The Life and Activity of Gheorghe I. Brătianu

Gheorghe I. Brătianu

Gheorghe I. Brătianu is the nephew of Ion C. Brătianu and the son of Ionel Brătianu and princess Maria Moruzi-Cuza (see The future great historian Gheorghe Brătianu was born on January 28, 1898 in Ruginoasa, Iaşi county. After graduating from Iaşi National High School (class of 1916) he voluntarily enlisted with the army in order to participate in the war to reunite the country. In 1917 he registered with the Faculty of Law in Iași, which he graduated in 1920. Exhibiting a liking for history, he abandoned his legal career and registered with the Sorbone University in Paris, where he attended the classes of prestigious historians such as Ferdinand Lot and Charles Diehl, and where he acquired his Ph.D. in 1929. His vocation for history was exemplified from his very first work, entitled „A Moldavian Host Three Centuries Ago”.

His work was published by Nicolae Iorga and represented the historiography debut of a youth barely aged 16. In 1924 he became a university professor for the universal history department within the University of Iași, and in 1940 within the University of Bucharest. In 1942 he was admitted among the ranks of young tenurials of the Romanian Academy. Gheorghe I. Brătianu was appointed as Director of the Institute of Universal History in Iași (1935 – 1940) and then the „Nicolae Iorga” Institute of Universal History in Bucharest (1941 – 1947).

Gheorghe I. Brătianu signed up for the National Liberal Party in 1926, while on October 12, 1927, he went on to become head of the NLP organization in Iași. In 1930, Gheorghe I. Brătianu, the politician, decided to act on the recommendations made by King Charles the Second and break the unity of the NLP by creating a new political organization: Gehorghe Brătianu NLB. The behavior of King Charles the Second in the political arena determined the historian to return, in 1938, within the NLP. In terms of external politics, Gheorghe I. Brătianu was an astute adversary of an alliance with the USSR and was convinced that an alliance with Nazi Germany would prove beneficial to Romania.

King Charles the Second wrote in his journal that the historian Gheorghe I. Brătianu was „the great apostle for an agreement with Germany”. As a politician, Gheorghe I. Brătianu did not take part in the Crown Council meetings of June 27, 1940, when we conceded Basarabia, North Bucovina and the Herța region, only in the night meeting of August 30-31, 1940. He advocated for military resistance because the concession would bring „the collapse, collapse by demoralization, impotence and anarchy”. On June 22, 1941, he was mobilized within the 7th Infantry Division, where he served until July 12, 1941. Upon this date, he was transferred to the Cavalry Corps, until November 30, 1941, within the 2nd Intelligence-Counterintelligence Office, as a translator from German. During the 1 – 30 November period, captain Gheorghe I. Brătianu was detached to the General Headquarters, Section I, Studies-Laws Office.

The historian was again mobilized with the Cavalry Corps during July 16 and September 24 of 1942. He took part in the campaign of this great unit in the Crimean Peninsula and Caucasus. During the 1941 – 1942 period, he held a lecture entitled The Black Sea Issue with the University of Bucharest. On December 15, 1941, during the opening lecture of the history of the Black Sea, Gheorghe I. Brătianu spoke of Romania’s „safe space”, a geopolitical term which would eventually become the space which „included the regions and points in the absence of which a nation can neither fulfil its historical mission, nor the possibilities that make up its destiny”. He distinguished between the safe space, the ethnic space and the vital space. The ethnic spaces represented „the space inhabited by the same people, as a nation”, while the vital space was a „an account of force”, „the space which at any given point hosts the expansion of a force”. The safe space could be one and the same with the ethnic space – which could lead to a „strong position” – yet it could also exceed it. The safe space statement does not imply the will and desire to acquire the „vital space”, thus it is not an expression of an expanding force. The historian Gheorghe I. Brătianu identified two „key positions”, respectively decisive geopolitical positions Romania needed to mandatorily include in its strategic assessment:

„1. The Bosphorus entry point and, in general, the strait system which leads the waterway beyond this enclosed sea; and 2. Crimea, which, through its natural ports, its ancient fortresses and the high maritime bastion represented in the Black obviously represents a commanding position over the maritime complex in the area. Whomever holds Crimea can rule the Black Sea. Whomever fails to hold it, cannot rule. It is obvious that this issue is connected to our issues, because, when all comes to all, what else do the straits represent than the extension of the Danube inflows”.

He also added that „the notion of the safe space implies that we cannot remain indifferent to what is going on in these two key positions of a sea so closely tied to our existence”. The history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is summarized by Gheorghe I. Brătianu as „a struggle for the Black Sea between Russia and Europe”. After August 23, 1944, Gheorghe I. Brătianu would suffer the consequences of his anti-Russian/Soviet political and scientific view. In 1947, he is suspended from the University and from the „Nicolae Iorga” Institute of Universal History. He is assigned to house arrest and is prohibited from having external contacts. During this period of house arrest, Gheorghe I. Brătianu finished a work on The History of the Black Sea. On June 9, 1948, along with the reorganization of the Romanian Academy, which changes its name to the Academy of the Popular Romanian Republic, Gheorghe I. Brătianu loses his capacity as an academic, along with another 97 Romanian scientific and cultural personalities. On the night of 7-8 May, 1950, he is arrested by the Department of State Security and sent to the Sighetul-Marmației prison, without trial or conviction. On the night of 23-24April, 1953,Gheorghe I. Brătianu died in prison at the age of 55, the reasons for whicha res till unclear. According to the testimony of other inmates, it seems he committed suicide by strangling, as he could no longer bear the tortures of detention. According to other sources, he was supposedly beaten to death by a guard. In October 1971, his family was authorized to unearth his grave in Sighet and rebury him in the Brătianu burial chamber in Florica/Ștefănești, Argeș county, in an alcove close to his uncle Constantin I. C. Brătianu. The following phrase is engraved above the alcove: „They died in Sighet, unyielding in their belief”. As a historian, Gheorghe I. Brătianu resolutely and rigorously supported the thesis of Romanian people continuity within the Carpathian – Danube – Black Sea space. His works on the Romanian presence in Basarabia epitomize the historian’s stature and the politician’s knowledge. Moreover, he was asked to denounce his theses on Basarabia, but he refused, rationally assuming responsibility for that which was written. „The truth endures, regardless of the fate of those who served it”, wrote Gheorghe I. Brătianu for eternity