Romanians celebrate on Wednesday the 159th anniversary of the Union of the Romanian Principalities, Moldavia and Wallachia, a highly important event in the country’s history, which opened the way to the modernization of the Romanian state and society.
On January 24, 1859, as a result of the wish of the Romanian people, and in a favorable international context, the political unification of the then two Romanian principalities — Wallachia, today a southern region, and Moldavia, today’s eastern region, was achieved under the ruler elect Alexandru Ioan Cuza.
The union of the two principalities, which were under Turkish suzerainty, was back then one of the main desiderata of the Romanian people, alongside winning national freedom. The unification of the two principalities was also the essence of what was used to be called “the Romanian question,” which came back to the attention of the big European powers amidst the Crimean War (1853-56).
A genuine unification movement emerged at that time in the two principalities. Concurrently, the Romanian revolutionaries of the 1848 Revolution, self-exiled in Europe’s big power countries, played an important part in winning the attention of the European politicians and the public opinion for the unification desideratum of the Romanian people. Political and cultural personalities closely followed this issue developments, voicing support and enthusiasm for the achievement of the unification. The Union of the Romanian Principalities was particularly supported by Emperor Napoleon III of France.
Ad-hoc assemblies, convened in 1857 in Wallachia and Moldavia, under the 1856 Paris Peace Treaty, passed resolutions urging, among other things, the two principalities unification into a single country, to be called Romania. The 1858 Paris Convention drawn up by the big European powers — a real fundamental law for the two principalities — stipulated the maintenance of the two countries separated, under two different rulers, governed by two separate legislative assemblies and having two capitals. The Convention failed to specify that the rulers elected in the two countries shall be different people, and the Romanians, who resumed their fight for the unification with even greater zest, capitalized on this detail.
On January 5, 1859, Moldavia’s elective assembly unanimously elected Colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza, a well-known 1848 revolutionary, as ruler. In Wallachia, the leaders of the unification movement had already thought about electing Al I Cuza its ruler. On January 22-24, the elective assembly was under great popular pressure, which led to the unanimous election on January 24, 1859 of Alexandru Ioan Cuza as ruler of Wallachia, bringing to fulfilment the unification of the two principalities. On February 8, Cuza was welcomed in Bucharest with pomp and circumstance.
Facing the “fait accompli,” the big powers recognized Alexandru Ioan Cuza as ruler of both principalities, but the recognition was limited to his own person.
In 1859-1861, Al I Cuza carried out vast political and diplomatic actions in order to gain recognition for his double election and permanent unification of the two principalities by unifying the governments and legislative assemblies in Iasi and Bucharest.
In January 1862, the first single government and the first single Parliament of Romania became operational in Bucharest, the city designated as Romania’s capital. In his inaugural speech to Parliament, Cuza solemnly declared “the final unification of the Principalities” and that “A new day is starting today for Romania, as it is finally entering the path that will lead to the fulfilment of its destiny.”
The unification generated a favourable framework for the modernization of the Romanian society. Under Cuza’s rule (1859-66), sweeping reforms were started in the economy, society, the judiciary, education and the army. In 1877-1878, Romania conquered and proclaimed its state independence and, in 1918, following the Greater Union of December 1, 1918, when Transylvania joined in, the formation of the national unitary state of Romania was fully accomplished.