Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu
Encyclopaedist, linguist, writer (1836-1907)

For a people, the dictionary of its language should be the encyclopaedia of its entire past and present life. A nation mirrors itself in its language. - Nicolae Iorga

He was a brilliant man... he was knowledgeable in all areas, so he could always astound most people; he had such an elastic mind that one could hardly find in another, and, moreover, he was insightful, sharp; he was a writer who was brave in battle and exhibited a relentless irony, he was a collocutor who brought into question new points of view, and when he could not enlighten, he dazzled through the sparks he struck off, and when he could not persuade the enemy, he drove him away through the cruel offence of the most legitimate pride, the most delicate feelings and the longest and most truly loved ideas. ... He gave our collections of sources the Historical Archive, he gave the first book of Slavistics written by a Romanian; in Words of Old, he gathered samples from the old language, which had never been done by others; he hastened the development of historical studies, throwing into circulation, especially for the old times, through the Critical History ... a huge amount of new information; he dared to dream a great national encyclopaedia, attempted through Magnum Etymologicum. He was a trail blazer in so many areas of historical and philological science... He was handsome, he was loved, he was proud, he tasted at will from the heavenly honey of glory; with princely blood running through his veins, he dreamed of himself as a prince. He was once rich. He lived a long life and took everything that life had to offer him. wrote Nicolae Iorga
Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu was the most learned man of his century. He was a Professor of Indo-European languages at the University of Bucharest (he knew about twenty languages, among which Persian, Turkish, all the Slavic languages, etc.), but he could also teach political economics, law, history and ethnography. Hasdeu was a writer who in his plays, poems, historical novels or political lectures and articles evinced his never-failing love for his homeland and his people, as well as a deep knowledge of the people s language. He was a Romanian from head to toes as Mircea Eliade described him. Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, the descendant of a noble family of scholars, was born in Cristinesti, Hotin County, on 16 February 1836. He went to school in Podolia; he attended high school in Chisinau and university at Kharkov. He was hired in the army, was a judge in Cahul, went to Iasi, where he published a series of literary, philological and historical reviews (Romania, Foaia de istorie romana, Din Moldova, etc.),and arrived in Bucharest, where he carried out prodigious literary, philological, political and scientific activities. He was elected as a member of several academies (Bucharest, St. Petersburg, New York). The death of his daughter, Iulia (1888), tore his soul to pieces and almost ousted him from the scientific life. He died in Bucharest on 25 August 1907. He possessed the two major features of the great universal spirits: genius and a titanic drive to work. He fundamentally changed linguistics by introducing the principle of frequency for the very first time - the principle of circulation in the sense of the productive movement of values; to quote Hasdeu himself: In linguistics, the great principle of circulation, almost completely forgotten thus far, might be regarded as the corner stone of the edifice. What is called the physiognomy of a language is nothing but the result of circulation. The total physiognomy of the language comprises its partial physiognomies: phonetic, tonal, morphological, syntactic, lexical, ideological, each resulting from a particular circulation, so it may be the case, for instance, that the phonetic or lexical physiognomy is of a different nature from the syntactic or tonic physiognomy, but all the special circulations together conflow into a single general physiognomy. He made another start in 1874, when he launched the course of Comparative Philology at the University of Bucharest, placing the Romanian language in relation to Sanskrit, Zend, Armenian, Hellenic, Latin, Albanian, Celtic, the Germanic, Slavic and Romance language. In Principles of Comparative Aryan-European Philology and Have the Dacians Perished?, he drew attention to the Dacian substratum of our language against this broad historical context. Between 1876 and 1900 he was the director of the State Archives. A connoisseur of the Slavic languages, he published many Slavonic, Polish, Russian and Serbian documents relating to the history of the Romanian lands. His seminal work - the dictionary Etymologicum Magnum Romaniae (I-IV) - was preceded by two major works, A Critical History of the Romanians (1872) and Words of Old (1878-1881). In Etymologicum Magnum Romaniae, every word is treated exhaustively: etymologically, phonetically, tonally, morphologically, syntactically, and ideologically; regionalisms and archaisms are described, even the obsolete ones. Because of this, despite all the superhuman effort, the thesaurus stops at the word man (barbat in Romanian). He practised literature as a game, from time to time, to stave off his huge energy and imagination, but the novella Mistress Mamuca (1863), the monograph Ion Voda the Terrible (1865), the historical drama in verse Razvan and Vidra (1867) were true masterpieces. In the comedy Three Rakes from the East, he satirised those who corrupted the language. On a political realm, the brilliant and prolific philologist and historian was - what else - a visionary. He could foresee what many of his contemporaries did not even dare to dream, summarising thus the historical reality he was experiencing: Moldavia, Transylvania, Wallachia do not exist on the face of the earth: there is only a single Romania.

by O.C., translation by Carmen Borbely

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