Modern and contemporary history
The Middle Age historical sources on Romanians are rather poor, it has to be said. This is due to the fact that almost periodically the territories implied were devastated by conquerors, rulers overthrown, the treasures of state spoiled, archives lost. On earlier periods especially we have to rely on foreign documents kept in archives of more stable, more powerful neigbors.
For Transylvania we have information from the anonymous king's Bela notary, known as Anonymous (probably Bela III, 1173 - 11960). He is the earliest Hungarian chronicler and he described Hungarian exploits as they came from east and built a powerful kingdom in Central Europe. The Hungarians arrived in Europe somewhere around 900 and settled in Pannonia. Shortly after, being a war loving people and also superior on the military level to the inhabitants of Europe of the time, Hungarians subdued under their suzerainty important territories comprising partially or entirely Slovakia, western Romanian duchies, Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Albania. They spoiled several times and in the same short period Germany over to Lotharingia and Franconia and northern Italy over to Padua in Lombardy.
When Hungarians arrived in Pannonia they found it occupied by Roman princes and their shepherds, in fact probably just early statal formations of Romanized populations. The notary mentioned the Romanian duchies in Transylvania they met and finally subdued. He remarked duke Menumorut ruling from his residence Biharea, duke Glad in Banat (residing at Keve, today in Serbia) and duke Gelu inside inner Transylvania, with a residence at Dăbîca.
The conflict with Menumorut is most meaningfully reflected by the chronicler to give a good understanding of the Hungarian conquest in Europe for the present day curious or scholar. The messengers Usubuu and Veluc crossed river Tisa and came to the capital fortress of Bihor, demanding important territories on the left bank of the river for their duke.
Menumorut replied: "Dicite Arpadio duci Hungarie, domino uestro, debitores sumus ei, ut amicus amico, in omnibus, que ei necessaria sunt, quia hospes homo est, et in multis indiget. Terram autem, quam petiut a nostra gratia, nullatenus concedimus nobis uiuentibus. Hoc etiam indigne tulimus quod Salanus dux ei concessit maximam terram, aut propter amorem, ut dicitur, aut propter timorem, quod negatur. Nos autem nec propter amorem nec propter timorem ei concedimus terram, etiam quantum pugillus caperet, licet dixerit ius suum esse. Et uerba sua non conturbant animum nostrum eo, quod mandauerit nobis se descendisse de Atthile regis, qui flagellum dei dicebatur, qui etiam uiolenta manu rapuerat terram hanc ab atthauo meo, sed tamen modo per gratiam domini mei imperatoris Constantinopolitani nemo protest auferre de manibus meis."
That is "Tell Arpad, duke of Hungary, your lord. Indebted we are to him as a friend to a friend, with all requisite to him, since he is a stranger and lacks many. Yet the territory he asked from our good never will we bestow as long as we will be alive. And we felt sorry that duke Salanus conceded him a very large territory out either of love, which it is said, or out of fear, which is denied. Ourself on the other hand, neither out of love nor out of fear, we will ever concede him land, not even if spanning only a finger, although he said he has a right on it. And his words do not trouble our heart that he stressed he descends from the strain of king Attila, which was called the scourge of god. And if that one raped this country from my ancestor, now thanks to my lord the emperor of Constantinople, nobody can snatch it from my hands." (Losing several battles Menumorut is in the end compelled to accept a humiliating peace, including giving his daughter as wife of a conqueror's son.)
Already proven by archeological excavations (numerous coin hoards included), the passage cited above stresses the never disrupted connection the ancestors of the Romanians had with the Eastern Roman Empire, despite the political detachment occurred because of the invasions, making the Anonymous Chronicle the more significant for today's research.
It is interesting to notice that the Hungarians are called by that name by us, having no ethnic connection with the much earlier Huns of Attila. They use for themselves the name "Magyar", their country being "Magyarország".
The conquest in the east was ushered by the unstable status quo of the region that had already plagued the early Romanian statal formations. Anonymous cited a report from a Hungarian spy - Ocmand - that scouted the duchy of Gelu (Terra Ultrasilvana, Land over the Forests, the later Transylvania) before commencing hostile movements. Ocmand told: "Quod terra illa irrigaretur optimis fluuis, quorum nomina et utilitates seriatim dixit, et quod in arenis eorum aurum colligerent, et aurum terre illius optimum esset, et ut ibi foderetur sal et salgenia, et habitatores terre uiliores homines essent tocius mundi, quia essent Blasii et Sclaui, quia alia arma non haberent, nisi arcum et sagittas, et dux Geleou minus esset tenax et non haberet bonos milites, et auderent stare audatiam Hungarorum, quia Cumanis et Picenatis multas iniurias paterentur.", i.e. "That land is irrigated by the best rivers, the name of which he successively reminded, in the sand of which gold is collected, and that the gold of that land is the best, and therefrom salt and salty matters are extracted and that the inhabitants of that land are the neediest in the world. Being Walachians [i.e. Blacs, Vlachs, Romanians] and Slavs not having other weapons but bows and arrows and duke Gelu being little stable and not having good army men, he would not dare withstand the bravery of Hungarians, because he suffers many hindrances from Cumans and Pecenegs [Turkoman strains that left many traces over Romanians and Romania]."
