Maniu

Maniu

Maniu, Iuliu, 1873-1951, Romanian politician, head of the Romanian National Peasants' party. Born in Transylvania, he helped to organize the Romanian national movement there before and during World War I. In 1918 he headed the Romanian provisional government. As premier (with one slight interruption) from 1928 to 1930, he enacted liberal reforms, which were soon abrogated by King Carol II. He was briefly premier again in 1932-33. Maniu opposed Carol and the dictatorship of Ion Antonescu. Denounced as a reactionary by the Communists, in 1947 he was convicted of treason and given a life sentence. He was unofficially reported to have died in prison.

Iuliu Maniu (January 8, 1873February 5, 1953) was an Romanian politician. A leader of the National Party of Transylvania and Banat before and after World War I, he served as Prime Minister of Romania for three terms during 1928–1933, and, with Ion Mihalache, co-founded the National Peasants' Party.

Early years

Maniu was born to an ethnic Romanian family in Bădăcin, near Şimleu Silvaniei, Hungarian Kingdom in Austria-Hungary. He finished lyceum in Zalău, and studied Law at the University of Cluj, then at the University of Budapest and that of Vienna, being awarded the doctorate in 1896.

Maniu joined the Romanian National Party of Transylvania and Banat (PNR), became a member of its collective leadership body in 1897, and represented it in the Budapest Parliament on several occasions. He settled in Blaj, and served as lawyer for the Greek Catholic Church (to which he belonged). Maniu was influenced by the activity of Simion Bărnuţiu, a close friend of his father, Ioan Maniu.

After serving as an advisor for Archduke Franz Ferdinand, counseling on the latter's projects to redefine the Habsburg states along the lines of a United States of Greater Austria, Maniu moved towards the option of a union with the Romanian Old Kingdom when the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914.

PNR leadership

Together with such figures as Vasile Goldiş, Gheorghe Pop de Băseşti, the Romanian Orthodox cleric Miron Cristea, and Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, he engaged in an intensive unionist campaign, leading to the Alba-Iulia gathering on December 1, 1918 (during which Romanians demanded separation from Hungary). On December 2, Maniu became head of Transylvania's Directory Council—a position equivalent to interim governorship.

After the creation of Greater Romania, the PNR formed the government in Bucharest—a cabinet led by Vaida-Voevod and allied with Ion Mihalache's Peasants' Party. It entered a competition with the traditional force of Romanian politics, the National Liberal Party, and with its leader Ion I. C. Brătianu, when the Peasants' Party deadlocked the Parliament of Romania with calls for a widespread land reform.

After King Ferdinand I dissolved the Parliament, Iuliu Maniu found himself at odds with the national leadership, especially after the new Prime Minister Alexandru Averescu (with support from the National Liberals) dissolved the Transylvanian Council in April 1920. Consequently, Maniu refused to attend Ferdinand's crowning ceremony as King of Greater Romania (held in Alba Iulia, in 1922), seeing it as an attempt to tie multi-religious Transylvania to Orthodoxy. At the same time, the PNR rejected the centralization imposed by the 1923 Constitution favored by Brătianu, and demanded that any constitutional reform be passed by a Constituent Assembly, and not by a regular vote in Parliament. Citing fears that the PNL had ensured a grip over Romanian politics, the PNR and the Peasants' Party united in 1926, and Maniu was leader of the new group, the National Peasants' Party (PNŢ), for the following seven years, and again between 1937 and 1947.

PNŢ in democratic Romania

Despite its success in elections, the PNŢ was blocked out of government by the Royal Prerogative of King Ferdinand (who had preferred to nominate Brătianu, Averescu, and Barbu Ştirbey). Maniu publicly protested, and attempted to organize a peasants' march on Bucharest as a public show of support modeled on the Alba Iulia assembly. He also showed himself open to deals proposed by Viscount Rothermere regarding a review of the Treaty of Trianon, and, as King Ferdinand's death approached, started negotiations with the disinherited Prince Carol (Ferdinand's son), proposing that the latter bypass the Constitution and crown himself in Alba Iulia (as a new foundation for the Romanian Kingdom). Talks with Carol were ended abruptly after the Romanian authorities called on the United Kingdom to expel the Prince from its territory.

The PNŢ only came to power in November 1928, after both Ferdinand and Brătianu had died (in the elections of that year, it allied itself with the Romanian Social Democratic Party and the German Party). In 1930, Maniu maneuvered against the Constitution, and, together with Gheorghe Mironescu, brought about Carol's return and deposition of his son Michael. However, Carol did not respect the terms of his agreement with Maniu, refusing to resume his marriage to Queen Elena. After alternating governments of Maniu and Vaida-Voevod that had brought the party into conflict with the King's inner circle and with his lover Magda Lupescu, and had to deal with major problems caused by the Great Depression (including strike actionssee Griviţa Strike of 1933), Carol ultimately removed the PNŢ from national leadership.

Under successive dictatorships

The country moved towards an authoritarian regime formed around Carol and prompted by the rapid growth of the fascist Iron Guard. In 1937, Maniu agreed to sign an electoral pact with the Iron Guard's Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, in the hope that this would block the monarch's maneuvers. The king instead sought an agreement with other members of the political class, including the National Liberal Ion Duca and the former PNŢ politician Armand Călinescu, while clamping down on the Iron Guard—leading to a wave of terrorist actions in reprisal.

With the loss of Northern Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Northern Dobruja in 1940, Carol conceded power and exiled himself, leading to the creation of the National Legionary State around the Iron Guard and General Ion Antonescu, a regime which aligned Romania with Nazi Germany and the Axis. The PNŢ survived in semi-clandestinity and, after Antonescu purged the Guard, achieved some unofficial status when Maniu began holding talks with the general over several issues (notably, he called for an end to persecution of the Jews and transports of Jews to Transnistria). He remained an opponent of Antonescu, a view which he balanced with his adversity towards the Soviet Union, and joined the plotters of the pro-Allied royal coup in 1944, while expressing his resentment of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) involvement.

Opposition to communism

Subsequently, Maniu was the most prominent adversary of Soviet influence and advocate of the Western Allies, while his party became the predilect target of PCR hostility. After events such as the street fighting between the its supporters and Communists in February 1945, and the loss of the general election of November 1946 through widespread electoral fraud carried out by the pro-communist Petru Groza government, the PNŢ was sidelined, with the PCR ensuring the collaboration of several former party members, such as Nicolae L. Lupu and Anton Alexandrescu.

The party was outlawed in July 1947. That month, Ion Mihalache was alleged to have attempted to flee the country in an airplane which landed at Tămădău, in order to establish a government in exile (see Tămădău Affair). This was judged as treasonable, and both Maniu and Mihalache faced a kangaroo court that sentenced them to life imprisonment in a hard labour prison; given their advanced age, this amounted to a death sentence. The show trial, signaling the suppression of opposition groups, was a significant step towards the establishment of a communist regime in Romania.

Iuliu Maniu died in 1953 in Sighet prison, and his body was thrown into the common grave in the courtyard.

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