19th Century AD
Topics covered in this section:
- Century Overview
- Treaty of Bucharest
- Romanian Language
- Ypsilanti's Rebellion
- Russian Protection
- Treaty of Adrianople
- Organic Regulations
- Western Ideas
- Romanian Circle
- Crimean War
- Black Sea Trade
- Birth of Romania!
- Search for a Prince
- Carmen Sylva
- French-Prussian War
- Russian-Turkish War
- San Stefano Treaty
- Berlin Treaty
- King Carol I
- Political Parties
- Loss of Basarabia
- Triple Alliance
- Mihai Eminescu
- Carol II
As expected, during Romania's modern period a great many changes occurred in the young country and elsewhere.
This was a century that saw massive changes in the political climate of the entire European continent. The European Revolution of 1848 forever altered the lives of everyone in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe.
Marx and Engles published their monumental work, the Communist Manifesto.
When the century began, Romania was still three separate principalities. Wallachia and Moldavia remained primarily under control of the Ottoman Empire via the sultan's appointed Phanariot governors and Transylvania was still under Habsburg rule.
But a series of wars between Russia and Turkey will forever change the political landscape of the future Romania.
Treaty of Bucharest
The Treaty of Bucharest (1812) ended one of the several Russian-Turkish wars. In the treaty, the sultan relinquished control of Basarabia (eastern Romania), allowing Russia to secure its southern flank against Napoleon. Turkey also granted Russia the right to continue to intervene in the affairs of both Wallachia and Moldavia.
Even after Napoleon's forces were defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, however, Russia didn't return Basarabia to Moldavia.
Meanwhile, the Greek Phanariots switched their allegiance from the Turks to the Russians. The Society of Friends, a Greek revolutionary organization, established close ties to the Russian tsars. Their goal was to break the yoke of Ottoman domination by inciting Orthodox uprisings against the Muslim Turks.
For the first time in the past several centuries, the universities in Moldavia and Wallachia taught classes in the Romanian language. And a Romanian language dictionary was published, which fortuitously left out all words that didn't derive from Latin roots (thus leaving a huge chunk of the language behind).
The Greek War of Independence shattered any hope of peace in the Balkans. However, Greek nationalists mistakenly assumed that Romanians, after a century of Greek Phanariot rule, had somehow become Hellenized. Ypsilanti, the president of the Greek Society of Friends, tried to persuade Romania to wrest control of Bucharest from the Turks, promising Russia's support.
Unfortunately, he forgot to talk to the Tsar before making that promise. After Ypsilanti fled to Austria, the sultan (with Russia's blessings) marched into Wallachia and occupied the principality. One good thing happened as a result of Ypsilanti's boldness, however. The sultan no longer trusted Phanariots to rule in Wallachia and Moldavia. Instead he appointed native Romanian rulers in their place, thus ending 106 long years of Phanariot rule in Romania.
When Russian troops later marched through Turkish-held Wallachia and Moldavia, heading toward Istanbul, Russia quickly claimed its rights to Romanian soil. Essentially, a century of Phanariot rule was replaced by several years of Russian "protection." The Treaty of Adrianople (1829) formalized Russia as the protectorate of Wallachia and Moldavia.
Treaty of Adrianople
After the Treaty of Adrianople, Romanian citizens looked forward to enjoying less oversight in their daily lives. What they got instead was even more "protective" oversight by the Russian tsars. Overall, the Russians interfered in the internal affairs of Wallachia and Moldavia more than the Turks ever did.
One Russian administrator, however, did have a positive effect on the principalities. Russian Count Kiselev organized a disciplined police force to cut down on the rampant crime and brigandage in the region. Perhaps his most important contribution, however, was the introduction of the rule of law by the creation and ratification of the Organic Regulations. Unfortunately, the tsar wanted to garner the support of the wealthy class, not of the peasants, and the Regulations were strongly weighted toward the upper class.
For the average Romanian peasant, life was extremely difficult. And they felt little desire to improve their productivity because if they harvested more crops, the tax farmers and money lenders always showed up to take away any hoped for profits. Someone always wanted to take away whatever meager earnings the peasants made.
Even Orthodox church officials, who should have been above such acts, saw crime as a way of life. Among villagers in Wallachia and Moldavia, for example, it was commonly rumored that whenever a new Greek Orthodox bishop arrived, his first act always was to plunder the village's supplies.
