CREATORS OF NEW ROMANIA
(b. January 8, 1873, Șimleul Silvaniei, Romania – d. February 5, 1953, Sighetu Marmației, Romania)
Iuliu Maniu, a lawyer by training, was one of the greatest political figures of modern Romania, one of the leaders of the Transylvanian Romanians during and in the aftermath of the Great War and the head of the Romanian National Party (1919-1926) and the National Peasant Party (1926-1933, 1937-1947). He was made an honorary member of the Romanian Academy in 1919.
With legal studies completed in Cluj, Budapest and Vienna, he distinguished himself in the national movement of the Transylvanian Romanians and, during his studies and later, as a Deputy in the Budapest Parliament (1906-1910), as a great champion of the rights of the nationalities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
After the outbreak of the First World War, Iuliu Maniu was drafted and sent to the front. He stayed in Sibiu for a time, at the School of Officers, and was then dispatched on the Italian front. At the end of 1918, he was in Vienna, where he organised the Romanian National Committee of Transylvania, as well as the Central Senate of Romanian Officers and Soldiers. His efforts were, in fact, aimed at the military organisation of the Romanians in the Austrian-Hungarian army and their subordination to the Central Romanian National Council.
Upon his return to Transylvania, Maniu contributed decisively to the organisation of the Great National Assembly of Alba Iulia on December 1, 1918. After the euphoric moment of the proclamation of the union, Transylvanian politicians moved to the creation of institutions capable of implementing the decision. The Directing Council, which acted as de facto government of Transylvania, was established to accomplish this task, with Maniu as President.
After the Great War, Maniu was a central figure of Romanian political life for decades and served as Prime Minister three times. The communists arrested him immediately after they came to power and sentenced him to life in prison for purely imaginary accusations. He died in the infamous Sighetu Marmației prison, in northern Transylvania, after years of solitary confinement.