Nationalism versus internationalism: the roles of political and cultural elites in interwar and communist Romania

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This paper has two main goals. First, it illuminates continuities between the ideas of “true Romanian-ness” as held by both the Romanian cultural elite and the Romanian political regimes in the interwar and communist periods. A manufactured definition of a “true” Romanian—as a Romanian Orthodox Christian, natively Romanian-speaking, and ethnically Romanian—formed the core of Romanian nationalism, regardless of the ruling ideology. This definition did not include the Roman and Greek Catholics of Romanian ethnicity on the grounds that they were not Orthodox Christians. It goes without saying that these criteria also excluded Hungarians, Germans and other ethnic minorities on the basis of ethnicity, language and religion. Second, the paper demonstrates that the principal ideas of Romanian nationalism developed in overt contrast to the internationalist ideological movements of both periods. Both the liberals and the Marxists misunderstood nationalism, claimed Ernest Gellner in 1964: liberals assumed that nationalism was a doomed legacy of outmoded irrationalism, superstition and savagery, and Marxists considered it a necessary but temporary stage in the path to global socialism. Gellner's comments are evidently appropriate to Romania, where nationalist responses developed first to the Westernization of the interwar period and second to communist internationalism after 1948.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-155
JournalNationalities Papers
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2006


  • nationalism
  • internationalism
  • political elites
  • cultural elites
  • communism
  • Romania


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