Crest of the Bukovina Society of the Americas The Bukovina Society of the Americas
P.O. Box 81, Ellis, KS 67637, USA 
Martha McClelland , President
Bukovina Society Headquarters & Museum, Ellis KS 67637

Home Up What's New? Site Map About Us Genealogy & Contacts Families/Villages Culture & Customs Newsletters Map Room Web Museum Store Search Other Organizations Guest Book About This Website Auf Deutsch

Last Revised: 09/25/13 08:55:59 PM
The History of Bukovina

by Dr. Sophie A. Welisch

Posted on the World-Wide Web March 2002 by the Bukovina Society of the Americas
with permission of the Author.






"Bukovina" is today a geographical expression, its name meaning "beech land." Its territory, now partially in Ukraine and partially in Romania, was traversed and occupied by peoples from the dawn of history. When the Romans under Trajan in 107 A.D. defeated the Dacians and occupied present-day Moldavia and Walachia, the Dacians had already extended their sovereignty over some parts of the region later called Bukovina. By the mid-third century A.D. the Ostrogoths and later the Gepedi entered Bukovina in their conflicts with the Roman Empire. In time they were followed by Huns, Avars, Mongols, Tatars, Ruthenians (Ukrainians) Vlachs (Romanians), Turks, and others. 

In 1241 a Tatar army crossed into Bukovina in the vicinity of Kimpolung, Dorna and Rodna on its way to Transylvania. The territory east of the Carpathians remained for a century under the control of the Cuman Tatars until the founding of the Moldavian Principality in 1350.  After the Tatar withdrawal, Moldavia, which then included Bukovina and Bessarabia, became a principality under native rulers.

That Bukovina early in its history assumed the character of a borderland and transit area is reflected in its economic development and in its ethnic composition. There is strong evidence of German influence in Bukovina as early as the thirteenth century, the Germans having entered the Principality after the disintegration of the Tatar empire. Coming either via Galicia or Transylvania, they proceeded to develop an urban life and contributed to the growth of the towns of Sereth and Suczawa in Bukovina as well as to Baia, Piatra Neamt, Roman (Romsmarkt) and Jassy (Yosmarkt) in other regions of Moldavia.

The Germans introduced stone masonry, built churches and fortresses, started artisan and merchant guilds and, along with Greeks, Jews and Armenians, carried out the trade of the province. Moldavian princes encouraged German immigration, seeking their services as architects, masons, bricklayers, watchmakers and bakers. Under German influence a Western-style architecture was introduced into Bukovina, evidence of which may still be seen in the ruins of old church foundations in Sereth, Suczawa and Radautz with their triple naves in the form of a Latin cross. The Poles, Hungarians and Germans introduced Roman Catholicism and various denominations of Protestantism.

Family names in town registries also attest to a German presence in Bukovina during this early period. Between the end of the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries, Sereth and Suczawa were towns with a German population, organized under German law and administration. The archives of Lemberg (Lviv), Bistritz and Kronstadt  (Brasov) reveal regular communication between Bukovina and German settlements in Galicia and Transylvania. 

After the decline of the Tatar empire Ruthenians also began migrating to Bukovina from the north and from Transylvania and other regions of Moldavia came the Romanians. Settlement of the latter was encouraged by Dragosh, who under the leadership of his father Sas (the Saxon), had driven the Tatars back to the Dniester River and in 1342 took up residence in Bukovina. The actual founder of the Principality of Moldavia was Bodgan I from neighboring Maramoros, who established a seat of power in Suczawa. It was his predecessor, Dragosh-Voda, who had ruled for only two years (1342-1344) and his son, Gyula-Sas (1344-1348), who extended dominion over Bukovina  north to the Sereth River.

Bodgan I, governing between 1349-1365, was the first  to cast a die for a Moldavian coin depicting an extinct European bison, called an aurochs, encircled by three stars. This emblem still serves as Bukovina's coat of arms. Three decades later, in 1392, the term "Bukovina" appears in the annals for the first time.

In 1340 the Polish king Casimir the Great (1309-1370), the last of the Piast dynasty, had seized Galicia, which included the fortification of Chotin on the Dniester River and Cecina in the vicinity of what would later be Czernowitz. War again erupted in 1359 between the Poles under Casimir and the Moldavians in which the Poles were defeated. 

One of the most respected of the Moldavian princes was Alexander the Good (Cel Bun), who governed between 1400-1432. After becoming a vassal of the king of Poland, he renewed the alliance with Poland and Walachia intended to contain Hungarian expansionism. He founded the archbishopric of Suczawa and the bishoprics of Radautz and Roman, built several monasteries and codified Moldavian law. Alexander advanced trade with his neighbors, most of which lay in the hands of Armenians, and signed commercial treaties with German merchants, who had established trading stations in Lemberg in Galicia, in Kronstadt and other towns in Transylvania, and on the Black Sea as early as the thirteenth century. While Moldavia enjoyed a temporary economic upswing, prosperity nonetheless remained elusive as a result of  dynastic disputes the succession.

