Since more than a quarter century, Romania celebrates its National Day on December 1, thus rendering homage to the act of the union of Transylvania with the Old Kingdom which took place 98 years ago, by the decision of the Grate National Assembly of Alba Iulia, a city with a deep historical significance. Besides, the unanimous decision of the 1228 delegates representing all the social groups and professional categories of the Romanians living at the north and at the west of the mountains was crowning a process started on March 27/April 9 by the Country Council from Chisinau, who proclaimed the union of Basarabia and continued with the decision of the General Congress from Cernauti in November 15/28, proclaiming the integration of the Northern Moldavia, improperly named Bucovina by the Austrians, at the moment of its annexation (1775), into the Romanian state.
In 1918, all the provinces populated mostly by Romanians, located at the north of the Danube, joined to the small Romania. Thus, it became a Greater Romania, a unique moment in the national history, considered by some of the historians as “the astral time of the Romanians”.
Remembering the historical process ended in the year of 1918, we have to conclude that it was an extremely complicated and difficult process. Located in a sensitive region, in which the interests of the most important international actors, divided by the unfavorable times in more political and territorial formations, as well as other nations in the Central and Eastern Europe, which interests were contradictory most of the time, intersected each other, Romanians aimed to perform the unity since the early modern age and especially in the 19th century, also called the “nationalities’ century”. The aspiration to unity was expressed either more timid, or more vigorous, depending on the circumstances, being found in the memoirs drafted by the nobility from the south and east of the Carpathian Mountains and addressed to the great powers of the moment, in the manifestos and programs of the revolution of 1848, in the writings of the intellectuals, in the programs of the political parties, etc. Gradually, this ideal has been implemented in the collective mind, therefore it’s not wrong to say, and researches confirmed this, that unity represented a binder and a coordinate of the Romanians’ development of the last two centuries.
But their case is not unique in the European history. The same aspiration to unity was shown and materialized, in various forms, and in the same historical period, Germans, Italians, Serbians, Polish people, Greeks, Bulgarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Slovenians, etc.
The war suddenly started on July 15/28, 1914, which shortly became, to everybody’s surprise, a world war, represented a turning point in the European and world history. One hundred years after this first world conflict that caused a crisis of the European consciousness, historians and not only them went bent with accuracy on the causes, the origins of this disaster. Beyond the provided explanations (the contradictions within the international system, the hegemonic competition between the great powers, the arms race, the culture of militarism, the nationalism, the “blindness” of the great powers’ leaders, etc.), its end caused an earthquake of high magnitude in the world’s life.
In this huge conflict, smaller nations and countries were also attracted, trying to position themselves in such a way to not compromise their future. The Romanian state, “the old kingdom”, as it was called in those days, was no exception from this. Having countrymen and territorial claims in both of the belligerent groups and being convinced that its intervention cannot change the result of the confrontation, the neutrality was preferred, an attitude that was decided by the Crown Council held at Sinaia, on July 21/August 3, 1914.
Although King Carol I (1866-1914) was opting for an involvement along with the Triple Alliance, of which Romania was bounded by a treaty since 1883, most of the politicians opted for a thinking period which lasted 2 years.
In this period, disputes were hot, two important options being outlined – either with Entente, or with the Central Powers. Of course, the arguments were impressing on both sides, but the Entente orientation represented the wide majority.
Based on this widely shared public feeling, King Ferdinand (1914-1927), who succeeded his uncle, Carol I, on the throne, having the approval of the Crown Council held on August 14/27, 1916 at Cotroceni, decided to enter the war alongside the Entente, with the goal of the reunion with the countrymen being under the composition of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, who were subjects of a harsh policy of denationalization until then.
In this context, we have to highlight the decisive role of Ion I. C. Bratianu, the Prime-Minister and the leader of the National Liberal Party. Being strongly criticized by the opposition, by most of te local Media, as well as by diplomats and political leaders, both within the Entente and the Central powers, for his conduct during the two years of neutrality, Bratianu had a coherent and long-term vision, tenaciously pursuing the defense of the national interests.
For the national reunification, like other smaller states in the region, Romania opted for the arms way. Only that Mars has been capricious, the war conducted by Romania having a sinuous course. The campaign in the year of 1916, which had a promising start, finally was a major military defeat, part of the territories (Oltenia, Muntenia, including Bucharest, Dobrogea) being occupied by the Central Powers.
Then was the restoration of the army and the well-deserved revenge in the summer of 1917, through the victories at Marasti, Marasesti and Oituz. They couldn’t be capitalized in terms of politics and strategy, due to the collapse of the Oriental Front, because Russia, which meanwhile became Bolshevik, have exited the war.
The separated peace concluded in Bucharest with the Central Powers (April 24/May 7, 1918) was a painful moment which seemed to postpone the perspective of materializing the objective for which Romania has entered the conflict. But history has its deep joints, so that the end of the “great War” brought with itself, maybe unexpected for some people, the huge fulfilment, that all Romanians will live within the borders of the same state. It was a unique moment in our past and that’s why December 1 became our National Day starting from 1990.
It is certainly an occasion to evoke the farther or later past, to render homage to the efforts made by our ancestors for the prosperity of the Romanian nation, to lean on the sacrifices of the generation of a century ago which, in extremely difficult circumstances, materialized an objective of the highest importance for all the Romanian people.
In the same time, celebrating the National Day provides the possibility of a deep investigation of the present, of the current situation in the Romanian society, the possibility to design the medium or long-term objectives, in a word, to outline the future, as much as it can be defined, although it is well-known that it’s specific is the unpredictability.
In other words, the National Day is a moment of historical reflection, a moment of conclusions, of joy, of solidarity between all the citizens of this country, without any discrimination, a moment of responsibility for its destiny.
This is also the message sent over the time by the heroic generation of the Great Union, the one who fulfilled it almost one century ago, by making remarkable efforts, by having political and diplomatic intelligence, an exemplary dedication, by making sacrifices on the battlefield.
Of course, the international context of today is very complicated. Especially European Union and NATO are experiencing difficult moments, the international life meets major tensions, some of them are new, others are reactivated, the national state as a form of organization has diminished its old role, the war is a tragic reality in some regions of the world. But beyond these dangers, challenges and threats, December 1, 1918 remains the brightest point of the modern history of the Romanian people, an exceptional achievement imposing respect and responsibility for the future, which can be acquired through work, seriousness and commitment for the fate of the community we belong.