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December 7, 2022
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An open book

By Serban Stati, Former Ambassador of Romania to Italy

President Giorgio Napolitano’s visit to Romania adds a new page to the rich history of Romanian-Italian ties and the ties between their peoples. A history full of special significance, which defines, from the very beginning, the specific nature of these relationships: the common roots of Latinity, full of vibrant vitality throughout the centuries, reflected by amazing linguistic similarities, obvious affinities, productive both in psycho-behavioural and general-spiritual characteristics, and at the level of essential historical events. Romanians have always been and felt at the eastern edges of European Latinity, sons of Rome, just like Italians, in loco heirs of the Roman civilisation. Romanian medieval scholars, such as Miron Costin, Constantin Cantacuzino, Dimitrie Cantemir, documented this reality in their writings, just like Italian humanists such as Poggio Bracciolini did, on the trail of Italian diplomats who travelled to the Romanian principalities or of Genovese and Venetian merchants who had stable ties with Romanians in the Lower Danube region and the western shores of the Black Sea.

This gradually crystallised the conscience of fraternity, which was to play a growingly important part in the history of modern and contemporary becoming of Italians and Romanians. Nowadays, the parallelism of the process of the Italian and Romanian unitary states’ construction in the 19th century are more than obvious. It’s not by accident that at a recent convention of Romanian-Italian studies, held in Bucharest as part of the anniversary of 150 years since the proclamation of Italian Unity, was called “Italy and Romania towards National Unity”; historians from both countries reflected on these parallelisms by rightly avoiding exclamatory-superficial conclusions and by emphasising the fact that similarities are even stronger if we take into consideration that they became apparent in different social, economic and political conditions. The spirit of these processes is however, even more, common and brotherly. This is why when Romania completed its state unity in 1918, Italia’s support at diplomatic, military and popular level, was whole-hearted and unanimous.

And when Iron Curtain that divided Europe fell in 1989, the path of fraternity was re-established almost without difficulty. It’s true that even during the Cold War, a spirit of collaboration, especially economic and cultural, continued to remain active, despite numerous obstacles – which can somehow explain why it was easy to find each other again, as reflected in the gradually more intense flows of Italian entrepreneurs towards a Romania that was focusing on market economy, to the determined and many times decisive political and diplomatic support Italy gave to Romania’s integration into European and Atlantic structures, themselves undergoing changes at the time.

This path was of course, not a smooth one, and crossing it required attention, judgment, fighting persistent prejudice and a continuous and tenacious affirmation of tolerance. But the spirit of Romanian-Italian fraternity is, through its vital nature, dominant and fated to triumph, even in the murky conditions of a reconfiguration of global economic, social and political realities.

This is the context in which, like a real messenger of History, President Napolitano arrives on Romanian land. His Excellency embodies to the highest level the qualities of wisdom, balance, refinement that his position requires and for which he is admired and loved, both here and in his country. And precisely because his personality is of such nature, in the current context, we feel the need to accompany him with the memory of past deeds of culture and civilisation that left a mark on ties between our countries and gave them unquestionable value. A Romanian poet and novelist, Duiliu Zamfirescu, represented Romania in Italy as a diplomat, with flying colours, at the turn of the 20th century. A Romanian historian, Dinu Adamesteanu, became one of the most notable Italian archaeologists. A Romanian composer, Roman Vlad, is considered one of contemporary Italy’s top musicians, just like in painting, Romanian Eugen Dragutescu, settled in Italy and a friend of Ungaretti and Montale, authored some of the most wonderful interpretations of San Francesco’s Umbria landscape. A Romanian mathematician, Octav Onicescu, represented not only the Romanian school of probability theory, but also the Italian school of mathematics and logical mathematics of Trieste and Urbino.

On the other side, an Italian composer, Alfonso Castaldi, imposed the symphonic poem in Romanian inter-war music. One hundred years ago, Abruzzo-born professor and philologist Ramiro Ortiz set up the Italian department at the Bucharest University, a real Italian studies school of European level, which created reputed scholars such as Alexandru Marcu, Anita Belciugateanu, Nina Facon or Marian Papahagi.

Romanian studies in Italy were initially set up by a self-educated enthusiast, Giovenale Vegezzi Ruscalla, at the Turin University (1863): this was the first department of Romanian studies outside the country and emblematically, the first foreign language ever taught at the Turin University. After that, Romanian studies in Italy spread to numerous other universities, producing specialists such as Rosetta del Conte, Mario Cugno, Luisa Valmarin, Bruno Mazzoni, Roberto Scagno and Angela Tarantino – talented translators of Romanian literature, researches of popular and cult creations in Romania and energetic advocates of Romanian-Italian spiritual ties.

Such examples could go on, in an ample enumeration that stands, in the end, as proof of what I described as vitality of Romanian-Italian ties over history, from the dawning era of Romanity and flows into the present day, like the water of a fertilising river. This gives us certainty that the history of these relations will remain, like an open book of permanence and innovation, for the use of both nations and the European civilisation.

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