Bucovina: Onomastics and History (II)

 The conference was delivered in the Council Hall of the Romanian Academy on May 24th 2001

The villages settled by colonists would naturally get new names, generally in German or in Hungarian. This is the case of Karlsberg, which was founded by the German colonists in 1797 near Putna, and of Andreasfalva, a village founded in 1785 by the Csangos coming from Moldavia on the same land area where the village called Măneuți had once been. Most of the times, however, the newcomers would settle within the borders of an already existing village, preferably a Romanian one. This village would receive a new name – a fact that can be accounted for administratively; only this new name would generally spread its frequency of use, and, after a period of parallel use, it would sometimes replace the old name entirely.

After some Transylvanian Székely people settled down on its territory, the village Iacobești in the Suceava county was still called by this name by its old inhabitants in 1780, whereas its new inhabitants would call it Fogojd Isten, and, at the end of the 19th century, the seal of the commune reads gemd. Jacobestie vel Fogodisten. In the 18th century, of the Bălcăuți village, attested in the 15th century, there remained only the village center and the estate of Bălcăuți, on which Slobozia Bălcăuți, attested in 1783, would be formed by Ruthenians. The authorities, however, would call it Laudonfalva. At the end of the 19th century the seal of the commune reads Laudonfalva oder Bolcoutz.

Some other times, the old name of the place would be totally left aside. For instance, on the territory of the old Tulova, attested in 1434[1], in 1786, next to the indigenous Romanians here, there came some Hungarian colonists, and the administration named the place Joseffalva in honour of Emperor Joseph II. This would be the official name of the place until 1918, although the Romanians had always called it Tolova, Tolva or Vorniceni, after Tolva Mică, the name of a village in the same commune. Such examples are to be found not only in Bucovina, but also in other places. For instance, the name of the village Plainești in the Vrancea county imposed itself over the older name, Târgul Cucului, in the second half of the 20th century out of the local estate owner’s wish. After 1945, the names of the places that reminded people of the names of the former exploiting masters were changed: Plainești became Suvorov, in memory of the famous Russian general who had fought the Turks not far away from it. After a while, there appeared a negative attitude towards the toponyms imposed by the administration whose wish was to keep alive the memory of some Russian personalities on the Romanian territory; therefore, Suvorov could no longer be used and the older name could not be employed again either, so the village was arbitrarily named Dumbrăveni. In the meantime, however, the road used by the villagers in the area of the Oreav river to go to Plainești/Suvorov/Dumbrăveni was uninterruptedly called Plaiul Plaineștiului.

Such names as Laudonfalva, Andreasfalva, Joseffalva, Fogodisten, Istensegit, Fürstenthal, Freudenthal, Karlsberg, etc., which had been used in Bucovina until 1918, disappeared, first of all because the great majority of the people in these areas returned to their native countries. Sometimes, the villages lost their importance and were embeded in other localities by a merging process, othertimes they simply changed their foreign name into a Romanian one (in 1945, Andreasfalva was known as Andrieșeni, a hamlet of the village Frătăuții Vechi).

The annexation of the Northern Bucovina to the Russian Empire left traces on toponymy as well. On 7th September 1946, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic decided to change the name of 130 localities in the Cernăuți region, 60 of which were Romanian names. Most of the times the Romanian name was replaced by a Ukrainian one: Trestiana became Dimca; Igești, mentioned in a document in the 15th century[2], was replaced by Ijinți; Ciudei, recorded in th 18th century as Ciudel or Ciudiiul[3], became Mijiricica, meaning “between rivers”; Suceveni, the name of the former Tomești (in 1892 its name was Suceveni vel Tomești), was replaced by Șirocaia Poliana. Therefore, the change of the name Dumbrava Roșie, with deep historical undertones, into Cervona Dibrava was only too natural under the circumstances.

As long as the old place-name was not preserved, this change involved Romanian names too: Șendreni in the Novoselnița region was replaced by Dranița, the name of the commune that the villages Negrinți and Șendreni belong to. The same need for change led to replacements of Slavic place-names of Romanian villages with other names of the same origin: Crasna lui Ilschi or Crasna Ilschi became Crasnoilsc.

