Early Modern Romania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Part of a series on the
History of Romania
Coat of arms of Romania
Portal icon Romania portal

Early Modern Romania is the portion of Romanian history that falls in the early modern period, roughly from the end of the 15th century[citation needed] to the end of the 18th century (or from the union of Mihai Viteazul of 1600–1601,[citation needed] to the revolution of Tudor Vladimirescu in 1821[citation needed]). During this period the Romanian lands were characterised by the slow disappearance of the feudal system,[dubious ] the leadership of some rulers like Vasile Lupu and Dimitrie Cantemir in Moldavia, Matei Basarab and Constantin Brâncoveanu in Wallachia, Gabriel Bethlen in Transylvania, the Phanariot Epoch, and the appearance of the Russian Empire as a political and military influence.

Fall of the Byzantine Empire[edit]

From the 14th century, the Ottoman Empire expanded at the expense of the Byzantine Empire. Following the victories at the Battle of Kosovo (1389) and Battle of Nikopol (1396), Bulgaria came under Ottoman rule, and in 1453, Constantinople fell, bringing an end to the Eastern Roman Empire which had survived its predecessor in the West by nearly a thousand years. After the Battle of Mohács (1526), the major part of Hungary was also absorbed by the Ottoman Empire.[dubious ]

By the late 16th century, the three independent[dubious ] principalities in the area, Moldavia, Transylvania and Wallachia were surrounded by the Islamic Ottomans and Tartars, and Catholic Poland, which although Christian, proved itself to be as dangerous as the Ottomans. Although sometimes[dubious ] forced to pay a tribute to the Porte, these principalities never fully fell under Ottoman rule. Formally, the three principalities were never part of Dar al-Islam,[clarification needed] remaining in Dar al-Harb[clarification needed] and then Dar al'Ahd.[clarification needed]

After 1453, the notion of "Byzantium" as a cultural and ideological reference continued to influence the remaining autonomous states in the Empire's sphere of influence[where?].[citation needed] Many Orthodox states claimed the title of "the Third Rome",[dubious ] even before Constantinople's fall.[citation needed] Stephen the Great of Moldavia married one of the last Byzantine[dubious ] princesses, Maria of the Principality of Theodoro in 1472.[citation needed] The Romanian principalities never explicitly claimed this legacy, but they offered opportunities to Orthodox Christians from occupied countries.[citation needed] In this way they too assumed some of the character idea[clarification needed] of the Orthodox Christian, multi-ethnic Byzantine Empire.[citation needed] Seen from a partisan Romanian standpoint, Wallachia and Moldavia were also the heirs of the Orthodox Byzantium.[citation needed] In this period of relative calm, the monastic and cultural life flourished undisturbed.[citation needed] Nicolae Iorga wrote: "There was a time when it appeared that the entire Byzantine, Balkan legacy would be inherited by the Romanian princes who, as the only ones who remained standing among the Christians, showed that they wanted to preserve it and that they were capable of sacrificing themselves for it".[citation needed]


In Wallachia and Moldova, religious worship and the Church hierarchy were in the Byzantine tradition. Until the fall of Constantinople, metropolitans there had to be consecrated by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Wallachia and Moldavia became a center of monastic life, attracting hermits from all the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Between 1457 and 1504, Stephen the Great founded no fewer than 44 churches and monasteries, some of which are now part of UNESCO's World Heritage.

The Hospodars assumed the role of protectors of Eastern Orthodoxy, notably by becoming the main patrons of Mount Athos, by the perpetuation of Byzantine ceremonial customs, and the assimilation of Byzantine clerks and intellectual immigrants.

The vast majority of Wallachian and Moldavian princes adopted the tradition of Church patronage, making generous donations to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and Orthodox monasteries throughout the Balkans. Without the donations of the Romanian princes, most of the heavily taxed Christian outposts from Mount Athos, Meteora, and other monasteries, would have not survived to these days. Orthodox monks from all over the Balkans turned to the Christian rulers of Wallachia and Moldavia for patronage and financial support. Many monasteries from Turkish-occupied lands were bestowed with all of the estates, dependencies and even relics of local churches and monasteries.

The Wallachian and Moldavian rulers acted according to an old-fashioned doctrine of noblesse oblige. These acts were not eccentric activities, but a complex strategy of sponsoring the monastic life of remote regions. Many modern monasteries on Mount Athos have Wallachian and Moldavian princes as their "second founders".

