Culture of Romania
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The culture of Romania is the product of its geography and its distinct historical evolution. It is theorized and speculated that Romanians and the Vlachs (Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians, and Istro-Romanians) are the combination of descendants of Roman colonists and people indigenous to the region who were Romanized.
The Dacian people, one of the major indigenous peoples of southeast Europe are one of the predecessors of the Proto-Romanians. It is believed that a mixture of Dacians, Romans, Slavs, and Illyrians are the predecessors of the modern Romanians, Aromanians (Vlachs), Megleno-Romanians, and Istro-Romanians. Modern Romanian culture visibly reflects a tremendous amount of Eastern European influences. In addition, Romanian culture shares several similarities with other ancient cultures such as that of the Armenians.
During late Antiquity and Middle Ages, the major influences came from the Slavic peoples who migrated and settled south of the Danube; from medieval Greeks, and the Byzantine Empire; from the Hungarians; from the Poles (especially in Moldavia); from the Germans, especially (Saxon settlers in Transylvania) as well as from several other neighboring peoples.
Romania's history has been full of rebounds: the culturally productive epochs were those of stability, when the people proved quite an impressive resourcefulness in making up for less propitious periods and were able to rejoin the mainstream of European culture. This stands true for the years after the Phanariote-Ottoman period, at the beginning of the 19th century, when Romanians had a favourable historical context and Romania started to become westernized, mainly with French influences, which they pursued steadily and at a very fast pace. From the end of the 18th century, the sons of the upper classes started having their education in Paris, and French became (and was until the communist years) a genuine second language of culture for Romanians.
The modeling role of France especially in the fields of political ideas, administration and law, as well as in literature was paralleled, from the mid-19th century down to World War I, by German culture as well, which also triggered constant relationships with the German world not only at a cultural level but in daily life as well. With the arrival of Soviet Communism in the area, Romania quickly adopted many soviet influences, and Russian was also a widely taught in the country during Romania's socialist years.
The Middle Ages
Until the 14th century, small states (Romanian: voievodate) were spread across the territory of Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia. The medieval principalities Wallachia and Moldavia arose around that time in the area on the southern and eastern sides of the Carpathian Mountains.
Moldavia and Wallachia were both situated on important commercial routes often crossed by Polish, Saxon, Greek, Armenian, Genovese, and Venetian merchants, connecting them well to the evolving culture of medieval Europe. Grigore Ureche's chronicle, Letopiseţul Ţărîi Moldovei (The Chronicles of the land of Moldavia), covering the period from 1359 to 1594, is a very important source of information about life, events and personalities in Moldavia. It is among the first non-religious Romanian literary texts; due to its size and the information that it contains it is, probably, the most important Romanian document from the 17th century.
The first printed book, a prayer book in Slavonic, was produced in Wallachia in 1508 and the first book in Romanian, a catechism, was printed in Transylvania, in 1544. At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, European humanism influenced the works of Miron Costin and Ion Neculce, the Moldavian chroniclers who continued Ureche's work. Constantin Brâncoveanu, prince of Wallachia, was a great patron of the arts and was a local Renaissance figure. During Şerban Cantacuzino's reign the monks at the monastery of Snagov, near Bucharest published in 1688 the first translated and printed Romanian Bible (Biblia de la București – The Bucharest Bible). The first successful attempts at written Romanian-language poetry were made in 1673 when Dosoftei, a Moldavian metropolitan in Iaşi, published a Romanian metrical psalter.
Dimitrie Cantemir, a Moldavian prince, was an important personality of the medieval period in Moldavia. His interests included philosophy, history, music, linguistics, ethnography and geography, and the most important works containing information about the Romanian regions were Descriptio Moldaviae published in 1769 and Hronicul vechimii a romano-moldo-valahilor (roughly, Chronicle of the durability of Romans-Moldavians-Wallachians), the first critical history of Romania. His works were also known in western Europe, as he authored writings in Latin: Descriptio Moldaviae (commissioned by the Academy of Berlin, the member of which he became in 1714) and Incrementa atque decrementa aulae othomanicae, which was printed in English in 1734–1735 (second edition in 1756), in French (1743) and German (1745); the latter was a major reference work in European science and culture until the 19th century.
