Difficult to swallow

Crunch, crunch
Open up and say ahh
This morning as the Unsleeping Eye was busy telling me what’s going on in this quirky country I call home, I nearly fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard. I think I’ve said it a million times before that in life you often have to choose between laughing and crying, and this time I (once again) chose to laugh.

At issue is the Constitution of Romania, which is potentially going to be modified here soon. A lot of parliamentarians and bigwigs are chiming in on all sorts of potential modifications, including adding references to God and specifically outlawing homosexual marriages (which aren’t legal at the current time anyway).

Basically it’s a chance for every politician to get a chance to propose something, no matter how unrealistic, and then get the airtime and attention that they crave. Along these lines, the advisory committee that’s selecting potential future constitutional modifications yesterday adopted a proposal to re-introduce the national coat of arms (Rom: stema) to the Romanian flag, in effect making it look a heck of a lot more like the Republic of Moldova flag.

That’s a fairly innocuous modification to the Constitution but what made me laugh so hard was that His Excellency and Right Honorable Worship the Lord High Mayor of Cluj, Emil Boc, yesterday went on record as opposing the proposal to add the coat of arms to the flag.

Link above goes to his original statement in Romanian but here’s my translation of what he said:

“I don’t think it’s a good idea and I don’t think that every time we discuss the coat of arms we should talk about changing the flag. National symbols should remain unchanged to retain their symbolic value. A country with unchanging national symbols has a greater dignity and authority and they should not be changed on a daily basis.”

Now I happen to agree with Boc – the Romanian flag is just fine as it is. But why this is so funny is that there is an ongoing dispute here in good old Unicorn CIty about the city’s coat of arms.

stemaclujuluiIn the year 1377, nearly 700 years ago, the Hungarian king awarded Cluj (then Koloszvar) the status of royal free city (link in Italian), which is a medieval concept that’s a bit difficult to translate into modern terms. Essentially any royal free city was answerable only to the king (of Hungary) and was not under the jurisdiction of any local nobility (like a duke or baron).

As a result of this award, the city fathers adopted a new coat of arms that involved three towers above a portcullis with the gate open (to signify that the city was now “free”) along with other aspects that have heraldic significance.

The city’s coat of arms remained unchanged all the way from 1377 until 1999 when the lunatic mayor of Cluj, Gheorghe Funar, suddenly decided to change it. A high school girl designed the current coat of arms, featuring a picture of the Dacian “dragon”, the Roman goddess Minerva and the “guillotine” monument that sits on B-dul Eroilor in commemoration of the 1989 revolution. Funar liked it a lot and so adopted it immediately and used it for all official communication and insignia for the city.

The problem however is that the Romanian Academy’s division of Heraldry and Symbols must approve any changes to heraldic devices and Funar never sought nor received their approval. Therefore Funar’s move was indisputably illegal.

Funar was a bitterly racist man (he’s still alive, just mostly powerless these days, thank goodness) and a large part of his move to change the city’s coat of arms was to piss off the Hungarians. That’s why he liked the use of a Roman goddess in combination with the Dacian “wavy snake” because it emphasizes the historical claim that Romanians are descended from Dacians who mixed with Romans (and directly challenges Hungarian views on the matter).

Still though, he never sought approval for this heraldic change from the Romanian Academy who legally has jurisdiction over such things. And since Funar never gave a shit about what others thought of him, it’s no surprise that he acted so brazenly. What is interesting however is that Funar was eventually replaced by the mild-mannered Boc in 2004 and yet Boc has never done anything about reverting Cluj to its old coat of arms (or heck, designing a new one).

And so the illegality – and controversy – has continued through Boc’s first term as mayor and again that he’s mayor for the second time. Over 3,000 people signed a petition to revert to the old (and legal) coat of arms and the Romanian Academy’s department of heraldry has said on the record time and time again that Funar’s coat of arms is illegal. Technically the city of Cluj-Napoca is breaking the law each and every day that it uses Funar’s coat of arms and yet you’ll see it used everywhere, including prominently on the city’s official website today.

And you can be sure Boc knows all about this because one of his own former professors, a man named Nicolae Enoiu, personally told him about the issue. So it’s a little damned rich (hypocritical) to see the Lord High Mayor weigh on on how valuable and sacred state symbols are when his own government is using an illegal symbol that’s racially divisive and has discarded an honorable and respected one that’s been in use for almost seven centuries.

Plus you got to “love” the fact that Boc doesn’t have the slightest jurisdiction over any potential future Constitutional changes concerning the (national) coat of arms and yet he’s giving statements to the press about it, who of course fail to ask him about the coat of arms that he does have jurisdiction over and yet doesn’t do a thing about.

I swear, my hat is off to you, sir, for this brazen bit of hypocrisy. I don’t think I’d have the stones to do it myself, I really don’t.

16 thoughts on “Difficult to swallow

  1. Basarabia (Rep.Moldova) este pamant Romanesc. Deci, nu e bai daca avem acelasi steag si o stema asemanatoare. Suntem acelasi neam despartit de o sarma ghimpata.

    Moldova is Romania.


  2. What about a big circular hole in the middle of the flag – that would be rather unique, meaningful and fun.


  3. Steagul Romaniei trebuie modificat pentru ca este identic cu cel al Ciadului – si dobitocii aia nu vor sa il schimbe.


    1. Nu e identic. Steagul Ciadului are o nuanta diferita de albastru, iar proportia dimensiunilor steagului (proportia dintre lungime si latime) e diferita.
      Sigur ca asta e greu de observat, insa nu cred ca e vreun risc sa confunde cineva Romania cu Ciadul. :-)


      1. O să fie însă ceva mai greu să fie deosebit de steagul Rep. Moldova; teoretic, n-ai putea să încurci zimbrul cu acvila dar am mai păţit-o noi şi cu imnul, în special pe la competiţii sportive, când auzeai tot Tricolorul şi la 5-6 ani după Revoluţie. Plus că şi stema noastră are zimbrul Moldovei…Încurcături peste încurcături, deh, dacă la fiecare sută de ani s-au găsit unii care să reconfigureze Europa…


      2. Hai sa fim seriosi , nuanta sau nu, steagurile sunt la fel. Si nu cred ca o sa vina sfarsitul lumii daca ne punem si noi o stema acolo.


