Brief History of the North-East Region
Although there are remains of Neolithic dwellers in the region, it was not until the fourteenth century that Moldavia entered the annals of European history – when Dragos Voda set up an outpost against Tatars invasion. Located alongside the Russian and Ottoman empires, and the kingdoms of Hungary, Poland and Ukraine, Moldavia was long the centre of migrations, invasions and wars. Despite this, Moldavia developed a unique culture and history of its own and, for much of its history, maintained a surprisingly high level of independence from the Ottoman and Russian empires.
Moldavia showed the first signs of becoming a recognized state under the tutelage of Petru I Musat (1375 to 1391). During this time the capital city was moved from Siret to Suceava, where he built Moldavia’s first stone fortress. He also managed to expand the country considerably – to the Nistru river in the east and to the Black Sea in the south.
The majority of people in Moldavia were Orthodox Christians, although there were strong Catholic influences from neighbouring. In 1401 the country received another form of international recognition when the Orthodox Patriarch in Constantinople (the head of the Orthodox Church) granted Moldavia the right to set up its own Metropolitan seat. This happened under the reign of Alexandru cel Bun (1400 – 1432).
Moldavia’s economy started to thrive during the middle ages. The basis for this growth was the excellent natural resources from the region. Economic growth occurred in the cities of Moldavia when the trade route between the Baltic and Black seas (known as the Moldavian Road) brought large numbers of traders through. The city Bacau became a particularly important trading point during this period.
For Romanians the Golden Age in Moldavian history took place under the reign of Stefan cel Mare (1457 to 1504). His reign took place during the period when the massive Ottoman Empire was expanding all over South Eastern Europe. Greece, Albania, Serbia and Bulgaria fell under Turkish control and Moldavia was also threatened.
Stefan cel Mare fought a total of 37 battles, and is said to have lost only two. As well as fighting the Turkish Ottoman armies, he also fought the Hungarians and Poles. However, the reign of Stefan was not only about warfare. He is said to have built 44 churches, part of which are still standing. During this period a unique and little known Moldavian Architectural Style developed. Churches and monasteries were built with Gothic, Byzantine and local influences. Important proves of his reign can be found all over the region. Stefan cel Mare also established the Byzantine Music School in Putna – a monastery in Suceava where he was berried.
Moldavia could not resist the Ottoman onslaught forever and the country became a suzerain state, where independence was maintained in return for the payment of an annual fee.
During the sixteenth century Moldavia made its most significant contribution to Europe’s culture. Under Petru Rares and the Movila family, the famous painted monasteries of Bucovina were commissioned. These monasteries were painted with complex icons in the Byzantine style – a style that had been more or less wiped out in Constantinople by the invading Ottomans – and the quality of the paintings can be appreciated to this day. The following painted monasteries are under UNESCO protection: Moldovita, Probota, Sucevita and Voronet.
The seventeenth century was the most opulent period of Moldavia’s history. Under Vasile Lupu reign (1634 to 1653) were built two important churches: Trei Ierarhi and Golia in Iasi. During that time the cultural authority of Iasi, which had become the capital city, was increased when an academy and a printing press were set up.
The most notable king of the eighteenth century was Dimitrie Cantemir, a celebrated academic and orientalist. He published an authoritative History of the Ottoman Empire, was a member of the Berlin Academy and invented a “notation” system for reading Turkish music.
Moldavia’s relative independence as a state came to an end in the nineteenth century when Russia was expanding aggressively southwards – taking a chunk of north and east Moldavia in 1812 – and the pressures from the Austro Hungarians also increased.
Moldavia united with the Principality of Wallachia (southern Romania) in 1859, when the country became known as Romania and the capital was established in Bucharest. The new state owned its independence in 1877.
During the First World War Romania sided with the Allies. The Royal Family and government took refuge in Moldavia when the Germans invaded the country. At the end of the war, Romania was granted the region of Transylvania, as well as Russian-held Basarabia, at the treaty of Versailles in 1918. “Greater” Romania was thus born at 1 December 1918.
In 1940, a part of the north and east of Romania (Moldavia) – Basarabia and northern Bucovina was annexed by the Soviet Union. Romania sided with the Germans during World War Two and took back all of Basarabia and Bucovina, but this was taken back by the Soviet Union, at the end of the war, when Romania was forced into the Communist system. The Socialist Soviet Republic of Moldavia was established and the Romanian language outlawed.
What is today known as Romania North East Region represents just a part of historic Moldavia and it is formed by the counties of Bacau, Botosani, Iasi, Neamt, Suceava and Vaslui.