Băile Tușnad – humans, multiculturalism and carnival spirit

RO: Impresii ale Roxanei Lachewicz de la carnavalul “Taina Iubirii – Arta Vietii” de la Baile Tusnad, 27. 02. – 05. 03. 2014. Multumesc, Roxana! Prezentarea ta a fost una din cele mai consistente din cadrul academiei Carnavalului 🙂
EN: Roxana Lachewicz’s impressions from the “Secreta of Love – Art of Life” carnival from Tusnad, at the end of February – beginning of March. Thank you, Roxana! Your presentation was one of the key events of the Carnival Academy!
NOTE: Roxana participated for two days (only) out of 6 – so, more reports and pics from other participants to follow 🙂


Only a few days have passed since the presentation that took place in Baile Tusnad and I’m still under the influence of what was discussed. Before that I had been very curious about the reactions people would have about the topics that I had chosen. It was supposed to be a discussion on multiculturalism and on the negative effects of nationalism to which I am strongly against.

We took the train on Saturday morning, departing from the cold and still sleepy Bucharest. It was the 1st of March, a day with an important significance here in Romania – the beginning of spring, and the day women receive ‘mărțisoare’ – a gift made of a red and white string, a gift that is considered to be benefic for the ones receiving it because it represents life and continuity. Later that day I would find out more about this custom from Kristina who organized a workshop for the people interested in the Bulgarian version – the ‘martenitsa’. A personal note: I was extremely surprised to discover the similarities and differences of this tradition that is rooted in the Daco – Thracian cultures.


The hours passed quickly and on our way to Baile Tusnad I managed to see from the distance two representative monuments of the Saxon culture – the fortified churches from Harman and Prejmer. After arriving I was very happy to see Hans Hedrich again – friend and a very good and organized host of the Carnival. I first met him in June 2008 and it was with his help that I managed to work for a long time as a volunteer at a local association.

As a politologist and an activist concerned with a variety of issues among which I must underline the protection of the environment, of the peoples’ rights and of the heritage, Hans was involved in many projects and actions aiming to do as much as possible to uncover the abuses of the local administration. I’ve always seen Hans as someone ahead of his time, as a person concerned with the consequences of the present actions. We then finally met Andrei and Jutka from Sibiu whom I consider the King and Queen of the Carnival due to their original costumes and natural attitude in interpreting the chosen characters. We also enjoyed the company of Ede and Emőke from Miercurea Ciuc, discussing about architecture and about interesting aspects of the region.

Ever since I knew I was to participate at the event organized by Hans, I was thrilled to know I would be talking about a subject that had turned from a passion/hobby into something more formal, into an attentive study and research. Multiculturalism is indeed a very broad term, with various interpretations; it can represent a long-term solution and a way in which diversity can be emphasized, not silenced. I chose to speak about two case-studies that intrigued me, the first one being Switzerland – which is considered the pattern for plurality and co-existence of various ethnic groups and the other one being Transylvania – a region with a tradition of cultural diversity, a region that for centuries has been shaped by the influences of its inhabitants.

I started the discussion emphasizing some definitions related to the ontology of culture. The meaning of culture as a dictionary entry changed in the 19th century when it started to be more and more associated with the human life, imagination and artistic manifestation. Culture shapes societies by being passed on but also societies are capable of shaping culture according to specific contexts. I also underlined the idea of culture as a social script, as a system of values that one inherits, as a system of values around which certain groups revolve. Moreover, cultures interact and recreate themselves.

Regarding multiculturalism and its various definitions I tended to approach this term as a means that could deconstruct and reconstruct an entire system of values that had been previously imposed by the levelling and centralizing tendencies of nationalism. Moreover, what I wanted to prove was that not only the legal measures can create a benefic framework for the expression of diversity but also that societies have to contribute to this shifting of perspective. Also, multiculturalism is strongly tied to the intercultural dialogue, to knowing and understanding the otherness.

I then focused on the case of Switzerland, a federal state that did not follow the nationalistic path of its neighbors and also a country characterized by a backbone built on the spirit of tolerance, acceptance and cooperation. An important aspect underlined during the presentation was that of the Swiss democracy which was built from bottom to top, from the local communities to the highest form of government. The plurality of languages together with the plurality of religions needed proper administration and therefore various policies were implemented in order to guarantee that no group would be discriminated.

Another important aspect that I emphasized was the fact that in Switzerland no ethnic group wants to assume the majority role. An important characteristic that encouraged the multicultural environment to develop was the fact that the country did not suffer from the leveling tendencies of communism as it happened in the east European countries. Still, Switzerland cannot be fully considered a multicultural paradise due to the immigration issues it has had in the recent years and due to the fact that it has sought to find ways in which it can impose certain limits.

