extras din HENRI H. STAHL: EPISTOLAR GUSTIAN, O culegere de Zoltán Rostás, Editura PAIDEIA, 2015
This volume contains letters that Professor Henri H. Stahl, a prominent member of the Sociological School from Bucharest, gave to me in the 80s. We publish these mainly for their significant value. On this occasion, we briefly present the Professor’s activity in the years after the Second World War.
Beyond making this scientific instrument, which I consider of utmost importance, I felt the need to sketch the portrait of Professor Stahl as he was in his youth. I aim this because, from time to time, studies about the Professor are published, but none of them include his portrait.
In fact, the intellectual portrait of Professor Henri H. Stahl – born on the 12th of October 1901, in a family of intellectuals, immigrated in Bucharest for three generations – must begin with the double influence he was upon, in his parents’ house. This is not because he insisted upon this, but because the study of his work suggests it. The one that was to become ”the greatest contemporary social historian of the Eastern Europe” was firstly influenced by Gaston Boeuve, the older brother of his mother, from her first marriage. He was the one that introduced Stahl in the universe of social-democrat thinking, and who became the leader of this movement, under the name of Șerban Voinea. Șerban Voinea, a student and an admirer of Constantin Dobrogeanu – Gherea, and helped Stahl to become from an early age a good connoisseur of his doctrine.
The other major influence came from Nicolae Iorga, who was in Stahl’s childhood a frequent guest in his parents’ house. In fact, Stahl’s father was historian, paleographer and a great stenographer, to whom the historian N. Iorga had dictated a lot of his work. It was natural, then, to ask him: taking into account the immense prestige of Iorga and his profound sympathy for the historian, how come he wasn’t of right orientation? The answer fully defines him:”I wasn’t inclined to Iorga, as well as I wasn’t inclined to socialists either, politically speaking. But the problems raised by Gherea could be debated only in socialist circles, not in any other place…”
H.H. Stahl met Professor Dimitrie Gusti at the right moment, given that precisely in that period he began – in the mid-20s – the series of sociological monograph research campaigns in the villages. Even since the first campaign he participated in – Rușețu (Brăila) 1926 – Stahl came into Gusti’s attention. He was very talented in the methodology of collective research, and also interested in social history. After the summer research campaign in 1926, Stahl became part of the Seminar of Sociology. Through a non-political intellectual activity of its participants, the Seminar set the grounds for a thinking school, for an alternative cultural movement to what the Romanian society proposed at that moment. At this Seminar, the participants weren’t seeking arguments to become members of one movement or another, but they were looking for these movements’ causes. But, above all, the members of the sociological Seminar – in fact an advanced students’ workshop – were eager to set a scientific attitude in examining the social problems, in order to drop out the ”awful empirical” government – as Gusti described the political and administrative public issues. The campaign from Nerej (Vrancea) in 1927 was decisive for Stahl’s scientific career. This research grounded the original study of the joint property village – the research place for Stahl for more than ten years. In Nerej, he was the research coordinator split into specialty teams, according to the ”frames and manifestations” theory, as designed by Gusti. That was the moment when he began the long work that lead to his monumental writing, written in 1939, in French, Nerej, un village d’une région archaïque. No less important was the research campaign from Fundul Moldovei, in 1928. At this moment, Stahl, together with Dimitrie Gusti and Mircea Vulcănescu, brought his contribution in defining the theory of monographic sociology. In 1928, the monographic team became even more united, by forming the Monographists’ Association, within which Stahl played a major role. In the research campaign in 1929, from Drăguș – the biggest, given the number of participants and its echo – besides coordination, Stahl was in charge of the relations with the German minority (Sachsen), with the agrarian history and with the manner of using and administrating the land. This is the moment when Stahl raised the problem given by an extremely high number of students participating in research campaign, affecting the research efficiency. He insisted upon this subject constantly.
