Nume: RADOS Leonidas

Tema: Discurs literar-artistic şi construcţie identitară în secolele XVI-XX

Partener: Academia Română, Filiala Iaşi Institutul de Istorie A.D. Xenopol, Iaşi

Proiect: The role of the anti-Phanariote discourse in the construction of the modern Romanian identity

Date de contact:


Occupational field: Research, since 1995

Employer: Romanian Academy Iasi Branch. „A.D. Xenopol” History Institute, Lascăr Catargi 15, Street, code 700107, Iasi, Romania

Education and training:

  • University studies - „Al.I. Cuza” University Iasi, Faculty of History 1990-1995
  • Post graduate studies - „Al.I. Cuza” University Iasi, Faculty of History 1995-1996
  • Doctorate - „Al.I. Cuza” University Iasi, Faculty of History 1996-2004

Fields of interests: cultural history, Bizantine and Neogreek studies, history of universities, academic migrations, student mouvements

The role of the anti-Phanariote discourse in the construction of the modern Romanian identity

Preliminary explanations

The anti-Phanariote rhetoric played in the Romanian 19th century a quite significant role in the alimentation of the identity discourse. In this case, there is an almost perfect communication between the transmitter of the anti-Phanariote discourse and the addressees (members of the community), who vibrate promptly and according to the expectations, in a manner which is already patent towards the middle of the century. Out of obvious reasons, related to the wide scale spreading, literature and art in their extended meaning, are drawn into the national project of construction and assertion of the Romanian identity, first borrowing, then imprinting specific elements and amplifying the anti-Phanariote discourse.

Moreover, the roots of this latter are to be searched in the sphere of politics, somewhere at the intersection of the 18th and the 19th centuries, in the context of the relation to Europe, regarded as the new political and cultural model and the only chance for the future of a country lying in an obvious economic and moral stagnation. Consequently, the Romanian intelligentsia of western education, but not only, starts rejecting, initially at an underground level (yet not less violent), then in a louder and more public manner, the traditional norms of the “Old Regime”, stigmatizing the ‘Phanariotism’, demonized and rendered responsible for all of the Romanians’ troubles, complexes and failures. This new ideology arose rather easily, as the process was facilitated, before 1821, by the realities of the country and the critical perception upon the foreign countries (see the travel literature); it reached its maturity after this date, when there was no one left to respond to the accusations, as the Phanariotes had left the public stage not only in the Romanian Principalities, but also in the Ottoman Empire and even in Greece, preferring the comfort of obscurity. Gradually, the anti-Phanariotism partially leaves the political stage, which had established it, and becomes more present in the area of literature, and particularly of the historical one.

Confronted with the not at all comfortable reality of the post-Phanariote time, when the society’s shortcomings and problems were perpetuated, as if ignoring the 1821 moment, the 1848 historians and ideologists were forced to formulate quick answers that had to eliminate the object and the causes of the objective, internal or external, criticism, changing the subject and diverting attention towards a factor external to the Romanian people. The Phanariotes’ otherness was used effectively and without reply in purgeing history from the foreigners’ actions and in protecting one’s own community, scarifying, by the violence of language, the most at hand victim. At the same time, the anti-Phanariote discourse represented for the 1848 historians an indirect way to assert, impose and legitimate the set of values borrowed from the Occident, but consciously assumed, values that were obviously different from the traditional ones, organically comprehended.

After Tudor Vladimirescu’s movement (1821), the social-political issues gain the forefront, at the expense of the cultural ones, though the period does not involve clear distinctions. The previous period, the Phanariote one, had to be rejected at all levels. The fact left a strong mark upon the whole Romanian book production and limited the availabilities of objective analysis; in spite of the Greek education many of them received, the 1848 revolutionaries had no reasons to like a period that most of them regarded as an obstacle against the modernization of society, of culture and against the change of mentalities. Moreover, the benefits of using this theme were already tested. That was the reason why the anti-Phanariote texts grew more and more numerous after 1821, a fact that one can easily note especially in the moments of big patriotic and national fervour (1848, 1859, etc.), when the stimulation of the community spirit became necessary.

