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National identity and Europeanization in

post-communist Romania. The meaning of
citizenship in Sibiu: European Capital
of Culture 2007
Dragos x Dragoman
Department of Political Science, ‘Lucian Blaga’ University of Sibiu, 34 Calea Dumbr avii,
550324 Sibiu, Romania
Available online 6 February 2008
The structure of the requirements for citizenship in a Romanian city differs by and large
from the structure of the same requirements in other European cities. The peculiarity lies in
the lack of distinctiveness between the origin, the ethnic aspect and the civic aspect of citizen-
ship and also in the emphasis on the language requirements for citizenship. The explanations
could be traced back to the previous century and to the cultural and political project of state
and nation-building. But the importance assigned to the national identity and national sover-
eignty issues in Romania may affect the European integration by hindering the feelings of
European belonging and solidarity.
Ó 2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Regents of the University of California.
Keywords: Citizenship; National identity; Nation-building; Eastern Europe; Romania; European
For Romanians, the Western nation-state has been for a long time the model of
organizing the political space. Yet this model is marked by a conflict between liber-
alism and nationalism. Whereas liberalism claims the equality and liberties for all
Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
Available online at
0967-067X/$ - see front matter Ó2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Regents of the University
of California.
members in society, nationalism claims the predominance of an ethnic group and the
exclusion of all non-members of this group. Far from being a theoretical issue, this
opposition affects the way people conceive citizenship, ethnic relations and interna-
tional cooperation and integration. Moreover, national identity and stateness issue
might deeply influence transition in post-communist countries (Linz and Stepan,
1996). According to Kuzio (2001), the transition in Central and Eastern Europe
is a triple or even a quadruple one. Until the mid-1990s the literature on post-
communist transition ignored stateness and the national question. Until that
moment, the transitology assumed that post-communist countries would follow
the pattern of earlier transitions in Southern Europe and Latin America, focusing
mainly upon two areas: democratization and marketisation, emphasized by Kuzio.
With the addition of stateness, post-communist changes became a ‘‘triple’’ transi-
tion, in contrast to the ‘‘double transition’’ in Southern Europe and Latin America.
If one goes back far enough and does not subsume stateness and nationhood into
one category, one may even speak about a ‘‘quadruple’’ transition, as Kuzio does.
The triple transition largely focused upon Central and Eastern Europe, a region
with three mono-ethnic states, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. In other
regions of Eastern Europe, in former USSR or former Yugoslavia, transition is com-
plicated by the cultural, religious and linguistic pluralism. The region is dominated
by states that inherited national minorities, secessionist threats, the need to define
the basis for national integration, obtain legal recognition of inherited borders
and establish a constitutional framework all within a short period of time (Kuzio,
2001: p. 170). Therefore I consider that studying perceptions on citizenship is a
suitable way to understand the underlying tensions between the affirmation of the
national identity and minorities’ integration, on the one hand, and between national
sovereignty and European integration, on the other hand.
The research on citizenship has intensified since the project of the European
Union and especially since the debate on the European identity and European Con-
stitution has started. Fuss (2003) and his team already conducted a survey in several
European cities. European identity and especially European constitution are not yet
significant issues in Romania, but the increased European integration will soon lead
to visible tensions between national and supranational levels. What I wish to accom-
plish in this article is to find out how Romanians view citizenship and how this
peculiar perception might well be explained. In fact, this study is an inquiry into
the more or less recent developments of the regional history that tells the same story:
the 19th and 20th century political project of nation-building is today challenged by
the European integration and by its subsequent sovereignty sharing. I also intend to
expand eastwards a previous research conducted in 12 European cities (Fuss, 2003)
and to bring into analysis a Romanian city. The city that I choose is Sibiu. The
reason for it is twofold. First, the city is located in Transylvania, a region that
had witnessed strong religious and ethnic conflicts from the Middle Ages to the mod-
ern era. The city itself was the scene of violent clashes that endured in local memory.
Second, the European Council of Ministers designated in 2004 the city of Sibiu as the
European Capital of Culture 2007. In addition, Romania became in 2007 a full mem-
ber of the European Union. Therefore, Sibiu might be seen as a landmark for
64 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
Romania, a city that reveals the conflicting history of the region and that is, at the
same time, one of the most Europeanized cities in Romania.
