During the inter-war decades, the central and local authorities have often attempted to rectify the imbalance between the historical importance of Alba Iulia and its less powerful position among the urban centers of the country. Only in the fourth decade of the twentieth century did some signs of such a transformation become apparent, when the developments of regionalization projects envisioned an important administrative role for the city that would extend its authority well beyond its county limits. From 1938 to 1940, Alba Iulia was the seat of the royal residence of Mureș district.
Reexamining inter-war Romanian administrative thought demonstrates that the regionalization projects and the vision regarding the role of Alba Iulia from such a perspective appeared before 1938. As it is known, Iuliu Maniu was one of the sincerest supporters of administrative decentralization. In 1924, the maker of Great Romania daringly asserted that the future belonged to broader political and economic units, regardless of their official titles: either confederations or federations. Thus, Iuliu Maniu, who was a candidate in the elections for deputies, in 1919-1937, in Alba Iulia electoral circumscription appears as a forerunner of the ideas of European Union. In 1929, as prime minister, he was in charge of the first administrative regionalist reform in the modern history of Romania, consisting in the creation of seven “directorates” taking over part of the government’s responsibilities in connection with local administration.
The administrative reform of 1938 divided Romania into ten districts: Someş, Mureş, Olt, Bucegi, Timiş, Prut, Marea, Dunărea de Jos, Nistru, and Suceava.
The new regional unit of Mureş district, with its capital in Alba Iulia, included nine counties: Alba, Ciuc, Făgăraş, Mureş, Odorhei, Sibiu, Târnava Mare, Târnava Mică, and Turda. Alba Iulia was far from outrunning other cities like Sibiu, Târgu Mureş, Turda, Mediaş, and Sighişoara as concerned population or economic potential. The express goal was to make Alba Iulia the capital of the district to generate a development process that would put the economic, social, and cultural status of the city on a par with its unmatched historical achievements.
The decree of 1939 gave the head of the district the title of Royal Resident. However, he was considered the representative of the government and the administrator of his area of competence.
The personality of the resident and the level of official representation mobilized at his installation illustrates the importance given to Mureș district, among similar structures. Dănilă Papp (1868-1950) was the son of an official from Zarand County. From 1887, he attended the Theresian Military Academy in Vienna, then the Superior School of Engineering. During World War 1, he advanced to the rank of colonel and head of brigade. He won resounding victories in Galitia, Bucovina, and Italy. His commanders showed him exceptional appreciation. His brigade was called “Brigade Dandár Papp”. After 1918 he was enrolled in the Romanian army and by 1930, when he retired, he had obtained the rank of general.
On 18 August 1938, Royal Resident Dănilă Papp was installed in the presence of Miron Cristea, Patriarch of Romania and president of the Council of Ministers, Armand Călinescu, Minister of Internal Affairs, and of the Partenie Ciopron, the Bishop of the Army.
Remembering the fate of the city, we should not overlook the fact that the “Decree law for administrative reform” of 13 August 1938 was conceived in connection with a broader process meant to establish the authoritarian regime of King Carol II. The ideas presented above are likely to improve the perception of the districts. We can conclude that the regionalization, as it was applied in 1930s, was not invented be the Carlist regime. Its application was the follow up of a process that had already been theorized and implemented one decade earlier. Nevertheless, Dănilă Papp’s mission was ambivalent. On the one hand, he had to ensure the establishment of the new structures of the regime in the district: the professional corporations of fascist inspiration, the single party—Front of National Renaissance—National Guard of the front, and the youth organization Guard of the Country. On the other hand, following natural personal leanings, he became a member of Astra, supporting the activity of this cultural society as well as that of the newly established Regional Museum of Alba Iulia. He also initiated the creation of professional schools in Alba County.
As the institution of the royal residence was short lived, it is difficult to draw conclusions regarding its performance. A couple of days after Carol II’s abdication on 6 September 1940 the Carlist institutions were abolished, including the districts. Dănilă Papp lost the title of resident, but did not fall into disgrace with the new power. Ion Antonescu appointed him plenipotentiary minister of Romania at the Holy Seat, an office that he held until 1944. He succeeded in preserving his prestige in his relationship with Antonescu, who did not regard him as a representative of the Carlist regime, but that was not the case with the subsequent Communist regime. The general lived his last years (1944-1950) in Sibiu, where he suffered awful persecutions and deprivations.(V.M.)