Pârvu Cantacuzino

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Pârvu III Cantacuzino
Coat of arms of Ban Gheorghe sin Șerban Catacuzino, Golden Book.png
Cantacuzino family coat of arms, variant used ca. 1730
Civilian Governor of Wallachia
In office
ca. November 17 – late November 1769
Personal details
Born unknown date
Died late November 1769
Comana, Wallachia
Spouse(s) Maria Palade (to 1741)
Elena Hrisoscoleu
Esmeralda Palade
Relations Drăghici Cantacuzino (great-grandfather)
Mareș Băjescu (great-grandfather)
Ioan Cantacuzino (nephew)
Military service
Allegiance  Wallachia
 Russian Empire
Years of service ca. 1737–November 1769
Rank Ban or Spatharios
Commands Wallachian military forces

Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739)

Russo-Turkish War (1768-1774)

Pârvu III Cantacuzino, also known as Pârvul or Pîrvu Cantacuzino (? – late November 1769), was a high-ranking Wallachian statesman who served intermittently as Spatharios and Ban of Oltenia, primarily known as the leader of an anti-Ottoman rebellion. Holding sway over a Russophile faction within the Wallachian boyardom, he briefly served as an officer in Russia's Imperial Army during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774. Pârvu was a member of the Cantacuzino family, which made him a descendant of several Wallachian Princes, and was joined in all of his political and military actions by his younger brother, the Vistier Mihai.

Helping Pyotr Rumyantsev and Nazary Alexandrovych Karazin in their occupation of Bucharest, the Cantacuzinos also arrested Grigore III Ghica; in the aftermath, Pârvu served as civilian governor of Wallachia. He commanded a part of the Wallachian military forces, assisting against the Ottoman army on the road to Giurgiu. He and his soldiers were ambushed and killed on the way to Comana Monastery, where Pârvu was buried.

His Cantacuzino branch, headed by Mihai, survived mostly in exile, joining the ranks of Russian nobility and calling for Wallachia's annexation to Russia. It included Pârvu's nephew Ioan Cantacuzino, the poet and politician, who returned for a while to take over as leader of the Russophile faction. The Russophiles maintained a presence in Wallachian politics to ca. 1800, but frictions between the Empire and the boyars pushed the party a steady decline.


Origins and rise[edit]

The Cantacuzinos were a family of Greek refugees, though probably related, through their patriarch Andronikos Kantakouzenos, with the local late-16th-century Prince, Michael the Brave.[1] Their exact relationship with the original Kantakouzenos, from whom they claimed descent, remains disputed.[2] Pârvu and Mihai descended directly from Drăghici Cantacuzino, brother of Șerban Cantacuzino, who was Prince in the 1680s, and of the scholar-politician Constantin II.[3] Drăghici, his brother Șerban, and their father, Constantin I Cantacuzino had been involved in various schemes during the 1650s and '60s, culminating in open conflict with Prince Grigore I Ghica. The latter ordered Constantin I hanged at Snagov Monastery, and mutilated Șerban.[4] This prompted Drăghici to take refuge in Istanbul. He died there in 1667, either from the plague outbreak or (as it was rumored) from poison administered by the boyar Nicula Sofialiul.[5] Through this connection, Pârvu was also maternal descendant of Prince Radu Șerban and of the high-ranking courtier Diicul Buicescul.[6]

Pârvu hailed from the "Măgureanu" Cantacuzinos, whose origin is traced to one of Drăghici's sons, also named Pârvu (or Pârvu II). This prominent boyar and diplomat under several Princes married Ilinca, daughter of Mareș Băjescu, the Ban of Oltenia.[7] The couple's youngest son, Matei, also served as Ban in 1735–1740. From his marriage to the boyaress Pagona Rustea, with whom he had a daughter, Maria, and four sons, of whom Pârvu III was second.[8] Constantin, the eldest, left for Moldavia in 1733, establishing a Cantacuzino branch there before his death in 1761.[9] Remaining in Wallachia, Pârvu, Mihai and their youngest brother, Răducanu,[10] went on to occupy high offices of the court.

