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CHAPTER VII

THE RUSSIAN SEIZURE

Peter the Great was now Czar of Russia. The Moldavians had had unfortunate experiences in their efforts for Russian assistance from Ivan III and Alexis Michaelovitch; but Peter seemed of a different stamp. He wrested Azof and various cities along the Dnieper from the Turks, and even laid siege to Otchakov, only a few miles from Akkerman. Numerous Roumanians enlisted in his army, which contained one squadron of Roumanian cavalry. Moldavian hopes rose that with Russian help they might drive out the Turks from their border cities. Soon Peter sent them a strange and famous guest. Charles %II of Sweden, after his defeat in 1709 at Peter's hands, sought refuge in Moldavia, and lived for some time at Varnitza, near Bender. Peter decided to chastise the Turkish government for sheltering Charles, and in 1710 came down to Jassy, with the Czarina. There he signed the Russian-Moldavian treaty of alliance, which provided for the hereditary leadership of a prince of the Cantemir family, who should bear the title of Serene Lord of the land of Moldavia, Sovereign (Samodertzetu), and Friend (Volegator) of the land of Russia, but not a subject vassal. The treaty provided that the Dniester should be the boundary; that the Budjak with all its cities should belong to Moldavia, except that Russian garrisons should be left there till the Moldavian administration was installed, and then withdrawn. The country was to pay not a cent of tribute. The Czar bound himself not to infringe the rights of the Moldavian sovereign, or whoever might succeed him. A great banquet was given to the Czar by the boyars to celebrate the treaty; they felt that at last the savior of Moldavia had come.

But the Turks came north along the Pruth and inflicted a terrible defeat on the Russian army at Stanileshti (June 1711) ; even the personal appeal of the Czarina to the Grand Vizier hardly availed to mitigate the severity of the terms imposed upon Peter. He had to abandon Moldavia immediately, renounce his sovereignty over the Cossacks, destroy the fortresses he had erected along the frontier, and restore Otchakov to the Porte. Prince Dumitrashco and many of his boyars had to take refuge in Russia. We have an interesting criticism of conditions in Russia at that time, as contrasted with Moldavia. John Neculce, one of the best Moldavian historians, went up into Russia on this pilgrimage; after two years, he returned, because, he said, it is a country where men are not free to go where they want, and there is no great court there, as there is in Moldavia. And there is a moving document preserved, in a vow made by one of the Moldavian fugitives in Russia, George Lupashco Hajdeu: "I, grandson and blood-heir of Prince Stephen Petriceico, lord of the land of Moldavia, I, unfortunate fugitive from the land of my fathers, I, who was once a wealthy boyar, but who now am a wanderer in a strange land, so poor and poverty-stricken that in my old age I cannot even leave my God alms and a sacrifice, I promise that if God grants that Moldavia, or the district of Hotin, escapes from its enemies, the Turks, and my sons, or my grandsons, or my family regain possession of their estates and their holdings, a church shall be built to St. George in Dolineni (Hotin) . . . . Let us not lose hope that God will pardon us, and that our dear Moldavia shall not always remain under the heel of the Mussulman . . . . May pagan feet not tread on my ancestors' graves, and if my ashes may not rest in my ancestral soil, may my descendants' have that good fortune!"

As a result of their victory, the Turks in 1712 placed a garrison in Hotin, rebuilt the fortress under the direction of French engineers, and made the surrounding region into a sanjak. Moldavia was now shut in by Turkish border strips at Hotin, Bender, Akkerman, Kilia, Ismail and Reni. Their reinforcements and supplies continually traversed Moldavian territory, which was under obligation to assist them at Moldavian expense. The new sanjak was the most extensive on Moldavian territory, comprising a hundred villages and the market-towns of Lipcani-Briceni , and SulitzaNoua. As the country had lost most of its Moldavian inhabitants, there was a constant immigration from Poland and the Ukraine, of landless peasants, largely fugitives from the severe serfdom which prevailed there. New villages arose in the districts of Hotin and Kishineff, altogether Ukrainian in speech; and many scattered Moldavians lost their language, so that today we find there many families with Roumanian names who do not know a word of Roumanian.

Street Scene In Noua-Sulitza

Farm labor had been scarce, of course, during these troubled centuries. The land was mainly in the hands of the great proprietors, the boyars. Many settlers had been brought into Bessarabia by princes like Alexander the Good and Stephen the Great; but their little farms were continually subdivided among the numerous children, who sold out, so that the great estates became more and more numerous. These were worked partly by serfs, partly by "slobozi" (free laborers)-Roumanians, Hungarians, Cossacks, Russians, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, etc. Many of these settled permanently in Bessarabia, and the rich land attracted many other immigrants. The boyars, monasteries and other land-owners gave them strips of land, enough for gardens and raising enough hay and corn or wheat for their families; in return, they were bound to pay the owner a tithe of all the produce, and work for him a certain number of days a year, divided between the spring and fall plowing, sowing, harvesting, threshing and carting. In early days, every campaign over the border brought in hundreds or even thousands of laborers, seized in Poland or the Ukraine. Certain treaties stipulated that these men should be released and sent home, if they desired; but Demetrius Cantemir tells us that in his dap many who had been brought to the interior of Moldavia had settled there and lost their language-a phenomenon of which our own day has given us so many examples among the prisoners of war, particularly in Russia.

