenly unearth the lost city of Gelu the Vlach Duke of Transylvania. I myself hope to post more on this subject soon.

Eryl, yes, that was my approach too :-) Despite the problems inherent in the Wikipedia idea, their pages do at least acquire some balance over time.

Samus said...

Gajdo, nice to meet you too!
Some historical sources point out that the lost fortress of Gelu is the artificial hill under Calvaria church in Cluj.
No serious archeological digging was ever organized there and as far as I know there aren't plans for one.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Samus, for real?? I live in Cluj and pass that litle "hill" regularly. As I'm sure you know, according to Gesta Hungarorum (1200AD) Gelu was a Vlach (i.e a Romanian) and was there when the Hungarians arrived, making the Romanians the ones here first. I believe that Romanaian archiologists have searched a lot for proof of this but have found nothing conclusive yet; I'm surprised that they didn't dig up this hill if there was a chance that it was there - or maybe Funar was too scared that it wasn't there!

Samus said...

I really don't know the details but at the beginning of the '90 there was a very short lived archeological digging there. Maybe it was shutdown at the Catholic church request since all that plateau is a big graveyard and in weekends kinds(including myself :))went there and use to play with the uncovered human bones. But as I said I really don't know why they halted the diggings, it's just my 2 cents on the matter!

Gadjo Dilo said...

Samus, they also started archeological digging around the base of the statue of Mattias Corvinus on Piata Unirii, I think for similar reasons, but some said that it was just Funar trying to destroy the statue of Corvin. If we can phase out more people like Funar then maybe some time we can all look at the evidence found so far and have a proper dialogue. What are your views on the metter?

Samus said...

I don't think that Funar, in all his craziness, deluded himself that he could remove Matthia's statue from the square.What I do believe is that he wanted and tried to change the center of the city in the public mind from Matthia's square to Iancu's square, a sort of rewriting history.
In Matthia's square nobody conducted archeological work per se, they just dug a pit and left it that way for 8 years and in time it was full of garbage.
The diggings at Calvaria church lasted just a few months and there were no trash pits involved.

Samus said...

If by my views on the subject you mean the who was first here I would have to say both and neither.
Let me explain why. The only safe proof on the matter is genetics and from what I've seen Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania are genetically virtually the same people which is quite strange for two people with such distant languages.
We either both assimilated more numerous peoples than ours and we became genetically close or we were at some point in time similar or the same people and got linguistically assimilated by other small groups of people.
I don't trust most of Romanian or Hungarian official history because they are both too romantic for my "taste" and as you already said they are not based on hard evidence because there is none.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Samus, thanks for your views and for passing on your knowledge. I had not investigated the genetic aspect and what you report is quite surprising. Of course, one would have to use some sort of benchmark to conclude whether the lack of genetic similarity actually means that Romanians and Hungarians are very similar or if it just means more inconclusiveness.

I agree with you about history: I never want to read a history of this place written by either a Romanian or a Hungarian; Wikipedia at least manages some sort of balance.