Empirical findings on perceptions of citizenship
In order to find out how people across Europe view citizenship, Daniel Fuss and
his colleagues conducted surveys in 10 cities from six European countries, that is
Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. By using
a questionnaire with 10 questions/items they asked about the requirements to obtain
the respective country’s citizenship, including the full entitlement to the rights and
benefits provided by the state. The items used by the authors are: having at least
one parent from nation/country; being born in the nation/country; having national
ancestors; working in nation/country; having lived in country for at least five years;
speaking the national language; agreeing to abide by the country’s laws and institu-
tions; passing a test about the country; taking an oath of allegiance to the country
and, finally, feeling that one belongs to the country. The main finding was a structure
of separate requirements containing only three underlying basic dimensions. The first
dimension was the origin or the ethnic aspect, reflected by the requirements regard-
ing place of birth and descent. The second, or so-called civic aspect, summarized by
the requirements about the active integration, such as language, work and law.
Finally, the third component was the obligatory aspect of nationality, stated by
Fuss as a conscious declaration of one’s belief in belonging to the country in terms
of knowledge, emotions, and loyalty. The repetition of the factor analysis for each
particular city resulted in unexpected similarities. Across all samples used by the
researchers, the vast majority of items were analogous.
Following the design used by Fuss and his colleagues, I tested the structure of
similar requirements for citizenship in Sibiu.
I expected the structure of these
requirements to be similar to those formulated by citizens from Eastern Europe
included in their sample by Fuss and his colleagues, that is, the citizens of Chemnitz
in former German Democratic Republic, Prague and Bratislava in the former
My finding showed a different structure of requirements for citi-
zenship, with four underlying dimensions instead of three. The factors are displayed
below (Table 1).
The loads on factors indicate a less clear-cut structure of requirements for citizen-
ship in the Romanian city. Whereas the requirements for citizenship in European cit-
ies are grouped in three dimensions that express the origin or ethnic aspect, the civic
aspect and the obligatory aspect, the same requirements are differently grouped in
Sibiu. The structure unraveled in the Romanian city is built on four dimensions in-
stead of three. In Table 1 the items composing these factors are grouped in squares in
I use the data of a survey conducted in 2006 by the Department of Political Science, ‘Lucian Blaga’
University of Sibiu.
The cities included in that research are Chemnitz, Bielefeld, Vienna, Bregenz, Manchester, Edinburgh,
Madrid, Bilbao, Prague and Bratislava.
65 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
boldface. Whereas the first dimension in the European surveys, namely the origin,
contains the items regarding the national ancestors, the place of birth and the par-
ents belonging to the country, the first factor in Sibiu also includes the requirements
to work and to have lived in the country, apart from having one parent from the
country, being born in the country and having national ancestors. This fact obvi-
ously shows confusion between the ethnic and the civic aspects of citizenship. At
the same time, the requirement to speak the country’s language forms a clear distinct
factor. The second factor identified by Fuss e the civic aspect e includes, in addition
to Sibiu, the demand to pass a test about the country. The last factor e the obliga-
tory aspect of citizenship e therefore contains only the requirements regarding the
oath of allegiance and the feeling that one belongs to the country. The loadings
on factors indicate that there is not a clear distinction between the identified dimen-
sions, as it is in the comparative European cases. At the same time, the percentages
of the explained total variance are quite alike in Sibiu (58.5%) and, for example,
Chemnitz (61%).
In order to settle whether this peculiarity is limited to the context of the city, I
used the data of a national survey conducted in November 2005 at the request of
the Open Society Foundation in Romania. This survey is a part of a survey series
in Romania and, at the same time, is a part of a broader international research,
the World Values Survey. The items representing the requirements for citizenship
in this survey were the following: to have national ancestors, to be born in Romania,
to embrace Romanian customs and to abide by the country’s laws. The four items
express ethnic aspects as well as civic and obligatory aspects of citizenship. The
factor analysis (not shown here) extracts only one component, does not split items
between several factors, that is, they form a single dimension structure of require-
ments for citizenship. We now know that the lack of differentiation between ethnic
and civic aspects of citizenship in Romania is not confined to the city context.
How can one explain the differences in the structure of the requirements for
citizenship in Sibiu? The fact that we do not find a clear distinction between the
Table 1
The structure of requirements for citizenship in Sibiu
1 2 3 4
Having at least one parent from country 0.619 e e À0.271
Being born in country 0.791 e e e
Having national ancestors 0.607 e e 0.304
Working in country 0.802 e e À0.339
Having lived in country for
at least five years
0.459 e 0.305 À0.181
Speaking the national language e 0.928 0.319 e
Agreeing to abide by the country’s
laws and institutions
e À0.263 0.582 0.150
Passing a test about the country e À0.236 0.683 0.118
Taking an oath of allegiance to the country 0.166 e e 0.717
Feeling that one belongs to the country 0.372 e À0.168 0.727
Factor analysis (Principal Components Analysis). Varimax rotation. N¼955. KMO¼0.554. Sig. ¼0.000.
