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Roth, Stephan Ludwig (1796-1849)

ROTH, STEPHAN LUDWIG (1796-1849)Transylvanian German leader from a family of intellectuals (his father was the principal of the Medias Gymnasium and subsequently a Lutheran pastor). Stephan Ludwig Roth studied at Medias and Sibiu and then attended university at Tuebingen. An interest in teaching led him to Switzerland in 1818, where he became a follower and collaborator of Pestalozzi. He published a work on learning languages (Der Sprachunterricht), studied the teaching systems of Bell and Lancaster, and defended a doctoral thesis on the essence of the state at Tü.bingen in 1820. He returned to Transylvania, becoming by 1831 principal of the Medias Gymnasium and a leading educational reformer and promoter. Opposition led him to enter the Lutheran pastorate in 1837. He participated in the debates on language triggered by the Diet of 1841-1843, publishing a book in 1842 on Der Spachkampf Siebenburgen which argued in favor of Romanian as the Transylvania's true primary language. This idea was taken up again by Roth in the fiery days of 1848-1849 when he proposed the creation of an official gazette in three official languages: Romanian, Hungarian, and German.

Roth also published numerous works prior to 1848 arguing against forced ethnic or linguistic assimilation in Transylvania, though he did hope for a strengthening of the Germanic element through the encouraging of immigration from Germany (something he promoted in person in 1845 at Stuttgart and Tübingen).

When the revolution broke out in spring of 1848, Roth continued his political activity along the lines already mentioned. He stood for the interests of his nation by promoting the idea of their forming their own army. In August 1848 he chaired a meeting of the Saxon youth at Medias and also supported the interests of the Lutheran clergy. He earned the hostility of the Magyars by vehemently opposing the Union of Transylvania with Hungary. He also tried to facilitate cooperation between the Romanians and Saxons of Transylvania. In May 1848 he attended the Romanian National Assembly in Blaj about which he published enthusiastic articles in the local press of Sibiu and Brasov. In October, following the outbreak of civil war, he became a member of the Sibiu Pacification Committee, and in November, was appointed plenipotentiary commissioner of the 13 Saxon villages within the Tirnava county and then assistant acting administrator of the county.

In January 1849, against the background of the victories won by Hungarian revolutionary troops led by General Bem, the provisional local government apparatus was dismantled. Roth accepted the amnesty proclaimed by Bem and retired to his parish. However, in violation of the provisions of the amnesty, in April, 1849, the Magyar plenipotentiary commissioner L. Csanyi had Roth arrested and brought to Cluj, where he was tried by a military court and executed. By the life he lived and its tragic end, Stephan Ludwig Roth became a symbol of the fight for the defense of the existence and interests of his nation, in the context of a similar observance of the rights of the other nations in Transylvania.
Ladislau Gyemantt



Otto Folberth, Der Prozess Stephan Ludwig Roth Graz-Koln, 1959

Stephan Ludwig Roth, Gesammelte Schriften und Briefe Otto Folberth (ed) Berlin/Leipzig/Sibiu/Brasov, 1927-1965

Carol Güllner, Stephan Ludwig Roth Bucuresti, 1982]

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