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II. Nationalism before 1848……………………3

III. Nationalism in Transylvania during 1848 and


IV. Nationalism in the second half of the XIXth

and XXth century……………………………8

V. Conclusion………………………………......12


Nationalism is considered a movement that implies loyalty and devotion to a

nation. It represents in a more general way the social consciousness that exalts one
nation above all others. It places primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and
interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups. Nationalism can
be reactionary when we refer to the return to the national past or revolutionary when its
main objective is the independent state under no foreign influence. In Europe, a major
cause of the development of the continent has been the nationalism. The 19 th century
marked the rise of the romantic nationalism within Europe. States like Germany and
Italy were formed by the unification of smaller states with common “national
identities’’. Other states like Greece, Poland and Bulgaria were born after winning the
independence. The French revolution is considered to be the historical event that had
influenced the political transformation of Europe, representative for the nationalists
being the slogan used by the French ”liberty, equality and fraternity” and the idea of
national self-determinism.
In Romania, the nationalism consisted of the idea that Romanians should fight
against the foreign enemies, such as the Turks, the Greeks, the Hungarians or the
Russians in order to win the independence and to form a modern state, on the
geographical basis of the Daco-Roman state. Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia
were involved in the movement whose ultimate goal was the formation of a modern and
independent state. The incipient Romanian nationalism is thought to be the reaction of
the Romanians against the domination by the Phanariote Greeks.
The Transylvanian Latinist School pointed out the importance of the latinity of
the ancestors of Ancient Rome and used the latinity as a primacy for the Romanian
nation in Transylvania. They have made efforts to awaken the national consciousness by
trying to impose the idea of purely Latin origin of the Romanian people speculating
Dacians extermination theory. They formulated Supplex libellus Valachorum in 1791 in
order to ask the Habsburg ruler to grant the Romanian nation the same rights as those
enjoyed by privileged nations such as the Magyars,the Szeklers or the Saxons. The ideal
outcome would have been the political representation in Transylvania’s political
institutions and cessation of discriminatory practices. Throughout the period of 1830-
1850 the idea of the independence of the Transylvanian movement adhered closely to the
Latinist inheritance of Inocentiu Micu and his disciples.

Wallachian and Moldavian nationalism can be characterised by the movement
for national independence from other political and cultural influences that came from
the Greek Phanariotes, the Slavic Russia or the Ottoman Empire. The Wallachian
movement wanted to achieve the liberation of the Danubian provinces from Russian
domination. The Wallachian generation of 1848 pointed out the importance of a social
revolution and political independence more than union with Moldavia and Transylvania
into a greater Romanian state. The Moldavians, on the other hand, were much more
concerned about the reestablishment of the historic tradition. The Moldavians’ views of
1848 emphasized union of Moldavia and Wallachia into a liberal state in which the
conditions of the several social classes would be improved and the ruling boyar oligarchy
would be replaced by themselves.
The revolution of 1848 changed the way nationalism was seen in Moldavia and
Wallachia by showing to what can lead social reform platforms and independent
political actions.