As far as toponymy is concerned, the linguistic events in the Chernivtsi region were similar to what happened in other regions, too. In Transylvania, for instance, Romanian place-names, such as Apșa de Jos/ “The Lower Apșa”, Valea Scradei/ “The Scrada Valley”, Biserica Albă/ “The White Church”, etc. were replaced by Dibrava, Glubokii Poptoc, Belaia Țercovi, respectively; in the Odessa region, Satul Nou/ “The New Village” became Novosoliovca; in the Moldova Republic, Antonești turned into Antonovca, Ciolacu into Ciolacova, Iordăneni into Iordanovca, Sturzești into Sturzovca, Sturzeni into Ucrainca, Șoldănești into Cervenco[4], etc.

The author of a graduation paper delivered at the University of Suceava on the theme of toponymy in the Chernivtsi region quotes the words of one of her informants: “My impression was that they had only one goal: to annihilate us physically and morally by shooting us at Lunca and Fântâna Albă; the mass deportations; compelling the natives to forget their roots; changing the traditional names of our villages so that the sense of Romanianism in the North of Bucovina be completely destroyed.” The same author considers that this deprivation of name shatters the idea that toponymy is the unwritten archive of place-names: “toponymy can no longer be used as an argument in favour of or against some historical theses, the relationship between a place and its name being aleatory.”

The mixture of Romanian and Ukrainian toponyms in Bucovina is undoubtedly the outcome of the ethnic composition of the region. But the name of a place is not always a mark of its inhabitants’ ethnic belonging. Some village names – e.g. Bălcăuți, Dănila, Soloneț, Argel, Demacușa, Brodina, Cârlibaba, Milișăuți, etc. – could suggest the presence of Ukrainians in these areas. Yet, this is not compulsory, since such toponyms as Ipotești, Călinești, Dărmănești, Nisipitul, etc. do not have any Ukrainian undertones although Ukrainians are predominant in these villages. On the other hand, not all place-names of seemingly Ukrainian origin prove the presence of ethnic Ukrainians among their inhabitants. This is the case, among others, of the villages Dălhăuți  and Voloșcani in the Vrancea county, where Ukrainians are scarce. What is important, however, is the fact that at present the villages in the Suceava county have only one name each, which is used both by Romanians and Ukrainians.

The ethnic mixture of a place is also reflected by the anthroponyms used in the area. In the present study, we have selected the personal names Ioan, Ion, Ivan, with their variants and derivatives, that occur in the Suceava Telephone Directory for the year of 2000, where there are as many as 121 families whose surnames derived from the names previously mentioned are of Romanian origin: Ioanei (< Aioanei), Ioanesi (< Aioanesi < Ioaneasa); Ionaș, Ionășanu (< Ionaș or Ionășeni/a village in the Botoșani county), Ionașcu, Ionescu, Ioanițoaie (< Aionițoaiei < Ionițoaia), Ivănescu, Ivănicescu, Ivănesei (< Aivănesei < Ivăneasa), Ivănuș, Ivănuț. In the same directory, 91 families have surnames of Ukrainian origin derived from the same roots: Ioanisciuc, Ioanovici, Ioneac, Ivan, Ivanciuc, Ivanco, Ivancov, Ivaniciuc, Ivaniuc, Ivanov, Ivanovici, Ivanovschi, Ivanik, Ivanski. To this list we can add the surname Johann, which is recorded twice. It goes without saying that not all people having Romanian or Ukrainian surnames are Romanian or Ukrainian, respectively. However, the family names Ioan and Ion are only incidental among Ukrainians, whereas Ivan is largely used by Romanians. The derivatives of these names are easy to associate with either of the two languages, but in the situation when the root is not used, the occurence of derivatives is rather special. Still, such deviations can have pertinent explanations.

Until the 16th century, the Romanian people in the Romanian territories used to have and had been known by one name only, especially in the rural areas, where one name was enough for the small communities there to identify the person wearing it. When the name proved insufficient in this respect, the identification was made either with the help of a word showing the male possessor’s relationship with his father – sân/sin meaning “fiu”, with his father-in-law – zet meaning “son-in-law”, with his brother – brat meaning “brother”, or by adding an appellative showing one’s occupation/profession, rank, ethnicity, place of origin, nickname, etc.

