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THE DANUBIAN PRINCIPALITIES.
IF, as was once said by Talleyrand, the centre of gravity of the world is on the lower Danube, it must be confessed that the prospect of the establishment of a stable political equilibrium in Europe is anything but cheering. For the last twelvemonth the people of the Principalities, or of Roumania, as they now insist on calling themselves, have been swayed to and fro by endless disturbing forces-now threatening separation, now clamouring for union, now demanding independence, and finally taking up arms against the Power whose strongest interest it is to prevent their yielding to foreign dominion. During this time the various phases of the political situation in the Principalities have succeeded one another so rapidly that it has been scarcely possible fully to appreciate their significance. The period of constant change has, however, now been followed by one of comparative permanency. Both the Porte and the guaranteeing Powers have consented to recognise Prince Charles of Hohenzollern as Hospodar of Roumania; and although the question of the Principalities is as unsettled as ever, it is probable that it will now remain at its present stage for some little time to come.
It has of late been the fashion among politicians of the Liberal school, both in and out of Roumania, to class that country in the category of “oppressed nationalities," and to look forward to the time when all the Roumans will be united in one independent State. Such aspirations are apt to become dangerous, and it is important that before any attempt is made to encourage them, it should be clearly evident that they are both justifiable and founded on a correct appreciation of the character and capabilities of the nation to which they refer. Let us see, in the first place, what the “ Rouman nationality” is. It was originally formed by Italian colonists in the second century, who emigrated into the territories conquered by Trajan from Dacia. These territories, together with others where Italian colonies were also formed, comprised the whole of the country between the Dniester and the Theiss, namely, Bessarabia, Moldavia, Wallachia, the Bukovine, and part of Bulgaria. After undergoing numberless vicissitudes, and seeing their country invaded by the Goths and the Gepidæ in the third century, the lIuns in the fifth, and the Magyars in the tenth, the descendants of these colonists founded the duchy of Wallachia in 1241, and of Moldavia in 1293. Meanwhile, Western Wallachia and Upper Dacia, which had been also partly colonised by Italians, were attached to Hungary, the former under the name of the Banat, and the latter under that of Transylvania. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Roumans defended the rich territories
which still remained to them against the Turks, the Hungarians, and the Poles, with bravery and success; but though they proved themselves unconquerable by force of arms, they were unable to resist the insidious attacks of foreign intrigue. The Fanariote Greeks of Constantinople, who, after their country had been seized by the Turks, basely cringed at the feet of their conquerors, settled in the eighteenth century like a swarm of locusts on the Principalities, corrupting everything they touched and sucking the life-blood of the people. Finding that they were utterly powerless to cope with this new evil, the Roumans appealed to Russia for aid. The Cabinet of St. Petersburg, ever ready to seize an opportunity of approaching Constantinople, eagerly responded to the appeal, and was rewarded for its officiousness by the cession, in virtue of a treaty concluded at Bucharest with the Sultan, on the 8th of May, 1812, of Bessarabia, which province Russia still retains, though the small portion of it which commands the mouth of the Danube was restored to Moldavia after the Crimean
The “protection ” of Russia during this period was of as little use to Roumania as that of the Porte, for both Powers favoured the Fanariote Greeks who were preying on her entrails, and neither of them opposed the demand of Austria for the Bukovine and part of Little Wallachia, which were ceded to that state in 1777.
It will thus be seen that in order to apply the principle of nationalities to Roumania, it will be necessary to take Bessarabia from Russia, part of Bulgaria from Turkey, and part of Transylvania, the Banat, and the Bukovine, from Austria. Whatever may be said of the power of the last two states (and it is not improbable that Austria's withdrawal from the Germanic Confederation will very consiclerably strengthen her, especially for action in the East), we may be sure that the utmost exertions of the Roumans will never enable them to take the smallest scrap of territory from Russia, and that no great Power would assist them in so insane an undertaking. Supposing, however, that by some extraordinary combination of circumstances the Roumans should succeed in establishing that DacoRouman empire which is the dream of the party of action in the Principalities, would Europe have reason to congratulate itself on such a result? In order to answer this question, it will be necessary to touch upon some of the principal difficulties of European policy in the East.
