The Heritage of Austria-Hungary in Interwar Romania – National Histories, Imperial Memories Session 2

Session 2 of our online seminar series National Histories, Imperial Memories: Representing the Past in Interwar Central Europe will take place at


18.00 CET on 19 October 2021

on Zoom, featuring papers by

Cosmin Minea (Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zurich)


Gábor Egry (Institute of Political History, Budapest)

Moderator: Marta Filipová (Masaryk University, Brno – CRAACE)


The event is free and open to all, but you need to register. Click here for the registration form. See the full seminar schedule here.


Watch the session on our Youtube channel:



Cosmin Minea (Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zurich)

Restorations and Revival of Historical Monuments in Interwar Romania

In Romania, the Commission for Historical Monuments was founded in 1892 out of a desire to change restoration practices and promote Romanian architects in the new and lucrative profession of restorer. However, even if they claimed to overcome the principle of reviving the ‘initial’ monument, made famous in the nineteenth century by the French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, the practice of the Romanian architects tells a different story. The role of monuments as visual cues for national history and the emphasis placed on the mythical figure of the founder often made architects to take as model for their restoration the image of the monument in the dedication fresco and this almost always led to the reconstruction of the roof, towers, rebuilding of visible parts and removal of later additions. Indeed, twentieth-century restorations in Romania did not differ in their methods from nineteenth-century ones, but rather in their ideological underpinnings. If for architects such as André Lecomte du Noüy (1844–1914) or Ion Mincu (1851–1912), restorations were meant to show the European nature of the Romanian culture, in the twentieth century the restorations were used to support a distinct national historical narrative. Growing nationalism became an even more significant factor after 1918, when Romania attempted to emphasize ‘its’ heritage in the newly-acquired, multi-ethnic territory of Transylvania. A key role was played by the spread of the Neo-Romanian buildings in Transylvania, most prominently the imposing Orthodox cathedrals, inspired by the historical monuments in Wallachia and Moldavia, meant to overshadow Catholic or Protestant churches. All in all, the paper seeks to assess how architecture contributed to the development of the public discourse about the past and how historical monuments were used to integrate a new, multi-ethnic territory within the nation-state of Romania.

Cosmin Minea is a postdoctoral researcher at the Chair of the History and Theory of Architecture (prof. Marteen Delbeke) at the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich. He holds a Swiss Postdoctoral Excellence Scholarship. He works on expanding his PhD thesis both temporally and geographically by analysing the processes of heritage building and the development of artistic historiography in Romania in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century in a broader regional context. Cosmin completed his PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2020 with a thesis titled ‘Old Buildings for Modern Times: The Rise of Architectural Monuments as Symbols of The State in Late Nineteenth-Century Romania’. As visiting lecturer at the same university he taught a self-designed course titled ‘Political Art’ and was also a teaching assistant in the Department of Art History and the Department of History. Before his post in Zürich, Cosmin was a postdoctoral researcher for one year on the ERC project ‘Art Historiographies in Central and Eastern Europe’, hosted at the New Europe College in Bucharest. He co-edited a volume titled ‘Periodization in the Art Historiographies of Central and Eastern Europe’, forthcoming with Routledge.


Gábor Egry (Institute of Political History, Budapest)

Mysteries from the Firefighter Storeroom: Public Art, Nationalizing State(s) and Local Identities in Post-WWI Transylvania

The discovery of Francis Joseph’s bronze statue in the storeroom of the Caransebeș voluntary firefighters during a military inspection heralded a long struggle between the city council and the government. Erected in 1906 and removed in 1919 the statue left an empty pedestal in the city center, and the necessity to fill it. Conflicting ideas regarding the fate of the statue and what should replace it generated a decades long back and forth between the city and Bucharest without ever resolving the question. The well documented maneuvering around the statue and the pedestal is a prime example of how the renationalization of public space through removal and erecting of statues in Transylvania was received in local societies with strong localistic traditions. It also manifests the limitations of a centrally driven nationalizing of the public space and the agency of local actors in negotiating such interventions of the center. In this talk I attempt to connect this case with many less conspicuous ones to highlight not only the resilience of the pre-1918 social attitudes and identifications but to highlight the agency of local actors and societies in (re)interpreting nationalized public spaces.

Gábor Egry is a historian, holding a PhD from ELTE, Budapest, senior research fellow and director general at the Institute of Political History, Budapest. His research focuses on nationalism, everyday ethnicity and the politics of identity in modern Eastern European history. He has been a visiting fellow at NEC-IAS, Bucharest, Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena, CREES, Stanford University, IOS Regensburg. His latest book Etnicitás, identitás, politka: Magyar kisebbségek nacionalizmus és regionalizmus között Romániában és Csehszlovákiában 1918–1944 [Ethnicity, Identity, Politics. Hungarian Minorities between Nationalism and Regionalism in Romania and Czechoslovakia 1918–1944], shortlisted for the Felczak-Wereszycki Prize of the Polish Historical Association, analysed everyday ethnicity in the interwar period and how it was related to politics of identity. He authored articles published in East Central Europe, Hungarian Historical Review, Historie Otázky Problémy, Slavic Review. His current position is Principal Investigator of the ERC Consolidator Project NEPOSTRANS (Negotiating post-imperial transitions: from remobilization to nation-state consolidation: A comparative study of local and regional transitions in post-Habsburg East and Central Europe) that compares transitions from Austria-Hungary to the successor states in the wake of WWI at the local level.


This seminar is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 786314).

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