The French revolutionary texts were undoubtedly models of inspiration for the anti-Phanariote discourse, closely followed, starting with the very phrase of “Ancien Régime”; other images were taken up as well, like the institutional decay, the civil servant’s corruption and cupidity, the personalization of function, etc. In a manner reminding of the ritual sacrifice, replacing physical violence with the verbal one, the anti-Phanariote discourse was diverting the Romanians’ frustrations and the resulting negative energy towards the most appropriate external element, thus achieving a reinstatement of social harmony and unity.

The 1848 revolutionaries’ standpoint – the people most entitled to criticize – resorting to the whole available arsenal of the “old Regime”, became the favourite (and, at the same time, the easiest) paradigm in which Phanariotism was assimilated at the level of representations, by the next generations.

Phases of the project

1. The preliminary agreement upon a number of key-words and concepts around which the anti-Phanariote discourse is woven at that time and its relation to the process of construction of the modern Romanian identity. All along the research line, but particularly towards its finalization, their relevance and the way in which they responded to the expectations will be established. Here are a few examples: “despotic spirit”, “tyrannical regime”, “plot”, “immoral race”, “negative passions” (referring to Phanariotism); “national culture”, “a simple people”, “good habits” (referring to the Romanian identity).

2. The identification and selection of the main sources of documentation in archives and libraries; the classification of literary texts according to genre (fiction, memoirs, correspondence, journalism, historiography, etc.), specifying the degree of subjectivity of each of them and the manner in which each type of literature relates to the Phanariotes’ image and, on a larger scale, to the phenomenon of the Romanian national identity’s crystallization.

3. The analysis of the collected information, the study of the writings on similar or related themes, published in Romania or abroad; the partial promotion of the information, through public studies and specialized papers.

4. The finalization of documentation, the analysis of the selected material and the writing of the final paper.

Present stage of knowledge in the field

There are some short theoretical analyses on the anti-Phanariote discourse, but an overview is completely missing, not to mention an inventory of the literary texts that are indispensable to this approach. The retrieval of the anti-Phanariote discourse proper to the historiographical sphere showed a number of results, but even here the approaches are partial. Moreover, we lack an integrative perspective, explaining in detail the relationship between the anti-Phanariote discourse and the assertion of the national Romanian identity.

Objective of the project

Resorting to a violent discourse (both at the level of language and message), the Phanariotes’ criticism had in view, in the first three decades of the 19th century, a triple purpose: the consolidation of the forming national consciousness by domestic reconciliation; the identification of a common enemy and the orientation of the anger that could have exploded (with catastrophic results) within the group, towards the outside. The technique was used by other emergent nationalisms as well, choosing enemies like the Ottoman Turk, the Russian or the Hungarian, but the Phanariote otherness was the perfect victim for the sacrifice that would have allowed the elimination of the ballast of the past and the purging of the country’s history from the foreigners’ actions.

From our standpoint, it is interesting that, though the purposes of the anti-Phanariote discourse were reached in the second half of the 19th century, this continues to be present in large environments, including intellectual ones, up until the present, as a result of the formalization of the excessively critical perspective, together with the formation and the consolidation of the Romanian State’s structures in the mentioned period. The 1848 model was perpetuated in time and even if the change of contexts brought forth new elements in the analysis or attempts of objectification (exclusively confined to the historiographical discourse), the image of the Phanariote remains the same. The dissemination of the 1848 perspective reached all the domains of analysis, from historiography to fiction, from poetry to drama, from journalism to festive or political discourses. Moreover, two kinds of means most at hand were resorted to, ensuring the success of the approach: the reiteration in the public space, on all occasions having something to do with the subject, and most importantly, the education of the young generations, at all schooling levels (primary, secondary, higher) in the spirit of the 1848 conception of things.