66 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
origin and the civic dimensions could be explained in the first instance by the lack of
immigration in Romania. There are no communities of foreign citizens yet to assert
a claim for integration, as it is the case for Western Europe. It is rather Romanian
citizens who live in large communities in European countries, which, by the way,
proves to be a significant context of social learning and a resource for democratic
change (Badescu, 2006). Why the requirement for speaking the national language
represents another dimension? The answer may be found in the uncertain relation-
ship between the civic nation and the ethnic nation in Romania.
East Germany and the Czech Republic are almost culturally homogeneous. Slo-
vakia has an important ethnic Hungarian minority; this is true, but these countries
are far from the cultural, linguistic and religious diversity of South-East Europe, the
Balkans and the former Soviet Union. The difference between the contexts may be
the statehood and the nationhood issues. It is, therefore, insightful to follow Kuzio’s
framework and pay due attention to the quadruple transition that encompasses
democratization, marketisation, state-institutions and civic nation-building. When
we look at transition in the region we need to discuss such issues as identity, national
unity, regionalism and minorities. All of these areas influence the fate of the demo-
cratic transition Kuzio (2001: p. 173).
Ethnic diversity and nation-building in Romania
Romania proclaimed its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877 and
fought on the side of Tsarist Russia in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877e1878 (Hitch-
ins, 1994). One year later, Romania obtained the international recognition of its in-
dependence and sovereignty during the Peace Congress in Berlin. Except for Jewish
and Gypsy communities, Romania was almost ethnically homogeneous. Moreover,
Gypsies were considered as slaves until 1856 (Pons, 1995). Therefore Romanian
political elites have not been seriously confronted with the national question in their
task to build an independent and sovereign state. It was a different task when they
had to integrate new territories into the national state after the Paris Peace Congress
in 1919e1920. Provinces like Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina, part of Aus-
tro-Hungarian and Russian empires, developed strong Romanian elites during the
previous century (Hitchins, 1969, 1999) who were now claiming a unified Romanian
state. Yet the integration of all these provinces in Greater Romania after 1920 also
brought in large ethnic and religious minorities with their own active and well-
organized elites. It then restarted the Romanian struggle for nation-building in
totally different conditions. The new provinces were more urbanized, yet their cities
were largely dominated by Hungarian, German, Russian and Jewish minorities. The
new task of Romanian elites was to consolidate the national state, unify the national
culture, fight regionalism, and confine cultural resources and activities of ethnic mi-
norities in order to endorse the ethnic Romanian elites (Livezeanu, 1995). It was
a struggle between Romanian rural background and Western urban modernity,
which dominated the political activity and the public discourse and gave birth to
the extreme right in the inter-war Romania.
67 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
But the stateness problem is older than 1920. As early as 1866 the integration of
Jews was an important issue. The Romanian Constitution, by specifying that only
foreigners of Christian faith could become naturalized Romanian citizens, ushered
in an era of civil limitations for Romanian Jews, as emphasized by Brustein and
King (2004: p. 432). Under foreign pressure, Romanian Parliament modified the
Constitution by removing religion as the basis for citizenship. Yet the number of in-
tellectuals played for a long time an essential role in spreading anti-Semitism and de-
fending the national identity of the state. Furthermore, anti-Semitism served during
the inter-war period as a principle recruiting theme for popular political parties. The
anti-Semitic nation-wide hysteria largely promoted by anti-Semitic Romanian
parties, which, in turn fueled the hostile popular feelings. Starting in 1938, they
imposed severe restrictions on the Jewish minority by banning Jewish newspapers,
firing Jewish public servants, invalidating citizenship documents for as many as
36% of all Jews in Romania (Brustein and King, 2004: p. 432). Once the war started
in Europe, violence against Jews turned into pogroms. Romanian government even
established and conducted a plan for mass killings, thousands of Jews being deported
and executed in Transnistria (Braham, 1994).
One of the most problematic issues was the integration of the large Hungarian mi-
nority into the Romanian national state. Since the Hungarians living in Transylvania
were part of the Hungarian nation and Hungary was a neighboring state, Romanian
elites always suspected them for maintaining strong ties with their nation and former
country. At the same time, Hungarian elites hardly accepted the new minority
conditions in the Romanian state and feared slow and painful assimilation. The
Hungarian population in Transylvania started indeed to decline and the process
continued during the entire 20th century (Illye´ s, 1982). The RomanianeHungarian
ethnic relations were therefore tense both during communism and well after the
fall of communism in the two countries.