The external support dried up in the 18th century, when Phanariots, mostly Greeks, were set by the Ottomans as Hospodars in charge of the administration of Wallachia and Moldavia. The principalities, although autonomous, were obliged to accept a Prince appointed by the Sultan, to ensure that future problems would not arise due to insubordination of the native princes, who although officially vassals, were engaging in permanent skirmishes with the Ottomans. However, although weakened under the Phanariots, the Principalities continued to provide some revenue up until the 19th century, when a considerable part of the annual incomes of the monasteries of Mount Athos were still provided by the bequests of Wallachian and Moldavian monasteries.

First Union (1600)[edit]

Seal of Michael the Brave after the union of the three Romanian principalities

Michael the Brave (Romanian: Mihai Viteazul, Hungarian: Vitéz Mihály; 1558–1601) succeeded to unite all three principalities where Romanians have been lived remaking the ancient Dacia. He brought under his rule for a brief period Wallachia (1593–1601), Transylvania (1599–1600), and Moldavia (1600).[1]

Mihai Viteazul (1558-1601), Prince of Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia

His reign coincided with the Long War, between Ottoman and Habsburg empires. Not long after he became Prince of Wallachia, Michael turned against Ottoman Empire. The next year he joined the Christian alliance of European powers formed by Pope Clement VIII, against the Turks, and signed treaties with his neighbours: Sigismund Báthory of Transylvania, Aron Vodă of Moldavia and the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II. He started a campaign against the Turks in the autumn of 1594, conquering several citadels near the Danube, including Giurgiu, Brăila, Hârşova, and Silistra, while his Moldavian allies defeated the Turks in Iaşi and other parts of Moldova.[2] Mihai continued his attacks deep within the Ottoman Empire, taking the forts of Nicopolis, Ribnic, and Chilia [3] and even reaching as far as Adrianople.[4] At one point his forces were only 24 kilometers from Constantinople.

Meanwhile, the Ottomans prepared to cross the Danube and undertake a major counter-offensive. Romanian Prince fought the Battle of Călugăreni, considered one of the most important battles of his reign.[1] Although the Wallachians emerged victorious from the battle, Michael was forced to retreat with his troops and wait for aid from his allies (prine Sigismund Bathory of Transylvania, Emperor Rudolf II of Austria). The war continued until a peace finally emerged in January 1597, but this only lasted for a year and a half. Peace was again reached in late 1599, when Michael was unable to continue the war due to lack of support from his allies.

In April 1598 Sigismund resigned as Prince of Transylvania in favor of the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II (who was also the King of Hungary), reversed his decision in October 1598, and then resigned again in favor of Cardinal Andrew Báthory, his cousin.[5] Báthory was close to the Polish chancellor and hetman Jan Zamoyski and placed Transylvania under the influence of the King of Poland, Sigismund III Vasa. He was also a trusted ally of the new Moldavian Prince Ieremia Movilă, one of Michael's greatest enemies.[6] Movilă had deposed Ştefan Rǎzvan with the help of Polish hetman Jan Zamoyski in August 1595.[6]

Báthory issued an ultimatum demanding that Michael abandon his throne.[7] Michael decided to attack Báthory immediately to prevent invasion. He would later describe the events:

I rose with my country, my children, taking my wife and everything I had and with my army [marched into Transylvania] so that the foe should not crush me here.

He left Târgovişte on October 2 and by October 9 he reached Prejmer in Southern Transylvania, where he met envoys from the city of Braşov. Sparing the city, he moved on to Cârţa where he joined forces with the Szekelys.[7]

Michael the Brave entering Alba Iulia

On October 18, Michael won a decisive victory against Andrew Báthory at Şelimbăr, giving him total control over Transylvania. Báthory was killed shortly after the battle, dying at the age of 28, and Michael gave him a princely burial in the Catholic Cathedral of Alba Iulia.[8] With his enemy dead, Michael entered the Transylvanian capital at Alba Iulia, and received the keys to the fortress from Bishop Demeter Napragy, later depicted as a seminal event in Romanian historiography. Stephen Szamosközy, keeper of the Archives at the time, recorded the event in great detail. He also wrote that two days before the Diet met on October 10, Transylvanian nobles elected Michael the voivode as Prince of Transylvania. As the Diet was assembled, Michael demanded that the estates swear loyalty to Emperor Rudolf, then to himself and thirdly to his son.[9]

