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Romanian historian Neagu Djuvara turns 100

Romanian historian Neagu Djuvara turns 100 today, August 18. He was awarded the Romania Star National Order by president Klaus Iohannis a week ago on the occasion of marking one century of life. The decoration was given as a token of high esteem for “commitment to serve his country, through his personal involvement in the political, diplomatic and cultural processes that promoted Romania’s values, history and image worldwide, as well as for the high moral behavior”.

Essayist, novelist, historian and history philosopher, Djuvara is unanimously renowned as being one of the most important Romanian intellectuals. He was awarded the Order of Arts and Letters by France’s ambassador in Bucharest in 2010, while also being awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa distinction at the University of Bucharest in 2012.

Born on August 18, 1916 during the WWI, Neagu Djuvara descents from an aristocratic Aromanian family. His father, a military, lost his life in 1918 and Neagu Djuvara and his brother were raised by their mother who came from a family with boyar origins. Djuvara’s uncles Trandafir and Alexandru Djuvara were notable public figures.

He attended high school in Nice, France and graduated in Letters (1937) and Law (1940) from the University of Paris (his Law thesis dealt with the anti-Semitic legislation passed by the governments of King Carol II in Romania). During WWII, he returned to Romania, where he married and fathered a child.

Following the establishment of Ion Antonescu’s dictatorship, as an Officer Cadet, he fought on the Eastern Front, being wounded in the arm during the Battle of Odessa (1941).

Joining the diplomatic corps after that, Neagu Djuvara was sent by Foreign Minister Mihai Antonescu as a diplomatic courier to Sweden, on the very day Ion Antonescu was toppled by a coup d’état and Romania pulled out of the Axis Powers to join the Allies (August 23, 1944).

Accused of being a spy by the communists in Romania, Djuvara decided to remain abroad, in exile. He left for Paris and was subsequently involved in advocacy of a anti-communist political causes and the rallying of exiled intellectuals.

In 1961, he settled in Niger, serving as an adviser for the country’s Foreign Ministry (extending a two-year contract until 1984), and was a Professor of International Law and Economic history at the University of Niamey.

After 1984, he returned to Europe, resuming his activities with the Romanian cultural institutions in exile. Djuvara was an active contributor to Radio Free Europe and divided his time between Paris and Munich (occasionally traveling to Canada and the United States).

Djuvara returned to his native country soon after the Romanian Revolution if 1989. Between 1991 and 1998, he was an Associate Professor at the University of Bucharest. During the early 1990s, he was a noted critic of Romanian political developments, and especially of the miners’ riots and the National Salvation Front government.

Most of Djuvara’s work concerns Romania’s history and that of the Romanian people, although he has published significant works pertaining to the philosophy of history,  particularly questioning the existence of what he calls “truthful history”.

Djuvara’s work put forward controversial hypotheses concerning the origins of Romanians, such as advancing the theory that the vast majority of the nobility in the medieval states that made up the territory of modern-day Romania of Cuman origin, as Wikipedia notes.

He also published books dealing with the famous myths of Dracula or Negru Voda, and books recounting of his exile in France or Niger.

About Alina Grigoras Butu