Alexander John Cuza
Alexander John Cuza was a Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

n-born Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

n politician who ruled as the first Domnitor
Domnitor was the official title of the ruler of the United Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia between 1859 and 1866....

 of the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia
United Principalities
The United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, also known as the Romanian Principalities, was the official name of Romania following the 1859 election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza as prince or domnitor of both territories...

 between 1859 and 1866.

Early life

Born in Bârlad
Bârlad is a city in Vaslui County, Romania. It lies on the banks of the Bârlad River, which waters the high plains of eastern Moldavia....

, Cuza belonged to the traditional boyar
A boyar, or bolyar , was a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian, Kievan Rus'ian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Moldavian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes , from the 10th century through the 17th century....

 class in Moldavia, being the son of Ispravnic
An ispravnic was, in the Danubian principalities, the title owned by a clerk or a boyar in charge of law enforcement in a certain county. Initially, during the middle ages, ispravnics were people who used to carry out the voivod's commands. Later on, ispravnics became local administrators and were...

 Ioan Cuza (who was also a landowner in Fălciu County
Falciu County
Fălciu was a territorial entity in Moldavia , then a county in Romania between 1859 and 1950. Its capital was the town of Huşi. Another important town was Fălciu.- History :...

) and his wife Sultana (or Soltana), a member of the Cozadini family of Phanariote
Phanariots, Phanariotes, or Phanariote Greeks were members of those prominent Greek families residing in Phanar , the chief Greek quarter of Constantinople, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate is situated.For all their cosmopolitanism and often Western education, the Phanariots were...

 origins. Alexander received an urbane European education, becoming an officer in the Moldavian Army
Moldavian military forces
Moldavia had a military force for much of its history as an independent and, later, autonomous principality subject to the Ottoman Empire .-Middle Ages:Under the reign of Stephen the Great, all farmers and villagers had to bear arms...

 (rising to the rank of colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

). He married Elena Rosetti
Elena Cuza
Elena Cuza , also known under her semi-official title Elena Doamna, was a Moldavian-born Romanian noblewoman and philanthropist, the wife of Alexander John Cuza.-Biography:...

 in 1844.

In 1848, known as the year of European revolutions
Revolutions of 1848
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It was the first Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority, but within a year reactionary...

, Moldavia and Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

 fell into revolt. The Moldavian unrest was quickly suppressed, but in Wallachia the revolutionaries took power and governed during the summer (see 1848 Wallachian revolution). Young Cuza played a prominent enough part to establish his liberal credentials during the Moldavian episode and to be shipped to Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 as a prisoner, where he soon made his escape with British
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....


Returned during the rule of Prince Grigore Alexandru Ghica
Grigore Alexandru Ghica
Grigore Alexandru Ghica or Ghika was a Prince of Moldavia between October 14, 1849 and June 1853, and again between October 30, 1854 and June 3, 1856...

, he became Moldavia's minister of war in 1858, and represented Galaţi
Galați is a city and municipality in Romania, the capital of Galați County. Located in the historical region of Moldavia, in the close vicinity of Brăila, Galați is the largest port and sea port on the Danube River and the second largest Romanian port....

 in the ad hoc Divan at Iaşi
Iași is the second most populous city and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life...

, acting under the guarantee of the European Powers
Great power
A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions...

 in the wake of the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 to nominate a prince for Moldavia. Cuza was a prominent speaker in the debates and strongly advocated the union of Moldavia and Walachia. In default of a foreign prince, he was himself nominated in both countries by the pro-unionist Partida Naţională
Partida Nationala
The Partida Naţională was a liberal Romanian political party active between 1856 and 1859. It was a loose group which supported the union of the Danubian Principalities....

 (profiting from an ambiguity in the text of the governing Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1856)
The Treaty of Paris of 1856 settled the Crimean War between Russia and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, Second French Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The treaty, signed on March 30, 1856 at the Congress of Paris, made the Black Sea neutral territory, closing it to all...

) and elected prince of Moldavia on 17 January 1859 (5 January Julian
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

) and, after street pressure changed the vote in Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

, of Wallachia on 5 February 1859 (24 January Julian).