In the 17th century, the king’s chancellery stipulated that the given name of a person be accompanied by a surname/a family name based on the father’s name or on that of the land estate the person lived on, to which the suffix –eanu or –ești was added. This model of forming family names did not catch on, but at the beginning of the 19th century, one’s first name/Christian name was usually accompanied, in documents of all sorts, by a last name. In the table illustrating the 242 contributors in Soveja – Vrancea for the year of 1820[5], only one of their names is formed with sin, and in the table for Odobești – Vrancea, for the same year[6], out of the 173 contributors’ names there are 6 formed with sin, 3, with zet and one with nepot (nephew” or grandson”; t/n[7]). All the other ones are Christian names followed by a family name in each case.

It is very likely for the surname-formation process in the northern and southern parts of Moldavia to have been rather similar, even though between the two regions there may have occurred some delays in this respect. These delays were generally the result of the people’s conservatism as far as their old ways were concerned, which, in its turn, was the outcome of the population’s low density in the area. The census of the Chernivtsi population in 1774 illustrates that approximately 1/3 of the Romanians there would have  a surname, over 30% would still use a separate word to indicate family relationships, such as sân, zet, brat, nepot, and barely few of them – approximately 0.5% – would still use one name only. Everybody else would wear, beside their first name, an individualising appellative related to their trades, skills, origin, etc.: apar/ water bearer”, casap/ butcher, cismar/ shoemaker”, olar/ potter”, grec/ Greek”, rus/ Russian”, german/ German”, etc. The members of the clergy were a group apart: they would have only one name/first name accompanied by an appellative showing their occupation (popă/ priest”, diacon/ deacon”, dascăl/cantor), of which popa would always come first, very similarly to what happens nowadays.

Very shortly after the annexation of the north of Moldavia to the Austrian Empire, the Vienna Chancellery established the civil registers, in which people’s both first and last names were recorded considering the father’s name or the place of origin, trade, nickname, etc. In Bucovina, the Civil Register Service was organised around the parish offices, which took over the registers of civil status (birth certificates, military recruitments); these documents were to be written in Romanian. The Orthodox Church in Bucovina was subordinated to the Karlowitz Metropoly. Bucovina’s religious life  was very closely controlled by this Metropoly through its representatives in the field. These representatives imposed the Serbian model of civil registration, a model that would record the father’s name in the Genitive case morphologically marked by the suffixes -evici, -ovici. In this way, the Romanian model – which also marked filiation by adding the adjectival suffix –esc to one’s father’s name – was abandoned.

The first ones whose names were recorded in such documents were the priests and schoolchildren, for school was subordinated to the Church back then. This is how new anthroponymic creations such as Ioanovici, Ciupercovici, Țurcanovici emerged. In this region, the priests’ and deacons’ children were named Popovici and Diaconovici, whereas in other Romanian territories they were called Popescu and Diaconescu, the last ones following the Romanian model. The accusation against the Bucovinian bureaucracy of having contributed to the alteration of the Romanian anthroponymy is, at least partially, justified. Otherwise, it would be difficult to understand how the priests who had served, until 1912, in Drăgoiești (a village in Bucovina that counted over 1700 inhabitants, all of them Romanians, in 1780) were called Constantin Vorobchievici, Atanasie Procopovici, Petru Andruhovici, Dimitrie Percec. The back of an icon in the church of this village reads that the redecoration of the church was carried out in 1869 by monk Costache Nichitovici at the insistence of the parish priest Petru Andruhovici, together with the church administrators/ ‘epitroposes’ Manole Buha, Nițan Nicolae, Simion Popescu[8].

The case of Silvestru Andreevici, the archbishop of Bucovina and Dalmatia who belonged to the Moraru family from Mitocul Dragomirnei, is famous in that regard. Since his father’s name was Andrei, he was recorded in the school documents as Andreevici, whereas the surname of his brother Andrei, who did not attend school, was Morariu. Following the archbishop’s interventions, he was allowed to keep the name of the family he belonged to, so his full name was Silvestru Morariu Andreevici. This was also the case of bishop Arcadie Ciupercovici, coming from the Ciupercă family from Câmpulung, and that of Gheorghe cav. de Popovici. In 1908, the latter managed to regain the name his family used to wear before the Austrian occupation.