In Transylvania, although they formed the majority of the population, Romanians were merely seen as a "tolerated nation" by the Austrian leadership of the province, and were not proportionally represented in political life and the Transylvanian Diet. At the end of the 18th century an emancipation movement known as the Transylvanian School (Şcoala Ardeleană) formed, which tried to emphasize that the Romanian people were of Roman origin, and also adopted the modern Latin-based Romanian alphabet (which eventually supplanted an earlier Cyrillic script). It also accepted the leadership of the pope over the Romanian church of Transylvania, thus forming the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church. In 1791, they issued a petition to Emperor Leopold II of Austria, named Supplex Libellus Valachorum based on the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, demanding equal political rights with the other ethnicities for the Romanians in Transylvania. This movement, however leaned more towards westernization in general, when in fact the origin of the Romanian people is not only from the peoples of the former Roman Empire, but also from the ancient Dacians, predating the arrival of the Romans, not to mention that from around the 1600s to the 1800s Romanian culture was heavily influenced by Eastern influences as emphasized through the Ottomans, and the Phanariotes.
The end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century was marked in Wallachia and Moldavia by the reigns of Phanariote Princes; thus the two principalities were heavily influenced by the Greek world. Greek schools appeared in the principalities and in 1818 the first Romanian School was founded in Bucharest by Gheorghe Lazăr and Ion Heliade Rădulescu. Anton Pann was a successful novelist, Ienăchiţă Văcărescu wrote the first Romanian grammar and his nephew Iancu Văcărescu is considered to be the first important Romanian poet. In 1821, an uprising in Wallachia took place against Ottoman rule. This uprising was led by the Romanian revolutionary and militia leader Tudor Vladimirescu.
The revolutionary year 1848 had its echoes in the Romanian principalities and in Transylvania, and a new elite from the middle of the 19th century emerged from the revolutions: Mihail Kogălniceanu (writer, politician and the first prime minister of Romania), Vasile Alecsandri (politician, playwright and poet), Andrei Mureşanu (publicist and the writer of the current Romanian National Anthem) and Nicolae Bălcescu (historian, writer and revolutionary).
The union between Moldavia and Wallachia in 1859 brought a growing consolidation of Romanian life and culture. Universities were opened in Iaşi and in Bucharest and the number of new cultural establishments grew significantly. The new prince from 1866 and then King of Romania, Carol I was a devoted king, and he and his wife Elisabeth were among the main patrons of arts. Of great impact in Romanian literature was the literary circle Junimea, founded by a group of people around the literary critic Titu Maiorescu in 1863. It published its cultural journal Convorbiri Literare where, among others, Mihai Eminescu, Romania's greatest poet, Ion Creangă, a storyteller of genius, and Ion Luca Caragiale, novelist and the Romania's greatest playwright published most of their works. During the same period, Nicolae Grigorescu and Ştefan Luchian founded modern Romanian painting; composer Ciprian Porumbescu was also from this time.
In Transylvania, the emancipation movement became better organised and in 1861 an important cultural organisation ASTRA (The Transylvanian Association for Romanian Literature and the Culture of the Romanian People) was founded in Sibiu under the close supervision of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Andrei Şaguna. It helped publish a great number of Romanian language books and newspapers, and between 1898 and 1904 it published a Romanian Encyclopedia. Among the greatest personalities from this period are: the novelist and publicist Ioan Slavici, the prose writer Panait Istrati, the poet and writer Barbu Ştefănescu Delavrancea, the poet and publicist George Coşbuc, the poet Ştefan Octavian Iosif, the historian and founder of Romanian press in Transylvania George Bariţiu and Badea Cârţan, a simple peasant shepherd from Southern Transylvania who, through his actions became a symbol of the emancipation movement.
The first half of the 20th century is regarded by many as the golden age of Romanian culture and it is the period when it reached its main level of international affirmation and a strong connection to the European cultural trends. The most important artist who had a great influence on the world culture was the sculptor Constantin Brâncuși (1876–1957), a central figure of the modern movement and a pioneer of abstraction, an innovator of world sculpture by immersion in the primordial sources of folk creation.
The relationship between traditional and Western European trends was a subject of heated polemics and outstanding personalities sustained the debates. The playwright, expressionist poet and philosopher Lucian Blaga can be cited as a member of the traditionalist group and the literary critic founder of the literary circle and cultural journal Sburătorul, Eugen Lovinescu, represents the so-called Westernizing group, which sought to bring Romanian culture closer to Western European culture. Also, George Călinescu was a more complex writer who, among different literary creations, produced the monumental "History of the Romanian literature, from its origins till present day".
