THE Romanians are certainly one of the most curious amongst
European nations The descendants of the conquerors of the ancient world, they lise detached from, and far to the north-east of, the other nations of the Greco-Latin family, and not many years ago they were hardly known by name. The grave events of which the Lower Danube has been the scene since the middle of this century have brought these Romanians prominently to the fore, and we know now that they differ essentially from their neighbours, be they Slav, Turk, or Magyar. They constitute, in fact, one of the most important elements amongst the populations of Eastern Europe, and numerically they are the strongest nation on the Lower Danube, the Bulgarians alone excepted.
The ethnological boundaries of Romania are far wider than are the political ones, for they embrace not only Wallachia and Moldavia beyond the Carpathians, but also Russian Bessarabia, a portion of the Bukovina, the greater portion of Transylvania, as well as extensive tracts in the Banat and Eastern Hungary. The Romanians have likewise crossed the Danube, and established themselves in portions of Servia and Bulgaria; and the settlements of their kinsmen, the Zinzares, sporadically extend fur south to the hills of Thessaly and Greece. Romania proper has an area of only 46,709 square miles, but the countries of the Romanians occupy at least twice that extent, and their numbers exceed 8,000,000, most of whom dwell in a compact mass on the Lower Danube and the adjoining portions of Hungary and Russia.
The Roman territories on the Lower Danube almost encircle the mountain masses of the Eastern Carpathians, as will be seen by a glance at our map, but only about one-half of this territory has been formed into an autonomous state, the remainder belonging to Hungary and Russia. If the national ambition of the Romanians were to he realised, the natural centre of their country would not lie within the actual limits of the territory, but at Hermannstadt (called Sibiu by the Wallachians), or elsewhere on the northern slope of the Carpathians. Thrust beyond the Carpathians, and extending from the Iron Gate to the upper affluents of the Pruth, the independent Romanians occupy a country of most irregular shape, and separated into two distinct portions by the river Sereth and one of its tributaries, which join the most advanced spur of the Eastern Carpathians to the great bend of the Lower Danube. To the north of this boundary lies Moldavia, thus named after a tributary of the Sereth ; to the southwest and west is Wallachia, or the ” Plain of the Welsh,” i.e. of the Latins. This plain, the tzara Rumaneasca, or Roman-land proper, is intersected by numerous parallel water-courses, forming as many secondary boundaries, and the river Olto separates it into Great Wallachia to the east, and Little Wallachia to the west. The Danube forms the political boundary down to its mouth. It is a wide and sinuous river; below the Iron Gate, lakes, forests, and swamps render access to its banks almost impossible in many places; and migratory nations and conquerors, instead of crossing it, as they could easily have done in Austria and Bavaria, rather sought to avoid it by seeking for a passage through the mountains to the north. The abrupt bend of the Lower Danube and its extensive swampy delta still further shielded the plains of Wallachia, and invaders not provided ith vessels were thus turned to the north, in the direction of the Carpathians. The lowlands of Moldavia were protected, though in a less degree, by the rivers Dnieper, Bug, Dniester, and Pruth running parallel with each other.
But, in spite of these natural bulwarks, it remains matter for surprise, and proves the singular tenacity of the Romanians, that they preserved their traditions, their language, and nationality, in spite of the numerous onslaughts from invaders of et cry race to which they were exposed. Ever since the retreat of the Roman legions, the peaceable cultivators of these plains were preyed upon so frequently by Guths, Huns, and Pecheneges by Slays, Bulgars, and Turks, that their extinction as a race appeared to be inevitable. But they have emerged from every deluge which threatened to destroy them, thanks, no doubt, to the superior culture for which they were indebted to their ancestors, and again claim a place amongst independent nations. They have fully justified their old proverb, hich says, Roman no pere !” the Roman perishes not.”
The Transylvanian Alps lie within the territory of the Romanians, who occupy both slopes. Their upper valleys, how-et er, are but thinly inhabited, and we may travel for days without meeting with any habitations excepting the rude huts of shepherds. The political boundary traced along the crest of the mountains is merely an imaginary line, passing through the forest solitudes of vast extent. Excepting near the only high-road, and the paths which join Transylvania to the plains of Wallachia, these mountains remain iii a state of nature. The chamois is still hunted there, and not long since even bisons were met with. The Tsigani penetrates these mountains in search of the brow n or black bears which be exhibits in the villages. He places a jar filled with brandy and honey near the beast’s haunt, and, as boon as the hear and his family have become helplessly intoxicated, they are seized and placed iii chains.
