Sfatul Ţării

Sfatul Ţării

Sfatul Ţării was in 1917-1918 the National Assembly of the Bessarabia "guberniya" (province) of Russian Empire, and then of the independent Moldavian Democratic Republic, which proclaimed union with Romania in 1918.

Prelude and the election

In 1917, following the February Revolution and the cessation of World War I hostilities, various meetings and congresses were organized throughout Bessarabia, discussing the future of the country. On OldStyleDateNY|February 19|February 6OldStyleDate|February 20|1917|February 7, a congress of the representatives of the village cooperatives voted for a motion demanding autonomy and the formation of a legislative assembly. This was followed by other congresses, including those of soldiers, priests, students and teachers, all demanding self-rule. [Nistor, p.278]

In April 1917, the "National Moldavian Party" was created, being headed by Vasile Stroescu, having among its members Paul Gore, Vladimir Herţa, Pan Halippa, Onisifor Ghibu. The party, which demanded autonomy, had a newspaper called "Cuvânt moldovenesc", to which some refugees from Bukovina and Transylvania also contributed. [Nistor, p.279]

On OldStyleDate|June 7|-|May 25 OldStyleDate|June 10|1917|May 28, the Congress of Moldavian Teachers decided to switch to the Latin alphabet, and among the notable speeches at that congress were the ones given by Alexei Mateevici, who asked that Bessarabians identify as "Romanians" rather than "Moldavians", and of Iulie Frăţiman, who asked that the areas beyond the Dniester inhabited by Romanians be administered by Bessarabia. [Ciachir, p.94]

On OldStyleDate|July 29|1917|July 16, the Moldavian soldiers' central committee in Chişinău decided to call for the creation of a council of the province, which would create a "Proposed Law for National and Territorial Autonomy". On OldStyleDate|September 17|1917|September 4, the same committee started its own newspaper, called "Soldatul român" and edited by Iorgu Tudor. [Nistor, p.279]

In the meantime, the Ukrainian National Assembly claimed Bessarabia as part of Ukraine, and in response, the Moldavians asked for protection from the Petrograd provisional government. In response, a revolutionary organization, "Rumcherod", was created in Odessa, being a representative body of the Russian Army on the Romanian front, and having many Moldavians in its ranks. On OldStyleDate|August 2|1917|July 20, the Rumcherod protested against the Ukrainian claims, and demanded from the provisional government the right "to rule themselves within the historical and ethnic boundaries". [Nistor, p.280]

On OldStyleDate|November 5|-|October 23 OldStyleDate|November 9|1917|October 27, the Soldiers' council proclaimed the autonomy of Bessarabia, and summoned for the election of a representative body (diet), called "Sfatul Ţării". The soldiers' councils elected 44 deputies for the assembly, the Peasants' Congress elected 36 deputies, and the remaining 70 deputies were elected by county and communal commissions, as well as by professional and ethnic associations. 70% of the members were Romanians, and the rest were Russians, Bulgarians, Jews, etc. [Nistor, p.281]

The Moldavian Democratic Republic

The first session of "Sfatul Ţării" was held on OldStyleDate|December 4|1917|November 21, and chose Ion Inculeţ as its president. After some long talks, on OldStyleDate|December 15|1917|December 2, Sfatul Ţării proclaimed the Moldavian Democratic Federative Republic ("Republica Democrată Federativă Moldovenească"), with Inculeţ as President. [Nistor, p.282]

Following the October Revolution, the governor of Bessarabia retired, yielding power to Constantin Mimi, the president of the Zemstvo of the guberniya, who was named Guberniya Commissar. The "Peasants' Congress" voted Mimi out of the job, and replaced him with Inculeţ, an action approved by Kerensky, Russia's interim prim-minister. Executive power was given to the "Council of Directors" led by Pantelimon Erhan. [Nistor, p.282]

The Revolution brought chaos in Russia, and some gangs of Bolshevik soldiers were reported to be wreaking havoc in Bessarabia. The "Council of Directors" sent a mission to Iaşi (the temporary capital of Romania) to ask the Entente for military help against the Bolsheviks. The Entente unsuccessfully tried to send some Serbian and Czechoslovakian troops, but some squads of Romanian Transylvanians and Bukovinans, organized in Kiev, were sent to Bessarabia, and they engaged in fighting against the Bolsheviks at the Chişinău train station. [Nistor, p.282-283]