The beginning of the 20th century was also a prolific period for Romanian prose, with personalities such as the novelist Liviu Rebreanu, who described the struggles in the traditional society and the horrors of war, Mihail Sadoveanu, a writer of novels of epic proportions with inspiration from the medieval history of Moldavia, and Camil Petrescu, a more modern writer distinguishing himself through his analytical prose writing. In dramaturgy, Mihail Sebastian was an influential writer and as the number of theaters grew also did the number of actors, Lucia Sturdza Bulandra being an actress representative of this period.
Alongside the prominent poet George Topîrceanu, a poet of an equal importance was Tudor Arghezi who was the first to revolutionize the poetry in the last 50 years. One should not neglect the poems of George Bacovia a symbolist poet of neurosis and despair and those of Ion Barbu a brilliant mathematician who wrote a series of very successful cryptic poems. Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco, founders of the Dadaist movement, were also of Romanian origin.
Also during the golden age came the epoch of Romanian philosophy with such figures as Mircea Vulcănescu, Dimitrie Gusti, Alexandru Dragomir, and Vasile Conta. The period was dominated by the overwhelming personality of the historian and politician Nicolae Iorga who, during his lifetime published over 1,250 books and wrote more than 25,000 articles. In music, the composers George Enescu and Constantin Dimitrescu and the pianist Dinu Lipatti became world-famous. The number of important Romanian painters also grew, and the most significant ones were: Nicolae Tonitza, Camil Ressu, Francisc Şirato, Ignat Bednarik, Lucian Grigorescu and Theodor Pallady. In medicine a great contribution to human society was the discovery of insulin by the Romanian scientist Nicolae Paulescu. Gheorghe Marinescu was an important neurologist and Victor Babeş was one of the earliest bacteriologists. In mathematics Gheorghe Ţiţeica was one of Romania's greatest mathematicians, and also an important personality was the mathematician/poet Dan Barbilian.
In Romania, the communist regime imposed heavy censorship on almost all elements of life and they used the cultural world as a means to better control the population. The freedom of expression was constantly restricted in various ways: the Sovietization period was an attempt at building up a new cultural identity on the basis of socialist realism and lending legitimacy to the new order by rejecting traditional values. Two currents appeared: one that glorified the regime and another that tried to avoid censorship. The first is probably of no lasting cultural value, but the second managed to create valuable works, successfully avoiding censorship and being very well received by the general public. From this period the most outstanding personalities are those of: the writer Marin Preda, the poets Nichita Stănescu and Marin Sorescu, and the literary critics Nicolae Manolescu and Eugen Simion. Most dissidents who chose not to emigrate lived a life closely watched by the regime, either in "house arrest" or in "forced domicile"; some chose to retreat to remote monasteries. Most of their work was published after the 1989 Revolution. Among the most notable examples are the philosophers Constantin Noica, Petre Ţuţea and Nicolae Steinhardt.
There was a chasm between the official, communist culture and genuine culture. On the one hand, against the authorities intentions, the outstanding works were perceived as a realm of moral truths and the significant representatives of genuine cultural achievement were held in very high esteem by the public opinion. On the other hand, the slogans disseminated nationwide through the forms of official culture helped spread simplistic views, which were relatively successful among some ranks of the population. The tension between these two directions can still be perceived at the level of society as a whole.
Culture inside communist Romania
A strong editorial activity took place during the Communist regime. With the purpose of educating the large masses of peoples, a huge number of books were published. Large-scale editing houses such as Cartea Românească, Editura Eminescu and others appeared, which published huge collections of books, such as the Biblioteca pentru Toţi ("The Library for Everyone") with over 5,000 titles. Generally, a book was never published in an edition of less than 50,000 copies. Libraries appeared in every village and almost all were kept up to date with the newest books published. Also, due to low prices, almost everyone could afford to have their own collection of books at home. The negative part was that all the books were heavily censored. Also, due to rationing in every aspect of life, the quality of the printing and the paper also was very low, and the books therefore degraded easily.
During this period, there was a significant increase in the number of theatres, as they appeared even in the smallest towns. Many new establishments were built and in the big cities they became important landmarks, such as the building of the National Theatre of Bucharest, situated right in the middle of the city, immediately adjacent to Romania's kilometre zero. In the smaller towns, there existed the so-called "Worker's Theatre", a semi-professional institution. Partly due to the lack of other entertainment venues, theatre was highly popular and the number of actors increased. All of the theatres had a stable, state-funded budget. Again, however, the drawback was the heavy control imposed on them by the regime: censorship was ever-present and only ideologically-accepted plays were allowed. More progressive theatres managed to survive in some remote cities that became favorite destinations for young actors, but they generally had only a local audience.
