Romanian Nationalism (book)

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Romanian Nationalism: The Legionary Movement by Alexander E. Ronnett

Romanian Nationalism: The Legionary Movement by Alexander E. Ronnett is a 250 page book giving an overview of the history and doctrine of the Legion of Michael the Archangel or the Legionary Movement (also called the "Iron Guard") founded by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Ronnett explains that the Legion was largely a reaction against the exploitation of Romanian peasants and workers by capitalists and the threat of international Communism and the Soviet Union during the 1920s. Strong emphasis is put on its difference with National Socialism and Fascism.

The Legion's highly religious character, its nationalist mysticism, its rejection of democracy, and its glorification of labor and volunteer work are all explained as the basic points of its doctrine and function. [1] "Codreanu considered the Legion's mission a holy crusade; its enemies were, not only the enemies of Romania, but also the enemies of God." [2] According to Ronnett, the Legion was especially anti-Jewish largely because many leftists in Romania were Jewish as well, not because of any hatred. A large portion of the book is also spent explaining the history of Codreanu's Legion, with special focus on the three sets of heavy persecutions the Legionaries faced from King Carol II, Ion Antonescu, and the post-war Communist government (see The Pitesti Phenomenon). [3]

Unfortunately for those who wish to study Legionary history, this book is out of print and is accessible almost solely through university libaries. An essay titled "The Legionary Movement in Romania" delivered to the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) by Ronnett and Faust Bradescu appears to be an attempt to summarize their main points about the nature of the Legionary Movement and its history. A statement he made in this work perhaps explains why he believes that it is important that Legionarism is taught in a proper light: "..,the Legionary spirit persists, invisible but tenacious, anchored in the depths of the Romanian soul as the only salvation for the nation, and perhaps for the world, which sees and feels itself carried towards the abyss." [4]



On June 24, 1927, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, together with a few battle-tested comrades, founded the Legion of the Archangel Michael. In all his writings, Codreanu, known to all Romanians as "The Captain", referred to the Legion of the Archangel Michael as the Legionary Movement. This Movement was known in foreign circles and press as "The Iron Guard". Of great significance on the occasion of the founding of the Legion of the Archangel Michael are Codreanu's words: "Those whose faith in God and the Legion have no boundary should enter our ranks. Those who waver and doubt should stay out."

In a materialistic world Codreanu based his Movement on the following principles:


Corneliu Codreanu was of the firm conviction that politics could not be separated from religion. Only men who have respect for the Divine Order can become true patriots.


Corneliu Codreanu believed that nations are divine creations and not mere products of history and geography. He also believed that every nation has a mission to fulfill in the world. Only nations that betray their God-given mission disappear from the face of the earth.


Man is a bearer of superior values which transcend his particular existence. As such, being a divine creation, his spiritual values precede all material needs. For the realization of these values, the individual must fight and sacrifice throughout his life.

Among his principles there exists a hierarchical order. The individual is subordinate to his nation, and, in turn, the nation is subordinate to God and His divine laws.

The Legion of the Archangel Michael represented a nationalistic movement, whose aim was to change the individual and create a new "state of mind" of the nation. The Movement was not a political party. However, the Movement participated in the political arena in Romania with a party known as "Everything For The Fatherland" (TOTUL PENTRU TARA). In the elections of 1937 this party had a resounding success.

After having appeased Hitler and having obtained his assurance of "no interference in internal affairs", Carol II ordered the assassination of Codreanu. During the night of November 29-30, 1938, Codreanu and thirteen Legionnaires were strangled to death. From 1938 to 1940 Romanian jails were filled with Legionnaires. Most of the leaders of the Legionary Movement were killed during this period of time---they were taken out of prisons and concentration camps and machine-gunned to death.

1938 - 1940: Legionary Movement was headed by different Legionnaires. All of these leaders were killed.

September 3, 1940: Horia Sima, as the new leader of the Movement, succeeded in over- throwing Carol II. After this "over-throw" of the King, Horia Sima was accepted and anointed as the leader of the Movement. In the new government of Romania, Horia Sima took the position of Vice President.

January 1941: General Antonescu, with the help of Hitler, assumed military dictatorship and unleashed a new persecution against the Legionary Movement. Horia Sima and over 400 Legionnaires took refuge in Germany. As political refugees, Horia Sima and the other Legionnaires were incarcerated in the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Dachau and Oranienburg.

August 23, 1944: King Michael, with the help of the leaders of the political parties, arrested General Antonescu and committed the shameful act of treason against its ally, Germany. The Romanian army entered the war against Germany.

August 26, 1944: Horia Sima formed the National Romanian Government and became the President of the Romanian Government, with headquarters in Vienna.

The Legionary Movement in Exile, under the leadership of Horia Sima, continues the fight against communism.

Publication Data

Romanian Nationalism: The Legionary Movement. Alexander E. Ronnett. Translated by Vasile C. Barsan. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1974. ISBN 0829402322 (a second edition was published in 1995 by the Romanian-American National Congress)


  1. Interestingly, Ronnett denies that the Legionaries cared about race. This is, unfortunately, an error in his otherwise good explanations of the doctrine. While some individual Legionaries did not care about race, overall the Legion was actually concerned with keeping the nation racially cohesive, although simultanesouly it did not express any racial supremacism. For more on this, see: Talk:Legionary Doctrine.
  2. Alexander E. Ronnett, Romanian Nationalism, pg. 17.
  3. Ronnett wrote: "That same year (1948) in May tens of thousands were arrested throughout the country. The prisons were filled to saturation with Legionaries. Especially three of these prisons - Pitesti, Aiud, and Gheria - will be forever remembered for the tragic fate of the Legionaries..." (p. 56).
  4. Ronnett, Alexander E. and Bradescu, Faust. “The Legionary Movement in Romania.” The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 193-228. Link to online IHR version:

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