Between 1830 and 1848, the generation of Romanian intellectuals in Transylvania

tried to transform the Romanian cultural community into a full-fledged political nation
and, at the same time, to bring the Romanians into the brood currents of European
economic and social life. During the two decades before the outbreak of the revolution of
1848 they provided the theoretical underpinnings of the modern Romanian national
movement. They formulated the first comprehensive, truly national program. These
intellectuals believe in a communion with Western European ideas without betraying
native traditions. The avoided wholesale imitation preferring instead to shape
borrowings and adopt inspirations to Transylvanian realities.
The following are representative of the intellectuals of 1848: Timotei Cipariu,
Simion Barnutiu, August Treboniu, Laurian Ioan Rusu, George Baritiu, Iosif Many,
Aron Pumnul, Avram Iancu and Alexandru Papiu-Ilarian. Each of them had great
contributions to Romanian political and cultural life. For example Baritiu was the
founder of the modern Romanian-language newspaper press in Transylvania.
The Romanian generation of intellectuals believed that they had a moral
obligation to confront day-to-day realities and therefore their writings proved to bear
the stamps of practicality. They were preoccupied with the dissemination of general
ideas and useful information.
The structure of the Romanian society was formed mainly of peasants. In Tran –
sylvania, most of them were dependent or day laborers, but few were actually free.
Mostly landowning men took part in the political life. A Romanian commercial and
industrial middle class hardly existed. The economic life in Transylvania was based on
agriculture even though the majority of population had no knowledge of technique of
Though Romanians formed a majority of the population, they were at the bottom
of the social scale on political, religious and economic counts. In the Transylvania of
1830s and 1840s, a number of important changes had taken place. For instance, in
economic life, the increase of capitalist manufacturing enterprises, steam-driven
machineries in mining and the establishment of machine shops. But Transylvania was
still considered an agricultural country.
Intellectuals of 1848 could be classified as Romantics, Liberals or as Enlightened
ones. In Transylvania, Romanian intellectuals ensured the progress of the Romanian
nation throughout their writings. These had the form of translations, adoptions and
commentaries. For a bigger result, they wrote essays based on fundamental human
problems such as life and death, morality and truth. They were meant to serve as
The variety of Romanticism, not the current of sentimentalism, exoticism, and
egoism attracted the Romanians, but a Romanticism which brought the educated and
the masses closer together in a spirit of mutual trust and understanding.
Being the third major European movement of believes to touch the Romanians of
Transylvania, liberalism provides the most accurate description of the generation of
1848. Romanian intellectuals identified themselves with other liberals of Europe,
advocating individual freedom.
In 1842, the Magyar liberals tried to push a language law which purpose was to
make the Magyar language used in government and judiciary systems at every level and
even in Romanian Uniate and Orthodox Church administration and schools. The
language law never came into effect.
The most serious underlying problem which Romanian intellectuals faced in the
decade before the revolution was the sharp discontinuity between the structure of
Romanian (and Transylvanian) society and their own social and political thought.
Romanian intellectuals were by and large economic liberals. They advocated the least
possible restraints on economic activity, arguing for competition among producers, the
dissolution of the craft guilds, the elimination of internal and foreign tariffs and the
abolition of serfdom. They favored the rapid expansion of modern, capitalist forms of
productions in all branches of the economy, especially in industry. That happened
because they thought that in the future economy would be dominated by large scale
manufacturing enterprises. So that the Romanian intellectuals expressed admiration for
the Western bourgeoisie because they thought it was a social class that was acting like
the engine of the country.


The base of the 1848 revolution from Romania was represented by the
intellectuality, who fought for the idea of nation, believing that ethnic self determination
was the key to progress. The union between Transylvania and Hungary was seen by the
Magyar liberals as an achievement so far waited for. The radicals, who were large
landowners didn’t agree the idea of offering the Romanian peasants equal rights of
citizenship, because that would had meant the "death knell" for the ruling classes in
Important people such as Timotei Cipariu and George Baritiu thought at the
beginning that the idea of the unification would grant the Romanian population equal
rights just like the other populations from Transylvania (the Magyars, the Szeklers and
the Saxons). They believed in obtaining religious liberty, equal rights before the law.
George Baritiu wished for the liberation of the peasants from Transylvania from
exploitation and hardship, for the using of the own language in the education, church
and government. He always thought that the freedom of speech was a natural right. The
Romanian intellectuals embraced the union considering it as a way to a better life. The
idea of ”union” was not so well seen by all the intellectuals from Transylvania.
On the 24th of March Simion Barnutiu pulled the trigger ringing the alarm about
the unification of Transylvania with Hungary. He observed that this was just a fake
union, and that it will not grant the Romanians equal rights like the magyars had. He
considered this alliance an act of slavery, a stronger submission. Romanian leaders from
Blaj, Sibiu, Cluj, Targu Mures, and the Apuseni Mountains, continuously met to make
arrangements for a very big meeting that would have taken place in Blaj, considered one
of the most important places from Transylvania. Intellectuals like Aaron Pumnul ,
Avram Iancul, Alexandru Papiu Ilarian started gathering people for this very big
meeting. The church was seen now as a major help in the communication between the

