Is Romania Part of the West?

Archie Munro, American Renaissance, December 15, 2017

A warning against romanticizing the East.

I’m a Western expat in Romania. What I’m about to say will no doubt be considered a “black pill“—or even internecine race-baiting. Be assured, however, that as a person intensely proud of his extended kinship with all Europeans, I take no pleasure in this.

I’m writing mainly for Americans who are inexperienced in the realities of Eastern Europe. This inexperience apparently extends even to the well informed. Many Americans imagine that the Old Continent is inhabited end to end by white people who are fundamentally like themselves. They believe Eastern Europeans are relatively intelligent, that they maintain high levels of social trust, that they exercise strong control over their impulses and that they’re committed to universal morality. It’s sort of like magic dirt theory in reverse: where there is European soil, there too, ipso facto, are white people—who in turn are like Americans. But the truth is that with Romanians, anyway, you’re dealing with people who are very unlike Americans. Romanians themselves even call Western Europe Occidentul (“The Occident”).

It’s not my intention to defame Romania. In fact some of my best friends are Romanians. So too is my wife. Naturally, there are all sorts of individuals in this country, but it’s a cardinal intellectual virtue of the illiberal right to make defensible generalizations.

First, a vignette:

I’m at a wedding in Iași—probably Romania’s most conservative big city. The wedding party is fairly large—probably around 200. It’s well past 3:00 a.m., and all night the floor has been populated by couples dancing to schmaltzy 1980s American pop. But for the last half hour or so, the common will has been diverted to dancing the Hora, its bobbing and turning circumference slowly colonizing any space left unoccupied.

Various peoples dance the Hora—Greeks, Armenians, Albanians, Turks, Bulgars, Romanians, and Jews. To a Westerner, it gives the impression of fierce communal commitment and stalwart unity in the face of outsiders. I don’t know whether it’s because such healthy impulses have been so thoroughly suppressed in the West or because the Hora is really a product of a Near Eastern kulturbund, but there’s something very un-Western about it. Tonight it’s executed with nonchalant facility, as if everyone is in the habit of dancing it daily. The sense of brotherhood and healthy heterosexuality is palpable. Drunk on whisky and sentiment, and fancifully seeing in the linked arms and cyclical motion of the Hora a symbol of the eternal wheel of national tradition, I join the circle. Everyone cheers on seeing the foreigner inexpertly doing their dance. The hired cameramen point their lenses towards me. The Hora turns fraternally into the dawn.

Nice, right?

But here’s a second vignette:

Back on the outskirts of Bucharest after flying back from the very same wedding, my wife and I stop at a restaurant beside the highway. In this part of the country there’s an increasing, though furtive, Chinese presence, and Chinese investment no doubt proceeds stealthily apace.

The restaurant is set in a courtyard around a walnut tree. A two-man band, with some sort of infernal synthesizer, is playing frantically-paced digi-folk. A small Hora has formed. In its midst is a shortish, rotund figure. When the lights briefly illuminate the scene, I realize that it is a Chinaman. The Hora turns around him, as if to honor his presence. Then the music pauses, and the DJ makes an announcement:

Trăiască prietenia dintre China și România!” (“Long live the friendship between China and Romania!”)

So much for the cultural inviolability of the Hora.

Romania has serious problems. The conventional explanation for this—to which many Romanians and free-market-worshiping others cling—is the enduring effects of communism. I’m skeptical. I believe what makes Romanians different from us may run deeper.

One day, when my wife was at the local supermarket and loaded down by more groceries than she could carry, a middle-aged man—a casual acquaintance who works nearby—kindly carried her shopping out to the car and put it in the trunk. My wife was pleasantly shocked at this, because such exhibitions of male chivalry have become rare. She was 11 when communism ended, and she swears that before the collapse and for a while afterwards, behavior like this was the norm.

The impression that Romania’s antisocial malaise dates from the end of communism is reinforced by the fact that, in the service industries, younger people (especially women) are by far the least cooperative: vain, dead-eyed, obstructive, spiteful, indifferent androids. This is inconsistent with communism being the sole explanation for the radical disdain with which Romanians generally treat each other.

Communism is said to explain Romanian failure just as slavery and colonialism are said to explain African failure. But does any racially conscious white person accept slavery and colonialism as a satisfactory explanation of the shortcomings of black societies? Romania’s problems, too, must be more than the cultural attrition brought about by communism.

I’m not trying to exonerate Communism for all the bad things it did. Not least of them was the physical liquidation of the Romanian intelligentsia and aristocracy, which were strongly identified with each other. Even allowing for the exaggerations of Cold War—and post-Cold War—propaganda, it seems reasonable to accept that hundreds of thousands of anti-communist intellectuals died building the Danube-Black Sea Canal. The aristocracy, whose pre-war cultural accomplishments and refined lifestyle are described by Patrick Leigh Fermor, was either forced into exile or murdered. Their once-magnificent houses are now mostly abandoned and hollowed out, sometimes inhabited by Gypsy squatters. In the cities, they have become restaurants or the lugubrious offices of the unresponsive government bureaucracy.

Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania, was once occupied by nobles.

The dining room in Peles Castle.

This destruction of Romania’s best people—and of the standards of taste and social order they upheld—allowed the communists free reign to build a huge number of hideous prefab apartment blocks in town and country, both as monuments to the dogma of equality and because (perhaps mainly because) they were cheap. There was also a much less practically motivated demolition of the older parts of Bucharest and elsewhere and their redesign on triumphal-brutalist lines (thought this also happened in parts of post-war Western Europe). The result was the destruction of much of the architectural patrimony that had been built by Romania’s aristocratic and cultural elite.

But the worst effects of the loss of Romania’s traditional ruling class have become apparent since the end of communism: Romania is rapidly becoming Gypsified—cognitively, culturally, genetically, and socially.

Statistics on European IQ from before the Second World War are hard to find, but if you check maps such as the one below, derived from Lynn & Vanhanen’s 2012 book, you’ll see that today the average IQ of 91 in Romania is one of the lowest in Europe. One wonders whether this figure includes Gypsies, who are 5 to 8 percent of the population and, owing to high fertility, rapidly increasing in numbers. And does it include the large ethnic Hungarian minority? The average inhabitant of Hungary is reportedly seven IQ points better off than the average inhabitant of Romania. In short, was the Romanian population fairly stratified for ethnicity in Lynn & Vanhanen’s IQ statistics?

Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia also have substantial Gypsy populations but each comes out seven or eight points ahead of Romania. It’s also worth mentioning that one measurement of Gypsy IQ in Romania found an average intelligence of 60—comparable to that of Australian Aborigines. Average IQs for Gypsies elsewhere are reportedly higher: 85 in Slovenia, 83 in Slovakia, and 70 in Serbia. But whether Romania’s unusually low-IQ Gypsies drag down the national average significantly, or its 1.2 million Hungarians substantially raise it, the fact remains that the population of Romania is demonstrably among Europe’s dumbest. Whatever the effect of the communists’ elimination of the Romanian elite, it certainly can’t have helped the national IQ.

Perhaps this relative stupidity, combined with the absence of a tone-setting cultural elite and the “liberating” effect of the free market, partly accounts for the dominance of a Gypsified anti-culture. Gypsy musicians were traditionally held in high esteem in Romania, as a sort of caste with a distinct place in the social hierarchy. However, in traditional society, there was no social mixing at any level. These days it’s de rigueur that restaurants of all standards play manele—the music of an emancipated and assertive Gypsy cultural ascendancy, at conversation-precluding volume. Taxi drivers play the same music on the radio. It’s not especially uncommon to see peasants in their 60s whizzing by in their Dacia Logan automobiles playing this kind of thing:

The blond hair of the first “singer” is a good example of Gypsification.

The hegemony of the creed of equality—first brought to bear under Communism and amplified by global capitalism—has freed no people to a greater degree than it has the Gypsies. For one thing, they can now plague the cities of Western Europe with well-organized gangs of welfare cheats, beggars and pickpockets. For Romania itself, though, the most harmful expression of Gypsy emancipation is the breakdown of traditional social barriers to intermarriage. I would estimate, with admitted impressionistic roughness, that in the larger towns up to 10 percent of Romanians under the age of 50 have recent Gypsy ancestry. In Bucharest, I would say the figure approaches 20 percent for those under the age of about 25. In the Romania of the global free market, outmarriage is no longer widely considered taboo; I’m reliably informed that it was more or less unknown under communism.

The communists, in an attempt to constrain the Gypsies and force integration on the country’s various ethnicities through sheer physical proximity, undertook extensive resettlement of this semi-nomadic minority. They brought families wholesale into villages abandoned by the Transylvanian Saxons during and after the Second World War. They built prefab apartment blocks to accommodate Gypsy clans in traditionally Romanian and Hungarian hamlets. As you might expect, the result was once-unheard-of fraternization. Contrary to what some on the American Right seem to believe, Romanians are (or have become) some of the least racially conscious people in the world. While most object to Gypsies, they do so not on grounds of race but of behavior; they do not realize that the behavior they so dislike might be tied to race.