Cinemas evolved the same way as the theatres; sometimes the same establishment served both purposes. Movies were very popular, and from the 1960s, foreign films started becoming quite widespread. Western films, when shown, were heavily censored: entire sections were cut, and dialogue was translated only using ideologically accepted words. Domestic or "friendly" foreign productions constituted the bulk of films in cinemas. During this period, cinematography started to develop in Romania and the first successful short films were made based on Caragiale's plays. Financed by the government, during the 1960s, a whole industry developed at Buftea, a town close to Bucharest, and some films, especially gangster, Western-genre and historical movies were very well received by the public. The most prolific director was Sergiu Nicolaescu, and probably the most-acclaimed actor from that period was Amza Pellea.
Romanians in exile
A consequence of the communist attitude towards the bourgeoisie elites in general, was the creation, for the first time in Romania's history, of a diaspora. Three individuals emerged as the most important Romanians abroad: playwright Eugen Ionescu (1909–1994) (who became known in France as Eugène Ionesco), creator of the Theatre of the Absurd and eventual member of the Académie française; religious historian and writer Mircea Eliade (1907–1986); and the essayist and philosopher Emil Cioran (1911–1996), the greatest French-writing master of style after Pascal. Fellow Romanian Ioan Petre Culianu continued Eliade's work with great success, in the United States. Another member of the diaspora who distinguished himself was the philosopher and logician Stephane Lupasco. The communist rule in Romania, unlike most of the other countries of the Eastern bloc permanently repudiated the Romanians who had left their country and labelled them as traitors to the motherland. So, neither Mircea Eliade, nor Eugène Ionesco, nor Emil Cioran, whose works would be published in this country sporadically after 1960, could see their native land again. It was only after 1989 that the process of regaining the values of the diaspora and of reintegrating its personalities into this country's culture could be started seriously, a process marked in its turn by tension and disagreements.
Well-known Romanian musicians outside of Romania during this period include conductors Sergiu Celibidache—the main conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and later of Munich Philharmonic Orchestra—and Constantin Silvestri, main conductor at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Gheorghe Zamfir was a virtuoso of the pan pipes and made this instrument known to a modern worldwide audience, and was also a composer or interpreter for a great number of movies. Composer and architect Iannis Xenakis was born in Romania and spent his childhood there.
George Emil Palade a cell biologist and a teacher became the first Romanian to receive the Nobel Prize, winning the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for describing the structure and function of organelles in cells. Elie Wiesel, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, was born in the Romanian town of Sighetu Marmaţiei.
Evolutions after 1989
The fall of soviet-style communism in 1989 elated the cultural world, but the experience hasn't been an easy one due to problems in the transition period and the adoption of a free market economy. The discontinuation of state and political control of culture brought about the long dreamt freedom of expression, but, at the same time, the state subsidies also stopped and Romania's culture was seriously affected by the side-effects of the incipient, still very imperfect, free market economy and by inadequate material resources. Culture has had to cope with a variety of problems, one of them being a shift in people's interest towards other areas such as the press and television. The search for a new cultural policy, relying on decentralisation, seems to prevail now. People speak about a crisis of culture in this country, but if there is a crisis of culture, it is only at an institutional level.
After the fall of communism in 1989, there was an almost immediate explosion of publication of books previously censored by the regime. Books were published in huge numbers per edition, sales were high, and a great number of publishing houses appeared. However, this soon reached a saturation point, and publishing houses began to decline due to a combination of bad management, a rapid drop in sales, and the absence of subsidies. Many closed after publishing only a few titles; some changed their profile and started printing commercial literature – mainly translations – and the state-owned publishers entered a "state of lethargy". The latter survived due to state financing, but their publishing activity diminished. Despite this, some publishing houses managed to survive and develop by implementing market-oriented policies, and by improving the quality and overall appearance of the books they published. Among the most notable contemporary Romanian publishers are Humanitas in Bucharest, Polirom in Iaşi and Teora, which specializes in technical topics and dictionaries. Some publishing houses developed their own chains or bookstores, and also other new, privately owned bookstore chains opened, replacing the old state owned ones.
