Historia Universitatis Iassiensis 11, 35–79

Ovidiu Buruiană | The Birth of the Public Intellectual: Dimitrie Gusti

Abstract. The topic of this study is Dimitrie Gusti, a major personality of the Romanian public and academic sphere from the first half of the twentieth century. As far as his agenda, approach and results are concerned, Gusti is on a par with Titu Maiorescu, Constantin Stere, Nicolae Iorga, Eugen Lovinescu etc. The school of sociology he founded in Bucharest, his endeavours towards the monographic research of the Romanian village using teams of students, editing the Encyclo¬paedia of Romania etc. reveal a socially involved academic, an inspiring personality and a cultural organizer eager to transform the Romanian commu¬nity, a true “mentor of the nation.” Reclaimed, with an ulterior motive, by the restored Bucharest school of sociology after 1990, following their wish to aca¬demically reconfigure their own field of knowledge starting from the inaugural figure of The Professor, D. Gusti has never been the object, however, of a pro¬fes-sional historical biography meant to clarify some episodes in his formation as a member of academia and as a historian, as well as the model of social and cultural action he espoused, including its public implementation. Using the sources available, published or unpublished, at the Iași University Archives, the Faculty of Letters and the Rectorate collections, the memoirs and correspondence of contemporary figures, the goal of the present research is to restore the 1910-1920 period in the sociologist’s life, years that Gusti, now a mature, professionally established and fully formed intellectual, spent in Iași after completing university studies in Germany and France with flying colours. This second stage can be defined in Gusti’s biography as a foundational one, the time when he started to matter as an academic, the period of his beginnings as a public figure in the Romanian milieu. At the same time, this decade was one of challenges, testing his methods and establishing him as a crucial character for the development of a scientific field in Romania – sociology – and a certain type of social action, through The Association for Study and Social Reform which accompanied it, both decisive from the point of view of his research. At the end of his Iași period, even if he had not become a major public figure, able to decisively influence social reality, professor Gusti was still a recognized personality, the University’s dean of the Faculty of Letters and Philology, a corresponding member of the Academy and one of its members, starting with 1918. The use of the semi-biographic approach as a method implied under-standing the character in context. Gusti’s personal history crossed paths, in this paper, with other histories. First and foremost, an intellectual history, connected to that prestigious group formed during his years as a student in Germany, led by Vasile Pârvan and including (with the exception of Gusti), Traian Bratu, Ion Ursu, Marin Simionescu-Rîmniceanu and, later on, Virgil Madgearu, a group which played a significant part in the sociologist’s professional, academic and public journey. At the same time, Gusti’s biography appeals to institutional history, mainly that of the Iași University, of Romanian superior education at the time, as well as local history, that of Iași and its administrative, political or cultural decay. Dimitrie Gusti’s trajectory illustrates the marginality of Iași and its university, mere trampolines for more advantageous situations. In the context of a pronounced Bucharest centralism, in which resources were discriminately distributed and prestigious professors were looking to find academic outlets to “escape” to, Iași became yet another of the university cities of Romania.