Protochronism (Romanian; Moldavian; Moldovan: Protocronism, originating in the Ancient Greek terms for before in time) is a modern tendency in cultural nationalism. The term was coined in Romania to describe the marked tendency of the Nicolae Ceauşescu regime to ascribe, largely relying on questionable data and subjective interpretations, an idealised past to the country as a whole. A pejorative term that was given to the Romanian phenomenon is Dacomania (sometimes Thracomania), while its advocates prefer Dacology.
In this context, the term makes reference to the trend (noticed in several versions of Romanian nationalism) to ascribe a unique quality to the Dacians and their civilization. Usually glossing over the fact that Dacian society lacked such basic instruments as a writing system, protochronists attempt to prove either that Dacians had a major part to play in Ancient history, or even that they had the ascendancy over all cultures (with a particular accent on Ancient Rome, which, in a complete reversal of the founding myth, would have been created by Dacian migrants). Also noted are the exploitation of the Tărtăria tablets as certain proof that writing originated on proto-Dacian territory, and the belief that the enigmatic Dacian language survived all the way to the Middle Ages.
An additional - but not universal - feature is the attempted connection between the supposed monotheism of the mysterious Zalmoxis cult and Christianity, in the belief that Dacians easily adopted and subsequently influenced the religion. Also, Christianity is argued to have been preached to the Daco-Romans by Saint Andrew, who is considered, doubtfully, as the clear origin of modern-day Romanian Orthodoxy. Despite the lack of evidence to support this, it is the official church stance, being found in history textbooks used in Romanian Orthodox seminaries and theology institutes.
The ideas have been explained as part of an inferiority complex present in Romanian nationalism, one which also manifested itself in works not connected with Protochronism, mainly as a rejection of the ideas that Romanian territories only served as a colony of Rome, voided of initiative, and subject to an influx of Latins which would have completely wiped out a Dacian presence.
Protochronism most likely came about with the views professed in the 1870s by Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, one of the main points of the dispute between him and the conservative Junimea. For example, Hasdeu's Etymologicum magnum Romaniae not only claimed that Dacians gave Rome many of her Emperors (an idea supported in recent times by Iosif Constantin Drăgan), but also that the ruling dynasties of early medieval Wallachia and Moldavia were descendants of a caste of Dacians established with "King" (chieftain) Burebista. Other advocates of the idea before World War I included the amateur archaeologist Cezar Bolliac, as well as Teohari Antonescu and Nicolae Densuşianu. The latter composed an intricate and unsupported theory on Dacia as the center of European prehistory, authoring a complete parallel to Romanian official history, which included among the Dacians such diverse figures as those of the Asen dynasty, and Horea. The main volume of his writings is Dacia Preistorică ("Prehistoric Dacia").
After World War I and throughout Greater Romania's existence, the ideology increased its appeal. The Iron Guard flirted with the concept, making considerable parallels between its projects and interpretations of what would have been Zalmoxis' message. Mircea Eliade was notably preoccupied with Zalmoxis' cult, arguing in favor of its structural links with Christianity; his theory on Dacian history, viewing Romanization as a limited phenomenon, is celebrated by contemporary partisans of Protochronism.
In 1974 Edgar Papu published in the mainstream cultural monthly Secolul XX an essay titled "The Romanian Prothocronism", arguing for Romanian chronological priority for some European achievements. The idea was promptly adopted by the nationalist Ceauşescu regime, which subsequently encouraged and amplified a cultural and historical discourse claiming the prevalence of autochthony over any foreign influence. Ceauşescu's ideologues developed a singular concept after the 1974 11th Congress of the Communist Party of Romania, when they attached Protochronism to official Marxism, arguing that the Dacians had produced a permanent and "unorganized State". The Dacians had been favored by several communist generations as autochthonous insurgents against an "Imperialist" Rome (with the Stalinist leadership of the 1950s proclaiming them to be closely linked with the Slavic peoples); however, Ceauşescu's was an interpretation with a distinct motivation, making a connection with the opinions of previous protochronists.
The regime started a partnership with Italian resident, former Iron Guardist and millionaire Iosif Constantin Drăgan, who continued championing the Dacian cause even after the fall of Ceauşescu. Critics regard these excesses as the expression of an economic nationalist course, amalgamating provincial frustrations and persistent nationalist rhetoric, as autarky and cultural isolation of the late Ceauşescu's regime came along with an increase in prothocronistic messages.
No longer backed by a totalitarian state structure after the 1989 Revolution, the interpretation still enjoys popularity in several circles. The main representative of current Protochronism is still Drăgan, but he is seconded by the New York City-based physician Napoleon Săvescu. Together, they issue the magazine Noi, Dacii ("Us Dacians") and organize a yearly "International Congress of Dacology".
See main article: Nationalism and ancient history.