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CHAPTER X

THE SURVIVAL OF ROUMANIAN

Rural schools in Bessarabia had a strange origin. The tolerant Moldavians had given asylum to the Russian heterodox Lipovans; and when Bessarabia became Russian, the orthodox clergy felt it was their duty to give proper religious instruction to the children of these schismatics. In 1835, the country clergy in Olonetzi were ordered to give free instruction in their homes in reading, the catechism, church prayers, etc.; and in 1837, Bishop Demetrius extended this provision to all Bessarabia. But the rural priests did not know Russian; and Demetrius issued his instructions in 1842 in Roumanian, stating that the priests must give "elementary instruction to boys in the Moldavian language, since the Moldavian villagers have need of teachers to teach them to read Moldavian, and for this reason they are giving their children for instruction to private lay teachers, who undoubtedly are unable to give the Moldavian youth instruction in that Christian disposition and spirit which is prescribed." Demetrius reports that in 1844 there were 326 such elementary schools, conducted by priests; in 1845, there were 346 instructors, and 5177 pupils. These voluntary schools struggled along till the days of Bishop Paul (1871), who dissolved all Roumanian schools. Governmental rural schools do not appear except sporadically till after the Crimean War; in 1855, with a population of a million, there were in Bessarabia 89 rural lay schools, with 2120 pupils. In 1911, with a population of two and a half millions, there were 1522 schools, with 72,000 boys in attendance, and 29,000 girls, a proportion of four children in school to every hundred inhabitants. The average school year was 160 days. In the country; 1/4 of the boys aged 7-14 went to school, and 1/8 of the girls. About 1/3 of the rural teachers were women; they were much better educated than the men teachers, of whom 63% had had only a grammar-school education.

In consequence of the Crimean War, Russia was forced by the Treaty of Paris to give back part of Southern Bessarabia to Moldavia (now part of Roumania). This was the counties of Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail, and the mouths of the Danube, covering 18,288 square kilometers, with over 125,000 inhabitants, and 94 Orthodox churches. This territory remained Roumanian 22 years. Its population was largely foreign-Bulgarian, Gagaoutz, German; and its progress during those 22 years gives some indication of what may now be expected for Bessarabia as a whole. Just as in 1918, the Roumanians found few schools in proportion to the population; but when Russia reannexed this region in 1878, there were a classical lycee at Bolgrad, a gymnasium at Ismail, four city high schools and 121 country district schools, with some 8000 pupils altogether. And this influence lasted. Hanesh tells an anecdote illustrating this, in his "Scriitorii Basarabeni" (p. 31). In 1917 he met in Kishineff a Russian officer who spoke pure contemporary Roumanian, not the old-fashioned "Moldavian" current in Bessarabia; but on being asked where he came from in Roumania, the officer replied that he was a Bessarabian from Ismail, and that they all spoke such Roumanian there.

As a result of this system, the native Moldavian majority for a hundred years had no higher school destined to its education in its own language, and for fifty years not a school of any kind in which its language was even taught! Most extraordinary is the discussion in the Russian Duma in 1911, in connection with the proposal, in Article 16 of the bill dealing with primary education, that in localities where the population was Polish, Lithuanian, German, Tartar, Esthonian, Lett, Armenian, Georgian, etc., instruction in their mother tongue might be granted in government schools, in case of formal petition by the commune or by a group of parents. A Bessarabian Peasant Party deputy, Gulikin, not a Moldavian but a Russian (one of the schismatic Lipovans), moved to have the Moldavians included in the list of peoples with this privilege. Other Bessarabian deputies-Father Ghepetzky, the wealthy land-owner A. Krupensky, and Sholtuz-protested ; and another, the anti-Semite Purishkevitch, cried out: "If you give the Moldavians the right to have schools in their mother tongue, you should give it to the Kirghisses, the Buryats, the Ostyaks and other savage tribes." And by their votes the proposal was squelched.

Naturally, this system resulted not in acquisition of Russian by the Moldavians, but in their almost complete illiteracy in any language. Ac cording to the latest full Russian figures for Bessarabian literacy (1897), 82% of the male population was unable to read and write, and 96% of the women! In urban centers, the proportion was 57% and 78% respectively. Of all the nationalities in Bessarabia, the Germans had the highest percentage of persons able to read and write-63%; next came the Poles, with 55% ;the Jews, with 50% men, 24% women; the White Russians, 42% and 11% ;the (Great) Russians, 40% and 21% ; the Bulgarians, 31% and 6% ; the Turks (Gagautzi) 21% and 2% ; the Ukrainians, 15% and 3%-and the Moldavians, half the population of Bessarabia, 10.5% of the men, 1.7% of the women! A century of the Imperial Russian school administration can hardly have advanced these Moldavians at all.

The preservation of Roumanian as a literary language at all in Bessarabia is due primarily to the Church; and there too the Imperial Government took a hand, and endeavored to make the Church an instrument of Russification. That was all the easier, in that Russians and Roumanians both belonged to the Eastern Orthodox Church; where Russia had to struggle with a different church, as in Poland, the task was far harder. And yet in Bessarabia their efforts with the Church met with similar unsuccess to that in the schools. Their school policy, instead of teaching the Roumanians Russian, landed them perhaps deeper in illiteracy; and the like church policy led to an estrangement between the Roumanian peasant and the Russian priest and church, resulting in a peasantry largely without religion, as elsewhere in Russia-one of the most striking phenomena brought to light by the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Government. As was well said by Ambassador Paleologue (Revue des Deux Mondes, 1922, 543), quoting Napoleon's "Un archeveque, c'est aussi un prefet de police": "the Russian clergy was a sort of gendarmerie, paralleling the military gendarmerie."

