1859, January 24: A Fine Day in Romanian History

Alexandru Ioan Cuza
Alexandru Ioan Cuza

153 years ago , the two principalities of Moldova and Wallachia had a moment of brilliance- the type that makes history: both of them elected general Alexandru Ioan Cuza as prince or 'domnitor' therefore becoming The United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.

The act from 24th January 1859  determined  a contradictory reaction: it was accepted by France, Russia, Sardinia and Prussia, it was received with prudent reserve by the English government, however Turkey and Austria were reluctant to it.

The situation created in the two Principalities was the subject of the Conferences in Paris between the 26th March/7th April - 25th August/6th September 1859;  the aftermath was its accepance by all European powers. The international recognition of the double election and of the full Union opened the prospect of forming the modern Romania.

Alexandru Ioan Cuza took steps to unify the administration of the two principalities. He also adopted several reforms, including the secularization of church lands, free primary education, a French-inspired civil and penal code as well as army and limited land reforms. Opposition from the large landowner-dominated parliament to the latter resulted in a coup by Cuza in 1864. He subsequently instituted authoritarian rule but his popular support, strong at the time of the coup, gradually waned as the land reform failed to bring prosperity to the peasant majority. Cuza was forced to abdicate in 1866 by the two main political groups, the Conservatives and Liberals, who represented the interests of former large landowners.

Since 1859, we have carried a war of independance against the Turks; we shined as a kingdom under Carol (Charles) I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Ferdinand, Carol again (the second) and Michael I ; we got Transylvania back and became Greater Romania; we lost a few territories in the meantime, but no hard feelings anymore (or so we hope); we went through communism and defeated it; we became part of the EU and an ongrowing tourist attraction for vampire lovers and more.

We find history to be very subjective, but more importantly, it cannot be changed. We have to take pride in our long, tumultuous history and whatever our country and the future have to offer! And although our National Day is celebrated on the 1st of December, we want to take the opportunity to say 'Happy Birthday, Romania!' as it was the 24th of January when your name came into existance!

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