Moldavia and South Bucovina

The historic principality of Moldavia lasted from the 14th to 19th century. Only the region west of the Prut remains within the actual Romania, the eastern part was annexed by Russia in 1812 and is now the Republic of Moldova.

In the centuries before Moldavia was founded, the northern regions were populated by a mixture of Vlachs and Slavs, the Slavs having migrated south from the Ukraine. Most of the regions east of the Carpathians were at this time under the rule of the Cumans, some areas of which Hungary claimed supremacy over. This lasted until the Mongol attacks of the mid 13th century, after which there are indications of areas of Slavic rule. In the 14th century, the Hungarian King, Charles Robert of Anjou, attempted to expand the influence of the Roman Catholic church and the Hungarian Empire east of the Carpathians after the fall of Cuman rule. In 1353, Dragoş, a Romanian Knez from Maramureş, was sent by the Hungarian King to found a new Moldavian voivode with the capital at Baia. Dragoş succeeded and extended the region northwards to Radăuţi.

A few years later, in 1359 Bogdan of Cuhea, a Maramureş voivode who had fallen out with the Hungarian king, crossed the Carpathians, took control of the Romanian regions in Moldavia and succeeded in separating Moldavia from Hungarian control. Bogdan ruled the area from the Ceremuş river in the north down to the Black Sea in the south and east to the Dniestr river. These borders of Moldavia lasted for over six hundred years, until the 20th century. Bogdan’s first capital was at Radăuţi which he later moved to Suceava. His home village of Cuhea in Maramureş is now know as “Bogdan Voda”.

Best known voivodes of medieval Moldavia: Petru I founded the fortresses at Neamţ and Suceava and in 1388 extended his rule to include the region of Pocuţia, now within the Ukrainian territory. Stefan I successfully defended Moldavia against the Hungarians during an attempt to invade Moldavia in 1394 following Stefan I accepting suzerainty to the Polish King. Alexandru cel Bun negotiated a peace treaty with Poland in 1411 and in 1420 defended Moldavia against the first attack by the Turks at Cetatea Alba. Around this time, Hussite refugees from Poland and Hungary move to Moldavia to escape religous persecution.

The most famous of the Moldavian voivodes is Ştefan cel Mare (1457-1504). He was successful in 34 out of 36 battles against the Turks, and built a new church for each success, thus creating the famous painted monasteries of northern Moldavia. The town of Hotin was returned to Moldavia in 1464 following a number of years in the Polish Empire. The last Hungarian campaign to re-establish suzerainty in Moldavia was in 1467 led by the Hungarian king Mathias Corvinus. He advanced along the Siret valley taking Bacau, Roman, and Târgu Neamţ, but was defeated at Baia by Ştefan cel Mare. However, by 1473 the Moldavian and Transylvanian merchants had commercial freedom with others countries and in 1475 Mathias Corvinus and Stefan cel Mare pledged support to each other against their enemies. The Turks seized Cetatea Alba in 1485 and in 1489 Ştefan cel Mare agreed to pay a tribute to the Ottoman Empire in return for autonomy. This southern part of Moldavia was originally known as Basarabia after the Wallachian Basarab voivodes who previously ruled the region. This term was later used for the eastern part of Moldavia acquired by the Russians after WW1. The whole of southern part of Moldavia became known as Bugeac under Turkish rule. In 1538 the Turks joined by the Tartars invaded Moldavia. Petru Rareş (1527-1538), son of Ştefan cel Mare, defeated the Tartars, but he was betrayed by his boyars and had to flee to Transylvania, and Moldavia was annexed by the Ottoman Empire. The capital was moved to Iaşi in 1565. Through the periods of Tartar attacks, battles with the Ottomans, domination by the Ottoman Empire, and internal squabbling between the boyars and voivodes much of Moldavia was left poor and many villages became depopulated. The most severe period of Turkish exploitation was between 1711 and 1824 when Phanariot rulers were imposed by the Turks. The Phanariots were Greeks from the Phanar quarter in Constantinople. Following the end of Turkish rule, politics led to the regions of northern Bucovina, Basarabia, and Bugeac changing hands a number of times and ending up outside the boundaries of modern Romania.

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