The Bolshevik troops gained ground in Bessarabia, while spreading terror against the bourgeoisie. On OldStyleDate|January 18|1918|January 5, they occupied Chişinău, and the members of both "Sfatul Ţării" and the "Council of Directors" fled, while some of them were arrested and sentenced to death. On the same day, a secret meeting of "Sfatul Ţării" decided to send another delegation to Iaşi and ask for help from Romania. [Nistor, p.284]

The Romanian government of Ion I. C. Brătianu decided to intervene, and on OldStyleDate|January 26|1918|January 13, the 9th Romanian Army under Gen. Broşteanu entered Chişinău. The Bolshevik troops retreated to Tighina, and after a battle retreated further beyond the Dniester. [Nistor, p.284]

On OldStyleDate|February 6|1918|January 24, Sfatul Ţării voted in unanimity for the independence of the "Moldavian Democratic Republic". The "Directory Council" was dissolved, and was replaced by a "Ministry Council", lead by D. Ciugureanu, while the President remained Ion Inculeţ. [Nistor, p.285]

Union with Romania

The county councils of Bălţi, Soroca and Orhei were the earliest to ask for unification with the Kingdom of Romania, and on OldStyleDate|April 9|1918|March 27, "Sfatul Ţării" voted in favour of the union, with the following conditions:

# "Sfatul Ţării" would undertake an agrarian reform, which would be accepted by the Romanian Government.
# Bessarabia would remain autonomous, with its own diet, "Sfatul Ţării", elected democratically
# "Sfatul Ţării" would vote for local budgets, control the councils of zemstvos and cities, and name the local administration
# conscription would be done on a territorial basis
# local laws and the form of administration could be changed only with the approval of local representatives
# the rights of minorities had to be respected
# two Bessarabian representatives would be part of the Romanian government
# Bessarabia would send to the Romanian Parliament a number of representatives equal to the proportion of its population
# all elections must involve a direct, equal, secret, and universal vote
# freedom of speech and of belief must be guaranteed in the constitution
# all individuals who had committed felonies for political reasons during the revolution would be amnestied.

There were 86 votes for, 3 votes against and 36 deputies abstained. [Nistor, p.286] The first condition for agrarian reform was debated and approved in November 1918, and following this, "Sfatul Ţării" voted a motion which removed all the other conditions, trusting that Romania would be a democratic country. [Nistor, p.292] This vote has been judged illegitimate, since there was no quorum: only 44 of the 125 members took part in it (all voted "for"). [Charles King, "The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture", Hoover Press, 2000, pg. 35 ]

In the autumn of 1919, elections for the Romanian Constituent Assembly were held in Bessarabia; 90 deputies and 35 senators were chosen. On December 20, 1919, these men voted, along with the representatives of Romania's other regions, to ratificaty the unification acts that had been approved by "Sfatul Ţării" and the National Congresses in Transylvania and Bukovina. [Nistor, p.293]


This Diet was initially planned to have 120 deputies, apportioned as follows: 84 (70%) to the Moldavians (ethnic Romanians), 36 to the minorities. 44 were to be elected by the "Congress of Moldavian Soldiers from all Russia", 30 by the peasants, 10 by the Moldavian organizations, 36 by the minorities. This number was later increased to 135, and then 150. These figures were based on estimates of the population of Bessarabia as consisting 70% of Moldavians, and 30% of minorities. "This appears to be a fairly accurate guess; the official Russian figures, which the Moldavians considered as inaccurate and padded, set the Moldavian proportion considerably lower, as about one-half. Such figures are misleading in all European countries of mixed nationalities, since the census enumerator generally has instructions to count everyone who understands the state language as being of that nationality, no matter what his everyday speech may be." [Clark, chapter XVII]

The original 135 were divided into 28 groups: Multi-column numbered list|lst=disc|