In the four years of intense work in the sociological monography, he was appreciated by Professor Gusti and also by new young colleagues. One of them was Traian Herseni, who is remembered as a lonely researcher, restrained in expressing feelings of friendship. However, the five letters published in this volume, dated between 1929 and 1930, sent by Herseni to Stahl, from Berlin, represent documents of great importance. They show the way in which the young monographist, left to study in Berlin, used to think (an issue that would deserve a separate study), and also depict the relationships within the Gusti School, and with Stahl in particular. Another younger friend, and who used to work in music research together with Constantin Brăiloiu, was Harry Brauner. He used to write to Stahl ”a pathetic letter sent in the Easter days, from the City of Lights.” Harry Brauner participated in the monographic campaigns from Drăguș, Runcu and Cornova and he was shocked by the difference between the research style from Paris and the results of the campaigns organized by Gusti. According to this part of correspondence, Gusti also received this kind of letters from monographists left to study abroad through a scholarship program. Of course, the letters are more academic, given the age and social status difference between the Professor and the students. And the Parisian “report” of Ion Ionică – known for his sobriety – would have been even more detailed, without colloquial expressions.
Between 1929 and 1932, Stahl had already begun writing the manuscript of the volume The sociological monography technique, which he continued to improve in the next campaigns. However, he managed to publish it only in 1934, when Gusti became general director at the Royal Foundation and managed to cover the printing expenses.
In 1930, the Gusti School went in research campaign in Runcu, a village from Oltenia (the south west part of Romania). It was a research campaign with fewer participants, but with more professionalism. This research continued after the Second World War. A special feature of this campaign is given by the visit of a group of German students. This showed the international recognition of the rural researches coordinated by Gusti. The last “classic” monographic research campaign was organized in a region which was not part of the Old Kingdom, in Cornova, Bessarabia, in 1931. The team was smaller and Gusti used to come only for short visits. He was already president of several state organizations. For Stahl, the research campaign in Cornova was not a surprise, methodologically speaking. However, for the ”lonely researcher” it was extremely important, scientifically speaking. In Cornova, Stahl managed to improve the research method of joint property (devălmășie), which he named “social archeology”.
Also, the research in Cornova continued a phenomena launched at Runcu, by involving in the field work researchers who were foreign students. A Czech student was in Cornova, but there aren’t any memories or writings left. At a completion research campaign, in December 1931, was present the Hungarian student Gábor Lükő. Under the monographists’ influence, he continued to do field work for two more years, and left an important piece of work in connection with his researches in Romania. The student from Budapest became friend with Constantin Brăiloiu, Harry Brauner, Anton Golopenția and Mihai Pop. However, his joyful and bohemian life style was often remembered in the Gusti School memories.
Stahl considered that the research campaigns from Runcu and Cornova were not superior phases in the evolution of monography. However, his studies of “social archeology”, the ones signed by Anton Golopenția in the matter of “urbanization”, the research on magical practices by Ștefania Cristescu, the studies of Traian Herseni about the social classes in Cornova, all of them remain memorable within the results of the Gusti School. These studies were firstly published in the journals “The Archive for science and social reform [Arhiva pentru știință și reformă socială]” and “Romanian Sociology [Sociologie Românească]”, republished and developed afterwards.
At the beginning of the 30s, the young ones around Gusti, together with the whole young generation of intellectuals, showed the tendency to become known, public, intellectually and politically as well. On the background of the worldwide economic crisis, the permanent political crisis from Romania, and given different factors, in 1932 appeared the symptoms of “the monography crisis”. Gusti, under Stahl’s pressure, gave up a new monographic campaign in another village, in favor of writing the studies for publication. Therefore, the first “campaign for writing” was organized in Făgăraș. However, here came out another problem, the one of collective and individual work, an issue smoldering for a long time. Unfortunately, the systematic reports signed by Stahl and sent to Gusti from Făgăraș weren’t kept and we know about them only from the short thanking letter sent by the Professor. Another reason for the monography crisis was Dimitrie Gusti himself. Besides the presidency of the Autonomous House of State Monopols and the Society for Broadcasting, he also accepted to be ministry of Instruction, Cults and Arts in the peasant government of Vaida-Voievod. He could help the monographists from this position, but he couldn’t actually coordinate their scientific work.