The physical configuration of Romania is extremely simple. In Moldavia low ridges running parallel with the high mountain chain extend from the northwest to the south-east, being separated from each other by the valleys of the Bistritza, Moldava and Sereth, and sinking down gradually into the plains of the Danube. In Wallachia the southern spurs of the Transylvanian Alps ramify with remark-able regularity, and the torrents which descend front them all run in the same direction. The rivers, whether they rise at the foot of the bills or traverse the entire width of the mountains, such as the Sil, Shil, or Jiul, the Olto or Aluta, and the Buseo, turn towards the east before their waters mingle with those of the Danube.
The slope of the hills is pretty uniform from the crest of the mountains to the plain of the Danube, and the zones of temperature and vegetation succeed each other with singular regularity. Summits covered with forests of conifers and birch, and clad with snow during winter, rise near the frontiers of Transylvania. These are succeeded by mountains of inferior height, y, here beeches and chestnuts predominate, ami all the picturesque beauties of European forest scenery are met with. Lower still we come upon gentle hills, with grist es of oaks and maples, and their sunny sides covered with vines. Finally, we enter the wide plains of the Danube, with their fruit trees, poplars, and willows. The zone hying between the high mountains and the plain abounds in localities rendered delightful by picturesque rocks, luxuriant and varied verdure, and limpid streams. In this ” happy Arcadia” we meet with most of the large monasteries, magnificent castles with domes and towers, standing in the midst of p irks and gardens. As to the plains, they are no doubt barren and monotonous in many places, but the villagers, though their habitations are half buried in the ground, enjoy the magnificent prospect of the blue mountains which bound the horizon. The most characteristic objects in these lowlands are the huge hay-ricks already figured upon Trajan’s column at Rome.
The Romanian campagna is a second Lombardy, not because of the high state of its agriculture, but because of the fertility of its soil, the beauty of the sky, and of the distant views. Unfortunately there are no mountain barriers to protect it against the cold north-easterly winds which predominate throughout the year. Extremes of cold and heat have to be encountered.* The vines hale to be covered with earth to protect them against the colds of winter; and in South-eastern Wallachia, which is most exposed to the violence of the winds, it happens some-times that herds of cattle and horses, flying before a snow-storm, precipitate themselves into the floods of the Danube. Several districts suffer from want of rain, and are veritable steppes. Amongst these are the plains of the Baregan, between the Danube and Yalomitza, where bustards abound, and a tree is not met with for miles.
Geologically we meet with a regular succession of formations, from the granite on the mountain summits to the alluvial deposits along the banks of the Danube. The rocks encountered ou these southern slopes of the Carpathians are of the same kind as those found in Galicia on their northern slopes, and they yield the same mineral products, such as rock-salt, gypsum, lithographic stones, and petroleum. Tertiary strata predominate iii the plains, but to the east of Ploiesti and Bucharest only quaternary deposits of clay and pebbles are met with, in which are found the bones of mammoths, elephants, and mastodons. The muddy rivers which traverse these plains have excavated themselves sinuous beds, and resemble large ditches.
The plain of Romania, like that of Lombardy, is an ancient gulf of the sea filled up by the débris washed down from the mountain sides. But though the sea has retired, the Danube remains, pouring out vast volumes of water, and offering great advantages to navigation. At the famous defile of the Iron Gate, where this riser enters the plain, its bed has a depth of 135 feet, its surface lies 66 feet above the level of the Black Sea, and its volume exceeds that of the combined rivers of Western Europe, from the Rhone to the Rhine. The Romans, in spite of this, had thrown a bridge across the. river, immediately below the Iron Gate, which was justly looked upon as one of time wonders of the world. This work of architecture, which Apollodorus of Damas had erected in honour of Trojan, was pulled down by order of the Emperor Hadrian, who was anxious to save the expenses of the garrison required for its protection. There only remain now the two abutments, and when the waters are low the foundations of sixteen out of the twenty piers which supported the bridge may still be seen. A Roman tower, which has given name to the little town of Turnu Severin, marks the spot where the Romans first placed their foot upon the soil of Dacia. The passage from Sers is to Romania is as important as it was of yore, but modern industry has not yet replaced Trojan’s bridge.