Yet the nation-building issue marked the new communist regime after 1945 and
its consequences could be traced even after 1989 (Chen, 2003). The current illiberal
character of nationalism in Romania, emphasized by Chen (2003: p. 178), can be
traced back to the nation-building project adopted by the Leninist regime, that is
an effort to reconcile nationalism and universalist ideology of Leninism, comparable
to the way nationalism and liberalism have been reconciled in the West. Although
communism had no roots in Romania and was imposed after the Second World
War by the Soviet Union, it ended in a fusion with the Romanian nationalist ideol-
ogy under the rule of Nicolae Ceaus xescu. His predecessor, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
had already started to adopt policies independent from Moscow, although these pol-
icies were rather dogmatic imitations of the Soviet model (Chen, 2003: p. 178).
Gheorghiu-Dej also started a nationalistic campaign by eliminating his ethnically
different rivals during the purges of the communist party in the early 1950s (Jowitt,
1971). This period is, however, marked by a certain tolerance of ethnic minorities,
even of the Hungarian minority, free to create an autonomous region in Transylva-
nia. After the Hungarian revolution in 1956, this tolerance disappeared. Not only
the communist party became a Romanian ethnically homogeneous party, but also
the education in Hungarian was severely restricted. The Hungarian University in
68 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
Cluj was merged with a Romanian one and until today ethnic Hungarians studying
at this university have no Hungarian autonomous departments and faculties
(Karady and Nastasa, 2004). The Hungarian schools were closed and forced to
merge with Romanian ones.
Ceaus xescu’s era represents the climax of the nationalist ideology. But this does not
mean that Leninist ideology was demoted to secondary status (Chen, 2003: p. 187).
Instead of subordinate Leninist ideology, the communist party under Ceaus xescu
tried to integrate progressively the elements of traditional nationalism into commu-
nist ideology, creating a socialist nation and a Stalinist leadership style. The cult of
personality transformed the previous Leninist regime with collective forms of
leadership into a sultanistic regime (Linz and Stepan, 1996). But the real change
in Romanian politics was to be found in the emphasis put on the idea of nation.
The communist propaganda at the time exacerbated the nationalistic feelings by out-
rageous nationalist discourses, in order to ideologically control Romanian citizens
(Verdery, 1995). At the same time, the ethnic and religious minorities came under
the attack of the communist regime. Denied as a different nation, ethnic Hungarians,
for example, saw the evanescence of their autonomous region in 1968 and faced a de-
mographic policy of dispersion, while witnessing the ethnic Romanian immigration
in their counties in Transylvania. These nationalistic policies in Ceaus xescu’s Roma-
nia even interfered into domestic politics in neighboring Hungary and served as
justification for the public rallies of the Hungarian internal opposition at the end
of the 1980s (Stokes, 2003). In fact, abolishing the Hungarian autonomous region,
curtailing the Hungarian minority education system and increasing political repres-
sion on Hungarian community by the Romanian communist regime led to an acute
diplomatic conflict between Romania and Hungary (Iordachi and Trencse´ nyi, 2003).
Contrary to common expectations, post-communism was not a turning point in
the use of nationalist ideology and ethnic distrust. Ceaus xescu’s strategy of nationalist
mobilization was continued by his successors when they needed to consolidate power
(Gallagher, 2001). And the central topic of the nationalist propaganda was, once
again, Hungarian minority. In the aftermath of the revolution in December 1989,
Hungarian community was largely suspected of disloyalty and even of plotting Tran-
sylvania’s secession. The suspicion easily turned into vivid hostility in March 1990,
when the city of Taˆ rgu-Mures x in Transylvania faced the first ethnic clashes. Romania
was at the brink of ethnic disaster. The behavior of the majority of ethnic elites and
the international pressures finally calmed down the tension.
Ethnic relations between Romanians and Hungarians improved after Romania
and Hungary finally signed the basic treaty in 1996 and the political party represent-
ing Hungarian minority in Romania (the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in
Romania) was included in the governing coalition in the same year. It then began
an extended cooperation and the general conditions for minorities in Romania
largely improved. Some activists in the field of ethnic relations even dared to com-
pare RomanianeHungarian relations with the FrencheGerman Reconciliation
(Salat and Enache, 2004). Although important steps have been taken, essential issues
are still at stake: full education in Hungarian (including higher education), and
cultural and even administrative autonomy for the Hungarian community.
