Romanian Group – Day 7

Romanian cuisine
As part of our language lesson yesterday we learnt about Romanian food; Ramona taught us about the popular foods and traditional meals.
Main meals in Romania are often meat or fish based. For example, mititei cu cartofi prăjiţi, a grilled sausage seasoned with garlic and served with chips is a common dish. Also sarmale, a very popular dish in Romania—however actually prepared throughout Europe in countries such as Turkey, Bulgaria and Croatia. It is made up of pickled cabbage leaves filled with mincemeat (often pork), onion, rice, tomato purée and seasoning. These form small parcels resembling spring rolls which are placed in a large pot and boiled for up to three hours, before being put in the oven for further cooking. Polenta is a popular side dish, as well as aubergine dishes and vegetable dishes—often mixed with (lots of) mayonnaise!
Special meals will be made over holiday periods such as Easter and Christmas. Romana tells us that instead of eating chocolate eggs at Easter, normal eggs are decorated (or just dyed) and then knocked against someone else’s as a game—trying to break their egg. At Christmas, instead of turkey, pork is a popular meat for the main meal. Another traditional food at Christmas, and other occasions such as weddings, is cozonac, a sweet bread like brioche, usually plaited to show off skill. A traditional Romanian dessert is papanaşi, resembling a large doughnut—a fried or boiled dough usually filled with soft cheese such as urdă, or a sour jam.
Wine is traditionally drunk, Romania being a high producer of wine with growing exports. Romania is also the world’s 2nd largest plum producer; plums are used to make the spirit Ţuică. Romanians commonly make wine and Ţuică themselves, and Ţuică quality is measured by its strength, normally about 40%, but sometimes up to 80%!
Many sayings and proverbs have developed around the practice of eating in Romania. Similarly to the French phrase ’bon appetit!’, before a meal a Romanian may say ’poftă bună!’, again meaning good appetite. After a meal, they might say ’să vă fie de bine!’, meaning you’re welcome. In addition, there are short after dinner rhymes to show thanks for their food:
Thank you for the meal, it was good and tasty, and the cook was beautiful!

Multumesc pentru masăă, c-a fost bună şi gustoasă, şi bucătăreasa frumoasa

Like many countries and cultures in our ever intertwining world, it appears Romania is influenced by, and continues to adapt, dishes from elsewhere in order to make them their own—giving dishes different flavours and characters over time.
-Catherine Brown

Romanian Group – Day 5

Roumania, Roumania: Jewish Life in Romania

Romania has an early history of Jewish populations, but as with many European countries, the most significant period of upheaval were the years surrounding the World Wars. Jewish migration to Romania had risen leading up to World War I, largely as a result of the Kishinev Pogrom in Imperial Russia. This wave of in-migration brought a stirring of anti-Jewish sentiment which soon merged with the appeal of fascism in the 1920s and gave way to policies such as Jewish quotas in higher education establishments.

In 1940, Romania’s government adopted an equivalent to the Nuremburg Laws, forbidding practises such as intermarriage and sought to define Jews through racial criteria. The rest of the decade saw atrocities against Romanian Jews; starting as looting of shops, homes and synagogues, gradually building up to wide-scale oppression and massacre. According to the Wiesel Commission, of all the allies of Nazi Germany, Romania was responsible for the deaths of more Jews than any other country other than Germany itself.

Despite this, around 300,000 Romanian Jews are thought to have survived, largely because of mass emigration to Israel, a trend which continued into the 1950s and 1960s. The group often faced opposition from the Romanian government, especially because of Stalinist charges of ‘rootless cosmopolitanism’ and rising fears about Zionism. Eventually, however many were granted exit visas in exchange for economic aid from Israel in an attempt to enhance Romania’s economic independence from the Soviet Union.

Eventually the Jewish population of Romania dwindled to around 23,000 by 1987 (compared to 250,000 in 1900). Romanian Jews in Israel, however, continue to hold strong connections to Romanian culture. This is notable through the Association of Israeli Writers of Romanian Language; the Romanian cultural institute in Tel Aviv and various Romanian-language publications. Despite the turmoil Romanian Jews had faced, they have not divorced from the culture they had once adopted in the country.