On this background, any group of young people living in the interwar period considered they could express themselves through a periodical publication. Therefore, Gusti’s students as well, beginning with Anton Golopenția, did important enterprises to publish a journal of the monographists, entitled “Thought and deed [Gând și faptă]”. The plan failed, due to financial reasons. Without their own publication, some of the monographists used to publish their articles occasionally, in other weekly or daily journals. Meanwhile, others migrated temporarily or definitively in other professional areas, publishing their articles from time to time. Stahl, a more reserved personality, focused more on the theoretical problems of history and society, and less on the issue of social action, participated less in this process, far less than Mircea Vulcănescu, Traian Herseni and Octavian Neamțu. He wrote some articles in “The right [Dreapta]”, in “Faith [Credința]”, in other publications, but he was more attached to his seminar dedicated to the Technique of sociological monography, within the university where he was an honorary assistant. In this “crisis of monography”, he found another hideaway in the folklore research, together with Constantin Brăiloiu. He was, however, involved in the foundation of the cultural association “Criterion”, precisely because he was considered an expert in matter of social-democrat thinking. The main purpose of the circle was to calmly debate, from different ideological position, some prominent personalities of the century, in front of the public gathered in the festive room of the Foundation “Carol the 1st” from Bucharest. These debates became, through their dialogue and through their tolerance for the opponent ideology, a place to gather the whole generation of young intellectuals.
After two years of “monography crisis”, the Gusti School entered a new phase of evolution, once Dimitrie Gusti was named president of the Royal Cultural Foundation “Prince Carol”. From the old monographists, Stahl was the first requested by the Professor to reorganize the Foundation and to organize the students’ teams, in order to do more cultural work in the villages, and less research. At Stahl’s recommendation, the young monographist, organizer of students’ associations, Octavian Neamțu was also brought in the team (not very easily, as the letters from this volume show). Later on, he proved himself to be one of the best organizers of the Foundation.
Not all Gusti’s collaborators accepted his invitation to work within the Foundation. But this didn’t lead to the School’s dissolution. On the contrary, because of the Foundation’s existence, some publications could appear, such as “Students teams’ courier [Curierul echipelor studenști]”, since 1934, under the coordination of Stahl and Neamțu and the journal “Romanian Sociology [Sociologie Românească]”, since 1936. The second one was a publication wide opened to young sociologists within the Gusti School and not only, as the correspondence in this volume show.
In 1936 happened another extremely important thing: the Village Museum was launched. Stahl, with a great experience in organizing exhibitions, together with Victor Ion Pop, well known dramatist, director and scenographer, built and designed a museum in a record time. He made it out of the houses and other households gathered from establishments dismembered and transformed, brought from different places of the country. In their plans, Gusti and Stahl thought of this museum to become part of a future institute of social projects, under the Foundation name. The project was unconditionally supported by the king, as it fitted perfectly in his Majesty campaign to support the village.
Stahl contributed to organizing some other exhibition. He helped Dimitrie Gusti, who was, among other functions, general commissary of the Romanian pavilion in many international exhibitions. Despite his time consuming work with the royal teams, which was full of difficulties, administrative and political inconveniences, despite his hard work to realize in a record time the Village Museum, Stahl also had time to keep a scientific correspondence, among others with the American researcher Philip Mosely.