69 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
The issue of language
One of the most important and sensitive issues is the public use of Hungarian
language. Although nowadays guaranteed by the law when one deals with courts
of justice or administrative authorities in counties largely dominated by ethnic Hun-
garians, the use of Hungarian is disapproved by the majority of ethnic Romanians.
Using the data of several ethnic barometers in Romania,
we discovered that 71.3%
of Romanians agree that Hungarians in Romania should speak only Romanian
when dealing with public administration, although in some regions they outnumber
ethnic Romanians. Around 76.6% also agree that although they can, many Hungar-
ians refuse to speak Romanian. According to the same surveys, the majority of
Romanians still believe that ethnic Hungarians’ interests diverge from those of other
Romanian citizens and that Hungarians would never abandon the hope to merge
Transylvania with the Hungarian state. There is even a relationship between social
frustration and the spread of these prejudices (Dragoman, 2006) and the statements
like those clearly indicate hostility toward the Hungarian community.
The language issue is problematic in the whole Central and Eastern Europe. Be-
cause issues of language cannot easily be accommodated within the standard frame-
work adopted by Western liberals in dealing with diversity, there is not a proven
solution for the question of language (Kymlicka and Grin, 2003). The Western lib-
erals, who solved the religious conflict by separating state and church and ‘‘privatiz-
ing’’ religion, have hoped to apply the same model to the other areas of diversity, in
particular the ethnocultural diversity. There should be no official or established
culture, no public support for the culture, practices or identity of any particular
group; this is how Kymlicka and Grin (2003: p. 9) express the liberal project of cop-
ing with ethnocultural diversity. While this is an attractive model in theory, it cannot
work in practice. There is no possibility of ‘‘privatizing’’ language issues. Therefore
the state will always decide which will be the official language, which language will
gain the primacy and which one will be relegated to private life, and this fact is
obviously in conflict with the liberal conception of freedom and equality.
The status of minority language dominates the public debates not only in Roma-
nia, but in other transitional regimes as well. Several states passed laws in order to
establish the primacy of the language of the titular nation and to make sure that all
people living in the country have a proper knowledge of it. This was part of their
nation-building process after the fall of communism (Brubaker, 1997). It was the
case of Slovakia, which adopted a Minority Language Law only in 1999, guarantee-
ing the use of minority languages in contacts with local administration, but also es-
tablishing severe restrictions that made the law of little use (Daftary and Ga´ l, 2003).
This is also the case of the Baltic States, which adopted laws regarding the transition
period for switching from Russian to the state language. Special laws were adopted
for restoring the status of titular languages, the establishment of naturalization
The surveys were conducted by various research institutes at the request of the Ethnocultural Diversity
Resource Centre.¼3&project_id¼19.
70 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
procedures with titular language proficiency tests and the introduction of national
integration teaching programs in the state language (Ja¨ rve, 2003). The immediate
result was the containment of Russian speakers, compared with the containment
of English by the Charter of the French Language in Quebec in 1977. Both language
laws stirred up huge controversies because of their restrictive regulations (Schmid
et al., 2004). The question of ethnic dominance is so acute in the former Soviet states
that some scholars try to identify another type of democracy, besides liberal and
consociational types of democracy, namely the ethnic democracy. This is a political
system that combines democratic rights for everybody while explicitly imposing the
dominance by one ethnic group (Smooha, 2001). The model for this ethnic democ-
racy seems to be Israel (Smooha, 1990), but according to Ja¨ rve (2000), Estonia could
easily qualify for the same title of ethnic democracy. Language issues also dominate
internal politics in Ukraine, Slovenia, Armenia, Romania and other countries in the
Hungarian language issue was a problem for the Romanian government following
the disintegration of the communist system. It was such a dilemma how to contain
the demands of the Hungarian minority for language rights while ensuring Roma-
nia’s successful integration into European institutions (Kettley, 2003). The tension
arose regularly whenever Hungarian community expressed a demand for language
rights. It was the case of teaching in Hungarian in schools and having a Hungarian
university in Transylvania. But it also was the case of bilingual naming of localities
in Transylvania. In Cluj, for example, a Transylvanian city nowadays largely in-
habited by ethnic Romanians but which was for centuries the cultural and political
capital of Transylvanian Hungarians, a xenophobic and anti-Semitic mayor refused
to put in place the law granting minorities the right to name localities in their own
language, wherever these minorities numerically surpass a given threshold (Brubaker
et al., 2006). In fact, the nationalist Romanian mayor of Cluj largely promoted
symbolic conflicts between Romanian and Hungarian communities in town during
all his three consecutive terms.