On February 28, Michael met with Polish envoys in Braşov. He was willing to recognise the Polish King as his sovereign in exchange for the crown of Moldavia and the recognition of his male heirs' hereditary right over the three principalities, Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia. This did not significantly delay his attack however, on April 14, 1600 Michael's troops entered Moldavia on multiple routes, the Prince himself leading the main thrust to Trotuş and Roman.[10] He reached the capital of Suceava on May 6. The garrison surrendered the citadel the next day and Michael's forces caught up with the fleeing Ieremia Movilă, who was only saved from being captured by the sacrifice of his rear-guard. Movilă took refuge in the castle of Khotyn together with his family, a handful of faithful boyars and the former Transylvanian Prince, Sigismund Báthory.[11]

The three Principalities inhabited by Romanians united under Michael's authority

The Moldavian soldiers in the castle deserted, leaving a small Polish contingent as sole defenders. Under the cover of dark, sometime before June 11, Movilă managed to sneak out of the walls and across the Dniester to hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski's camp.[10]

Neighboring states were alarmed by this upsetting of the balance of power, especially the Hungarian nobility in Transylvania, who rose against Michael in rebellion. With the help of Basta, they defeated Michael at the Battle of Mirăslău, forcing the prince to leave Transylvania together with his remaining loyal troops.[12] A Polish army led by Jan Zamoyski drove the Wallachians from Moldavia and defeated Michael at Năieni, Ceptura, and Bucov (Battle of the Teleajăn River). The Polish army also entered eastern Wallachia and established Simion Movilă as ruler. Forces loyal to Michael remained only in Oltenia.[13]

Michael the Brave defeating the Hungarian nobility in Guraslau, 1601
The assassination of Michael the Brave at Câmpia Turzii, 1601

Michael asked again for assistance from emperor Rudolf during a visit in Prague between February 23 and March 5, 1601, which was granted when the emperor heard that General Giorgio Basta had lost control of Transylvania to the Hungarian nobility led by Sigismund Báthory, who accepted the Ottoman protection. Meanwhile, forces loyal to Michael in Wallachia led by his son, Nicolae Pătraşcu, drove out Simion Movilă from Moldova and prepared to reenter Transylvania. Michael, allied with Basta, defeated the Hungarian army at Gurăslău (Goroszló). A few days later Basta, who was looking for Transylvania control, ordered the assassination of Michael, which took place near Câmpia Turzii on 9 August 1601.[14]

After 1601[edit]

See also: Mihai Viteazu
Map by Johannes Honterus from 1542
A print picturing Gabriel Bethlen.

After the assassination of Mihai Viteazu, Basta's army persecuted Protestants and illegally expropriated their estates. In 1605-07, Stephen Bocskay, a former Habsburg supporter, mustered an army that expelled the imperial forces. In 1606 Bocskay concluded treaties with the Habsburgs and the Turks that secured his position as prince of Transylvania, guaranteed religious freedom, and broadened Transylvania's independence.[15]

After Bocskay's death and the reign of Gabriel Báthory (1607–1613), the Porte compelled the Transylvanians to accept Gabriel Bethlen (1613–1629) as prince. The Principality of Transylvania experienced a golden age under Bethlen's enlightened despotism. He promoted agriculture, trade, and industry, sank new mines, sent students abroad to Protestant universities, and prohibited landlords from denying an education to children of serfs.[15]

After Bethlen died, the Transylvanian Diet abolished most of his reforms. Soon George I Rákóczi (ruled 1630-1648) became prince. Rákóczi, like Bethlen, sent Transylvanian forces to fight on the Protestant side in the Thirty Years' War; and Transylvania gained mention as a sovereign state in the Peace of Westphalia. The man most responsible for the end of Transylvania's golden age[dubious ] was George II Rákóczi (ruled 1648-1660), a former ally of Moldavia’s and Wallachia’s Hospodars Vasile Lupu and Matei Basarab, and of the Cossack hetman, Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Allied with Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden he launched an ill-fated attack on Poland in 1657, without the prior approval of the Porte or Transylvania's Diet.[15]

A Turkish and Tatar army routed Rákóczi's forces and seized Transylvania. For the remainder of its independence, Transylvania suffered a series of feckless and distracted leaders, and throughout the 17th century Transylvania's Romanian peasants lingered in poverty and ignorance.[15]

During Michael the Brave's brief tenure and the early years of Turkish suzerainty, the distribution of land in Wallachia and Moldavia changed dramatically. Over the years, Wallachian and Moldavian princes made land grants to loyal boyars in exchange for military service so that by the 17th century hardly any land was left to be granted. Boyars in search of wealth began encroaching on peasant land and their military allegiance to the prince weakened. As a result, serfdom spread, successful boyars became more courtiers than warriors, and an intermediary class of impoverished lesser nobles developed. Would-be princes were forced to raise enormous sums to bribe their way to power, and peasant life grew more miserable as taxes and exactions increased. Any prince wishing to improve the peasants' lot risked a financial shortfall that could enable rivals to out-bribe him at the Porte and usurp his position.[15]

