On public oblivion:

(interviewer?s question: ?Do you think the event of 1989 is meant to be forgotten?? ?Yes, it is. What was published was not enough? Neither in the media, nor?It was all like a taboo? Why did those people die in Cluj? I wonder?As if it was nothing??[21]

An elusive identity: revolutionaries without a certificate

I have so far emphasized certain types of institutionalised revolutionary identity whose discursive universes I have attempted to reveal. From the point of view of the social researcher there still is a non-institutionalised category: namely the participants in the demonstrations up to 22 December and the subsequent performance, those who have not had a revolutionary certificate awarded to them by the Government and who are not the members of any revolutionary organisations. This type of identity implies their having chosen not to become affiliated with any association, not to claim anything in exchange, and not to demand any awards for their ?revolutionary? attitude, which was considered normal during those days.

?I consider the decision to take part in the street protests of 22 December as being perfectly normal. Those weren?t acts of heroism? theoretically, this could have happened in Brasov back in 1987, as well as on other occasions? and if the people had mobilized themselves and they hadn?t supported Ceausescu through their passivity, we wouldn?t have been in that situation in 1989 and probably our post-December situation would have been different.?[22]

The only authority before which they legitimate themselves is their own civic consciousness, and perhaps the life stories to be told to their children. In the absence of organizational membership they can hardly make any claims on their identity. And this is all the more difficult as long as there is a tendency to monopolise the debates on and the (re)definitions of the Romanian revolution by both the representatives of revolutionary associations and by mainstream political power.

*

The multitude of personal experiences and meanings of the events lived then configure discursive universes that are continuously redefining themselves around present social interests. The oral history approach uses participants? testimonies to capture the veins of a recent history. And what is more, searching the comprehensibility of the events we experienced and which influenced our lives in a more or less obvious way means, for each one of us, whether a scholar or not, a chance to understand ourselves. Eventually this fact constructs our individual identity. And I would even venture to say that the relevance of this complex interrelation implied in the process of the revolutionaries? social identification could be extended to encompass a more general theme: attitudes towards the recent past, and particularly towards the founding event of 1989. I consider that the ambiguity of the official definition of revolutionary identity and the problematic experiences of being a Romanian revolutionary have subtly influenced and mirrored the profile of our rather dramatic post-communist transition.

References:

Ash, Timothy, Garton 2002, Trials, purges and history lessons: treating a difficult past in post-communist Europe, in Muller, Jean, Werner (ed.) 2002, Memory and Power in Post-war Europe. Studies in the Presence of the Past, Cambridge.: Cambridge University Press.

Barth, Fredrik 1969(ed.), Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. The Social Organization of Cultural Difference, Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Cohen, Anthony P. 2000, Signifying Identities. Anthropological Perspectives on Boundaries and Contested Values, London &New York: Routledge.

Jenkins, Richard 1996, Social Identity, London: Routledge.

Samuel, Raphael, and Thompson, Paul 1990 The Myths We Live By, London: Routledge.


[1]This new perspective on life histories was offered at the 1987 Oxford Conference on ?Myth and History?, and was reflected in the volume The myths we live by, edited by Raphael Samuel and Paul Thompson. It was a ?fundamental proposition of this conference to assume the displacements, omissions and reinterpretations through which myths in personal and collective memory take shape? (Samuel and Thompson 1990, 5)

[2]In this respect, an oral archive of recorded testimonies of the participants in the revolution from Cluj is in preparation at the Institute of Oral History, Babes-Bolyai University, which I belong to.

[3]I have already attempted a historical semantics approach to the notion of the Romanian revolution in the article ?Significances of Political Non-Violence in the Central and Eastern European Revolutions of 1989: The Violence of the Romanian Revolution? in the journal Caiete de antropologie istorica (Papers of Historical Anthropology), published by the Seminar of Historical Anthropology, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj 2(2002)

[4]This idea is developed in my study mentioned above, Significances of Political Non-Violence in the Central and Eastern European Revolutions of 1989. The Violence of the Romanian Revolution.

[5]I have analysed this type of polarizing at the discursive level in my BA dissertation, stressing the fact that this black and white polarity between ?terrorists? and the ?Saviour? has been the key to the ideological representation of the ?Live Broadcasting Romanian Revolution?. There is a short version ?The Revival of Symbols in the Romanian Revolution of 1989?, published in Caietele Tranzitiei (The Paper of Transition) edited by the Institute of Cultural Anthropology, Babes-Bolyai University Cluj, 1997, p.issue 1, p. 102-106.

[6]There are a few notorious cases of certain people who had behaved in a totally hostile manner towards the anti-Ceausescu? protestors in the first period of the revolution (before the dictator?s fall), or even those involved in the repressive forces, who are currently members of certain organisations of revolutionaries and who have obtained an official certificate as a revolutionary. This is rather a peculiar illustration of the theoretical assumption that ?the criteria of membership are a matter of negotiation at the organisational boundary? (Jenkins 139-63).

[7]Interviewees Tudorin Burlacu, Petre Borosoiu, 18 decembrie 2002, Timisoara, interviewer S. Grama. 

[8]Ibidem.

[9]Ion Iliescu and Adrian Nastase are important political leaders, the president, respectively the prime minister of Romania at that time.

[10]Interviewees Tudorin Burlacu, Petre Borosoiu , 18 decembrie 2002, Timisoara, interviewer S.Grama.

[11]Ibidem.

[12]Ibidem.

[13]One can notice in this assertion the political myth of the French Revolution.

[14]Interviewees T. Burlacu, P. Borosoiu , 18 decembrie 2002, Timisoara, interviewer Sidonia Grama. 

[15]Ibidem.

[16]In ?Trials, purges and history lessons: treating a difficult past in post-communist Europe?, Timothy Garton Ash has done a comparative analysis of the policy of facing the legacy of communism, particularly in Germany and its neighbours. In these respects, four key interrogations have to be answered carefully: ?whether to remember and treat the past, (?) when to address it;(?) who should do it, and last, but not least, how?? (Ash 2000, 265-282)

[17]Interviewee Lung Dan Ioan, injured in the revolution, interviewers C. Budeanca and L. Rusu, Cluj,2002.

[18]Interviewee Juscau Vasile, injured in the revolution, interviewer Sidonia Grama, Cluj, 2002.

[19]Interviewee Ciortea Elisabeta, a widow of the revolution, interviewers C Budeanca and D Bodeanu, Cluj, nov. 2002.

[20]Ibidem.

[21]Ibidem.

[22]Interviewee Leontin Iuhasz, Mrs Doina Cornea?son, a well known Romanian dissident, interviewer Sidonia Grama, Cluj, nov.2002.