As Kettley points out, Romania passed in a single decade from nationalist
discourse and discriminatory policies to a power-sharing arrangement. Indeed, Ro-
manian and Hungarian elites cooperate in government since 1996, but it is a painful
and fragile process of negotiation. And many people still feel that Romanian parties
negotiate un-negotiable issues, such as the official language and cultural autonomy,
which may turn into larger and dangerous autonomy, even into territorial autonomy.
In fact, Romania passed from a nationalistic period (1990e1996) to a reconciliation
and cooperation period (after 1996). The changes should not be underestimated. The
1991 Constitution reflects the ethnic tensions from the first years of post-communism
by the willingness of the dominant group to express the dominant position of the Ro-
manian majority and language. Kettley reminds us that the text of the Constitution
started the protests of the Hungarian political elites. The disputed points remain until
today the proclamation of Romania as a national state, the subsequent sovereignty
based on the unity of the Romanian people and the monolinguism. These provisions
are nevertheless accompanied by guarantees for ethnic minorities in the field of
education, culture and religion, but these provisions are limited by the principle of
71 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
equality and non-discrimination in relation to other Romanian citizens. Minorities in
Romania do not enjoy the recognition of their rights by a single unified law and have
to struggle to impose the favorable amendments to particular laws in the Romanian
parliament, which has been already cautious in dealing with positive discrimination
and collective rights (Kettley, 2003: p. 249).
In fact, Hungarian community struggled to influence the Romanian parliament to
adopt the laws favorable to the Hungarian language. Whereas the provisions of
specific laws on education and public administration were unfavorable in the early
1990s, the power-sharing that followed the 1996 elections helped to amend the
previous unfriendly laws. The first law on public administration, the 1991 Local
Administration Act, established the Romanian language as the official language of lo-
cal council meeting, regardless of plausible situations where all council members spoke
a different native language. The law only allowed that council meeting decisions to be
published both in Romanian and a minority language where the concerned minority
was of significant numerical importance. Additionally, the same 1991 lawallowed that
minorities use their own native language in communication with local authorities only
if formal requests were accompanied by an official translation. The same restrictions,
built on a narrow interpretation of the Constitution, were to be found in 1995 Act of
Education. Although the law provided for education in minority languages at the pri-
mary and secondary levels, such disciplines as history or geography were to be taught
only in Romanian at the secondary level. Moreover, admission and graduation exams
were to be taken in Romanian, with the exception of the schools where instructions
were provided in the mother tongue, and vocational education to be conducted in
Romanian, thus encouraging the liquidation of existing native-language vocational
education and the transfer of minority students to Romanian-language schools
(Kettley, 2003: p. 254).
Although the Constitution settles Romanian as the official language, this does not
automatically restrict the use of other languages in order to meet the needs of specific
minorities. Such a compromise was made in 1997 by amending the 1995 Education
Act by allowing the instruction in minority languages and, at the same time, provid-
ing a minimum education in Romanian. Thus, a varying degree of instruction in Ro-
manian is retained in all schools. The single language policy issue where it remained
untouched is in the Hungarian university in Cluj. As we have stressed, traditionally
a Hungarian university, the Ja´ nos Bolyai University was forcibly merged with the
Romanian university Victor Babes x in 1959 in a bilingual university called Babes x-
Bolyai. Since then Hungarian professors gradually lost decision-making power in
the university’s governing institutions. Once having their own university, speaking
Hungarian only benefits now some groups and sections, a scant part of ethnically
mixed faculties. The request for Hungarian faculties is therefore a constant debate.
Although the Education Act from 1995 grants Hungarian minority the right to re-
quest these facilities and even the establishment of multicultural (in fact multilingual)
state universities, such proposals were constantly rejected by the governing body of
the Babes x-Bolyai University. Yet the new education law grants ethnic minorities the
right to establish and run private universities in their language. Hungarian minority
already used this legal opportunity and established a private university. According to
72 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
Kettley, many Hungarians see the multicultural university compromise as a tempo-
rary solution to their wider need to preserve their language and culture (Kettley,
2003: p. 257).
