The republic of one day from Ploiesti. The Rebellion against Modernization and its ”Agents”, Abstract by Dorin Stanescu
The starting point of this study is a research of an event which happened in the second part of the 19th century in Ploiesti, a city nearby Bucharest, the capital of Romania. On 8th August 1870, in Ploiesti, an attempt at a revolution takes place. The city is taken over by an organized group of radical liberals. The action lasts for sixteen hours and ends as soldiers are deployed from Bucharest. The rebels are arrested and order is established. The newspapers and, later, the humorous prose pieces of the greatest Romanian playwright, Ion Luca Caragiale, ridiculed the event by calling it ‘The Republic of Ploiesti’, thus lending some credence to the idea that the rebels had proclaimed the creation of a republic. An analysis of the events leads to a different approach and another way of understanding them, which differs from the accepted version, stating that the movement was only directed against the ruling prince, Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
1870 Romania is a real ‘America of the Balkans’, a country where modernization was taking off, providing opportunities for vectors of modernization such as Jews, Germans, Austrians, the French. Inspired by the ideals of the French revolution, the political class and especially the liberals, who had great popular support in urban areas, enthusiastically participate in the modernization of the country. But foreign capital penetration, concessions for railway lines, the powerful migration of some ethnic groups was going to damage the economic interests of the liberals. It is for this reason that, in 1870, the radical liberals plan the last Romanian revolution of the 19th century. A revolution directed against the foreigners, which should have encompassed the whole country, overthrown and expelled the foreign ‘agents’ of modernity: Jews and Germans. For reasons of prudence, as the war between France and Prussia had started, the movement is postponed until the expected victory of France. Unexpectedly, in Ploiesti, the second most important city of Muntenia, on 8th August, Alexandru Candiano Popescu starts the uprising and occupies the city. Why Ploiesti? Because there is a tradition of local uprising, because the city is an important commercial centre where numerous Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Jews do business: the competition, the commodities and new practices brought about by modernization are strongly affecting the interests of the two or three thousand local craftsmen and traders. They are the potential middle class, the bourgeoisie, a surrogate class if judged by the classic definition. The newcomers, on the other hand, do meet the criteria of what it means to be middle-class, thus competing successfully against the locals and threatening their social aspirations.
How does modernization take place and which are its results for Romania? Is there a connection between modernization and anti-Semitism here? What are the roots, the expressions, the instruments of anti-Semitism? Are the Jews and Germans the agents of modernization? Who are the figureheads that symbolize in a negative way the Jews and Germans in the Romanian society of the time? What kind of modernization do people wish? These are questions that the present study tries to answer.
Dorin Stanescu (b. 1974), graduated from the Faculty of History, Bucharest University in 1997, he holds a PhD in History (2009) with a thesis about The Evolution of the Railways in Prahova County (1872-2000) and their impacts on its society . Dorin Stanescu was a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Bucharest (November 2011- February 2012), his research theme was EU policies in railways field. He is specialized in railway history, in modern and contemporary history. Currently he is a history teacher in Prahova County, from this autumn he will be a Cendari fellow at Trinity College Dublin (November 2015-January 2016). Dorin Stanescu was awarded CENDARI funding to pursue a research project under one of the CENDARI’s (Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure) project pilot areas – World War 1. Dorin’s research is entitled, “Ulysses in the Great War. Traveling by train at the end of the war. A view from literature and movies”.
Dorin is part of a team at the NGO Ploiesti Third Millennium whose mission is to study local and national history. He is the vice president of Cultural Society Ploiesti Third Millennium, Board member at the International Railways History Association of Paris, contributor to the Historia national magazine and blogger at The Truth, a national daily newspaper.
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