Wallachia. Map by Constantin Cantacuzino

In 1632 Matei Basarab (ruled 1632-1654) became the last of Wallachia's predominant family to take the throne; two years later, Vasile Lupu (ruled 1634-1653) was made Prince of Moldavia. The jealousies and ambitions of Matei and Vasile sapped the strength of both principalities at a time when the Porte's power began to wane. Coveting the richer Wallachian throne, Vasile attacked Matei, but the latter's forces routed the Moldavians, and a group of Moldavian boyars ousted Vasile. Both Matei and Vasile were enlightened rulers, who provided liberal endowments to religion and the arts, established printing presses, and published religious books and legal codes.[15]

According to the treaties (Capitulations) between the Romanian Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia), Turkish subjects were not allowed to settle in the Principalities, to own land, to build houses or mosques, or to marry. In spite of this restrictions imposed on the Turks, the princes allowed Greek and Turkish merchants and usurers to exploit the principalities' riches.

17th–18th centuries[edit]

Although centuries of continued attacks and raids from Turks, Tatars, Poles, Hungarians, and Cossacks, had crippled Moldavia and Wallachia and caused economical and human loses, the two countries were relatively adapted to this type of warfare. During the second half of the 17th century, Poland suffered a similar series of attacks: Swedish, Cossack and Tartar attacks ultimately left Poland in ruin, and it lost its place as a Central European power (see The Deluge).

Dimitrie Cantemir

Catholic Poland and Hungary, which despite being Christian countries, constantly tried to take control of the Orthodox Moldavia and Wallachia. A new possible ally was Russia, which apparently posed no danger to Moldavia, for geographic and religious reasons.

During the early 17th century, Moldavia had unfortunate experiences in their efforts for Russian assistance from Ivan III and Alexis Michaelovitch against the Turks and Tatars. Under Peter the Great, Russia's strength and influence had grown, and it seemed to be an excellent ally for Moldavia. Numerous Moldavians and Wallachians enlisted in Peter's army, which contained one squadron made up only of Romanian cavalry. Under Constantin Cantemir, Antioh Cantemir and Constantin Brâncoveanu, Moldavia and Wallachia hoped that with Russian help they might drive out the Turks from the border cities (Chilia, Cetatea Albă).

Charles XII of Sweden, after his defeat in 1709 at the Battle of Lesnaya, sought refuge in Tighina, a border fort of the Turkish vassal state of Moldavia, guarded by Ottoman troops. As a response, Peter came to Iaşi in 1710. There he re-signed the Russian-Moldavian treaty of alliance (previously signed at Lutsk in 24 April 1711), which provided for the hereditary leadership his close friend Dimitrie Cantemir (son of Constantin Cantemir and brother of Antioh Constantin) who was supposed to bear the title of Serene Lord of the land of Moldavia, Sovereign, and Friend (Volegator) of the land of Russia, but not as a subject vassal, as under the Ottomans. Although at that time Russia’s western border was the Southern Bug River, the treaty stipulated that the Dniester should be the boundary between Moldavia and the Russian Empire and that the Budjak would belong to Moldavia. The country was to pay not a cent of tribute. The Tsar bound himself not to infringe the rights of the Moldavian sovereign, or whoever might succeed him. Considering him the savior of Moldavia, the boyars held a banquet in honor of the Tsar and to celebrate the treaty.

In response, a great Ottoman army approached along the Prut and, at the Battle of Stanilesti in June 1711, the Russian and Moldavian armies were crushed. The war was ended by the Treaty of the Pruth on July 21, 1711. The Grand Vizier imposed drastic terms. The treaty stipulated that Russian armies would abandon Moldavia immediately, renounce its sovereignty over the Cossacks, destroy the fortresses erected along the frontier, and restore Otchakov to the Porte. Moldavia was obliged to assist at and to support all expenses for the reinforcements and supplies that traversed Moldavian territory. Prince Cantemir, many of his boyars [16] and much of the Moldavian army had to take refuge in Russia.