The history of Transylvania until 1918 was nothing but a long row of rights lost by the natives and colonizations of allogeneic peoples. All this couldn't shatter the ethnic identity of Transylvania. The catholicization of Romanian nobles in Transylvania was soon followed by assimilation, leaving the simple people with no leaders, degrading to serves.
John (Iancu) of Hunedoara, governor of Hungary and great antiottoman fighter, was a Romanian that changed confession. His son and king of Hungary for a long time, Matei Corvin (Matthias Corvinus), had and did nothing to remind of his father origin. The Hungarian propaganda launched in time many hypotheses on their "being first" in Transylvania, one funnier than another. Just for fun, I will mention their theory according to which the Romanians arrived very late, coming from south, and their number became so important because the Romanians bred many sheep, ate cheese and throve! This propaganda works 24 / 7 refining its assertions about Transylvania and thus making them easier to believe and spreads them on large scale world wide, almost without any Romanian withstanding at all.
The old name of Transylvania, used nowadays too, is Ardeal in Romanian and Erdely in Hungarian. Its origin has been in dispute. Some say Ardeal has an Indo-European root, being akin to the German "Erde" and the English "earth". If so, it cannot originate in Hungarian, since their language is Finno-Ugric, the only relatives of the Hungarians in Europe being the Finns and the Estonians. Hungarians assert it is a composed word, made of "Erdö" - forest - and "elu" - beyond. It could be so or also could be a later made up explanation.
To its greatest extent, Hungary possessed Transylvania, Slovakia, Croatia, parts of Serbia and even of Bulgaria. However, the Romanian principality maintained its identity and autonomy until 1867 when the Austria-Hungarian dualist reign included it in Hungary.
The political leader of a Romanian statal formation bore from the beginning until 1881 the name of "voivod" (Slav word) or "Domn" (inherited from Latin "dominus"). Both words were used alike, meaning the same thing and being equal in sense.
As for Walachia, the oldest and the most significant sources before foundation are again Hungarian. They mention several Romanian voivods south of the Carpathians that struggled to keep their independence and their statal formations outside Hungarian borders. So are Ioan, Farcaș, Litovoi, Seneslau, Bărbat, Tihomir - the names cannot be entirely trusted because it is possible to assume they were badly written or translated several times.
Basarab the Founder united these small voivodships (1310?-1352) into the state of Walachia and obtained independence in 1330 after the great battle of Posada, a gorge in the mountains.
Moldavia was founded in 1353 by Dragoș I, Romanian voivod from the noble Transylvanian province of Maramureș, sent east of the Carpathians by the Hungarian crown to establish a stronghold that could keep the Tartars from their incursions over the mountains. In 1359, another Romanian voivod from Maramureș named Bogdan I banned the descendants of Dragoș I from Moldavia, becoming the ruler of the newly independent state. Until the end of the reign of Petru I in 1392 it is thought that Moldavia reached its natural border on the river Nistru from the mountains to the sea (the Black Sea).
The expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkan Peninsula in the latter half of the 14th century was a great danger to the Romanian principalities. Outstanding victories won by princes Mircea the Old (1386-1418) and Vlad the Impaler Dracula (1456-1462) in Walachia, Stephen the Great and the Holy of Moldavia and John of Hunedoara kept back Turkish advances towards the rest of Europe.
The most important Romanian prince and leader of state is Stephen the Great and the Holy (1457-1504). For his bravery defending the cross, though being an orthodox prince, the Vatican pope himself honored Stephen with the title of "Athlete of Christ". His politics tried to imply all Christendom against the Islamic threat, planning to free Constantinople that had just been occupied in 1453.