Culturally oriented newsprint periodicals followed a similar trajectory of boom and bust. A few have survived and managed to raise their quality and to maintain a critical spirit despite the hardships they encountered. Dilema Veche (Old Dilemma) and Revista 22 (Magazine 22) remain respected forces in Romanian culture, with Observator Cultural a lesser, but also respected, weekly paper. Also, a state financed radio (Radio România Cultural) and a television channel (TVR Cultural) with a cultural programme exist, but they are not highly popular.
Many new young writers appeared, but due to financial constraints, only those who have gained a strong reputation could get the financial backing to publish their works. The Writers's Union, which should, in principle, support these writers' efforts, hasn't undergone much change since 1989 and there is much controversy surrounding its activity and purpose. The most successful writers, like Mircea Cărtărescu, Horia-Roman Patapievici, Andrei Pleşu, Gabriel Liiceanu and Herta Müller, are respected personalities in Romanian life, but they have to devote some of their would-be writing time to other activities, mainly journalism. The ties with the Romanian diaspora are now very strong and even foreign-language Romanian writers like Andrei Codrescu (who now writes primarily in English) are very popular.
Romanian theatre also suffered from economic hardships, and its popularity decreased drastically due to the increased popularity of television and other entertainment channels. Some theatres survived due their prestige (and some continued subsidies); others survived through good management, investing in themselves and earning a steady audience through the high quality of their productions. Experimental or independent theatres appeared and are quite popular in university cities. Uniter – The Romanian Theatres Association – gives yearly awards to the best performances. Some of the most critically acclaimed directors in contemporary Romania are Silviu Purcărete, Mihai Maniutiu, Tompa Gabor, Alexandru Dabija and Alexandru Darie. Also, among the most appreciated actors, both from the new and old generation, one can name Ştefan Iordache, Victor Rebengiuc, Maia Morgenstern, Marcel Iureş, Horaţiu Mălăele, Ion Caramitru, Mircea Diaconu, Marius Chivu and others.
Due to the lack of funds, Romanian film-making suffered heavily in the 1990s; even now, as of 2005, a lot of controversy surrounds state aid for movies. Well-known directors such as Dan Piţa and Lucian Pintilie have had a certain degree of continued success, and younger directors such as Nae Caranfil and Cristi Puiu have become highly respected. Caranfil's film Filantropica and Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu were extremely well received and gained awards at international festivals in Paris and Cannes. Beside domestic production, Romania became a favorite destination for international producers due to the low cost of filming there, and big investments have been made in large studios.
The number of cultural events held yearly in Romania has increased over the past few years. Some sporadic events like the "2005 Bucharest CowParade" have been well received and yearly events and festivals have continually attracted interest. Medieval festivals held in cities in Transylvania, which combine street theatre with music and battle reenactments to create a very lively atmosphere, are some of the most popular events. In theatre, a yearly National Festival takes place, and one of the most important international theatre festivals is "The Sibiu Theatre Festival", while in filmmaking, the "TIFF" Film Festival in Cluj, the "Dakino" Film Festival in Bucharest and the "Anonimul" Film Festival in the Danube Delta have an ever-stronger international presence. In music, the most important event is the "George Enescu" Classical Music Festival but also festivals like "Jeunesses Musicales" International Festival and Jazz festivals in Sibiu and Bucharest are appreciated. An important event took place in 2007 when the city of Sibiu was, along with Luxembourg, the European Capital of Culture.
The most striking thing about Romanian culture is the strong folk traditions which have survived to this day due to the rural character of the Romanian communities, which has resulted in an exceptionally vital and creative traditional culture. Romania's rich folk traditions have been nourished by many sources, some of which predate the Roman occupation. Traditional folk arts include wood carving, ceramics, weaving and embroidery of costumes, household decorations, dance, and richly varied folk music. Ethnographers have tried to collect in the last two centuries as many elements as possible: the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Romanian Academy are currently the main institutions which systematically organise the data and continue the research.
Wood used to be the main construction material, and heavily ornamented wooden objects were common in old houses. In Maramureş, wood was used to create impressive structures such as churches or gates, in Dobruja, windmills were made of wood, and in mountainous regions hardwood was used even for covering the roof. To preserve traditional houses many village museums have been created in the last century throughout Romania, such as the Village Museum in Bucharest, the Traditional Popular Civilization ASTRA Museum in Sibiu, or the Oltenian Village Museum in Râmnicu Vâlcea.
