When the mountain is political

The study of the Transylvanian Carpathian Club, XIXe century today, allows us to understand how the mountain range joined the movement for national appropriation of nature, which brought Germans, Hungarians and Romanians into conflict.

Is the XIIe century that the Hungarian king Geisa II called on German settlers from the Rhineland to develop the mineral resources of Transylvania, a territory enclosed in the Carpathian massif. The process was common at the time. The Germans are renowned experts in mining and metallurgy and their agricultural settlers make it possible to develop the land.

These Saxons, as they are named, have political autonomy within the towns they occupy, the territory being shared with Hungarian-speaking, Roman-speaking Vlach, Jewish and Roma populations. Subjects of the Hungarian crown, they suffered from its misfortunes and Ottoman suzerainty after the disaster of Mohcs in 1526, reconquered by the Habsburgs of Austria who became kings of Hungary while retaining, year after year, a distinct political status until 1876.

Nine years earlier, in 1867, a compromise had been found to try to resolve the political crisis which had weakened the Habsburg states since the Spring of the Peoples in 1848. The Hungarians had obtained quasi-independence from Vienna only foreign policy and the army were truly shared with Austria and the Hungarian government pursued an aggressive policy of Magyarization with a view to constituting a culturally homogeneous state.

In the national movement of XIXe century

It was in this context that the Siebenbrgischer Karpatenverein (Siebenbrgischer Karpatenverein) was established in 1880.SKV), an Alpine club modeled on the Deutscher stereichicher Alpenverein (DA.V.). Is this a hygienic approach intended to provide good air to city dwellers?? Not only and not even mainly, as evidenced by the club's abundant literature. On the other hand, it is part of this double movement of XIXe European century: the affirmation of the national principle and the scientific inventory of the world, which moreover joins the first in a movement of appropriation of space and time.

This phenomenon is particularly strong within the Germanic world where, from 1815 to 1871 proclamation of the German Reich, the absence of a common state favored the emergence of the idea of ​​a Culture and dune Nature nation: certainly, the Germans do not have a state, unlike the Russians, French, British and Spanish, but they form a nation through a common culture within which the relationship with nature plays a specific role. Associations, Vereinreplace a non-existent common administration.

This model resonates with the problem of the Saxon minority of Transylvania, now deprived of its autonomous political institutions. There is little left except the Lutheran religion which still stands. It will add a second pillar: the Carpathian mountains.

THE SKV, which increases the number of hikes, sets up lodges, publishes guides and promotes naturalism (botany, mineralogy), is an enterprise of appropriation of the mountains. It’s about naturalizing it, making it Saxon. Conversely, an unwavering link between Germanity and the mountains is affirmed, which obviously does not correspond to any historical reality: until XIXe century, the Carpathians remained the domain of Romanian shepherds.

Carpathians versus Balkans

The relationship with these natives is ambivalent. Some can serve as guides, as the Savoyard mountaineers served as guides to the first British mountaineers, or even as overnight guests, when the mountain was not yet equipped with lodges.; but the Vlach shepherds may also be hostile to this penetration of German hikers, which will lead to SKV have the guests blessed by Orthodox popes to prevent them from being set on fire.

In the last quarter of XIXe century, the Austro-Hungarian Empire liked, in the concert of the great European powers, to present itself as a march of Western civilization facing a backward East. In this atmosphere, the Carpathians embody the limits of Western Europe facing their counterpart that can be seen in good weather, the Balkan Mountains, eponymous mountains to designate the whole of Ottoman Europe in full decline.

The Saxons of Transylvania can take advantage of their cultural links with the German-speaking area to forge links with Vienna or Berlin and constitute a powerful cultural vector. They developed tourism and a modern educational system, produced abundant cartography of the mountains, but also significantly of the surroundings of their cities. In fact, they resist Magyarization in a Mitteleuropa where German occupies a dominant place both culturally and economically.

The tide turned from 1918. As part of the division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Transylvania fell to Romania. This is the first time, historically, that the region has come under the control of Bucharest, the capital. Balkan. The Romanian governments reproduced the policies of their Magyar predecessors and worked to Romanize the territory. The movement remained moderate until the Second World War. During the war, the dictatorship of Ion Antonescu threw the country into the fascist alliance. The Saxon community and the SKV also gradually yields to the sirens of Pan-Germanism. The return of the concrete is all the more brutal.

THE SKV the proof of national communism

Following the war, the property of the SKV were confiscated and the communist regime vigorously resumed the policy of Romanization, which took an ubuesque turn with the dictatorship of the Ceausescu couple. Isn't Nicolae the genius of the Carpathians? The mountains, once the eastern step of Western civilization, are becoming the backbone of Romanian identity. Not only does Romania claim Dacian heritage, dating back the presence of Romanians to Antiquity, but it also claims a chthonic identity, with Romanians almost being carpathians.

German names (and in general anything that evokes the German presence) are prohibited. The communist regime built Neo-Byzantine style Orthodox churches in medieval Saxon towns. He also encouraged the development of mountaineering, which was to become the Romanian mass sport, and this, with a certain success, the mountain effectively representing one of the rare spaces of freedom in a Kafkaesque regime.

The members of the SKV now banned maintain memory and hide maps, but also contribute to the development of resolutely sporting mountaineering. The collapse of the Ceausescu regime had paradoxical effects. It opens the possibility of a reconstitution of the SKV, but the bleeding of the German-speaking community towards the West is irresistible. THE SKV quickly became an essentially Romanian club, but some of the members knew and recognized the role of the Saxon community in its origins.

The fact remains that the action of national communism has left deep marks on people's consciences. In short, he succeeded in his challenge, the creation of an almost exclusive Romanian national identity on the model of nation-states, forged in XIXe century through a fanciful national novel of formidable effectiveness, sweeping away the complexity of two thousand years of history for the benefit of the Carpathians eternally Romanians and Romanians eternally Carpathians.

And the Saxons? They migrated to West Germany or further afield. And of course, as is often the case, these Transylvanian Germans, once resettled in Bavaria, Baden-Wrttemberg or Australia, realized that they were also German-speaking Transylvanians. We can only hope that they play a role as cultural transmitters in a world that we will, however, be careful not to consider as post-national.

A useful monograph

Catherine Roth's study constitutes an interesting monograph dedicated to the destiny of a linguistic minority, which illustrates the vicissitudes of European history over the past 150 years. The nature-culture-identity triptych occupies a central place, hence the title, and the analysis of the SKV as a substitute for lost medieval autonomy,universitas saxonorumis quite convincing.

It is more difficult to follow the author in her judgment on the anachronistic character of the Romanianization policy. The ubuesque character of Ceausescu's dictatorship makes it easy to ridicule its form, but does it allow us to affirm in substance that the constitution of culturally homogeneous nation-states belongs to the past?? Neither Turkey vis-à-vis the Armenians, nor China vis-à-vis the Ughurs, nor Israel vis-à-vis non-Jews allows us to affirm this, except to decree that these entities belong to the past, which at the very least constitutes a hypothesis worthy of discussion.

A regret, editorial this one, and which is quite generalizable to works resulting from research work: the text is published in the collection Trials from Rennes University Press. Unfortunately, the work of popularization has not been done to achieve a shorter, more energetic, more accessible text truly deserving the qualifier essay. He still feels the thesis from which he came. It's a shame if you want to expand your audience.

Finally, I admit to having felt annoyed by the author's repeated process of pretending to be surprised that this or that point has not yet been the subject of research. If everything were investigated, there would no longer be any need to search!