The Place Of The Romanian People In Universal History

Toward the end of the Middle Ages, the Romanians, until then living in their traditional peasant autonomies, which stand for an entire, complete political order with archaic roots, arrived, after the abolition of anarchy, at their boundaries and, on one side, because of a new flow of chivalrous occidental spirit, and of commercial enterprises, on the other, they founded states whose character should be defined even before the changes that around 1400 would specify better their character.They did not lose any memories of a long past in whose depth there was the permanency of Roman ideas, now arrived at the state of popular instinct. Although the base remains a peasant one, decentralized in villages, a fact which represents their main force, in these small formations nothing will change until the end on the former regime, which lasted till the 'philosophical' era of the 18th century. Above these ancestral formations rises, in Moldavia more than in Wallachia, a chivalrous military edifice; this has nothing to do with Western feudalism, because, as in Hungary and Poland, there is no hierarchy of rights. These principalities which, before their true ancient meaning, are small 'empires', have a definite geographic character, with nothing from the Balkan Slavs; they arrive at the natural boundaries which are, at the same time, by a happy coincidence, those of their nation itself. Therefore, they have what they need to become with no effort modern hierarchies, more by the logic of development itself than by the advent of foreign ideas. There have been discussions over the origin of the first Romanian high offices and it has been showed what can be admitted regarding the first four decades of Moldavia. For Wallachia, if some titles come from Hungary, or they suffered a great Hungarian influence, which does not have to be too much extended, a great part of that influence comes undoubtedly from Byzantium, but through the southern Slavs, as in 'logothetes' (bailiff), village chief, treasurer, but not in sword bearer, supposedly of Romanian origin, even though there is a Byzantine word, 'spatharios' (stableman).Let's add that, if in Wallachia the Latin language competed the Slavonic language on coins, the former occupies all the territory in Moldavia. Let's take a glimpse at the church of Wallachia. There is no influence from Hungary, which first of all proves a well-established tradition. Then, with the arrival of Nicodim, the Macedonian monk, so influent and active, having relationships with the neighbor king, too, who tolerates and protects his schism, the Greek Church style from a monastery or from the provinces is imposed. In Arges, where Basarab is buried in Franco-Italian clothes, there is a modest monastery in opus reticulatum, a mixture of rocks, bricks and cement, with an outstanding oil painting, more complex than that of the sanctuaries of Mistra; the inscriptions are in Greek, on one side and in Slavonic, on the other.But only there, in the church and in the chancellery, the Oriental influence spreads over the Romanians from the Near East, mainly with a Slavic character. All this is certainly not meaningless, but these are only some shiny things on the surface, forms and ornaments that do not attack this ancient popular background, that has not its own value, but serves as a main means of blending a synthesis of the influences from both sides. As back then there were not any possibilities offered by the public school and by the administration to bring about in such a short period strong changes in the deepest layers of this nation, these kept unhampered their ancient way of living. In the village area, nothing changed in the basic customs; the same free peasantry on its own land, with the only obligation of paying the tithe to the state or to those to whom it had been granted, with God's mercy. The lord, dressed in purple and covered in gold jewelry, made in the West, with lilies of Anjou, as we can see in the church of Arges, has the approach of ancient rural leaders to their peasant fellows; and the victorious army at Posada over King Carol Robert is represented in the painted Chronicle of Hungary, with their pointed fur caps, with their peasant sandals and sheepskin coats, the fur on the outside, worn by every peasant; the arms they had used to hurt and crush that proud Hungarian cavalry, shaped after the French one from the Hundred Years' War, are those that our ancestors used in times of great invasions: rocks from the mountains, rustic clubs, the bludgeon that could break the skull of a bear, and besides that, the Asian bow, borrowed from the ancient masters from the 13th century, the Persian Tartars.The village remains the family association of the descendants of a founder ancestor, whose name is still born with the suffix derivation (-esti/ -eni is for the derivation of the place): Ionesti, Petresti. By natural division, the village spreads over a whole region, as we could see in the isolated Vrancea, using for its development the safety guaranteed by a founder lord, or