National Museum of History hosts exhibition about French military missions in Romania in the last 200 years.
For anyone familiar with Romania's history from 1800 onwards, present-day Romania is a creation of France. France's influence as a modernising force was felt in all areas, from food to fashion and from manners to the spoken language. Certain moments in history required, however, more than that, they required physical presence and authority. The "Frenchification" of the Romanians was also done through the French military missions on Romanian soil aimed at ensuring stability.
These missions were the focus of an exhibition at the National Museum of History of Romania. The museum's manager Ernest Oberländer-Târnoveanu reiterated the crucial role of the help given by France to Romania in the last two centuries:
"We usually say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I say one action is worth a million words and this exhibition is dedicated to the actions of France, an old, reliable and important friend of Romania. In effect, since the middle of the 19th century, there has been no important event in which France did not stand by the Romanian state and nation. Although we are friends, although we are close, from time to time it's necessary to also remind our fellow nationals and our French and European friends and partners that this friendship is based on actions. This exhibition showcases for the public and specialists the actions of the French military missions. Beginning with 1855, so almost 150 years ago, the French army was present here, and again in one of the most dramatic moments in our history, in 1916 and again in 1918, playing an essential role in the reorganisation of the Romanian army and safeguarding the independent and sovereign Romanian nation state. Our ties with France did not stop with the First World War, but continued in the 1920s and 30s on a new basis."
During the Crimean war, in 1855, France sent a mission to Dobrogea to build a road from Constanța to Rasova. The mission was led by the road engineer Léon Lallan and also included the engineer Jules Michel, the geologists Blondeau and Gaudin, the doctor Camille Allard, the Romanian topographer Aninoșeanu and a group of eight military guards. In 1857, the first French officers began the training of the army in Moldavia.
The first actual French military mission came to Romania in 1860, sent by emperor Napoleon III at the request of the Romanian prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza. The mission was formed by quatermaster and administration officers and non-commissioned officers and was led by sub-quartermaster Guy Le Clerc. Cavalry colonel Zenon Eugène Lamy arrived in 1861 as head of mission, being in charge, together with the chief of state engineering and artillery officers and non-commissioned officers, of the training of the Romanian army equipped with French armament. The first French military mission stayed in Romania until 1869. The law on the organisation of the Romanian army from 1867 was French-inspired.
The second French military mission was better known. It arrived in the autumn of 1916, at an extremely difficult moment for Romania, two thirds of which had been conquered by the Central Powers. Led by the general Henri Mathias Berthelot, this mission was aimed at rebuilding the morale of the Romanian troops and train the new Romanian divisions equipped with armament supplied by the Entente. The competence of general Berthelot was decisive, as was to be seen from the great victories won by the Romanian army in the summer of 1917 in Mărăști, Mărășești and Oituz. A French medical mission also existed alongside the military mission.
The third French military mission is AIGLE and it began in the summer of 2022 in Cincu, near Brașov. Ernest Oberländer-Târnoveanu, the manager of the National Museum of History of Romania, spoke about the role of this third mission:
"At this critical time, after the invasion and the war of aggression started against Ukraine, France again proved to be a reliable partner, ally and friend. It sent soldiers and important military resources as part of a mission to eastern Europe, in the Black Sea region, to protect not only our country from the possible consequences of a reckless act from Russia, but also to protect Europe and the entire democratic world. The French mission is defending the Romanians and Eastern Europeans, but also, in effect, the rules-based international order and democracy."
The French military missions in Romania are essential chapters in this country's history in the last two centuries, as well as proof of a friendship that has stood the test of time.