The Romanian Enlightenment in Transylvania

Keith Hitchins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper suggests that a significant variant of the European Enlightenment arose among the Romanian intellectual elite in Transylvania in the latter decades of the eighteenth and the early decades of the nineteenth century. Against the background of both the general Enlightenment and the prevailing political and social conditions in Transylvania, it attempts to identify the specific characteristics of what may be called the Romanian Enlightenment. To do so, it analyzes the works of three leading representatives of the Romanian elite —Samuil Micu, Gheorghe Şincai, and Petru Maior— and examines their relationship with the Habsburg Court of Vienna, particularly with Joseph II. It is evident that the Romanian elite adhered to certain salient principles of the European Enlightenment, notable faith in reason and knowledge and a commitment to apply these instruments to the improvement of the human condition. But in even greater measure they were preoccupied with the idea of nation. It was their striving to interweave the tenets of the European Enlightenment, which was essentially cosmopolitan, with the aspirations of nationhood, which were ethnic and particular, that gave the Romanian Enlightenment its distinctive character.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-128
Number of pages12
JournalBalkan Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999


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