But change was in the wind. The sons of wealthy Romanian familes were being sent to Western Europe to receive their education. When they returned, they often brought Western ideas with them. By the middle of the century, the first road connecting Wallachia and Moldavia was completed. And both principalities agreed to remove the customs fees between them, creating a burgeoning trade that had barely existed before.
Speaking of roads, Romanians seldom complained about the poor condition of the roads, unlike many foreign visitors. For the Romanian peasant, a poor road system meant that it was harder for the moneylenders or tax men to reach them.
Many of the Romanian students returning from Western schools formed the Romanian Circle, a revolutionary student group, where they discussed topics such as ending foreign domination and the necessary unification of Wallachia and Moldavia into a single political entity.
And seeing the plight of their fellow Romanians in Transylvania caused these Paris-educated returned students to redouble their efforts. Provisional governments were established and a blue, yellow, and red flag bearing the words "Justice and Brotherhood" was adopted.
Unfortunately, their celebration of freedom was a bit premature. Tsar Nicholas, fearing that the European Revolution might spread to Russia, invaded Moldavia and pressured the sultan into invading Wallachia. But when the sultan only half-heartedly carried out his part of the deal, Russia moved in to capture Wallachia as well.
For Romanians, the European Revolution ended abruptly as Russia assumed rulership over the two principalities.
During the early mid-century, Russian troops did withdraw from the principalities. But when the Crimean War broke out, they were back. Then a couple of years later, Austria forced them to leave once more. Following Russia's defeat at the end of the Crimean War, all sides met to negotiate the Treaty of Paris. Wallachia and Moldavia were removed from Russian control ("protection") and returned to Turkish control. But the seven Western Powers that signed the treaty held collective oversight of the two principalities.
Black Sea Trade
Over the years vigorous trading across the Black Sea had created a middle class in the principalities, dominated by Austrian Jews. Wallachian and Moldavian landowners used Jewish merchants as middlemen in the lucrative Black Sea wheat trade. The new middle class included almost no Romanian citizens.
Birth of Romania!
An important event in Romanian history occurred by mid-century. Romania was officially born on 23 December 1861 (Julian calendar) when one man, Prince Cuza, was selected as the ruler of both principalities (surprising several Western diplomats). Of course, Romania at this time consisted only of Wallachia and Moldavia. Transylvania won't be added until much later.
Unfortunately, Cuza's military-style rulership alienated nearly everyone. His popularity plummeted when he fired his prime minister (and his friend and nearly only supporter). In the winter of 1866, Cuza was awakened by army officers, who escorted him from the capital. Cuza and his mistress left for Vienna.
Search for a Prince
Following Cuza's forced retirement, Romania went in search of a foreign prince to rule the country, fearing that another native Romanian might be worse than Cuza had been. Their first choice, Philip of Flanders, refused their offer. But their second choice, Karl von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, accepted it. Being Prussian, he was forced to travel through Austria incognito, posing as a traveling salesman. Eventually, he was crowned Prince Carol I (Carol being the Romanian version of Karl and pronounced like Kahr-rohl).
One of Carol's first acts was to establish a constitution based on the Belgian constitution, which provided for a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature. Sadly, for the average Romanian, the constitution wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. Most of its benefits applied only to the landed aristocracy and to the clergy.
Soon after his coronation Carol married Elizabeth of Wied, a crackpot poet. After the death of her daughter, Elizabeth turned to writing under her pen name, Carmen Sylva. The royal court became a haven for writers and artists.
When the Franco-Prussian War broke out, Carol naturally wanted to side with his native Prussia. When a pro-French rally broke out, Carol had the instigators arrested. However, pressure from Parliament forced him to acquit them.
Following the war, mobs of Romanians attacked Prussian citizens who had gathered to celebrate Prussian victories. As a result Carol tendered his resignation, but he changed his mind when he learned that most Romanian citizens denounced the mob's actions. He decided to remain on the throne, but dissolved Parliament and appointed a new government.
During the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878 Romanian soldiers advanced alongside the Russian troops in their march toward Istanbul. At first Russia had spurned Romania's help, but when the Russian's march ground to a halt outside the fortress city of Plevna in northern Bulgaria, they decided that maybe the Romanian reinforcements would be useful after all.