intellectuality and the peasants . Bishop Lemeni had a great importance in the problem
of convoking the diocesan synod.
All these activities made by the Romanian intellectuality caused alarm to the
Magyar authorities. Pressure was put on bishop Lemeni by the governor Joseph Teleki,
who said that such a gathering would produce violence. Important decisions were taken
on the 23rf of April by the intellectuality. All of those gathered considered that
Barnutiu`s idea of fighting for national interests come before all else. Seven days later
another meeting took place in Blaj, where almost 600 peasants gathered in the main
square. They were informed by Alexandru Papiu Ilarian, Avram Iancu and Ioan
Buteanu, that they should fight as a single part, as free men and that the most numerous
population from Transylvania, should decide its own future, not allowing others to do
that. They were also warned that if they had to do so, they must act legal, and not to
behave like revolutionaries. Barnutiu told them to go home tell others about this
important gathering in two weeks at Blaj, and that all the support was welcomed.
Obtaining freedom was seen by Barnutiu as a collective effort, not an individual one.
Barnutiu fought to obtain all the support he could find, but this was useless with
George Baritiu and the newly elected bishop of the Otrhodox Church Andrei Saguna.
The first one insisted on the idea of the federalization of Transylvania , as a solution to
the nationality problem. He insisted on the idea of pursuing the Swiss model, where
there was political and economical autonomy, but united in matters common to all .
Saguna believed that the Romanian population should depend on the Orthodox church,
and under the domination of the Habsburg Dynasty. Saguna agreed on the Barnutian
principles, but insisted on the idea of being loyal to the Habsburg domination. Barnutiu
believed that the goal of the gathering from Blaj should be obtaining national liberty.
There were three major aspects that had to be debated: political autonomy, religious
discord, and the status of peasantry. Serfdom was considered inhuman and needed to be
abolished and that this should be realized through legislation. The national program
included a series of rights for the Romanian population from Transylvania, rights such
as liberty, equality, fraternity, national political independence, the freedom of the
church , the freely election of the bishops, the abolition of serfdom ( without payment),
to have an industrial and commercial freedom , the abolition of customs, the freedom of
speaking and writing, without censorship, personal liberty , a new constitution.
These constituted the "sixteen points" , being a manifesto for the intellectuality of
the 1848 in Central Europe. The same day was proclaimed the independence of the
Romanian nation, and it had full rights just like the Magyars , the Szeklers and the
Saxons. The Field of Liberty was the place where all the hopes and dreams of the
Romanians gathered. The entire atmosphere was dominated by Barnutiu and Saguna
who represented models of courage in dark ages.
In late spring and summer of 1848 the Transylvanian government persisted in its
refusal to recognize the existence of a separate Romanian nation. For preserving the
Magyar supremacy political conservatives and liberals and even the Governor Teleki
accepted the idea of union Transylvania with liberal Hungary. Teleki’s government
accused the Permanent Committee in Sibiu of subversion because neither Simion
Barnutiu nor the committee as a whole had made any secret of their true feelings
regarding this idea. In spite of this, the government also suspected the committee of
promoting a pan-Romanian movement, the identity of language, culture and religion of
the Romanians in the preceding two decades had been reinforced on both sides of
There were direct contacts between Transylvania with Moldavia and Wallachia,
sympathy and understanding, and the idea of a united Romania was certainly present
concluded in private visits, the collaboration between Moldavia and Wallachia
on Gazeta de Transilvania and its supplement Foaia pentru minte, inima si literatura.
The most important role in this pan-Romanian movement was played by the
Wallachians because of its representatives such as A.G. Golescu and Ioan Maiorescu
who passed to Transylvania in their diplomatic missions and clearly suggested a united
Romania under either Austrian or Russian auspices. Unfortunately these ideas of a
united Romania were expressed in strict-confidence by the members of Permanent
Committee. They acknowledged two major facts: that the two Romanian principalities
were not strength and they were conscious of their own weakness-lack of money and
organization and decided that they need an Austrian aid to surmount the challenge of
Magyar nationalism.
On May 30, Andrei Saguna presented the Sixteen Points to Emperor Ferdinand
in form of a petition, but the petition was not accepted, a second one was presented
because of Saguna’s refusal to accept the emperor’s statement. But feeling the danger
represented by the Magyar policies the emperor on June 23 developed a new policy
toward nationalities, guaranteeing the Romanians their nationality and all concomitant
political rights. Finally , on September 27 the Commission on the Union approved a bill
which recognized the Romanian nationality and the autonomy of the Uniate and
Orthodox churches, allowed the free use of Romanian language in village affairs, and
provided for the appointment of the Romanians to public office in proportion to their
numbers. However, the Hungarian diet was delayed until May 1849. In august the
Permanent Committee was dissolved by Miklos Vay, and arrested the majority of the
members, who after these events proclaimed himself civil governor of the principality
and issued to defend the rights of the Habsburg dynasty despite of these under the
chairmanship of Barnutiu a new National Committee appeared where the intellectuals
worked hard to maintain their demands.
Three years later, now under the chairmanship of Saguna they tried to reaffirm
the allegiance to the Habsburg dynasty and to explain to Austrian officials the idea of
Romanian nationhood these ideas were included in the new program which consisted of
8 articles. No document before it had expressed so clear the ideal of Romanian unity
within the Habsburg Monarchy. On February 25 Saguna and his small group presented
the new petition to Francis Joseph but in the end all Saguna’s efforts proved futile, in
spite all his public efforts. In July 29 I the last days of liberal Hungary, the bill proposed
previous September was enacted into law which ended with the intervention of Austrian
and Russian armies which closed the few remaining Hungarian strongholds. After this
new instructions from Austrian officials were to restore Transylvania to the status of an
imperial province as quickly as possible, but the intellectuals refused to accept anything
less than national autonomy, so intellectuals as Barnutiu, Baritiu, Laurian, Papiu-Ilarian
started to spread documents and petitions to inform Romanians of their rights and
arouse the to action but by the fall of 1850 the intellectuals had finally accepted defeat.
Paradoxically, Romanian Intellectuals came out of the revolution with an enhanced
confidence in their ability to manage their own affairs.
“We shed our blood for the emperor and our nation, not for medals or money.”
(G. Baritiu)


