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(1899-1938)

Image Description

A man over 30, with short thick hair, straight nose, thin lips, prominent ears, dressed in traditional costume.

The forehead is contoured by the texture of small and numerous Xes, representing the hair combed towards the back.

The traditional shirt is rendered by the texture of scattered dots.

He is wearing a sleeveless waistcoat, outlined with bold edges, representing the fur and the inside with a texture of embossed diamonds.

 

Historical information

The leader of the most important fascist movement in Romania, Corneliu Zelea-Codreanu, originated in Bucovina. His father, Ion Zelea-Codreanu, had a major influence in young Corneliu’s education towards exaggerated nationalism and chauvinism. Another mentor of nationalism was the Political Economy Professor A.C. Cuza from the University of Iasi, who was his godfather. For this reason, we can say that Romanian fascism was a “family story – the story of some families, such as Codreanu’s, which were growing according to the traditional patterns of marriage and godfathership”, but also the story of an “imaginary family”[Bibliography 1], that of the nation, the Romanian village and its unique traditions, recurrent motives in the nationalist propaganda in Romania.

An advocate of severe education, his father enrolled him as a student at the Military High School in Dealu Monastery, “where nationalist militancy was particularly cultivated” [Bibliography 2].In autumn 1919 he enrolled for the courses of the Faculty of Law in Iaşi, where the dean was Professor A. C.Cuza. During the labor strikes of the early 1920s in Iaşi, Codreanu manifested “as the counterrevolutionary ruler of the workers and a strike breaker” [Bibliography 3].He also made himself noticed by blocking the access of students in the University of the capital of Moldova on November 22nd, 1920, dissatisfied with the decision of the University authorities to start the academic year 1920/21 without having a religious service. Later, in his programmatic article “For Legionnaires”, Codreanu reaffirmed his strong attachment to the Church, considering the religious solemnities of the start of the academic year as “the most beautiful celebration of the University “[References 4].

Because of his acts of violence, the University Senate decided to expel the student Corneliu Zelea-Codreanu from the University, but the measure is not implemented by the Faculty of Law. He is increasingly affirming himself as leader of nationalist students, having as declared enemies communism and Hebrews.

The fall of 1922 started with the growing grievances of the students because of the shortages and the university fees considered exaggerated. Although socially and economically motivated in a first phase, the student movement turned to virulent antisemitism during the December 10th 1922 demonstrations at the Faculty of Medicine in Cluj. This moment became the birth certificate of the “Christian” students, self-titled the “generation of 1922”. Among other things, the “Christian” students demanded the introduction of a numerus clausus, meaning the number of student places to be allocated to each nationality according to its weight in the country’s population. Student movements were so violent that the academic year 1922/23 is compromised, universities being closed most of the time just to avoid turning into battlefields between students of different nationalities or ideological orientations. Corneliu Zelea-Codreanu seized the opportunity to transform this student frustration into a political vector.

Along with his professor from Iasi, A.C. Cuza, he is involved in the founding of the National Christian League, a nationalistic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic political formation, founded exactly on the day in which the Parliament adopted article 7 of the new Constitution, granting the possibility of all persons to obtain Romanian citizenship, since “The distinction of religious beliefs and confessions, of ethnic and language origin, does not constitute in Romania an obstacle to acquiring civil and political rights and exercising them”. In 1923 he tried to set up a plan of assassination of all Romanian statesmen who “sold themselves to the Jews”. Being denounced, the plot was discovered and those involved were judged. However, they would all be acquitted, except for Ioan Moța, who had been sentenced for attempted murder of the one who had exposed them [Bibliography 5]. Returning to Iaşi, Codreanu was involved in the founding of a student hostel through the voluntary work of the students, the funds needed for this construction being obtained from the sale of the products grown in a garden near Iaşi.
The prefect Constantin Manciu accused them of subversive actions and he arrested Codreanu and the other students. Suffering bad treatments, the students would sue Constantin Manciu. Upon the occasion of a court hearing, Codreanu assassinates Constantin Manciu on October 24th, 1924, on the steps of the Palace of Justice in Iaşi. Although it was a premeditated crime, a court of jury in Turnu Severin decided to acquit young Codreanu and the other accused “after just five minutes of deliberation” [Bibliography 6]. In 1927, on June 24th, 1927, he founds the Archangel Michael Legion, an organization with a prominent nationalist and anti-Semitic program. On August 31st, 1931, he was elected representative in the Romanian Parliament after he succeeded in winning the partial elections in Neamt County. On December 9th, 1933, his Iron Guard formation was forbidden, leading to the assassination of Prime Minister I.G. Duca on December29th, 1933, by a group of three legionaries, “Nicadori”. Although he was arrested, Codreanu would be acquitted after the trial in March – April 1934. He ordered the organization of volunteer labor camps of the legionaries during the summer, through which Codreanu hoped to increase the influence of the legionary movement among the population. He succeeded in setting up a new party, “Everything for the Country”, and in supporting the election of legionaries as head of student organizations in Romania. Mihail Stelescu, the “Captain’s” right hand until 1934, left the Legionary movement and started a campaign to discredit Codreanu. It seems like Codreanu himself wanted a marginalization of Mihail Stelescu, who proved to be more charismatic and virulent in his decisions. Considered a “traitor,” Stelescu would be assassinated on July 16th, 1936 by a legionary commando consisting of 10 students from the Faculty of Theology (“Decemviri”) in a barbaric way, his body mangled by axes. In 1937, “Everything for the Country” obtained an impressive electoral score in the December elections, about 15% of the votes. According to historian Armin Heinen, the Iron Guard was perceived as “the expression of general dissatisfaction” [Bibliography 7], becoming the third political party of the country, after PNL (Liberal Party) and PNŢ (Agrarian Party). The establishment of Carol II’s royal regime (February 27th, 1938) and the dissolution of all political parties on March30th, 1938 will weaken Codreanu’s position. Perceived as the main threat to the king, Codreanu is arrested on April 17th, 1938, being accused of the defamation of Nicolae Iorga, a dignitary in the Royal Dictatorship of Carol II. On May 27th, 1938, he was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for high betrayal, and a few months later, in a setup, he would be assassinated under escort, along with Nicadori and Decemviri. Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was a charismatic leader, but he preached the cult of violence and was a follower of extremist political practices that militated for a dictatorial regime. In fact, he never hid his admiration for Adolf Hitler and in the 1937 election campaign he showed no restraint in saying that if his party won the election, in 48 hours Romania would join forces with the Axis. However, his appeal to the traditional values of the Romanians and the way he was assassinated turned him into a martyr of nationalist movements, with numerous extremist currents in today’s Romanian society that praise him.

Bibliography

1-3. Oliver Jens Schmitt, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Ascensiunea și căderea „Căpitanului”, București, Editura Humanitas, 2017, p. 14, 40, 50.

4-5. Armin Heinen, Legiunea „Arhanghelul Mihail”, mișcare socială și organizație politică. O contribuție la problema fascismului internațional, ediția a doua, București, Editura Humanitas, 2006, p. 99 (n. 50), 109-110.

  1. O.J. Schmitt, op.cit., p. 83.
  2. A. Heinen, op.cit., p. 250.

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