- Alexandru Averescu
Infobox_Prime Minister | name =Alexandru Averescu
caption =General Alexandru Averescu, photographed ca. 1918
Prime Minister of Romania
term_start =February 9, 1918 – March 15, 1918
March 19, 1920 – December 18, 1921
March 30, 1926
term_end =June 4, 1927
Ion I. C. Brătianu Alexandru Vaida-Voevod Ion I. C. Brătianu
Alexandru Marghiloman Take Ionescu Barbu Ştirbey
order2 =Foreign Affairs Minister of Romania
term_start2 =January 29, 1918
term_end2 =March 4, 1918
Ion I. C. Brătianu
Constantin C. Arion
birth_date =birth date|1859|4|3|mf=y
Ozyornoye, Ukraine( Bessarabia)
death_date =death date and age|1938|10|2|1859|4|3|mf=y
party =People's Party
spouse =Clotilda Averescu
religion =Romanian Orthodox
Alexandru Averescu (OldStyleDate|April 3|1859|March 9 — October 2, 1938) was a
Romanian marshal and populist politician. A Romanian Armed ForcesCommander during World War I, he served as Prime Minister of three separate cabinets (as well as being "interim" Foreign Minister in January-March 1918 and Minister without portfolioin 1938). He first rose to prominence during the peasant's revolt of 1907, which he helped repress in violence. Credited with engineering the defense of Moldaviain the 1916-1917 Campaign, he built on his popularity to found and lead the successful People's Party, which he brought to power in 1920-1921, with backing from King Ferdinand I and the National Liberal Party (PNL), and with the notable participation of Constantin Argetoianuand Take Ionescu.
His controversial first mandate, marked by a political crisis and oscillating support from the PNL's leader
Ion I. C. Brătianu, played a part in legislating land reformand repressed communist activities, before being brought down by the rally of opposition forces. His second term of 1926-1927 brought a much-debated treaty with Fascist Italy, and fell after Averescu gave clandestine backing to the ousted Prince Carol. Faced with the People Party's decline, Averescu closed deals with various right-wingforces and was instrumental in bringing Carol back to the throne in 1930. Relations between the two soured over the following years, and Averescu clashed with his fellow party member Octavian Gogaover the king's attitudes. Shortly before his death, he and Carol reconciled, and Averescu joined the Crown Council.
Averescu, who authored over 12 works on various military topics (including his memoirs from the frontline),Petre Otu, "Mareşalul Alexandru Averescu (1859-1938)" ("Marshal Alexandru Averescu"), in "Dosarele Istoriei", 2(30)/1999, p.22-23] was also an honorary member of the
Romanian Academyand an Order of Michael the Braverecipient. He became a Marshal of Romaniain 1930.
Early life and career
Averescu was born in
Ozyornoye(previously known as "Babele", and subsequently renamed "Alexandru Averescu"), a village northwest of Izmail, now part of Ukraine. The son of Constantin Averescu, who held the rank of " sluger", he studied at the Romanian Orthodox seminaryin Izmail, then at the School of Arts and Crafts in Bucharest(intending to become an engineer).ro icon Ioan Parean, [http://www.actrus.ro/revista2_2000/art_17.html "Mareşalul Averescu, conducător militar de excepţie" ("Marshal Averescu, Outstanding Military Leader")] at the Sibiu Land Forces Academy; retrieved October 16, 2007] In 1876, he decided to join the Gendarmes in Izmail.
Seeing action as a
cavalrysergeant with the Romanian troops engaged in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, he was decorated on several occasions, but was later moved to reserve (after failing his medical examination due to the effects of frostbite). He was, however, reinstated later in 1878, and subsequently received a military education in Romania, at the military school of Târgovişte( Dealu Monastery), and in Italy, at the Military Academy of Turin. Constantin Argetoianu, "Memorii" ("Memoirs"; fragment), in "Magazin Istoric", March 1968, p.71-76, 79-81] ro icon Ion Bulei, [http://www.itcnet.ro/history/archive/mi1997/current10/mi7.htm "Suntem cu toţii cuprinşi de grija cea mare" ("We Are All Overwhelmed by the Greatest of Concerns")] , in "Magazin Istoric", October 1997; retrieved October 16, 2007] Averescu married an Italian operasinger, Clotilda Caligaris, who had been the prima donnaof La Scala. His future collaborator and rival Constantin Argetoianustated that Averescu "chose Mrs. Clotilda at random".
