Austrian History Yearbook


Astra and the Appeal of the Nation: Power and Autonomy in Late-Nineteenth-Century Transylvania

Tanya Dunlap

An Enthusiastic Group of Romanians gathered in Sibiu at the 1905 annualassembly of Astra, the largest Romanian cultural association in Transylvania, to celebrate their nation and their future. Moved by the gathering and the festivities, the editor of the association's paper, Transilvania, expressed a hope he and thousands of his compatriots shared: “Never before has this people been in a more favorable position as a superiorethnic element, as an important factor of civilization, and as a gifted nation with vitality, character, and great talents that guarantee it a bright future and a distinguished place among the peoples of eastern Europe.”1 Like many prominent Romanians of his time, the editor firmlybelieved that his nation would enjoy equal status with other European national groups in the near future. Equal standing had been a central goal of theRomanian intellectuals and clergy who founded the Transylvanian Associationfor Romanian Literature and the Culture of the Romanian People, or Astra, in 1861. Since the eighteenth century, Romanian elites in Transylvania had worked to obtain recognition for their national community so that they couldparticipate fully in the political life of the region. Two centuries later Astra members still hoped they were on the verge of forming a Romanian nation that could achieve the right to control its own destiny.