Romanian elite groups in historical perspective

UEFISCDI project number PNII-RU-TE-2014-4-0263


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© 2015-2017. Vlad Popovici


The history of elite is a significant research field within the vast domain of Social History. It is the history of those who attend to and ensure the well-functioning of the political-economic ensemble, those who shape the rest of society through paradigmatic actions, and those who educate their fellow citizens. Generally, the elite is seen as the sum of individuals with superior qualities/positions in comparison to the population at large. But these individuals are neither a unitary `class`, neither do they act in isolation: if they are natural born leaders they polarize an entourage, if they only possess above-average capacities they join a group (church, party, corporation, trade union) which integrates them and furthers their ascension in exchange for certain services. It is not rare that the future members of the elite are the product of a group’s reproduction strategies (matrimonial, educational, etc.), which therefore invests in them in order to perpetuate or expand its position. From a methodological perspective, these assumptions lay at the border between classical elite theory and pluralist theories, reverberating towards social network studies. The questions one must raise are the following: can such a perspective serve as a stepping stone for the historical research of Romanian elite groups in 19th century Transylvania? And if so, what are the limits of such an undertaking?

In the case of the Romanians from 19th century Transylvania, the history of elite plays a major part in understanding their relatively accelerated evolution from a mainly rural people with a subservient status to the semi-bourgeois and politically-educated nation of the 1900s. This project maintains that a group-level (or `subset level`) analysis of the Romanian elite from Transylvania between 1850 and 1918 is not only possible but also necessary. Some of these groups were previously identified in historiography at an empirical level, and were named after: their centre of gathering (the group around the `Albina` bank, the one around the Greek-Catholic Metropolitan See of Blaj), their leader (the `Șaguna` or `Rațiu` factions), their professional structure (`the group of the 7-8 clerks`) or their attitude (passivists, activists, tribunists, `steel-hard young men`). The finality of the project is two folded: on the one hand, it will provide better knowledge of these gregarious elite structures; on the other hand, the applicability of the pluralist theories in the research of the Romanian elites will be tested, hopefully generating a methodological framework for future approaches.


Project objectives:

O1 opens the research by building a theoretical and methodological framework that will identify those loans and interdisciplinary approaches applicable in the historical study of the Romanian elite in Transylvania 1850-1918.

O2 will entail the individual and comparative research of the identified groups according to the theoretical model developed at the end of O1.

O3 entails disseminating the results.

O4 entails the identification of possible continuations of this research.