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CHAPTER IX

RUSSIFICATION BEGINS

Czar Alexander was an enlightened monarch; he was distressed at what he learned of the early results of the Russian occupation, and sent, on April 1, 1816, a rescript to the Metropolitan, Gabriel Banulesco-Bodoni, in which he said: "With the greatest regret I have ascertained in the most precise manner that my wishes have not been carried out, and that disorders have reached a very high degree, so that many innocent families of inoffensive peasants have left their homes and seek shelter beyond the frontier. All this, having attracted my attention, causes me to adopt various measures to do away with these evils and to give the inhabitants of Bessarabia a lot agreeing with their wishes, which are in full measure mine also . . . . My desire is to give them a civil administration in harmony with their customs, usages and laws." He ordered this edict translated into Roumanian. After appointing Bakhmetieff, he wrote him on Apr. 29, 1816, that Bessarabia needs "a special administration in conformity with her ancestral laws, her customs and her usages." Accordingly, an administrative act was promulgated for Bessarabia in 1818, in Russian and Roumanian, which gave a large measure of local autonomy. It was provided that both languages could be used in administration, keeping in view Russian laws, and retaining local laws and customs in respect to private property, while questions of civil and criminal law were to be handled only in Roumanian, and decided on the basis of Moldavian law and usage.

But within two years the Imperial Government gave itself a majority of votes in the Governing Council, and provided the Governor-General with the right of veto; in 1823 the local prefects, who had been elected, became appointive officials; and on Feb. 29, 1828, a new administrative act was promulgated, by which Bessarabia became a Russian province, dependent on the Ministry at St. Petersburg, like the rest. In 1833 Russian was made the sole language of civil administration. Yet we find occasional use made of Roumanian. About 1855, when cattle-thieving was rampant, the government issued a circular in Roumanian; in 1868 the Imperial Government printed in both Russian and Roumanian the documents connected with the edict abolishing serfdom; in 1877, Alexander II had his declaration of war against Turkey printed in Roumanian as well as Russian. In the Roumanian village administrations, documents in both languages are to be found up to the latter part of the nineteenth century. The Governmental Zemstvo issued various documents in Roumanian, like a pamphlet descriptive of the phylloxera in 1886, and one warning against cholera, in 1893.

After the Revolution of 1905, a group of Moldavians-Pan Halippa, Stere, Pelivan and others-decided on the publication of a newspaper in Roumanian; and on June 27, 1906, appeared the first number of "Basarabia," under E. Gavrilitza as editor. It was published in the Cyrillic (Slav) character, but each issue had one article in the Roman lettering current in Roumania. It took a firm stand for the official use of Roumanian beside Russian in courts, church and schools; for the breaking up of the great landed estates; and for passive resistance to the authorities, to hasten these reforms. Naturally, the reactionaries triumphed, "Basarabia" was suppressed in March 1907, Gavrilitza and Halippa were imprisoned, and it was not till after the Russian Revolution of 1917 that the revolutionary authorities again brought out many pamphlets in Roumanian, precursors of the new era.