Although he and his wife Elena Rosetti
Elena Cuza
Elena Cuza , also known under her semi-official title Elena Doamna, was a Moldavian-born Romanian noblewoman and philanthropist, the wife of Alexander John Cuza.-Biography:...

 had no children, she raised as her own children his two sons by his mistress Elena Maria Catargiu-Obrenović
Marija Obrenovic
Elena Maria Catargiu-Obrenović , known in Serbia as Marija Obrenović, was a Moldavian and Romanian boyaress...

: Alexandru Al. Ioan Cuza
Alexandru Al. Ioan Cuza
Alexandru Al. Ioan Cuza was a Romanian aristocrat, businessman and journalist. He was the son of Domnitor Alexander John Cuza, whose rule coincided with the political union between the Danubian Principalities...

 (born between 1862 and 1864–1889), and Dimitrie Cuza (1865–1888 suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...


Diplomatic efforts

Thus Cuza achieved a de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 union of the two principalites. The Powers backtracked, Napoleon III
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

 of the French Empire
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

 remaining supportive, while the Austrian
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 ministry withheld approval of such a union at the Congress of Paris (18 October 1858); partly as a consequence, Cuza's authority was not recognized by his nominal suzerain, Abdülaziz
Abdülaziz I or Abd Al-Aziz, His Imperial Majesty was the 32nd Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and reigned between 25 June 1861 and 30 May 1876...

, the Sultan
Ottoman Dynasty
The Ottoman Dynasty ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1299 to 1922, beginning with Osman I , though the dynasty was not proclaimed until Orhan Bey declared himself sultan...

 of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, until 23 December 1861, (and, even then, the union was only accepted for the duration of Cuza's rule).

The union was formally declared three years later, on 5 February 1862, (24 January Julian), the new country bearing the name of Romania, with Bucharest as its capital city.

Cuza invested his diplomatic actions in gaining further concessions from the Powers: the sultan's assent to a single unified parliament
Parliament of Romania
The Parliament of Romania is made up of two chambers:*The Chamber of Deputies*The SenatePrior to the modifications of the Constitution in 2003, the two houses had identical attributes. A text of a law had to be approved by both houses...

 and cabinet
Prime Minister of Romania
The Prime Minister of Romania is the head of the Government of Romania. Initially, the office was styled President of the Council of Ministers , when the term "Government" included more than the Cabinet, and the Cabinet was called The Council of Ministers...

 for Cuza's lifetime, in recognition of the complexity of the task. Thus, he was regarded as the political embodiment of a unified Romania.


Assisted by his councilor Mihail Kogălniceanu
Mihail Kogalniceanu
Mihail Kogălniceanu was a Moldavian-born Romanian liberal statesman, lawyer, historian and publicist; he became Prime Minister of Romania October 11, 1863, after the 1859 union of the Danubian Principalities under Domnitor Alexander John Cuza, and later served as Foreign Minister under Carol I. He...

, an intellectual leader of the 1848 revolution, Cuza initiated a series of reforms that contributed to the modernization of Romanian society and of state structures.

His first measure addressed a need for increasing the land resources and revenues available to the state, by "secularizing" (confiscating) monastic assets
Secularization of monastery estates in Romania
The law on the secularization of monastery estates in Romania was proposed in December 1863 by Domnitor Alexandru Ioan Cuza and approved by the Parliament of Romania. By its terms, the Romanian state confiscated the large estates owned by the Eastern Orthodox Church in Romania...

 (1863). Probably more than a quarter of Romania's farmland was controlled by untaxed Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

Dedication is the act of consecrating an altar, temple, church or other sacred building. It also refers to the inscription of books or other artifacts when these are specifically addressed or presented to a particular person. This practice, which once was used to gain the patronage and support of...

 Monasteries", which supported Greek
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 and other foreign monks in shrines such as Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 and Jerusalem (a substantial drain on state revenues). Cuza got his parliament's backing to expropriate these lands. He offered compensation to the Greek Orthodox Church
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople , part of the wider Orthodox Church, is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity...

