Home » Books published » Roland Clark, Sfântă tinereţe legionară. Activismul fascist în România interbelică. Iași: Polirom, Ediția a II-a, revăzută și adăugită, 2024.

Roland Clark, Sfântă tinereţe legionară. Activismul fascist în România interbelică. Iași: Polirom, Ediția a II-a, revăzută și adăugită, 2024.

[The English-language edition, Holy Legionary Youth: Fascist Activism in Interwar Romania, received the 2017 Society for Romanian Studies (SRS) Book Award]

Translation by Marius-Adrian Hazaparu

“Founded in 1927, Romania’s Legion of the Archangel Michael was one of Europe’s largest and longest-lived fascist social movements. In Holy Legionary Youth, Clark draws on oral histories, memoirs, and substantial research in the archives of the Romanian secret police to provide the most comprehensive account of the Legion in English to date. Clark approaches Romanian fascism by asking what membership in the Legion meant to young Romanians. Viewing fascism “from below,” as a social category with practical consequences for those who embraced it, he shows how the personal significance of fascism emerged out of Legionaries’ interactions with each other, the state, other political parties, families, friends, and fascist groups abroad. Official repression, fascist spectacle, and the frequency and nature of legionary activities changed a person’s everyday activities and relationships in profound ways. 

Clark’s sweeping history traces fascist organizing in interwar Romania to nineteenth-century grassroots nationalist movements that demanded political independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It also shows how closely the movement was associated with the Romanian Orthodox Church and how the uniforms, marches, and rituals were inspired by the muscular, martial aesthetic of fascism elsewhere in Europe. Although antisemitism was a key feature of official fascist ideology, state violence against Legionaries rather than the extensive fascist violence against Jews had a far greater impact on how Romanians viewed the movement and their role in it. Approaching fascism in interwar Romania as an everyday practice, Holy Legionary Youth offers a new perspective on European fascism, highlighting how ordinary people “performed” fascism by working together to promote a unique and totalizing social identity.” (From the Cornell University Press webpage)

What people are saying about it:

“Highly interdisciplinary, analytically comprehensive, and informed by a prodigious array of both primary sources and secondary literature, Clark’s book is a much-awaited reading for researchers, university professors, and students alike.” (Ionuț Biliuță, Hungarian Historical Review)

“Clark’s book is a fresh, reflexive, witty, and well-documented exploration of the Legion of the Archangel Michael, the central fascist movement in interwar Romania, in its own context, doubled by an attempt to approach Romanian ultranationalism on its own terms.” (Cosmin Sebastian Cercel, H-Nationalism)

“Clark tries to immerse himself in the lives of the legionaries. He is interested in the Legionary “everyday,” in the experiences of Codreanu’s followers. The everyday is defined in such a way that the “willingness to make sacrifices for the national battle” against the “Jews” and the “system” lifts up the everyday and permanently exults it. If my reading is correct, one must affiliate oneself with the Legion as if it was a “drug”: activity replaces helplessness; building activities; demonstrations; only the unutterable can be uttered; music; lyrics; parades; discussions. Whoever wants to join the Legion cannot complain about lacking employment, excitement, or appreciation.” (Armin Heinen, H-Soz-Kult – original review in German)

„Avem de-a face, odată cu acest volum, cu un studiu care analizează Mişcarea Legionară nu doar şi nici în primul rând „la vârful“ ei sau în privinţa evenimentelor majore care au punctat naşterea, creşterea şi de­căderea acesteia; Sfântă tinereţe le­gio­nară descrie şi analizează infrastructura Mişcării Legionare, scanează direcţiile – la un nivel pe care aş îndrăzni să îl desemnez cu termenul de „capilar“, – în care aceas­ta era prezentă. […] ţinem în mână, odată cu această carte, una dintre cele mai „colorate“, mai nuanţate şi mai den­se lucrări despre subiectul în discuţie.“ (Cristian Pătrășconiu, Revista 22)

“ Prin apelul la enorm de multe surse documentare, de la volume de memorii la colecţii de ziare, manuscrise, arhive ale Siguranţei, dosare penale şi de anchetă ale Poliţiei etc., cercetătorul urmăreşte modul în care a acţionat Legiunea la nivelul vieţii cotidiene, modul ei intern de funcţionare, felul în care şi-a articulat şi schimbat în timp ideologia, ritualurile şi formele de socializare, impactul social şi politic, dar şi la nivelul formării unei subiectivităţi specifice, pe care l-a avut această organizaţie în altminteri nu atît de scurta, dar nici îndelungata ei existenţă.“ (Iulia Popovici, Observator cultural)

“Roland Clark’s Holy Legionary Youth is a truly remarkable book. … Without detracting from the movement’s criminal nature, Clark’s book brings to our attention their sincere idealism and thirst for spiritual fulfillment. In this way, he helps us better understand not only this movement’s appeal in the interwar and World War II periods but also the endurance of Legionaries’ myth in Romania today.” (Vladimir Solonari, H-Romania)

Sfîntă tinerețe legionară… este mai mult decât o lucrare despre semnificaţia fascismului pentru membrii de rând ai Mişcării Legionare, ci capătă însuşirile unei istorii sociale a Gărzii de Fier, organizaţie încadrată printre „cele mai mari mişcări fasciste din Europa“ (p. 15), dacă o raportăm la numărul de membri şi la totalul populaţiei. Roland Clark este interesat de modul în care fascismul a transformat vieţile oamenilor de rând şi nu este întâmplător că volumul începe cu înmormântarea unei tinere din Craiova, Maria Cristescu, o adolescentă simpatizantă a Mişcării Legionare, eveniment care mobilizează zeci, sute de persoane într-un ceremonial specific, cu valenţe inclusiv politice.” (Cristian Vasile, Contributors.ro)

“Clark’s book offers a comprehensive reinterpretation of the interwar Legionary movement from the perspective of the history of everyday social life. Moving away from abstract paradigms of ‘the nature of Romanian fascism’, Clark tells us more about what the Legionaries actually did (and did not) do, using a large number of new archival sources… Especially impressive is the way Clark situates interwar Romanian political phenomena in the context of broader paradigms of international social, cultural, political and religious history; and brings the topic up to date with a closing reflection on the memory of Legionary activity in post-war and present-day Romanian society. For the breadth and depth of its analysis, its rich documentation and clear writing style, Clark’s work stands out against a very strong field.” (The 2017 SRS Book Award Committee)

You can buy the book here.

About the author: 

Roland Clark is a Reader in Modern European History at the University of Liverpool (UK). His research focuses on fascist movements, antisemitism, religion, theology, and the Holocaust in East-Central Europe, especially in Romania. He has written Holy Legionary Youth: Fascist Activism in Interwar Romania (2015), Sectarianism and Renewal in 1920s Romania: The Limits of Orthodoxy and Nation-Building (2021) and edited European Fascist Movements: A Sourcebook (2022) as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. He hosts on the New Books Network podcast and publishes in Fair ObserverOpen Democracy, and Rantt Media.

More about Roland Clark is available here.