In this paper I shall discuss a meaningful aspect of the December 1989 revolution, the founding event of the post-communist Romanian democracy, as reflected in the collective memory. Particular emphasis will be placed on the social construction of ?revolutionary identity? as a newly emerging social identityin the Romanian transition. At times the debates and controversies surroundingthe title of ?revolutionary? animate the public space, generating contradictory attitudes. The segment of the population that was directly involved in the events of December 1989 can be considered a complex and heterogeneous social category. It was politically recognised as a social category when it became the object of a state policy that has been materialised into a law since December 1990; namely law no. 42/1990, initially entitled ?the Law for Honouring the Martyr-Heroes? Memory and for Awarding certain Rights to their Families, as well as to those Injured during the Revolution of December 1989?. The several amendments made to this law reflect a rather ambiguous relationship between the post-December Governments and this social category. I therefore assume that the social construction of revolutionary identity is not politically neutral; in this respect I shall stress the symbolic and material interests involved in claiming this identity, as well as the political stakes and power relations that the public acknowledgements of revolutionary identity implies. Secondly, moving beyond the generic acceptance of the term ?revolutionary?, I shall attempt to depict its internal diversity, referring to a multitude of lived experiences and shared memories that provide the content of this identity.  

Theoretical and methodological framework

The theoretical perspective of this analysis of revolutionary identity is shaped primarily by Richard Jenkins? contribution to outliningsocial identity as a strategic concept in the social sciences (Jenkins, Richard 1996): the model of dialectical internal and external definition of identity;the conceptual distinction between nominal and virtual identities; the institutionalised identities, etc.I use also Barth?s insightful concept of boundaries (Barth, Fredrik 1969), which has now become a common reference in studies of ethnicity, as well as of other social identities, demarcating the social spaces across which identities are negotiated.

The assumption that ?power and politics are central to questions of identity? and that ?social identities exist and are acquired, claimed and allocated within power relations? (Jenkins 1996:24-5), which is influenced by a Foucauldian view of power, seems to be used rather rhetorically in Jenkins? book. Nevertheless, I shall illustrate its relevance in the context of the Romanian revolutionary identity.

On the other hand, I would emphasise the central role of collective memory in shaping a social identity. A shared meaningful past is needed in order to legitimate a collective identity. In the case of a revolutionary identity, the official ascription of the category of ?revolutionary? depends ultimately on testimonies of lived experiences. The social construction of these narratives implies shared, negotiated meanings of life histories. For the social researcher it is worth scrutinizing these life stories with particular sensitivity to the implicit personal and collective mythology, as the special light in which oral histories can be seen;[2].