When I looked at how people in Sibiu view citizenship, I found that the structure
of the requirements for citizenship differs from the structures revealed by researchers
in other European cities. Whereas Fuss unraveled a structure of requirements in
three dimensions in every city context under scrutiny, I discovered a different struc-
ture. Not only this structure is built on four dimensions, but also the grouping of
items is dissimilar. In fact, people living in Sibiu make a single distinction between
the ethnic and the civic requirements for citizenship. This distinction is the require-
ment for everyone to speak the national language. We tried to explain this specific
feature by the specific nation-building process occurring in Romanian history. Fac-
ing the task of building a national sovereign state, Romanian modern political elites
struggled for decades to dominate ethnic minorities and to turn them into loyal cit-
izens. Therefore, imposing Romanian as official language was essential for the na-
tional project of Romanian elites. It was not easy for linguistic minorities that
were once privileged, such as the German, Hungarian or Russian speakers, to accept
the Romanian linguistic dominance. Especially for the strong Hungarian minority,
giving up to their language was perceived as a threat to its own survival in Transyl-
vania, so ethnic Hungarians went on with the use of their language. This persistence
is seen even today by ethnic Romanians as defiance against Romanian majority and
even against Romanian state, as willingness to challenge Romanian dominance. This
is exactly what might explain the importance Romanians grant to the linguistic re-
quirement for citizenship.
National identity and European membership
Romania became a full member of the European Union starting with the 1st of
January 2007. Despite the great public interest in the European integration as
a hope for future opportunities, little has been done to thoroughly explain the costs
of the membership. It is not only about material costs, but also about symbolic costs.
From a nationalist point of view, European membership may be the end of the
national project started by the national elites in the 19th century. It is not easy for
many nationalists in Eastern Europe to accept that the national states hand over
their national sovereignty to a transnational political entity not yet fully defined.
This is the case of Romania, but it is also the case of the whole region. And the ques-
tion of national sovereignty is probably most acute in the new states that acquired
only very recently full national sovereignty. Debeljak (2003) stresses that to cancel
an essential part of the national sovereignty is much more difficult for Slovenia,
which, unlike Hungary or Poland, has never been a separate and independent nation.
Debeljak finds the difference between Western and Eastern Europe in the under-
standing of the belonging. Whereas most West European countries have already
begun to see themselves largely as multicultural and multireligious communities in
which the essential principle of the public life is the respect for the law and the
73 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
constitution, East Europeans still see themselves as members of ethnically based
states. It is still difficult for them to think outside the framework of the national
state, as they inherited a long ethnic tradition that had a single aim, to put in place
the romantic idea of a single people, a single language and a single state.
Romanians are not different in this respect from other East Europeans, whereas
East Europeans are different from the West Europeans. Romanians see themselves
rather as members of the national state than European citizens. Fuss and his
colleagues found that people from the European cities under scrutiny display strong
relations to Europe. In opposing the strength of respondents’ feelings about being
a national and a European, it appeared that the gap between national and European
identity is not very large. Whereas for people from Manchester and Vienna national
identity is stronger than the European identity, for people from Edinburgh and
Bilbao, cities from regions that struggle for further independence from the national
context, neither the nation, nor Europe are seen as important sources of identity
(Fuss, 2003: p. 13). But in all European cities under scrutiny the authors found
that national and European identities are closer than expected and, except for Bra-
tislava, in all cases these identities are significantly and strongly correlated. In the
case of Sibiu, however, European identification (4%) is scant when compared with
the national (33.6%), the regional (27.7%) and the local identities (24.1%).
Romanians still see themselves as members of a nation and of a nation-state. It is,
therefore, difficult for them to conceive a limitation of the national sovereignty. But
by willing to maintain full sovereignty and to keep living in an ethnically defined
state, they will have great difficulties in the future to develop a sense of ‘‘European-
ness’’, a feeling of belonging to a political and cultural entity that surpasses national
framework. Sharing state sovereignty is a form of involvement in a larger commu-
nity. But Romanians are not eager to give up the national state provision stated
in the constitution (Table 2).
The issue of language is an increasingly important issue for the European Union.
While all the languages used by the member states are official languages, not all the
languages are working languages, which may trigger tensions among the member
states. At the same time, managing language diversity and making European bureau-
cracy work by using all languages is not an easy task (Bennett, 2001). After huge
efforts of standardizing and imposing Romanian as the official language in their
ethnically defined state, Romanians now face an unexpected situation. Romania is
now part of a supranational and multilingual political entity. Ironically enough,
the current European commissioner for multilinguism is a Romanian. For efficiency
Table 2
Agreement with the symbolic loss of sovereignty for Romania
Can you tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: Romania should give up to its
trait of national state, as it is now stipulated by the constitution
Neither agree,
nor disagree
6.7 6.9 13.7 8.7 55.8 3.0 5.2
74 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
reasons, it should be recommended that European bureaucracy use a limited number
of essential languages, but it would be difficult to imagine that member states volun-
tarily accept the limitation of languages in use. Romanians, at least, cannot conceive
that European documents could be issued in a foreign language and not in Roma-
nian as well (Table 3).