The Danube, like most rivers of our northern hemisphere, presses upon its right bank, and this accounts for the difference between its Wailachian and Bulgarian banks. The latter, gnawed by the floods, rises steeply into little hills and terraces, whilst the former rises gently, and merges almost imperceptibly in the plains of Wallachia. Swamps, lakes, creeks, and the remains of ancient river beds form a riverine network, enclosing numerous islands and sand-banks. These channels are subject to continual change, and to the south of the Yalomitza may still be seen a line of swamps and lagoons, which marks the course of an ancient river no longer existing. The lowlands on the Wallachian side of the Danube are constantly increasing in extent, whilst Bulgaria continuously suffers losses of territory. The latter, however, is amply compensated for this by the salubrity of its soil and the fine sites for commercial emporiums which it offers. It is said that the beaver, which has been exterminated almost in every other part of Europe, is still common in these half-drowned lands of Wallachia.
At a distance of thirty-eight miles from the sea, in a straight line, the Danube strikes against the granitic heights of the Dobruja, and abruptly turns to the north, subsequently to spread out into a delta. In the course of this détour it receives its last tributaries of importance, viz. the Moldavian Sereth and the Pruth. Thirty miles below the mouth of the latter the Danube bifurcates. Its main branch, known as that of Kilia, coneys about two-thirds of the entire volume of its waters to the Black Sea, and forms the frontier between Romania and Turkish Bulgaria. The southern branch, or that of Tuleha, flows entirely through Turkish territory It separates into two branches, of which that of Salina is the main artery of navigation
The main branch of the river is of the utmost importance when considering the changes wrought upon the surface of the earth through aqueous agencies. Below Ismail it ramifies into a multitude of channels, which change continuously, new channels being excavated, whilst others become choked with alluvial deposits carried down by the floods. Twice the waters of the river are reunited into a single channel before they finally spread out into a secondary delta jutting into the Black Sea. The exterior development of this new land amounts to about twelve miles, and supposing the sea to be of a uniform depth of thirty-three feet, it would advance annually at the rate of 660 feet. Yet, in spite of this rapid increase, the coast, at the Kilia mouth, juts out far less to the east than it does in the southern portion of the delta, and we may conclude from this that the ancient gulf of the sea, now filled up by the alluvial deposits brought down by the Kilia branch, was far larger and deeper than those to the south.* On examining a map of the Danubian delta, it will be found that, by prolonging the coast-line of Bessarabia towards the south, it crosses the delta. This is the ancient coast. It rises above the half-drowned plains like an embankment, through which the branches of the river forced themselves a passage to the sea. The alluvium brought down by the Sulina and St. George’s mouths has been spread over a vast plain lying outside this embankment, whilst that carried down through what is at present the main branch forms only a small archipelago of ill-defined islands beyond it. We may conclude from this that the latter is of more recent origin than the other arms.
In the course of its gradual encroachment upon the sea, the river has out off several lakes of considerable extent. (n the coast between the mouth of the Dniester and the delta of the Danube there are several lagoons, or limans of inconsiderable depth, the water of which evaporates during the heat of summer, depositing a thin crust of salt. In their general configuration, the nature of the surrounding land, and parallelism of the rivers which flow into them, these sheets of water are very much like the lakes met u ith more to the west, as far as the mouth of the Pruth. These latter, however, are filled with fresh water, and the sandy barriers at their lower ends separate them not from the Black Sea, but from the Danube. There can be no doubt that these lakes were anciently gulfs of the sea, similar in all respects to the lagoons still existing along the coast. The Danube, by converting its ancient gulf into a delta, separated them from the sea, and their saline water was replaced by fresh water carried down by the rivers. The existing saline lagoons will undergo the same metamorphosis, in proportion as the delta of the Danube gains upon the sea.
The plains of Wallachia were defended formerly by an ancient line of fortifications passing to the north of these Danubian lakes and lagoons, and known as ” Trajan’s Wall,” like the ditches, walls, and entrenched camps in the Southern Dobruja. The inhabitants ascribe their construction to Caesar, although they are of much later date, having been erected by Trojan as a protection against the Visigoths. This ancient barrier of defence coincided pretty nearly with the political boundary between Russian and Romanian Bessarabia, and extended probably to the west of the Pruth, across the whole of Moldavia’ and Wallachia. Vestiges of it still met with there are known as the “Road of the Avares.” A second wall, still traceable between Leova and Bender, defended the approaches to the valley of the Danube.
In spite of the diverse races which have overrun, conquered, or devastated their territory, the inhabitants of Romania, more fortunate than their neighbours, have preserved their unity of race and language. Wallachians and Moldavians form one people, and not only have they kept intact their national territory, but they have actually encroached upon the territories of their neighbours. Through-out Romania, with the exception of that portion of Bessarabia ceded by the Western powers after the Crimean war, the inhabitants belonging to alien races are in the minority.
