Xenopoliana, X, 2001

Discursul istoric între realitate și ficțiune.
Complementarități și antinomii



Steliu Lambru





Until the outbreak of the 1848 revolution in the Habsburg space,49 the Moschopolitan Aromanians had proceeded to write new books, especially grammars and dictionaries50 working on national project. We have no had yet evidences which allow us to conceive an interpretation of what Moschopolis acted as a city, particularly after the Muslim sacks, but it seems that the settlement decreased slightly and became a rural and played a peripheral role, taking into account the massive emigration of elites towards Central Europe. In the second half of the nineteenth century the interest concerning the Aromanians' past increased significantly among Romantic intellectual of the newly created Romanian state (1859/1862). As long as Moschopolis remained within the Habsburg Empire its memory retained an urban and ethno-cultural missionary feature and only was it dragged out from its original cultural context, the discourse on Moschopolis became more and more obviously a national lamentation. The process of identification of Moschopolis' inhabitants with a single nation51 was a venture made by historians and national activists in spite of the fact that the economic and cultural functions refuse to confer Moschopolis any sharp national mark. After the transfer to Romanian geopolitical and cultural space, the Moschopolitan discourse became a militant one, having a powerful desire to expand over the entire territories dwelled in by Vlachs. Turning into a regressive utopia, Moschopolis lost its specificity and became a part of national heroic past and in itself lost its supremacy in national dissertations on national specific; it was not anymore a subject for study but a "given truth", which did not need any supplementary research.
Some of the 1848 Romanian revolutionists either wrote on the Vlach history and language or gathered simple impressions on the topic52 and one the most popular texts of the Romantic age belonged to Dimitrie Bolintineanu, who, during his travels throughout the Balkans, was exalted by the mutual understanding between Romanians and Aromanians.53 Later on, as the minister of education in Romanian government, Bolintineanu initiated a special policy of the Romanian state devoted to the protection of Vlachs from abroad. Romania took upon itself a double task: the integration of Vlach national discourse into Romanian state policies and the promoting of national symbols among Vlachs in order to annihilate the strongly remaining vestiges of Graecophilia. The latter also included the utopian re-creation of Moschopolis. In accomplishing of this twofold mission, Romania settled massively upon cultural policies, using instruments and terms of the process of the cultural revolution, which went hand in hand with education and schooling.54 Thus, the demarcation between the cultural revolution and utopia seemed indistinctively and only the presence of physical violence around 1900's stops one from considering that the national idea was immediately accepted. It is not the uniqueness of Romania but all states, which had to build up the national consciousness of their own citizens, the so-called process of "nationalizing the nation". The birth of Moschopolis as an utopian construction has been possible due to the process of cultural revolution, which meant in practical terms, adopting decisions of the state's bureaucracy and disseminating them by its agents. In the analysis of the cultural revolution, at least one question must be raised: who does it decide which will be the promoted elements as national treasure?55 The national state discovered the violence as the essential dimension of the city, the sensibility for brutal way of sharing and disseminating national beliefs. In its national stage of existence, Moschopolis got a predominantly violent meaning, which is still the best-known part of its history. In Paul Cornea's analysis on Romanian Romanticism "the concept of 'nation' tends, after 1821, to become much more embodied in history, becoming a strong idea, and at the same time, a 'shocking-image', which illustrates the ideal of its contemporaries and gathers all available energies."56
For the Romanian foreign policy in the Balkans, the Vlach question was an important objective to solve, and inside this policy there was even individualized a clearer trend called "the propaganda for Macedonia". In order to raise effectively the outcomes of propaganda, the cultural initiatives of the Romanian state agents were sustained vigorously by political initiatives in order to gain influence. The writer Costache Negri, the Romanian envoy to the capital of the Ottoman Empire after the 1859 union, demanded improvements for Aromanians concerning their national rights as minorities. In 1860, it was constituted the Macedo-Romanian Committee, formed by Aromanian and Romanian national activists, which had as its main goal to guide the cultural politics for Aromanians from abroad making an agreement with the government of the United Principalities (Romania) and Committee's actions were focused on Macedonia,57 where the most Vlachs or Aromanians dwelled in. Responding to critiques on the government's policy regarding the legal and national statuses of Aromanians from the Balkans, Mihail Kogălniceanu, the Romanian Prime Minister, declared in 1864 in front of Chamber of Deputies:

"Every human being needs to raise his thoughts and his national aspirations toward an ideal. If we were not interested in the Macedonian agitation, our compatriots would pay their attention on the national status of Romanians from Transylvania. But our relationship with the Habsburg Empire would be too troubled because of this affair, something we must completely avoid. Thus, it is necessary at this moment to pay our compatriots' attention to the Macedonian question."58

