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CHAPTER XXIII

FRICTION UNDER THE NEW REGIME

For a day or two, Kishineff gave itself up to celebration; but then the Diet again took up its labors. Stere was elected President; Inculetz and Ciugureanu were appointed Ministers without Portfolio for Bessarabia in the Roumanian Cabinet; and a Council of Directors General was chosen by the Diet for the administration of the province, under the presidency of Dr. P. Cazacu, whose sober and well-documented history of Bessarabia has been my most trusted source, as it must be for anyone who treats the subject. Isis Council adopted a long program, pointing out the need of a budget, revenue, economy in administration, enforcement of the law, adoption of a liberal school system, agrarian reform, etc. Since the preliminary studies for the agrarian reform needed time, the Council decided that peasants might rent land during the season of 1918-19; all the land belonging to the state and to institutions was thrown open to renting; owners of estates running from 100 to 600 desyatins might keep 1/3 for themselves; those of estates from 600 up, 1/4. But the Council met with greater difficulties in other matters. Russian functionaries and officials of all kinds declined to serve under the new government, presuming that it would be short lived and fearing reprisals later. No one could realize that the Russian Empire had really vanished; and there was hope in the minds of many Russians, just as with the Hungarians in Transylvania, that the Peace Conference would refuse to recognize Roumanian overlordship.

The resultant confusion was endless. The Council made overtures to the Russian lawyers and judges, to continue in a transition regime and clear up the dockets; but the majority crossed the Dniester and waited patiently for the restoration of Russian rule, so that the Council had to establish a complete new judiciary from quite inadequate material. Gendarmes and police had to be improvised from Bessarabia itself and the Old Kingdom, under prefects whom they tried to choose from non-partisan quarters, but who were not " of the career," as most of those now in Bessarabia are proud to boast that they are. Furthermore, control of these matters was taken out of the hands of the Council through the terms of the Treaty of Bucharest (see "Greater Roumania," chapters XVI-XVII), which laid Bessarabia under requisition for the Central Powers; this necessitated military control, martial law, censorship, etc., under the Roumanian Gen. Vaitoianu, later Prime Minister, who was charged with carrying out the burdensome requisitions. As usually happens in a Bessarabian crisis, there was a drought; as everywhere, people drew unfavorable comparisons with the good old days under the Russian Empire, not realizing that the times themselves were out of joint.

No wonder that discontent was widespread, and that blame for the hard times was laid upon the Moldavian leaders of the Diet, and the Roumanians. The Mayor of Kishineff, A. C. Schmidt, led the malcontents; he was replaced, as was the Communal Council, elected in the wild days of 1917, when all Russian soldiers who happened to be in Kishineff were allowed to vote. The Council of Directors General also abolished the Provincial Zemstvo, as an anachronism in the new governmental structure, and introduced the Roumanian judicial system. This was all in the inevitable evolution of the situation, but staggered conservative Bessarabians, who had never taken the Diet seriously, and who had not dreamed as yet that Bessarabia might really have started on a path leading away from Russia. A number of earnest supporters of autonomy united with Russians of various political beliefs in protests against one or other of the actions of the Roumanians; these will be found in the booklet entitled "The Roumanian Occupation in Bessarabia: Documents," of the "Publications of the Bessarabian Delegation," presented to the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919 by MM. Krupensky and Schmidt. The more important of these documents are: the minutes of a meeting of the Kishineff Justices of the Peace held Oct. 21, 1918, protesting against the promulgation by royal decree of several fundamental changes in the judicial procedure in Bessarabia; these included the substitution of Roumanian for Russian in the courts, the abolition of the Russian position of J. P. and the substitution of a new class of assistant judges; appointment of judges by the Crown in place of election; power of the Crown to remove judges; and insistence upon taking the oath of allegiance to Roumania as a condition to retention in office of the present judges, the latter being perhaps the most repugnant stipulation to many of them. The same phenomenon was observed in Transylvania, where Hungarian bishop and professor insisted upon receiving their salaries from the Roumanian state, but declined to swear allegiance to it; and the same outcome resulted, for just as in Transylvania, the Roumanian state was anxious to utilize the services of its new Hungarian and Russian subjects, and all who would continue as loyal Roumanian citizens were welcomed and are in most cases still in office. The majority of the signers of these protests (and those below), if they stayed in Bessarabia and became Roumanian citizens, are now conspicuous in the life of the province.

