Karl  Javellana  Nguyen   1   Mihai  Eminescu,  limba  noastră,  dar  eu  sînt  молдован    

Mihai Eminescu, limba noastrǎ, dar eu sunt moldovan Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889) is regarded as the cultural poet in Romania and in the Republic of Moldova. He was born in Ipoteşti, on the west bank of Prut River, which was at that time part of the United Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. His early educationg was in Cernăuţi1, and Sibiu, and later on attended lectures at the University of Vienna and Berlin. “Although he journeyed extensively in other parts of the territories where his native language was spoken – including Transylvania and Bucovina – there are no records of Eminescu having ever travelled east of the Prut, in what was during his lifetime, [Russian] Bessarabia” (Brezianu & Spânu, 2007: 137). Nevertheless, he is considered to be one of the first modern cultural greats in Romanian language not only in the state of România2, but also in the post-Soviet Republica Moldova3, which roughly occupies the territory of former Bessarabia. Although in the everyday parlance ‘cultural’ and ‘national’ are often synonymous in designating the elevated status of a particular historical figure, it is important to distinguish between the author’s cultural and national status vis-à-vis the members of those cultural and national groups, as their respective imagined social landscapes do not exactly coincide with one another. From the sociological and political perspectives, Mihai Eminescu is considered to be the main national poet of România and Republica Moldova. At the beginning of their former respective communist regimes, Eminescu was considered a bourgeois cultural figure by the power elite of the Socialist Republic of                                                                                                                
Formerly part of Austro-Hungarian land of Northern Bukovina; currently part of the state of Ukraine In order to distinguish the modern state from the cultural historical region, România is to designate the modern state of România, while Romania without the diacritics is to be synonymous with the DacoRomanian historical region of the linguistic community of practice. 3 Republica Moldova (or Moldova, RM) refers to the modern post-Soviet state, which occupies roughly the east of Prut River historical region, which was previously known as an oblast, and later guberniya, Russian Bessarabia, or simply Bessarabia.
2 1

Romania and the Soviet Union, vis-à-vis Moldavian S.S.R. However, Eminescu’s works contain numerous metaphors, mythological references, and literary personifications of natural phenomena to the extent, which enabled many socialist culture/state planners to strategically manoeuver the popular imagination of his works that would be aligned with the states’ ideologies. Consequently, the culture/state planners of Soviet Moldova and socialist România almost simultaneously appropriated this literary figure into the ideological national historiography of the people that they oppressed. Nonetheless, the respective state ideologies of the Socialist Republic of România and Moldavian S.S.R. diverged tremendously, which contributed to the profound differences in the national imagination of peoples on both sides of Prut and are currently subject to the on going polemic debate on the Romanian-Moldovan ethnic and national identity, vis-à-vis the 2003 Concept of National Policy of the Republic of Moldova. However, the author’s status as a national figure in both modern states is undisputed by either sides, as well as within the respective political elite, because his status does not undermine their national policies, which are de facto national ideologies of the state. The cultural status of Mihai Eminescu tends to be more ambiguous, and yet logical for România and Republica Moldova. Eminescu wrote in the official language of the state of both post-communist republics. From a strictly linguistic point of view, the literary standard of the language spoken on either of the banks of Prut are virtually identical with some regional lexical variations. Eminescu was born in a town west of Prut in the former [rump] Principality of Moldavia, a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. He was born nine years prior to the establishment of a modern Romanian state; however, he stated that he wrote in Romanian, a language of East Romance linguistic subgroup.

  During this period, it was a common trend to attribute the same designation to the

Karl  Javellana  Nguyen   3   Mihai  Eminescu,  limba  noastră,  dar  eu  sînt  молдован    

ethnic/national identity as of the linguistic classification. As a result Eminescu was a Romanian author; therefore, he was socially Romanian. During the 20th century, the ascribed ideologies of the respective culture/state planners produced two different modes of national imaginations that had a great impact on the individual self-awareness and national self-consciousness on both sides. These variations of socio-psychological factors of feeling different from the Other on both sides create conflicting articulations of culture that its members claim to be part of and identical to that of Eminescu. In other words, how is it possible for two different types of imagination, that determine differently the in-group from out-group members, and yet index to same cultural/national figure and ‘culture’? In 2009, a socio-political survey was conducted in Republica Moldova, and two of the important questions were asked to investigate the country’s type(s) and level(s) of ethnic, national, social, and linguistic self-awareness.4 The statistical data suggests that roughly 30% of Moldova consider their spoken language (limba moldovenească) to be identical to Romanian (limba românǎ). Furthermore, the survey suggests that approximately 11% of Moldova’s population consider the Moldovan culture identical to Romanian culture.5 Although these numerical records suggest that only a minority of the population considers their language and culture to be identical to that in România, the rest of the population, which represents the majority, seems to perceive their language and culture in varying degrees of similarities as well as differences. Thus, the type of cultural status of Eminescu varies differently depending on the individual’s perception of the                                                                                                                
4 5

Institutul de Marketing şi Sondaje IMAS-INC Chişinău (2009) Barometrul Socio-Politic. The respondents were given a 5 point scale, where 1 implied exactitude.