it changes after the model of the neighboring monarchies. While in the Balkans the nomenclature is often transient, here, the first rural formations, mentioned in the 14th and 15th centuries exist until today, and in Moldavia, where there is a custom of princely acknowledgements and a tendency to endless trials for land, in the houses that form the genealogic group, there is everything needed to form small archives, which allows the town's history to be written. Some 'Books' of sale are elaborated on the spot, that afterwards will receive the solemn confirmation of a supreme master. The priest's church is undoubtedly subjected to the bishop, but this one is far away, and his action often remains null; despite Byzantium's influence, a common religion of priests is being kept.Finally, the village, shaped after a shared foreign influence, respects not only this freedom of the creative village, but all the territories formed along the centuries and whose private life will not be troubled. So, there will still exist the 'campulung', the groups of forest (as Tigheciu), the formations that descend along the valleys, the plateaus of an ancestral isolation, as that of Vrancea, between the Szekler's Transylvania, Wallachia of the 'provinces' and Moldavia of the fortress.An entire future of originality could come out of here.* * *It was not the Phanariots who conquered countries, which they did not exploit to their own profit, but as agents of their Turks masters; on the contrary, the Romanians adopted those strangers, as many others had done that before over the centuries, and they ended by being assimilated.So, during the entire 18th century, which to the Romanians did not have a less important character, considering the radical transformations coming from a despotic ideology, only in Western Europe was the development of a very ancient synthesis possible, whose elements were borrowed from West and East alike.The show presented to the Wallachian court on important occasions was grandiose. The one who wore the name of the great Constantine, after the ancient custom from the Cantacuzins, together with his metropolitan bishop of Georgian origin and his Romanian bishops, was surrounded by a glamorous retinue of Greek prelates. Every clerical see was represented during these festivities, which gave the illusion of a Byzantium really alive, with a royal ceremony which seemed to defy that of their ancient basileis from the Turkish Istanbul. The man from Constantinople, who usually was a prince dethroned by the Turks, met the Patriarch of Alexandria, as that Samuil, who played an important role in the two principalities, the Patriarch of Antiochia, who had built in Bucharest a Chapel with Arabic and Greek inscriptions, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who back then was Hrisant Notaras himself, and had the same influence as his uncle Dosoftei on the Wallachian and Moldavian princes, and he had the same protection for the Romanian church and for the academies in the principalities, that he had not passed on to his successors for reasons regarding the change of direction in Romanian life as a whole, after Nicolae Mavrocordat's death.But being Byzantine people in such a proud way, they let themselves overtaken, more easily than before, by a slow influence of the Turkish Constantinople. This fact cannot be observed in the style, though speckled with Greek quotations, that gives it a bizarre character, but in fashion. On the one hand, bald heads instead of long locks of warrior sovereigns, fluttering clothes with long sleeves, pinned at the neck with jewel hooks, yellow shoes, no heels, and on the other hand, settees for crossing legs, stucco ornaments on the ceilings and walls of the princely residences and the nobility's houses, and even on the outside walls of the churches, like the chapel from Fundenii Doamnei, near Bucharest, with lamps, tulip vases, face-to-face birds, in the old Persian fashion.To prevent a too tyrannical domination of the customs from the Orient, from which political separation was wanted, a new influence of the Occident was needed.It has been already shown where that influence came from. Padova is the school model; the doctors with philosophical horizon come from there, 'iatrophilosophers' so much cherished at Constantinople too, but it has already started to be old-fashioned for someone like Hrisant Notaras to go to Paris to study mathematics. At the end of the 17th century, there is still an Italian idiom, next to the yet shy rivalry of the great French influence, that has already appeared, together with the Oriental exterior we find in Dimitrie Cantemir, this character so interesting in his ambiguous nature, received at the French Embassy on the Bosphorus. But this Italian fashion which we discovered and the so explicit sentence of Constantine Cantacuzino, the High Steward is nothing but a prolongation of the Renaissance. The influence of the Italians, who sustained all the way the spirit of Renaissance, is in decline. The Sublime Porte changes its international language. Around 1750-1760 there was