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This day in modern Romanian history!

January 24, 1859 is a memorable date in our national history, well fixed in the collective memory – it is the day of the Union of the Romanian Principalities or “The Little Union”, the “Great Union” being realized on December 1, 1918. It is one of those moments of grace, rare in the history of a nation, when the popular will and the quality of politicians dedicated to the national ideal have defeated minor political interests and calculations, domestic and international.

The appeal to history is essential in any epoch, but especially in troubled times, in order to understand that the identity of a people is built in time, constantly, with effort, with devotion, with honesty, realizing the belonging to a certain spirituality, to a geographical space, to a history.

Every year, The month of January brings to our memory two fundamental landmarks – January 15, 1850, the birthday of Mihai Eminescu, the symbol of our eternity, and January 24, 1859, “The Union of the Romanian Principalities”.

The Ruler of Moldavia, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, was elected ruler of Wallachia (Țara Românească), thus achieving the Union of the Romanian Principalities.

Romanian history

Alexandru Ioan Cuza represents a singular personality. It was the symbol of a great historical turning point experienced by his nation. For a while, in the State that was constituted by the gathering together of the Moldovans and Wallachians in single borders, his person embodied the unity, because The Great Guarantor Powers accepted the fact fulfilled on January 24, 1859, putting the condition – difficult if not impossible to fulfil – that the new ruler should rule alternately, in one capital or the other – in Bucharest or Iasi – with two governments, two Assemblies, two administrations, although the title of the two countries was that of the United Principalities! Only in the person of the ruler had the union been accomplished!

The double election had been the result of a patriotic compromise. The two camps, which were facing each other socially and politically, but not on that of achieving unity, had chosen this solution, on January 24, 1859, as a way out of a political impasse that could lead to armed confrontations and the collapse of prospects for a future. Cuza ruled under this compromise and the Paris Convention of 1858, which – by its electoral stipulations – had narrowed the maneuvering field of the political forces, especially the renewing ones. In the end, he was put in a position to choose the path of the coup d’état, which would make it easier for him to complete the reform process, but it would also be the prelude to his fall.

Although in the vortex of 1848 he had manifested himself in positions of extreme boldness, ready to sacrifice himself, in the years of the Union he had become a moderate and he did not reconcile – like Ion Ghica or Vasile Alecsandri – with the Wallachian radicals, to whom he still owed his choice in Bucharest. He was a fierce patriot, he wanted to solve the peasant problem, but he was always attracted by the Bonapartist model, to whom he adapted.

Somewhere he liked in May 1864 to give the coup d’état and did not accept, in the following period, a reconciliation and cooperation with these radicals of Ion C. Brătianu and C.A. Rosetti, which was also a prerequisite for the loss of the reign. Cuza confused himself with the country and served it with dedication. He did not want the reign and it is certain that the votes he was given in the preliminary assembly of the national majority of the Elective Assembly of Moldova were given to him especially because he had not asked for it.

There was one more reality. The ad hoc assemblies had been pronounced in 1857 for a Union under a foreign prince, and on January 4, 1859 – after Cuza had been nominated as a candidate on January 3rd – another motion was addressed to the Guarantor Powers to ask them to fulfill this desideratum, and this document was also signed by Cuza, although he knew that the next day his election was assured!

Why did he do this? Because he believed in this formula for the future and was willing to step aside when this desideratum could have been achieved. In fact, he himself would use the formula of sacred deposit, which had been entrusted to him by the nation, not only by choosing from Iasi, but especially through the one in Bucharest. This is how he had started on the path of the reign, but there was also an element of fragility and uncertainty in this situation, which in the end was not favorable to him!

Photo 1 – The map of United Principalities

Photo 2 – Proclaiming the Union, Theodor Aman, 1861

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