The origin of this Latin-speaking nation is still shrouded in mystery. Are they the descendants of Getae and Latinised Dieians, or does the blood of Italian colonists brought thither by Trajan, of legionaries and Roman soldiers, predominate amongst them ? To what extent have they become with their neighbours, the Slavs and Illyrians ? What share had the Celts in the formation of their nationality ? Are the ” Little ” Wallaehians, the ” men with the eighty teeth,”so called on account of their bravery,the descendants of Celts ? We cannot say with certainty, for men of learning like Shafarik and Miklosich differ on all these points. The vast plains at present inhabited by the Romanians became a wilderness in the third century, when the Emperor Aurelian compelled their inhabitants to migrate to the right bank of the Danube. If it is true that the descendants of these emigrants ever returned to the seats of their ancestors, in the meantime occupied by Slays, Magyars, and Pecheneges, when did they do so ? Miklosich presumes that they did so towards the close of the fifth century ; Roesler thinks in the fourteenth, although ancient chroniclers of the eleventh century mention Romanians as dwelling in the Carpathians Other authorities deny that there was any re-immigration ; they maintain that the residue of the Latinised population sufficed for reconstituting the nationality. Thus much is certain, that this small people has increased wonderfully, and has become now the preponderating race on the Lower Danube and in Transylvania.
Even in the seventeenth century the language spoken by the Romanians was treated as a rural dialect, and Slavonian was used in churches and courts of justice. At the present day, on the contrary, Romanian patriots are anxious to purge their language of all Servian words, and of Greek and Turkish expressions introduced during the dominion of the Osmanli. The ” Romans” of the Danube are endeavouring to polish their tongue, so that it may rank with Italian and French. They have abandoned the Russian characters, and their vocabulary is being continually enriched by new words derived from the Latin. The idiom spoken in the towns, which was the most impure formerly, in consequence of the influx of strangers, has now become more Latin than that spoken in the country. There are, however, about two hundred words not traceable to any known tongue, and these are supposed to be a remnant of the ancient Dacian spoken at the period of the Roman invasion. The Wallachian differs, moreover, from the Latin tongues of Western Europe by always placing the article and the demonstrative pronoun after the noun. The same rule obtains in Albanian and Bulgarian, and Miklosich is probably right when he looks upon this as a feature of the ancient language of the aborigines.
These niceties, however are altogether unnoticed by the mass of the people. The Romanian peasant is proud of the ancient conquerors of his country, and looks upon himself as the descendant of the patricians of Rome. Several of his customs, at the birth of children, betrothals, or burials, recall those observed by the Romans, and the (lance of the Calushares, it is said, may be traced back to the earliest Italian settlers. The ‘Wallachian is fond of talking about Father Trajan, to whom he attributes all those feats which in other countries are associated with Hercules, Fingal, or Ossian. Many a mountain valley has been rent asunder by Trajan’s powerful hand; and the avalanches descending from the hills are spoken of as Trajan’s thunder. The Romanian completely ignores Getae, Dacians, or Goths, though in the hills we still meet with tall men having blue eyes and long flaxen hair, who are probably descended from the aboriginal inhabitants of the country.
The Romanians have generally fine sunburnt features, fair hair, expressive eyes, a mouth finely shaped, and beautiful teeth. They allow their hair to grow long, and sometimes even prefer to expatriate themselves to sacrificing it to the exigencies of military service. They exhibit grace in all their movements, are indefatigable on the march, and support the heaviest labour without complaining. Even the Wallachian herdsman, with his sheepskin cap, or cashula, his wide leather belt used as a pocket, a sheepskin thrown over his shoulders, and drawers which recall those of the Dacians sculptured on Trajan’s Column, is noble in his bearing. In the large towns, where much intermixture has taken place with Greeks, Southern Russians, and Magyars, the brown complexion predominates. The Romanian women are grace itself. They always charm us by taste and neatness, whether they have adopted a modern dress or still patronise the national costume, consisting of an embroidered chemisette, a floating vest, a party-coloured apron, a golden net, and golden sequins placed in the hair. These external advantages are combined in the Romanian with quickness of apprehension, a gay spirit, and the gift of repartee, which entitle them to be called the Parisians of the Orient.