Most people are aware that the great political problem which is known as the Eastern question is, broadly stated, how to prevent Russia from making herself mistress of Constantinople. The chief means which she has adopted towards this end have been her panslavonic propaganda in the Christian provinces of Turkey, which has almost completely failed since the last Polish insurrection opened the eyes of the Slavonians to the real tendencies of the Cabinet of St. Petersburg; her self-imposed protectorate over her co-religionists in those provinces; and, above all, the establishment of her influence in the Principalities—an important political instrument which she has used far more openly and successfully than any other. The fatal step taken by the Roumans in asking for the protection of Russia against the machinations of the Fanariote Greeks has already been noticed. This was done by the hospodars Cantimir and Brancovano in 1711; and in the same year the Russian troops crossed the Pruth for the first time. They found the country reduced to a frightful state of misery and abasement by the Greeks who had been let loose upon it by the Ottoman Government-men without a spark of conscience or honour, who only used their authority over the unfortunate people of the Principalities as a means of making their fortunes by shameless acts of pillage and extortion. Russia, while professing great friendship for the Roumans, and earning their gratitude by occasionally interfering between them and the Fanariotes, soon contrived to establish a good understanding with the latter, whose good-will, as being the men in power, she was especially anxious to secure ; so that practically the Roumans were as badly off as before, with the additional danger of an annexation to Russia in prospect. The Russians, however, acted with great caution, carefully avoiding to appear as invaders, and only seeking to establish themselves in the country in order to secure a favourable basis of operations against Turkey. Accordingly, although they occupied the Principalities from 1769 to 1774, from 1789 to 1791, from 1808 to 1812, from 1828 to 1834, in 1848 and in 1853, these occupations only took place under the guise of “protection ;” the Russians came to the Roumans as friends, not as conquerors. Even the Hetæro-Russian conspiracy of Ypsilanti in 1821, which at length opened the eyes of the Porte to the understanding which existed between the Fanariotes and Pussia, and led to the reappointment of native hospodars, was cleverly turned by Russia in her favour. She calmly bided her time until the outburst of indignation which produced the peasant insurrection against Ypsilanti under Theodore Valdimiresco had passed away, and then suddenly (7th of May, 1828) marched 150,000 men into the Principalities under the pretext of protecting them against the innovations of the new hospodars. One of these, Stourdza, was taken prisoner : the other, Prince Gregory Ghika, escaped to Transylvania. The Russians now took the government of Roumania into their own hands, and did not leave the country until they had completely Temodelled its institutions after their own fashion. The famous organic regulation,” which reminds one in some particulars of the organic statute " introduced by the Emperor Nicholas into Poland, after the insurrection of 1830, was skilfully devised by Count Kisseleff, the Russian governor, so as to increase the power and privileges of
the landowners, and at the same time to reduce the peasants to the condition of serfs. Its effect was, in fact, to assimilate Roumania to the condition of a Russian province, which Russia hoped it would soon become in reality as well as in appearance. The introduction of this measure did not produce so violent a change in the existing state of things as might be supposed, and indeed the Russian pseudoreformers did their work on such congenial soil that the “organic regulation ” at first almost looked like a liberal and progressive measure.