The contradiction between the ongoing nation-building and European integration
will last for a while. One can hardly know for how long and how striking its mani-
festations will be. Romanian politicians ignore for the moment all European issues
and the European elections held in Romania in November 2007 had little impor-
tance. They already have been postponed twice in 2007 and political parties had
great difficulties in convincing head politicians to run for a mandate. Many top
politicians feared that their adversaries use the European scrutiny as a ground for
internal politics and preferred not to engage in serious European debates. The mea-
ger political campaign ended in public disregard of European issues, with a scant
29.46% turnout in the first European elections in Romania.
Comparing the requirements for citizenship in Sibiu and other European cities
ended in striking dissimilarities. Using the grouping of requirements made by Fuss
and his team as a model, I discovered a totally different grouping in our case study
of Sibiu. Whereas the requirements for citizenship in European cities are grouped in
three dimensions that express the origin or ethnic aspect, the civic aspect and the
obligatory aspect, the same requirements are differently grouped in Sibiu. The
main dissimilarities lie first in the confusion between the ethnic and the civic aspects
of citizenship, as revealed by the factor analysis. Secondly, I noticed a strong empha-
sis on the requirement for a foreigner to speak the national language. Thirdly, the
obligatory aspect of citizenship regroups items that are part of distinct factors in
European cities.
Therefore I tried to look for the possible explanations that support the revealed
pattern of requirements for citizenship. Far from representing spurious relations be-
tween the items, the factor grouping seems to have deep roots in the contemporary
Romanian history. I think that popular meaning of citizenship is related to the
way people conceive the political entity that today’s Romania is an ethnically defined
state with an official language, which is the language of the dominant nation. With no
significant immigration and by the continuous struggle to integrate ethnic minorities,
Table 3
Agreement with publishing European documents in Romanian and other official languages
All documents should
also be issued in
Only the most important
documents should also
be issued in Romanian
Documents should
not be issued in
67.5 22.8 2.5 1.0 6.2
75 D. Dragoman / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 41 (2008) 63e78
Romania unified the ethnic and the civic aspects of citizenship. Nowadays Romania is
what Romanian elites in past centuries only dreamedof, namely the near end of a harsh
nation-building process. Even though ethnic minorities still live in Romania, they
hardly may question the Romania’s stateness. But I call it an almost ended nation-
building process because of the persistent claims of the large Hungarian minority for
recognition of its cultural rights. Because of this, the nation-building is threatened
on the daily basis in the eyes of Romanian nationalists. None of the political regimes
in modern Romania could ignore this issue and not even post-communism did so.
Regarding the use of nationalist propaganda, we can hardly distinguish between com-
munist and post-communist era. Moreover, the Romanian post-communist constitu-
tion does not fully clarify the relationship between ethnic and civic belonging to the
Romanian nation and state. This might explain the divergent structure of the require-
ments for citizenship that we discovered in Sibiu.
The romantic nation-building and the full sovereignty are today challenged by the
European integration. Unfortunately, Romanian politicians make no effort to pub-
licly expose this contradiction. Amending the constitutional provision that Romania
is a national state is a difficult task because that provision is safeguarded by a strong
legal mechanism of constitutional review. It would run anyway against the current
since many people dislike this change. Romanian romantic elites did their job of
building a nation and a national state, but today settings are different. I think
that a successful European integration, ethnic cooperation and power-sharing de-
pend on clarification of the contradiction between ethnic and civic aspects of citizen-
ship in Romania. But I expect in the future that new settings will affect the structure
of the requirements for citizenship in Romania. European policies and immigration
might influence the way Romanians conceive citizenship. A complementary hypoth-
esis, which I will test later in the case study of Sibiu, is that perception of citizenship,
ethnic cooperation and trust may be influenced by the increased cultural contact
favored by such cultural policies as the European Capitals of Culture.
This article was written as a part of the broader research ‘‘Cultural Policies and
European Integration: the Impact of ‘European Capitals of Culture’ Program on
the Local Development and the Shaping of New Identities’’, financed by the grant
37 GR/23.05.2007 by the Romanian Council for Higher Education Research. The
author wishes to thank for the comments the anonymous referees of Communist
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