The medieval and early modern history of Cluj is not easy to decipher. Unlike Sibiu, where there are still a significant number of medieval Renaissance buildings reminiscent of Habsburg times, modern urbanism has left a serious mark in Cluj, the architectural heritage of the medieval and Renaissance city slowly fading away at the end of the 19th century. Traces of the half-millennium-old city consist of witnesses hidden from view in several basements, portals reused in restaurants or cafes in the city center, less than half a kilometer of walls, as well as traces of late Renaissance buildings hidden behind baroque, classicist facades , eclecticism and modernism.

Chaba SaboPhoto: Personal archive

The medieval and renaissance aspect of the city changed radically during the Habsburg Monarchy, when the city of Cluj became an integral part of an empire that stretched from the Alps to the Carpathians and included Prague, Ptuj and Brasov, as well as hundreds of other cities that still exist today. similar urban aspect. In the 1860s, the redevelopment of the old Renaissance buildings of the city began, which led to the demolition of many old features, such as ornate portals, window frames, various decorative elements, inscriptions, architectural decorative elements and stone monuments built into the old ones. city ​​walls dating from the 16th-18th centuries. Unfortunately, a large part of the historical heritage was lost, as well as dozens of towers and gates of the city, but this period is famous not only for its destructive urbanism, but above all – and perhaps because of this – the emergence of the first associations of the academic and Transylvanian museum movement. In 1859, at the suggestion of Count Imre Miko, the Ardel Museum Society and its collection of antiquities, as well as the medieval lapidary, which later became the basis of the Transylvanian Museum, were founded. Only a few years after the founding of the Society, in the 1860s, Karoj Szabo wrote his famous list of medieval and modern stone monuments found and preserved in Cluj, which can be visited within the granilarium. Or… you can visit them.

So, deus ex machina brings us to the present, in the year 2023, to the tragicomic history of the medieval and modern lapidary, which for many years was kept behind closed doors. The medieval and pre-modern lapidary, as well as the main exhibition of the National Historical Museum of Transylvania, have been closed for several years, except for a few successful temporary exhibitions. A feature of Romanian museology is that large museums, especially national ones, are closed for years or decades, in a poor condition, awaiting renovation. There are many reasons: there is no money for the reconstruction of monumental buildings and monuments that house tens of thousands of objects, but in many cases there is also the problem of how the past is presented through the objects.

The material (archaeological) past is difficult to fit into the narrative of the Romanian national historical myth (which I recently called the “metahistory of eternal Dacia”), the main thesis of which is the ethnic, cultural continuity and identity of the majority of the population of this country. a geographically unchanged region for thousands of years. Although this well-known historical myth is becoming less and less stable, and today the younger generations of historians are more and more ashamed to promote this metahistory, unfortunately, the Romanian Academy, the Orthodox Church and the political class continue to consider the dogmatic thesis of the theory of succession (Dacian, Roman, Daco-Roman , Romanian) as a basis for the narrative of ethnogenesis. We recently saw this reflected in the opening ceremony of the lapidary, beautifully restored after years of silence and isolation by Hungarian and Romanian experts, and in the institution’s statement the following day, which sounded like a cold shower, causing the lapidary’s gates to close again.

The opening of the lapidary was received extremely positively by both the Hungarian and Romanian media, and judging by the posts on the museum’s Facebook page, the employees of the institution also welcomed the opening of the exhibition, which caused great interest, even changing the image of the cover of the museum’s page. Then, at the opening, something happened that no one expected, judging by the expressions on the faces in the video.

Emil Bock, the mayor of the city, in his six-minute speech presented a radical version of the theory of continuity, which I have rarely encountered in a public environment, especially in Cluj. In the first half of his speech, he analyzed the name of the museum: “National Museum of Transylvania.” He singled out two concepts: “Transylvania” and “national”, two concepts which, according to him, are inseparable, melodious, beautiful, soulful words, as academician John Aurel Pope also says. The mention of the president of the Academy already announced that nothing good should be expected, but Bok went even further. He congratulated the management of the museum for returning to the city and the world after 30 years of waiting for the medieval and modern lapidary, which is waiting for so many people from the country and abroad. According to Bock, the role of the museum is to “show that we have been here for thousands of years”, because throughout history there were Dacians, Romans, Daco-Romans, Romanians, Hungarians, Slavs, Szeklers (here he gave his understanding , that he made a mistake with the chronology, and corrected himself: the Saxons), but the only common point in this long, millennia-long process is that which was ratified by the American president Woodrow Wilson in 1918, namely the right to self-determination for the majority of the population. Here Bock repeated the protochronistic version of succession, he recalled the historiography from the era of Kavsist “glory”, after 1975. The mayor of Cluj only repeated the historical myth born in the bowels of 19th-century nationalism, according to which nations, small and large communities appeared on the territory of Transylvania, individuals and groups disappeared, but one thing remained unchanged: the unity and cultural continuity that constituted the Romanian identity from the Dacians to the present day (“our ancestors”). This myth ignores all historical, archaeological, linguistic, and genetic sources, because if he had considered them, Bock would have known that there is no such continuity in history: there is constant change, although the manner and speed of change, the form and context of change may, of course, vary. anywhere. However, no human group in history has lasted a millennium without changing linguistically, geographically and, most importantly, identity. With his shocking inaugural address, Bok institutionalized, in today’s buzzword, “fake news” or conspiracy theory, a historical construct, an illusion that has become a national myth and seems likely to persist in 2023. He did this in front of Hungarian and Romanian art historians, academics and museologists, who watched and listened with stunned faces to a speech that evoked the spirit of Funar or Ceaușescu.

Perhaps Bok’s speech wanted to balance the Hungarian and Saxon monuments, which are abundant in the medieval and pre-modern lapidary: to evoke the silence of the Romanian population and citizens who were absent for centuries in the Transylvanian cities, which unfortunately remained outside the boundaries of history. walls of Transylvanian cities for a very long time. – Read the entire article and comment on