The History of Bucovina
Short incursion in the history of Bucovina
Traces of human presence date back to the late Paleolithic era – somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 years ago). From this moment on, more and more human settlements were found all over Bucovina.
The feudal state of Moldavia has its origins in this area of Bucovina. It is here that Dragos, a local ruler of Maramures (a region under Hungarian control), founded a garrison in 1342 in order to stop the Tartar incursions. In 1359, Bogdan, another ruler of Maramures who was against the Hungarians, had crossed the mountains, defeating one of the successors of Dragos and founding the Moldavian state.
The consolidation of the Moldavian state took place during the next few centuries. Petru Musat I had moved the capital from Siret to Suceava and built the Princely Court. The “golden era” of the Moldavian state was in the time of Stephan the Great who reigned between 1457 and 1504. He reinforced the citadels throughout the Moldavian state, especially in Suceava. Unfortunately, not long before after his death, Moldavia fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
For a short period of time, the Wallachian prince Michael the Brave managed to take control of Moldavia in 1600. His assassination, however, meant the end of the unification of all three Romanian provinces: Wallachia, Transylvania, and Moldavia.
The year 1774 marks the beginning of a separate history for the northern part of Moldavia, which was known from then on as Bucovina. That was the year when the armies of the Habsburg Empire captured this part of Moldavia. Bucovina, which could be translated as the “country of beeches,” had three administrative stages: military (1774-86), civil (1786-1848), and then the stage as an autonomous duchy and part of the Habsburg Empire. The last stage lasted till 1918 when the province was joined with Romania.
During the Austrian occupation, Bucovina enjoyed an important economic and cultural development. The Habsburg Empire invested heavily in the new territory, a measure which was very necessary due to the fact that that a large part of the local population had left Bucovina before the Austrian occupation. The colonization took place because of the economic facilities given to each colonist, including the Romanians. In this way, many aspects of the local economy improved greatly, including the roads and railways, the crafts, and the trades.
Culturally, Bucovina had witnessed an important development in its educational system, which was based on the Austrian model. The “Franz Joseph” University in Cernauti, the capital of the region, was founded in 1875. As it was formed by students from all the different ethnic groups of Bucovina, the local university formed an important elite. One of these students, K.A. Romstorfer, managed to save many important monuments in Bucovina such as the famous “painted churches” which are so important for tourism today.
At first, the locals had just eight representatives in the Austrian Parliament. In 1849, Bucovina became a duchy, with its own assembly inaugurated in 1861. All the ethnic groups were represented in the local parliament, and the unification with Romania was voted on November 28, 1918.
After Bucovina joined Romania in 1918, the economic situation began to deteriorate. Even worse, in 1940, the northern part became part of Ukraine. This year marks the terrible Russian massacre of Romanians who were evacuating the battle zone. More than 3000 people were killed by NKVD troops, but Russia had never recognized this massacre. One year later, in 1941, the territory was taken back by the Romanians but just for a short period of time.
Today, Bucovina remains split into two parts, the northern in Ukraine, the southern being part of Romania. Unfortunately, both regions lost their Austrian influences as well as their cultural identities.
Southern Bucovina invested a lot in tourism after 1989, the year which marked the beginning of democratic life in Romania. The beautiful hills of the Carpathians encircle many villages and their world-famous “painted” monasteries.