ANDREI SAGUNA (1809-1873) Bishop and Metropolitan of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Transylvania and political leader of the Romanians of Transylvania. He was born in Hungary of Macedo-Romanian parents and as a gymnasium and university student lived in Pest at the home of his uncle, a prominent member of the Macedo-Romanian merchant community. Saguna's decision to enter the priesthood was a response to his strong religious convictions. He studied for the priesthood at the Theological Institute in Vrsac, in the Banat, where the Serbian Metropolitanate of Karlovitz, the administrative center of the Orthodox Church in the Habsburg Monarchy, had established a Romanian section.
In 1833 he became a monk, a step which opened to him the highest positions in the church, and thereafter he occupied numerous administrative posts in the Metropolitanate until 1846, when his superiors recommended him as vicar-administrator of the Orthodox diocese of Transylvania. Here he worked tirelessly to introduce order and efficiency in the diocesan administration and to improve the education of priests. The sense of social mission which he displayed won the approval of many Romanian intellectuals, who were the leaders of the burgeoning national revival, and his willingness to promote social harmony impressed the Transylvanian government, which was anxious to preserve order among competing ethnic and religious communities. Saguna thus gained crucial support for his election as bishop, which was confirmed by the Emperor in February 1848. By the time of his consecration in Karlovitz on April 30, the enthusiasm of the springtime of peoples had already enveloped Transylvania, and several thousand Romanians, led by liberal intellectuals intent upon gaining political equality for their nation, had gathered at Blaj, in Transylvania, to voice their aspirations.
Saguna played a crucial role in the events of the coming year. Although he was new to the politics of Transylvania, he fully grasped the power of national feeling, which dominated men's minds. In Pest in the 1820s he had witnessed the breakup of the Orthodox community as Macedo-Romanians asserted their distinctiveness from the Greeks, and later in the Metropolitanate of Karlovitz he himself had become involved in disputes between Serbs and Romanians over the division of administrative responsibilities and the use of their respective languages in the church and school. Thus, the struggle between Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania was hardly foreign to him. He sympathized with Romanian intellectuals who sought autonomy for their nation as a means of assuring its survival and future progress. But he could never become one of them because he could never make the idea of nationality his spiritual guide, as they had done. He viewed the national movement in 1848 and later as only one aspect of the complex process of change which society was continuously undergoing. Although he recognized the idea of nationality as the dominant motive force in contemporary European social and political life, he constantly measured its goals and achievements against what he termed "eternal values" the teachings of the Christian Church and those secular ide as which had survived the test of time. He was thus convinced that the development of the Romanian nation depended in the first instance on the well-being of the Orthodox Church and loyalty to the Habsburg dynasty.
From the spring of 1848 until the spring of 1849 Saguna stood in the forefront of the Romanian national movement. Through all its vicissitudes he was a consistent force for moderation as he tried to balance the aspirations of his church and nation against the need to maintain good relations with the Court of Vienna. He cooperated with the intellectuals in seeking political autonomy and was the chairman of important national bodies. He presided over the national congress in Blaj in May 1848 which proclaimed Romanian nationhood, and he led the official group to the Emperor in Vienna in June to present a program designed to make national autonomy a reality. The central issue was the union of Transylvania with Hungary, which Hungarians favored and Romanians opposed because they regarded incorporation into Hungary as merely the first step in their assimilation and loss of national identity.
At first, Saguna was certain that a settlement satisfactory to both sides could be reached, and he headed a Romanian delegation which negotiated with the Hungarian government in the summer of 1848 to secure recognition of Romanian political and cultural rights in Transylvania. In September after hard bargaining a draft agreement was ready, but by this time the situation in Transylvania had so far deteriorated that an understanding between Romanians and Hungarians had become impossible. Saguna and other Romanian leaders, despite misgivings, decided that national rights could be assured only through an alliance with the Court of Vienna. But they did not yield on the principle of autonomy, and in February 1849 Saguna led another mission to Vienna to seek approval for the creation of autonomous crown land for all the Romanians of the Habsburg Monarchy, of the Banat, Crisana-Maramures, and Bukovina as well as Transylvania. But the Court rejected the idea of federalization inherent in the Romanian demand, and Saguna sadly concluded that if the Romanian nation was to prosper, it would have to accommodate its legitimate aspirations to the realities of political power in an empire where by the summer of 1849 conservatism had triumphed and revolution had been extinguished.
After the revolution Saguna turned his energies to the creation of institutions, which alone, he thought, could provide the Romanians with a secure foundation for their national life. The church was the centerpiece of his ambitious program, and he succeeded in overcoming the opposition of Austrian authorities, who still promoted the interests of the Roman Catholic Church at the expense of Orthodoxy. In the 1850s he expanded the Orthodox primary and secondary school system, reinvigorated the Theological Institute in Sibiu, and founded a printing press and a newspaper,Telegraful Roman(The Romanian Telegraph), with which he hoped to inform and influence public opinion. In 1861 he was one of the founders and served as the first president of the Transylvanian Association for the Literature and Culture of the Romanian People (ASTRA), which promoted all aspects of Romanian cultural life. Finally, in 1864 he achieved his most cherished ambition the restoration of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitanate and became its first Metropolitan.
During the brief period of constitutional experiment in the Habsburg Monarchy in the 1860s he
once more took the lead in Romanian political life. For a time, at the Transylvanian diet in
1863-1864, it appeared that he and his supporters had at last gained recognition of the Romanians
as a political nation equal to the others in Transylvania. But once again the Court of Vienna
dashed their hopes. In 1867 it concluded the Compromise with Hungary which, in efffect,
recognized only two master peoples Germans and Hungarians as capable of governing the
new Dual Monarchy. The failure of Saguna's policy of reliance on Austria aroused fierce
opposition to him among Romanian intellectuals and led to his retirement from politics. In an age
of nationalism he was not a nationalist. Rather, he was the last of the great bishop-national
Nicolae Popea, Archiepiscopul si Mitropolitul Andreiu baron de Saguna Sibiu, 1879.
Ioan Lupas, Mitropolitul Adnreiu Saguna 2d ed Sibiu, 1911. Keith Hitchins Orthodoxy and Nationality: Andreiu Saguna and the Rumanians of Transylvania, 1846-1873 Cambridge MA, 1977.
JGC revised this file (http://www.ohiou.edu/~chastain/rz/saguna.htm) on Februar y 14, 1999.
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