Iuliu Maniu was one of the most prominent politicians of interwar Romania. He started his political career as a deputy in the Parliament in Budapest, before the unification of Transylvania with Romania; then, in the interwar period, he was member of the Parliament in Bucharest and President of the Romanian National Party from Transylvania, and from 1926 he was President of the National Peasant Party and Prime Minister of Romania. Although he did not originate from Alba Iulia, he developed a strong affection for this city. Therefore, on 28 May 1995, on the initiative of local authorities, a statue of this Transylvanian political leader was unveiled.
Iuliu Maniu was born on 8 January 1873 in Şimleu Silvaniei, as an Austro-Hungarian subject, in the period when Transylvania was ruled by Austro-Hungary. His ancestors were illustrious members of the Romanian elite struggling for national rights. His grandfather was Simion Bărnuțiu, one of the leaders of the Transylvanian Romanians during the 1848 revolution. His uncle was Iuliu Coroianu, who wrote the petition (Memorandum) addressed to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz-Joseph by the Romanian leaders of Transylvania in 1892. As a child, Iuliu Maniu lived in Şimleu Silvaniei and Bădăcin, a small locality where his parents owned a property of fifteen hectares. He attended the primary school in Blaj and the Calvinist High School in Zalău. He was noted for his irreproachable behaviour and “iron diligence.” Following the tradition of his family, he studied law at universities in Cluj, Vienna and Budapest. In Budapest, he earned the title of doctor in 1896. At first, he practiced advocacy in Şimleu Silvaniei, but as he was Greek Catholic, from 1898 he settled in Blaj as an advocate for the Greek Catholic Metropolitan Seat.
His political activity was strongly connected to the changes that affected Transylvania and, after 1918, Greater Romania. By 1905 he was already member of the leading organism of the Romanian National Party from Transylvania, and the following year he became a deputy in the Parliament in Budapest. There he was noted for the “admirable Hungarian language” of his speeches, as asserted by Count Albert Apponyi.
The unification of Transylvania with Romania, decided by the Great National Assembly on 1 December 1918 in Alba Iulia, had significant consequences for all Transylvanians. The political leaders from this province were subsequently required to integrate into the political life of the Old Kingdom, a formula referring to the Romanian state from March 1881 to November 1918.
During the periods 1919-1926 and 1926-1947, he was President of the Romanian National Party and the National Peasant Party respectively, with an interruption from 1933 to 1937. From 2 December 1918 to 4 April 1920, he was president of the Governing Council of Transylvania, an autonomous government of the province. He was Prime Minister of Romania from November 1928 to October 1930, and October 1932 to January 1933. He was adept at political and juridical decentralization, his attitude colliding with the centralist policy of the liberals which paralyzed local initiatives.
The “Sphynx of Bădăcin”, as he was nicknamed for his tendency not to express his feelings, became a devotee of western democracy during the Second World War, when he was in favour of working in close cooperation with the USA and Great Britain. Nicolae Iorga describes him as a Central European politician, the “head of the Transylvanians”, who was unable to integrate in the political life of the Old Kingdom, which was characterised by corruption and opportunism. Maniu was the embodiment of unstained honesty, he was an abstemious person even when he ‘tasted strong plum brandy and wine’, he was known for always dressing irreproachably, and he always acted correctly and followed high moral standards.
However, his impeccable moral standards were difficult to resolve with the reality of political life. The minimal legal conditions that he demanded, in combination with the duplicity of Bucharest politicians, led the Transylvanian leader to eventually reject the possibility of assuming governmental power after 1933. He remained an opponent to the end of the career: he excelled in criticism and political debates, but was short of constructive solutions.
In 1947, after a Stalinist trial for which his final sentence had been decided before court proceedings even began, Iuliu Maniu was condemned to “hard prison for life” by the Communist authorities of Romania. Six years later, on 5 February 1953, he died in the prison for political inmates in Sighet. His body was disposed of in a communal burial ditch in an unidentified place.
Although Iuliu Maniu was born in northwest Transylvania, far from Alba Iulia, he was always attracted by this city. In the parliamentary elections organised before 1918, he stood as candidate in the electoral ward of Vințu de Jos, Lower Alba County. In the interwar period, he served regularly as deputy of Alba’s electoral circumscription. He was in Alba Iulia on 1 December 1918, as well as for the Unification celebrations on 20 May 1929. The great Assemblies organised by the National Peasant Party were usually held in Alba Iulia or in its proximity, at Vințu de Jos. However, he did not attend the ceremony of coronation of King Ferdinand I and Queen Mary in the city’s Orthodox cathedral.
Since the most important moments of Iuliu Maniu’s political activity were connected to Alba Iulia, a statue of this leader was unveiled on 28 May 1995, in the proximity of Alba Tribunal, Alba Iulia’s Law Court and several advocate offices. The statue was made by the sculptor Doina Lie, born in Sebeș, and the base and the arrangement of the square were created by the architect Doru Deleu. (S.A.)