Romanian villages, with their large and anti-social Gypsy minorities, are generally bereft of anything resembling a central square or even a pub. There are locally infamous “birts,” which are degraded and tradition-free places meant for hard drinking rather than socializing. The demographic upheavals of the communist period, the post-communist property restitutions (the property “restored” was in many cases located far away from the original holdings) and the post-war rush to the big cities have severed people from their agrarian roots. As a result, people have little connection with the past, either in town or country. In Bucharest and other large cities, where so many are newcomers, people struggle through horrifying traffic to work long hours with unpaid overtime. The constant rush merely to catch up with the present leaves little psychological or sentimental room for the past—or even the future.

Traffic in Bucharest.

In the villages, teenage Romanian and Gypsy girls walk hand in hand aimlessly along the potholed roads, with the typical Romanian peasant’s disregard for traffic bearing down behind them. Romanian and Gypsy boys stand sullenly together on the shoulders, posturing and smoking cigarettes. Once, stopping to take a photo of a Gypsy palace on the outskirts of Hunedoara—a city in Transylvania near Corvin Castle—I had a scythe brandished at me. The intent to use it was very real. It was in the hands of a blond, fair-skinned Romanian with vividly blue eyes, protecting the domain of his Gypsy patron. More likely than not, it had been built on the proceeds of the modern Gypsy chief’s favorite types of exploitative crime: sex-trafficking and organ harvesting, begging and pickpocketing operations in Western Europe, running hard drugs from Albania, and protection rackets in the villages.

Gypsy palace

Gypsies set the Romanian social tone in one especially subtle but critical way. They are steeped in moral particularism and regard deceiving the members of outgroups almost as an obligation. In the face of such morally particularistic groups, social strategies based on high trust are doomed either to break down or never develop. In post-communist Romania, social trust has either collapsed or never taken root. Members of the Romanian majority have adopted, by default, a low-trust approach to strangers, especially in one-off social and commercial relationships. I suspect this is partly because, under conditions of Gypsy emancipation and consequent genetic blurring, it is difficult to tell whether one is dealing with a “white” Romanian or a Gypsy. Only a fool treats a stranger as an honorable individual if there is any suspicion that he may be a Gypsy.

The result is a generalized race to the moral sewer. Anyone who trusts and is deceived is contemptuously referred to as a fraier: a “sucker” ( “freier” is used in the same sense in Israel). He who does not trust, but deceives and benefits from his deceit, is lauded—though not, in most cases, without a certain rueful irony—as a șmecher. The zero-sum imperative to be a șmecher rather than a fraier results in such things as stealing public property, breaking in line, providing the shoddiest plumbing for the largest sum obtainable, and so on.

In short, the result of the emancipation of the Gypsies is that the Romanian majority has assimilated Gypsy out-group morality in dealing with people they don’t know. Romanians therefore treat non-kin who are nonetheless authentically of their own kind in practically the same way they would treat a Gypsy. Meanwhile, Gypsies themselves maintain their strong sense of in-group identity and associated moral particularism. Contemporary Romania is thus, in its own way, as atomised as any society in the developed world. Its culture is implicitly shaped by an especially stupid and barbarous non-European minority to whose mores the majority European population semi-consciously adapts, abandoning its shared genetic and cultural identity and, as a consequence, its in-group cohesion.

Gypsies in public housing.

While not generally clannish, Romanians have developed no compensating sense of themselves as belonging to a moral community. Public goods have little value in a society where they may be stolen or vandalized by Gypsies or Gypsified Romanians. There is little respect for the law in the abstract, which is instead regarded as an impediment to be circumvented. When being a șmecher takes priority over all else, one’s word and individual reputation count for little, even to oneself.

Putting aside the recent and deleterious effects of communism, the global free market and Gypsification, would it be accurate to say that Romanians were ever really much like Westerners? I’m not sure, but there are several profoundly un-Western things about Romanians that I can’t attribute to anything other than factors native to Romanians. I suspect that, by nature, they’re not very much like Westerners.

First, there’s the way they drive. It’s so unnecessarily twitchy and dangerous as to hint at some kind of collective neurosis. Here are examples of Romanian driving. While I often find myself admiring the skill and daring of Romanian drivers, this behavior, in combination with the low average national IQ, suggests the kind of poor impulse control normally associated with Africa. I know from experience that driving like this is common in Turkey and the Arab world and, to a lesser extent, in Greece and parts of Italy, but it is outside the Western norm.

Second, there is the insouciant disagreeableness of Romanians. They generally make no attempt to accommodate other drivers, for example. They nonchalantly park their cars (hazard lights flashing for the sake of “caution”) in the middle of busy city streets. Even in designated “slow lanes” they tailgate aggressively, flashing their high beams.

On a personal level, I find many Romanians are contrary. They often meet a statement of near-fact with guarded skepticism: “Maybe . . . .” Often, people respond to an uncontroversial remark with a flat “no,” and proceed to paraphrase, as if it were their own idea, the very notion you yourself have just expressed. They are in general poor communicators who frequently and knowingly miss the point of what you say.