In the midst of this homogeneous Romanian population we meet with Bulgarian colonists, whose number has increased recently in consequence of the persecutions of Turks and Greeks. The character of the Bulgarians born in the country has undergone considerable modifications. They are at present the most industrious tillers of the soil, and in the A icinity of large towns they occupy themselves principally with horticulture. Many of these Bulgarians live in that portion of Bessarabia which was ceded by Russia in 1855. They settled there in 1829, more particularly in the Budzak, or southern ” corner ” of Bessarabia, and their fields are better tilled, their roads in better condition, than those of their Moldavian neighbours. Their villages still bear Tartar names, from the time when their country was occupied by Nogai Tartars, and they contrast favourably with the villages of the surrounding peoples. Bolgrad, the capital of this colony, is a small bustling town, the schools of which enjoy a high reputation. These Bulgarians, so distinguished for industry, sobriety, and thrift, have more or less amalgamated with Russians, Greeks, and gipsies, and they talk almost every language of the East.
The Russians of Moldavian Bessarabia have their settlements on the banks of the Danube, to the east of these Bulgarian colonies. They, too, are good agriculturists. The Russians met with in the towns are generally engaged in commerce, and enjoy a high reputation for honesty. Most of them belong to the old sect of the Liporani, and fled from Russia about a century ago to escape religious persecution. They nearly all speak Romanian. Vilkof, a village near the mouth of the Danube, is almost exclusively occupied by these Lipovani, who are expert fishermen, and share the produce of their labour in common. Others amongst the Russians belong to the sect of the Skoptzi, or ” mutilated,” which is said to recruit itself by stealing children. These Skoptzi are recognised by their portliness and smooth faces, and at Bucharest they are reputed to be excel-lent coachmen.
Magyar Szeklers from Transylvania, known in the country as Changhei, are the only other foreign clement of the population occupying distinct settlements. These Changhei, who first came into the country when the Kings of Hungary were masters of the valley of the Sereth, are gradually becoming Romanians in dress and language, and would have become so long ago were they not Roman Catholics, whilst the people among whom they live are Greeks. They are joined annually by a few compatriots from Transylvania, attracted by the mild climate and the fertility of’ the soil. In spring and autumn large bauds of Hungarian reapers and labourers descend into the plains of Moldavia.
The Hellenic element was strongly represented last century, when the government of the country was farmed out by the Sultan to Greek merchants of Constantinople. At the present time the Greeks are not numerousnot exceeding, perhaps, 10,000 souls, even if we include amongst them Ilellenized Zinzaresbut they occupy influential positions as managers of estates or merchants, and the export of corn is almost exclusively in their hands. Traces of the ancient government of these Phanariotes still exist in the language of the country, and in the relationships resulting from intermarriages between seignorial families. Far more numerous than these Greeks, and of greater importance, are the members of those homeless nationsthe Jews and Tsigani (or gipsies). A few Spanish Jews are met with in the large towns, but the majority are ” German ” Jews, who have come hither from Poland, Little Russia, Galicia, and Hungary. As publicans and middlemen they come into close contact with the poor people, and they are universally detested, not on account of their religion, but because of the wonderful skill with which they manage to secure the savings of the people. Imaginary crimes of all kinds are attributed to them, and they have repeatedly been exposed to maltreatment on the frivolous charge of having eaten little children at their Passover. The Romanians, however, can hardly manage without these detested Jews, and their laws, by preventing the Jews from acquiring land, fortify their commercial monopoly. The Jews, if certain estimates may be credited, constitute one-fifth of the total population of Moldavia. The Armenians, the other great commercial people of the Orient, are represented by a few flourishing colonies, more especially in Moldavia. These Haikanes are the descendants of immigrants who settled in the country at various epochs between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries. They live amongst themselves, and, though not exactly liked by the people, they have known how to avoid becoming objects of hatred. A few Armenians from Constantinople, and speaking Turkish, are met with on the Lower Danube.
The Tsigani, or gipsies, so despised formerly, become merged by degrees in the rest of the population. Not long ago they were slaves, the property of the State, of boyards, or monasteries. They led a wandering lifeworking, trafficking, or stealing for the benefit of their masters. They were divided into castes, the principal of which were the lingurari, or spoon-makers ; ursari, or bear-leaders ; ferrari, or smit s ; aurari, or collectors of gold dust ; and lautari , or musicians. These latter mere the most polished of all, and were employed to celebrate the glory and the virtues of the boyards. They are now the minstrels of the country and the musicians of the town. Very few in number are the Netotzi, a degraded caste who live in woods or tents, subsist upon the foulest food, and do not bury their (lead. The Tsigani were assimilated in 1837 with the peasantry, and since their emancipation nearly all of them lead a settled life, cultivating the soil with great care, or exercising some handicraft. The fusion between Tsigani and Romanians is making rapid progress, for both races have the same religion and speak the same language. Intermarriages between the two are frequent, and in a time not far off the Tsigani of Romania will be a thing of the past. They are supposed still to number between 100,000 and 300,000) souls.