When they settled in Siret, the Stefanelli family were nicknamed the Hungarians, for they had come here from Transylvania. Their initial surname, Ștefănucă, which they had brought along, was changed, in the church birth registry – possibly inadvertently by the priest – into Ștefaniuc. When later on the two brothers, Juvenal and Teodor, asked for their surname to go back to Ștefănucă or to be changed into Ștefănescu, they received and answer in the negative. However, they were allowed to change it into Stefanelli; this is how a name with Italian undertones appeared in the anthroponymic landscape of Bucovina.

With the passing of time, the list of anthroponymic suffixes used to form Romanian surnames grew longer. At the beginning of the 20th century, besides the already mentioned Romanian and Serbian suffixes, there were some more as well, especially Ukrainian. Consequently, there emerged some peculiar combinations of Romanian root words with suffixes of foreign origins and, rather oddly, they formed Romanian surnames: Crețuleac (< creț/ “curly” + -leac; t/n), Gușuleac (< gușă/ “goiter” + -leac; t/n), Lupuleac (< lup/ “wolf” + -leac; t/n), Rotariuc (< rotar/ “wheelwright” + -iuc; t/n), Bordeanciuc (< bordei/ “hut” + -iuc; t/n), etc. Functionally speaking, this would have been highly unlikely, if not impossible, for the Romanian communities to do without the administration staff contributing to the process.

Some other times the names were translated, also with the adminitration’s involvement. Therefore, Morariu became Melnec, Melnic or Melniciuc, Olariu became Honceariuc, Cojocariu turned into Cușnir, Prisăcariu into Pașișnic or Pașișneac, etc. The family name of the Bucovinian lawyer Victor Hnidei used to be Mohorâtu/the gloomy one, but his name was translated into Ukrainian by the authorities.

Adapting the names to other pronunciations and spelling rules led to even more changes in the Romanian anthroponymy in Bucovina, this resulting sometimes in names beyond recognition: Brendzan, Dragynicz, Teutuleac and Teutulovici, Cebanec, etc. In 1922, the name Straciuc from Suhoverca was strangely and unrealistically associated with the Ukr. strata/ “loss”; in 1802, there lived in Suhoverca a man called Toader, Gheorghe Stratu’s son, and between 1820-1830, the name Stratciuc is attested in the same village.

However, there have remained many Romanian anthroponyms in Bucovina, even in its northern part, and this is a living proof that Romanians inhabited these lands not very long ago. In 1942, in the northern Bucovina there were people named Măciucă, Lupul, Ursul, Codrean, Florescul, Ceapă, Ioniță, Fagure, Negură, Nicoară, etc., who neither spoke Romanian, nor did they have Romanian national feelings any longer.

In the first half of the 20th century, the village Cernauca, situated in the North of the Prut River, was a center of the Romanian spirit everywhere, not only of that in Bucovina. It was here that Doxachi Hurmuzachi lived. In his last will and testament, this Moldavian nobleman of old origin passed on to his descendants “three great and holy duties, for which you shall be held responsible before God, the people and your offsprings. These three duties are your country, your (Romanian, t/n) language and your church”. In Dicționarul geografic al Bucovinei, in the article “Cernauca”, Em. Grigorovitza records for the year of 1908 “population 2013 inhabitants, Ruthenians, of Greek orthodox religion”[9]. However, for the year of 1926 Dimitrie Țopa ascertains that 42% of the anthroponyms in Cernauca were of Romanian origin or developed from Romanian morphemes, and for 1991, Constantin Olaru notes that this percentage grew to 46%[10]. Although considering them as completely Romanian is a debatable issue, some anthroponyms are definitely of Romanian origin, even in their transcription after the Russian version, e.g., Muntean, Ungurean, Căutici, Cornuta, Strugari, etc.

Things are no different as far as the given names go. This is an area where the “fashion” of names is generally highly considered by the administration. Although the function of a proper name is to identify the object so named, apart from identifying the person, the given/first name develops multiple meanings. More often than not, these meanings come to obscure its linguistic significance, for this name shows the relationships of the “name giver” with the world and, consequently, of the recipient’s. This may explain the huge diversity of given names, differing substantially from region to region under the influence of various factors.