We aim at identifying the channels by which the anti-Phanariote discourse entered the public space, the context in which it happened and the long run evolutions, with all the comprehendible changes of emphasis and contradictions at the intersection of the 19th – 20th centuries. Then, we wish to establish an inventory of those texts that are indispensable to our approach, and, above all, to observe the extent to which the anti-Phanariote discourse contributed to the crystallization of the Romanian identity in the modern epoch.

Working materials and methods, expected results and their promotion

The project focuses on the idea of identity and, henceforth, we are interested in the whole methodological and conceptual arsenal pertaining to the field. We are interested in the filiation of ideas, in the differences of perception, nuances, as well as in the language conveying ideas, experiences, representations or, equally important, in the everyday life sphere, which constructs stereotypes, customs.

We use, in our investigation, sources (memoirs, correspondence, fictional or historical texts or even written theses of the modern students of Iasi, etc.) in which the emphasis slips according to the context in which the text was written and published and especially according to the author’s intention. For instance, in the case of dramatic representations, widely enjoyed by the public at that time (furthermore, one of the few leisure activities), we deal with a mechanism that creates in the community’s mentality and for the community an exemplary national past; that meant renouncing, through specific procedures (particularly by inciting the public and attracting spectators in the development of the drama), the ballast represented by the Greek influence and the dimension of the Phanariote period.

Each type of source must be dwelt upon in a distinct way, so that we could reconstruct, out of these disparate and sometimes contradictory fragments, an image that is largely known but which we relate to the national idea and to the Romanian identity construction. In other words, the way in which we treat memoirs must be different from the way in which we treat the historical genre, just like journalism has different values compared to the political discourse, even if the two levels have numerous common points. In this domain (journalism), we should mention the calendars and almanacs published by different publishing houses of the 19th century, a source that was little resorted to lately.

Undoubtedly, a close collaboration with specialized centers in the country and abroad, like Institute for Southest European Studies in Bucharest, Institute for Neohellenic Research (INR) of the National Hellenic Research Foundation (Athens), Centre of Medieval and Neohellenic Research of the Academy of Athens, Institute for Balkan Studies (Thessaloniki, Greece) or Central European University (Budapest, Hungary) will give added value to our project, a difficult one because of the conceptual and methodological implications and, last but not least, because of the size of the designed research material.

The criticism of Phanariotism, firstly emerged, as mentioned above, in the political area, passes quite fast in the historical writing, for instance, where, through the mixture between old and new, tradition and modern, it makes a career, especially in the 1848 period, but long after as well. In this context, the genesis and filiation of ideas is quite important, as well as the way in which it crosses the different domains of the cultural area, to support the construction and assertion of the national identity.

We first of all have in view the documentation and the construction of a perspective, in accordance to the collected data, upon the characteristics and the role played by the anti-Phanariote discourse in the genesis of the modern Romanian identity. The results will be promoted in public scientific papers, home and abroad, and in scientific and monographic studies published in Romanian and in widely circulated languages.

Main Publications


  • Leonidas Rados (editor), Interferenţe româno-elene secolele XV-XX, (Romanian and Greek Mutual Influences 15-20th centuries) Iaşi, Fundaţia Academică „A.D. Xenopol”, 2003, 246 p.
  • Leonidas Rados, Sub semnul acvilei. Preocupări de bizantinistică în România până la 1918 (Under the Eagle’s Sign. Interest in Byzantinology Up to 1918), Bucureşti, Editura Omonia, 2005, 474 p.
  • Leonidas Rados (editor), Şcolile greceşti din România (1857-1905). Restituţii documentare (The Greek Schools in Romania 1857-1905. Documents). Studiu introductiv, notă asupra ediţiei, note şi indice ale editorului, Bucureşti, Editura Omonia, 2006, 318 p.