Culture of Romania


Culture of Romania

Romania has a unique culture, which is the product of its geography and of its distinct historical evolution. Like Romanians themselves, it is defined as the meeting point of three regions: Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans, but cannot be truly included in any of them.[1] Romanian identity is formed on a substratum of mixed Roman and quite possibly Dacian elements,[2] with numerous other influences.

During late Antiquity and Middle Ages, the major influences came from the Slavic peoples who migrated and settled in near Romania;[2] from medieval Greeks,[2] and the Byzantine Empire;[3] from a long domination by the Ottoman Empire;[4] from the Hungarians;[2] and from the Germans living in Transylvania. Modern Romanian culture emerged and developed over roughly the last 250 years under a strong influence from Western Europe, particularly French,[3] and German culture.[3]


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 chose the Western way of life, mainly French model, 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. That was true especially in Moldavia, whose many intellectuals studied in Berlin. In Transylvania and the Banat, the Habsburg rule and the presence of the ethnic German population (the Transylvanian Saxons and the Banat Swabians), in the local communities, triggered constant relationships with the German world not only at a cultural level but in daily life as well. The influence of the German space was felt especially in the humanities (philosophy, logics, philology, history) and technical sciences.

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Historical Evolution

The Middle Ages

Neacşu's letter is the oldest surviving document written in Romanian

Until the 14th century, small states (rom. voievodate) were spread across the territory of present-day Romania. The medieval principalities of Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldavia arose around that time in the area around the Carpathian Mountains. Most of Romanian culture formed in these areas, which correspond roughly to the modern nation state of Romania.

The influence of Hungarian culture in Transylvania affected the Romanians who lived there, which has given rise to certain differences to the culture of Wallachia and Moldavia. Hungarians brought Roman Catholicism as a religion, as well as foreigners to colonise Transylvania: Saxons, and Szeklers. One of the most important personalities to have been born there is Nicolaus Olahus (Oláh in Hungarian comes from Vlach, an older word for Romanian), historian, politician and bishop in the Kingdom of Hungary and a significant representative of humanism in Europe. An important document originating from 1521 is a letter from Neacşu of Câmpulung to the mayor of Braşov about an imminent attack of the Turks written using the Cyrillic alphabet, like most early Romanian writings. 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.

Wallachia and Moldavia 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.

At the end of the 17th and the beginning of 18th century, European humanism influenced the works of Miron Costin and Ion Neculce, the 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 Bucureşti - The Bucharest Bible). The first successful attempts at written Romanian-language poetry were made in 1673 when Dosoftei, a Moldavian metropolitan, 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.

Classical age

First page of the Supplex Libellus Valachorum petition, printed in Cluj

In Transylvania, although they formed a 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 emphasized the ancient Roman origins of the Romanian people and created 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 and thus starting the movement of national awakening.

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.

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).

Mihai Eminescu

The union between Wallachia and Moldavia 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.

Golden age

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 Brâncuşi (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".

1932 stamp

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 in the medieval history of Moldavia, and Camil Petrescu was a more modern writer distinguishing himself through the 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. Also 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.

Post-war period

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 of almost 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, pseudo-truths 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, and usually sought to promote Communist ideals. 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 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 countrys 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 communism in 1989 elated the cultural world, but the embarkment on the free market economy and the problems of the transition period has faced it with a tough experience. The discontinuation of state and political control of culture brought about the long dreamt freedom of expression, but along with it culture stopped to be state-subsidised, and was seriously affected by the side-effects of the incipient, still very imperfect free market economy and by the poor, inadequate material resources. Culture has had to cope with a variety of problems, one of them being a shift in the peoples 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 decline in sales, and the absence of subsidies. Many closed after only a few titles published; some changed their profile and started editing commercial literature - mainly translations - and the state-owned publishers entered a "state of lethargy". These last survived due to state financing, but their publishing activity diminished. Despite this, some publishing houses managed to survive and develop by implementing market policies, and also by increasing the quality and the general aspect of the books they published. Among the most notable contemporary Romanian publishers are Humanitas in Bucharest, Polirom in Iaşi and Teora - the latter oriented toward 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 level of 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 Association, 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 Mircea Dinescu, 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 venues. 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 Rebenciuc, 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 producer 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 increased in the last years. Some sporadic events like the "2005 Bucharest CowParade" have been well received and yearly events and festivals have continually attracted interest. Very popular are medieval festivals in cities in Transylvania, which combine street theatre with music and battles reenactment to create a very lively atmosphere. In theatre, a yearly National Festival takes place, and one of the most important international theatre festivals is the "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.