  • representatives of the soldiers (38)
  • of the Moldavian sailors at Odessa (3)
  • Moldavian soldiers at Novo-Georgievsk (1)
  • soldiers on the Romanian front (3)
  • the Peasants' Soviet (28)
  • Central Committee of the National Party (6)
  • Romanian Cultural Society in Bessarabia (1)
  • Moldavian Professional Association (2)
  • Moldavian priests (2)
  • Cooperative Union (3)
  • Cultural League of Moldavian Women (1)
  • Moldavian Students (3)
  • Ukrainians (10)
  • Germans (2)
  • Poles (2)
  • Bulgarians and Gagauz (4)
  • Greeks and Armenians (2)
  • the Zemstvo of Chişinău (2)
  • the Press (4)
  • the Zemstvo of Soroca (1)
  • the City Government of Chişinău (3)
  • that of Orhei (1)
  • the railroads (3)
  • the Israelite Bund (6, one woman)
  • the Popular Socialists (1)
  • the Social Democrats (1)
  • the Judiciary (1)
  • and the Bar (1) In the change to 150 members, several were added from the zemstvos and the cities of the various districts, and the government service of posts, telegraphs and telephones.

    "The various organizations elected their representatives, wherever possible; but the Diet was mainly appointive, and would not be considered a duly representative body in normal times in any western country. It must however be remembered that Bessarabia was in a state of anarchy already, shortly to be complicated by the fall of Kerensky, which left Russia with no responsible government whatever for the moment. He was succeeded by the Bolsheviks-numerically at that time an infinitesimal minority of the Russian people, and not recognized as legitimate rulers by the Bessarabians. The Diet at any rate provided a welcome substitute for constitutional government, and indeed considered itself at the start a transitional body, preliminary to the establishment of a definite regime. The rapid march of events, combined with the ability and determination of several of its members, made of it a genuine governing organ." [Clark, chapter XVII]

    Voted for Union on OldStyleDate|April 9|1918|March 27 (name, age, profession, ethnic group, county; as available):

    Absent from that session:

    By the session on April 9, 1918 the number of deputies has reduced for various reasons to 138. Marked with an asterisk are the names of those who were in the Diet from the beginning.



    *Alexandru V. Boldur, "Istoria Basarabiei", Editura Victor Frunză, Bucureşti, 1992
    *Alexandru Bobeica, "Sfatul Ţării: stindard al renaşterii naţionale", Universitas, Chişinău, 1993, ISBN 5-362-01039-5
    *Ion Calafeteanu, Viorica-Pompilia Moisuc, "Unirea Basarabiei şi a Bucovinei cu România 1917-1918: documente", Editura Hyperion, Chişinău, 1995
    *Nicolae Ciachir, "Basarabia sub stăpânirea ţaristă (1812-1917)", Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, 1993. ISBN 973-30-2299-3
    * Ştefan Ciobanu, "Unirea Basarabiei : studiu şi documente cu privire la mişarea naţională din Basarabia în anii 1917-1918", Universitas, Chişinău, 1993 ISBN 5-362-01025-5 // Alfa, Iaşi, 2001
    *Charles Upson Clark, [http://depts.washington.edu/cartah/text_archive/clark/toc_pag.shtml Bessarabia: Russia and Roumania on the Black Sea]
    *Gheorghe E. Cojocaru, "Sfatul ţării: itinerar", Civitas, Chişinău, 1998 , ISBN 9975-936-20-2
    *Onisifor Ghibu, "Cum s'a facut Unirea Basarabiei", Editura "Asociaţiunii", Sibiu, 1925
    *Ion Nistor, "Istoria Basarabiei", Humanitas, 1991. ISBN 973-28-0283-9
    *Dinu Postarencu, "O Istorie a Basarabiei în date si documente (1812-1940)", Editura Cartier, Chişinău, 1998
    *Marin C. Stănescu, "Armata româna si unirea Basarabiei şi Bucovinei cu România : 1917-1919", Ex Ponto, Constanţa, 1999, ISBN 973-9385-75-3
    *Ion Ţurcanu, "Unirea Basarabiei cu România : 1918 : preludii, premise, realizari", Tipografia Centrală, Chişinău, 1998, ISBN 9975-923-71-2

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