During the reign of Stephen the Great (Cel Mare, 1433?-1504), the conflict between Poland the Ottoman Empire for influence in Moldavia continued unabated. After his military victory over the Turks at Racova in 1465, Stephen built a monastery in Putna, completed in 1469, where he lies interred. It was at this time that Moldavia initiated a political and cultural break with the West and looked increasingly to Byzantine influence in art, architecture and religion. Under Stephen the Great the Principality reached its cultural and political apex.

But during the reign of Bogdan III (1504-1517), Stephen's son and successor, Moldavia once again became a tributary state of the Ottoman Empire. As a subject of contention among stronger neighbors, the Principality entered a tragic period of its history. In the last three decades of the seventeenth century Moldavia served as a battlefield between Turks and Poles and in the early eighteenth century even hosted  the army of Charles XII of Sweden, routed after sustaining a number of  military setbacks at the hands of Russia's Peter the Great.

As a vassal state under Turkish rule the Principality was repeatedly subjected to religious and political strife, war and the threat of war, and proverbial Ottoman mismanagement. In Bukovina as well as in other regions of the Carpathians, town life began to stagnate and finally disappeared. In the absence of further immigration, the Germans eventually assimilated into the native population, intermarried, and converted to Eastern Orthodoxy or simple emigrated. The Catholic bishopric of Sereth had already been disestablished by the mid-fifteenth century. By the end of the sixteenth century Sereth and Suczawa had lost their commercial significance and had lapsed into decay with only ruins attesting to an earlier presence of Catholic and Protestant churches.

The nobility of Moldavia possessed extensive lands, bestowed on them by their lords as outright gifts or as entailed fiefs. The princes also granted extensive lands to the Orthodox monasteries and churches. Unfree peasants of various ethnic origins, prisoners or war, and slaves cultivated the estates of the great landowners (boyars). The Tatars, who had remained in the Principality, as well as the Gypsies, were reduced to serfdom by their lords. Torn by strife among the boyars, the office holders and rival claimants to the throne, the rural population was reduced to great misery and subjected to the despotism of the princes, who ruled with Oriental absolutism.

The monasteries and churches, supported by the nobility, played a significant role in shaping culture and economics in the Principality until the early seventeenth century after which their influence waned. In the mid-eighteenth century the peasantry in the area of Wama and Kimpolung arose against the domination of the monasteries, which extended to the north as far as the Sereth River. After their dissolution there remained only three viable monasteries: in Putna, Suczewitza and Dragomirna along with the old monastery churches of Woronetz, Kloster Humora and Suczawa. There monasteries with their frescoes painted on their facades rather than on their interior walls, have withstood the ravages of time and weather surprisingly well. They are today considered not only national monuments but world monuments as well.

In contrast to their counterparts in the West, the monasteries of Bukovina contributed little to the spiritual education, economic life, or cultural development of the population. The monks lacked benefactors and were themselves often reduced to great economic need. Neither their land nor their forests were economically productive, in addition to which frequent warfare, internecine strife, and mismanagement by the clerical leadership contributed to  their general decline. When the Austrians annexed Bukovina in 1775 they found illiteracy to be the norm among the monks. With the Convention of Constantinople, by which the Sublime Porte ceded Bukovina to Austria, a new era dawned for this land between Orient  and Occident. Its Janus head now faced West.



Western influence in Bukovina began in earnest with Austrian annexation of the territory through the Convention of  Constantinople in 1775. Occupied by Austrian troops under Major General Gabriel  Spleny during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-74, Austria sought the territory in order to establish a cordon between the Dniester and the Moldova rivers. In addition, Bukovina would serve as a land bridge connecting Austria's recent acquisitions of Galicia and Transylvania.

When on August 31, 1774 Spleny crossed the Galician-Polish frontier with three cavalry regiments and five infantry battalions, he encountered no opposition. Spleny functioned as military governor of Austrian-Moldavia, later renamed Bukovina, for more than three years, being relieved of his command in April 1778.

Karl Baron von Enzenberg, Spleny's successor as military governor, carried out Bukovina's first census in 1778. The results showed a total population of a little more than 100,000, with 1,390 residing in the largest town, Czernowitz. In his reports to the court, Enzenberg commented on the multinational character of Bukovina, noting specifically Moldavians (Romanians), Jews, Gypsies, Armenians, Hungarians, and migrants from Galicia who, although unidentified by nationality, were in fact Ukrainians. Much of the land was in the possession of the Moldavian Basilian monasteries and the nobility with many of the towns leased to the Jews, who held a dominant position in trade, commerce and business.