As a result of their victory of the 1711 war, the Turks placed a garrison in Hotin, rebuilt the fortress under the direction of French engineers, and made the surrounding region into a sanjak. Moldavia was now shut in by Turkish border strips at Hotin, Bender, Akkerman, Kilia, Ismail and Reni. The new sanjak was the most extensive on Moldavian territory, comprising a hundred villages and the market-towns of Lipcani-Briceni and Suliţa Noua. Under the Turks, Bessarabia and Transnistria witnessed a constant immigration from Poland and Ukraine, of Ukrainian speaking landless peasants, largely fugitives from the severe serfdom that prevailed there, to the districts of Hotin and Chişinău.

The existing Moldavians in the Russian armies were joined by newly joined Moldavian and Wallachian Hussars (Hansari in the Romanian language) from the 1735-39 war. When Field Marshal Burkhard Christoph von Münnich entered Iaşi, the capital of Moldavia, Moldavian auxiliary troops on Turkish service changed side and joined the Russians. They were officially constituted into the “Regiment number 96 - Moldavian Hussars” (“Moldavskiy Hussarskiy Polk”), under Prince Cantemir, on October 14, 1741. They took part in the 1741-43 war with Sweden, and the 1741 and 1743 campaigns at Wilmanstrand and Helsinki. During the Seven Years' War they fought at the Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf (1757), Battle of Zorndorf (1758), Battle of Kunersdorf (1759) and the 1760 capturing of Berlin.


Main article: Phanariotes

An important demand of the Treaty of Prut was that Moldavia and Wallachia would have only appointed rulers. The Phanariots would be appointed as Hospodars from 1711 to 1821. The late 18th century is regarded as one of the darkest time in Romanian history. The main goal of most Phanariots was to get rich and then to retire.

Under the Phanariots, Moldavia was the first state in Eastern Europe to abolish serfdom, when Constantine Mavrocordatos, summoned the boyars in 1749 to a great council in the church of the Three Hierarchs in Iași. In Transylvania, this reform did not take place until 1784, as a consequence of the bloody revolt of the Romanian peasantry under Horea, Cloşca and Crişan. Bessarabia was now still more attractive to the Polish and Russian serfs. The former had to serve their masters free for 150 days every year, and the latter were virtually slaves. Clandestine immigration from Poland and the Ukraine flowed particularly to the boundaries of Bessarabia, around Hotin and Cernăuţi.

Russian expansion[edit]

Moldavia prior to the Treaty of Bucharest (1812)

By the late 18th century and early 19th century, Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania found themselves as a clashing area for three neighboring empires: the Habsburg Empire, the newly appeared Russian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.

In 1768, a six-year war broke out between Russia and Turkey (see Russo-Turkish War (1768–74)). The Russians took Hotin, Bender and Iaşi, and occupied Moldavia the whole extent of the war. In 1772, the partition of Poland gave Galicia and Lodomeria to Austria, and Volhynia and Podolia to Russia, so that Moldavia was now in immediate contact with the Austrian and Russian Empires. In the Peace of Kuchuk-Kainarji (1774) Turkey ceded to Russia the country between Dnieper and Bug, but retained the Bessarabian border fortresses and their sanjaks. Moldavia kept its independence, under Turkish suzerainty, as before. Catherine self-assumed the right of protecting the Christians of the Romanian Principalities.

In 1775, Empress Maria Theresa of the Habsburg Empire took advantage of the situation and occupied the northern extremity of Moldavia, called Bucovina, marching the Austrian armies through Cernăuţi and Suceava, considered the holy city of Moldavia, as it preserved the tombs of Stephen the Great and other Moldavian rulers. The occupation was acknowledged with a treaty between the Habsburg Empire and the Ottoman Empire, despite the protests of Grigore Ghica, the Hospodar of Moldavia. Grigore Ghica was assassinated in 1777, at Iaşi, by Austrian paid Turkish troops.

In 1787, Russia and Austria declared war on Turkey (see Russo-Turkish War (1787–92)). Empress Catherine wished to install Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin as Prince of Dacia, a Russian vassal state corresponding to the ancient Roman Dacia, and thus to approach her final goal, Constantinople. In 1788 war started, but Turkey's preparations were inadequate and the moment was ill-chosen, now that Russia and Austria were in alliance. After a long list of failures, the Ottomans were forced to surrender. The Peace Treaty was signed at Iaşi (see the Treaty of Jassy) on January 1792. It stipulated that the Moldavia shall remain a Turkish vassal, that Dniester was the frontier between Moldavia and the Russian Empire, and that the Budjak shall pass under Russian control.