As regards language and nationality, the words "Moldavian" and "Roumanian" are interchangeable, of course; but the Russians did not admit it, and taught the Roumanian-speaking peasantry of Bessarabia that they were different in language and race from their brethren beyond the Pruth. Indeed, they did use a different script and print, like the Serbs as contrasted with the Croats; they kept the old Cyrillic characters, which the Roumanians of the Old Kingdom discarded for Latin letters two generations ago; and in the Revolution of 1905, when the use of Roumanian was allowed for a few months in Bessarabia, some patriots exclaimed that they wanted Moldavian, and not Roumanian, books and papers. The Bessarabian Senator P. Fala, in his "Lectures," tells an amusing anecdote illustrating this. During the war, a Bessarabian peasant who was driving a sleigh-load of bread to the Russian front in Moldavia, and who was already some distance west of the Pruth, broke one of his sleigh-runners. A Roumanian cavalry officer happened to be passing; the peasant, who knew no Russian, with cap in hand, bowed before him, and asked him (in his native Roumanian): "Please, Sir, do you know Moldavian?" The officer jokingly replied: "No, old fellow, I don't know Moldavian, but you know Roumanian." "No, sir," replied the peasant, "I don't know Roumanian." Then the officer asked him what he wanted; and when the Bessarabian told him he needed a new runner, the officer directed him to a near-by blacksmith shop. So, remarks Senator Fala, they understood each other, though the one knew no "Moldavian," and the other no "Roumanian"! One can draw a comparison with American English and Canadian French, though the difference between Bessarabian Roumanian and that of the Old Kingdom is far less striking; but there is an old-fashioned character to the diction and the pronunciation, and many Russian words (especially connected with government) have made their way into the language. Hanesh, e. g., remarks (p. 61) : "In Bessarabia we never heard the verb `a cadea,' and when we met it in the passages used in the readers our pupils were studying in Kishineff, we had to explain it by 'a pica' " (curiously enough, exactly the contrast between "to fall" and "to drop" in English). All Roumanians enjoy the speech of a cultivated Bessarabian; and I remember with great pleasure the address of the Bessarabian priest, Fr. Russul, at the blessing of the corner-stone of the new school in the Russian village of Tsariceanca-de-Sus (Akkerman) ; I never heard the language spoken with greater crispness and distinction, and his Russian was also admirable. The Bible is an excellent master of style, particularly in Roumanian, where the Bible translations play the part of both the King James Version and Shakespeare.

There seem to have been few schools in Moldavia at the period of the annexation of Bessarabia, as there were few in most rural districts of Eastern Europe in general. The monasteries and parish priests were under obligation to teach; and there was in Kishineff a school for the children of boyars and merchants. The new Metropolitan, Gabriel Banulesco-Bodoni, opened a theological seminary in Kishineff in 1813, stipulating that there should be taught as first and indispensable, Russian; then Roumanian, as the predominating language of the country; and then Latin, in order to enrich their vernacular. There was a professor of Roumanian in this seminary till 1867. We know from the preface to a Roumanian grammar printed in Kishineff in 1819, that it was destined for use in the seminary of Kishineff "and the other schools in Bessarabia." Such schools, preparatory to the seminary, were in existence in 1819 in Hotin and Akkerman, and in the next decade we find parochial civil schools in Kishineff, Baltz and Bender. Indeed, the intermediate boys' school of Baltz celebrates its centennial on May 7, 1928.

The Hotin Castle

Alexander I was greatly interested in the Lancastrian method of teaching, by wall-charts; and as a result of his visit to Bessarabia in 1818, he issued orders to have the system introduced there. The first Lancastrian school was opened in Kishineff in 1824; and some of the wall-charts in Roumanian, of which hundreds were printed, have come down to us. In 1833, the first district lycee was opened, and Roumanian was taught there till 1867; in 1866 the State Council decided that Roumanian should no longer be taught in course, "since the pupils had a practical knowledge of it." By 1912, there were in Bessarabia 7 classical and 4 scientific lycees for boys, carrying preparation to the university stage, and 13 lycees and 4 gymnasia for girls. There were also a government normal school, two art schools, one school of music, one of viticulture, one technical school, three agricultural schools and two secondary commercial schools-all in Russian, of course. Only 45.5% of the teachers had a higher degree; 45.4 had what we should call a high school education, and 9% a grammar school education. After the disappearance of the Lancastrian schools, which did not long outlive the Czar whose enthusiasm had founded them, as the governmental public schools outside of Kishineff did not teach Roumanian, the boyars in 1841 petitioned the government to have classes in Roumanian established in them; and in 1842, Roumanian was admitted as a subject in Baltz and Hotin; but here too, it disappeared in the sixties.

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