I tended to focus more on Transylvania, mittelpunkt for various ethnic groups, a case-study which I had the sufficient time to explore and study during the years. Moulded by innumerous influences, the region cannot be analysed with a monolithic approach. Therefore I decided to focus on its in order to present the facts and events as they happened and not as they were modified by the nationalistic political discourse. It is clear that in the present day the Romanian state is not investing at much as it should in promoting diversity and in creating a framework against any type of discrimination.

I also underlined the changes after 1989, changes that although in theory seemed to be sufficient (ethnic representation in institutions and education in the minority languages), in reality they proved to be quite weak. The majority – minority principle, encouraged by nationalism is the sort of discrimination that affects the ethnic groups in Transylvania, together with the racist statement and with the exclusion of certain cultures from any project. It was very important for me to speak and clarify more about nationalism and about nation-building that beginning with the 19th century forced the unification of differences under a centralizing force. Nationalism is strongly present in Romania especially due to the political discourse, due to the lack of the education for diversity and also because of the taboo ideas regarding the otherness.

Among the conclusions that were drawn, I underlined the fact that Switzerland was indeed a multicultural example but that this status existed only because of the favorable context; the country has an advantage due to the fact that it lies in the western part of Europe, it did not suffer from the communist domination and maintained a constant neutrality. On the other hand, Transylvania as a region of Romania was incorporated not only in the Sovietic map but also in its ideology (together with the later to come consequences). Moreover, Romania doesn’t have the financial means in order to invest in diversity, a fact which postpones the multiculturalist ideals for an uncertain future. On the other hand, the tendencies of segregation manifested in many regions of the Eastern Europe are examples of what could happen if the state will not invest in the administration of diversity.

I was pleased to discover that my presentation had echoes and that the participants continued the discussion, focusing on possible multiculturalist models. Heinz, one of the participants whose origins are rooted in Sighisoara, proposed Belgium as a model for Transylvania because of the framework that encourages the respect for the otherness.  Also, he added, each citizen is a fluent speaker of the main languages – an aspect which could be implemented in Transylvania in order to avoid the tensions created between the official language and the minority languages.

Hans and Andrei underlined the problem of the Roma people which often seems to be excluded from the history of Transylvania. They both underlined the idea that the ethnic group had been kept outside the policies and measures, although the Roma also contributed to the cultural kaleidoscope of the region.

Andrei Popa, more than a passionate about the Transylvanian heritage, underlined the importance of creating an association that would not only raise the awareness and inform the people about the cultural diversity but that would also do as much as possible to implement projects in order to change, in a radical and benefic manner, the situation and status of the many ethnic groups. His initiative is something that the region needs and I personally believe that the association will have the opportunity to grow and develop on the desired path. It is by no means utopic, it comes as a natural response to the present context.

After the presentation and the discussions, dinner came as a reward and as the people were preparing for the official carnival gathering/party, Daniel Venteo – an extremely dedicated historian – started to present his book – ‘The Autobiograpy of Barcelona’. What a mesmerizing experience! Daniel spoke during four hours with the same excitement and with a constant fascination with the various faces of Barcelona, not in a chronological manner as the general public is used to, but by focusing more on themes that for an uninitiated one are extremely revealing. I felt the evening as a sort of a peak of the carnival with a ‘clase magistral’ that gave me an impulse and the necessary inspiration to continue my research because passion can and will lead to new discoveries.

The carnival continued as the guests were arriving dressed in an inventive manner. Gipsies, a nun, representatives of the Arab culture and many other fictional yet real characters started the party with lots of music from different parts of the world. Now that’s what I call multiculturalism. This mixture of diversity seemed to be the continuation of my presentation. The party went on until morning.

The following day will remain in my memory as ‘relaxation day’ due to a well deserved session at the local spa. Thermal water, jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor swimming pool (I will always remember the second one due to Silvana who challenged us to go for an early spring swim!) and three types of sauna. Later that day, we took the train to Bucharest, returning home with a some extra experience and a lot of thoughts about what was discussed.

As an ending I would like to add that I still can’t find the right words to describe such an incredible experience, a successful attempt to bring together people from different cultures under the same principle: we are all human. Once again I would like to thank Hans Hedrich for the initiative, for the organization and I would like to underline how honoured I feel to have met such wonderful people.

See you all soon!
The text of the presentation can be accessed here:

Posted by at 07/03/2014
Filed in category: Gemeinschaft & Gesellschaft, Kultur & Gut, Natur & Schutz, and tagged with: , ,

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