Walachian Revolution 1848

[ 1848 ]

After Russia's withdrawal in 1834, Walachia and Moldavia entered a period of self-government during which Russia guaranteed the privileges that the Ottomans had granted. During this period, the principalities' economic condition was bleak. For example a traveler to Walachia in 1835 reported seeing no manor houses, bridges, windmills, or inns and no furniture or utensils in peasant huts. In the mid-nineteenth century, Jews from Galicia began dominating trade, crafts, and money lending in the principalities. A native-Romanian bourgeoisie was virtually nonexistent. The boyars grew rich through the Black Sea wheat trade, using Jews as middlemen, but the peasants reaped few benefits. Beginning in the 1840s, construction of the first major roadways linked the principalities, and in 1846 Gheorghe Bibescu (1842-48), the Paris-educated prince of Walachia, agreed with Moldavia's Prince Mihai Sturdza (1834-49) to dismantle customs barriers between the principalities, marking the first concrete move toward unification.

The uprising of Transylvania's Romanian peasants during the 1848 European revolutions ignited Romanian national movements in Walachia and Moldavia. In Moldavia, Sturdza quashed the revolution overnight by arresting its leaders. In Walachia, however, a majority of the younger generation was averse to Russian and boyar dominance. Revolutionary platforms called for universal suffrage, equal rights, unification of the two principalities, and freedom of speech, association, and assembly. Although he sympathized with the revolutionary movement, Bibescu lacked the courage to lead it. After naming a revolutionary cabinet and signing a new constitution, he fled into Transylvania. The new government of Walachia quickly affirmed its loyalty to the Porte and appealed to Austria, France, and Britain for support, hoping to avert a Russian invasion. The government also formed a committee composed equally of boyars and peasants to discuss land reform. Shocked by the revolution's success in Europe and fearful that it might spread into Russia, the tsar invaded Moldavia and pressured the Porte to crush the rebels in Bucharest. Dissatisfied with Turkey's weak resolve, Russia invaded Walachia and restored the Règlement. After 1849 the two empires suppressed the boyar assemblies in Walachia and Moldavia and limited the tenure of their princes to seven years.

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