The face of Moldavian and Wallachian nationalism changed dramatically after

1848 as the dangers of separate political actions and social political reforms against
Russia started to show themselves, after the events of that year. It was now that
Wallachian and Moldavian people began to understand the importance of a grater
Romanian state, through unification, whilst Transylvanians insisted on social reform
and on obtaining a full nations status, this being one of the main concerns after 1848.
As the Russian occupation of the Romanian provinces cooled the time’s
nationalism, the conservative nationalism was not discouraged by this. Romanians also
regarded the Austrian occupiers as interchangeable with the Russian force, which they
had substituted. Soon enough, an understanding of fraternization between Russia and
Austria against the Romanian’s worst enemy, the Turks, appeared. But, on the other
hand, it was only the fugitive intellectuals from Paris that proposed a total “national”
solution, based on outright independence.
The ultimate goal of the Romanians was the union of the three provinces and
political independence, but, because of their immediate tactics, socio-economic and
political problems were not provided solutions in Wallachia and Moldavia.
But it was the election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza in 1859 that brought out the
conflict concerning the common bond of nationalism. This election that was called
fraudulous by the Turks, also reflected fear of transferring the power to the “liberals”,
but, it also brought the long awaited unification of the two provinces. In fact, the power
of the conservatives was so grand that it blocked the electing of anybody else but Cuza.
Unfortunately, soon enough, both the conservative nationalists and the “forty-eighters”
stated Cuza’s socio-economical reforms as incompatible with the next step of their
program: total independence from Istanbul. Thus followed Carol of Hohenzollern,
movement which spoke a lot more about the true values of Romanian nationalism than
any other theoretical discourse on political democracy would have. Carol’s accession
thus marked the attainment of the basic goal of the primitive political nationalism: the
Romanian national state. But soon, the rule of Carol the I st also became a source of
commentaries. Carol’s Germanophile tendencies and pro-“conservative policies were
regarded as incompatible with the “liberals” political ambitions. But it was after this
that an anti-German color was given to the Romanian national movement, starting with
It was in the late sixties and early seventies when Ion Bratianu and his coterie
agreed that the making of a truly independent Romania was primordial over social and
economical reforms. Thus, an eventual union of the three major Romanian provinces
was not new to the Austro - Hungarians, and it is soon that nationalism became
synonymous with anti-Semitism for Romanian politicians.
The anti-Semitism of the new nationalism had different roots. In the case of the
liberals, they were seeking aid throughout the people in order to blame the Jews of the
deplorable state in which the villages were, and of the general poverty of the masses.
They appealed to xenophobic prejudices, and relied on the promise of “a Romania for
the Romanians”. This reached its climax after the War of Independence, in 1878, the