Romania sent 10,000 Royal Army troops to Plevna to aid the Russians. After the defeat of the Turks at Plevna, the Romanian troops returned home. Russia, augmented by Bulgarian troops, continued toward Istanbul. But as the Russians got closer to Istanbul, Britain's imperialistic interest was suddenly reawakened. In order to protect their lucrative trade routes, Britain dispatched a naval armada to the Straits with strict orders to intervene if Russia continued its advance.
San Stefano Treaty
The Russian-Turkish War ended with the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano. Russia was the victor and Turkey was the loser. But Bulgaria was perhaps the biggest winner as a result of the treaty, with the creation of Great Bulgaria, becoming the largest Balkan state.
But the Western Powers cried foul, especially Britain. So German Chancellor Bismarck invited all interested parties to meet at the International Peace Conference in Berlin to negotiate a replacement for the San Stefano Treaty.
The West chopped Great Bulgaria into four parts. Basarabia was ripped from Romania's hands and delivered to Russia and in return, Romania received Dobrogea from Bulgaria.
In spite of the political devastation they had dealt to the Balkans, the Western Powers were blindly happy. They had, after all, protected themselves by preventing Russia from gaining a strategic foothold over their economic interests.
But the Berlin Treaty left a bitter taste in the mouths of almost all of the small Balkan nations. For decades to come, the Balkan people will seethe with a barely hidden resentment of the terms of the Berlin Treaty.
In fact, in the following century, the future First World War will begin in the Balkans.
King Carol I
Toward the end of the century Prince Carol became King Carol I and Romania became a constitutional monarchy. For a while thereafter, Romania enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity. Carol assembled a modest army and established schools to educate the peasantry.
Despite his valiant efforts, however, only a few shrewd businessmen got rich while most of the population languished in poverty. Several political parties sprang up to address the growing disparity between the wealthy landowners and the masses of peasants.
By the late 19th century only a couple thousand wealthy landowners controlled more than half of all Romania's land. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the population (the disgruntled peasants) held only about 30 percent of the land.
The wealthy landowners were represented by the Conservative Party and the rising middle class was represented by the Liberal Party. Soon the peasants had their own party, the Social Democratic Party (the nucleus of the future Communist Party).
Sadly, the peasants blamed most of their plight on the Jews, who almost single-handedly made up the entire middle class. Sporatic rebellions against the Jews erupted, giving Carol an excuse to bring conservative politicans into the government.
By the end of the century, mobs regularly attacked the Jews and destroyed many of their synagogues.
Loss of Basarabia
When non-Romanians, mostly Russians, began moving into Basarabia (previously Romanian territory), Carol began strengthening his defenses along Romania's eastern border. Russia had for decades been conducting a rapid expansionist program, by taking control of its southern regions and in the east by wresting control of a number of areas from Chinese hands.
And, particularly troubling for Romanians, was the way Russia had been presenting itself as the ultimate savior of the Slavic and Orthodox worlds.
In the late 19th century King Carol signed a secret treaty with the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy). His aim was to someday regain control of Transylvania, now under Hungarian rule. Although the majority of the people in Transylvania were of Romanian descent, the majority of the ruling class was Hungarian.
By the end of the century Russia and France had created their own alliance to counter the power of the Triple Alliance. Carol's previous secret treaty put Romania on the opposite side of the fence from them.
Mihai Eminescu, one of Romania's best-loved national poets, died near the end of the century. As of today, his works have been translated into more than 60 languages. And in many of Romania's schools today, the study of his poetry is still mandatory for graduation from high school.
King Carol's nephew, Crown Prince Ferdinand, married Maria, the daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh and the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. They soon gave birth to a son named Carol II, the future king of Romania.
In Transylvania the majority of citizens were of Romanian descent. Unfortunately, nearly all of the ruling class was composed of Hungarians (Magyars). Romanian peasants were snubbed by the Hungarian nobility. The governing body of Transylvania (the Diet) made Hungarian the official language of the principality.
Over the years Transylvania's ruling class imposed an intensive program to completely Magyarize every citizen (that is, turn them into Hungarians despite their true ethnic background). Hungarian was not only the official language of the principality, but it became mandatory in all government proceedings.
Hungarian nationalists used the European Revolution of 1848 to break free of their Austrian yoke. Initially, the Romanian citizens in Transylvania were in favor of Hungary's separation from Austria, thinking Hungary and Transylvania would then become equals. But they were sorely mistaken.
