The paper analyzes the debates in the Romanian Constituent Assembly of 1866 on article 7 of the Constitution that excludes non-Christians (notably Jews) from political rights. By drawing mainly on the parliamentary archives and the press, it also examines governmental regulations, legislation, questions to ministers and parliamentary deliberations on the discriminations and violence against Jews during the years 1867-1869. The legislative and administrative measures following the adoption of article 7 of the Constitution create the ‘Jewish question’, that is anti-Jewishness as expression of anti-alien sentiment and of national preservation, elevate it to an international issue, and account for much of the internal governmental instability of the period. Anti-Semitism in that period is as much about Romanians and how they can consolidate their nation-state, as it is about the Jews and those who hate them. The paper holds that during the 1860s-1870s, anti-Jewish sentiment, not yet coherent and programmatic, tells less about anti-Semitism, and more about the nature of Romanian nationalism, as a modern variant of state-led xenophobia, eager to demonstrate state capacity. Romanian politicians want to build very quickly both the state and a homogenous nation, and the Jews (and other foreigners) are there to show that none is yet ready.

issue 03 / July 2012 by Silvia Marton