The Cantacuzino brothers' political ascendancy came at the height of a Phanariote regime, when Princes were directly appointed by, and subservient to, the Sublime Porte. According to historian Neagu Djuvara, the Cantacuzinos were technically Phanariotes, but emphasized their matrilineal connection to the House of Basarab. As such, they "would soon come to lead a 'national party', one hostile to the growing influence of the Greeks".[11] Pârvu III's first contribution to the Wallachian military forces came during Constantine Mavrocordatos' third reign (1735–1741). He was ordered to take up arms during the 1737 campaign against Russia; in fact, the army's role was to intervene between the Bucharest populace and the Ottoman army, policing against pillage and rape.[12] He was at the time married to Maria, daughter of a Moldavian boyar, Andronic Palade, but became a widower in 1741; he later married Elena Hrisoscoleu, then finally another Palade, Esmeralda.[13]

By 1761, with Mavrocordatos again on the throne, Pârvu was serving as the highest-ranking Logothete. In October of that year, he and his relative, the Medelnicer Toma Cantacuzino, exchanged property in Bucharest, making Pârvu owner of the "parental homes" in Șerban-Vodă mahala—located outside Lipscani, and named after their ancestor, the Prince.[14] He went on to serve command offices in the military, as Great Spatharios and then as Oltenian Ban.[15] Mihai, married into the Văcărescu family, was also appointed as Wallachia's treasurer, or Vistier.[16] Răducanu, meanwhile, served as a Clucer, marrying Caterina, daughter of John Mavrocordatos.[17]

Revolt and death[edit]

The Cantacuzinos' role in anti-Phanariote dissent was more evident from 1764, following the arrival of Grigore III Ghica on the throne in Bucharest. After the Russo-Turkish War began in October 1768, Pârvu and his brother formed a group of pro-Russian boyars in Bucharest. Their connection with the Russians was a Polkovnik Nazary Alexandrovych Karazin (father of Vasyl Karazin).[18] While engaged in this conspiracy, Pârvu still enjoyed Ghica's trust, and, early in the war, was confirmed as Ban and Spatharios of the Wallachian army.[19]

Karazin presented the Cantacuzinos with a manifesto by Catherine the Great, the Empress of All Russia, promising to free the Danubian Principalities and the Balkans from the "barbarians' domination".[20] By then, the "Russian" party was also supported by burghers and commoners, who resented the Phanariote and Ottoman fiscal policies.[21] These, alongside boyars who embraced the cause of "Holy Rus", numbered in the thousands—according to Djuvara, some 12,000 men from Wallachia and Moldavia migrated to Russia and joined the imperial army.[22] In January 1769, with the Russians having taken Moldavia, the Orthodox Church of Wallachia sent a letter to the Empress, asking for their country to be occupied as well.[23] At around that same date, Catherine wrote to Cantacuzino personally. Her reply referred to the Wallachians as a "Slavic people"—according to historian Nicolae Iorga and political scientist Dumitru Th. Pârvu, hers is the earliest record of Pan-Slavism being tested on the locals.[24]

For several months, Karazin's mixed force did not venture out of Moldavia, and remained based at Focșani.[25] Bucharest was pacified by the Ottomans during spring 1769, when the Ottoman army again set up a direct presence. Following its acts of violence against Bucharest civilians, and aware that the Turkish garrison was undermanned, Pârvu created his own volunteer army of Romanians and Arnavutlar (Albanians), joined by some of Karazin's Zaporozhian Cossacks; in the early hours of November 16, these troops ambushed the Ottomans and arrested Prince Grigore.[26] Some 5,000 Ottoman soldiers were chased out of the capital, but only as far as Giurgiu, where they recuperated.[27] Following this move, a group of Wallachian boyars addressed Catherine a letter in which they asked for Wallachia to be annexed as a guberniya.[28]

Genealogist Eugène Rizo-Rangabé further notes that Pârvu was made the civilian "Governor of Wallachia" by General Pyotr Rumyantsev.[29] Pârvu then appealed to his in-law, Ienăchiță Văcărescu, who was to obtain for him the submission of the Boyar Council. Văcărescu was dispatched to Buzău County, but used the opportunity to cross the border into neutral Transylvania; as he recalled in his memoirs, he felt pressured by Karazin, and would not commit themselves to the Cantacuzino's unreserved Russophilia.[30] Reportedly, the Cantacuzinos hoped that Pârvu would take over Ghica's throne. This created additional frictions between the boyars, since Văcărescu wanted the throne for himself.[31]