In 1806, Napoleon I of France encouraged Czar Alexander Pavlovitch to begin another war with Turkey. Russian troops occupied again Moldavia and Wallachia under General Kutussoff who was made Governor-General of the Romanian Principalities. The foreign consuls and diplomatic agents had to leave the capital cities of Iaşi and Bucharest. After the Russians broke the truce with a surprise attack, the Ottomans entered peace negotiations. At Giurgiu and at Bucharest (see Treaty of Bucharest (1812)), the Russians annexed the Budjak and the eastern part of Moldavia, which was called Bessarabia.

Bessarabia and Bukovina[edit]

Main articles: Bessarabia and Bukovina

This territory, which according to the official Russian census of 1816, 92.5% of the population was Romanian (419,240 Romanians, 30,000 Ukrainians, 19,120 Jews, 6,000 Lipovans), would be held by Russia until 1918. During this time, the percentage of the Romanian population of the area decreased because of the politics of colonization pursued by the Russian government. In the first years following the annexation, several thousand peasant families fled beyond the Pruth out of fear that the Russian authorities would introduce serfdom.[17] This was one of the reasons behind the decision of the Russian government not to extend the regime of serfdom into Bessarbia.

During the first fifteen years after the annexation, Bessarabia enjoyed some measure of autonomy on the basis of "Temporary Rules for the Government of Bessarabia" of 1813 and more fundamentally, "the Statute for the Formation of Bessarbian Province" that was introduced by Alexander I during his personal visit to Chisinau in the spring of 1818. Both documents stipulated that the dispensation of justice is made on the basis of local laws and customs as well as the Russian laws. Romanian was used alongside with Russian as the language of administration. The province was placed under the authority of a viceroy who governed together with the Supreme Council formed in part through election from the ranks of the local nobility. A considerable number of positions in the district administration were likewise filled through election. Bessarbia's autonomy was considerably reduced in 1828 when, on the representation of the governor general of New Russia and the viceroy of Bessarabia Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, Nicholas I adopted a new statute which abolished the Supreme Council and reduced the number of elected positions in the local administration.

In parallel, the Russian government pursued the policy of colonization. On 26 June 1812, Tsar Alexander I promulgated the Special Colonization Status of Bessarabia. Bulgarians, Gagauz, Germans, Jews, Swiss and French colonists were brought in. In 1836, the Russian language was imposed as official administration, school and church. Initially an aspect of administrative unification of Bessarabia with the rest of the empire, the promotion of the Russian language in the public sphere became a full-fledged policy of Russification by the end of the 19th century, when the Russian government adopted repressive policies towards local Romanian intellectuals.

Bukovina (including North Bukovina) at that time (1775) had a population of 75,000 Romanians and 12,000 Ukrainians, Jews and Poles. It was annexed to the Habsburg-held province of Galicia, and colonized by Ukrainians, Germans, Hungarians, Jews and Armenians. They were granted free lands and exclusion from paying any taxes. Between 1905 and 1907, 60,000 Romanians were promised more land, and were sent to Siberia and the Central Asian provinces. Instead, further Byelorussians and Ukrainians were brought in. The official languages in school and administration were German and Polish.


The Habsburgs[edit]

In 1683 Jan Sobieski's Polish army crushed an Ottoman army besieging Vienna, and Christian forces soon began the slow process of driving the Turks from Europe. In 1688 the Transylvanian Diet renounced Ottoman suzerainty and accepted Austrian protection. Eleven years later, the Porte officially recognized Austria's sovereignty over the region. Although an imperial decree reaffirmed the privileges of Transylvania's nobles and the status of its four "recognized" religions, Vienna assumed direct control of the region and the emperor planned annexation.[18]

The Romanian majority remained segregated from Transylvania's political life and almost totally enserfed; Romanians were forbidden to marry, relocate, or practice a trade without the permission of their landlords. Besides oppressive feudal exactions, the Orthodox Romanians had to pay tithes to the Roman Catholic or Protestant church, depending on their landlords' faith. Barred from collecting tithes, Orthodox priests lived in penury, and many labored as peasants to survive.[18]

Under Habsburg rule, Roman Catholics dominated Transylvania's more numerous Protestants, and Vienna mounted a campaign to convert the region to Catholicism. The imperial army delivered many Protestant churches to Catholic hands, and anyone who broke from the Catholic Church was liable to receive a public flogging. The Habsburgs also attempted to persuade Orthodox clergymen to join the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church, which retained Orthodox rituals and customs but accepted four key points of Catholic doctrine and acknowledged papal authority.[18]