Secret treaties between Hungary and a huge Poland that asserted to share Moldavia did not permit Stephen to achieve his goal, due to the fact he had to repel Christian attacks on his own territory. He defeated Matthias Corvinus of Hungary at Baia and John Albert of Poland in the Cosmin Woods in 1497. Trying to counterbalance the hostility of the neighbors, Stephen pledge allegiance to Matthias Corvinus in 1475 and since no support was obtained, after Chilia on Danube and Cetatea Albă (White Fortress) at the sea were lost to Turkish armies in 1484, he also pledged allegiance to Poland in 1485. Despite all these Stephen the Great and the Holy DID NOT get any help from the powerful Christian neigbors, against the Ottomans.
The Christendom was led by scorn and discord, so that, towards the end of his reign, Stephen was force to pay a small, symbolic tribute to the sultan, thus Moldavia falling under Ottoman suzerainty like Walachia did not very long before.
Once Hungary destroyed in 1542, Transylvania, as a principality, fell under the same rule for a long time.
Several Romanian princes tried to reclaim independence but shortly after one victorious battle or two they lost their thrones. The Sublime Porte was suzerain of the Romanian principalities, but what is the meaning of this? The principalities had to pay a yearly tribute, not to engage in treaties against the suzerain or wage wars against third parts without permission, just like the feudal rules are. On the other hand the Porte guaranteed the vassal borders, did not mingle in the internal affairs and promised not to build mosques or convert the people. The important thing about these capitulations was the Romanian principalities kept their existence all along the Middle Age, unlike Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and so on. Peace with the Turks, yet often broken, meant stability (stability being very dear to Romanians even today) and the moving of the two principalities capitals from the mountains to the heart of the land. The Walachian capital changed from Tîrgoviște to Bucharest and the Moldavian from Suceava to Iași.
Worth mentioning is the ruler Michael the Brave, that won important battles against the Turks and gathered in 1600 the three principalities under his scepter, even though the union did not last long.
The seal of the prince is of the utmost interest, comprising the coats of arms of the three Romanian principalities: in the middle, on a shield hatched horizontally (blue) the Moldavian urus, above Walachian eagle between sun and moon holding cross in beak, below Transylvanian coat of arms: two meeting, standing lions supporting a sword, treading on seven mountains. The Moldavian shield is held by two crowned characters.
There are two inscriptions on the seal. First, circular, in Cyrillic, seems to be IO MIHAILI UGROVLAHISCOI VOEVOD ARDILSCOI MOLD ZEMLI, meaning something like IO MICHAEL WALACHIAN VOIVOD TRANSYLVANIAN MOLD LAND. Second, placed along a circular arc separating the Walachian coat from the rest of the heraldic composition, NML BJE MLRDIE, could be translated THROUGH THE VERY GRACE OF GOD.
Michael took the princedom of Walachia during the fall of 1593. On November 13th 1594 the country raises against the Ottomans. The Turks fought back the next year and on August 23rd 1595 the battle of Călugăreni takes place. The lack of troops and the fatigue were the reasons that kept Michael from chasing the enemy and throwing him in the Danube, so that the victory could not be fructified.
In 1599 Michael overthrown his enemy in Transylvania, prince Andrew Báthory, as result of the later's having intended to dispose the Walachian prince of his reign. On October 28th took place the battle of Șelimbăr, near Sibiu, and on November 1st Michael entered triumphantly in Alba Iulia, therefore named afterwards the City of the First Union (for the same reason Ferdinand and Mary were crowned as king and queen in the very same city in 1921). The High Porte (from which, at the time speaking, Transylvania rightfully depended) acknowledged the union, sending yet one reigning flag to Michael (for Transylvania) and another one for his son Pătrașcu (for Walachia).
In May 1600 Michael entered Moldavia, the capital city of Suceava and the famous fortress of Neamț opening voluntarily their gates. Moldavian prince Ieremia Movilă fled abroad, still keeping the border fortress of Hotin on river Nistru.
During June, July and August 1600 Michael the Brave effectively ruled all three Romanian Principalities, thus accomplishing the first Great Union of Romanians. His seal as seen on the coin can be deemed the first coat of arms of Romania, resembling well the nowadays state coat also.
The authority of Michael collapsed as result of foreign intervention: during September the Polish great chancellor Jan Zamoyski entered the country with powerful armies, as well as armies of German emperor Rudolf, led by general George Basta, the later occupying Transylvania subsequent to the Mirăslău battle. The Turks also entered Oltenia, only that the later invaders were beaten by Preda Buzescu. Surrounded from all around by enemies, Michael gave up, fleeing for Vienna were he got on January 12th 1601, and then for Prague (February 23rd), were he is received in audience by emperor Rudolf himself.
In spring 1601 Michael entered Transylvania with imperial support, winning the victory of Guruslău. On august 19th, Michael was assassinated at the Field of Turda, as ordered by general Basta. His head was brought by comis Radu Florescu (boyar ranking originated in Latin commissarius, from which the English got commissary) to Walachia and buried at the Monastery of Dealul.