still a great interpreter of a peasant origin, Ion Calmasul who, under the name of the Greek poet Kallimachos, took the advantage of the Latin lessons he had taken in a Polish college at Lwow and by receiving Italian knowledge he could lead the foreign offices in Constantinople: elected, promoted prince of Moldavia – he would be the founder of a dynasty, because two of his sons and a nephew would reign in the Principalities – he renounced his job near reis effendi to someone who had already been accustomed to the new regime of French language. To prepare the young Greeks to this purpose in the centers of the Ottoman Empire there were the Jesuits who used French, instead of the Italian Franciscan friars.Before that, in the ages of the patriarchal simplicity, the relations between the independent Romanian principalities and the same blood royal subjects to the House of Austria, had a much narrower character; that period being one of the most important for a reign. In the present times, there is no longer that way. If the Phanariots do not bring a Greek nationalism, they are less disposed to serve, what can be already called, in a certain way, the Romanian nationalism. In Transylvania, the union with the Roman Church was incomplete; as most of the peasants had withdrawn from the influences of the Uniate See from Blaj, regardless all the help they could have get from the great schools, it had been passed to a Serbian stage – the Slavonic Patriarch had had for a while the authority over the Orthodox Romanian Archbishop, too – in order to prepare the great peasant mutiny which, under the rule of the priest Sofronie from Cioara, him too an apostle of social freedom, had threatened many years the imperial domination in the province. Even if such warriors for the old faith had been forced, at the end of their efforts, to search for a shelter in Wallachia, they had found there no support to encourage them. Thus, they can be seen, even from those times, as members of the rural Romanian clergy, reluctant to the attempts of modernizing them religiously, going in Russia, to the Tsars' Moscow, asking for not only charities, icons, clothes and books, but also for promises of political help, so closed to their confessional opposition. But their insistences actually managed to bring the intervention of Czarina Elisabeth to Maria Theresa, in order to demand some tolerance for the oriental faith. Before that, between the Romanians from Transylvania and those from the Principalities there was a cultural life community, that permitted the national preservation of the first ones, lead by their free brothers. In these times, as it could not be a permanent Russian patronage, these ultra-mountainous of Romanian spirit had to find a support in their own forces. They would search for winning the sympathy of the Queen of Hungary, who would remain in the Romanian rustic legend as a tried protector, a 'good mother', who could be considered as the Mother of the Savior. Even more in these times, when there would be no official propaganda under Joseph the 2nd, a declared anticlerical, almost deist, who had been fond only of his unitary German school, where exemplary subjects were formed best for the army an unlimited source of contributions. A certain 'austracism' thus formed would last, with so remarkable consequences till nowadays. Whether it kept on buying clerical books over the mountains, the united printing works had been since 1760 quite active, and the orthodox themselves had used these cheep books, in excellent printing conditions. There will exist an entire generation of writers bound to the Unite Church, the monks from Blaj, who will keep or not the initial race, to inaugurate a literature, that the national Romanian spirit will use even in this Wallachia, this Moldavia, whose great schools have no spirit alive. Not being able to occupy the Episcopal See, some Samuil Micu Klein, a relative of the former bishop, some Gheorghe Sincai, of noble family from the old Wallachian feoff of Fagaras, some Petru Maior, who was a priest and a rector in that corner of Bistrita, so closely bound to Moldavia, they had not been tied by the religious iosefism, which permitted to the Romanians to form themselves, not only in Hungary, but also in Vienna and even in Rome, the one with so many memories; but writing the history of the entire people, with some Moldavian-Wallachian chapters they did not turn themselves to these Romanian capitals, that they had not thought of visiting and which, trying to modernize themselves, they had preferred as auxiliaries in that purpose, some foreigners from East, Italians, Frenchmen, Germans, people from Ragusa. From now on there are two Romanian countries, whose permanent emulation will be a source of progress for the people.The one from Transylvania orientates with a fanatical admiration and a consistent and exclusive spirit towards that Rome of Caesars, they discover immediately, swept away by the astounding scents of an Antiquity which was the cradle itself of their nation. There was a new Renaissance for another group of Romanians; that