In the Romanian territories under foreign domination, to the direct influence between the populations in contact with one another there was added another one, exerted by the administration. The direct influence was censored by the Church to a great extent, given that the religious ceremony of naming a child, or the child’s christening, was officiated by this institution and the Orthodox Church would not allow for the children to be given names specific of other religions. Yet, the fashion of names as cultural influence made this interdiction to be violated. Names such as Elias and Johan, given to orthodox people in the Bucovinian villages, come to prove this.

Transylvania faced a similar situation. Here, the Romanians borrowed especially Hungarian and German hypocoristic names through direct contact. Moreover, the form of the Romanian names changed under the administration’s influence. An illustrative example in this respect is that of the Romanian names in the Conscriptio Aradiensis for the year of 1746, where the name Gheorghe is recorded 81 times as Gyiorgy and once as Gyorghye, two forms rather similar to the Hungarian name György; the name Mihai occurs 77 times as Mihaly, twice as Mihail and once as Mihál; the name Nicolae does not occur at all, and Miklos occurs three times[11], etc. The great number of Latin names at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries in Transylvania was the outcome of the campaign started by the Romanian intellectuals as a reaction against the tendency of depriving the Romanian population of its spiritual heritage of which personal names are an important part.

In Bucovina and Bessarabia the religious onomasticon was largely common across the orthodox Romanians, Ukrainians and Russians, which simplified things not only for the fashion of names but also for the administration. It is not surprising then that, under the Soviet occupation after 1944, the name Ion became Ivan, Viorica turned into Vera, Toader was replaced by Feodor/Fiodor, Ștefan by Stepan, and the mostly preferred hypocoristics were the Slavic-Oriental ones, which were given following the models provided by the Russian books and films or after the names of the Russian families members, whose number increased in the presence of the Russian army and administration in these territories. The three children of a family in the south of Bessarabia – a family who were trying very hard to speak Russian without an accent in order to benefit from the privileges conferred back then to the Russian-speaking people – had as their first names Olga, Nicolai and Anatol, respectively, but the other family members would call them Olea, Colea and Tolea.

This change was highly stimulated by the administration, too, in that they contributed to the process of establishing the official structure of the full name using the Slavic-Oriental format: the person’s first name, followed by the father’s first name in the Genitive case, and the last/family name. Thus, Ion al lui Constantin Tătaru (first name: Ion, father’s first name in the Genitive: al lui Constantin/ “Constantin’s”, last name: Tătaru; t/n) would become Ivan – sometimes the Romanian form Ion would be accepted – Constantinovici Tatar, and the name in the Nominative of address would be Ivan (Ion) Constantinâci, i.e.., the person’s first name followed by the father’s name in the Genitive. A newspaper in Chernivtsi informed its readers about the authorities’ attempt to control the process of giving names to the newly born babies.

Even only the simple adaptation of a name to the system of another language can cause significant changes in the social status of a name. Ion Posteucă, a retired teacher from the Chernivtsi region, decided to give up the name he was given by the secretary at the village hall around 1947/1948 in the document issued for middle school enrollment, a document in which his last name Posteucă suddenly became Postivca. After stern insistence, he obtained from the court of justice a document that acknowledged that his study diploma issued by the Chernivtsi University on the name Postivca Ivan Adamovici was Posteucă Ivan Adamovici’s.[12] Although in this legal document Ion was still Ivan and the structure of the name was still Slavic-Oriental, getting it was a success, for all the last names containing the diphthongs –ău or –eu, which had been transformed into –av, -ev, -iv (as in Postivca, Fratavcean, etc), were subsequently subjected to the same change.

