The Image of the Other. The Image of the Hungarians in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Moldavian and Wallachian Chronicles


The study of the image of the ‘other' is an important premise of self-knowledge and aids one in better understanding the clichés and prejudices that exist both in historiography and in public opinion, constituting a first step in surpassing these biases. Consequently, this article wishes to sketch the portrait of the Hungarians as suggested by narrative sources, namely the chronicles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, an important period for the relations between Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldavia. The study starts by analyzing the nature of written sources from the territory of Romania and moves to a detailed exploration of several chronicles produced in Moldavia and Wallachia in order to reconstruct the image of the Hungarians as projected by these writings. The essay highlights the fact that chroniclers did not distinguish between Hungarians living in Royal Hungary and Transylvania and that these early modern authors generally adopted clichés from the existing literature. The study proceeds to analyze the most important statements and characterizations concerning the Hungarians. The essay shows that often the portraits of prominent personalities from Hungary and Transylvania have been used as a basis for generalizations concerning the Hungarian people. In this sense, the portraits of Transylvanian princes have proved to be the most relevant. The study allows the conclusion that these primarily descriptive sources were only able to convey a very general image of the Hungarians while highlighting the fact that the chroniclers' choice of protagonists was strongly dictated by their role in events and their impact on the history of their own country. The essay also underlines that the correspondence in Hungarian of Moldavian and Wallachian princes does not add to the image of the Hungarians constructed with the help of narrative sources.