one would even banish the Slavonic Cyrillics, would introduce a new orthography with 'ancient' letters, would try to purify the language and give to the letters from the Roman background an aspect which permitted the recognition of the original. Back home, these 'new Romans' had the Hungarian principles, became residence of the Uniate bishop. In the Principalities, Rome was not anymore, as for Miron Costin, Constantin Cantacuzino and Dimitrie Cantemir, the high beacon which spread an immortal light. The Chronicle reminded silent out of despise for such a mediocre quotidian life and nothing were replace it in literature. It is the French spirit that orientates and guides.It has not presented a revolutionary tendency yet. The aristocracy has not showed yet its program of reforms besides that of the princes conquered more and more by the new spirit. Young boyars, descendants of ancient warriors under all the Christianity's flags and of the enemies of the German intrusion in 1730, they will not get in motion to assert that they are and they will remain a nation - as the Transylvanian monks demanded on any occasion - but, then, when the armed stranger will appear to proceed, on their country too, to the division of the Ottoman Empire, their conscience will wake up in order to protest. The Action of the Boyars and the Merchants at the End of the 18th Century and the Beginning of the 19th CenturyThe Princes of foreign or half foreign origin were often relatives and friends to some local nobility, who could give them money for their daughters' dowry and the support to their political clients, even the help of their influence to Constantinople, where the denunciations traveled as fast as the letters of recommendation. But the Phanariot dynasties which had not succeeded in denationalizing themselves – not even tried to – they were something, and on the other hand, the Romanian gentry were something else, quite different, although they often spoke the Greek as fluently as the heads of the country. These noblemen of ancient descent and those added by the prince's benevolence did not need to be advised by some people of Constantinople, to set them straight to the same new Eastern civilization. In order to know it, they had all the possibilities of a vast reading sometimes preferred in West too, with a natural attraction for the trifles in fashion. Because of the restrictions imposed by some suspicious masters, they could not go West to be acquainted with that world so revolutionary as spirit – and, apart from some outing in Transylvania, especially during the Russian or Austrian invasions or the devastating raids of the masters, become independent, or the Turks from Danube; hardly a boyar rarely obtained the permission to go in Europe to take care of his health; such as that Barbu Stirbei, who flattered by international aristocrats and ambassadors, would not listen to the beseeching voice of his abandoned wife. However they managed to receive even the most daring and bitter products of the 'philosophical' writers, as gazettes, lampoons, books by the Austrian consulate mail, of the 'agency', which made a nice gain out of that service as errand boy. That way, in this Romanian environment, a growing tendency to the political and social satire took shape. Nobody would ever think of publishing those kinds of writings. But they circulated as anonymous manuscripts, eagerly read, sometimes even hindered, without any chance that the prince in question, often even mocked at in theater plays never played on stage, could discover and punish the authors, or could prevent the appearance of other similar plays. Occasionally, the most interesting fragments, cut up and translated from foreign gazettes, were spread into that society of privileged, who did not lack of intelligence, or spirit agility. Some unaccustomed true Phanariots, reading the forbidden Voltaire, even dared to ridicule their Romanian colleagues, who, to these practical economic spirits with the sense of family duties in a way the Occident could not pretend, they seemed as corrupt people, squanderers and most of all blockheads – as that Alexandru Calfoglu, whom we have an entire poem from. The Chronicle hardly remains silent when some late chronicler wrote down with no passion the events of such a small interest, which had formed some transient reigns. But, there is instead the satirical exposé: people mock at the prince, at his manners, sometimes brutal and unpolished, as those of Nicolae Mavrogheni, who was presented as a former pirate in the Archipelago waters, they mock at his protégées of mean origin, at his army he was so proud of, to that he ordered – not without having great victories – to fight against the Austrian imperialists, they even mock at the horses of 'His Majesty", out of which, at his whim, he would name them boyars as a new Caligula. Further on, as we would notice, besides some ecclesiarch who is chewing a poor caricatured history of what is going on in the country and so far to the revolutionary France, there will be other propagandists of a new fighting nationalism; this