Home » Journal issues » Vol. 4 No. 2 (2022)

Vol. 4 No. 2 (2022)

Journal of Romanian Studies, Vol. 4 No. 2 (2022)

Special issue: Rhetorical Strategies and Political Engagement in Post-1989 Public Discourse


Peter Gross, Svetlana Suveica, Claudia Lonkin 

Guest Editors: 

Bogdan Ștefănescu and Noemi Marin


Guest Editors’ Note

Introduction: Rhetorical Strategies and Political Engagement in Post-1989 Public Discourse in Romania (pp. 151-163)


Andreea Deciu Ritivoi

Surviving on Soy Salami: Dissidents, Exiles, Prisoners, and the Rhetoric of Affect in Post-communist Romania (pp. 165-186)

After decades of being seen, or rather heard, through Radio Free Europe as moral and political authorities preserving Romania’s values and hopes from abroad, exiles of the Cold War had a disappointing political career in the postcommunist transitional society. The main figures hailing on behalf of historic pollical parties failed to win the election in 1990, and failed to convince the electorate that they could lead them to freedom and democracy. The former dissidents who had lived overseas likewise did not manage to become opinion leaders, at least not compared to local intellectuals, and eventually damaged each other’s reputation in public fights and scandals. Why weren’t these exiles, once so full of promise for a democratic future in Romania, more impactful? The answer may point to their systematic undermining orchestrated by the neo-communist power brokers of the transitional era. Yet the answer is rather more complicated, one that this paper offers by focusing on the rhetoric of the early postcommunist decade and its emphasis on the shared deprivation experienced under communism. The slogan built around hunger—“who ate soy meat with us”—was part of a larger effect of political survivalism that viewed exiles as outsiders. I show that the contest of moral superiority, pitting those who had been imprisoned against those who had fled, fed a rhetoric of suffering that would eventually marginalize the exiles and any political contribution they could have made after 1989.

Andrei Nae

The Pure Romanian: (Re)writing Romanian National Identity in Dan Puric’s Romanian Soul (pp. 187-200) 

This paper investigates Romania’s auto-image as described by Dan Puric in his book Suflet Românesc (Romanian Soul). By employing imagology, this article first shows how Romanian national identity is constructed in opposition to Western culture and modernity. And by drawing on imagology and Hayden White’s approach to historiography, I provide a discursive analysis of the Romanian auto-image provided in the text. I show that Puric’s writing of Romanian national identity is a Romantic one rendered in the anarchist mode. The author alleges that Romanians are born with a “Romanian soul,” which guarantees their adherence to a Christian Orthodox worldview, one to which Western culture and modernity are inimical. The dominant metaphor used to represent Romanianness is the folktale, whose main traits—being set in illo tempore, a focus on a stark moral antithesis between good and evil where the former prevails, and favouring intuition over reason—are allegedly shared by “pure” Romanians. After revealing the pillars of Romanianness in Puric’s view, I trace the intellectual and cultural continuities between his Romanian auto-image and Romania’s far-right views on nation and nationhood, as well as the national communist view on Romanianness. As far as the former is concerned, I highlight the structural similarities between Puric’s nationalism and anti-Semitic discourse. With respect to the latter, I draw attention to Puric’s reliance on two of the several national communist myths identified by Romanian historian Lucian Boia: the myth of continuity and the myth of conspiracy. Puric’s book dovetails with national communist discourse by postulating the alleged continuity between the peoples and cultures that have existed in Romania’s current geographic location across the centuries and retains its communist fears of foreign conspiracy.