Third, there’s the Romanian attitude to noise of all types—basically, the noisier the location, the better they like it. If a place is not noisy when they arrive (and it is almost always “they;” Romanians like to roam in packs and are by nature hyper-sociable among people they trust) it’s guaranteed to become so within a few minutes.

As I said, it’s very un-Western.

Might there be an evolutionary explanation for these manifestations of Romanian “otherness”? Romania was under de facto Turkish suzerainty for 500 years—a period that, according to Cochran & Harpending, is long enough to effect genetic change. Do Romanians have relatively poor impulse control because impulsive, obstinate behavior increased the fitness of Romanians who stayed in the mountains to avoid Turkish rule? Did the threat of raids by Turks similarly select against patience and conscientiousness among those who stayed in the lowlands? This is pure speculation.

I have not set out to defame Romanians, but some sort of balance is in order. Above all, I would note that they are extravagantly generous with their often scant resources. They are great improvisers and good with their hands. The men are generally manly, courageous and pugnacious; the women are mostly feminine and spirited. They have a magnificent sense of humor (“Pork is the best vegetable,” they say). They are willing and indefatigable workers. In spite of my dislike of Western-style liberalism, I find Romanians’ strenuous faith in it more than a bit touching. Since the “grand narrative” ideologies of the 20th century have so signally failed them, Romanians simply can’t afford to think that the free market will fail them in its turn. The lack of any concept of a moral community and the general distrust of formal ideology has its upside, too: Very few topics are considered out of bounds. Questioning conventional history, denouncing immigration, or speaking disparagingly of non-whites, for example, are quite acceptable in most company. Moreover, many Romanians are casually—and, if pushed, aggressively—hostile to Islam, feminism, and militant homosexuality. The Orthodox Church is still basically respected as a national faith, even though its prelacy is widely and justly mocked for its worldly hypocrisy.

And so I come, like the Hora, full circle, back to the traditional dance honoring the anonymous Chinaman. Is it any wonder, living as they do in a country that is suffering a pretty severe case of cultural, genetic, and social decline, that Romanians would be prepared to sell the farm to the highest bidder, even if the buyer is an Asiatic, notionally communist government? Is it any wonder that they have such desperate faith in the global free market when all else has so spectacularly failed them in the past? It may even be that the anti-ideology of the free market is especially attractive to a country brought low in the last 80 or so years by establishment ideologies of both Right and Left.

It seems to me that many racially conscious whites, standing amidst the cultural and demographic ruin of the West, are all too ready to praise the people of Eastern Europe for their staunch traditionalism, their hostility to Islam, and contempt for homosexuality. Desperate for good news, we imagine in the peoples of Eastern Europe a bulwark against the fall of the West. But we must be careful, as we criticize ourselves in our characteristically Western way, not to romanticize the East. Romanians and other Eastern Europeans are not Westerners. Neither are they noble savages. They are not, like the Germans of Tacitus, more virtuous versions of our fallen selves. They are a subset of Europeans quite different from us, and they have their own problems to solve.

Is it ungracious disparagement of fellow whites to argue that Romanians are not Westerners, that they will never become Westerners, and that they are in danger, via sexual and cultural miscegenation with Gypsies, of becoming non-European? To make such arguments is to say that Romanians fail to meet the standards of the West; it tacitly affirms the biological superiority of West Europeans, or at the very least the superiority of West European culture. Considering the state of contemporary Western Europe and its New World settler colonies, I needn’t point out the irony of thinking Western culture is superior.

Ricardo Duschene argues that the authentic metaphysic of the West is linear, like an arrow flying targetless through unbounded space. Its origins, he believes, lie in the heroic-meritorious worldview now established as having been genetically transmitted to Northern Europe by the migratory bearers of the Corded Ware culture. I would say that the authentic metaphysic of Romania is cyclical rather than linear; the “Westernization” of the country has succeeded only in bending the Romanian circle into a very crooked line. The cost of this “success” has been the further corruption of a society already undermined by 50 years of communism.

Global capitalism, with its “Current Year” perversion of the linear metaphysic of the West, has always—and will always—sit uneasily with Romanians. It’s the urgent task of us Westerners to make the Western worldview work to our advantage, rather than drive us into the void. It seems to me that the task facing Romanians is to turn away from the chimera of free market “progress;” they must find a way to reassert their own, cyclical metaphysic and make it work for them. Any such transfiguration is theirs alone to accomplish. I hope they don’t leave it until it’s too late. After all, In Romania they still dance the Hora. Long may it turn.

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Archie Munro
Archie Munro is of predominantly Scottish and German ancestry, and has been settled in Romania for longer than he would like. He loves the Saxon inheritance, the mountains and his family, without whom he wouldn't be there at all.
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