Upon his return, Averescu steadily climbed through the ranks. He was head of the Bucharest Military Academy (1894-1895), and, in 1895-1898, Romania's military "
attaché" in the German Empire; a colonel in 1901, he was advanced to the rank of Brigadier Generaland became head of the Tecuciregional Army Command Center in 1906.
Before the World War, he led the troops in crushing the 1907 peasants' revolt — where he engaged in using very harsh means of repression, especially when dealing with soldiers who refused to fight against the rebels — and was subsequently Minister of War in
Dimitrie Sturdza's National Liberal Party (PNL) cabinet (1907-1909). Keith Hitchins, "România, 1866-1947", Humanitas, Bucharest, 1998 (translation of the English-language edition "Rumania, 1866-1947", Oxford University Press, USA, 1994), p.184-185, 270, 290-291, 389, 392, 402-403, 406-407] According to the recollections of Eliza Brătianu, a split occurred between him and the PNL after Averescu attempted to advance various political goals — the conflict erupted when he sought support with King Carol I and then, as the National Liberals deeply resented Romania's alliance with the Central Powers, he approached the Germans for backing.ro icon Eliza Brătianu, [http://www.memoria.ro/index.php?location=view_article&id=723 "Averescu - 1918"] at the [http://www.memoria.ro/ "Memoria" Virtual Library] ; retrieved October 16, 2007]
Subsequently, he was commander of the First Infantry Division (stationed in Turnu Severin) and, later, of the Second Army Corps in
Craiova. In 1912, he became a Major General, and, in 1911-1913, he was Chief of the General Staff. In the latter capacity, Averescu organized the actions of Romanian troops operating south of the Danubein the Second Balkan War(the campaign against Bulgaria, during which his troops met no resistance).
World War and first cabinet
During the World War (in which Romania entered in 1916), he led the Second Army in the defense of the
Southern Carpathians, and was then moved to the head of the Third Army (following the latter's defeat in the Battle of Turtucaia). He commanded Army Group South in the Flămânda operation against the Third Bulgarian Army and other forces of the Central Powers, ultimately stopped by the German offensive (Averescu's forces did not register important losses, and orderly retreated to Moldavia, where Romanian authorities had taken refuge from the successful German operations).
Averescu again led the Second Army to victory in the Battles of Mărăşti and Mărăşeşti (August 1917); his achievements, including his brief breakthrough at Mărăşti, were considered impressive by public opinion and his officers. However, several military historians rate Averescu and his fellow Romanian generals very poorly, arguing that, overall, their direction of the war "could not have been worse". [Vincent J. Esposito, "The West Point Atlas of American Wars: 1900-1918",
United States Military AcademyDept. of Military Art and Engineering, text for map 40] Despite controlling an army of 500,000 plus 100,000 Russian reinforcements, they were soundly defeated by a much smaller German-Austrian-Bulgarian army in less than four months of combat.
Averescu was widely seen as the person behind a relatively successful resistance to further offensives on
Moldavia(the single piece of territory still held by the Romanian state), and he was considered by many of his contemporaries to have stood in contrast to the what was seen as endemic corruption and incompetence. Lucian Boia, "History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness", Central European UniversityPress, Budapest, 2001 ISBN 9639116971, p.210-211] The state of affairs, together with the October Revolutionin Russia, was to be blamed for the eventual Romanian surrender to the Central Powers; promoted Premier by King Ferdinand I during the period of crisis, Averescu began armisticetalks with August von Mackensenin Bufteaand Focşani, but was vehemently opposed to the terms — he resigned, leaving the Alexandru Marghilomancabinet when it signed the Treaty of Bucharest.Ion Constantinescu, "«Domnilor, vă stricaţi sănătatea degeaba...»" ("«Gentlemen, You're Ruining Your Health over Nothing...»"), in "Magazin Istoric", July 1971, p.23, 26] Despite Averescu's talks yielding no result, he was repeatedly attacked by his political adversaries for having initiated them.