At the time of its incorporation into Austria Bukovina numbered scarcely six people per square mile. Inhabited mainly by shepherds and peasants, the indigenous population lived without benefit of a single doctor or pharmacist, without an internal security system for defense from bandits, and without a judicial system as a safeguard against the arbitrary whims of the upper classes. Paths rather than roads traversed the countryside, the province counted few bridges, and its largest towns of Suczawa, Sereth and Czernowitz had fallen into a state of urban decay after centuries of Ottoman neglect. Czernowitz, later to become the provincial capital, was a town of some 200 mud huts, lacking even an adequate water supply. Bukovina's few elementary schools hardly touched the broad basis of illiteracy which extended to the nobility and the clergy.

During the first five years after its annexation by Austria, Bukovina's population increased rapidly. Enzenberg's report of 1778 noted that 14,000 Ruthenian (i.e., Ukrainian) migrants from Galicia had found their way to Bukovina, and he asked Vienna how to handle the Polish magnates' request for their extradition. Composed largely of serfs fleeing Polish and Ottoman feudal oppression,  the new settlers including Poles, Jews, Ukrainians and Romanians, came unbidden and at no cost to the Habsburg monarchy. With its policy of religious toleration and a relaxation of feudal obligations, Bukovina served as a magnet for many and varied ethnic groups in eastern Europe. Thus, early in the Austrian period, Bukovina assumed its multinational character, earning it the appellation of  "Europe in miniature."

State-sponsored colonization to newly-acquired underdeveloped lands wrested from Ottoman control had already begun in the reign of Maria Theresa. After the annexation of Austrian rule over Bachka and the Banat of Temesvar, Vienna actively recruited colonists in order to promote economic development and aid in the defense of these frontier hinterlands. Joseph II,  Maria Theresa's son and successor, had extended the government's colonization efforts to Galicia shortly after acquiring this territory through the first partition of Poland (1772). Competing for colonists with his fellow monarchs, Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine II of Russia, Joseph sent agents throughout the length and breadth of the German states to recruit settlers. To the enlightened despots population represented national wealth, serving as a source of  taxation, military manpower and economic activity.

Set in motion by the dissolution of the old political and social order and lured by the prospects of  better economic conditions, thousands of Germans indeed left for distant lands, both in the New World and in eastern Europe. Those who settled in Bukovina came from three distinct geographic, cultural and dialectical regions and included: (1) the so-called "Swabians" from the southwestern German states (the Palatinate, Württemberg, the Rhineland); (2) the German Bohemians (today called "Sudeten Germans") from the Bohemian Forest; and (3) the Saxons, hereinafter referred to as "Zipsers," from the district of Zips in Upper Hungary (today's Spis in Slovakia).

Joseph II's Patent of  Toleration (1781) followed by his Patent of Settlement (1782) opened the doors of immigration to German Protestants outside the Habsburg realm. The emperor offered free transportation from Vienna to a point of destination in Bukovina; a house with garden, fields and draft animals; exemption from taxation for the first ten years and from military service for the eldest son of the family. His guarantee of complete freedom of conscience and of religion diverted a number of German Protestants to the Habsburg lands who otherwise might have opted for settlement in Prussia or Russia. Within a period of seventy years an estimated 3,500 Germans from the southwestern German states, Bohemia and the Zips migrated to Bukovina, about 1,500 coming under private initiative and receiving no government subsidies.

Swabian immigration to Bukovina (1782-87) began with the arrival of twenty-two families from the Banat who were second-generation descendants of colonists from the Rhine-Main area. Appearing unexpectedly and before preparations for them had been completed, they established themselves on the periphery of the already-existing Romanian villages of Rosch, Zuczka, Mitoka-Dragomirna, Molodia, and Czernowitz. In 1787 seventy-five families, who came via Galicia, settled in eight communities between Sereth and Suczawa on the properties of the Greek Orthodox Religious Foundation, i.e., on the estates of the monasteries and bishoprics owned by the Eastern Orthodox Church but administered directly by Vienna. As state-sponsored immigrants they enjoyed many benefits denied the first group: they received twelve hectares of land free from feudal obligations, frame houses, stables, livestock, farm implements and even seeds. Their small number at first prevented the construction and maintenance of schools and churches, for which they had been allotted land.

