Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania: The Criterion Association | Wilson Center

Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania: The Criterion Association

In 1930s Bucharest, some of the country’s most brilliant young intellectuals converged to form the Criterion Association. Bound by friendship and the dream of a new, modern Romania, their members included historian Mircea Eliade, critic Petru Comarnescu, Jewish playwright Mihail Sebastian and a host of other philosophers and artists. Together, they built a vibrant cultural scene that flourished for a few short years, before fascism and scandal splintered their ranks. Cristina A. Bejan asks how the far-right Iron Guard came to eclipse the appeal of liberalism for so many of Romania’s intellectual elite, drawing on diaries, memoirs and other writings to examine the collision of culture and extremism in the interwar years. The first English-language study of Criterion and the most thorough to date in any language, this book grapples with the complexities of Romanian intellectual life in the moments before collapse.

Cristina A. Bejan is an Oxford DPhil and a Rhodes and Fulbright scholar. She has held fellowships at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), Georgetown University and the Woodrow Wilson Center. Currently she teaches world history at Metropolitan State University of Denver. A theatre artist, Bejan has written 17 plays and directed/sound designed/produced countless shows in the US and abroad. A spoken word poet, she got her start at Washington DC's Busboys & Poets. Her poetry collection Green Horses On the Walls (Finishing Line Press) will be released this year and grapples with the inherited trauma of communism within the Romanian diaspora. While a researcher at USHMM in 2013, she founded the arts & culture collective Bucharest Inside the Beltway (BiB), which currently promotes local and international art in Colorado. For more info please visit

In dialogue with the author of the book's foreword, Vladimir Tismaneanu, Professor of Politics, University of Maryland (College Park); Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center



  • Blair A. Ruble

    Distinguished Fellow
    Former Wilson Center Vice President for Programs (2014-2017); Director of the Comparative Urban Studies Program/Urban Sustainability Laboratory (1992-2017); Director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies (1989-2012) and Director of the Program on Global Sustainability and Resilience (2012-2014)


  • Vladimir Tismaneanu

    Former Wilson Center Fellow and Director, Center for the Study of Post-Communist Societies, University of Maryland


  • Cristina Bejan

    Founding Executive Director, Bucharest Inside the Beltway; Researcher, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Former East European Studies Title VIII Scholar, Wilson Center