degree of similarity or difference of language and culture practiced in Moldova. Consequently, the question of cultural authenticity of Eminescu arises within the discourse of identity within the Daco-Romanian linguistic community of practice. During my ethnographic research in Chişinău, I have observed that the local population is tremendously diverse in terms of ethnic, social, linguistic, and socioeconomic class self-identification. For example, an individual ethnic self-identification tended to correlate, but not necessarily, with the quotidian linguistic identification. The same correlations and irregularities prevail when comparing other personal identifications. Nevertheless, the studied subjects stated that Mihai Eminescu is their (“our”) cultural and national figure that they deemed to be one of the most important people of their history. Another important theme that surfaced during my research project was the importance on their language, and it held a high and revered status and position in their different cultural and national imagination. Across all qualitative and descriptive social qualifiers, I observed a similarity in a type of behaviour and system of values of the subjects. Native or proficient bilingualism was a commonality across the Soviet ascribed ethno-linguistic social categories (‘Moldavians’, ‘Russians’). The initial observation suggested that only one language had the individual’s attribution, as native, while the second language was rendered by the subject as foreign or other. However, over the course of the research project the subjects demonstrated their equal abilities to express themselves proficiently in both languages. Later in the project, a peculiar behavioural pattern of linguistic usage was observed, which I correlated to the social context and the values assigned at that given moment. In sum, the subjects placed a greater emphasis on the institution of family and interpersonal

  relationships (i.e. ordinary friendships). This emphasis supersedes the civic relationship with the state named after the titular Soviet/post-Soviet nation. Simultaneously, the individuals stated on numerous occasions and throughout different media the importance of the knowledge of their language. Most participants

Karl  Javellana  Nguyen   5   Mihai  Eminescu,  limba  noastră,  dar  eu  sînt  молдован    

used the first person plural pronoun that established a relationship between them and the system for their linguistic practice (language). Most importantly Mihai Eminescu had a permanent position within their linguistic community of practice as a cultural and national figure, and simultaneously acknowledging that he is also perceived in the same revered way in România. Thus, I hypothesised that Mihai Eminescu’s literary oeuvres must have had a unifying/consolidating characteristic that rendered itself as both Moldovan and Romanian vis-à-vis individuals. Throughout the literary analysis of this particular author, the works contained numerous personifications of natural phenomena, mystifications of the ordinary, and references to ancient mythologies. Many academic observations in România, RM, and other foreign linguistic communities that were not part of the Daco-Romanian origin state that his works tend to address and describe the meta-human and meta-physical phenomena, which was in line of his ideological influences from German [national] romanticism. However, literary production of meta-human and meta-physical experiences can [only] be realised through the use of metaphors in conjunction with personification. Following Kenneth Burke’s (1966) explanation of people’s motives through the analysis of rhetoric within discourse, metaphors are utilised to provide intentional ambiguity between the possibilities of the authentic. The ambiguity in rhetoric is used to signify the process of transformation that is not complete or in transition. This fluid motion

empowers the orator to have the possibility of being one version of the authentic, as well as the other. Thus, a possible claim can be produced by the literary critics that Mihai Eminescu was great, because of his ability to transcend the boundary of Românian and Moldovan cultures. However, culture and language are inseparable, because language is used in the intra-cultural interpersonal communication, which inherently constitutes culture (Mercer, 2000). In addition, language is integral to culture, because it provides a link between the subject and the sociological system of knowledge (Riley, 2007). Therefore, if Eminescu wrote in the same language that is spoken in România and RM, then conversely both cultures must be identical. Nevertheless, the 2009 survey contradicts this particular logic. The polemic debates on identity in the post-Soviet Moldova continue to surface in the socio-political discourse, because of this peculiar phenomena: two groups of people claiming to be authentic, one coherent landscape of the same linguistic phenomena. Based on my observations and short literary investigation of Eminescu’s works, the link between people of România, people of Republica Moldova, and Eminescu (and his works) is realised through the use of metaphors that intended to create the metaphysical and meta-human experience, while the people reconstruct these metaphors, which is possible due to their inherent ambiguous property, and appropriate their reproductions into their quotidian lives in those realities, where the conditions are favourable for their self-expression of self-declared identity. Thus, I conclude that Mihai Eminescu’s works are of the utmost reverence, because it transcends time, space, and ideological regimes, while preserving the most basic: human nature.

  Works Cited:

Karl  Javellana  Nguyen   7   Mihai  Eminescu,  limba  noastră,  dar  eu  sînt  молдован    

Brezianu, A. and V. Spânu (2007) Historical Dictionary of Moldova. 2nd. edition. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. King, C. (2000) The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture (Studies of Nationalities). Paperback. edition. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press. Mercer, N. (2000) ‘Language as a Tool for Thinking’, pp. 1-15(ed.) Words and Mids: How We Use Language to Think Together. London: Routledge. Riley, P. (2007) ‘The Social Knowledge System’, pp. 21-37 in P. Riley (ed.) Language, Culture, Identity. London: Continuum.

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