Later reinforced by other Swabian colonists, the eight communities of Fratautz, Satulmare, Milleschoutz-Badeutz, Tereblestie, Itzkany, Arbora, St. Onufry and Illischestie successfully developed and maintained their ethnic identity. The administration of  these towns eventually split along national lines with the German section designated by the prefix deutsch, e.g., Deutsch-Satulmare. Faced in time by overpopulation, the Swabians founded the daughter colonies of Alexanderdorf (1863), Katharinendorf (1869), Neu Zadowa (1885) and lastly, Nikolausdorf (1893) .

Even before his death in 1790 Joseph II had rescinded many of his reforms including his colonization program for Galicia and Bukovina. The conservative views of his successors plus the turmoil of the wars of the French Revolution dampened enthusiasm for government-financed immigration. Those Germans arriving without state sponsorship enjoyed no special privileges and had to rely on their own resources and ingenuity for survival. Recruitment outside the Habsburg lands ceased by 1787 and thereafter concentrated only on those individuals within the Austrian realm who could fulfill specific functions.

Its natural resources of forests, arable land and mineral ores served as focal points for Bukovina's economic development. Vienna's plans there to establish a glass industry to supply the needs of the Moldavian Valley and of Walachia set in motion the migration of Germans from the Bohemian Forest who in their homeland worked in glass making enterprises, in forestry and in agriculture.

Coming in two waves, 1793-1817 and 1835-50, German Bohemians eventually became the most numerous of Bukovina's German settlers, founding some dozen villages: Althütte (1793), Karlsberg (1797), Fürstenthal (1803), Neuhütte (1815), Bori and Lichtenberg (1835),  Schwarztal and Buchenhain (later also called Pojana Mikuli--both in 1838), Glitt (1843)  and Augustendorf  (1840). In addition, they  also settled in already-established multinational towns or later moved into them when faced with overpopulation.

German Bohemian migration began in 1793 after Baron von Kriegshaber leased domain lands from the Religious Foundation and contracted for experienced workers for this glassworks in Althütte near Krasna. As the forests were gradually cleared for potash to stoke the furnaces of the glass industry, the workers received gardens and pasture lands for their use. Little is known about early glass production in Althütte other than that by 1804 its output, although insignificant, found markets in Lemberg (Galicia). By 1812 the forests in the vicinity of the glassworks were exhausted, leading to the total cessation of glass production by 1817. Kriegshaber then selected a new site for glass production, Neuhütte near Czudin, to which he again brought artisans from Bohemia. As did its predecessor, the glassworks of Neuhütte failed to become profitable and eventually closed, its employees forced to turn to other means of livelihood. With the expiration of Kriegshaber's thirty-year lease in 1821, the Religious Foundation entered into feudal contractual agreements with the colonists who did not come into private ownership of the land they cultivated until the revolutionary upheavals of 1848.

In 1797 Josel Reichenberg established a glass works in the forests near Putna, recruiting for his labor force German Bohemians whose installation in Lubaczow (Galicia) had recently shut down. With the further influx in 1803 of German Bohemian lumberjacks, foresters and glassworkers from the Prachin district of the Bohemian Forest, the settlement received the name Karlsberg, after Archduke Karl, President of the Hofkriegsrat  in Vienna. The colonists' guarantees included, among others: (1) freedom from taxation for five years; (2) exemption from military service for adult males and a ten-year delay in recruitment for their sons; (3) state-funded building materials for house and barns; (4) relaxation of feudal obligations for five years for those on level arable land and for ten years for those on non-arable land. The glassworks remained in operation until July 14, 1827 when, in consequence of mismanagement by its director, Franz Kuppetz, it closed its doors, leaving the workers in dire circumstances. Very few found employment in other glassworks. However, with the colonization program still in effect, the twenty-one affected families managed to acquire fertile arable fields on the domain lands of Radautz under feudal conditions prevalent at the time.

Unable to compete with the superior products of Poland and Venice most glassworks eventually failed either through mismanagement or insufficient capital on the part of the entrepreneur. Most settlers suffered great economic need until able to find suitable employment in the crafts, farming, ranching or forestry. By the end of the Habsburg period only a single glass production facility in Krasna Ilski remained viable.

Psychological, social and economic motives account for the German Bohemian migration to Galicia and Bukovina in the first half of the nineteenth century, Faced with overpopulation, insufficient land, widespread poverty, poor harvests and hunger, military recruitment and lack of mobility in the service professions, many looked for opportunities elsewhere.

The second wave of German Bohemian migration began in 1835 with the departure of fifty-four families from the Prachin and Pisek districts of the Bohemian Forest. Thirty of  these families settled on the mountainous virgin forest land near Gurahumora, establishing the village of Bori, while the others were directed toward Radautz, where they founded the community of Lichtenberg. With conditions of colonization not as generous as for the Swabians, the German Bohemians received monies neither for travel nor for the acquisition of farm animals and implements although the state did grant them raw materials for the construction of homes. The forests in which they obtained homesteads had not seen an axe for centuries. Clearing the land and making it arable took four years during which the Bori colonists lived by lumbering and by the sale of potash to the neighboring glassworks in Frassin. German Bohemians literally carved the settlements of Schwarztal and Buchenhain out of  virgin forests and made arable the lands between the Negrileasa and Humora valleys.