The administration’s interference with the people’s names may lead to emotional disturbances in the communities affected by this process, since the function of the given names and of the family names, as well as of the place-names is more than one of mere identification. An important part of language seen as a set of traditions, the names of persons and of places define a spiritual landscape of continuity aiming at permanence. Remarkable in this respect is the French writer Louis Hémon’s remark: “All the names in this land, both those she would hear everyday and those she had heard only once, came back to her […] How pleasant it was to hear those names when talking about parents, about faraway friends or faraway journeys! How common and familiar they were, each time awakening feelings as if of kinship, so, when repeating them, one would definitely think <<All around this land we are at home …>>.” (Maria Chapdelaine)

The abrupt changes destabilise the emotional climate to which onomastics contributes considerably. Here we must bring again into discussion the situation of the village of Ciudei in the Chernivtsi region. The name of this village, changed by the authorities into Mijiricica, becomes an issue of great interest in the Chernivtsian paper Plai românesc / approx. “Romanian Land” from the 12th of June 1993, through the comment the poet Constantin Nicorici uses as a motto to the poem Revenire/ Coming back: “I have been interested in the evolution of the village of Ciudel for a long time and I sometimes think that it has no future, that one day it will disappear from our memory, as many other Bucovinian villages have for some time now.” This is an extremely serious statement; it does not express one’s concern about oneself but one’s anxiousness about an alienating future:

Românii s-au înstrăinat

De vatră și credință

Și moare satul strâmtorat

Adus la umilință.

Se schimbă chipul de țăran

În ochii tuturora,

Badea Ion e azi Ivan,

Iar Gheorghe-i badea Jora.

Se schimbă șeful birocrat

Dar târgul nu se schimbă,

Cu numele-i rebotezat,

El piere pe-a sa limbă.

(emphases added; t/n)

Romanians have turned away

From their hearth and creed

The village will soon die in pain

And utter need.

The peasants’ names have often changed –

But hardly their aura –

Now uncle Ion is called Ivan,

And Gheorghe’s known as Jora.

They bring around another chief,

But they preserve their village,

They christen it anew but still

They die in their own language.

The changes in the onomastic landscape may be related to the changes in the language of some members of the so-affected linguistic communities. They may be considered the outcome of the linguistic policy carried out by the authorities with a view to undermining the people’s feeling of belonging to the set of traditions of the community they are part of. In the same paper, Plai românesc, there is a fragment from a letter written by a soldier from the Ukraine which reads: “Privet from ciasti. If you should see me in șineli and furașcă you wouldn’t recognise me. Our starșina is very blatnoi, but I’ve found obșcii iazâc with him. We are drughi now. I can go to samovolcî whenever I want to. I have a lot of znacomâi in town. There is no dedovcina here. I won’t get otpusc until another prizâv.”

In the last decades, the concept of homo bucovinensis has been used very frequently. Adopted by Hans Prelisch in 1954, this phrase had had a long history behind (in 1918, for instance, it was used by the historian Ion Nistor). Its meaning was directly associated with that of bucovinism/ approx. “bucovinianism”, an adaptation into Romanian of the Germ. Bukowinaertum, used at the end of the 19th century, and with that of Ausgleich/ leveling or balancing policy, by means of which the Habsburg administration wanted to turn Bucovina into an oriental Switzerland, a country of tolerance and mutual understanding between people of different ethnicities, cultures, and religions. The idea itself was very valuable and it may be said to have anticipated the European integration policy today.

Along the time, groups of Slavs, especially from Galicia, had occupied a vast Moldavian territory. The number of Ukrainians had increased a lot in Bucovina, where the old inhabitants and the newcomers had learnt to live together in harmony. It was from the Slavs that the local people had borrowed the word nemernic, a word employed even at present to call the newcomers to a village without necessarily associating it with its derogatory meaning – which in Romanian is “pitiful, pathetic” or, even worse, “despicable, infamous” -, but preserving its initial meaning of “the one who comes, newcomer”. The spirit of leniency and tolerance between people developed in the principality of Bucovina, but it had existed there for a long time before.

This spirit gave rise to the sense of acceptance of other ethnicities, other cultures, associated with the respect that everybody has to treat God’s creatures with, self-respect included. This is the spirit shared by the Romanian intellectuals in Bucovina at the end of the 19th century: we acknowledge the privileges of all those who live in Bucovina, even the unwritten ones, but we demand that our rights be acknowledged by others, too. With regard to this, what was fervently asked for was for them to be free to use Romanian in their schools, culture, and administration. All their efforts were directed towards this goal of preserving the Romanians’ national identity.  Formed at Aron Pumnul’s school, they could say, as Eminescu did: “I is God[13]. My nation is the world; just as without I[14] there is no God, so also without my nation there is no world.” (manuscript 2262, p. 2; emphases added). For each nation God created is a distinct voice in the choir of nations. Things are no different nowadays, when the European spirit translates Europe as “a house of nations and languages”.

