Romanians - History and Cultural Relations

Romanian history has been shaped by the Romanian people's perceived struggle for territorial integrity and an independent state, concerns intensified by the ethnic heterogeneity of the Romanian lands. The most numerically important ethnic Minorities are Hungarian speakers (Magyar and, formerly, Szekler), German speakers (Saxons and Swabians), Gypsies (Romani), Jews, and diverse Slavic populations. Relations have been most difficult with Hungarian speakers because of the proximity of the Hungarian state and questions about Transylvanian sovereignty, which itself involves two distinct theories of Romanian ethnogenesis. According to Romanian historians, Romanians originated from the interbreeding of the Roman legions with autochthonous Geto-Dacians after Rome's occupation of Dacia in the first century A.D. Romanians assert that after Rome withdrew south of the Danube, this hybrid population remained in the Carpathian area in loose confederations of transhumant pastoralists. Hungarian historians disagree and maintain that Romanians withdrew totally, leaving Transylvania open for in-migrating Magyars. Romanian-Hungarian relations have remained tense as Control of Transylvania, now part of Romania, has shifted repeatedly. Furthermore, Romanians recall the extreme restriction of their legal rights when the province was Magyar-dominated. Relations with German speakers and others have been somewhat less charged. Saxons and Swabians generally are considered to have had a modernizing influence; Jews, however, historically suffered from restrictive property laws that tracked them into commercial and renter roles, prompting occasional anti-Semitic excess during times of peasant unrest such as the rebellion of 1907. Gypsies especially serve as a negative reference group for Romanians. Gypsies in Romania date to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when many of their groups were enslaved; they were not emancipated fully until 1848. Although Gypsies have served crucial economic functions for Romanian society (e.g., stock keeping, metalsmithing, brick and tile making), they are still Marginalized. Official policy now considers all minorities except Gypsies as "coinhabiting nationalities," with proportional representation in official bodies, though without a separate territorial base.

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