Roumania Roumania is a popular Klezmer song which really emphasises the Jewish link to Romania. It does not tell a story of growing oppression in the inter-war period, but instead suggests a nostalgia for these golden years. This Yiddish song aimed to pass on memories of the beautiful Carpathian country on to generations of Romanian Jews who would now grow up in Israel, potentially separated from the culture of their parents and grandparents. The song focusses on the delights of food and wine in Romania, ‘a land, sweet and lovely’; it tells a story of enjoyable years for a group that had faced, and were yet to face huge upheavals and unforgettable tragedies.

Tara Sarangi

Romanian Group – Day 4

Romania’s Greatest Games – The 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics

As we draw closer to the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (now only just 62 days away) it is interesting to reflect upon how sport can act as a common unifier of people and cultures within a competitive context. According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Olympic Games are intended to maintain free of political conflicts and propaganda. However, on occasion throughout history, the Games have been used to service particular political agendas and ideologies, with the one prominent example being ‘Hitler’s Olympics’ in Berlin in 1936. This blog post will succulently outline the context behind Romania’s decision to compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics and briefly outline the country’s superlative performance at that instalment of the Games.

The 1979 Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan prompted a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. In retaliation, the USSR chose not to participate in the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, and strongly encouraged other Communist countries to do the same. Ultimately, Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country that elected not to boycott. When the nation’s contingent of athletes entered the LA Coliseum for the opening ceremonies, they received a ‘thunderous standing ovation’ that was indicative of the symbolic significance of Romania’s decision not to tow the Soviet line.

Romania performed extremely well at the Games, winning a total of 53 medals (placing 3rd in the overall medal table). The country won 20 gold medals, a sum surpassed only by the United States. Romania’s achievements are even more remarkable given the fact that the country sent only 125 athletes to compete. One discipline in which Romania was particularly dominant was women’s artistic gymnastics. Led by stars like World Champion Ecaterina Szabo, the country secured 5 of the 8 gold medals awarded. Romania has not since surpassed the record-setting medal count they achieved at the 1984 Summer Games.

Romania’s decision to participate in the 1984 Games was not however devoid of political motivation and significance. According to historian Harold E. Wilson, the country’s President Nicolae Ceausescu wished to show to the ‘West’ that Romania was capable of pursuing policies independent of the USSR, which subsequently led some to characterize the nation as the ‘maverick of Eastern Europe.’ So while the USSR’s boycott was undoubtedly a political act, so too, in some respects, was Romania’s decision to participate.

This is all to arrive at a more general conclusion. Ideally, sport should be insulated from the political sphere as completely as possible, although in practice this is often difficult to achieve. Sport can serve to foster an appreciation of diversity, enhance intercultural exchange, and reinforce the notion of ‘internationalism’. Yet the opposite may also be the case, with sport serving to divide not unify. In our attempts to cultivate greater ‘Global Citizenship’ I believe it to be necessary for us, as a human community, to maximize instances of the former and minimize instances of the latter.

N. Bailey

Romanian group – Day 3

Conflicts along the flumen danuuius: Trajan’s excursions into Dacia

Dacia, now largely part of Romania (and some of Hungary and Serbia) was the scene of some of the most dramatic expansion of the Roman Empire, already at that point a huge empire spanning western Europe. Trajan, born in a Roman colony in the south part of Spain, and considered to be one of the ‘five good emperors’, built a pontoon bridge crossing the Danube, and used it to hugely expand Rome’s empire. The campaign was commemorated with Trajan’s Column in Rome.

In my research I found it quite interesting to discover how much further back the roots of the conflict went, and they went back to Julius Caesar and the Roman civil war. Caesar had planned to attack the Dacians in retaliation for assisting his enemy Gnaeus Pompey.

Later, when Octavian fought with Mark Antony, the Dacians offered to side with Mark Antony in exchange for ‘requests’, so after his victory in the battle of Actium in 31BC. So in 29BC he sent punitive expeditions across the Danube to quell the Dacian threat, and for about a hundred years the Dacian threat remained quelled.

The Dacians badly raided Roman lands in Moesia (northern Bulgaria, Serbia and parts of Macedonia) in AD 85, even to the extent of killing the governor of the province, former Consul Oppius Sabinus. So the emperor at the time, Domitian, sent an army to fight them, and lost. He sued for peace, and got a treaty so unfavourable to the Romans that some scholars think that it may have been a serious contributing factor to his execution several years later.

The history of these conflicts between peoples and empires across the mighty Danube is one of frequent betrayals and political intrigue, and I look forward to reading and writing and simply learning more about them in my future studies.

Multumesc si pa!
Thanks and goodbye!

Tom Rushton, 1st year BA Classics