The Political Language of Moral Panics: Teutophobia and the Image of a Besieged Romania in 1871

  • Abstract:

    The paper seeks to examine the political vocabulary employed by anti-conservative Romanian journalists who, in the wake of the Prussian victory of 1871, attempted to forge – through fear and suspicion – a greater sense of solidarity among their readers, playing sympathy and loathing toward Western cultural influences against each other, imagining and constructing ‘the nation’ as a moral community. Teutophobic rhetoric – often-times rooted in earlier anti-dynastic tirades against the country’s German prince – was shared by writers regardless of sympathies towards either the French Empire or Republic. An unbroken sequence of moral panics – though abortive if judged by their effects at large – created a focus on anxieties regarding the ‘effectiveness’ of both physical borders and ideological limits of ‘the nation’, using concepts themselves lifted wholesale from French political discourse. Methodologically, our work strives to outline a history of political keywords transformed in a Romanian context – perspectives complementary to their Western meanings, from ‘tyranny’ to ‘constitutionality’, crucial in defining the citizen caught in the crossfire of perceived historical transformation. Nevertheless, defining an enemy within the in-group broadly construed as ‘the nation’ is, as shall be argued, not synonymous with singling out the local German community as such, but related to the negative role ascribed by the opposition to the conservative government, seen as the agent of imperial Germany’s . The emphatic identitary frailty of a nation-building in a setting of yet-to-be-achieved independence shall be analyzed through episodes such as the violent reaction against ‘the Danube as a German river’ or the anti-constitutional project of a group of conservative noblemen to colonize Germans in ‘model villages’. As such, the paper would provide a novel insight into the way in which a modernizing Eastern polity ‘peopled’ itself against the backdrop of a westward-looking siege mentality.