Defending the ‘Sacrilege against the Homeland’: The Romanian Legal Elite in Hungary on the Benches of the Memorandum Trial (1894)

Ovidiu Emil Iudean



An integral part in the nation-building processes unfolding in the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy was the formation of specific elite segments that could shepherd various ethnic or confessional communities towards modernity or help to preserve their national existence in the face of de-nationalising policies. Over time, the establishment of a legal elite – graduates of law academies and faculties – assumed an increasingly important role, especially for national minorities. The present paper attempts to tally the results of the collective endeavour on the part of the Romanians in Dualist Hungary to forge this elite segment by focusing on the swansong moment of Romanian petitioning, the Memorandum trial of 1894. It examines the impromptu selection of local members of the Romanian legal elite in Hungary, occasioned by the need to defend the leadership of the Romanian national movement in the courtroom, and discusses their educational and professional backgrounds. It also shines a light on the contrary positions taken by other members of the national leadership – also a segment of this legal elite – and the ensuing conflicts between and among the national leadership as both groups tried in their own way to defend the Romanian national movement.


legal elites; Dualist Hungary; Memorandum trial; nineteenth century; Romanian national movement

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