Twelve years after Kogălniceanu's intervention, in the external political orientation of Romanian government59 towards the Vlach population was perceived as a hostile attitude toward Greece, which counter-attacked powerfully. Two Aromanian parties fought each other, the Romanian nationalists and the Graecophiles and the gradually accumulated tensions outbroke in violent confrontations in 1891 and 1905 between those two groups.60
In the second half of the nineteenth century and in the first four decades of the twentieth century, historical writings on Aromanians might be classified into three groups: the first group is those texts which make a positive image of them, often they were written as a part of national propaganda, the second group are collections of historical sources, and the third group is formed by negative texts written by other national propagandas, especially the Greek one. As a general overview, the historical works might be characterized as non-theoretical, written within national paradigm, and haunted by a complex of inferiority and self-victimisation. The references to Moschopolis are sporadic, referring primarily to its tragedy, which was similar to a "national trauma". Along with the Macedo-Romanian Committee, some publications were founded to spread the Aromanian national idea and most of them wrote lamentations for Moschopolis' end.61 In the cultural and political edifice of Greater Romania these features were strongly stressed by the influence of political ideologies, namely by the right-wing ideological model promoted by the Iron Guard. Many intellectuals were engaged in nationalist projects, even they were not very active from a political point of view, but some of them wrote exaltedly pieces of Aromanian history and were influenced by the political edifice of Greater Romania.62
The decisive step in the intellectual transformation of Moschopolis from a real city into a utopian place was made by the Aromanian literature. The utopian emergence of Moschopolis must be viewed related to the birth of the Aromanian literature, mainly by those publications where many young Aromanians educated in Romanian schools from the Balkans started to write articles, poems, and stories in Aromanian. Bucolic and lyrical themes are predominant, linked to the traditional handicrafts; they reflects feelings like love, nostalgia, superstitions, but also dauntless deeds, humorous situations, social kinships, mentalities, emotions, ordinary and daily aspects of life, and so on. The most difficult obstacle for this literature to express as such was the language itself, more precisely the intellectual usage of the language. This was both typical for the Romanian language and the Aromanian one. An example is Sergiu Hagiadi, who translated Roja's first book, moans about his disagreements with the other literate people concerning the Romanian orthography and his linguistic urge for Romanian philologists was to adopt quickly the French orthography to make Romanian more comprehensible.63 This reality was still present four years after the establishing of the Latin alphabet and all efforts, which were guided to standardize the Aromanian language. Be that as it may, the Aromanian literature continued to possess a very rural character concerning its themes for artistic and intellectual mode of expression. The efforts made by the Romanian established schools for Aromanians in some places of Macedonia and the work of propaganda through nationalist press resulted in a process of de-nationalising Aromanians, in a sense of depriving Aromanian speakers of their local features, and re-nationalising them with Romanian and national ideology. Nowadays, the literary works in Aromanian are the results of this type of educational system, where the most important role was played by the Romanian high school from Bitola. The Aromanian literature has not reached yet a strong stage of elevation in order to become an idiom for larger usage, to express different tendencies, and to offer various models of creation. Within such a unique way of narrating the past, the only discourse which has been developed on Moschopolis was the nationalist one, and, as Sorin Antohi codified the utopian tendency of narrating the perfection, Aromanian elites wrote in Aromanian having an exalted feeling of finding of a "magnetic beauty and without any imperfection of a brilliant city" which "evokes a dreamlike image."64
A virtual author of the history of the Aromanian historiography would barely observe important changes between the manner of the nineteenth century of narrating the past and one hundred years later (1850-1950). In the first half of the twentieth century, Moschopolis and the history of Aromanians65 have constantly remained the same. The writers who wrote particularly on Moschopolis were Nicolae Batzaria, Kira Iorgoveanu and Nida Boga; the latter's work being a one hundred-fifty sonnets epic poem, which gave birth to the Moschopolitan utopia. The period after the Second World War represents actually the intellectual reconstruction of Moschopolis, its utopian meaning. As I added heretofore, the Aromanian literature has developed as following traditional paradigms and it has constantly retained an isolated and militant character, haunted by traditional and nationalist marks. Shy attempts to change the manner in writing literature were made after the 1960s, especially in the field of poetry. But nobody has effectively tried to revisit either scientifically or literally the utopian facet of Moschopolis. 