During the period, he also faced a Russian Bolshevik military action: just before Averescu came to power, as Russia's
Leon Trotskynegotiated the Treaty of Brest-Litovskwith Germany, the " Rumcherod" administrative body in Odessa, led by Christian Rakovsky, ordered an offensive from the east into Romania.ro icon Stelian Tănase, [http://www.magazinistoric.itcnet.ro/?module=displaystory&story_id=650&edition_id=3&format=html "Cristian Racovski" (Part I)] , in "Magazin Istoric", April 2004; retrieved October 16, 2007] In order to prevent further losses, Averescu signed his name to a much-criticized temporary armistice with the "Rumcherod"; eventually, Rakovsky was himself faced with a German offensive (sparked by the temporary breakdown of negotiations at Brest-Litovsk), and had to abandon both his command and the base in Odessa.
Averescu quit the army in the spring of 1918, aiming for a career in politics — initially, with a message that was hostile to the National Liberal Party (PNL) and its leader
Ion I. C. Brătianu.
He presided over the People's Party (initially named "People's League"), and he was immensely popular especially among peasants after the end of the war. His force had an appealing populist message, translated into vague promises and relying on the image of the General: peasants had been promised land at the beginning of the war (and they were being rewarded with it at the very moment, through an agrarian reform that reached its full scope in 1923); they had formed the larger part of the Army, and had come to see Averescu as the one to fulfill their expectations, as well as a figure who was still commanding their allegiance.
Eliza Brătianu, the PNL leader's wife, placed Averescu's ascension in the context of Greater Romania's creation through the addition of Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transylvania(while making use of the condescending National Liberal tone towards the Romanian National Partythat was emerging triumphant in previously Austro-Hungarian Transylvania):
" [The] so very harsh losses [during the war] , the defeats suffered by the Old Kingdom, the traces of foreign domination in the newly-acquired provinces, but most of all the state of unhealthy euphoria that had taken hold of Transylvania, who had begun, in all good faith, to believe that only she had made the union happen, all of these have created a sort of insecurity within the borders of [Greater Romania] ."
As the movement initially tended to describe itself as a social trend rather than a
political party, it also attracted former members of the Conservative Party (such as Constantin Argetoianu, Constantin Garoflid, and Take Ionescu), military men such as Constantin Coandă, the Democratic Nationalist Partyleader A. C. Cuza, the notorious supporters of " dirigisme" Mihail Manoilescuand Ştefan Zeletin, Z. Ornea, "Anii treizeci. Extrema dreaptă românească" ("The 1930s: The Romanian Far Right"), Editura Fundaţiei Culturale Române, Bucharest, 1995, p.48, 243] the moderate nationalist Duiliu Zamfirescu, the future diplomat Citta Davila, the journalist D. R. Ioaniţescu, the left-wingagrarianist Petru Groza, the Bukovinan leader Iancu Flondor, and the lawyer Petre Papacostea. Additional support came from Transylvanian activists such as Octavian Gogaand Teodor Mihali, who had previously left the Romanian National Partythere in protest over the policies of its president Iuliu Maniu. Nevertheless, the People's Party did attempt to approach Maniu for an alliance at various intervals after summer 1919 (according to Argetoianu, their attempts were frustrated by King Ferdinand I, whose relationship with Maniu was cordial at the time, and who allegedly stated "Maniu is no one else's! Maniu is mine!").
The grouping also established close links with "Garda Conştiinţei Naţionale" (GCN, "The National Awareness Guard"), a
reactionarygroup formed by the electrician Constantin Pancu, engaged in violence against communist activists in Iaşi(the latter were feared by Averescu as well).Francisco Veiga, "Istoria Gărzii de Fier, 1919-1941: Mistica ultranaţionalismului" ("History of the Iron Guard, 1919-1941: The Mistique of Ultra-Nationalism"), Bucharest, Humanitas, 1993 (Romanian-language version of the 1989 Spanish edition "La mística del ultranacionalismo (Historia de la Guardia de Hierro) Rumania, 1919–1941", Bellaterra, Publicacions de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, ISBN 84-7488-497-7), p.46-47, 86, 89, 91-93, 98, 252-253, 247-248] Nevertheless, in late 1919, Averescu and Argetoianu approached the Socialist Party of Romaniaand its associate, the Social Democratic Party of Transylvania and Banat, with an offer for collaboration, negotiating the matter with the parties' reformist leaders — Ioan Flueraş, Ilie Moscovici, and Iosif Jumanca. At the time, Argetoianu claimed, his conversations with Moscovici revealed the fact that the latter was growing suspicious of the party's far leftwing, where "the blanket-maker Cristescu and others were agitating". Averescu proposed merging the two parties, as a distinct section, into the People's Party; he was refused, and talks broke down when the general expected the Socialists to support his electoral platform.
