Foundation of Moldavia

Foundation of Moldavia

The Foundation of Moldavia (Romanian: "Descălecatul Moldovei") occurred sometimes in 14th century, following a colonisation by Vlachs (Romanians) from Maramureş. Its nucleus was located in what is now Bukovina, around the Moldova River, which gave the name to the principality.

Moldavia prior to the foundation

: "See also: Origin of Romanians"

The exact place where the Vlachs lived during the Dark Age is under debate, the main theories being the "continuity theory" which claims they lived around the Carpathian Mountains, away from the migrating tribes and the "migration theory" which says they lived south of the Danube and colonised the current territory of Romania between 9th and 12th century.

Moldavia, the area between the Carpathians and the Dnister was part of Cumania for almost 200 years, starting with the second half of the 11th century, until being disrupted by the Tatar invasion in 1241–2. [Vásáry, p. 137-138] As the Tatars conquered the area, the Cumans, who had been previously converted to Catholicism, fled to Hungary and Bulgaria [Vásáry, p. 138 ] , leaving some traces behind, including some toponyms, such as Vaslui and Comăneşti. [Brătianu, p. 141]

Apart from Cumans and Tatars (who lived especially between the Prut and Dnister), Moldavia had an increasingly larger Romanian population which immigrated from both from Transylvania and Maramureş, as well as from the south (Muntenia and Bulgaria). [Vásáry, p. 156]

Other people living in Moldavia were the Alans (or "Jassi", hence the name of the city of Iaşi) who were vassals of the Tatars; as well as the Brodnici, whose ethnicity is still unclear and a matter for debate. [Brătianu, p. 141-142]

The Romanians settled in the hilly and wooded areas, but there were also Germans (Saxons) and Hungarians who colonised the Eastern slopes of the Carpathians. [Vásáry, p. 156] A migration of Transylvanian traders preceded the founding of the principality: for instance, the cities of Baia (later, Moldavia's first capital), Suceava and Siret were founded by Saxons. [Brătianu, p. 142] The Csángó now living in western Moldavia are either the descendents of these Hungarian colonists or the other Magyarised populations (such as Cumans or Pechenegs) who had converted to Catholicism [Brătianu, p. 142] in the Diocese of Cumania.

The Hungarians saw the rising power of the Tatars as a threat and this resulted in an anti-Tatar campaign lead by Voivode of Transylvania Andrew Lackfi in 1345. The Tatar leader was decapitated and the Tatars fled to the coastal areas, their population being also reduced greatly by the Black Death, which hit the area only a few years later. The Hungarians continued with a few more raids in the 1350s. [Vásáry, p. 156]

Dragoş's foundation of Moldavia

: "Main article: Dragoş"

After 1345, the Hungarian influence over Moldavia rose and as such, the Hungarian king sent Dragoş, the voivode of Maramureş, to northwestern Moldavia, to enforce the Hungarian rule. The year on which Dragoş arrived in Moldavia is traditionally considered by the Romanian-Slavic chronicles to be 1353, which is said to be the year of the birth of Moldavia. Nevertheless, the Hungarian king wanted just to claim Moldavia as Hungarian land, not to found another country. For instance, in a 1365 diploma, he calls Moldavia "terra nostra Molduana" ("our Moldavian land"). [Vásáry, p. 158]

The centre of the new vassal state was in the northwestern Moldavia: in Bukovina and around the Moldova River, which also gave its name. The coastal areas of the future Principality of Moldavia were not yet under their control. [Vásáry, p. 158]

Following the killing of the Khan of the Golden Horde, Berdi Beg in 1359, the Horde entered in a few decades of chaos and strugles for power, which prevented them taking an action against the Hungarians' expansion. [Vásáry, p. 158]

Bogdan's independent Moldavia

: "Main article: Bogdan I of Moldavia"

Bogdan appeared in Maramureş in 1334 as a voivode of the Romanians, but he lost his voivodship due to some disagreement with Louis I of Hungary, in a 1343 diploma being called "the former Voivode of Maramureş who became unfaithful to the king". As such, he left Maramureş, together with his people and moved to Moldavia, in which the Hungarians didn't have yet a strong foothold. Two decades later, in 1364, Bogdan expelled Sas, the voivode of Moldavia and declared Moldavia independent from Hungary. [Vásáry, p. 159]

The legend of Dragoş

The foundation of Moldavia, as well as the origins of the wisent head on the coat-of-arms of Moldavia, is explained in a legend, narrated in various old Moldavian chronicles. The story says that Dragoş, a noble from Maramureş, goes to a hunt and that following a wisent, they cross the mountains, reaching what is now Moldavia. There, they found the Moldova River, near which they killed the wisent. They liked the pleasant places and the open fields they found there and chose them to be their new homeland. As such, returning to Maramureş, he returns with all his people to the new homeland.Brătianu, p. 129]

Grigore Ureche further explained the name of the river as being named by Dragoş after "Molda", his bitch, which died fighting the beast. [Grigore Ureche, [ţul_ţărâi_Moldovei%2C_de_când_s-au_descălecat_ţara "Letopiseţul ţărâi Moldovei, de când s-au descălecat ţara"] (wikisource)]

Legends of following magic wild beasts in hunts which lead the hunter to unknown places and various adventures are common. However, the hunt as a mythical foundation of nations is typical Central Asian myth, being similar to the legends of the Proto-Bulgarians or the Hungarian myth of Hunor and Magor, which involves the hunting of a white stag. Jordanes and Procopius also tell similar stories about how the Huns were lead by a stag beyond the Azov Sea to the plains of Scythia, which they decided to invade. [Alexander H. Krappe, "Guiding Animals", "The Journal of American Folklore", Vol. 55, No. 218 (Oct. - Dec., 1942), p. 235]

ee also

*Foundation of Wallachia



*Gheorghe I. Brătianu, "Tradiţia istorică despre întemeierea statelor româneşti", Bucureşti, Editura Eminescu 1980
*István Vásáry, "Cumans and Tatars", Cambridge University Press 2005

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