It is hard to understand the working style of the Gusti School, compared to its postwar period or even with nowadays style of work. The Foundation’s activity and the cultural work with the students’ royal teams was so time consuming, that it is hard to image how the proper sociological research could continue, individually or in group. For Stahl (and beginning with 1937 also for Golopenția) the full dedication to this double (but linked) mission came naturally. Moreover, Stahl proved to be a talented and worthy organizer of exhibitions, in setting the Romanian pavilion at the International Exhibition from Paris, in 1937. However, Gusti did not ask him to be part of the close circle of his collaborators. Instead, he delegated Stahl to lead the Foundation’s activity for some months. In exchange, when it came up to inform someone about a historical scientific success – Bucharest was to be the place to host the next International Congress of Sociology – the Professor sent to Stahl a letter from Paris, showing his joy and also his trust in Stahl and the monographists.
In the last years, it often was underlined the importance of the congress and the preparing activities, but this volume brings to light the unedited letters of Ioan Butura, Diaconu and Victor Tufescu, or the letters sent by Gusti to Philip Mosely.
As it is known, the Congress for which the three volumes Nerej were prepared, was postponed to April 1940, given the international situation. However, the Nazi Germany attacked Poland – the beginning moment of the Second World War, as it is known in history – exactly when the Congress was supposed to start in Bucharest. Together with the postponing declaration, with the banning of Social Service’s activity, followed by the law’s suspension, the publishing of Stahl’s volumes was stopped, together with many other volumes. Despite all these (Gusti’s resignation from the Foundation, suspension of financing the institution’s publications), the hope that the Congress would take place in 1940 was so powerful, they published in three volumes the monography Nerej. Un Village d’une région archaïque, coordinated by Stahl, and many other studies.
Even if Romania wasn’t at war at that moment, the internal political crisis and the external threats were very powerful. After the territorial concessions imposed by the Soviet Union and the fascists governments in Germany and Italy, the king’s regime failed, and the Legionary dictatorship was established. After the Legionary regime failed, Stahl worked at the Central Institute of Statistics and only in 1942 continued the work at the Seminar of Sociology, together with Gusti. He even managed to be associate professor.
After Romania was with the Allies in 1944, Henri H. Stahl resumed the research, under more modest conditions, but with talented young people. He resumed some themes of social history from the monographic campaign in Runcu. Also, because Professor Dimitrie Gusti began a long trip in USA and in France, Stahl was the only one to teach sociology. In this period of transition, the number of letters decreased. However, it is worth mentioning the letter Stahl received from his former student, Matei Dogan, who wrote a true report with his impressions at the University of Paris.
In these strained conditions and circumstances, Stahl wrote a new textbook entitled Sociology. Textbook for the 8th grade of secondary schools (1945) [Sociologie. Manual pentru clasa a VIII-a a şcoalelor secundare] and together with Șerban Voinea, an Introduction to sociology (1947) [Introducere în sociologie]. In the same period it was published, with a delay of two years, his first volume of social history research, The sociology of the village in joint property [Sociologia satului devălmaş românesc]. In terms of all sorts of privations after the war, and of scientific and cultural media restrictions, this book could not have a significant resonance. Precisely for this reason, it is very important to remember here of a letter received from the Danish researcher in economics, Marius Gormsen, who – with good knowledge of the Romanian language and social life – wrote to Stahl from Copenhagen, praising the last published book.
Stahl also continued his activity within the recent reestablished Social – Democrat Party, but only on a theoretical line, holding conferences when he was invited. Despite the fact he had been known since the 20s as a Marxist thinker, he was often criticized by the communist press. Moreover, in 1948, during the education’s reform, he was removed from the university, as well as Professor Dimitrie Gusti. He wasn’t trustworthy.
The first effective marginalization of sociology and of Gusti School began in 1948. Sociology was taken out from social sciences and humanities. Consequently, it was named a pseudo-science and a tool of the capitalism. However, I consider that what happened with the sociologists, with the Gusti School members, and of course with Stahl, is a totally different history, not of the science, or of the institutions, but of the intellectuals. A nuanced history of this is, still, a promise.
 Stahl, Henri (1877-1942)
 Rostás, Monografia…, p. 18
 The Romanian term – composesorat = a manner of association between owners of land, in which the properties are jointly administrated by persons delegated given the majority votes; each member keeps their right of property.