conservators and the monarchy being blamed for the loss of Romanian territory towards
The reason why the Transylvanian movement differed from the Wallachian and
the Moldavian one was because of the people that conducted them. In the first cases, we
can speak about the bourgeois, while the last two were aristocrat-dominated. The
“Romanii de dincolo” were not landowners of the masses and they did not have anti-
Semitism and anti – Russianism in their doctrine. But, instead, the peasants turned
towards the “bourgeoisie democracy”.
The anti – Semitic character of the Romanian nationalism radicalized more in the
years that immediately followed the World War I. The liberals accused the conservators
of social injustice and pursuit of politics, domestic or foreign, contrary to the national
interest. But the Romanians decision was ferm. They seeked unification at all costs, even
over “Carol’s dead body.”
Remarkable is the fact that the masses of peasants did not regard the Greater
Romania as a substitute to the agrarian reform and nor were they deceived by the many
attempts of the nationalists to blame their mistakes on others, especially Jews and
Socialists. However, the slogan, “a Greater Romania for the Romanians” was very
appealing to them and also to the Romanians of Transylvania, who were now seeking
accommodations again with Vienna and Budapest.
It was in 1913 when Dobrogea was won in the Balkan Wars, thus creating a
prelude of linking all the Romanian provinces at what was latter supposed to be called a
United Romania. And this drew closer and closer as the World War I neared.
A military position was taken by the nationalists of the Old Kingdom even before
the war started. It is only due to the monarchy and the conservators that they resisted
the temptation to betray their allies and their monarchs. But it was only after the war
outcome became clear that the Romanian leaders did abandon the Habsburgic empire
and reorientated towards the Old Kingdom. Sterile nationalist slogans were rejected in
the moment of truth under the impact of the Bolshevik Revolution and the reality of a
Greater Romania.
The importance of the Bolshevik Revolution regarding the Romanian national
movement is underlined by the event of the Russian conquest of Bessarabia. It is because
of the embarrassment of the Moldavians and Bessarabians of the tsarist agrarian
reform, that the conservatives and liberals alike decided to take serious measures
regarding the land reform. In 1918, Bratianu’s plans for a Greater Romania received
endorsement of the victorious allies, fearfull of bolshevism. There was also an anti-
communist trademark assumed by the creators of Greater Romania, in the Bucharest
Liberal Party which provided an alibi for delaying the implementation of the promises
made at the time of the union, and it also made possible the preservation of the gains of
1918 against the Bolshevik irredentism. Another important fact of this period is the
keeping alive of the anti-Semitist tradition, by Bratianu, as this brand of nationalism
minimized social reform. It is though the majority of the people that prefer either
patriotism proposed by The National Peasant Party or the outright Romanian Fascist,
propagated by the Iron Guard.
“Guardianism” was a form of nationalism that stood up from all the others, not
because of the virulent anti-Semitism, but because of the social reformism it proposed.
The Iron Guard however imposed a Christian mass regeneration, meaning the
purification of all political and socio-economical order held by Jews. This is why the
existing political order needed to be changed. Thus, along with the maintenance of the
Greater Romania, the Judeo-communism appeared, which Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
tried to combate.
The most effective opposition and alternative to “guardianism” was given by the
“monarcho-fascism” established by Carol the IInd, a nationalism of a higher order than
the traditional through its entertainment of a modicum of social reform. It provided a
theoretical possibility of control of those opposed to German control regarding the
Romanian fascist movement. But this was soon to collapse as the annexation of
Bessarabia and of Bukovina to Russia took place, as the further dissembling of the
Greater Romania through the Vienna Diktat.
During this period of time, Ion Antonescu created a series of doctrines, from
which we can remember: romanization at home and territorial compensation abroad at
the expense of the Romanians’ greatest enemies. But it is the destruction of the Fascist
regime at the end of the Second World War and its replacing with the Russian
communism, that was considered to be the climax of the Romanian nationalism. Thus,
along with the celebration of “liberation from fascism” in August 1944, a new type of
nationalism was recognized. But, this historical reading of Romanian nationalism
proved itself as wrong later on. In fact, wishing to maintain political identity in the face
of Stalinism and post Stalinism, national communism was embraced, instead of
internationalism, by Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej and his associates, and by the time of his
successor, Nicolae Ceausescu, in 1965, the social revolution was taken for granted and
the characteristics of the “bourgeoise landlord” nationalism became incorporated into
the Communist version. Chauvinism, anti-Semintism, anti-Russianism and anti-
Hungarian also became part of the new nationalism and turned out to be as important
as the social reform. On the other hand, communism as a form of nationalism differs a
lot from the ones in the previous years, and it’s main goal was the acceptance of the
communist order, but whether the masses were to accept it as a contemporary
equivalent to the reformist nationalism, was unknown, as Ceausescu’s nationalism was a
synthesis of almost all that had been before it, of the aspirations and prejudices of the