According to Eliza Brătianu (who was comparing Averescu with the French rebel soldier
Georges Boulanger), several voices inside his movement called on Averescu to lead a republican " coup d'état" against King Ferdinand and her husband — a move allegedly prevented only by the general's loyalism. Argetoianu, who admitted that "I shook hands with Averescu [...] expecting a dictatorial regime", claimed that, during his stay in Italy, the general had been decisively influenced by Radicalism and the "Risorgimento" movement. This, in Argetoianu's view, was the cause for his repeated involvement in conspiracies; he recalled that, in 1919, Davila's house was the scene of regular reunion of officers, who plotted Brătianu's ousting and pondered dethroning the king (in this version of events, Averescu initially accepted to be proclaimed dictator, but, around October of that year, called on conspirators to renounce their plan).
Aiming to answer most of Romania's social and political issues, the League's founding document called for:
"A land reform, with the passage of the land which is at the moment expropriated only on principle [ - a reference to the 1917 promise for a land reform] into the effective and immediate ownership of villagers through the means of communes; an
electoral reform, through universal suffrage, direct election, secret ballot, and compulsory voting, with representation given to ethnic minorities, since the latter would not hinder the free manifestation of political individualities; administrative decentralization." [ro icon [http://www.unibuc.ro/eBooks/istorie/istorie1918-1940/4-1.htm "Actul de constituire a Ligii Poporului" ("The Founding Act of the People's League")] , April 16, 1918]
According to Argetoianu,
"in the autumn of 1919, [Averescu's] popularity had reached its peak. In the villages, people would dream of him, some swore that they had seen him descending from an airplane into their midst, others, who had fought in the war, told that they had lived by his side in the trenches, it was through him that hopes were solidified, and he was expected of to provide a miracle for people to live a carefree and fulfilling life. His popularity was something mystical, something supernatural, and all sorts of legends had begun to surround this
Messiahof the Romanian people."ro icon Ioan Scurtu, [http://www.itcnet.ro/history/archive/mi1997/current5/mi41.htm "Mit şi realitate. Alexandru Averescu" ("Myth and Reality. Alexandru Averescu")] , in "Magazin Istoric", May 1997; retrieved October 16, 2007]
Although he was also Prime Minister of Romania for three mandates (1918, 1920-1921, 1926-1927), his political success is not as spectacular as the military one. Averescu ended up as one of the pawns maneuvered by Brătianu. Argetoianu later repeatedly expressed his distaste for Averescu's hesitant stance and openness to compromise.
Adevărul" cartoon of early 1920. Averescu is shown menacing Parliament with a sword marked "Dissolution" (in reference to Damocles)] Initially, Brătianu approached Averescu using their shared displeasure over the Alexandru Vaida-Voevod Romanian National Party(PNR)-Peasants' Party (PŢ) cabinet; the National Liberals managed to obtain the general's renunciation of his goal to prosecute their party for alleged mis-management of Romania before and during the war, as well as his promise to respect the 1866 Constitution of Romaniawhen carrying out the planned land reform. At the same time, Brătianu kept a tight relationship with King Ferdinand.
On March 13, 1920, he gave news of the Vaida-Voevod cabinet's dissolution, and was widely expected to call for early elections as soon as this had happened. Instead, he read a document convened with King Ferdinand, which suspended Parliament (the first legislative body in "
Greater Romania") for ten days — the measure was intended to give Averescu the time to negotiate a new majority in the chambers.ro icon Ioan Scurtu, [http://www.itcnet.ro/history/archive/mi2000/current3/mi24.htm "Prăbuşirea unui mit" ("A Myth's Crumbling")] , in "Magazin Istoric", March 2000; retrieved October 16, 2007] These moves caused a vocal response from the opposition: Nicolae Iorga, who was president of the Chamber of Deputies and sided with the National Party, called for a motion of no confidenceto be passed on March 26; in return, Averescu obtained the support of the monarch in dissolving the Parliament, and invested his cabinet's energies into winning the early elections by enlisting the help of county-level officials (local administration came to be dominated by People's Party officials).Ion Constantinescu, "Dr. N. Lupu: «Dacă şi d-ta ai fi fost bătut...»" ("Dr. N. Lupu: «If You Yourself Had Been Beaten...»"), in "Magazin Istoric", August 1971, p.37-41] It carried the vote with 206 seats (223 together with Take Ionescu's Conservative-Democratic Party).
