Michael Scott's Reviews > O scurtă istorie a românilor povestită celor tineri

O scurtă istorie a românilor povestită celor tineri by Neagu Djuvara
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Apr 18, 12

bookshelves: historical, anthropology, non-fiction, politics, teaching
Read in April, 2012

O Scurta Istorie is a nice little gem of a history book. In it, Neagu Djuvara tells his story, the story of the Romanian people. The book is aimed at non-experts, for example school and high-school pupils; admittedly, it was just fine for this reader. Djuvara confesses from the beginning that one of his goals in writing this book is to try to rectify some of the glaring "re-definitions" of historical knowledge made over the past 70 years in Romania, that is, under the Communist and post-Communist regimes.

The book is structured in six main chapters. First, we learn about the misty beginnings, from Burebista's first congregation of tribes (around 1st century BC) to the Dark Ages (until about the XIII-th century). Second, Djuvara discusses the formation of the medieval Romanian states, from Negru Voda and Basarab (around 1300 AD) to the Bogdanesti dynasty in Moldavia (around 1390); the short historical period leads to a short description of the key political figures, but this chapter also includes a detailed description of the structure of the state and its relationship with the Church. Third, we learn about the "turcocracy", the Turkic-led (not only Turkish, or Ottoman) leadership of the land, from the defense organized by Mircea cel Batran and Stefan cel Mare (between 1350 and 1500) to the first unification of the Romanian states under Mihai Viteazul (1600). Fourth, we understand how the Middle Ages extended in the Romanian lands until 1821, ending with the (failed) revolt of Tudor Vladimirescu. Fifth, the Romanian people finally begin to modernize, that is, to get back in line with the Western powers; up to 1878 and going through the enlightened period of Cuza. Sixth, the period of contemporary Romania begins in 1881 with the arrival of Carol I, the king, and ends with the arrival of the Communist regime, sometimes between 23 August 1944 and (the official) 1947 elections.

All in all, this is a concise, easy-to-read history. Among the main positive elements of this book I found the ability of Djuvara to shed light on a number of historical events grossly misrepresented in the history books created during the Communist regime. A feeling of fairness permeates the writing, see for example the presentation of arguments for and against the Romanian presence in these lands (a commonly tabu subject, as several neighboring countries, such as Serbia, Hungary, and Ukraine, have interests in the region). Djuvara also enjoys---and this reviewer greatly appreciates it---analyzing the etymology of various words and the toponimics, arguing often convincingly for their role in the reinterpretation and re-attribution of historical knowledge. I enjoyed the discussion about the title---this is a history of the Romanian people, not of Romania---and the many (finer) linguistic points made throughout the text. I enjoyed the "researchy" attitude present especially in the first two chapters, where historical fiction is perhaps the best a historian can provide, and where Djuvara proposes several of his hypotheses and clearly marks them as unproven.

I particularly disliked the exaggerations and the sometimes too obvious pro-Romanian bias of the author. Although Djuvara acknowledges in the fifth part of the book that he cannot disentangle himself from the nationalistic pro-Romanian side---Djuvara argues that his family has suffered expropriation, relocation, and plain murder during these periods---, this reviewer believes this material could have been much better without the personal attacks, the take on the masonic league, the minimization of the anti-Jewish pogroms, the glorification or vilification of political figures, etc. Specifically, there was room for a less partial analysis of the fifth and, especially, the sixth periods of this history.

Overall, I really liked the book. Djuvara has achieved most of his goals, among which, in the opinion of this reviewer, proposing the first balanced history of the Romanian people.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Cbanica Please note that the English version has been published and is available on Amazon (all sites). ISBN 1478132043


message 2: by Michael (last edited Feb 12, 2013 04:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Michael Scott Thanks, the English version should be interesting for many. Note to self: A Concise History of Romanians.


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