The Striving of Transylvania’s Romanians for Judicial Autonomy in Greater Romania

Friday, January 4, 2019: 10:30 AM
Astoria Room (Hilton Chicago)
Francesco Magno, University of Trento
After the proclamation of Alba Iulia, Transylvania became part of Romania, after centuries within Hungarian statehood. Transylvania’s Romanians hoped to obtain from Bucharest administrative and judicial autonomy in order to retain, at least partially, Habsburg legislative codes (the Hungarian penal code and the Austrian civil code, in force before 1918) and institutions. However, following the centralized French pattern, the new Romanian State left no room for regional or provincial autonomy and decided to extend its legislation in the regions over which it gained control after WWI. From Bucharest’s point of view, the Habsburg legislation was the result of foreign oppression, and therefore had to be progressively replaced by the Romanian one, which was considered truly national. The Romanians of Transylvania did not consider their former legislation as Hungarian or Austrian; for them, it was authentically Transylvanian, result of a history they felt part of. Furthermore, the Habsburg codes were considered extremely valid, efficient and advanced, much more than the Romanian ones that Bucharest wanted to export to Transylvania. This dichotomy caused a hard contrast between Transylvanian and Romanians of the “Vechiul Regat”. The Transylvanian lawyer and intellectual Aurel Lăzar, whose Romanian nationalism was undoubted, was often accused in Parliament by the Romanian Minister of Justice Gheorghe Mârzescu of defending foreign laws and of being antinational. The aim of the presentation is to underline how Romanians of different regions perceived differently their “Romanianess”, and explain why. In addition, I want to emphasize how the former Habsburg border represented by the Carpathians continued to survive as a “phantom border” between two different institutional and judicial worlds, each of them jealous of its tradition, despite a common ethnolinguistic background.
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