What does it mean to be Romanian?

It isn’t necessarily the fact that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact historical intricacies of what constitutes  the Romanian identity, but rather to be Romanian is just as much a cultural and linguistic phenomenon of the contemporary as one of the past. What am I saying?

The fact is that Romania has long been a nation of many identities and minorities- all of which mind you have ranged from Roman, to Ottoman and many Slavic influences. Of course, again all of which after centuries make up the relative homogeneity of the populace today. Yet, let us put that aside and understand the Romanian identity as something past historical trends. Really, what does it mean to be a Romanian?

You might be immediately wondering- that obviously someone who is either born of Romanian parents, and who speaks the language. The truth is that as Romania is increasingly becoming a ‘multicultural’ nation- only a normal part of incessant globalization of course- the Romanian identity is changing continually.

I for instance am a perfect example of such a phenomenon. I do not posses a Romanian name, nor do I really understand many of the cultural conventions of the country-yet I speak Romanian- to an acceptable degree-, my mother is Romanian and finally-perhaps most importantly to some- I was born in Romania.

What is my point?

I am no singular example by any means, more and more individuals both within the nation and the Romanian ‘diaspora’ seem to be carrying this duality within them- and although it might seem conceptual- the truth is that amidst the homogeneity of what it means to be Romanian, there are some who identify outside that designation but also completely within it. So what?

Romania is increasingly developing both in terms of societal structure but also in its demography, both inside and out. As more people are leaving the country, just as how many are coming into it for work a new identity is being created as Romanians clash with other cultures and people.

As more children of one Romanian parent are becoming more common nowadays there seems to be the conception of identities set up on binaries. In other words, children- really individuals who consider themselves both Romanian but also something else. Which leads me to the question: Is there not a trend that ascribes to Romania’s own multicultural past?

Romania’s past from the early days of the Dacians up until now has been characterized by the acculturation of many ethnic groups and peoples into one. First the Dacian-Roman synthesis, to the inclusion of Slavic and Greko-Macedonian elements, the Ottomans and not to mention Hungarian minorities. What is it now as Romania is becoming part of the global stage, that makes it so different from its history in terms of diversity?

In short, nothing. Romania is in the historical sense one of the most multicultural European nations, not only because of its geopolitical position just on the verge of the Euro-Asian divide, but because of its innate part  in the largest historical events on the continent. Something which played a role in keeping Romania a society of constant change, yet one with the fortuitous ability to self-preserve its own culture.

The Romanian identity is one of fluidity and change, with some obvious absolutes that remain constant. Yet, the ultimate importance of thinking how it is being molded by contemporary social trends is to understand that it is not in fact a new phenomenon in the greater context of Romanian history- something which cannot be said by many other European nations.

It doesn’t really matter at this point if Romanians consider themselves Latin, or Slavic, or Mediterranean- the point remains that Romania is very unique in terms of ethnic makeup. It is a rich and multicultural nation-something which should be a source of pride.


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