The Romanian nation is still in a state of transition from a feudal to a modern epoch. The revolution of 1848 shook the ancient system to its foundation, but did not destroy it. As recently as 18.56 the peasants were attached to the soil. They had no rights, but were at the mercy of the boyards and monasteries whose soil they were doomed to till, and lived in miserable hovels. The whole of the country and its inhabitants belonged to five or six thousand boyards, who were either the descendants of the ancient ” braves,” or had purchased their patents of nobility. Most of these boyards were only small proprietors, and nearly the whole of the land belonged to seventy feudatories in Wallachia, and three hundred in Moldavia.
This state of affairs led to the most frightful demoralisation amongst masters and serfs, and even the good qualities of the Romanianhis energy, his generosity, and friendlinesswere turned into evil. The nobles lived far away from their estates, spending the income forwarded by their Greek bailiffs in debauchery and gambling. The peasants worked but little, for they had no share in the produce of the soil ; they were mistrustful and full of deceit, as are all slaves ; they were ignorant and superstitious, for they depended for their education upon illiterate and fanatical priests. Their popes were magicians, and cured maladies by incantations and holy philtres. As to the monks, some of them were rich proprietors, as rapacious as the temporal lords ; others lived on alms, having exchanged a life of slavery for mendicity.
Not long ago the Romanians, deprived of all education except that sup-plied by their doinas or ancient songs, were lost almost in medicos al darkness. Even now some of the ancient customs of their ancestors survive in the rural districts. Funerals are attended by hired weeping women, whose shrieks accompany the farewell of relatives. Into the coffin they place a stick upon which to rest when crossing the Jordan, a piece of cloth to serve as a garment, and a coin as a bribe to St. Peter for opening the gate of heaven. Nor are wine and bread forgotten for the journey. Red-haired people are suspected of returning to earth in the guise of a dog, a frog, or a flea, and to penetrate into houses in order to suck the blood of good-looking voting girls. In their case it is as well to close the coffin-lid tightly, or, still better, to pierce the throat of the defunct with a stick.
The peasantry will doubtless no longer be haunted by these hallucinations, for the moral and intellectual progress of the nation has kept pace with its material prosperity since the peasant has cultivated his own land. Officially made a freeman in 1856, but held for several years afterwards in a kind of limited bondage, the peasant now owns at least a portion of the land. By a law passed in 1862, each head of a family is entitled to a plot of land from seven to sixty-seven acres in extent, and et er since that time the peasants have gained immensely in self-respect. His land, though still cultivated with the ancient Roman plough, and deprived of manure, produces immense quantities of cereals, the sale of which brings wealth into the country and encourages progress. Romania is now one of the great corn-exporting countries of Europe, and in favourable years, when the crops are neither eaten up by locusts nor destroyed by frosts, its exports exceed those of Hungary. In less than ten years the export of wheat, maize, barley, and oats has doubled, and the sum annually realised varies between £4,000,000 and £8,000,000 sterling.
Unfortunately the peasants eat but little of the corn they grow. They are content with the maize, from which they prepare their mamaligo and the detestable spirits which cheer their hearts on a hundred and ninety-four annual fête days. The cultivation of the vine, which was altogether neglected formerly, is likewise making progress, and the produce of the foot-hills of the Carpathians is justly esteemed. The time is past now when ” Wallachian ” and ” herdsman ” were synonyms throughout the East. Still, nearly one-fourth of the area of the country remains uncultivated, and the soil is allowed to lie fallow every third year. Moldavia is better cultivated, upon the whole, than Wallachia, and this is principally owing to the fact of the Moldavian boyards residing upon their estates, and taking a pride in their management. Progress, how ever, is apparent throughout the country, and there is hardly a large estate without its steam threshing-machine. Even the small proprietors are gradually introducing improved methods of cultivation, and in many villages they have formed co-operative associations for the cultivation of extensive tracts of country.*
Romania is essentially an agricultural country. The ores of the Carpathians are not utilised, for there are no roads which give access to them. The petroleum wells only supplied 3,810,000 gallons in 1873. Four of the principal salt-works are carried on by Government, partly with the aid of convict labour, and yield annually 80,000 tons of salt. The fisheries are of some importance. The inhabitants on the Lower Danube salt the fish which abound in the river and the neighbouring lakes, and prepare caviare from sturgeons. There are no manufactories excepting near the large towns, and the country is noted only for its carpets, embroidered cloth and leather, and pottery. The housewives are famed for their confectionery.