Similar resolutions of protest against the introduction of Roumanian procedure were passed on Oct. 12 by the Judges of the Russian Court of Appeals, on Oct. 14 by some forty members of the Kishineff Bar, and on Oct. 8 and 11 by the officials of the Bessarabian Provincial Zemstvo; and one easily understands their attitude. It is true that a Roumanian Royal Decree is no more extra-constitutional than a Ukase of the Czar, or a Resolution of the Soviets; but the Russian office-holders in Bessarabia, many of whom came from other parts of Russia, had presumed that they would be protected in their attributes by a large measure of autonomy given the province, and had not anticipated that Bessarabia would be administered under martial law as an integral part of Roumania. The same thing happened in Transylvania; and perhaps the disappointment at the centralization was greater among the Roumanians of the new provinces than among the members of the minority races. One's first impulse is to blame the Roumanians for governing their new territories from Bucharest, instead of giving them wide provincial autonomy, as they expected; but we did something similar in Porto Rico (whose citizens we failed to make American citizens for over 15 years) and the Philippines; and the political and constitutional difficulties of incorporating these provinces into Roumania on a basis of partial independence may be appreciated if we visualize ourselves in a similar situation-let us say, annexing the Province of Quebec and abolishing tariff and other barriers, but trying to preserve the Quebec Liquor Law, church schools and other peculiarities .of the provincial organization. Nevertheless, the disappointment in Bessarabia was very great; the Roumanians were unfortunate in some of their early appointees; and this feeling was expressed in a memorial handed to the Roumanian Government Nov. 20,1918, by forty Bessarabian deputies; I use the facsimile (in Russian; I have seen no copy of the Roumanian text) given in the " Documents" mentioned above, but I have made my own translation of the rather formal and stilted Russian, less bold and dashing but (I hope) more accurate than theirs:

"In cognizance of the extraordinarily difficult conditions of life in our native Bessarabia, created on the one hand by the long-drawn-out, nerve-racking and ruinous war, and on the other by the criminally ignorant conduct of affairs by the Council of Directors, at this grave and formidable historic moment through which our country is passing, we, the undersigned deputies, consider it our sacred duty and obligation to point out to the Roumanian Government the devastating consequences of the administrative policy which has been put into effect on every occasion.

In the complete economic breakdown of the country, in impoverished and starving Bessarabia, formerly so flourishing, every element of social vigor and of public control is violently done away with, all civic liberties are stifled, the inviolability of citizens and representatives of the people is infringed, arbitrary harshness is displayed toward the population of the country by various governmental agents who have replaced former officials, native citizens of Bessarabia by birth; and finally the rights of national minorities are trampled underfoot and, racial differences and enmities are aroused between people who have been living together in a friendly and brotherly fashion. This situation compels us to make a severe statement on all this, and to express our firm purpose to the Government.

For the guaranteeing of public peace, for the allaying of nervous excitement and angry irritability among all classes of our Bessarabia, in the midst of the ugly murmurings of the country, which has once again weathered for us all a hateful period of anarchy, and in a strong and sincere desire to avert any governmental clash whatever, we lay before the Roumanian Government the following requests:

1) Restoration by government order of freedom of speech and of the rights of assembly and union, and the abolition of the censorship.

2) Personal inviolability of the Deputies and in general of all Bessarabian citizens.

3) (sic) Note: None of the Deputies of the Diet shall be deprived of his liberty without a decision of the Diet, nor a Bessarabian citizen without judicial warrant.

3) Restoration of the Deputies who have been expelled from the Diet, till which restoration no bill may be examined by the Diet.

4) Abolition of martial law and of individual restrictions, and restoration of constitutional guarantees.

5) New elections for officers of the Diet and for Directors.

6) All power in Bessarabia to belong to the Council of Directors, chosen by the Diet, and the Commission-General to be abolished.

7) Strict lodging of the gendarmes in barracks, and their withdrawal from villages into towns designated by the Director of Internal Affairs in new Directorate, and their subordination to civil authority.

8) Convocation of the suppressed organs of provincial and municipal autonomy, with restoration of their abolished rights, in conformity with the laws of the Temporary Government.

9) Restoration to office of all the removed Bessarabian office-holders and government employees of all institutions.

10) Restoration in their former entity of all judicial institutions.

11) Restoration of their national rights to the national minorities.

12) Immediate passage of a measure for elections to the Diet, with the designation by the present Diet of a date for the new elections.