By the 1860s all state-sponsored colonization came to an end; nonetheless, German officials, professionals, businessmen, artisans and farmers continued to enter Bukovina on their own initiative. Many settled in Czernowitz, Sereth, Suczawa, Kimpolung and Radautz with the result that these towns eventually acquired a predominantly German character.

The extension of railroads into suburban communities by the 1880s facilitated the expansion of commerce and industry in general and of lumbering in particular. By the outbreak of the First World War Bukovina produced over 1,000,000 cubic meters of raw wood and about 500,000 cubic meters of processed lumber for export to Germany and the East. While all preconditions for the commercialization of the forests had existed during Bukovina's Ottoman period, lumbering only became a viable industry through German administrative discipline, technical know-how, and market strategy.

The third major German group to enter Bukovina consisted of Saxons from the Zips districts of Upper Hungary and their kinsmen, the Transylvanian Saxons, descendants of pioneers who had left their homeland in the twelfth century. Zipser migration (1784-1809) began with rumors of gold in the Bistritz River followed by active recruitment for jobs in Bukovina's nascent mining industry.

General Spleny as early as 1775 had verified the existence of major salt deposits and had recommended that the government conduct a geological survey of the mountains. A prospecting commission dispatched by Vienna indeed discovered veins of manganese and iron ore in Jakobeni as well as copper ore near Pozoritta. First developed were the salt mines of Solka and Kaczyka.

Before the turn of the century Anton Manz of Styria, acquiring extensive prospecting and mining concessions from the state-run Religious Foundation, began contracting for miners. In 1784 the first thirty Zipser families, mainly from the villages of Käsmark and Leutschau in Upper Hungary, came by military transport to work the iron mines of  Jakobeni.

Zipsers settled in Kirlibaba after Manz opened the silver and lead mines in 1797; near Pozoritta they established the village of Luisental (1805) around the copper mines as well as Eisenau (1807) and Freudental (1807) around the iron mines. Zipsers as also came to work as miners in the already-extant communities of Stulpikany, Frassin and Paltinossa until state-sponsored migration of miners ceased in 1809.

With the death of Anton Manz in 1832 the mining enterprises passed to the control of his nephew, Vincent. At peak production during the 1840s, they employed some 2,000 men. With the 1850s, however, difficult times came upon Bukovina's mining industry, resulting in bankruptcy of the Manz mines in 1862.  During the eight years of bankruptcy litigation the miners' wages, sometimes consisting of leather buttons as a type of emergency currency, were constantly in arrears, yet they had to pay usurious prices for food at the company stores. After the mines finally passed into the receivership of their main creditor, the Religious Foundation, many ceased production permanently, leaving hundreds of families destitute.

Several factors account for the failure of the mines including the lack of a local coke and coal supply for the smelters, the inferior quality of the minerals, and the difficulties in shipping. In Jakobeni, for example, iron ore was transported to the smelters by sled on the frozen Bistritz River in the winter and hauled along mountain paths in the summer. Moreover, the Jakobeni iron ore contained phosphorous, rendering it of poor quality. After the completion of the Cracow-Lemberg-Czernowitz railroad line in 1866 it could no longer compete with the higher grade yet cheaper iron ore from Witkowitz (Moravia) and Teschen. The iron smelters were closed in 1882 with all related equipment dismantled and sold. With the failure of the mines the Zipsers turned to other trades including lumbering, carpentry, and rafting.

To Bukovina came not only Germans but others as well: Hungarian farmers from neighboring Transylvania who established their own villages; Poles from Galicia who settled mainly in the towns; Slovaks from Upper Hungary who entered as state sponsored colonists; Old Believers (Raskolniki),  i.e., members of an Eastern Orthodox sect who, after persecution under Russia's Elizabeth I and Catherine II, gained political asylum and freedom to construct monasteries in Bukovina; Armenians fleeing intolerance at the hands of the Turks; Jews from the neighboring provinces, who, after Joseph II's Patent of Toleration, could develop their cultural life unmolested. All brought with them their religious customs, music, language and traditions. In this miniature replica of the Austrian Empire, German, as the official language of administration and of army command, became the lingua franca of the market place, the theater, the press and the schools.