Jesuits dispatched to Transylvania promised Orthodox clergymen heightened social status, exemption from serfdom, and material benefits. In 1699 and 1701, Emperor Leopold I decreed Transylvania's Orthodox Church to be one with the Roman Catholic Church; the Habsburgs, however, never intended to make Greek-Catholicism a "received" religion and did not enforce portions of Leopold's decrees that gave Greek-Catholic clergymen the same rights as Roman Catholic priests. Despite an Orthodox synod's acceptance of union, many Orthodox clergy and faithful rejected it.[18]

In 1711, having suppressed an eight-year rebellion of Hungarian nobles and serfs, the Austrian empire consolidated its hold on Transylvania, and within several decades the Greek-Catholic Church proved a seminal force in the rise of Romanian nationalism. Greek-Catholic clergymen had influence in Vienna; and Greek-Catholic priests schooled in Rome and Vienna acquainted the Romanians with Western ideas, wrote histories tracing their Daco-Roman origins, adapted the Latin alphabet to the Romanian language (see Romanian alphabet), and published Romanian grammars and prayer books. The Romanian Greek-Catholic Church's seat at Blaj, in southern Transylvania, became a center of Romanian culture.[18]

The Romanians' struggle for equality in Transylvania found its first formidable advocate in a Greek-Catholic bishop, Inocenţiu Micu-Klein, who, with imperial backing, became a baron and a member of the Transylvanian Diet. From 1729 to 1744, Klein submitted petitions to Vienna on the Romanians' behalf and stubbornly took the floor of Transylvania's Diet to declare that Romanians were the inferiors of no other Transylvanian people, that they contributed more taxes and soldiers to the state than any of Transylvania's "nations", and that only enmity and outdated privileges caused their political exclusion and economic exploitation. Klein fought to gain Greek-Catholic clergymen the same rights as Roman Catholic priests, reduce feudal obligations, restore expropriated land to Romanian peasants, and bar feudal lords from depriving Romanian children of an education.

The bishop's words fell on deaf ears in Vienna; and Hungarian, German, and Szekler deputies, jealously clinging to their noble privileges, openly mocked the bishop and snarled that the Romanians were to the Transylvanian body politic what "moths are to clothing". Klein eventually fled to Rome where his appeals to the Pope proved fruitless. He died in a Roman monastery in 1768. Klein's struggle, however, stirred both Greek-Catholic and Orthodox Romanians to demand equal standing. In 1762 an imperial decree established an organization for Transylvania's Orthodox community, but the empire still denied Orthodoxy equality even with the Greek-Catholic Church.[18]

The Revolt of Horea, Cloşca and Crişan[edit]

Emperor Joseph II (ruled 1780-90), before his accession, witnessed the serfs' wretched existence during three tours of Transylvania. As emperor he launched an energetic reform program. Steeped in the teachings of the French Enlightenment, he practised "enlightened despotism," or reform from above designed to preempt revolution from below. He brought the empire under strict central control, launched an education program, and instituted religious tolerance, including full civil rights for Orthodox Christians. In 1784, Transylvanian serfs under Horea, Cloşca and Crişan, convinced they had the Emperor's support, rebelled against their feudal masters, sacked castles and manor houses, and murdered about 100 nobles. Joseph ordered the revolt repressed, but granted amnesty to all participants except their leaders, whom the nobles tortured and put to death in front of peasants brought to witness the execution. Joseph, aiming to strike at the rebellion's root causes, emancipated the serfs, annulled Transylvania's constitution, dissolved the Union of Three Nations, and decreed German as the official language of the empire. Hungary's nobles and Catholic clergy resisted Joseph's reforms, and the peasants soon grew dissatisfied with taxes, conscription, and forced requisition of military supplies. Faced with broad discontent, Joseph rescinded many of his initiatives toward the end of his life.[19][20]

Joseph II's Germanization decree triggered a chain reaction of national movements throughout the empire. Hungarians appealed for unification of Hungary and Transylvania and Magyarization of minority peoples. Threatened by both Germanization and Magyarization, the Romanians and other minority nations experienced a cultural awakening. In 1791 two Romanian bishops—one Orthodox, the other Greek-Catholic—petitioned Emperor Leopold II (ruled 1790-92) to grant Romanians political and civil rights, to place Orthodox and Greek-Catholic clergy on an equal footing, and to apportion a share of government posts for Romanian appointees; the bishops supported their petition by arguing that Romanians were descendants of the Romans and the aboriginal inhabitants of Transylvania. The Emperor restored Transylvania as a territorial entity and ordered the Transylvanian Diet to consider the petition. The Diet, however, decided only to allow Orthodox believers to practise their faith; the deputies denied the Orthodox Church recognition and refused to give Romanians equal political standing alongside the other Transylvanian nations.[19]