13) The creation through the Diet of a Special Commission for the investigation of all infringements of law committed by civil and military authorities in Bessarabia.

All the above requests, based on the Act of March 27, 1918, must be carried out; in contrary case, the undersigned Deputies decline moral responsibility for the consequences; likewise, by the rejection of these requests, the Act of March 27, 1918, is invalidated.

We beg for a reply to the present memorial by the close of the Diet, or in any event by Dec. 5, 1918, 0. S.

The present document has been made out for signature in two copies."

(Signatures) (Most of these are in the list pp. 151-7)

  • 1. Former Vice-President of the Moldavian Bloc Ioan Pascalutza
  • 2. President of the Military Congress V. Cijevschi (Tchizhevsky )
  • 3. President of the People's League N. Alecsandri
  • 4. Vice-President of the Provincial Zemstvo T. Surutchan (Suruceanu)
  • 5. Secretary of the Diet B. Epuri
  • 6. Former Vice-Director of Industry and Commerce V. Ghenzul
  • 7. Deputy in the Diet of the Moldavian Bloc T. Koropcean (Corobcean)
  • 8. President of the Bessarabian Peasants' Committee Gavril Buciushcan
  • 9. President of the Peasants' Party Vladimir Tziganko
  • 10. Former Vice-Director for Internal Affairs Donico-Iordakesco
  • 11. Secretary of the Peasants' Committee and Group F. (T.7) Moldovanu
  • 12. President of the Coalition Committee of Representatives of the Professional Unions of Employees Stephan Balamez
  • 13. Former Departmental Manager of the Department of Manufactures and Trade M. Russu
  • 14. Representative of the County Zemstvo of Bender Alesandru Rotcu
  • 15. Member of the Regional Committee of the Peasants' Party Group in the Diet Feodor Nichitiuc (Nikitiuk)
  • 16. George Brynitch (Brinici)
  • 17. Former Vice-President of the Bessarabian Peasants' Committee Nikitza Budnitchenko
  • 18. Peter Kuntcheff (Cuncev)
  • 19. Member of the Executive Committee of the Peasants' Party Michael Minciuna
  • 20. Ion Popa
  • 21. Basil Ceresco (Ciorascu)
  • 22. Representative of the Professional Unions of Employees, and Deputy in the Diet Theodore Pojoga
  • 23. Do., do., Michael Machedon
  • 24. City Counselor V. Luneff
  • 25. Representative of the Bessarabian Postal Employees Feodor (Teodor) Uncu
  • 26. Ion Garbus (Garbuz)
  • 27. Former President of the Orhei Zemstvo Executive Committee, Representative in the Diet of the Bessarabian Armenians Bajbeuk-Melicoff
  • 28. Nicanor Ciocan
  • 29. Philipp Almendinger
  • 30. Peter Picior-Mare
  • 31. Vice-President of the Organizing Committee of the Diet V. Zubac
  • 32. President of the Kishineff County Zemstvo Theodore Neagul (Neaga)
  • 33. E. Veseteu (Vizitiu)
  • 34. Former Minister of the Interior for the Moldavian Republic, Deputy of the Peasants' Party and former Commissioner of the Provisional Government Vladimir Kristy
  • 35. Zacharias Bocsan (Baesan)
  • 36. President of the Dancu (7) Cantonal Committee Deputy Calis. Savtchuk (Savciuc )
  • 37. Representative of the Bulgarians and Gagaoutz, Deputy in the Diet A. Novacoff
  • 38. Deputy of the Peasants' Group A. P. Culava
  • 39. Deputy Demetrius Markitante (Marchitan)
  • 40. Deputy of the Ismail Zemstvo I. Kiriloff

These be brave words indeed, requesting the restoration of all peacetime practices, the reappointment to their posts of Russian functionaries (who refused to take the oath of allegiance to Roumania, of course), the withdrawal of Roumanian officials and police, and in general a return to as near pre-war conditions as possible. It will easily be imagined how unenthusiastic a reception it received from the Roumanian authorities, at their wits' end to know how to meet the dangers which loomed up in the East from the Bolshevists, and to satisfy the exactions of the Germans and Austrians, who were in control. We cannot but applaud the admirable aims of the 40 Deputies, in most of their requests; but at the same time we must wonder at their ingenuousness; they did not foresee the constant turbulence on the Eastern frontier, which even at that time impressed the Roumanians, and which have maintained martial law and the censorship steadily in Bessarabia up to the present day, in one or another form.

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