Of the Bessarabian peasants' eagerness for schooling and the printed word in their own tongue, I had ample evidence while in Bessarabia; it was delightful to see their pride in the new school buildings, constructed of the soft limestone, full of fossil shells, which underlies so much of the country. Even with a pitifully inadequate budget, the Roumanian government is putting up schools all over Bessarabia; everywhere the peasants help with contributions of labor, materials and money. I have already referred to the dedication of the new school-house at Tsariceanca-de-Sus (Akkerman) ; the Russian peasants of this village, of about 5000 people, had had no school in town under the Russians, but used the cramped facilities of the school in the lower town (Tsariceanca-de-Jos), a couple of miles away. A reverent and radiant crowd thronged the foundations and the surroundings of the school while Fr. Russul read the scriptures, delivered his eloquent speech, led the children's choir, prayed for the school's success, and blessed the corner-stone all in Roumanian first, and then in Russian. Then the priest, superintendent of schools and teachers, invited guests and village dignitaries, about 100 in number, adjourned to the building used as a temporary school. Long tables had been laid there, covered with everything proper to eat in Lent; it looked quite like a church supper at home, except for the abundance of wines, brandies and vodka. We began with caviare and an extraordinary variety of fish, fresh, salt, smoked, pickled, canned, cold with mayonnaise, and what not, with beans and other vegetables, white, whole wheat and rye bread, puddings of various sorts; as the assemblage thawed out, the priest called on the Prefect to make a speech; he was mercifully short and to the point, but others indulged the fondness of both Russian and Roumanian for oratory; underlying all, however, was faith in the school and education as the best solution for Bessarabia's troubles.

Moisiu, in his "Shtiri din Basarabia de astazi" (pp. 103-104), has characteristic anecdotes of fifteen years ago, when the Bessarabian peasantry were just awakening. "In several Bessarabian churches I have seen the faithful besieging the priest at the end of services, begging him with tears in their eyes, and some even on their knees, to let them take and read the number of the 'Luminatorul' (The Light, a religious periodical in Russian and Roumanian, which started in January 1908) from which he had read the sermon that morning. The priest usually gave it out to one of the leading men in town, and made out a list of those who should read it, in order; nobody could keep it more than two days. And these readings in Moldavian were genuine functions; crowds of all sorts of people thronged the house of the reader, and could never get enough of listening to the 'articles in our Moldavian.' . . . It will be hard for me to forget the joy of some Bessarabian peasants when I gave them a copy of the magazine 'Nashe Obedinenie' ('Our Union,' in Russian) of June 12, 1911, in which (surreptitiously, to all appearance) among the 32 pages were smuggled, on pp. 16-19, five articles written in Moldavian . . . . They read them and reread them time and again. They were written in the conversational language which they themselves used; and they all exclaimed: 'Now the Russian teacher says that the Lord doesn't allow Moldavian to be written down on paper, and look how nice it sounds here on paper in our language'"

Hanesh well says (p. 39) : "The unity of the Roumanian race in the trials of its early days, was maintained thanks to the shepherds. Passing with their flocks over the Carpathians and the Balkans and the broad Danubian plains, the Roumanians in the pastoral stage kept in constant touch with one another, spread and preserved the same language and the same ways. In time, part of the Roumanian race became farmers, part (after the founding of the Roumanian principalities) settled down as business men and officials, but part still remained shepherds, carrying on the same manner of life as their forebears of a thousand years before. Even today, these shepherds follow the same paths from the mountain to the plain, and the plain to the mountain, and continually cross the Baragan, the Dobrudja and Bessarabia. Everywhere in this latter province, if you ask people if they ever had Roumanian books under the Russians, they will tell you that besides church books, they had what the Transylvanian shepherds brought in." Arbors in his book on Bessarabia, and Moisiu in his, list the trashy but popular stuff the shepherds imported, and which the Russian police frequently confiscated. A young Bucovinan friend of mine, whose grandparents had a Bessarabian estate near Czernowitz, used in his boyhood to visit them there summers; and he was greatly impressed with the thoroughness with which the Russian customs inspectors searched for Roumanian books in his baggage. But there was laxness on other frontiers, even at Odessa; and a certain number of Roumanian books and periodicals straggled into Bessarabia even in periods of severe repression.

Sixty years after Bessarabia had become Russian, we have this striking testimony from Batiushkoff : "Up to 1871, when Bishop Paul came to the episcopal chair, in some monasteries and churches divine service was held in Roumanian. As soon as Bishop Paul had ascended the eparchial throne at Kishineff, he directed that in those monasteries where hitherto Roumanian had been used in the services, both Russian and Moldavian should eventually be used, and that schools should be opened in the monasteries, in which the young friars should learn Russian. With all these provisions, we have personal knowledge that in many monasteries divine service continues to be carried on in Moldavian, and that the only part sung in Russian is the `Miserere.' As a fitting excuse for this insubordination, some Moldavians have raised the objection that since the country people do not know any Russian at all, they consequently do not follow divine service held in that language. We can bear witness that not only in the remote interior of Bessarabia, where the people are solidly Moldavian, but in Kishineff itself we have come across Moldavian peasants who did not know one word of Russian. This fact cannot be explained by any separatist tendency, but merely and alone by the Moldavian peasant's inability to learn and to develop, as well as by his aloofness. However it may be, this ignorance of the language is not to be taken as a bar to the introduction of Russian into the church services. If we want to keep the Russian population from being Roumanized, if we want to save Bessarabia from being the object of Roumanophile ambitions and agitation, and if on the other hand we want to form an organic union with Russia, then we must hasten to utilize our schools for the purpose of changing (let us hope) half these Moldavian peasants into Russians." (pp. 172-3).

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