Gheorghe Andrei

Discursive Strategies of a Populist Leader in 2020 Romanian Legislative Elections. The Rhetoric and Political Style of George Simion (pp. 201-213)

Rhetoric and the politician’s political style are some of his/her most important tools and the technological and media revolution, mobile devices and social networks, have further emphasized their importance. The social networks help politicians to target a very circumscribed audience with their rhetoric, while mobile devices enable them to retain contact with their supporters and to exhibit their political style, in this instance populism. The article examines the speeches of the leader of the Alliance for the Union of Romanians Party (AUR), a new national-populist Romanian party, through the perspective of Chaim Perelman’s New Rhetoric and the populist style. The theory developed around the concept of fake news was also used in the development of the argument. According to this theory, the latest developments in the communication industry boosted the fake-news phenomenon, which, in turn, helped the populist leaders. The article is divided into four parts, each part addressing the theory around the new rhetoric; the theory of political style, i.e. populism; the qualitative case study; and the conclusions.

Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield

The Rhetoric of Inner Freedom: Possibilities and Impossibilities for Dissent in Post-1989 Romania (pp. 215- 227)

The well-known “resistance through culture” practiced by the philosophers of the so-called Păltiniş school in the last decade of communism sought to educate a group of men (and they were all men) in the cultural values necessary for the “regeneration” of Romanian society. The remembrance of these values was premised on the notion of “inner freedom,” an undertheorized yet familiar appeal of dissidents under conditions of repression, as it is even today. But politically, the ontology of “inner freedom” is questionable. It presupposes a metaphysics of the autonomous subject which is problematic for dissent, in that it contends that freedom of thought is possible without freedom of expression, an argument which favours quietism and may perhaps induce self-censorship or even complicity. Indeed, Herta Müller charges Gabriel Liiceanu, a leading member of the Păltiniş school, with not speaking out in order to maintain an advantageous position within the system of repression. Jean-Paul Sartre goes further in his critique of “inner freedom”: he calls it a “hoax.” George Orwell calls it a “fallacy.” For Hannah Arendt, it is derivative. I am in broad agreement with these positions. Furthermore, I argue that a conception of culture premised on the values of inner freedom and “‘not speaking out” is a conception of culture in which corruption is harbored within the concept. “Not speaking out” is conducive to and constitutive of corruption, so rife in Romania and other ex-communist societies after 1989, and hence part of the problem rather than of the solution, in ways which I demonstrate. However, I wish to put forward another conception of inner freedom, a non-metaphysical one, a positive conception for dissent today. Namely inner freedom as a rhetorical construct. Not an immaterial space which is presupposed in order to found dissent, but one which is materially formed by dissent. Arguing for inner freedom to be seen as a rhetorical response rather than a metaphysical presupposition involves showing that inner freedom is dependent on language. 

Source Translation: 

Alex Drace-Francis

Ion Luca Caragiale, ‘Identity‘. First published as ‘Identitate’ (Universul, Bucharest, 27 April 1909). (pp. 229-236)

Ion Luca Caragiale (1852–1912) is best known as the leading Romanian dramatist from the nation-building period at the end of the nineteenth century. Caragiale also wrote satirical sketches on social issues of his day, capturing the appearance of new social types and issues of identity and alterity. The following two sketches, published in the Bucharest newspaper Universul in 1899 and 1909 respectively, not only offer entertaining snapshots of cultural formations but also anticipate more formal analyses of modern Romanian society in the making.

Book Reviews (pp. 237-249)

Emanuela Grama

Mihaela Șerban. Subverting Communism in Romania: Law and Private Property, 1945-1965. Lenham: Lexington Books, 2019. 294 pp. 

Svetlana Suveica

Gaëlle Fisher, Resetters and Survivors. Bukovina and the Politics of Belonging in West Germany and Israel, 1945-1989. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2020, 304 pp.

Iemima Ploscariu

Roland Clark. Sectarianism and Renewal in 1920s Romania: The Limits of Orthodoxy and Nation-Building. London: Bloomsbury, 2021. 232 pp.

Cristina A. Bejan

Mihaela Gligor, ed. Memories of Terror: Essays on Recent Histories. Frankfurt am Main: CEEOL Press, 2021. 266 pp.

Laura Balomiri

Mădălina Diaconu. Ideengeschichte Rumäniens. Paderborn: Brill/Ferdinand Schöningh, 2021. 346 pp.