Linen was the most common material for clothing, combined with wool during the winter or colder periods. These are embroidered with traditional motifs that vary from region to region. Black is the most common color used, but red and blue are predominant in certain areas. Traditionally, men wore a white shirt and pants (if made of wool they are called iţari) with wide a leather belt, usually over the shirt, and a vest sometimes made of leather and embroidered. They wore either boots or a simple shoe made of leather and tied around the foot called opincă and they wore a hat which differs in design from region to region. Women also wore a white skirt and a shirt with a vest. They wore an apron called şorţ or cătrinţă which is also embroidered and a headscarf called basma; on special occasions they wore more elaborate outfits.
Music and dance represent a lively part of the Romanian folklore and there are a great variety of musical genres and dances. Party music is very lively and shows both Balkan and Hungarian influences. Sentimental music, however, is the most valued, and Romanians consider their doina (a sad song either about one's home or about love, composed like an epic ballad) unique in the world. Maria Tănase, Maria Lătăreţu, Maria Ciobanu and Ileana Sararoiu are considered to be some of the greatest Romanian folk singers and today Grigore Leşe and Taraful Haiducilor are two of the most famous musicians. The dances are lively and are practiced throughout Romania by a large number of professional and amateur groups, thus keeping the tradition alive; Hora is one of the most famous group dances but men's folk dances such as căluşari are extremely complex and have been declared by UNESCO to be "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity".
Romanians have had, from time immemorial, a myriad of customs, tales and poems about love, faith, kings, princesses, and witches. The ethnologists, poets, writers and historians have tried in recent centuries to collect and to preserve tales, poems, ballads and have tried to describe as well as possible the customs and habits related to different events and times of year. Customs related to certain times of year are the colinde, Romanian Christmas carols, sorcova on New Year's Eve or the Mărţişor custom on the first day of March marking the spring. Other customs are presumably of pre-Christian pagan origin, like the Paparuda rain enchanting custom in the summer, or the masked folk theatre or Ursul (the bear) and Capra (the goat) in winter.
Perhaps the most successful collector of folk tales was the novelist and storyteller Ion Creangă, who in very picturesque language, shaped into their now-classic form stories like Harap Alb ("The White Moor") or Fata babei şi fata moşului (roughly, "The old woman's daughter and the old man's daughter").
Also, the poet Vasile Alecsandri published the most successful version of the ballad Mioriţa (The Little Ewe), a sad, philosophical poem, centered on a simple action: the plot by two shepherds to kill a third shepherd because they envied his wealth. Another prolific editor of folk tales was Petre Ispirescu, who, in the 19th century published an impressive number of volumes containing a large number of short novels and tales from popular mythology. They are centered on popular characters like the prince Făt-Frumos (the Romanian "Prince Charming"), the princess Ileana Cosânzeana, the villain or monster Zmeu or Căpcăun, the dragon Balaur or fantastic superbeings like the good Zână and the evil Muma Pădurii.
Spirituality and religion
Romanian spirituality is greatly influenced by its strong connections with the Eastern Christian world. The modern national mythology contends Romanians are An island of Latinity in a Slavic sea and The only Orthodox Christian Latin people. There are only a few Romanian Catholics (of both the Roman and Greek rites) and a small number of Protestants, the vast majority of Romanians being Romanian Orthodox (over 81%). Despite the diminishing importance of the church in recent generations, it remains the most trusted institution in Romania. Church attendance is high in rural communities and among the elders in the cities. Also, despite accusations of collaborationism with the communist regime, which continue to plague the Romanian Church, some clerics such as Dumitru Stăniloae and Richard Wurmbrandt openly protested against political interventions in religious business. There are also some Muslims living in the country.
Romanian Orthodox monasteries and churches exist throughout Romania, but traditionally, few are constructed on a monumental scale. A great number of wooden churches are still intact in the Carpathian Mountains villages, but by far the most impressive are the Wooden Churches of Maramureş which push wood building technique to its limits. Byzantine influences can be found in most Romanian church buildings but domestic styles have evolved in different periods of time and in different regions. In Moldavia, a particular style was used in the construction of the monasteries, of which some of the most important are the churches of northern Moldavia – UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as those of Moldoviţa, Putna, Suceviţa, or Voroneţ. In Wallachia, Curtea de Argeş Cathedral was built in a Byzantine style with Moorish influences, and a great number of churches show Greek influences, especially those built in the 18th century, such as Stavropoleos Church in central Bucharest. Romania also evolved the distinctive Brâncovenesc style: the monasteries of Snagov and of Sâmbăta de Sus in Transylvania are classical examples.