      1. Sunt foarte similare, nu la fel, dupa cum am explicat deja. Daca erau la fel ONU nu permitea inregistrarea lui (a steagului).
        Plus ca, repet, oricat de similare ar fi n-are absolut nici o importanta.


  4. Two things, Sam:

    1. During the Hungarian rule (you may notice, I haven’t used the word “occupation”) Romanians were officially excluded from Transylvanian society. There was a treaty called Unium Trium Nationem which stated that Transylvania belonged to 3 nations: Hungarians, Saxons and Szekelers while Romanians have no political or any other kind of right being only “tolerated”. This is a historical fact, easy to be verified. That being so, why a coat of arms granted by the Hungarian king during that time (a time when Romanians were not even allowed by law to live inside cities – did you know that?) is “honorable and respected” and a coat of arms using Romanian symbols is “racially divisive”?

    2. Mayor Boc – although I don’t like him as a politicial one bit – has every right to have an opinion about the Romanian flag, symbols and anything else. Why? Because he is a citizen of Romania. Actually the current Constitution guarantees the right to an opinion and freedom of speech to all, citizens and foreigners alike.


    1. 1. If the old coat of arms, though it represents something the king of Hungary did for the city, does not go to lengths to make a political statement about Transylvania then I don’t see the problem. The new one does try to make a political statement and it does so making sure to point out that Romanians are the majority and says nothing about the Hungarian minority.

      2. Sure he should have an opinion. He shouldn’t shut up about it, but he’s still acting hypocritically.

      Also the law is the law, maybe the people want the new coat of arms, that’s all very well so either make the coat of arms legal or change the law to make changing the coat of arms on a whim legal – but we can’t live in a gray area because we’re too lazy to do something about it.


      1. The old coat of arms DOES make a statement about the city because EVERY coat of arms make a statement. That’s the only reason for their existence: to represent a city, a kingdom or a noble family.

        And the old coat of arms represents a city where Romanians were not even allowed to live in. Clear enough now?


    2. That’s true. Any coat of arms does make a social and political statement in the same manner that a flag does it. This is why the issue regarding symbols cannot be treated carelessly or made it into a tool for political bargains but, unfortunately, I think we Romanians don’t have enough maturity to appropriately handle such matters. We are after all a quite young nation.


      1. I agree with your view, the lack of maturity about these issues is a bit sad. It seems to me that if we were to ask people what they really wanted we’d end up with a barbaric state, but by not asking them the state seems disconnected and people will find ways to circumvent the law (look at Becali who tracked down and punished the thieves who stole his car and how people say he’s in the right).

        The major problem I think is that we’re not educating people about the reasons that we need laws, the reasoning behind the laws, about the function of government, about the need for a just society where the majority doesn’t squash the minority in revenge for what happened 100 years ago.


      2. It’s not an easy or short process, in my opinion. Switzerland had more than 500 years to practice democracy and in the beginning, her democratic tools of choice were still the pike and the halberd, as the cantons of Zurich or Vaud for instance could testify. But back then, time was on their side. Now, it seems that time is running out. There doesn’t seem to be anymore enough time to be granted to nations who, after struggling with any kind of occupation or dictatorship, wanted to acquire for themselves those things they envied at their more fortunate neighbors. But it’s like the humanity’s golden age is over and all that we, along with other unfortunate countries like ours, have only a global crisis to share with those we envied so much.


      3. Several observations (to both Sitara and Andrew):

        1. We are not a young nation. We are a (relatively) young state, but not such a young nation. In any case, older than any of our neighboring nations.

        2. Hungarians are far from being squashed in Romania. They have more rights as a minority (I mean collective rights) than any other minority in Europe. Not to mention that some old European countries do not even recognize the concept of ethnic minority (France, Greece etc.)

        3. Using your symbols is – and always was – a sign of sovereignty. That and issuing coins. In fact, for historians and archeologists this is one of the most important factors in assessing the level of independence reached by a territorial unit: were they able to issue coin and if so, what symbols were used. So the fact that Cluj has changed its symbols does not mean that someone is being squashed, it just mean that the Hungarian king does not rule over that land anymore and the city officials want the city’s symbol to reflect this reality.

        4. In regards to Becali, I’m really sick of hypocrisy. It seems very “high class” now to blame Becali for getting his car back but none of this moral pillars of society seems to be bothered that his car was stolen in the first place. Or that our legal system frees convicted murderers, rapists, even professional killers for ludicrous reasons such as “he’s claustrofobic”. Or that the police does nothing against or even helps all kinds of criminals. Yes, that’s bad, but Becali getting his car that’s intolerable! And this attitude usually from the same people who were ranting before 2005 that the Constitution should clearly state that the property “guaranteed” and “sacred”. Well, guess what? He just defended his property.
        Nevertheless, the thieves are free and the victim of the theft is in jail. For some people that makes sense somehow. For me it doesn’t. Or maybe I should become a thieve myself… better than a victim, it seems.

        5. Finally, the Romanian Academy does not have the right to approve or reject a city’s coat of arms. The Government has the final word. The Academy just gives an opinion (“aviz consultativ”).


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