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Romanians and Serbs in 1848

ROMANIANS AND SERBS IN 1848 The aspiration of the Romanians in the Banat to think of themselves as an independent entity became more and more evident in the first decades of the 19th century. The Serbian Orthodox hierarchy felt compelled, under the circumstances, to make concessions to Romanian religious sensibilities by accepting the appointment of a Romanian as bishop of Arad as well as recognizing the need for the bishops of Timisoara and Virset to know the language of the Romanian majority. This became a significant moment in the movement for equal rights in connection with the separation of the Romanian religious community and for the publication and use of religious books in Romanian.

The joint Romanian-Serbian protests against the twelve points of the Hungarian revolutionary program in 1848 were the beginning stage of a struggle for social and national rights in the Banat in 1848. The Serbians in Hungary presented to Pest in March 1848 their own seventeen point program, subsequently rejected by the National Diet. Of these, the call for the recognition of a Serbian national territory and the use of the native language in administration, unfortunately failed to take cognizance of the Romanian church. The Serbian National Congress organized at Karlowitz followed this by declaring for an independent Serbian nation as a separate territory under the Habsburg dynasty. Though officially there was good will expressed towards the Romanians in a "manifesto of brotherhood," and the unity of Serbs and Romanian in the anti-Hungarian campaign was promoted, nothing specific was said about the thorny issue of the clerical and school separation and the Serbs continued to take advantage of the Romanians' subordinate status in the monarchy. Romanians also objected to the arbitrary fashion with which the sixty or so Romanian delegates attending the Karlowitz meeting had been selected.

The Congress marked the bringing into the open of the crisis between Serbians and Hungarians. The meeting also was the start of attempts to recruit the Romanians to the Hungariancause. For example, there was an appeal from the leadership of the Timis comitat, hoping to play on possible Romanian reaction to the Serbian political program. Romanian students in Pest did protest the narrowly Serbian goals of the congress. In March of 1848, they issued their own eight point program calling for an autonomous Banat, the restoration of the Romanian Metropolitanate, and other steps to promote national awareness and confessional emancipation.

Romanian responded with a gathering at Lugoj on May 3/15, 1848, concomitant with the Romanian national assembly at Blaj in Transylvania. They now called for a total separation from the Serbian church hierarchy and for the establishment of an autonomous Romanian regime. At another gathering of Banat Romanians in Pest between May 3/15 and 9/21, Romanian leaders took a stand against the appointment of Metropolitan Josif Rajacic as patriarch. They appealed directly to the people in "The Petition of the Romanian Nation of Hungary and Banat," calling for an assem bly in Timisoara, on June 12/25 to resolve church, language, and education issues. Threatened by the Serbian movement, the Magyar government showed some sympathy for Romanian grievances and decided to allow the meeting in Timisoara. In the event, the congress was not held because of Serbian opposition. In addition, Magyar authorities had begun a tilt toward Serb interests, which not only resulted in a sharpening of the Romanian-Serbian conflict but also led to the alienation of the Banat Romanian s from the Magyar revolution.

The Romanians (some 10,000 of them) now held their own assembly, once again in Lugoj, not Timisoara. Often called the second national rally of Lugoj, June 15-27, 1848, the meeting came out against foreign intervention in the Banat, for the solving of the church independence issue, and for the arming of the Romanian population. The Romanian population sympathized with Serbian efforts to promote social justice, but had no desire to be used by them against the Hungar ians. They also were unhappy about continued Serb delay on church and land issues. They opted, therefore, for a kind of non-agression position. At the same time, they tried to promote their interests through parliamentary channels, such as the efforts of Eftimie Murgu and Aloisiu Vlad.

The Serb-Magyar conflict dwindled in December 1848 when the appointment of Metropolitan Rajacic as patriarch was recognized. Serb-Romanian conflict also lessened when the attempt to expand the frontiers of the adjacent Voivodina into largely Romanian areas seemed to be abandoned.

A critical stage was reached between December 1848 and February 1849, a period that coincided with a heightening of national aspirations and the ultimate clash of interests. The arrival of the Serbian patriarch in Timisoara in February 1849 renewed the conflict. Romanians protested their minimal representation and sent a delegation to see Rajacic. More petitions were sent to Vienna (February 13/25, 1849), calling again for national political and religious autonomy. All of this fell on deaf ears as the Constitution adoped in April 1849 not only did not address Romanian concerns but legitimized the feared incorporation of Romanians into the Voivodina. Further numerous appeals to the Imperial Court during May and June 1849 brought no result.

Simion Mindrut


I. D. Suciu, Revolutia de la 1848-1849 in Banat (Bucuresti, 1968).

I. D. Suciu, "Rumänen und Serben in der Revolution des Jahres 1848 im Banat" Revue des Etudes Sud-Est Européennes, VI (1968), 609-623

. I. D. Suciu & Gr. Popiti, "Relations serbo-roumains dans l'Empire autrichien entre 1780 et 1850," Revue Roumaine d'Histoire, IX (1970), 243-250.

M. Milin, "Interferente politice romano-sirbe la confluenta dintre traditie si modernitate (1790-1848)," Revista de Istorie, XXXV (1982), 1298.

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