The cuisine of Romania has the same influences as the rest of Romanian culture; from Roman times there still exists the simple pie called, in Romanian, plăcintă and keeping the initial meaning of the Latin word placenta. The Turks brought meatballs (fried mititei or perişoare in a soup called ciorbă); from the Greeks there is the musaca (moussaka) and covrigi (hot pretzels); from the Bulgarians, a wide variety of vegetable dishes like zacuscă; from the Austrians there is the şniţel (schnitzel); from the Hungarians, their ornate pastries; and the list could go on.
Without a doubt, one of the most popular dishes in Romania, and perhaps can be called the national dish is Sarmale, or Sarma in other cultures of the Balkans, and the Caucasus; a mixture of pork, beef, and lamb, or just plain pork, with onions and rice, wrapped in semi-sour cabbage or grape leaves, and then placed usually in a porcelain pot with tomato paste and pork cuts. This dish is then slow-cooked, and commonly served with cornmeal (mămăligă, which is a type of polenta). One of the most common meals is the mămăligă, a cornmeal mush, for a long time considered the "poor man's meal" (N-are nici o mămăligă pe masă – "He hasn't even a mămăligă on the table"), but it has become very appreciated in recent times. Pork is the main meat used in Romanian cuisine, but also beef is consumed and a good lamb or fish dish is never to be refused. In conjunction with special events or periods, different recipes are prepared.
During Christmas, nearly every family slaughters a pig and cooks it using a wide variety of traditional recipes like cârnaţi – a type of long sausage with meat; caltaboşi – sausages made with liver and other internal organs; piftie – a jelly made from parts like the feet, head and ears; tochitură (a kind of stew) – served along with mămăligă and wine ("so that the pork can swim"); and tobă (head cheese). The meal is sweetened with the traditional cozonac (sweet bread with nuts, poppy seeds or lokum – rahat in Romanian, known in English as Turkish delight).
Lamb is traditional for Easter; the main dishes are borș de miel (lamb sour soup), roast lamb and drob – a cooked mix of offal, meat and fresh vegetables, which is quite similar to Scottish haggis, served with pască (pie made with cottage cheese) as a sweetener.
Wine is the main drink and has been a tradition for over three millennia. Romania is currently the world's ninth largest wine producer, and exports have increased in recent years. A wide variety of domestic (Grasă, Tămâioasă) and worldwide (Italian Riesling, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Muscat Ottonel) varieties are produced. Romania is the world's second largest grower of plums, and almost all of those plums becomes either the famous ţuică (a once-refined plum brandy) or palincă (twice-or-more-refined plum brandy). Beer is also highly appreciated, generally blonde pilsener beer, after the German style.
A great number of proverbs and sayings have developed around the activity of eating. From the innocent child's thank you: Săru-mâna pentru masă, c-a fost bună şi gustoasă, şi bucătăreasa frumoasa ("Thank you for the meal, it was good and tasty, and the cook was beautiful"), to the more philosophical Mulţumescu-ţi ţie Doamne, c-am mâncat şi iar mi-e foame ("Thank you Lord, for I have eaten, but I am hungry again"), Dragostea trece prin stomac ("Love passes through the stomach"), the simple Pofta vine mâncănd ("Appetite comes while eating"), the sarcastic Porcul mănâncă orice, dar se-ngraşă pentru alţii ("The pig would eat anything but it gets fat for others"), or the expression of total fulfillment, Mâncat bine, băut bine, dimineaţa sculat mort ("Ate well, drank well, in the morning woke up dead").
During the 16th century, Romanian first appeared in writing, usually in religious texts and other written documents. A letter dating from 1521, from Neacşu of Câmpulung to the mayor of Braşov, is considered to be the earliest known text written in Romanian. The letter was written in a script which was used mainly in Wallachia and Moldavia until the year 1859. This script was a version of the Old Church Slavonic alphabet, a version of the Cyrillic alphabet.
A version of the Cyrillic alphabet was used in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic until 1991, when they switched to the Romanian version of the Latin alphabet.
