“Patriotism is when love for your own people takes precedence; nationalism is when hatred of people other than your own comes first.”says Charles de Gaulle. I have always considered myself a patriot. Never a nationalist.

All the astral moments of Romania were the work of a patriot, not a nationalist. Enlightened patriots, for whom the defense of national and state interests did not automatically mean the exclusion of certain categories of citizens, demonstrations against those who lived on the borders of Romania and had a different ethnicity or theft from other nations. The nationalists, on the other hand, have always produced the tragedies of Romania: they exterminated minorities, led the country into destructive wars (all lost), reduced its territory, produced the return of the country and isolation on the international stage. Whole generations have been deprived of fulfillment, of well-being, of pure ideals achieved. The balance of nationalism in Romania is bleak. What we have lost since the founding of the modern Romanian state through nationalist leaders and policies, transformed into extremism, is practically catastrophic, almost immeasurable in material terms, human and of national dignity.

Patriotism is not a zero-sum game. The union of 1859 was the work of visionaries who were influenced by the Enlightenment and moderate European nationalist romanticism during their studies in Paris, Vienna, Berlin or Rome. The revolutionary demonstration of 1848, although it failed, offered the confidence, experience and tact of a patriotic intellectual and political elite to take advantage of the conjuncture offered by 1859.

And the favorite conjuncture came with the Crimean War. This war was followed by important decisions that changed the face of Europe. Without this war, the Danube Principalities would not have de facto united into a single nation-state, which would eventually gain independence, and the mouths of the Danube would not be freed from both Russian and Austrian control. the neutrality of the Black Sea would not have been achieved. Moreover, without this war, the Romanian countries would not have become a buffer state between the interests of Russia and those of the central powers, a situation that lasted practically until the time of Hitler and Stalin.

The Unionist Party was weakened in 1859, a large part in exile and without a chance to impose its agenda in Moldova and Wallachia. But they had the intelligence, the relentlessness, and the courage to take advantage of the war, the weakening of Russia, the divergent interests of the Great Powers, and, through the mastery of diplomatic relations, achieved what could not be accomplished by the revolution of 1848: the Union.

This astral moment is all the more important as Romania appears on the map of Europe after 1859. Without the union of 1859, we would not have had the Monarchy, Independence, the Union of 1918 and, in short, we would not have had a Country.

But the lesson of the patriotism of the Pasoptist generation, which later achieved the Union of 1859, must not turn into chauvinistic, extremist and populist nationalism. Romania has been and is a diverse country, with racial and ethnic homogeneity being a myth of far-right or left-wing anti-national movements. As the historian Lucian Boia pointed out, Romania’s decline is simultaneously with the project of a mono-ethnic state, with the marginalization or elimination of minorities. Legionary interwar extremism, the genocidal project of the Antonescu regime and the policy of ethnic cleansing, followed by Stalinism and xenophobic national communism which reduced – to the point of elimination in some cases – by selling and amalgamating national minorities, all these were national tragedies. we always remember to understand how disastrous nationalism was for Romania’s destiny.

But Romania has, despite more than half a century of chauvinistic, genocidal and extremist policies, many assets created by diversity and what others have left for our destiny as a nation. Or even more so as we are an interesting people in the concert of the peoples of Europe. The Romanian language is a mixture, physically we are a mixture, by no means uniform. For example, if you put me next to a chauvinist nationalist with extremist views and introduced us to a Japanese man, I don’t think he would say we are part of the same nation. And yet, both I and the presumed ins are. It’s a perception that helps me personally, but not us as a nation. The Romanian language has Slavic influences, the background is Latin, it has many words of Turkish, French origin … The Romanian synthesis is in the spirit of the multiethnic and multicultural Europe to which I joined and even more so we are an interesting people, precisely because of this diversity.

Another lesson of the union of 1859 is our legitimacy, of those in the Region of Moldova, to ask reparative policy for the surrender of the capital and the main administrative institutions, the loss of the economic and cultural elite, as well as decentralization for greater regional autonomy. The French influence was decisive for the centrality of the Hexagon’s political model for centralism. The sacrifices that Moldova, especially Iasi, has made for the Union have not been rewarded to this day.

For example, Colonel Langa’s League managed to bring issues to the public stage and mobilized the energies of politicians from different factions to support Moldovan infrastructure projects and to compensate for the losses suffered by Iasi and Moldova through the 1859 act.

Today, 163 years after the union of 1859, Romania is going through the fastest moment in its history: we are part of the NATO security umbrella, we are part of the EU’s political and economic alliance, we have a privileged relationship with the USA. There is much to be done internally, most importantly reducing development gaps in the West and East and reducing economic disparities. And this can be done by keeping the promises made to the people of Iași and the Moldovans 163 years ago to reward our sacrifice for the union project. And to respect diversity, memory and to work tirelessly on a national political project that rejects extremism, chauvinistic nationalism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and hatred. This would be the lesson of the union, a consensus of the elites to create a sanitary cordon on the values ​​that we have gained so hard in over 160 years of history of the modern Romanian state.

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