1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt

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A cavalry patrol sabring the rioters in the streets of Comănești (Illustrated London News)
Infantry escorting prisoners through Piatra Neamț (Illustrated London News)
Monument to the 1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt in Buzău

The 1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt took place in March 1907 in Moldavia and it quickly spread, reaching Wallachia. The main cause was the discontent of the peasants about the inequity of land ownership, which was in the hands of just a few large landowners.

Background[edit]

Most large landowners preferred to live in the cities and did not want to bother with the administration of their properties. Therefore, they leased their domains to intermediaries lessors, in exchange for a fixed rent. The lessors in turn would administer the land and try to make a good profit in a short time. At that time, peasants formed up to 80 percent of the Romanian population and about 60 percent of them owned small crops, or no land at all, while the large landowners owned more than half of the arable land. The anti-Semitic propaganda sought to blame the revolt on Jewish intermediaries, and many of the lessors were indeed, Jewish—especially in Northern Moldavia—but anti-Semitism does not explain the magnitude of the uprising, which rapidly spread to areas where there were very few, or no Jewish intermediaries, at all. The height of the uprising was in Oltenia where Jewish presence was minimal[citation needed] and where most of the intermediaries were Romanians.

Course of events[edit]

A cavalry patrol watching the burning of farmhouses by the rioters near Bujeu.
A vedette waiting on the highway at Brăila for an expected outrage by the peasants.

The revolt began on the lands administered by one lessor, Mochi Fischer, in the village of Flămânzi (the name seems predestined, as it literally means "hungry men") due to Fischer's refusal to renew the leasing with the local peasants. The Austrian-Jewish family of Fischer used to lease about 75 percent of the arable land in three Romanian counties in Moldavia (the so-called "Fischerland").

The peasants, fearing that they would remain without work and, more importantly, without food, began to act violently. Mochi Fischer was scared and fled to a friend of his in Cernăuți, leaving the peasants without signed contracts. The fear of remaining out of work, combined with the activities of some alleged Austro-Hungarian instigators, led the peasants to revolt. The revolt soon spread across most of Moldavia, with several landowners' properties destroyed and many lessors killed or wounded. The Conservative government (Partidul Conservator) couldn't handle the situation and resigned, and the Liberals (Partidul Național-Liberal) of Dimitrie Sturdza assumed power.

On 18 March a state of emergency was declared, then general mobilization, with 140,000 soldiers being recruited by 29 March. The Romanian Army began firing on the peasants; thousands of peasants perished and more than 10,000 were arrested.

The number of victims is not really known since King Carol I of Romania ordered all documents pertaining to these events destroyed, so that the Liberal government could not be held accountable by an eventual Conservative government. The death toll reported by diplomats who were in Romania at the time is as follows: between 3,000 and 5,000 (Austrian diplomats' figures), and between 10,000 and 20,000 (French diplomats' figures). Historians put the number at between 3,000 and 18,000, with the most commonly used figure being 11,000.

The events continued to resonate in the Romanian conscience, and were the subject of one of the best novels of the interwar period, Răscoala ("The Revolt"), by Liviu Rebreanu, published in 1932. It also formed the subject of a painting by Octav Băncilă, and of a monumental statue which can still be seen in Bucharest.

References[edit]