Fortifications of Comana Monastery

A number of setbacks followed the early Russian victory. The Ottomans camped at Giurgiu began marching on Bucharest; Karazin's volunteers, sent to meet them, were defeated and had to barricade themselves in Comana Monastery.[32] Placed in command of a small Russian detachment, Pârvu Cantacuzino promised to relieve them; he was ambushed by Ottoman troops in Vlăsiei forest, outside Comana. He was killed in battle alongside all his men, including a Russian Major by the name of Andreh.[33] Some 1,000 soldiers are believed to have been killed on the anti-Ottoman side.[34] However, the Comana ambush became a Russian tactical victory: the Ottoman soldiers, believing that they would not be able to confront a stream of Russian new arrivals, backed out of the confrontation and returned to Giurgiu.[35] Pârvu's body was recovered by his followers and taken to the nearby monastery. Although the latter had been damaged during the fighting,[36] it was incidentally a traditional Cantacuzino burial site. Pârvu's remains were placed in the tomb of his maternal ancestor, Radu Șerban.[37]


A new Ottoman-appointed Prince, Emanuel Giani Ruset, tried to occupy Bucharest at various intervals from January 1770, ultimately succeeding in June, when the Russians operated a strategic retreat; in August, a large-scale Ottoman defeat at Kagul led to a Russian return, and to the peace of Küçük Kaynarca.[38] Mihai Cantacuzino was involved in the negotiations, addressing a memorandum in which he outlined the Wallachian grievances and demanded the preservation of autonomy from Ottoman rule, claiming that it had been codified by medieval Capitulations.[39] The resulting treaty gave Russia sweeping powers of intervention in Wallachian public life, and also offered a general amnesty to Russian favorites, who were allowed to preserve their mobile wealth but had to leave the country. The latter clause was used by Mihai, who settled in Russia,[40] becoming a Major General and an avid campaigner for the Russian annexation of Wallachia and Moldavia.[41] By 1775, he had donated his immobile estate for charity, establishing a Romanian-language school on the grounds of Livedea Văcărescului (Filaret) Church, Bucharest.[42]

Mihai died in exile in 1790, having been recognized as an imperial prince. He had four daughters, one of whom had married Alexey, son of Pyotr Melissino.[43] In some records, Răducanu appears as having died serving in the war;[44] other sources note his fleeing to the Russian side, and then with his brother to Russia, where he became a Polkovnik.[45] Their two sons, Nicolae and Ioan Cantacuzino, also took flight and were educated at Russian military schools.[46] Also joining them was a Moldavian, Theodorache Balș, who had married Pârvu's daughter Maria in 1770 or 1774.[47] Their Cantacuzino branch founded the village of Kantakuzinka (now Prybuzhany, in the Ukraine).[47][48]

According to scholar Constantin Rezachevici, Pârvu's killing and burial custom can be used as clues in tracing the tomb of a 15th-century Prince, Vlad the Impaler, which may also have been located at Comana.[49] The Cantacuzino revolt was remembered with hostility in records of the 1770s, often known as vremea răsmiriței ("time of troubles")[50] or răsmirița cu muscalii ("troubles with the Moskals").[51] The cause of "Holy Rus" was still represented locally by a former 1769 volunteer of Aromanian descent, Dimitrie Varlam,[52] and by Pârvu's returning nephews, Ioan and Nicolae.[53]

Nevertheless, Djuvara notes, Russophile enthusiasm in Wallachia declined steadily, especially following the renewed occupation of 1787, making the Russian party "weakest" among all boyar factions by 1800.[54] Of Pârvu's nephews, Ioan gravitated toward republicanism, circulating in the 1780s a reform project giving executive powers to the Boyar Council.[55] Withdrawn to Kantakuzinka following disappointment in the war, he started his second career, as a Romanian-language poet and translator of Western literature.[56]


