Comment: Romania in quotations

Guest writer Paul Wood compiled several famous quotations that reflect some of the Romanians’ flaws and qualities as seen by others and by their own.

As a collective personality, the Romanians are Oriental in their souls although Latin on the surface. Their patience is almost unending but they are quick to explode in argument; they are peace-loving yet would disintegrate without controversy. They are passive but strong in their resistance; spontaneously adaptable, still difficult to influence. They are romantic but never escape from reality. They are charming yet cruel in their ridicule, warmly emotional but calculating, generous yet concentrate on the ‘main chance.’ They are opportunistic but lose interest after they have gained the advantage; they seize the moment, still adopt the long view. Donald Dunham in 1947

I came to Bucharest two years ago with a legion of conquering heroes. I leave with a troupe of gigolos and racketeers. Field Marshal August von Mackensen in 1918

Romania is not a barbaric country. She is only too civilized. That is the problem. Emperor Francis Joseph in 1893 (did he have in mind the sexual mores of the boyars?)

The undisguised revulsion with the peasantry, on the other hand, is so exclusively Romanian and unheard of in the other Balkan discourses as to render indeed the Romanian claims of unBalkanness authentic. Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans

These were Western women, but about them hung the flavor of the harem. Countess Waldeck, Athene Palace (1943)

The Romanians possess to the highest degree the capacity of receiving the blows of fate while relaxed. They fall artfully, soft and loose in every joint and muscle as only those trained in falling can be. The secret of the art of falling is, of course, not to be afraid of falling and the Romanians are not afraid, as Western people are. Long experience has taught them that each fall may result in unforeseen opportunities and that somehow they always get on their feet again. Countess Waldeck, Athene Palace (1943)

Religion in Romania means something completely different from what it means in Catholic or Protestant countries. Eugene Ionesco

Those who hold no position in government, spend their time in absolute idleness, or in visiting each other to kill time…..In their habitual state of inaction, brought on by a natural aversion to every serious occupation which does not immediately relate to their personal interest, both sexes, enjoying the most extensive freedom of intercourse with each other, are easily led to clandestine connexion: the matrimonial faith has become merely nominal. William Wilkinson, An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (1820)

I think that if Romania came one day by a miracle to get rid of all its sins and the faults of its leading political class and if, as if by magic, it gave up its selfishness, intrigue, corruption, incompetence and its scorn for the masses, still, even in that situation, this country could not make good progress if our political personalities did not get rid of their lack of seriousness. Mihail Manoilescu, Memoirs (1927)

By Paul Wood, guest writer