Welsh Keywords: Gweriniaeth
From Planet 225

by Marion Löffler

This is the twenty-first contribution to our Welsh Keywords series – inspired by Raymond Williams’ Keywords – which offers contemporary perspectives on contested meanings of words in Welsh and how these shifting meanings continue to shape our society.

Gweriniaeth, a noun derived from ‘gwerin’, i.e. ‘the people’, with the help of the suffix ‘-iaeth’, may stand for the related concepts in most European languages expressed by the borrowings ‘republic’ and ‘democracy’. Though discussing ‘democracy’ would be pertinent in these days of conflicting notions of the concept, I am keener to chart some of the story of ‘republic’ in Wales. One reason is its curious neglect in British and Welsh scholarship until recently; ‘republic’ is not a keyword for Raymond Williams, nor for the later authors of New Keywords and similar publications. My predilection also stems from not being born into a monarchy. Having grown up in East Germany, I have been a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany since 1989. This means that the history of the Weimar Republic 1919–1933, of the German Democratic Republic commonly known as East Germany 1949–1989, and of the Federal Republic of Germany known as West Germany until 1989, are all mine. I have not and will not give up my German passport, because it would turn me from a ‘citizen’ into a ‘subject’. My problem is with ‘monarchy’, not with ‘republic’.

‘Republic’ is not an easy concept, though. The twentieth century

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