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Union of the Romanian Principalities

Union of the Romanian Principalities 2018 and 2019

In 2014, Romania established a new public holiday, “Union of the Romanian Principalities,” to be celebrated from 2015 onwards. It is also known as “Unification Day” and sometimes called “Small Union Day” to distinguish it from National Day, which is also called “Great Union Day.”

201824 JanWedUnion of the Romanian Principalities
201924 JanThuUnion of the Romanian Principalities
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Unification Day is now celebrated in Romania every January 24th to commemorate the union of the two “Danubian Principalities” of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1862. This marked the beginning of the modern state of Romania. National Day, on the other hand, celebrates the addition of Transylvania and some other provinces to form a larger union on December 1st, 1918.

Wallachia and Moldavia had existed as independent nations or subjugated regions since the 14th Century A.D. They were long a conflict zone between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, to which they were annexed for centuries. In 1821, Russia seized eastern Moldavia from Turkish control. This area later became the modern state of Moldova on Romania’s eastern border. While a movement to reunite with Moldova has existed since the fall of the Soviet Union, it has not yet been successful.

In the 1840s, there were some attempts to unite Wallachia and Moldavia, but they all failed. Things changed in 1856, when the two principalities became independent from the Ottoman Empire in all but name. The Treaty of Paris, signed after the Crimean War, allowed only for a “minimal formal union with two separate thrones” for the two provinces. However, Romanians capitalised on the fact that the treaty did not specify two different princes had to occupy those two different thrones.

In 1859, both Moldavia and Wallachia elected Alexander Ioan Cuza as their common ruler. On January 24th, 1862, the two nations were formally united, and in 1866, the new name “Romania” was adopted. A new constitution was also adopted in 1866, further strengthening the union. Finally, in 1877 to 1878, Romania was victorious is declaring and winning full independence from the Ottoman Empire.

After Cuza became Romania’s first ruler, he embarked upon implementing a series of reforms, including land reforms, free public education, and a civil and penal code largely modeled on that of France. He claimed to act in the interests of the peasants, who were the large majority of Romania’s populace. However, when his reforms did not seem to benefit them and both Liberal and Conservative parties arose against him, he finally abdicated in 1866. Despite this ignominious end to his reign, however, his success at united Romania into one country is remembered and appreciated by Romanians to this day.

Should you be in Romania for Unification Day, some ideas on what to do include:

  • Visit Metropolitanate Hill in Bucharest, the very place where the union of Wallachia and Moldavia was achieved in 1862. The Romanian Orthodox Church was heavily involved with the union and owned the building the union was enacted in. The Patriarchal Palace is also on the same hill, and there may also be thanksgiving services held in the nearby cathedral to remember the unification. After the service, flowery wreaths are laid at the statue of Alexander Ioan Cuza.
  • In 2015, the town of Iasi hosted special Unification Day events, including a presidential speech. The location may vary, but you should look for this event. It will likely be aired on TV and radio as well.
  • See hundreds of pre-school children dance to celebrate Romanian unification. This event has been a tradition for over a decade now and is called “The Little Stars’ Dance.” It is a competition that both the International School of Bucharest and Spectrum Primary School organise.

Romania has a long, rich history that awaits the discovery of travelers, and there is no better time to learn of it than Unification Day.