Leopold's successor, Francis I (1792–1835), whose almost abnormal aversion to change and fear of revolution brought his empire four decades of political stagnation, virtually ignored Transylvania's constitution and refused to convoke the Transylvanian Diet for twenty-three years. When the Diet finally reconvened in 1834, the language issue reemerged, as Hungarian deputies proposed making Magyar (Hungarian) the official language of Transylvania. In 1843 the Hungarian Diet passed a law making Magyar Hungary's official language, and in 1847 the Transylvanian Diet enacted a law requiring the government to use Magyar. Transylvania's Romanians protested futilely.[19]

At the end of the 17th century, following the defeat of the Turks, Hungary and Transylvania become part of the Habsburg Monarchy. The Austrians, in turn, rapidly expanded their empire: in 1718 an important part of Wallachia, called Oltenia, was incorporated into the Austrian Empire and was only returned in 1739.

Towards independence[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Stoica, Vasile (1919). The Roumanian Question: The Roumanians and their Lands. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Printing Company. p. 18. 
  2. ^ Giurescu, p. 183.
  3. ^ Coln, Emporungen so sich in Konigereich Ungarn, auch in Siebenburgen Moldau, in der der bergischen Walachay und anderen Oerten zugetragen haben, 1596
  4. ^ Marco Venier, correspondence with the Doge of Venice, 16 July 1595
  5. ^ Giurescu, p. 192.
  6. ^ a b Giurescu, p. 193.
  7. ^ a b Giurescu, p. 194.
  8. ^ Giurescu, p. 195.
  9. ^ Giurescu, p. 196.
  10. ^ a b Giurescu, p. 199.
  11. ^ Giurescu, p. 198.
  12. ^ Giurescu, p. 201.
  13. ^ Giurescu, p. 200.
  14. ^ Giurescu, p. 201–05.
  15. ^ a b c d e f The Ottoman Invasions in U.S. Library of Congress country study on Romania (1989, Edited by Ronald D. Bachman).
  16. ^ George Lupascu Hajdeu: "I, grandson and blood-heir of Prince Stephen Petriceicu, lord of the land of Moldavia, I, unfortunate fugitive from the land of my fathers, I, who was once a wealthy boyar, but who now am a wanderer in a strange land, so poor and poverty-stricken that in my old age I cannot even leave my God alms and a sacrifice, I promise that if God grants that Moldavia, or the district of Hotin, escapes from its enemies, the Turks, and my sons, or my grandsons, or my family regain possession of their estates and their holdings, a church shall be built to St. George in Dolineni (Hotin).... Let us not lose hope that God will pardon us, and that our dear Moldavia shall not always remain under the heel of the Muslims.... May pagan feet not tread on my ancestors' graves, and if my ashes may not rest in my ancestral soil, may my descendants' have that good fortune!"
  17. ^ Gen. Pavel Kiseleff Russia on the Danube, p. 211 : "The inhabitants fled out of Bessarabia, preferring the Turkish regime, hard though it was, to ours."
  18. ^ a b c d e f Transylvania under the Habsburgs in U.S. Library of Congress country study on Romania (1989, Edited by Ronald D. Bachman).
  19. ^ a b c The Reign of Joseph II in U.S. Library of Congress country study on Romania (1989, Edited by Ronald D. Bachman).
  20. ^ With reference to the 1784 revolt, the U.S. Library of Congress country study says "under Ion Ursu". That is presumably "Vasile Ursu", generally known by his nom-de-guerre, Horea. The revolt is generally known to Romanians as the Revolt of Horea, Cloşca and Crişan.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.

  • Charles Upson Clark: Bessarabia: Russia and Roumania on the Black Sea [1];
  • Stanislaw Schwann: Marx-Engels Archives, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Holland;
  • Karl Marx - Însemnări despre români, Ed. Academiei RPR, Bucureşti, 1964
  • Pop, Ioan Aurel, Istoria Transilvaniei medievale: de la etnogeneza românilor până la Mihai Viteazul ("Histori of medieval Translyvania, from the ethno-genesis the Romanians until Mihai Viteazul"), Cluj-Napoca.
  • Iorga Nicolae: "Byzance après Byzance. Continuation de l'"Histoire de la vie Byzantine"", Institut d'Etudes Byzantines, Bucharest 1935;
  • Chris Hellier "Monasteries of Greece"; Tauris Editions, London 1995;

< The Middle Ages | History of Romania | National Awakening >