There are perhaps few sadder or more instructive contrasts in history than that between the Roumania of the fourteenth century and the same country in the nineteenth. The former was a nation of hardy warriors, holding their own against their powerful neighbours with all the sturdy bravery of the old Roman race from which they sprung, animated with a heroic patriotism, and presenting numerous instances of courage and self-sacrifice not surpassed in the annals of Sparta or of their own mother-city. The nobles of this gallant nation were the “men of war” (boyards, from boż, war), whose duty it was to defend their country against the incessant attacks of foreign enemies, and who were rewarded by grants of land for the arduous services they performed. When, however, the Greeks poured into the Principalities to retrieve their shattered fortunes after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, a new nobility began to be formed—that of the officials, on the same principle as the Russian « tchins.” A certain rank, together with the privileges of nobility, . was attached to each public appointment, and this so enhanced their value, that they at length, under the Fanariote hospodars, became the objects of the most shameless intrigues. Each post as it became vacant was simply sold to the highest bidder, without the slightest regard to his qualifications for it; and the successful candidate, who only regarded his appointment as a means of enriching himself, made no scruple to use his newly-acquired power in despoiling the inhabitants. This, however, was the smallest of the evils inflicted upon the Roumans by the Greek immigrants. They not only seized upon nearly all the landed and other property of the country, and persecuted the inhabitants to such a degree that thousands were forced to expatriate themselves :' their pernicious influence extended even to the hearts and minds of this ancient and warlike people, who had till then been as remarkable for the simplicity of their manners as for their undaunted courage. The Roumans gradually became cringing, false, and dissolute, like their oppressors; their ancient and glorious
(1) “The country was depopulated, the peasants fled; of a hundred and sixty thousand families, eighty thousand only remained; the general misery was at its height in the middle of the eighteenth century. The richest of the Boyards were thrown into prison, and flogged until they gave up the titles by which they held their estates."---Rignault, Hist. des Principautés Danubiennes.
nobility degenerated into an official hierarchy, recruited from the Greek pastry-cooks and lemonade-sellers of Constantinople ;' and their old military spirit and chivalrous frankness were replaced by a base subserviency to power and a peculiar faculty for intrigue which eminently adapted them to be the tools of a great and unscrupulous State.
Such was the nation whose institutions Russia now attempted to model after her own despotic system, and perhaps it would be disficult to find another that was so well adapted for the purpose. Fortunately, however, for the safety of Europe, the Russian “protection' of the Principalities did not last long enough to be gradually converted into possession. The first opposition to her designs came from the Principalities themselves; the “party of action,” represented in Roumania by MM. Tell, Rosetti, the Bratianos, and the Golescos, rose in 1818 (23rd June) against the Russian protectorate, and, although their small revolution was unsuccessful, for the first time
, called the serious attention of the statesmen of Western Europe to the policy of Russia on the lower Danube. It is worth remarking here that the authors of this revolution, which is described by Russia (circular of 31st July, 1848), not entirely without truth, as“ the work of a turbulent minority, whose ideas of government are borrowed from the democratic and socialist propaganda of Europe, and whose emissaries summoned the Wallachians of Moldavia, the Bukovine, Transylvania, and cren Bessarabia, to rise and form an independent .state under the name of the Daco-Rouman Kingdom,” are among the most prominent of the members and supporters of the present government of Roumania.
There can now be little doubt that the revolution of 1848 only had the sympathies of a small minority of the Roumans. Russia was at that time not at all unpopular either at Bucharest or at Jassy, and the resistance of the Radical party, which was then very small, was rather caused by vague aspirations towards a chimerical independence than by any real hostility to the government of the Czar. Even now, when the Radical party has come into power, the influence of Russia is unmistakably strong in the Principalities-much stronger than that of any other foreign Power. England, as in most ContiDental countries, is rather admired than loved ; Austria is cordially hated since her occupation of the Principalities in 1854, when her truops behaved with almost incredible barbarity and rapaciousness; Turkey, too, is detested, not without reason, seeing that the present corrupt state of the country is mainly due to her insidious policy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and France, though the favourite of the Radical party, as the protector of “the Latin race”
1) Vaillant, “ La Roumanie.” nder the reign of the hospodar Stirbey, Joanides, his talen bueame Grand Boyard, and Minister of the Interior.