, but Sophronius III, the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

, refused to negotiate; after several years, the Romanian government withdrew its offer and no compensation was ever paid. State revenues thereby increased without adding any domestic tax burden.
The land reform
Land reform
[Image:Jakarta farmers protest23.jpg|300px|thumb|right|Farmers protesting for Land Reform in Indonesia]Land reform involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution,...

, liberating peasants from the last corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...

s, freeing their movements and redistributing some land (1864), was less successful. In attempting to create a solid support base among the peasants, Cuza soon found himself in conflict with the group of Conservatives
Conservative Party (Romania, 1880-1918)
The Conservative Party was between 1880 and 1918 one of Romania's two most important parties, the other one being the Liberal Party...

. A liberal bill granting peasants title to the land they worked was defeated. Then the Conservatives responded with a bill that ended all peasant dues and responsibilities, but gave landlords title to all the land. Cuza veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

ed it, then held a plebiscite to alter the Paris Convention (the virtual constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

), in the manner of Napoleon III.

His plan to establish universal manhood suffrage
Universal manhood suffrage
Universal manhood suffrage is a form of voting rights in which all adult males within a political system are allowed to vote, regardless of income, property, religion, race, or any other qualification...

, together with the power of the Domnitor to rule by decree, passed by a vote of 682,621 to 1,307. He consequently governed the country under the provisions of Statutul dezvoltător al Convenţiei de la Paris ("Statute expanding the Paris Convention"), an organic law
Constitution of Romania
The 1991 Constitution of Romania, adopted on 21 November 1991, voted in the referendum of 8 December 1991 and introduced on the same day, is the current fundamental law that establishes the structure of the government of Romania, the rights and obligations of the country's citizens, and its mode...

 adopted on 15 July 1864. With his new plenary powers, Cuza then promulgated the Agrarian Law of 1863. Peasants received title to the land they worked, while landlords retained ownership of one third. Where there was not enough land available to create workable farms under this formula, state lands (from the confiscated monasteries) would be used to give the landowners compensation.

Despite the attempts by Lascăr Catargiu
Lascar Catargiu
Lascăr Catargiu was a Romanian conservative statesman born in Moldavia. He belonged to an ancient Wallachian family, one of whose members had been banished in the 17th century by Prince Matei Basarab, and had settled in Moldavia.-Biography:...

's cabinet to force a transition in which some corvées were to be maintained, Cuza's reform marked the disappearance of the boyar class as a privilege
A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. It can be revoked in certain circumstances. In modern democratic states, a privilege is conditional and granted only after birth...

d group, and led to a channeling of energies into capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 and industrialization; at the same time, however, land distributed was still below necessities, and the problem became stringent over the following decades – as peasants reduced to destitution sold off their land or found that it was insufficient for the needs of their growing families.

Cuza's reforms also included the adoption of the Criminal Code and the Civil Code based on the Napoleonic code
Napoleonic code
The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

 (1864), a Law on Education, establishing tuition
Tuition payments, known primarily as tuition in American English and as tuition fees in British English, Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English and Indian English, refers to a fee charged for educational instruction during higher education.Tuition payments are charged by...

-free, compulsory
Compulsory education
Compulsory education refers to a period of education that is required of all persons.-Antiquity to Medieval Era:Although Plato's The Republic is credited with having popularized the concept of compulsory education in Western intellectual thought, every parent in Judea since Moses's Covenant with...

 public education
Public education
State schools, also known in the United States and Canada as public schools,In much of the Commonwealth, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, the terms 'public education', 'public school' and 'independent school' are used for private schools, that is, schools...

 for primary schools (1864; the system, nonetheless, suffered from drastic shortages in allocated funds). He founded the University of Iaşi (1860) and the University of Bucharest
University of Bucharest
The University of Bucharest , in Romania, is a university founded in 1864 by decree of Prince Alexander John Cuza to convert the former Saint Sava Academy into the current University of Bucharest.-Presentation:...

 (1864), and helped develop of a modern, European-style Romanian Army, under a working relationship with France.

