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Heliade Raduescu, Ion

ION HELIADE RADULESCU (1802-1872) Multi-talented intellectual, inspired modern poet, and prominent Muntenian Romanian political personality, Ion Heliade Radulescu was a contradictory personality, but fervent in his revolutionary credo and a tireless founder of cultural institutions and nationally important intiatives. He was idolized by many of his contemporaries and by posterity, but also extensively challenged by his enemies especially among his former pupils, disciples and one time co-leaders of the Romanian 1848. Born in Tirgoviste, the former capital of Muntenia, whose dust-covered glory and current ruin had a defining impact in shaping his artistic personality, he studied at the Romanian school in Bucuresti founded by the great Transylvanian teacher Gheorghe Lazar. In 1829, he founded and edited Curierul Romanesc, the first newspaper in Romanian, and a key vehicle of the literary, cultural, and political modernization of Muntenia. In 1829 he also published Gramatica Romaneasca, an important work that laid the groundwork for the revival of Romanian culture from under the influences of Phanariot Greek culture and Slavic influence. Concomitantly, Heliade established a printing establishment that became a genuine national institution, promoting a grand scheme to encourage the appearance of original national literature, as well as making available in Romanian translations of the great classics of the West, many of which he did himself.

In the late 1820s, Heliade also created the first of a series of literary groups (generally of a quasi-Masonic nature) which were actually designed to advocate political change: the Societatea Literara (whose patron was the prominent elightened boiar Dinicu Golescu). In 1833 he founded, along with a leading boiar and champion of Romanian modernization, Ion Cimpineanu, the Societatea Filarmonica, whose stated aim was to promote both a national drama and theatre but whose aims included a variety of social and political objectives. This type of secret organization became typical among Muntenian national act ivists.

In 1848 Heliade Radulescu played a crucial role. The Islaz Proclamation of June 9/21, the programatic document of the Muntenian Revolution, was composed and read by him. He was a member of the Provisional Government, where his generally conciliatory stance incurred the suspicion and opposition of the more radical leaders. They especially resented his continued acceptance of the Reglement Organique, the pre-1848 constitution, and his support of the Ottoman rule.

Following the defeat of the Muntenian revolution, Heliade went into exile and became the leader of those who favored maintaining the suzerainty of the Porte (as a defence of the Romanian lands against further Russian encroachment). He was in a constant conflict with the other principal leaders of the emigration, such as Nicolae Balcescu, the Bratianu brothers, the Golescu brothers, and C. A. Rosetti. His vituperative pamphlets did a good deal to stir up resentement against the younger and more radical revolutionaries and to split the Romanian camp. On the positive side, he was a steady contributor to major democratic publications in Paris ( Le Siècle; La Semaine; La Presse, L'Europe et Amerique) and had ties with leading French personalitiesóboth of which would assist the Romanian cause in the years to come.

Heliade's greatest enemy was his own hyper-egocentric personality and a pathological Messiah complex (he thought of himself as a Messiah of Romania). When he returned to Muntenia in 1858, he was in a state of permanent political disorientation, preoccupied with real and imagined threats from assorted enemies and traitors. His political influence after 1859 was slight. He devoted most of his efforts to fighting liberalism and renewal and became more and more conservative in his politics.

For his cultural activities, Heliade was elected to the Academic Society (the predecessor of the Romanian Academy and given a substantial national pension by the Parliament. Ion Heliade Radulescu was a religious and mistic personality, devotee of a unique God of mankind and of a human race reaching towards the same Absolute. He was forever involved in designing gigantic schemes and in viewing the inexorable panoramas of the poetic visionary. There were few subjects that this multi-talented poligraph did not tackle, ranging from fables, textbooks, epics, memoirs, polemic philosophy, Dante, and the like. When he died in 1872 in Bucuresti, he was mourned by his contemporaries as the "father of the Romanian literature."
Marin Bucur


D. Popovici, Ideologia literara a lui Ion Heliade Radulescu (Bucuresti, 1935)

G. Calinescu, Istoria literaturii roman de la origini pina in prezent, 2d ed (Bucuresti, 1982)

Mircea Anghelescu, Ion Heliade Radulescu (Bucuresti, 1986).

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