As agreements between the PNR and PŢ broke down (with the PNR awaiting for new developments), the PŢ joined Iorga's party, the Democratic Nationalists, in creating the "Federation of National-Social Democracy" (which also drew support from the group around
Nicolae L. Lupu).
His mandate was marked by the signing of the
Treaty of Trianonwith Hungary, and initial steps leading to the creation of the Little Entente- formed by Romania with Czechoslovakiaand the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It was also at this stage that Romania and the Second Polish Republicinaugurated their military alliance ("see Polish-Romanian Alliance"). The goal to create a " cordon sanitaire" against Bolshevist Russiaalso brought him and his Minister of the Interior Argetoianu to oversee repression measures against the group of Socialist Party of Romaniamembers who voted in favor of joining the Comintern(arrested on suspicion of "attempt against the state's security" on May 12, 1921).Cristina Diac, [http://www.jurnalul.ro/articol_19402/la__kilometrul_0__al_comunismului_romanesc.html "La «kilometrul 0» al comunismului românesc. «S-a terminat definitiv cu comunismul in România!»" ("At «Kilometer 0» in Romanian Communism. «Communism in Romania Is Definitely Over!»")] , in " Jurnalul Naţional", October 6, 2004; retrieved October 16, 2007] Cristian Troncotă, "Siguranţa şi spectrul revoluţiei comuniste" ("Siguranţa and the Specter of Communist Revolution"), in "Dosarele Istoriei", 4(44)/2000, p.18-19] This came after a long debate in Parliament over the imprisonment of Mihai Gheorghiu Bujor, a Romanian citizen who had joined the Russian Red Armyin Bessarabiaduring the later stages of the October Revolution, and who had been tried for treason. Argetoianu, who proclaimed communism to be "over in Romania", later indicated that Averescu and other members of the cabinet were hesitant about the crackdown, and that he ultimately resorted to taking initiative for the arrests — thus presenting his fellow politicians with a " fait accompli".
The regions coming under Romania's administration at the end of the war still maintained their
ad hocadministrative structures, including the Transylvanian Directory Council, set up and dominated by the PNR; Averescu ordered these dissolved in April, facing protest from local notabilities. Irina Livezeanu, "Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building and Ethnic Struggle, 1918-1930", Cornell University Press, New York City, 1995 ISBN 0801486882, p.23-24] At the same time, he ordered all troops to be demobilized. He unified currency around the Romanian leu, and imposed a land reformin the form in which it was to be carried out by the new Brătianu executive. In fact, the latter measure had been imposed by the outgoing PNL cabinet through the order of Ion G. Duca, in a manner which Argetoianu described as "destructive". As an initial step, Averescu's government appointed the noted activist Vasile Kogălniceanu, a deputy for Ilfov County, as " rapporteur"; Kogălniceanu used this position to give an account of the agrarian situation in Romania, stressing the role played by his ancestor, Constantin, in abolishing Moldavian serfdom, as well as that of his father, Mihail Kogălniceanu, in eliminating " corvées" throughout Romania. [Ştefan Gorovei, "Kogălnicenii" ("The Kogălniceanu Family"), in "Magazin Istoric", July 1977, p.10, 60]
The People's Party found itself hard pressed to limit the effects of the reform as promised by Duca — reason why
Constantin Garoflid, seen by Argetoianu as "the Conservative and theorist of large-scale landed property", was promoted as Minister of Agriculture. Argetoianu also accused the Premier of endorsing reform in an even more radical shape, and contended that:
" [...] peasants blessed «father Averescu», who gave them land, and rallied around him even tighter. Brătianu, Duca, they were nowhere mentioned except in curses. O, human gratitude!"
