Friday, September 15, 2006

The US Library of Congress on Romania

To my shame (and my ultimate frustration) I have only found this excellent, objective, accesible, compact source on Romania very recently. My overall impression: this is the best snapshot on Romania's historical, geographical, social, political, economic and military aspects I've ever run into, devoid of futile passions, gross incompetencies and other such features that plagued every single such study that I consulted before. The qualified use of extensive and diverse sources (including studies published by the Romanian "specialists" in the communist era), the presentation of adverse perspectives when uncertainty over issues is far from being eliminated (eg. the description of the history, demography, social and political contexts of Transylvania) and the clear acknowledgement of the study's limitations (such as general lack of data sources and reliable information on the internal situation in the 1980's) are particularly strong points of this research. I was very much surprised to find much more about certain issues (eg. amazing details from the demographic policies of the communist regime after the 1950's or much more on the policies regarding ethnic minorities etc.) than I had actually imagined before starting. And the best part is that everything seems to concur with previous (most often partial) information I had from the few sources I considered sufficiently objective.

There should be (there will be!) enough room to comment/discuss/ expand on particular topics touched on here, but for now I highly recommend you to go through this material. I simply couldn't stop reading it all, once I started (fortunately, it is sufficiently concise to make such an endeavour plausible). This material has been in hardcopy within the US Library of Congress until relatively recently- 2003- when apparently it was also made available online, together with similar studies on many other countries, all part of research commissioned by the US Department of the Army between 1986 and 1998. These studies are the so-called "Area Handbooks" of the US Libray of Congress.

As the authors claim, the study was concluded in 1989, hence the events from December '89 and the period thereafter in Romania are not covered. However, there is a small section of the study that tries to overview the "awakening". One could perhaps start with that. Although in my opinion this is not necessarily characterized by the same professionalism as the main body of the study (justifiable on the grounds that it was written ex-post the main study), I very much agree with its partial conclusions and the main line of analysis employed. Moreover I think the title chosen for this chapter is inspirational: indeed we were then almost free. Unfortunately, we also remained almost free until the very moment. Before debates ignite on whether this is a mishap and part of our destiny or whether we did it with our own hand, here's a proposal for a bet: will the next study of the Library of Congress find us still almost free?
! (added 11th of October 2006) Meanwhile I found out also the official Library of Congress site for this source. Inter alia, it also has an updated country profile for Romania, from July 2005.