In agriculture the German colonists introduced methods and techniques previously unknown in Bukovina including the iron plough, the three-field system, field drainage and systematic cultivation of wheat, rye, barley, oats and potatoes. They built mills to grind grain, started viniculture, the growing of fodder crops and fruit trees and the use of fertilizers. In addition, they established cooperatives which made available threshing machines, reapers and fruit presses to their members for a small fee, built silos for grain storage and constructed large well-lighted and well-ventilated barns for their livestock.

With the German colonists and in particular with the political link to Vienna, Bukovina was opened to Western influence. The absence of political boundaries in the Danubian state facilitated the exchange of men and ideas. Workers in stone, metal, oils and wood came from all parts of the empire as did instrumentalists, artists, teachers and singers. Romanians and Ukrainians from Bukovina studied, worked, and traveled in the West, bringing back with them new economic, political, and cultural concepts.

During its Austrian period Bukovina made major economic and cultural strides. The Austrian government built a communications network including roads, railroads and bridges; established postal, telephone, telegraph services and electrification of its major cities; and introduced an educational system from kindergarten through university.

By the end of the Habsburg era Czernowitz, Bukovina's capital city, had emerged as a little Vienna. Telegraph service was introduced in Czernowitz in 1854, only eleven years after the world's first telegraph connection between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. By 1900 sixty post offices were equipped with the telegraph. 1883 saw the first telephone in Czernowitz only two years after its initial installation in Germany. The railroad connecting Lemberg and Czernowitz, completed in 1866, was later extended to Suczawa and Bucharest. While Bukovina had made considerable economic progress, it nonetheless lagged behind the western Habsburg crown lands.

The nationalities had their own cultural institutions, foremost among these, the schools by which their native language and heritage could be transmitted. With increased literacy came a viable press with journals, newspapers and periodicals in Romanian, Ukrainian, Polish, Yiddish, and German which, considering the size of the population, ranked among the best developed in southeastern Europe. The National Theater in Czernowitz, built at public expense and completed in 1905, did not reject performances based on linguistic considerations

The nationality conflicts so characteristic of other territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are conspicuous for their absence in its easternmost crown land. Bukovina could not be claimed by any one nationality as their national home and had no history over which to dispute. No ethnic group held a numerical majority; none could advance irredentist claims for union with another state with the possible exception of the Romanians; most of its people had entered the province as colonists after 1775. Living in a relatively small geographical area among a dozen or so nationalities, the Bukovinian could relate both to the Eastern and the Western European traditions, to Oriental as well as to Occidental culture. A pan-European without compromising his own ethnic consciousness, he eschewed chauvinism and demonstrated toleration.

Similarly no religious denomination predominated in Bukovina. While the Roman Catholic Church enjoyed a privileged position under Austria, the wealthy Religious Foundation amply provided for the needs of the Orthodox Church, indirectly benefiting Orthodoxy in neighboring states as well. Competition among the churches centered on theological scholarship rather than on aggressive proselytism. Bukovina's nationalities maintained the pax bucoviniensis until the dissolution of the Habsburg state in 1918 and even then the collapse resulted more from external pressures than from internal indigenous forces. To the dozen or so ethnic groups calling Bukovina their home, coexistence was harmonious and interculturally fruitful.

The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a consequence of World War I opened a new chapter in Bukovina's history with the Ukrainians claiming its northern districts and the Romanians the entire territory. The  Allied and Associated Powers, victors in the war, settled the dispute in favor of the Romanians. With the Treaty of Saint Germain (1919) Austrian political influence in Bukovina officially ended and a new era under Romanian aegis began.



For almost 150 years a crown land of Habsburg Austria, Bukovina had attracted a multinational immigration from all parts of Europe. Its population, based on the last Austrian census of 1910, confirmed the Romanians as holding a plurality, followed by the Ukrainians, Jews and Germans in that order. Bukovina's ethnic groups lived in peace with one another while at the same time maintaining their cultural and linguistic differences.

With the outbreak of World War I in August of 1914 Bukovina was in the first line of attack. As a borderland in the Austro-Russian military conflict, it was immediately under siege and overrun by the tsarist armies. Czernowitz fell within a month, was briefly retaken under Colonel Eduard Fischer, then recaptured by the Russians under General Selivanov on November 20, 1914. Fischer's memoirs, Krieg ohne Heer  (War without an Army), published in 1935, depict Austria's inadequate preparations to defend Bukovina.

By early January of 1915 almost all of Bukovina lay in enemy hands. While the front vacillated during the next three years, Russian forces did not  completely withdraw until the Russian Revolution and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 1918). The years of foreign occupation wrought havoc on the population, whose schools and governmental agencies closed for the duration. The occupying forces lived off the land, plundered at will, and quartered with the local inhabitants, who now became servants in their own homes.

