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    STUDIA HISTORIA - Issue no. 1 / 2021  

Authors:  ION CÂRJA.
  Abstract:  DOI: 10.24193/subbhist.2021.1.09

Article history: Received 20.11.2020; Revised 20.02.2021;
Accepted 15.05.2021; Available online 03.02.2022.
pp. 171-186



Abstract: The present article is based on two research experiences that were resulted in the printing of two volumes that included visual documents. In the present article, our aim is to present the content categories that can be found in the photographs and postcards with and about the Romanians from the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy who took part in the traumatizing experience of World War I. Thus, a first theme that is rich and varied included the “faces” of the officers, soldiers and, last but not least, the civilians, in different situations, contexts and stances imposed by the war’s developments. There are group photographs that contain a varying number of soldiers, from two – three persons, up to several dozens, along with individual photographs; in all of these photographs, there are soldiers and officers, together or separate. Next, there is a distinct category of visual materials, concerning propaganda; they are mostly illustrated postcards that circulated as correspondence between the firing line and the “home front”. The symbolism of the state authority, along with the image of the emperor and that of the imperial family, were a recurring presence in the imagistic content with which the Austrian-Hungarian postcards printed during the war tried to send a loyalist message or to consolidate it in the community’s mentality. The materials that are related to the course of the daily life near the front, as well as behind it, are particularly interesting; the photographs taken during the war usually depict non-fighting moments, the moments of rest, containing with varied and diverse themes. There is a special category of visual documents that have been preserved from the time of the war, depicting the suffering that was inflicted upon the participants and the manner in which it was “handled”. Thus, among the photographs that fall in this category, we encountered those of the wounded and hospitalized soldiers, the field hospitals and the personnel with medical attributions that served near the units. Another theme section directly connected to the previous one is represented by the physical embodiment of death along the front line: photographs of funerals, graves and military cemeteries. There is a category of visual sources, from both public and private collections, that related to the war “on the seas”, photographs and postal cards of the marine troops serving in the Empire; they were stationed at Pola, in the Adriatic Sea. The photographs taken during the Great War that depict soldiers alongside civilians are of particular interest. Mostly, they are soldiers together with their own family members (mothers, wives, children etc) that are depicted in photographs that were taken far from the front line, during leaves, when the soldiers could briefly re-join their native communities. The Romanians that served in the war, wearing the military uniform of the double monarchy and who left its sphere of loyalty, either by becoming prisoners or by voluntary desertion, is a theme that was not overlooked by the visual sources that have survived from that period. These photographs of prisoners and Romanian volunteers from the time of the Great War are also relevant for the geographic coordinates, very far from one another, where the course of the events carried the Romanian soldiers, from France to far-away Siberia, at Vladivostok.The document images from the time of the Great War allow for a sui generis dialogue with those “who are no more”, over a temporal gap of a century. The camera lens often captured expressive faces, whose identity is known in the cases in which the photographs include markings and notes, along with those that offer no additional information concerning those who took the photos or their subjects; in the latter case, we can say that these images are the anonymous bearers of war’s memory. These materials offer us today the unique privilege of visually “communicating” with our forbearers from a century ago, with the representatives of the humanity that plunged into the terrible adventure of World War I.

Keywords: “The Great War”, Romanians, Austria-Hungary, visual sources, cultural history.
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