Toward the end of the century, Hungary sensed a growing nationalistic pride among Transylvanian Romanians. Although they should have understood how the Romanians felt, because Hungarians were chafing under the Austrian yoke, they instead stepped up their Magyarization efforts. Repression managed to keep the lid on the growing national pride of the Romanian people, but it didn't end their desires.
During the final decade of the 19th century, several prominent Romanian citizens in Transylvania sent a memo to Vienna, advising the Habsburgs of the deplorable intolerance of Hungarian authorities toward Romanian citizens. Although the memo was ignored both in Vienna and in Budapest, it did spark a nationalistic movement among Transylvania's Romanian citizens which became known as the Memorandum Movement.
Russia and Austria swept into Transylvania to put down any nationalistic dreams. Austria imposed a repressive regime on Hungary and directly ruled Transylvania through a military governor.
To put the Hungarians in their place, Austria abolished the Union of Three Nations and granted citizenship to the Romanian people. Although this sounds like a positive step for Romanians, peasant life grew much worse, prompting many of them to emigrate across the Carpathians into Wallachia and Moldavia, searching for a better life.
Hungarian politicians, who held the majority of votes in the Transylvanian Diet, decided to boycott one session convened by the Austrian emperor, Franz Joseph. The minority Romanian delegates took advantage of the situation to set themselves on equal footing with the long-standing Union of Three Nations, which had always consisted only of Hungarians, Szeklers (a spin-off of Hungarians), and German Saxons. They also placed the Orthodox Church on the same level as the long-standing "recognized" religions (Catholic and Protestant).
Unfortunately, their moment of glory was short-lived. Franz Joseph reconvened the Diet and this time the Hungarians were there in force. All the earlier legislation acknowledging Romanian citizens was overturned. Transylvania was then annexed into Hungary.
But Emperor Franz Joseph had one more trick up his sleeve. The Ausgleich ("compromise") of 1867 transformed the Austrian Empire into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary — two sovereign states, but with a unified (that is, the emperor's) foreign policy.
According to Hungarian historians, this was a period that was despised by most Hungarians. It's an understandable feeling, of course, since they were used to being at the top of the heap ... and couldn't imagine being subjected to any non-Hungarian ruler.
Throughout the century and afterwards, Balkan peasants remained true to their Orthodox roots. In spite of the flood of Catholic and Protestant missionaries who were sent to convert them, their efforts produced very little fruit.
Christian priests in the Balkans engaged in an active market for amulets and charms, some of the most popular included charms against the evil eye and against vampires. Western churchmen often lamented that the "rustic priests" had been leading Balkan souls down a false path with their unauthorized division of saints into heavy and light categories.
Early in the century, the sultan introduced new laws that guaranteed the right to life, honor, and property for all Ottoman subjects, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Unfortunately, this reorganization ("Tanzimat"), although welcome, came too late for the Balkans.
Modernization and technological pursuits didn't mesh well with the Muslim mind. Such pursuits were deemed evil. Even book printing (as opposed to copying text by hand) was frowned upon.
Despite the Ottoman Empire's rapid decline, Balkan Christians remained tied to their "tribal" mentality. They were too disorganized to win their freedom from the sultan without foreign intervention. Two powerful empires were more than willing to aid them, however ... mostly for their own bid for power rather than any altruistic concern for the Balkan peasants.
Russian Tsar Alexander, who had grown tired of his economic plight as a land-locked nation unable to participate in the lucrative Mediterranean trade, wanted to push his frontier into the Bosphorus and into the Dardanelle strait. Of course, this ran smack into British maritime goals, which linked Britain to its most important Indian colony. When the tsar began courting their fellow Orthodox Christians in the Balkans, Britain took the Ottoman's side.
Meanwhile, the Habsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary hoped to revitalize their flagging international position. They also had expansionist goals of their own, hoping to capture a share of the Balkans.
Of course, Romania and other Balkan countries found themselves caught in the vice grips of these three powerful neighbors squabbling over Balkan territory. Reasonably, the little semi-independent Balkan states saw the power play among the three empires as their chance to also play the nationalist game. Suddenly, every country both large and small was against the Turks. Only Britain's Queen Victoria, against the wishes of her prime minister (Disraeli), backed the Turks.
At the Istanbul Conference Britain and Russia attempted to divide Turkish spoils between themselves. Then to appease Austria-Hungary, Russia met with the Habsburgs at the Budapest Convention, where Austria-Hungary gained Bosnia-Herzegovina and Russia received the right to intervene in eastern Balkan affairs.
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