Commerce is annually on the inerease. Its only outlet in former times was the Danube. Nearly the whole produce of the country was carried to Galatz, at the bend of the river, upon which the principal routes of the country con-verge. For many years to come the Danube will remain the great commercial highway of the country ; the Pruth, too, is navigable for small steamers as far as Sculeni, to the north of Yassy ; whilst the numerous rivers descending from the Carpathians will always prove useful for the conveyance of timber. New outlets have been created by the construction of railways. Romania is now joined to the railway system of Austria and Hungary, and the proposed bridge across the Danube will place it in direct communication with Varna, on the Black Sea. The level nature of the country facilitates the construction of railways, but its inhabitants look upon their extension with a feeling of apprehension, for they fancy that a commercial invasion raw bring in its train a military one.
The Romanians complain much about the left bank of the Sulina branch of the Danube not having been ceded to them by the treaty of Paris. In former times the whole of the delta of the Danube belonged to Moldavia, as is proved by the ruins of a town built by the Romanians on the southern bank of the river, opposite to Kilia. Up to the close of last century the jurisdiction of the Moldavian governor of Ismail extended to the port of Sulina, and he was charged with keeping the mouth of the river free from obstructions. The Western powers, in spite of this, allowed Turkey to occupy the whole of the delta, whilst they confined the Romanians to the left bank of the Kilia branch. The country, consequently, has no direct access to the Black Sea, except by means of small vessels, for the mouth of the Kilia branch is obstructed by a bar. M. Desjardins and other engineers who have devoted some attention to the subject propose to construct a ship canal, about eight miles in length, which will connect the Danube with the Bay of Sibriani. In the meantime Romania is at liberty to make use of the Sulina mouth, which is kept open at the expen e of the Western powers, and a canal, therefore, hardly appears to be called for.
Bucharest (or Bucuresci, pron. Bukureshti), the capital of Wallachia and of the whole of Romania, already numbers amongst the great cities of Europe. Next to Constantinople and Buda-Pest, it is the most populous town of South-eastern Europe, and its inhabitants fondly speak of it as the ” Paris of the Orient.” The town not very long since was hardly more than a collection of villages, very picturesque from a distance on account of numerous towers and glittering domes rising above the surrounding verdure, but very unpleasant within. But Bucharest has been transformed rapidly with the increasing wealth of its inhabitants. It may boast now of wide and clean streets, bounded by fine houses, of public squares fall of animation, and of well-kept p irks, and fully deserves now its sobriquet of the ” joyful city.”
Yassy (Jasi, or Yashi), which became the capital of Moldavia when Suchova was annexed by Austria, occupies a position far less central than does Bucharest, but the fertility of the surrounding country, the proximity of the navigable Pruth and of Russia, with which it maintains a brisk commerce, and its position on the high-road joining the Baltic to the Black Sea, have caused it to increase rapidly in population. It is a flourishing town now, though no longer the seat of an independent government. Built upon the foot-hills of the Carpathians, the city presents itself magnificently from afar, and its exterior is not belied by its finer quarters. Jews, Armenians, Russians, Tsigani, Tartar, and Magyars are numerously represented amongst its population, which is semi-Oriental in type. We may almost fancy ourselves standing upon the threshold of Asia.
The church of the Three Saints is distinguished for its originality, and is a master-piece of ornamentation in the Moorish style.