one belongs to another epoch. Certainly, these boyars, even the well-spoken to the court, had no access to their prince secrets. For the letters abroad, for deciphering the messages came from the free Christianity, there were foreign people, French men and Italians, who fulfilled the roles of secretary in the country or who were sent and accredited as diplomatic secret agents to the European 'neighbors', in Vienna or Warsaw, but not further. However that hindrance to take part in the foreign policy of the country did not stop them from knowing the general political situation. And people with a long experience had vivid wits, sometimes extremely sharp. Someone like Iancu Vacarescu, the poet, the historian, whose spiritual orientation was determined by the memory of a scholarship education in Venice and because of his familiarity with the Turkish business, due to a stage in the Wallachian chancellery at Constantinople; he had the mission to bring back to the grieved and discredited Ipsilanti his two children, left in the Occident to breath an air of freedom, he could uphold a conversation with Joseph the 2nd, came in Transylvania to meet all his subjects. Those Romanian noblemen made the impossible to obtain and keep to their children, even to their daughters, that foreign private teacher, admitted at their family dinner and even in their saloons, which were slightly lacking in conversation, and started to open, and whose role would have become soon enough very important. It had been preserved a certain number of hiring contracts, signed by persons who did not seem much acquainted with holding the quill. With much more ability or luck, even the boys could be sent abroad. They were oriented especially to Vienna, whose role was very important to the boyars too.* * *Without the Occidental fashion that reigned in Bucharest and Iasi, the Greek and Slav guests from the Balkans in the Romanian capitals, mainly in the first city, where at the Metropolitan Church was an entire center of bishops in partibus and other members of the clergy in exile, they would not have detached themselves from a certain way of thinking, writing and acting, very different from the regions they were coming from, and they would not have dared to search, on that dangerous field of new ideas, for a regeneration, firstly of themselves, then of their people. It should not be missed that, even though in Venice and even Pest, at Trieste, any stream of foreign revolutionary ideas was closely noticed, to be ceased, there was a great capacity of innovating in the residences of the Phanariot princes.Out of a freer education in their company, interesting acts of rebellion could burst against a situation which had grown undesirable, considered insulting for human dignity. Alexandru Ipsilanti had to leave the throne of Wallachia, because his two sons had disappeared from the court, looking in Transylvania the way towards the enlightened countries that a private teacher as Raicevich had told them about. When Iancu Vacarescu, the poet, succeeded in finding and bringing them back, they had not had any other explanation for their deed but the desire of seeing new horizons and of feeling no pressures on their shoulders and their spirit more open. During those times too, a son of some boyar or merchant had been seen taking the same road to study the medicine, but, him too brought home, he was less spared from the vengeance of the official world, than these two sons of a prince. It has been exaggerated a lot the influence of the officers from the occupying armies who stayed in the Romanian Principalities for more than half a century, and it has been spoken mostly of the Russians, when they were the many-colored subjects to the Emperor in Vienna, until the Prince of Ligne, who grandly receiving and enjoying ladies' benevolence, he left great pages about the society and private life in the two countries around 1790. However, both of them, but mainly the officers of the Czarina and her followers, had no such high preoccupations as suspected; gambling and dancing were their only pleasures, the only trends they wanted and could introduce in the conquered countries. At Princess Branicka's palace the niece in a certain way of the brutal favorite of the Empress, Potemkin, there had not any table-talks as in the famous French saloons; what was mostly cherished there, was a vulgar luxury dominated by the diamond's brightness of those who dreamt of seeing her 'uncle' the king of 'Dacia'. One day it was found an Italian-Romanian manual of conversation, from about 1770-1780, which showed the level of education of these guests.Besides the merchants who felt as home in Leipzig and in Bucharest and Iasi too, and those who, descending from the mountains, came to bring into the capitals the products of 'a new fashion', so dear to women, these members of the privileged companies by imperial decree, who had their churches not only in the great Transylvania cities as Brasov, or Sibiu, but also in the centers of smaller importance and, above all, in Tokaj, Eperjes and Pest, so far to Trieste, having