Bessarabia Governorate - History - Oblast and Gubernya

Oblast and Gubernya

After the annexation, the local boyars, led by Gavril Bănulescu-Bodoni, the Metropolitan of Chişinău and Hotin, petitioned for self-rule and the establishment of a civil government based on the Moldavian traditional laws. In 1818, a special autonomous region was created, which had both Romanian and Russian as languages used in the local administration. Bănulescu-Bodoni also obtained permission for opening a seminary and a printing press, with the Bessarabian church being an eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After the death of Bănulescu-Bodoni in 1821, Bessarabia lacked a strong leader and as the Russians feared nationalism, which triggered the anti-Ottoman 1821 Wallachian Revolution in neighbouring Wallachia, the local authorities began a gradual retraction of many of the freedoms.

Nicholas I of Russia, crowned in 1825, began a campaign of reforms which had the goal of gaining more control over the western provinces. Autonomy of the region was retracted in 1829, with the new constitution written by the governor of New Russia and Bessarabia, Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov. The constitution no longer made the usage of Romanian compulsory for public announcements and in 1854, Russian was made the official language. Also around 1850, Romanian was no longer used in schools and the importation of books from Moldavia and Wallachia was banned.

Integration within the Russian Empire continued with the introduction of the zemstva in 1869. Although this system was meant to increase the participation of the locals in civic affairs, it was run by Russians and other non-Moldavian functionaries brought from across the Empire.

The Moldavian boyars protested against the reforms, which decreased their own powers, but their protests were not well organized and they were mostly ignored. Some Moldavian boyar families were however integrated in the Russian nobility, but most of the nobles of Bessarabia were foreigners: in 1911, there were 468 noble families in Bessarabia, of which only 138 were Moldavian.

Romania became independent in 1878, but millions of ethnic Romanians lived outside its borders and as such it had aspirations toward Transylvania, as well as Bessarabia.

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