While the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers took Russia out of the war, the struggle over sovereignty of Austria's former crown land was just beginning. The defeat of the Central Powers in November of 1918 brought about the repudiation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary. But the victors could not agree on the division of the spoils. Once again Bukovina became a battlefield, this time with Ukrainians challenging Romanians for control of the area. The military and diplomatic chips fell in favor of Romania, one of the Allied and Associated Powers in the war, and against a fledgling Ukrainian state attempting to assert independence. Romania annexed Bukovina as well as Transylvania and the Banat at the expense of Austria-Hungary; southern Dobruja from Bulgaria, and Bessarabia from the Soviet Union rounded out its territorial acquisitions.

Doubling its size and population, Romania now faced the problem of integrating provinces governed by other laws and winning over peoples swayed by other loyalties. Despite its formal acceptance of the Minorities' Protection Treaty on December 9, 1919, the state did little to safeguard the ethnic identity and institutions of its non-Romanian citizens, who constituted about 28 percent of the total population.

A minority in Bukovina since the Habsburg period, the Germans developed numerous organizations, including the Deutsche Kulturverein für die Bukowina (German Cultural Association for Bukovina), through which they intensified their efforts to foster and maintain their heritage. They also established regional councils (Volksräte) in the various provinces which, under the umbrella group, the Verband der Deutschen in Rumänien (Alliance of the Germans in Romania), attempted to coordinate their policies in the interests of all their co-nationals throughout the kingdom. By electing a number of their candidates to parliament and by supporting others who furthered minority rights, they worked to forestall or ameliorate some of Bucharest's Romanianization measures.

The Romanian era brought with it the concept of the national state and the concomitant Romanianization of public life and institutions throughout the kingdom. During the interwar period one after another of the German cultural institutions succumbed to various degrees of Romanianization, including the university and the provincial theater in Bukovina's capital of Czernowitz, as well as the bureaucracy, the press and the public school system. Despite its overwhelmingly German majority, Jakobeny's three German schools were closed in the 1922-23 academic year with instruction offered only in the new state language of Romanian. The German Cultural Association for Bukovina sponsored private German language courses, but these could hardly compensate for the lack of instruction during the school day. Moreover, after 1918 no German could be nominated as village mayor nor was representation on the village council based on ethnic proportionality. As a result, German influence in local affairs was virtually extinguished with the Germans systematically removed from positions in the civil service and in education.

As the Transylvanian example demonstrated, the churches were the only institutions immune from state interference. Accordingly, two private German high schools were opened, one in Radautz and the other in Czernowitz, both with church affiliation. Although the state in 1932 accredited the high school in Radautz, the girls' high school in Czernowitz was not so fortunate and had to be closed. Finances prohibited the establishment by the minorities of their own elementary schools.

Through language courses, libraries supported by the Kulturverein, the establishment of orphanages and youth organizations, Romanianization was ameliorated. German periodicals and journals such as  Bukowiner Bote, Deutscher Kalender and the Catholic German  Volkskalender reached a wide readership. German newspapers including the  Czernowitzer Allgemeine Zeitung, Morgenblatt and Vorwärts  focused on international issues, taking little notice of local conditions and needs. With the publication of Czernowitzer deutsche Tagespost German concerns in Bukovina found an organ of expression.

Administrative reforms in 1925 resulted in the centralization of government under Bucharest in which Bukovina was divided into five administrative districts: Cernauti, Campulung, Radauti, Storojinet, and Suceava. With this stroke of the pen the very name "Bukovina" became a geographic expression and expunged from the map. A prefect represented the central government in each of these districts. Holdover civil servants from the Austrian period had two years in which to pass  written and oral examinations in Romanian language, history and geography. Failure meant dismissal. In some cases, candidates who passed the examinations were transferred to other localities in Romania.

Land reform was a hot button topic in all the successor states, envisioned as a means of redressing perceived wrongs and as a source of patronage. Carried out in the Romanian era under the laws of 1918 and 1921, land reform did little to ameliorate the agrarian problem. The land acquired by those who benefited by the reform averaged 0.6 hectares. In the 1930s we find that 80.7 percent of Bukovina's German families engaging in agriculture owned under 2.5 hectares of land while at the other end of the spectrum 0.4 percent had holdings of twenty hectares or more. In that it was virtually impossible to live by agriculture alone, many of necessity turned to a trade as a side profession or to emigration.

In addition, a population explosion, begun in the late nineteenth century and continuing into the first decades of the twentieth, threatened to proletarianize the peasantry and reduce them to grinding poverty. Families with fewer than a half dozen children were the exception. Unable to assure the livelihood of their many offspring by further subdivision of  their already meager land holdings, parents urged their more adventurous progeny to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Emigration to the New World had already begun before World War I. It is estimated that between 1898 and 1914 at least half the population of the village of Molodia emigrated to Canada. The United States and Brazil also absorbed an influx of immigrants from Bukovina.