connections almost everywhere, besides all that, there was in the Romanian Principalities a bourgeoisie and it was interesting to observe its behavior towards the invasion of the ideas of renewal.That bourgeoisie had a very far origin and a mixed character. Actually it stands for the continuation of that world, which had accumulated and developed in the Byzantine cities, especially in Constantinople. The Romanian Principalities did nothing but to adopt the merchants' successors who had enjoyed and kept on enjoying the protection of the sultans. In other domains too, the Wallachian capital, more than Iasi, was the reduced image of that 'polis', Tzarigrad that lived under the power of the Moslem master. The Romanian element was there. But its role was very modest. Just like in Moldavia of the 17th century, there are no more enterprising merchants who would sell the products of the country so far till Poland, in Danzig or in England, great racketeers that the Wallachian capital would not know. Rarely, some peasants' sons could have risen above the property of a inn, never a grocery and, as in all Europe, besides all the writings about the merchant nobility, the boyars had never thoughts of making merchants out of their sons. * * *Especially in the Moldavian cities the lane is always quiet. Any popular mutiny, so rarely and transient, is not different of that, which in the 17th century submitted the throne to Vasile Lupu. As for that, in Bucharest, people are more nervous. But here too they limit to demonstrations against the Greeks and, of course they leave from the suburbs inhabited by peasants' descendants who live rustically. Irritated by the growth of the taxes, in these still rural corners some groups are forming, and encouraged by the unsatisfied boyars, they move forward to the Metropolitan Church, where the bells toll, inviting the metropolitan bishop to fulfill his traditional duty and put himself in front of the 'people'. Nobody has anything against the prince, who they have accustomed to honor, no matter his origins are, but only against this or that minister or favorite foreigner, against 'the bad Greek'. That man, – who nobody wants to kill, because the Romanians remain gentle as spirit – once gone, everything is back on track into the calm of a nation that knows very well that 'changing princes is fool's joy'.If in that world of merchants, this or that rare sample is rich enough to have an ambition to overtake what the most prosperous trade can offer to those who practiced it, Vienna lures the one who wants a title and is looking for an environment more agreeable or even brighter. This thing is remarkable in the ridiculous case of Kirilian, who after he had made a fortune, he established in Vienna and he bought the title of baron of Langenfeld, being noticed in the presence of some vagrants boyars and of some adventurers whom he knew very well.Thus, a numerous society and undoubtedly a very clever one, that above all was accustomed to intrigues because of the inconstancy of circumstances the Phanariot world lived in for many decades, that society remained indolent, even though it knew what was going to happen in Occident, regarding those changes which if it had not been prevented to do it would have guarded itself from imitating. Because it had not arrived the hour when the world would decide in a passionate enthusiasm, towards what was new, to leave very old and strong institutions, perfectly adapted by long experiences of the social part, that it had to be represented and served.That role could have been played by the intellectuals, and they had existed. * * *Peasant Risings in the Romanian Principalities at the End of the 18th CenturyWhile that world of the cities was content to sporadically protest against the too harsh taxes or against a too overwhelming influence of some favorite or foreign master, the matter of the peasants was quite different. In their revolutionary action, that was real and sometimes of a rare ferocity, one must not think of the rural people of the two principalities. Living under the patriarchal authority of the great landlords, who lived as a rule on their lands, and, consequently, they were not subjected to the extortionate regime used so cruelly in Poland, having as an economic basis not only the well-defined and indestructible property of a land, but the right to receive for their work as much as they needed for their possibilities and family's needs, finally raising cattle which they were allowed to sell and the former masters had no rights upon, as well as on their belongings, these free farmers knew that if there was committed an abuse to their being or their land, they could find justice from a prince, precisely named by the sultan to spare the 'poor rayah'. That was the picture of the Romanian peasants in Transylvania, to whom the just settled House of Habsburg made great promises, which they avoided fulfilling and in whose souls the troubles made by the dynastical adventure of the last Rakoczy left a strong flame of future disturbances.
1934, 1985

by Nicolae Iorga (1871-1940)