49 In spite of the Romantic project of national emancipation, Aromanians were actively engaged in Greek organisations, which fought for the independence of Greece. Narrating the upheaval from 1821 (Romanian historiography names it "the national revolution"), Arginteanu classifies it as a "Greek revolution", neglecting completely the role of Tudor Vladimirescu, the Romanian leader of the upheaval ("a Wallachian peasant then beginning his own peasant revolt against the nobles" as it was considered in Stanford J. Shaw & Ezel Kural Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). Arginteanu also considers that the conspiracy organised by the Greek secret society Philiki Hetairia ("Society of Friends") was conceived as such by an important number of Aromanians, who became active members of this association. Arginteanu overstates considering that Rigas, the author of the Greek revolutionary anthem was Aromanian. See Arginteanu, op. cit., pp. 245-247.
50 These educational actions were encouraged by the suitable climate of the issued decree by the Habsburg Emperor Francis I, in 1811, which gave Romanians the possibility of constituting schools in Romanian.
51 The same situation took place in the Greek national canon, which deprived Moschopolis of all its Aromanian tenants claiming that Muslims attacked and destroyed a Greek city.
52 In the 1840s, the Romanian historians and participants at the 1848 revolution Mihail Kogălniceanu, Nicolae Bălcescu, Timotei Cipariu, Eftimie Murgu commented on Vlach's status within the Balkan countries and the Vlach question became one of the directions of the Romanian foreign policy.
53 Dimitrie Bolintineanu, Călătorii (Travels) (București: Ed. Minerva, 1987), pp. 217-267.
54 The Romantic program of Romanian national awakening stipulates that moving toward increasing the national consciousness was meant to be a set of radical claims, which consisted of making educational system accordingly. The main task of the newly established educational system was mainly the revival of national historical myths and the codifying the Romanian language. See Mirela-Luminița Murgescu, Între "bunul creștin" și "bravul român". Rolul școlii primare în constituirea identității naționale românești (1831-1878) (Betwenn "the good Christian" and "the brave Romanian". The Role of the Primary School in the Formation of the Romanian National Identity, 1831-1878) (Iași: Ed. A'92, 1999), 262 p.
55 To put the relationship between utopia and violence in the terms of Karl Popper, a question to which the most difficult answer to give is "how can a decision be reached?" Popper's answer is mainly related to two possible ways: either by argument or by violence. As he declared himself an enemy to any form of violence, Popper thinks that these two notions are intermingled and although propaganda uses arguments too, there is a difference between the argument, which counts for a decision, and the argument, which ends up in violence. The difference "lies rather in an attitude of give and take, in a readiness not only to convince the other man but also possibility to be convinced by him." This urges one to reflect on this relation between utopia and violence, and the attitude of "give and take" belongs to the urban and cosmopolitan settlement. See Karl R. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations. The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 356.
56 Paul Cornea, Originile romantismului românesc (The Origins of the Romanian Romanticism) (București: Ed. Minerva, 1972), p. 469.
57 Macedonia and the whole part nowadays known as Northern Greece was a territory with important number of Aromanian inhabitants. The actual Voskopoje built on the old area of Moschopolis is located close to the Albanian-Macedonian border. Today, Aromanians but more by Albanians dwell in that area.
58 Peyfuss, op. cit., p. 49.
59 Internationally recognized as an independent state after the treaty of Berlin (1878), Romania intensified its foreign policy over the Balkans lands dwelled by Aromanians, at that time some of those territories being under the Greek administration. This generated political and diplomatic tensions, which culminated in mutual recall for diplomatic missions from one another.
60 To these tensions were added those generated by Romanian activists in the Balkans who were paid to constitute Romanian schools in Macedonia. The Ottoman police expelled some of those Romanian activists, considered spies, after complaints of the Greek Patriarchate in 1878. Supplementary tensions were raised in 1892, when the Graecophile Aromanians disapproved of the appointment of an Aromanian bishop, nominated by the Ottomans. The bilateral relationships between Romania and Greece remained very troubled and confused until around 1910.
61 The review "Lumina" ("The Light") of the Romanian high school from Bitola (Macedonia) published the main texts on national mourning of Moschopolis.
62 The presence of Aromanians in the structures of the Iron Guard was very active. Constantin Papanace, one of them, was a leader of the Iron Guard in his western exile and he wrote some pieces on both Romanian and Aromanian histories.
63 Gheorghe Constantin Roja, Cercetări despre românii de dincolo de Dunăre (Craiova, 1867), p. X.
64 Antohi, op. cit., p. 39.
65 In order to summarize one hundred-fifty year of Aromanian historical studies, still the cliché constitutes an important and widespread belief of many Aromanians on their national past, with special applications to the Moschopolitan utopia. I take as an example the case of Matilda Caragiu-Marioțeanu, a Romanian scholar having Aromanian origins. Her study, "Un dodecalog al aromânilor sau 12 adevăruri incontestabile, istorice și actuale asupra aromânilor și asupra limbii lor" (A Dodecalogue of Aromanians or 12 Incontestable Truths, Historical and Actual on Aromanians and on their Language), was included in Djuvara, ed., op. cit., pp. 168-183. Briefly, she strongly believes that her article has to be a set of national commands, "a dodecalogue for any Aromanian", and this is as paradigmatic as for all myths and commonplaces of any national insight on the past. The author witnesses for a "scientific creed" linked to her ethno-psychological existence as "an Aromanian being" and she codifies "twelve eternal truths" concerning the Aromanians past, in fact a collection of national stereotypes, most of them related to language as the essential element of Aromanian ethnic ontology. Matilda Caragiu-Marioțeanu considers the Aromanian nation as an ethnic individuality within the larger notion of "Romanianness". On the contrary, Max Demeter Peyfuss denies the usage of "Romanian" as a general term for all Balkan varieties of Romanic language. For him "there are Vlachs who do not show any form of Romanic self and they must not be treated like a sort of Romanian." See Max Demeter Peyfuss, "Romanitatea balcanică: perspective de cercetare," (The Balkan Romanity: Perspectives of Research) Luceafărul ("The Morning Star") 5/105 (1992), pp. 8-9.