Traditions

Folklore

A traditional house in the Village Museum
Main article Folklore in Romania

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 Civilisation 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 colour 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".

Romanian mythology

Romanians have had, from time immemorial, a myriad of customs, tales and poems about love, faith, kings, princesses, and witches. 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 1st 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 (roughly, "The White Prince") or Fata babei şi fata moşului (roughly, "The old woman's girl and the old man's girl"). Also, the poet Vasile Alecsandri published the most successful version of the ballad Mioriţa (The Little Ewe), a sad, philosophical poem, centered around 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 around 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. Romanians have thus obtained a unique sense of identity and two clichés can simply express this: 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 90%). 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, outstanding personalities have kept their verticality and became widely respected like the priest Dumitru Stăniloae who is considered one of the greatest world theologians in the recent period.

Stavropoleos Church

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 Northern Moldavia a particular style was used in the construction of the monasteries, of which the most important are the painted monasteries of Bucovina - UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as those of Moldoviţa, Putna, Suceviţa, and Voroneţ. In Wallachia Curtea de Argeş Cathedral is 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 distincive Brâncovenesc style: the monasteries of Snagov and of Sâmbăta de Sus in Transylvania are classical examples.

Traditional cuisine

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"), or the simple Pofta vine mâncănd ("Appetite comes while eating") or 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").

Recipes bear 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 a ciorba); 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.

One of the most common meals is the mămăliga, 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 mămăliga on the table"), but it has become very appreciated in recent times. Pork is the main meat used in Romanian cuisine (Peştele cel mai bun, tot porcul rămâne - "The best fish is always the pork"), 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, traditionally every family slaughters a pig and cooks it using a wide variety of traditional recipes like cârnaţi - a kind of long sausages with meat; caltaboşi - sausages made with liver and other internal organs; piftie a jelly made from parts like the feet, the head and ears; and also tochitură (a kind of stew) is served along with mămăligă and wine ("so that the pork can swim"), toba, and of course sweetened with the traditional cozonac (sweet bread with nuts or lokum - rahat in Romanian, known in English as Turkish delight). Lamb is traditional for Easter: the main dishes are 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 a tradition of over two 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. Also 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). Also beer is highly appreciated, generally blonde pilsener beer, after the German style.

Contribution of the minorities

Bran Castle (view from south)

The Székely and the Saxons living in Transylvania and made many important architectural contributions to the region, including numerous churches, fortifications, and town centers. Also, they figure 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 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.

See: Bran Castle, Sighişoara and Villages with fortified churches in Transylvania

Architecture and engineering

In the technical domain one can note the spectacular 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, etc.

See: Dacian Fortresses of the Orăştie Mountains, King Carol I Bridge, Peleş Castle and Palace of the Parliament

Media and television

Main article Romanian media
See: Televiziunea Română, Cotidianul, Adevărul, Gândul and Nine O' Clock

Music in present day Romania

Many Romanian rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s, such as IRIS (Romanian band) and Holograf, continue to be popular, particularly with the middle-aged, while since the 1990s there has been growth in the boy band and hip hop genres. The eclectic pop-rock band Taxi have been gaining international respect, as has Spitalul de Urgenţă's raucous updating of traditional Romanian music. Also jazz and blues, and, to an extent, eurodance/trance and heavy metal/punk are popular in some places especially in large cities. Recently two Romanian dance bands O-zone and Morandi (band), reached top position in European music charts thus making contemporary Romanian music world-famous. A music style called manele with alleged Turkish influences is particularly popular in working-class districts of cities and in villages despite heavy protest from Romanian top musicians, cultural elites and anti-Balkan activists [1].

See: Music of Romania

See also

References

  1. ^ "Romania - Culture". Archived from the original on December 31, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071231125142/http://www.itcnet.ro/folk_festival/culture.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  2. ^ a b c d Lucian Boia, James Christian Brown (2001). Romania: Borderland of Europe. Reaktion Books. pp. 13, 36–40. ISBN 9781861891037. 
  3. ^ a b c "Cultural aspects". National Institute for Research & Development in Informatics, Romania. Archived from the original on March 7, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080307182620/http://www.ici.ro/romania/en/cultura/cultural_aspects.html. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  4. ^ Luis Bush. "Romania Prepares for GCOWE September 20, 1994". Mission Frontiers. Archived from the original on February 12, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080212100732/http://www.missionfrontiers.org/1994/1112/nd9416.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 

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