Downfall and exile

Cuza failed in his effort to create an alliance of prosperous peasants and a strong liberal prince, ruling as a benevolent authoritarian in the style of Napoleon III. Having to rely on a decreasing group of hand-picked bureaucrats
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

, Cuza began facing a mounting opposition after his land reform bill, with liberal landowners voicing concerns over his ability to represent their interests. Along with financial distress, there was an awkward scandal that revolved around his mistress, Maria Catargi-Obrenović
Marija Obrenovic
Elena Maria Catargiu-Obrenović , known in Serbia as Marija Obrenović, was a Moldavian and Romanian boyaress...

, and popular discontent culminated in a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...


Cuza was forced to abdicate by the so-called "Monstrous Coalition" of Conservatives and Liberals. At four o'clock on the morning of 22 February 1866, a group of military conspirators broke into the palace, and compelled the prince to sign his abdication
Abdication occurs when a monarch, such as a king or emperor, renounces his office.-Terminology:The word abdication comes derives from the Latin abdicatio. meaning to disown or renounce...

. On the following day they conducted him safely across the frontier.

His successor, Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
Carol I of Romania
Carol I , born Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was reigning prince and then King of Romania from 1866 to 1914. He was elected prince of Romania on 20 April 1866 following the overthrow of Alexandru Ioan Cuza by a palace coup...

, was proclaimed Domnitor as Carol I of Romania on 20 April 1866. The election of a foreign prince with ties to an important princely house, legitimizing Romanian independence (which Carol came to do after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878
Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878
The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 was a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox coalition led by the Russian Empire and composed of numerous Balkan...

), had been one of the liberal aims in the revolution of 1848.

Despite the participation of Ion Brătianu
Ion Bratianu
Ion C. Brătianu was one of the major political figures of 19th century Romania. He was the younger brother of Dimitrie, as well as the father of Ionel, Dinu, and Vintilă Brătianu...

 and other future leaders of the Liberal Party
National Liberal Party (Romania)
The National Liberal Party , abbreviated to PNL, is a centre-right liberal party in Romania. It is the third-largest party in the Romanian Parliament, with 53 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 22 in the Senate: behind the centre-right Democratic Liberal Party and the centre-left Social...

 in the overthrow of Cuza, he remained a hero to the radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

 and republican
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

 wing, who, as Francophile
Is a person with a positive predisposition or interest toward the government, culture, history, or people of France. This could include France itself and its history, the French language, French cuisine, literature, etc...

s, had an additional reason to oppose a Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n monarch; anti-Carol riots in Bucharest during the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 (see History of Bucharest
History of Bucharest
The history of Bucharest covers the time from the early settlements on the locality's territory until its modern existence as a city, capital of Wallachia, and present-day capital of Romania.-Ancient times:...

) and the coup attempt known as the Republic of Ploieşti
Republic of Ploiesti
The Republic of Ploiești was a revolt against the Romanian monarchy in the city of Ploiești, Romania, on August 8, 1870.-Background:Romanian liberal radicals of Ploiești and elsewhere were opposed to the new ruler of the country, Prince Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen , and desired a republic to...

 in August 1870, the conflict was eventually resolved by the compromise between Brătianu and Carol, with the arrival of a prolonged and influential Liberal cabinet.

Cuza spent the remainder of his life in exile, chiefly in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 and Wiesbaden
Wiesbaden is a city in southwest Germany and the capital of the federal state of Hesse. It has about 275,400 inhabitants, plus approximately 10,000 United States citizens...

, accompanied by his wife, his mistress, and his two sons. He died in Heidelberg
-Early history:Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, "Heidelberg Man" died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907; with scientific dating, his remains were determined to be the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of...

. His remains were buried in his residence in Ruginoasa
Ruginoasa, Iasi
Ruginoasa is a commune in Iaşi County, Romania. It is composed of four villages: Dumbrăviţa, Rediu, Ruginoasa and Vascani.-References:...

, but were moved to the Trei Ierarhi Cathedral
Trei Ierarhi Monastery
Biserica Trei Ierarhi is a seventeenth-century monastery located in Iaşi, Romania. The monastery is listed in the National Register of Historic Monuments and included on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site....

 in Iaşi after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


External links

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