The 19th century was a period of self-rediscovery. People were keen to attain or
reinforce a sense of their own historical, cultural and ethnic individuality.
The role of the 1848 generation of Romanian intellectuals was to filter political,
socio-economical and artistic ideas of Western Europe, notably France, also Germany
and even England and thus contribute to the founding of a modern Romania with a
modern culture and ideology that were compatible with those of the more advanced
states to the west. Romantic and liberal, the 48’s promoted a permissive and
constructive type of nationalism. This changed during the second part of the 19th century
because of internal and international developments and fear and suspicion towards
foreigners, wether inside or outside the borders, prevailed.
During the 19th century, the Romanian collective imagination underwent
profound changes. The generous spirit of the 1848 revolutions, based on the principles of
equality and liberty, indicated a great acceptance of new ideas concerning difference.
The role of religion in identity – which had been of the greatest importance – was
replaced in the second half of the the19th century by the ethnic principle.
Communication and contact with European civilization, as well as direct experience, and
the recording and justification of ethnic differences, contributed to this gradual
After the revolution of 1848, Romanian nationalism assumed an entirely different
form, dropping the social reform in favour of the unification of the Romanian provinces,
and eventually dropping all principles of ’48 in favour of outright independence. The
commitment of the 48ers in Wallachia and Moldavia to the socio-economic reform was
broken by the conservative aristocracy in the elections of 1859. Civic nationalism,1 also
Hans Kohn, v. The Idea of Nationalism. A Study in Its Origin and Background,
Tranzactions Publishers, New Brunswik and London, 2005

called liberal nationalism, a non-xenophobic nationalism is replaced by ethnic
The vision of national Romanian identity, put to use in the 19 th and 20th centuries
to promote the national interest and to establish a certain Romanian individuality, was
seldom compatible with the acceptance of “others”. Though Romanian nationalism was
based on an idealization of history and tradition, and called for a national revival, unity
and independence, it also constantly urged Romanians to fight all oppressors: the enemy
which the Romanians must face were usually foreign, the Turks, the Greek Phanariotes,
the Jews and the Hungarians.
By mixing culture and politics, by appealing to an ancient past and by facing the
reality of the current era, contemporaries could notice a double attitude of Romanian
nationalists: on one hand, they cherished the past, which was a model for their society
and, on the other hand, they were aware of the primitiveness of Romanian society. This
problem was solved by a group of intellectuals who exaggerated the ethnic dimensions of
nationalism, by comparing the Romanians as a people with others and, thus, nurturing a
certain animosity towards the foreigner. The foreigner embodied difference
simultaneously in ethnic and political ways.
Nationalism became, in the second half of the 19th century, synonymous to anti-
Semitism, the political class in the Old Kingdom finding it easier to blame the Jews and
their protectors, the Germans for the poverty of the peasants. Even after the Great
Union of 1918, the Bucharest Liberal Party made use of the association between Judaism
and bolshevism, keeping alive the anti-Semitic tradition, in order to stress the
importance of the retention of territorial gains and minimise social reform.
We can safely say that the rise of nationalism alongside liberal ideas ends with the
total negation of these ideas as nationalism turns the self-determination of individuals
that share a common language, territory and tradition from a means of achieving a goal
to a goal in itself.2

Bogdan C. Enache, Liberalism şi naţionalism: o simbioză fatală. revista Cuvântul, Anul
XX, Nr. 1-2 (374-375), August-Septembrie 2008, pp. 12