Concise History of Romania by Keith Hitchins

I got Concise History of Romania by Keith Hitchins from Bodleian as I was curious to find out how much of Romanian history I still remember from school. Also, I wanted to read a non-biased view, by an American professor. The book was so interesting and so nicely written that I think it would be enjoyed by someone who is not very interested in the subject to begin with.

He talks about the last 2,000 years, from when Dacia was conquered by the Romans. It was relevant for him to start there as it still affects how Romanian children are taught history today. Is so entrenched in our collective memory that the most important car manufacturer in Romania is called Dacia.

Concise History of Romania by Keith Hitchins

Hitchins presents the history in context, considering the impact the Eastern orthodox tradition and spirituality had on the development of a national identity. He also considers how agriculture influenced its history so far. Furthermore he takes extra care when presenting how the literature shaped the Romanian world view, influenced by Western rationalism.

The book was published in 2014 and so Hitchins mentions the later periods in Romanian history, the communist period and after the fall of the communists. He does not go into a lot of details and I would have liked that. For example a mention at the end of the chapter with estimates of how many people died under the communist regime, in forced labour camps or just killed because they were not communists. That part was the hardest for me to read. I was so annoyed how the Russians took advantage of US and Britain’s unwillingness to intervene. Which proved a bad decision, as the cold war affected both countries, in various degrees. At the same time, the Romanians were governed by people put in place by Moscow, and lots of resources were syphoned off to Russia.

In the end, he talks about the problems Romania had to develop democratic ideals after 4 decades of living under dictatorship. Hitchins briefly mentions the mineriads too, when miners came to “help” the riot police to disperse a largely non-violent protest against the government in 1990. They were asked to come by Ion Iliescu, as, he said, there were some hooligans in the streets. These hooligans, were, in fact, mostly students and professors, who were opposed to a new government which was made up by ex-communist party members. The number of dead after the protests is still unknown, with estimates reaching over 100. Furthermore, there is some evidence that those miners were groomed by Securitate (Romanian version of KGB, following exactly its model) and it may be possible that some of the miners were, in fact, infiltrated agents from Securitate.

I remembered the song they sang at that time, during the protests, it was entitled the The Hooligans’ Hymn (Imnul golanilor) and created by Cristian Paturca. The refrain is like this:
Better a slacker, than a traitor,
Better a hooligan, than a dictator,
Better a troublemaker, than a party-activist,
Better dead, than a communist.

I hope my short story made you curious. Pick up the book and read about this fascinating history.

Concise History of Romania by Keith Hitchins

Details about the picture: A new take on a Romanian classic dessert, cozonac. Here is the recipe for this one and the traditional recipe.
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Cambridge University Press
Year it was published: 2014
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History
Pages: 344

About the author: Keith Hitchins is Professor Emeritus at University of Illinois, US.
Other books by Keith Hitchins: The Identity of Romania; The Idea of Nation: The Romanians of Transylvania, 1691-1849; Studies on Romanian National Consciousness;
Website & Social Media Links: –

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