In October 1920, Averescu reached an agreement with the Allied Powers, recognizing Bessarabia's union with Romania — expressing a hope for the Bolshevik government to be overthrown, it also imposed the region's cession on a projected democratic government in Russia (while calling for further negotiations between it and Romania); throughout the
interwar period, the Soviet Unionrefused to bind itself to the provisions of the agreement. Italyalso refused to ratify the document, citing, alongside various foreign interests (including its friendship with the Soviet Union), Charles Upson Clark, [http://depts.washington.edu/cartah/text_archive/clark/bc_28.shtml "Bessarabia. Russia and Roumania on the Black Sea": Chapter XXVIII, "The Tatar-Bunar Episode"] , at the University of Washington; retrieved October 16, 2007] Dumitru Hîncu, "O acţiune politică contestată. Descoperiri în arhivele Ministerului de externe din Viena" ("A Controversial Political Action. Discoveries in the Vienna Foreign Ministry Archives"), in "Magazin Istoric", November 1995, p.68-70] the 250 million Italian lire owed to Italian investors in Romanian state bonds.
candals and fall
In March 1921, Argetoianu became implicated in a scandal involving the actions of his associate Aron Schuller, who had attempted to contract a 20 million lire loan with a bank in Italy, using as collateral Romanian
war bonds that he had illegally obtained from the Finance Ministry reserve. [Ion Constantinescu, "Duiliu Zamfirescu: «Zero la purtare lui Ionel Brătianu!»" (" Duiliu Zamfirescu: «Grade Zero in Manners to Ionel Brătianu!»"), in "Magazin Istoric", September 1971, p.68-70]
Nicolae Titulescuas Finance Minister, Averescu resumed the interventionist course in economic policies, but broke with tradition when he attempted to legislate a major increase in taxes and proposed nationalizations — with potential negative effects on the PNL-voting middle class.Joseph Slabey Rouček, "Contemporary Roumania and Her Problems", Ayer Publishing, Manchester, New Hampshire, 1971, p.106, 111-113] The National Liberals, through the voice of Alexandru Constantinescu-Porcu, helped exploit the rivalry between the Peasants' Party and Iorga, using the latter's rejection of Constantin Stere(a conflict sparked by Stere's support for Germany during the World War); Stere won partial elections for the deputy seat in Soroca, Bessarabia, causing a political scandal which saw all parties (including the PNR) declare their dissatisfaction. The conflict worsened during a prolonged parliamentary debate over Averescu's proposal to nationalize enterprises in Reşiţa(an initiative the opposition mistrusted, alleging that the new owners were to be People's Party members), when Argetoianu addressed a mumbled insult to the Peasant Party's Virgil Madgearu. Ion G. Ducaof the PNL expressed his sympathies to Madgearu (who had repeated out an obscene word whispered by Argetoianu), and all opposition groups appealed to Ferdinand, asking for Averescu's recall (July 14, 1921).
Ferdinand then attempted to facilitate a fusion between the
Romanian National Partyand the National Liberals, but negotiations broke down after disagreements over the possible leadership. Eventually, Brătianu convened with Ferdinand his return to power, and the king called on Foreign Minister Take Ionescuto resign, thus causing a political crisis that profited the PNL and put an end to the Averescu cabinet.
Shows of popular support in
Bucharestwere called of by Averescu himself, after he had negotiatied with Brătianu for a People's Party cabinet to be formed "at a proper time". Ionescu took over as premier until late January 1922, when he was replaced by Brătianu.
New political alliances
In early 1926, the general was again named Premier, and approached the PNR and its close ally, the Peasants' Party, proposing a merger around his leadership. This met with a stiff refusal, as it seemed that the two were about to win the elections with additional support, but the king, suspicious of the
left-wingcredentials of the Peasants' Party, used his Royal Prerogativeand nominated Averescu as premier (with PNL support).Ion Constantinescu, "V. Madgearu: «Rechinii aşteaptă prada!»" ("V. Madgearu: «The Sharks Await Their Pray!»"), in "Magazin Istoric", October 1971, p.81-82]
Averescu's party was instead joined by PNR dissidents,
Vasile Goldişand Ioan Lupaş, who represented a Romanian Orthodox segment of the Transylvanian voters (rather than the Greek Catholics supporting Iuliu Maniu). The 1926 elections, which Averescu's cabinet organized in March and won with a landslide (269 mandates) also brought a massive defeat for the PNL, who held just 16 seats in the Chamber of Deputies.
Although not fascist itself, the new government he formed displayed gestures of friendship towards
Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italy, a state which advertised itself as a rising force — "The Nation" called Averescu "Romania's Mussolini", as "an epithet which the new premier of Rumania bestowed upon himself". [James Fuchs, "Averescu: Rumania's Mussolini", in "The Nation", Vol. 122, no. 3175, May 12, 1926] Contacts established (as early as a June 1926, when Mihail Manoilescuhad negotiated a loan in Rome) were one of the major points of divergence between the policies of Averescu and those of Brătianu: the former attempted to overcome the embarrassment provoked by Mussolini when, due to Romania's debt, the Italian government had recalled the ambassador and had refused to permit King Ferdinand's pre-convened visit.
