Romania's troubled history in the early 19th century

romania's troubled history in the early 19th century The 1821 Revolution led by Tudor Vladimirescu

The Revolution led by Tudor Vladimirescu was held in the first part of the year 1821, actually over February and May. It led up to the end of the Phanariot reigns in Wallachia and Moldavia. Its leader, later on, gained the status of a mythical character, thanks to the revolution he led. Tudor Vladmirescu is oftentimes mentioned in history textbooks; he has been immortalized through statues and paintings. However, the real character is less well-known by the lay public, at once being an interesting, even controversial character. The Revolution led by Tudor Vladimirescu in Wallachia was intertwined with the Greek revolution of liberation from the Ottoman Empire. Vladimirescu's connection to the Eteria, the secret society that actually started the Greek revolution, eventually led to his assassination.  Born into a family of freeholders, mosneni, in Romanian, in Gorj County, through his skill and adaptation capacity, Tudor Vladmirescu gained the status of an estate agent; in turn, he was a merchant and a purveyor of the Tsarist army, a rank similar to that of officer, a rank he gained during the Russian occupation of 1806 and 1812. The reasons underlying the outbreak of the unrest also included personal ambitions as well as the need of several political changes. His activity depended on the collaboration with the Eteria, but also on the hope of a military assistance provided by the Russians, which, even though it had not been promised, it was also expected by the Greeks. The historian Tudor Dinu, in his recently launched work titled "The Greek revolution of 1821 on the territory of Moldavia and Wallachia", provided a detailed account of the personality of Vladimirescu and of the underlying reason of his collaboration with the Eteria revolutionaries led by Alexandru Ypsilanti. Also, the book highlights the purpose for which Tudor Vladimirescu started his revolt. 

Here is the historian Tudor Dinu himself, with details on all that.

"Tudor played a key part in the Eteria fighters' plans. As early as 1820, when the Eteria revolutionary warriors convened in the town of Ismail to set up the general plan of the revolution, they said that in Wallachia, the revolution was to be started by a one Tudor Vladmirescu, whom they deemed as "the commander of the armed men in Craiova."

The Eteria revolutionaries sponsored Tudor Vladimirescu and thought he could be a manageable tool in their hands. But they couldn't have been more wrong, just as the great boyars got it all wrong, who wanted to wind him round their little finger. He could be, in my opinion, the most impressive example of a self-made man in our history: a commoner, who believed in his star, trying to overcome his condition in a brilliant manner, going at all lengths for his career, first worming himself into the boyars' favor, then going into trading very successfully, first, on behalf of this and that boyar, later, for himself, getting a position in administration, all that culminating with a military career. Gaining acceptance to the Russian consul's entourage, collaborating with the Eteria, he went as far as hoping to obtain the reign in a new system, he even hoped for the toppling of the social order in the Principalities, which could have been made possible though the liberation brought by the Russians. The Greek sources provide many new things, in this respect, stating that the Eteria revolutionaries promised Tudor "they would get him seated on Decebalus' s throne. "

However, irrespective of the reasons, Tudor Vladimirescu and his army succeeded to destabilize the Phanariot order, also gaining the support of a relevant part of the domestic boyars' class, reaching as far as the princely court in Bucharest. Meanwhile, the Eteria revolutionary warriors led by Alexandru Ypsilanti had penetrated Moldavia. There they were trying to muster an army made of locals, hoping the population in the Romanian principalities would rise up, on a large scale, against the Ottomans. Part from the political changes did the revolutionaries consider social changes as well? 

Historian Tudor Dinu:

"The most radical, to that effect, socially but also politically, was Alexandru Ypsilanti. In his political program, Alexandru Ypsilanti stipulated, for instance, the existence of indigenous rulers, but also some sort of constitutional monarchy, with the rulers' incomes being checked by an early parliament of the Romanian Principalities. As for Tudor, he also had important proposal in the social field meant to improve the lives of commoners, yet they were not as radical as they were presented to us. For instance, he proposed, among other things, that certain taxes be reintroduced. It goes without saying he also had some very interesting suggestions. The most important one, for the development of commerce, was the dismantling of domestic customs, by means of which products brought from another city were very expensive. Also, Tudor proposed the equal decrease in revenues for bakers and butchers, so that bread, but also meat, could be affordable. There also was another proposal, perhaps the most radical one, but impossible to implement: the merit-based ascription of high-office dignities, something that could not be implemented, and as for the system of corruption, it could not disappear, given that Tudor himself pleaded for the income reduction in the case of high-office dignitaries".

Despite the long-term intentions, the situation on the ground was not a happy one. The Eteria Army's crossing of the Romanian territories wreaked havoc and meant plundering and unrest carried by the local population. Moreover, the looming Ottoman invasion ran the risk of yet again turning the Principalities into a war theater, what with the fact that the eagerly-awaited Russian assistance failed to appear. Under the circumstances, Tudor Vladimirescu initiated a risky diplomatic action, meant to protect the country, but also his past success; he tried to negotiate with the Sublime Porte in Istanbul. However, Alexandru Ypsilanti learned about those attempts and considered Tudor a traitor. 

Historian Tudor Dinu:

"Maybe the most important accusation count is a letter Tudor sent and which fell into the Sultan's hands. In that letter he expressed his wish to wage war against "Ypsilanti the traitor", provided the High Porte gave him some assistance. But that was not possible. The High Porte could not offer military assistance to a mutinous Christian. It may very well be that Tudor was extremely clever, in his bid to maintain good relations with the Turks, refraining from going against Ypsilanti. Also, Tudor kept a last-ditch hope alive that the Russian army might come. He had been given assurance, via numerous channels, that is why he was slowing things down a little bit. But from the viewpoint of the Eteria revolutionaries, that was treason.

Accused of treason, Tudor Vladimirescu stood trial according to Eteria's Criminal Code. He was sentenced on the grounds that he went against Eteria's motherland, Greece, even though Tudor's motherland was definitely Wallachia. That is why his trial and subsequent execution are, even to this day, rated as inequities, by the Romanian historical research and public opinion. For the Romanian Principalities, the revolution would come to an end once with Tudor Vladimirescu's death on May 28, 1821. As for the Eteria revolutionaries, they would continue their fight against the Ottomans on the territory of Wallachia, until their defeat in Dragasani in early June. Here is historian Tudor Dinu once again, this time speaking about the effects of the 1821 revolutionary year on Wallachia and Moldavia. 

Tudor Dinu:

"For the Romanian Principalities, the Greek revolution was catastrophic, because, in the wake of the Greek revolution, the Romanian principalities were completely devastated. The Romanians' sacrifice was an exemplary one. One or two decades were needed for the Romanian Principalities to recover from such a devastation. Then a Russian-Turkish war followed. In another move, the role the 1821 Revolution played was fundamental, since it marked the Romanian principalities definitively falling within the West's orbit, even though the process had begun in 1812. It took shape and was to be completed at the level of the elites, and not at the level of the Romanian peasant, who, in the 19th century, still lived according to ancestral rhythms. Such a sacrifice was necessary, so that Romania could find its place on the map pf Europe, and not on that of the Ottoman Empire." (EN)
Publicat: 2022-09-25 14:00:00
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