Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania
- To open a school is not a minor event, because education means enlightenment. It means approaching new horizons and shaping young destinies. It means changing the future by molding the minds of young people. But to have had a school opened already in 1380 is a landmark in the history of a city. And it was the city of Sibiu which saw the opening of this school. The truth is that the citadel of Sibiu was permanently motivated by the desire to see its residents improve their knowledge, as knowledge has always meant power. Since the Church has constantly offered the best conditions for study, gathering under its protective wings the minds most avid for knowledge, it was a Theological-Pedagogical School which in 1786 marked the beginning of Higher Education in Sibiu. In 1850, the School changed its profile and became a Theological-Pedagogical Institute for Higher Education, which initially offered two-year courses, and starting with 1861, three-year courses; simultaneously, a Pedagogical section was founded, with a four-year program of studies.
- But the religious education provided by this Divinity School could not meet all the needs of the society of that time. The necessity of secular education was strongly felt all through the 19th century. The scholars of the time, many of whom had achieved their education abroad, constantly advocated the need of an institute of higher education or an academy as it used to be called at the time. Avram Iancu, one of the most beloved heroes and martyrs of our nation wrote in his will: “I therefore wish and resolutely decree that my fortune, both movable and unmovable, should be bequeathed after my death to my nation for its betterment to aid in the establishment of an Academy of Law as I strongly believe that those fighting with the weapons of the law will one day succeed in wresting the rights of my nation.” But the times were not friendly to us. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, in which Transylvania was incorporated, rejected all the petitions requesting the founding of an academy. Yet, the socio-economic realities of the time were acutely asking for specialists trained in law and administration. Aware of these imperious needs, the German population, which enjoyed at that time a privileged status, as compared to the Romanian majority which was only tolerated in Transylvania, managed to inaugurate an Academy of Law in Sibiu, in 1844. For twenty years the courses were taught in German, but the students enrolled were not all Germans necessarily. After 1865, as a result of the policy of forced assimilation led by the Austro-Hungarian authorities, the teaching of the Hungarian language was imposed in all schools. The Academy of Law in Sibiu was no exception. Consequently, starting with 1865, the courses were taught in Hungarian until 1887, when the Academy was forcibly disbanded by the same Austro-Hungarian authorities.
- Once again, the hopes and dreams of all those teaching and learning in this Academy of Law were crushed. And the ashes of unfulfillment were scattered again on all the hopes of seeing the bettering of this nation through education. Still, a large number of the 1,387 students who graduated from this Academy of Law would become spokesmen for the Romanian cultural movement in Transylvania. Many of them would get involved in organizing the Great Unification of Romania, which, though completed in Alba-Iulia, was prepared here, in Sibiu, in the very building which shelters today the Rectorate. Yet, years would pass by in their implacable flight, and Sibiu would not see another institute of higher education. The strivings and the efforts of the local community to open one would amount to nothing. But, as if it were an irony, Fate, whose playthings we seem to be, almost forced us to have a University, actually to shelter it. It was a time of internecine war, the Second World War. Who would have thought that the War might have beneficial effects on a city long disfavored by History? Who would have imagined that the Dictate of Vienna (1940) which maimed Romania by awarding Northern Transylvania to Hungary, might actually mean a new beginning for higher education in Sibiu, by forcing the University of Cluj to find a shelter in Hermannstadt?
- Yet, during the hard years of war, Sibiu witnessed and encouraged the ebullience of higher education. Though the times were not friendly, the number of students increased from 2,307 in the academic year 1940/1941 to 3,386 in 1943/1944. But more important than the numerical growth was the excellent performance of the academics and students who were in exile. They published around 2,000 papers during these four years and held 300 conferences in 25 towns. They even initiated a Literary Circle which was to be remembered later on as the “Sibiu Literary Circle.” In times when people were destroying everything, good or bad, when history was being dramatically changed, some young philology students committed themselves to a spiritual endeavor which was infinitely more rewarding: Culture. These idealistic young people opposed the current tendency of destroying by trying to construct, to build something which would endure. When, not far away cannons were fired, these young scholars who felt that culture was their only chance, would meet to endlessly discuss ideas under the patronizing gaze of the one whose name this University bears today: Lucian Blaga.
- In 1945 the University of Cluj would return home, but it would leave its spirit behind. The sidewalks would continue to remember the steps of the students who, forgetting themselves, would start reciting poems in the streets. The trees would continue to remember the talks of the medicine students who sought shelter from the sun under their lofty boughs. The air would continue to remember the thoughts it used to hear. Yet another quarter of a century would pass by until Sibiu would see its dream come true. It was only in 1969 that the School of History was founded as a branch of the University of Cluj. Two years later, it was turned into the School of Philology and History, whose Department of Philology included German, English and Romanian sections. In the same year, the School of Public Administration - with a program of studies not found elsewhere in Romania - came into existence. The following year meant a new School, the School of Wood-Processing, functioning as a branch of the University of Brasov.
- The impetuous evolution of the higher education system in Sibiu entailed the foundation of the autonomous Institute of Higher Education in 1976. The Institute included the following Schools: Philology and History, Public Administration, and Mechanical Engineering. But the times were once more hostile to us. Despite a prodigious academic performance of national and international repute, the dictatorial regime of the 80s, whose anti-cultural and anti-academic policy was set against any intellectual life, gradually suppressed the activity of the Schools of Philology, History and Law, until they ceased to exist altogether. Ironically, the School of Law would end its existence precisely 100 years after its former disbandment. Only the School of Mechanical Engineering continued in the form of an Institute of Subengineers, part of the Polytechnic School of Cluj-Napoca. Out of the total number of students, seventy-five per cent were trained as mechanical engineers.
- This marked another end in a long series of failures. Futility reigned supreme once more, and the strivings of all those who had cherished the dream of seeing Sibiu a powerful center of intellectual life, amounted to nothing. But if a man can be destroyed, he cannot be defeated; similarly an Institute of Higher Education can be disbanded, yet its spirit cannot be broken. The spirit of higher education continued to live not only in the buildings which had been closed but also in the hearts of all those who see the progress of a nation in education. The spirit waited patiently for better times, for times when education would no longer be a crime, an offense against the regime. And these times finally came with a bang: the Revolution of December 1989 swept away all the lies and the “scientific programs”, the isolation of the country and the darkness which had grown thicker and thicker. A cruel and unjust history was eventually turning its face towards us, heralding better days. And shortly after the Revolution - which claimed the second greatest number of martyrs in Sibiu - the Ministry of Education did justice to the long-victimized city. In recognition of Sibiu’s certain potential as an academic center, the Ministry decreed, on March, 5, 1990, the founding of a University encompassing five Schools: Letters, History and Law, Medicine, Food and Textile-Processing Technology, Engineering, and Sciences. On 12 May 1995, the University of Sibiu was granted the name of the distinguished Romanian writer and philosopher, Lucian Blaga.
- It was a new beginning and this time nothing could prevent the unfettering of the resources which had lain dormant. Nothing could prevent the University of Sibiu from becoming what it deserved to be: a center of academic excellence and social renewal.