The loan convened by Manoilescu and Mussolini made important concessions to Italy in return for a clarification of Romania's debt status; it also led to the signing of a five-year "Friendship Treaty" (September 16), widely condemned by Romanian public opinion for not having called on Italy to state its support for Romanian rule in
Bessarabia, Constantin Vişoianu, "Cronica Externă. (Pactul Franco-Român.—Pactul Italo-Român)" ("Foreign Column. (The Franco-Romanian Pact.—The Italo-Romanian Pact)"), in " Viaţa Românească", 10/XVIII (October 1926), p.108] and created tension inside the Little Entente(Yugoslavia feared that Italy had attempted to gain Romania's neutrality in case of a potential irredentist conflict). Writing at the time, Constantin Vişoianualso criticized the vague terms in which the sections of the document dealing with mutual defense had been drafted:
"What have we gained from Italy through this pact? Nothing. In truth, article 3 — which does not [even] refer to Bessarabia — makes provisions for the eventuality of a "violent" incursion and organizes a mutual assistance system [that is] original through its
Platonic love-like character." [Slabey Roucek ("Contemporary Roumania and Her Problems", p.112) believed a protocol over Bessarabiato have been in fact concluded, probably based on the vague character of the text]
The treaty expired in 1932, and, after being prolonged by six months, it was not renewed. Overall, the political impact of contacts was minor, given that the Italians mistrusted the Romanian movement for its traditional role as instrument for Brătianu. Referring to the parallel project to marry Princess Ileana to Prince Umberto of Italy,"Dynastic Alliance?", in "Time", December 20, 1926] Averescu himself allegedly stated: "I didn't get much from Italy except a throne for a Princess of Rumania".
Averescu's controversial projects
Averescu continued to offer his support to
far rightgroups (especially to the National-Christian Defense Leagueformed by A. C. Cuza, his early collaborator), and probably considered assuming dictatorial powers.
The cabinet clashed with Brătianu when it was discovered that it had been negotiating in secret with the disinherited Prince Carol (a traditional adversary of the PNL) as Ferdinand's health was taking a turn for the worse"Manoilescu Trial", in "Time", November 21, 1927] (Averescu later claimed that he had been asked by Brătianu: "So, after I have brought you to power, you wish to rise and dominate?"). [Slabey Roucek ("Contemporary Roumania and Her Problems", p.113) supports the version of events later dismissed by Averescu himself, according to which the general had opposed Carol's return] The PNL withdrew its support, and, through an order signed by
Constantin Hiott, Averescu's was replaced by the broad coalition government of Barbu Ştirbey, Brătianu's brother-in-law. The general's deposition, confirmed by King Ferdinand on his deathbed, created a vacuum on the Right, soon filled by the Iron Guard, a fascist movement formed by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu(formerly an associate of Cuza's).
Late 1920s politics
The People's Party involved itself in solving the dynastic crisis after Ferdinand's death in July 1927, again approaching Carol to replace the child-king Michael and Prince Nicholas' regency. In November 1927, Averescu took the stand in the trial of his supporter
Mihail Manoilescu, who was arrested after having incited pro-Carol sentiment; in his testimony, he backed the notion that, despite his initial anger, Ferdinand had ultimately planned to have Carol return to the throne.
His grouping lost much of its supporters to the newly-formed
National Peasants' Party, and scored under 2% in the 1927 elections. Around 1930, Averescu began opposing the universal suffragehe had endorsed earlier, and issued an appeal to the intellectuals in order to have it discarded from legislation on the basis that it was easily influenced by the parties in power.P. Nicanor & Co., "Miscellanea. (O. Goga despre votul universal)" ("Miscellanea. (O. Goga on Universal Suffrage)"), in " Viaţa Românească", 4-5/XXIII (April-May 1926), p.138-139] He and his supporter, the pro-authoritarian poet Octavian Goga, received criticism from the left-wingPoporanist journal " Viaţa Românească", who claimed that Averescu had in fact provoked and encouraged widespread electoral irregularities during his time in office.