  1. ^ Djuvara, pp. 28, 336–337; Stoicescu, pp. 41, 64, 136
  2. ^ Djuvara, p. 337
  3. ^ Rezachevici II, p. 45; Rizo-Rangabé, pp. 18, 22–23, 26; Stoicescu, pp. 135–145
  4. ^ Stoicescu, pp. 135–137. See also Djuvara, p. 336; Rezachevici I, pp. 14–15; Rizo-Rangabé, p. 18
  5. ^ Stoicescu, pp. 137–138
  6. ^ Stoicescu, pp. 135, 137. See also Djuvara, p. 28; Rezachevici II, p. 45; Rizo-Rangabé, pp. 20, 22; Tănase & Muscariu, p. 248
  7. ^ Rizo-Rangabé, pp. 22–23. See also Stoicescu, pp. 110, 144
  8. ^ Rizo-Rangabé, pp. 22–23
  9. ^ Rizo-Rangabé, p. 23
  10. ^ Iorga, p. 213; Rizo-Rangabé, p. 23
  11. ^ Djuvara, p. 28
  12. ^ Iorga, p. 215
  13. ^ Rizo-Rangabé, p. 23
  14. ^ Giurescu, p. 357
  15. ^ Tănase & Muscariu, p. 248. See also Djuvara, p. 285; Florescu, pp. 585, 588; Lapedatu, p. 22; Pârvu, p. 69; Taki, p. 8
  16. ^ Florescu, p. 585; Rizo-Rangabé, p. 23. See also Lapedatu, p. 22
  17. ^ Levit, pp. 30–31; Rizo-Rangabé, p. 24
  18. ^ Lapedatu, p. 21; Giurescu, p. 98; Pârvu, pp. 68–69; Taki, pp. 8, 47
  19. ^ Văcărescu & Ștrempel, p. 101; Pârvu, p. 69
  20. ^ Pârvu, p. 69
  21. ^ Giurescu, p. 98
  22. ^ Djuvara, p. 285
  23. ^ Taki, p. 47
  24. ^ Pârvu, p. 69
  25. ^ Lapedatu, p. 21
  26. ^ Giurescu, p. 98; Taki, pp. 8, 47. See also Lapedatu, p. 22; Tănase & Muscariu, p. 248; Văcărescu & Ștrempel, pp. LVIII, 101–102
  27. ^ Lapedatu, p. 22
  28. ^ Taki, pp. 8, 47
  29. ^ Rizo-Rangabé, p. 23
  30. ^ Văcărescu & Ștrempel, pp. LVIII, 101–105
  31. ^ Văcărescu & Ștrempel, pp. XXIII, LVII–LVIII
  32. ^ Lapedatu, p. 23; Tănase & Muscariu, p. 248
  33. ^ Giurescu, p. 98; Lapedatu, p. 23; Rezachevici II, p. 45; Tănase & Muscariu, p. 248
  34. ^ Tănase & Muscariu, p. 248
  35. ^ Lapedatu, p. 23
  36. ^ Tănase & Muscariu, pp. 248–249
  37. ^ Rezachevici II, p. 45
  38. ^ Giurescu, pp. 98–99
  39. ^ Taki, pp. 10–13, 52–53
  40. ^ Giurescu, p. 99
  41. ^ Iorga, p. 213
  42. ^ Florescu, p. 585
  43. ^ Rizo-Rangabé, pp. 23–24
  44. ^ Iorga, p. 213
  45. ^ Levit, p. 31; Rizo-Rangabé, p. 24
  46. ^ Iorga, p. 213; Levit, p. 31; Rizo-Rangabé, p. 24
  47. ^ a b (in Romanian) Mihai Sorin Rădulescu, "Un document de la Ecaterina a II-a: Darul împărătesei Rusiei pentru un colonel moldovean", in Historia, June 2017
  48. ^ Levit, pp. 31–32
  49. ^ Rezachevici II, p. 45. See also Tănase & Muscariu, p. 248
  50. ^ Giurescu, pp. 98–99
  51. ^ George Potra, Din Bucureștii de ieri, Vol. I, pp. 35, 147. Bucharest: Editura științifică și enciclopedică, 1990. ISBN 973-29-0018-0
  52. ^ Djuvara, p. 357
  53. ^ Iorga, pp. 212–214; Levit, p. 31; Rizo-Rangabé, pp. 24–25
  54. ^ Djuvara, pp. 285–287
  55. ^ Djuvara, p. 319
  56. ^ Levit, pp. 32–42; (in Romanian) Eugen Simion, "Dimineața poeticească a lui Ioan Cantacuzino (1757–1828)", in Revista de Istorie și Teorie Literară, Issues 1–4, 2013, pp. 7–16


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