All the other towns of Romania are indebted for their importance to their position on commercial high-roads. Botosani, in Northern Moldavia, lies on the road to Galicia and Poland, and the same may be said of Falticeni whose international fairs are always well attended. Commerce causes the towns on the Danube to flourish. Vilkof is a great mart for fish and caviare; Kilia, the ancient Achillea, or city of Achilles ; Ismail, where the Russian Lipovani are numerous ; Reni ; Galatz, said to be an ancient colony of the Galatians, now the most important commercial emporium on the Lower Danube, and seat of the European commissioners for its regulation ; Braila, a poor village as long as the Turks held it, but now important on account of its grain trade, and the literary centre of the Bulgarians. All these towns, though situated on the banks of the Danube, may be looked upon almost as ports of the Black Sea through which the produce of the country, and especially its grain, finds an outlet to foreign markets. Giurgiu (Jurjevo) is the port of Bucharest on the Danube ; Turnu-Severinu is the gateway of Wallachia, below the great narrows of the river; Craiova, Pitesci, Ploiesti, Buzeu, and Focsani form the terminal points of the roads descending from the high valleys of Transylvania. Alecsandria, a town recently built in the centre of the plain which extends from Bucharest to the Olio, has become a depot for agricultural produce.
Formerly, when incessant wars rendered a strong strategical position of greater importance than commercial advantages, the capital of the country was established in the very heart of the Carpathians. In the thirteenth century it as at Campu-Lungu, in the midst of the mountains, and subsequently it was transferred to Curtea d’Argesia, founded by Prince Negoze Bessaraba in the beginning of the sixteenth century. Of this ancient capital there remain now only a monastery and a wonderful church : the walls, cornices, and towers are covered with sculptures, like the work of a jeweller. Targu-Vestea, or Tirgovist, on the Yalotnitza, was the third capital, but of the fine palace built there by the domni there remain now only blackened walls.
Romania includes the two ancient principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, and forms a semi-independent state under the protection of the great powers, and paying an annual tribute of about £40 000 to the Porte. The country has placed a member of the Hohenzollern family at the head of the State. The constitution of 1866 confers upon this prince the right of appointing all public functionaries and the officers of the army, of coining money, and of pardoning. All laws require his signature before they can be enforced. He enjoys a civil list of £48,000.
The legislative powers are vested in two chambers, the members of which are elected by a process designed to favour the interests of the rich. All Romanians above twenty-one years of age, except servants in receipt of wages, are inscribed in the electoral lists. They are divided into four ” colleges,” or classes, having widely different privileges. The first college includes all those electors of a district whose income from landed property amounts to £132 a year ; electors having an income of between X44 and X132 form a second college ; merchants and tradesmen of the towns paying a tax of 23s. annually, Government pensioners, half-pay officers, professors and graduates of universities, form the third college; and the remainder of the electors belong to the fourth college. The first two colleges elect a deputy each for their district ; the third college elects from one to six deputies for each town, according to its size; the fourth college elects delegates by whom the representatives are chosen.
The Senate represents more especially the large landed proprietors. Senators must have an income of £352, and are elected by the landed proprietors whose income amounts to at least £132 a year. The universities of Bucharest and Yassy are represented by a senator each, elected by the professors, and the crown prince, the metropolitan, and the diocesan bishops are ex-officio members of the Senate. Senators are elected for eight, and deputies for four years.
The Romanian constitution grants all those rights and privileges usually set forth in documents of that kind. The right of meeting is guaranteed; there is liberty of the press; the municipal officers and mayors are elected, but the Prince may intervene in the case of towns inhabited by more than a thousand families ; the punishment of death is abolished, except in time of war; and education is free and compulsory “wherever there are schools.” There is liberty of religion, though there is a State Church, and Christians alone can be naturalised. No marriage is legal unless it has been consecrated by a priest. The Romanian Church, as far as dogmas are concerned, is that of the Greeks, but it is altogether independent of the Greek patriarch residing at Constantinople, and is governed by its own Synod. Most of the monasteries have been secularised.
The country is divided into four judicial districts, each having a court of appeal, whilst a supreme court sits at Bucharest. The French codes, slightly modified, were introduced in 1865.
The army is partly modelled upon that of Prussia_ All citizens are called upon to serve sixteen years, eight of which are passed in the standing army or its reserve, and eight in the militia. The National Guard includes all men up to fifty not belonging to either of the other categories. By calling out all its men, Romania can easily send an army of 100,000 men into the field. There are like-wise a few gunboats on the Danube.
The finances of Romania are in a more satisfactory condition than those of most other states of Europe. The Government has certainly been living upon loans, for which eight per cent. has to be paid, and nearly the whole of the annual income is spent upon the payment of interest, the army, and the revenue services. The credit of Romania is, however, good, for the loans are secured upon vast domains, the property of the secularised monasteries, several thousand acres of which are sold every year. The sale of salt and the manufacture of tobacco are Government monopolies.
Romania is divided for administrative purposes into 33 departments and 164 districts, or plasi. There are 62 towns and 3,020 rural communes.