In November 1930, he filed a complaint against the poet and journalist
Bazil Gruia, claiming that the latter had libeled him by publishing, in January, an article in " Chemarea" which began by questioning the People's Party claim that Averescu was "the only honest comrade of the Romanian peasant" and contrasted it with the general's activities during the 1907 Revolt.Valentin Taşcu, "Mareşalul Averescu nu-şi mai aduce aminte" ("Marshal Averescu No Longer Recalls"), in "Magazin Istoric", March 1973, p.61-65] The trial was held in Cluj, and Gruia was represented in court by Radu R. Rosetti. On December 1, he was found guilty and sentenced to 15 days in a correctional facility with reprieve, and to a fine of 3,000 lei (soon after, Gruia benefited from a pardon).
Averescu was promoted to
Marshal of Romaniain the same year,"King at Work", in "Time", June 23, 1930] during the time when Carol returned to rule as King — the appointment was attributed by "Time" to his political support for the latter's return."End of a Dynasty?", in "Time", January 5, 1931] According to the same source, by the end of 1930, Averescu was again at the center of Romanian politics, owing to Carol's favor, to the deaths of Ion I. C. and Vintilă Brătianu, and to the unexpected support he gained from the PNL dissident Gheorghe I. Brătianu.
He ultimately showed himself hostile to Carol's inner circle, and especially to the king's lover
Magda Lupescu; consequently, Goga was instigated by Carol to take over as leader of the People's Party, and the latter attacked Averescu for "subverting [...] the traditional respect enjoyed by the Crown". The clash led to Goga's creation of the splinter National Agrarian Party, which, although never an important force, obtained more of the vote in the 1932 elections (approx. 3% compared to Averescu's 2%).
Around 1934, as the Guard proclaimed its allegiance to
Nazi Germany, the Italians (still rivals of Adolf Hitler), approached Averescu (as well as Manoilescu, Nicolae Iorga, Nichifor Crainic, Cuza, Goga, and other non-Guardist reactionaries), with an offer for collaboration ("see Comitati d'azione per l'universalità di Roma"). This apparent alliance was, in fact, marked by major dissensions — Averescu and Iorga were routinely attacked by Crainic's " Calendarul". Eventually, Averescu's group formed, in 1934, the "Constitutional Front", a nationalist electoral alliancewith the National Liberal Party-Brătianu, which was joined by Mihai Stelescu's Crusade of Romanianism(an Iron Guard offshoot), and the minor party created by Grigore Forţu(the "Citizen Bloc"); after the latter two parties disappeared, the Front survived in its original form until 1936, when it disbanded. [ro icon Victoria Gabriela Gruber, [http://doctorate.ulbsibiu.ro/obj/documents/an-gruber_000.pdf "Partidul Naţional Liberal (Gheorghe Brătianu)" (summary)] , Cap. V, at the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu; retrieved October 16, 2007]
In 1937, despite his ongoing feud with Carol, Averescu was appointed a member of the Crown Council. Argetoianu recalled that he and the Marshal had reconciled — at a time when Argetoianu pondered rallying all opposition forces, including the National Peasants' Party, the National Liberal Party-Brătianu, and the Iron Guard, in a single electoral bloc
Constantin Argetoianu, "Memorii" ("Memoirs"; fragment), in "Magazin Istoric", December 1967, p.80-82, 83-85] (before the general election of December, the various groups successfully negotiated an electoral pact against the government of Gheorghe Tătărescu). Averescu, who, according to Argetoianu, declared was more interested in convincing Carol to allow his estranged wife Elena of Greece to return to Romania, remained opposed to the deal.
The following year, he was briefly
Minister without portfolioin the cabinet of Premier Miron Cristea, created by Carol to combat the ascension of the Iron Guard, and opposed the monarch's option to renounce the 1923 Constitution and proclaim his dictatorship (the latter move signaled the end of the People's Party), but was among the figures displayed by Carol's regime. He died soon after in Bucharest, and was buried in the World War I heroes' cryptin Mărăşti. In December, the king created the National Renaissance Frontas the political instrument of his authoritarian rule.
* [http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/averescu.htm FirstWorldWar.com Biography]
NAME = Averescu, Alexandru
ALTERNATIVE NAMES =
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Marshal and former Prime Minister of Romania
DATE OF BIRTH = 3 April 1859
PLACE OF BIRTH =
DATE OF DEATH = 2 October 1938
PLACE OF DEATH =
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