History of Communism in Europe

Volume 11, 2020

Transnational Biographies: Destinies at the Crossroads Before and After the Cold War

Valeska Bopp-Filimonov
Pages 141-166

‘A New Era’ is always Dawning. A Linguistic Biography of a Border Crosser and Doppelgänger from Bukovina in the Second Half of the 20th Century

This article argues that it was not only physical borders that challenged people’s biographies in the 20th century, but also shifts in ideology, discourse and predominant languages. I shall explore the biography of a man called Cornel, a native of Bukovina who was a communist cultural official in Romania’s capital Bucharest in the 1960s and who became a priest in the 1970s. I shall show that not only obvious breaks such as the beginning and end of communist rule, but ideological shifts too within Romanian communism prompted Cornel to thoroughly reassess himself. For Cornel, it was the ‘mini-cultural revolution’ of 1971 under the rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu that quickly convinced him to leave his job at the Romanian Ministry of Culture and reinvent himself as an Orthodox priest. But was his self-reinvention successful? A thorough analysis of his biography shows that his linguistic biography—oscillating between Romanian, Ukrainian and Russian—contains crucial elements of productive adaptation and continuity that enabled him repeatedly and successfully to circumvent borders imposed by newly emerging policies. His “third” identity as a writer has given him continuity and self-assurance.