Contribution of the minorities
Minorities have made a major cultural contribution to Romania. Influences came from, most notably, minority groups such as Germans, Greeks, Italians, and Hungarians. The Székely and the Saxons living in Transylvania made many important architectural contributions to the region, including numerous churches, fortifications, and town centers. Also, they figured in some landmarks in the development of ethnic Romanian culture: the first letter written in Romanian was addressed to the mayor of Kronstadt (Romanian: Braşov), and the first book printed in Romanian was in Hermannstadt (Romanian: Sibiu). Romania was once also the cradle of Yiddish theatre, and to this day Bucharest is home to a State Jewish Theater, despite the small number of Jews remaining in the country.
Architecture and engineering
In the technical domain one can note the achievements in the field of aviation made by Traian Vuia, Aurel Vlaicu, Aurel Persu, and Henri Coandă and also the works of George Constantinescu in the fields of engineering and sonics. Also many achievements have been made in the architectural and engineering domain, thus Bucharest became known as the small Paris. The longest bridge in Europe was constructed by Anghel Saligny linking Dobruja with the rest of Romania, the Peleş Castle became one of the most beautiful and modern castles in Europe.
Ancient Dacian ruins at Sarmizegetusa Regia
Mogoșoaia Palace, view from the garden
Early airplane model – the A Vlaicu III
Media and television
Folk music is the oldest form of Romanian musical creation, characterized by great vitality; it is the defining source of the cultured musical creation, both religious and lay. Conservation of Romanian folk music has been aided by a large and enduring audience, and by numerous performers who helped propagate and further develop the folk sound. Two of them, Vasile Pandelescu, and Dumnitru Zamfira are one of the most famous examples of Romanian folk musicians.
Before the major incorporation of more modern instruments that found their way into Romanian folk music, older instruments such as the Tobă (double-headed drum, also known as the Tabul or Davul), Surlă (also known as the Zurna in other parts of the Balkans), Caval (ancient shepherd's pipe), Cobza (an ancient instrument related to the Arabic Oud), Vioară (violin), Cimpoi (Balkan bagpipe), and the Tamburină (tambourine, more commonly used during the times under Phanariote and Ottoman influence), were also commonly used in folk music before the introduction on some slightly more modern elements such as the widely used accordion, and clarinet. Folk music, often is accentuated with clapping, yells of tongue rolling, shouts, and whistles.
The religious musical creation, born under the influence of Byzantine music adjusted to the intonations of the local folk music, saw a period of glory between the 15th-17th centuries, when reputed schools of liturgical music developed within Romanian monasteries. Russian and Western influences brought about the introduction of polyphony in religious music in the 18th century, a genre developed by a series of Romanian composers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Gábor, Vékony (2000). Dacians, Romans, Romanians (1st English ed.). Matthias Corvinus. ISBN 1882785134. OCLC 45414663.
- "Romania – Culture". Archived from the original on December 31, 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
- Ilinca., Zarifopol-Johnston (2009). Searching for Cioran. Johnston, Kenneth R. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253003454. OCLC 536278659.
- "Tudor Vladimirescu | Walachian leader". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
- "Populația stabilă după religie – județe, municipii, orașe, comune". Institutul Național de Statistică (in Romanian).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Culture of Romania.|
Sibiu International Theatre Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSfSH16tFXU
- cIMeC – The Institute For Cultural Memory, a key Romanian cultural institution.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20071231125142/http://www.itcnet.ro/folk_festival/culture.htm Romania -Culture on itcnet.ro
- Constantin Brâncuși biographical notes on brancusi.com
- Cultural aspects, an extensive site on ici.ro about Romanian culture.
- Official Romanian Travel and Tourism Information website
- Sibiul.ro, an extensive site about Sibiu (in Romanian)
- Onlinegallery.ro News, events, venues and extensive coverage of Romanian cultural acts
- Manuela Preoteasa, Televiziunea din Romania – dominata de divertisment si non-stiri ("Television in Romania – domination by entertainment and non-news"), 30 November 2005, in a mix of Romanian and English.
- Romanian spirituality (mostly in Romanian, some portions translated into English)
- Calusul in Lista Capodoperelor Omenirii ("The calus dance in the list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity") (in Romanian)
- Trust in the Church and the Army (in Romanian)
- Romanian recipes
- SOS Romania News
- Romanian folk costumes
- Traditional costume in Romania
- Lost Trails web site has free downloads of Romanian folk music and Photography of many Romanian villages
- Romania – cultural and regional differences
- Rolandia – Travel agency that blogs about Romania's culture and traditions