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....