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At book-launch event, Ioan-Aurel Pop defends sound historical method against hyped up myth-debunking trend

Ioan Aurel Pop

President of the Romanian Academy, historian Ioan-Aurel Pop, attending on Saturday the launch of his book "History, Truth and Myths" at the Gaudeamus Book Fair in Cluj-Napoca, explained what had driven him to write the volume, which is a response to historian Lucian Boia's work "History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness". 

"Reading back in 1998 the work of historian Lucian Boia - 'History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness' - and revisiting certain passages, I was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction, bitterness and powerlessness," Ioan Aurel Pop said, pointing out that in his opinion the work is to blame of logical fallacy.

He detailed that the two major ideas he had gleaned from Lucian Boia's book were that truth and historical truth in particular does not exist, so that efforts to seek it are useless, and the second - that historians have been falsifying history through myths, legends, overly heroic portrayals, nationalism. Yet in Ioan-Aurel Pop's opinion these two ideas cannot stand next to each other, because only if historical truth exists one can refer to the myth as an exaggeration or a lie, and that he therefore painstakingly went through the history of Romania starting from the Dacian and Roman ancestors to communism, going through the times of Michael the Brave, of the Transylvanian School, and also looking at the body of work of national poet Mihai Eminescu to produce a book about another book, a history of the Romanians read in the key of the profession of historian.

He also defended the critical, sound method of history that has rules that do not allow deviation, stressing that there's a big difference between loving the past and the know-how of the profession. Taking the profession of doctor as a reference, Ioan-Aurel Pop said: "Knowing in theory how the ancient Geto-Dacians performed trepanning to get the evil spirits out of the patient's head and put the skull bones back together is no help for performing a real surgical intervention, if I am not a doctor by training. The same goes with respect for the job of historian."

Sociologist Vasile Dancu also spoke at the event, saying that historians such as Lucian Boia belong to the "myth debunkers", who are very much needed by a culture.

"I think Lucian Boia benefits our culture, this is like a virus. Viruses create antibodies, they create the body's ability to defend itself. Our culture would be dead otherwise, if no one would comment on a newly written sociology or a history book. Therefore knowing how to defend itself is a test for a culture. (...) Lucian Boia belongs to a category that has emerged in recent years, that of myth debunkers, myth hunters. He belongs to an intellectual category that amasses serious chunks of the market, sells books, appears on TV. Deconstructing our truths is a fashion today, but it's not just an intellectual fashion, it has an entire capitalist, economic approach behind. There is a trend today to drive all group and ethnic identity into dissolution," Dincu said.

Also addressing the book launch ceremony were president of the Writers' Union Cluj branch Irina Petras, Academician Ionel Candea and philosopher Aurel Codoban, who was the honorary president of the Gaudeamus Book Fair this year. The event was attended by about 200 people, including the former President of the Romanian Academy Ionel Haiduc, poet Ioan Muresan, and Deputy Rector of the Babes-Bolyai University, historian Ioan Bolovan.





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