These Moldavian agricultural laborers had the right of leaving one place for another; but the great boyars succeeded in making virtual serfs out of many of them; and a certain amount of serfdom had constantly existed in Moldavia; the gypsies, for instance, were tied down to the soil. One of the most enlightened Moldavian princes, Constantine Mavrocordat, scandalized by the abuses of the system, summoned the boyars in 1749 to a great council in the church of the Three Hierarchs in Jassy; and as a result of Constantine's insistence, the serfs were freed-earlier than in most of Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia. Former serfs were given the right of leaving their masters, and in case they paid the owner a house tag, were to give him only 12 days of free labor per annum-indeed, only 6 in the border districts. The tithes were also subjected to outside arbitration in case of dispute. This was confirmed by Gregory Ghica in 1766. In Transylvania, this reform did not take place till 1784, as a consequence of the bloody revolt of the Roumanian peasantry under Horea against their Hungarian masters.

Bessarabia was now still more attractive to the poor Polish and Russian serfs. The former had to serve their masters free for 150 days every year, and the latter were virtually slaves. So clandestine immigration from Poland and the Ukraine flowed in on a large scale, particularly as Bessarabia, in good years, always had a shortage of farm labor. Most of these immigrants lost their language and were soon assimilated; but near the border some established villages of their own, in which Polish, Ukrainian and Russian are still spoken.

And now Bessarabia is involved in Russian dreams of reaching Constantinople, and Austrian ambitions of extension to the Black Sea. This unfortunate country, after centuries of raids by Poles, Tartars, Turks and Cossacks, now becomes a pawn in contests of wider international range, destined finally to involve all Europe. Peter the Great had begun the march to Tzarigrad-the Emperor's City on the Bosphorus; the Empress Catherine even made the heir presumptive learn Greek from the cradle, that he might be prepared for the Byzantine throne. In 1768, a six-years' war broke out between Russia and Turkey. The Russians took Hotin, Bender and Jassy, and occupied Moldavia the whole extent of the war. In 1772, the partition of Poland gave Galicia and Lodomeria to Austria, and Volhynia and Podolia to Russia, so that Moldavia was now in immediate contact with the Austrian and Russian Empires. In the Peace of Kuchuk-Kainarji (1774) Turkey ceded to Russia the country between Dnieper and Bug, but retained the Bessarabian border fortresses and their sanjaks. Moldavia kept its independence, under Turkish suzerainty, as heretofore; but Catherine reserved to herself the right of protecting the Christians of the Roumanian Principalities.

In that same year, Maria Theresa succeeded in lopping off from Moldavia its northern extremity, the Bucovina, with Czernowitz, its chief city, and Suceava, the holy city of Moldavia, with its tombs of Stephen the Great and other rulers. This was done by direct negotiation with officials of the Porte at Constantinople, against the frenzied but impotent protests of Gregory Ghica and his boyars. The Bucovina was to form a "corridor" between the Austrian provinces of Transylvania and Galicia. The Turkish officials were later disavowed; but the transaction was already consummated.

In 1787, Russia and Austria declared war on Turkey. The Empress Catherine had visions of making her favorite Potemkin Prince of Dacia- Russian vassal state corresponding to the ancient Roman Dacia, Greater Roumania of today-and of thus taking a long step toward Tzarigrad. The war dragged on till 1792, with the usual disastrous consequences for the Bessarabian farmer; but at the Peace of Jassy Turkey succeeded in keeping her grip on Moldavia. Russia obtained however the "Ukraine of the Khan" and advanced to the Dniester, now becoming Bessarabia's immediate neighbor to the East. The Tartars were now also under Russian control; Russia demanded their evacuation from the Budjak, and by 1812, not a Tartar was left there. An eye-witness tells us that they simply disappeared, emigrating en masse. "Their towns perished with them. On their departure, they pulled down many of their houses; those that remained untouched, melted away of themselves, being built of adobe. After a month, not a trace could be seen of 'the multitude of villages with which they had covered the Budjak, except that the grass was thicker and of a deeper green in the court-yards of the former Tartar 'auls.' The Tartars left all their domestic animals abandoned in their villages, most of they starving to death. When you came near an abandoned house, you heard their cries and howls, and a crowd of cats, chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks rushed out to seek aid of man, their natural protector. For a long time the Cossacks and the Russian soldiers lived on nothing but poultry."

And now Napoleon comes on the scene. In 1'806-7, he encouraged Czar Alexander Pavlovitch to begin another war with Turkey. Again the Turkish border fortresses, beginning with Hotin, fell into Russian hands; and Russian troops occupied both Moldavia and Wallachia. Gen. Kutussoff was made Governor-General of the Roumanian Principalities; they were formally annexed to Russia, and made into two "gubernie"-governments , provinces-of the Russian Empire. The foreign consuls and diplomatic agents had to leave Jassy and Bucharest; the Russians reestablished the ancient bishopric of Akkerman, and appointed as Bishop Gabriel Banulesco-Bodoni, a Transylvanian Roumanian who had studied at Kieff. There was a truce of several years, during which the Russians administered both countries; but the Russians finally broke it, defeated the Turks by a surprise attack, and entered into peace negotiations, first at Giurgiu and then at Bucharest. They demanded the Roumanian Principalities; the Turks offered them the Budjak and the border sanjaks of Bessarabia (all that they had any right to cede). Negotiations dragged on for weeks, the Turks playing for time, since they knew that Napoleon was on the point of breaking with Russia. The Russians finally began hostilities again, and the Sultan yielded, ceding (on May 16, 1812) the whole of Bessarabia, the Pruth now constituting the boundary between the new Russian territory and the rest of Moldavia.

Technically, the Sultan had no right to cede any of this territory except the border fortresses and their sanjaks; the rest of Bessarabia was an integral part of Moldavia, and inalienable without the consent of the Prince and his "divan" (council). But at the moment there was no prince, and Moldavia had been administered for years by a Russian Governor-General; so technical objections were overruled. Indeed, such formalities have never bulked large in treaty negotiations, even in our own day.

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