The World between Us: State Security and the Negotiation of Social Categories in Interwar Romania

In: East Central Europe
Gábor Egry Institute of Political History, Budapest

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The concept of security and the security culture of the state are always social constructs reflecting the outcome of interactions between state and society. Key categories of security, like dangerous social groups and activities are usually negotiated through these interactions. Politicians, secret agents, gendarms, denunciators, journalists, or the indicted, all shape the broader social meaning in a dynamic way. While in Greater Romania the state attempted to extend its control to ever broader segments of society in order to fend off perceived threats it had to rely on its own personnel and on people who cooperated in this effort, creating room for maneuver for everyone involved in this process. Due to its scarce resources the state could not even control entirely its own representatives, who often pursued a personal agenda different from the state’s own goals. Irredentism, associated with ethnic minorities exemplifies this situation quite well. In an effort to preempt any threat from national minorities with a kin-state gradually led to the association of irredentism with ethnicity, without having control over the latter’s exact meaning. Thus, its practical application depended on a series of factors, personal and structural ones, that finally led to a confusion and to the emptying of the concept that was applied without consistency. It was exactly this development that reconstituted the gap between state and society that actively engaged each other in the resulting process of negotiation. Under the surface of the rule of law and against the backdrop of the image of an ever more powerful state security apparatus, state and society defined together those informal rules of everyday co-existence that were often meant to hide reality from the watchful eyes of Bucharest.

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