Dumitri Neculuta, Romania’s Shoemaker and Poet

A poor, peasant country with a German King, might lean toward socialism if it the movement was not so urban and Jewish. It is problem, luckily there is Neculuta and others to build up. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The stamp today is from 1950s Romania. This was before the stamp printing was farmed out. Predictably the printing was quite poor. On the other hand, the communist government was new and anxious to demonstrate a place in Romanian history. So otherwise obscure figures are brought forward on stamps and philatelists get to expand their knowledge of far off places and long gone times.

Todays stamp is issue A370, a 55 bani stamp issued by the People’s Republic of Romania On October 17th, 1954. The stamp features Dumitru Theodor Neculuta on the 50th anniversary of his death. It was a single stamp issue. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 30 cents cancelled.

Neculuta, there are several spellings and different names he released his works under, was born in rural Romania to peasants when the country was still affiliated to the Ottoman empire. He only had two years of schooling and beyond that was self taught. Starting at age 10 he apprenticed as a shoemaker. He published a few pieces of poetry in Romanian journals and one book of his work came out three years after his death in 1904. His poems were about life and love and the desire for socialist political change and the frustration of change not occurring. His work is described as rising to the level of average for the time. This may come across as faint praise but it must be remembered the place and class from which he came.

The country of Romania was around 1900 ruled by a German King and was busy trying to secure more territory. A vast majority of the population were rural peasants. The absentee landowners were mostly German who lived in the cities and the onsite tradesman and managers were mainly Jewish. This created a disconnect with the government.  It was also a problem that the normal socialist movements that might be expected to lead a reform movement were also urban, Jewish, and mostly involved in industrial trade unions, a small slice of the economy. The peasants rebelled against the system many times but were put down easily.

The Communists took power after World War II by the power of the Red Army that was sweeping across Eastern Europe behind the retreating Germans. The last of the German Kings was forced to abdicate and moved to Switzerland. Being put in power by a foreign army can leave a lack of legitimacy to rule. Here enters the now long dead poet Neculuta. A communist of peasant stock who was exactly what the communists needed more of in an earlier time. In 1948 the government posthumously named him a member of the Romanian academy and statues, street names and postage stamps appeared. All for a person whose work rose to the level of average, for the time. What he was is the right type of person the government wants to talk about. Funny how that works. There was a stamp issue of famous people in 2004, the century of Neculuta’s death, but he no longer makes the cut. The actor Henry Fonda did?

Well my drink is empty, and so I will open the discussion in the below comment section. We have a few Romanian readers, so if any of them would like to track down a sample of Mr. Neculuta’s work. Please tell us how it is to modern eyes. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.