The war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1711 marked an important moment for the principalities. Unfortunately it took place on the Moldavian soil, against the plans the czar Peter the Great has in his mind. The Walachian voivod and the Moldavian one both promised support to the czar, but only Dimitrie Cantemir from Moldavia gave it. The ruler and the great scholar (member of the Berlin Academy) Dimitrie Cantemir fled in 1711 after the defeat of Stănilești to Russia along the czar.
Constantin Brîncoveanu, ruler of Walachia for a long time, was martyred in 1714 in Constantinople, along with four sons and his closest counselor, in front of a great audience of European ambassadors. Dying as martyr (preferring to die than convert to Islam), he was raised by the Romanian Orthodox Church to the rank of saint. This must not surprise anyone - the Canterbury Tales written by Chaucer were told by pilgrims that went to worship the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket that also refused to change confession.
The thing is that from 1711 on the Porte lost confidence in the earthly rulers of the land and imposed Greek leaders from the Greek district of Constantinople called Fanar, loyal to the Empire but seldom knowing a Romanian word.
The Constantinopolitan rulers, imposed not chosen by the natives as before, brought with them bands of ruthless self-seeker Greeks and robbed together the two countries. The Fanariot period lasted long enough to induce to the Romanian disgust for Greeks and only time removed from inside their minds this sensation The Greeks bought their reign from the sultan and thus they had to exploit the countries as much as possible before their mandate expired. Many Greek rulers are known to have had several reigns, even four or five in Walachia and four or five in Moldavia, each of these having to be paid for.
During the Middle Age the Principalities suffered territorial losses. Walachia lost the seaside, the fortresses Giurgiu, Dîrstor and Brăila on Danube to the Turks. Also lost the western, rich province of Oltenia in 1718 to the Austrians, fortunately reclaimed from them by Turks in 1739. Moldavia lost fortress Chilia on Danube, Cetatea Albă at the sea, fortress Tighina on Nistru along with a not such a lesser territory somehow comprised amid the three, territory called Basarabia because formerly belonged to the Basarab dynasty in Walachia. It also lost fortress Hotin on Nistru. In 1538, along with Tighina and Basarabia, Petru Rareș lost his throne, the treasures of the state in Suceava were robbed and archives lost. These treasures included the sword of Stephen the Great and the Holy, sword that still lies inside the Top-Kapi Museum in Constantinople. Towards the year 1600 the two principalities had lost all the numerous possessions they had inside Transylvania even since their formation in favor of Hungarians and then Austrians. Basarabia was colonized by Turks with Tartars, Muslims and also fierce militarily organized warriors that kept at bay the principality rulers accordingly to the orders received from the sultan.
The free Romanians did not forget their brothers. Many voivods built orthodox churches for the Transylvanians; Moldavian voivod Vasile Lupu build a church in Chilia (Basarabia) and Constantin Brîncoveanu a church in Ismail (also known as Smil, in Basarabia).
The Porte conceded to Austria in 1775 the Moldavian territories of Cernăuți and Suceava (to the north), known afterwards as Bucovina, territories that were not theirs to give, against all capitulation conditions in the past. Worth mentioning is that the Turks on site negotiator fooled the Porte into convincing it there was just a small passage between Transylvania and Galicia. Grigore Ghica III, voivod of Moldavia, protested and so his head was cut, stuck in honey and sent to Istanbul.
Russia became in the meanwhile a terrible power. In 1792 its borders reached the river Nistru, eastern Moldavian border. The next year Russia and Prussia share Poland just like the Soviet Union and Germany shared Europe in 1939-1940 (Poland included). During Napoleonic wars, in 1806, Russia occupies with its armies the two principalities intending to keep them for itself. Given in 1812 the fact Napoleon was marching to Moscow, the czar makes a quick peace with the Porte. Betrayed by its own dragoman (ambassador), the Porte accepts disadvantageous conditions, conceding Basarabia to Russia.
The problem is that Basarabia was a small territory between rivers Prut and Nistru that belonged to Walachian princes of the Basarab family in the 14th century before the Moldavian rulers. The traitors have given Russia ALL the territory between the two rivers, meaning neither more nor less then half of Moldavia, loss unconceivable in these terms. So, thanks to traitors and powerful armies, Russia swallows half of Moldavia, mischievously baptizing it Basarabia and transforming it into a "gubernia", led by a "gubernator" (something alike a viceroy in Spanish Southern America). In 1813, next year, swallows Georgia.