In oil-rich, agricultural Romania the average citizen could barely afford kerosene for his lamp or food for his table. A faltering economy struggling with the effects of the Great Depression and a high tariff system forcing producers to rely on a small domestic market promoted general discontent with the politics of the state. In addition, political corruption permeated the system. Without baksheesh (bribery), a carryover from the Ottoman period, little could be accomplished.

In foreign policy Romania committed itself to the status quo of the 1919 peace settlements and further bound itself by treaties to the Little Entente, the Balkan Entente and France. In that the country did not have a contiguous border with either Germany or Austria, territorial questions with these nations never became an issue. The Germans in Romania did not serve as an irredentist group but rather wished to lead as full a national life as did the majority people. This implied Bucharest's recognition of the multinational rather than the purely national character of the state. Two decades of legal maneuvering with Bucharest, however, failed to safeguard minority interests.

Not until King Carol's visit to Berchtesgaden on November 24, 1938 and the conclusion of  a German-Romanian economic agreement the following March did Romania begin to pursue a more favorable policy toward Germany and its German minority. With the Anschluss of Austria and the Sudetenland  in 1938 and the Reich's Blitzkrieg in Poland in 1939, the Ministry of Education showed a greater willingness to compromise and began negotiations with the Volksräte about reopening the German schools in the 1940-41 academic year. A protocol signed in conjunction with the Second Vienna Award in August of 1940 committed  Bucharest to treating the members of the German ethnic group in Romania equally in every way with its Romanian nationals and to continuing to improve their status. The Soviet seizure of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina on June 29, 1940 tipped Romania entirely into the Axis camp, culminating on November 23 with its adherence to the Tripartite Pact (Germany, Italy, Japan).

The Soviet annexation of northern Bukovina (to the Sereth River) brought a flood of refugees and panic to southern Bukovina. Foreign radio broadcasts and local authorities had already prepared the residents of northern Bukovina for the eventualities of Soviet expansion. Its German population, despite strong ties to the land their ancestors had colonized some five generations earlier, opted almost to a person for the opportunity to transfer to Germany when the opportunity presented itself.

The Soviet authorities closed shops, factories and indeed all entrepreneurial establishments, which they later reopened as state-owned enterprises. Food shortages and long lines became commonplace. Nor did the conduct of the occupying forces endear itself to the local population. Eye witnesses still relate anecdotes about the behavior of the rank-and-file Soviet recruits who, unaccustomed to the refinements of the West, drank perfume, ate scented soap, washed potatoes in toilet bowls, and loaded confiscated radios onto trucks with cranes.

Transfer of northern Bukovina's German population to the Reich proceeded according to an agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union. An individual wishing to emigrate to Germany had to present himself personally to a joint German-Soviet commission, be at least eighteen years of age or accompanied by a parent or guardian, and show evidence of at least one German grandparent. Over 43, 000 Bukovina Germans left by train for camps in Germany in the fall of 1940.

A similar agreement between Germany and Romania resulted in the voluntary transfer of southern Bukovina's Germans. While not threatened with communism, their decision to emigrate resulted more from the uncomfortably close frontier, reports of refugees, chaos created by the withdrawal of the Romanian armed forces, continuous requisitions, military maneuvers, quartering of troops and last but not least, the suspicion that this only augured worse to come.

It was not so much Bucharest' s anti-minority measures but the partition of Bukovina and the loss of Czernowitz which triggered the exodus from the south. As the capital and intellectual center, Cernowitz had served as a focal point for German cultural life, with its German-language publishers, sports and choral societies, private high schools and collegiate fraternities all located there. The Germans of the south felt a cultural affinity for Czernowitz, and its loss threatened to rend the fabric of their national life. Over 51,000 Germans left hearth and home in southern Bukovina in the fall of 1940 for an uncertain destiny in a Europe plunged in war. An estimated 7000 Germans declined transfer and remained in their homeland.

With the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 northern Bukovina was again occupied by Romania only to revert  to the Soviet Union by conquest and then legitimized by treaty on September 12, 1944. The boundaries of  June 29, 1940 were restored: northern Bukovina was incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic while southern Bukovina remained under Romanian administration. With the exodus of the Germans, the decimation of the Jews through the Holocaust, and the voluntary emigration of many of its Hungarian citizens, Bukovina's ethnic composition moved closer to homogeneity.


Top of Page       Return to the Bukovina On-Line Library

 Visitors since May 1, 2002

Beech Tree Leaf

Copyright © 1991-2011, Bukovina Society of the Americas