Stephan Ludwig Roth

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Stephan Ludwig Roth

Stephan Ludwig Roth (November 24, 1796 in Mediaș – May 11, 1849 in Cluj) was a Transylvanian Saxon intellectual, pedagogue and Lutheran pastor.

After studying in Mediaș, Sibiu, and at the University of Tübingen, in 1818 Roth pursued his interest in the science of teaching by travelling to Switzerland, in order to gather experience from Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's projects in Yverdon-les-Bains. He became a collaborator of Pestalozzi, publishing Der Sprachunterricht (a work on language learning) and finished a doctorate in philosophy at Tübingen (1820).

Returning to Transylvania, Roth followed in the footsteps of his father as head of the Mediaș Gymnasium (from 1831) and became a pastor in 1837.

In the debates raised by the Transylvanian Diet in 1841, he argued that Romanian be the official language in the region, pointing out its ascendent over all others in the ethnical composition of the country (an idea made public in his 1842 work, Der Sprachkampf in Siebenbürgen). He stood by this principle during the 1848-1849 Revolution, proposing that official material be published simultaneously in Romanian, Hungarian and German. While he was against cultural assimilation of Romanians, Roth had always argued that the Saxon element in Transylvania could be strengthened by encouraging new German colonists to move in.

Stephan Ludwig Roth further irritated Hungarian sensibilities by rejecting any form of union between Transylvania and Hungary, trying instead to build a bridge between Saxons and Romanians. Thus, he attended the first ethnic Romanian gathering at Câmpia Libertății (near Blaj - see Blaj Assemblies), and wrote about it in the local press - his articles show full support for the movement, and highlight Avram Iancu's contribution to the cause.

With the outbreak of the violent clashes between Imperial and Hungarian troops in October 1848, Roth became a member of the Sibiu Pacification Committee, and commissioner for Saxon villages in Târnava-Mare (Nagy-Küküllő, Große Kokel) (in November), as well as the administrator de facto of the respective county.

With the Hungarian victories in January 1849 came the end of local government structures. General Józef Bem offered the administrators amnesty, and Roth retired to Mediaș. Disregarding his immunity, local authorities had him arrested and sent to Cluj, where he was convicted of treason by a military tribunal and swiftly executed.

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