The legislation of the Ukrainian state, where there live approximately 460,000 Romanians, is conceived in such a way that it should ensure optimal conditions for development to all ethnical minorities, including to the Romanians in the Chernivtsi, Odessa, Transcarpathia and other Ukrainian regions. But the reality often contradicts the law. Even the intervention of Ukrainian state in the dispute about whether the Moldavians in the Ukraine are Romanian ethnics or nor is considered unsatisfactory; the campaign for the “moldavianisation” of the Romanians in the Ukraine by manipulating the figures[15] is very much of an issue today, with direct implications on acknowledging the Romanians’ natural rights in this country.

The right to use the mother tongue in schools, granted by the law, is reflected by the process of cutting down the number of schools where the language of teaching is Romanian. This number is considerably smaller nowadays than the number of schools opened by the Soviet authorities back in 1944. In the territory north of the Prut River the Romanian language has not been used since the end of the 19th century. Nowadays, an area of transitive assimilation[16] takes shape at the south of the Prut River, with places where 50 to 90% of the people are Romanians, but where the only state institution where Romanian is used is the Church. Yet, only the older generation here uses Romanian, the younger people having already forgotten it, even if they call themselves Romanians (Moldavians). At the census in 1989, 10% of the Romanian ethnics declared Ukrainian or Russian as their mother tongue. What is left to be said then before Nicolae Dabija, who believes that the Bucovinians and the Moldavians can do nothing else but “to grieve along our Romanians/ in this wounded land -/ me, wordless, in my Moldavian/ they, wordless, in their Bucovinian”[17]? (Bucovina)

The Romanians in the north of Bucovina, the Chernivtsi region, have never given up their hope that one day the injustice endorsed by history will be corrected. But it hasn’t been yet. The traces of the Romanian language still keep disappearing. Ever since it was built until recently the inscription on the frontispiece of the Orthodox Cathedral in Chernivtsi had been in Romanian, in the Cyrillic alphabet; today it is no longer there.

It is estimated that half of the languages spoken today in Europe will disappear in the 21st century and that it takes only two generations for this to happen. The main cause of this is the domination of the official languages over the minor ones in the economic and cultural life, associated with the active antagonism of the political classes. And yet, the Romanians in the north of Bucovina still believe firmly in their power of resistance. The remark made by Alexandrina Cernov[18] in 1999, at the first congress of the Romanian intellectuals in the Chernivtsi region, is worth special attention: “We now live in a territory that all along the history has been situated at the edge of one country or another: Moldavia, Austria, Romania, the USSR, the Ukraine. Each of these countries has imposed her own policy on it and solved her own problems. The Romanians have become a minority population in their own home, but they have preserved their national identity and everything related to the psychology and spirituality of a people: their language, their school, their church.”[19]

In these words one can read not only bitterness, but also the Bucovinian Romanians’ determination, the direct outcome of their long enduring experience. The same deep feelings pervade from the words of another participant in the same Congress, Mircea Lutic: “We have to rely on ourselves first of all and only then can we rely on our brother’s support and on our neighbour’s goodwill.”[20] And language is the last bastion of their faith defense. All the Romanian intellectuals in the north of Bucovina know that those “who speak a different language within their families will never be Romanians. Only […] those who have kept it close in their families and fought for it in church and in school (will; t/n).”[21] This is well known by every Romanian soul here, as one of their folk poems and songs says: “Dear God, if it were/ For us to come before you for your judgment one day/ Please forgive us some of our sins/ For we have already atoned for them all here on earth/ […]/ We have lost everything you gave us/ Except our language./ Should we give our language to them,/ Dear God, how would we pray then?/ For the One Who protects us/ Understands us only in Romanian.”[22]

These are the realities the Romanians in the north of Bucovina have to face; in their great story, they feel the need to have next to them both the people they live with and together with which they experience the transition process of the Ukrainian society, and those of the “same blood”, “those back Home/ in their former Country”, as they call them, on whose support they count a lot. Unfortunately, “under these circumstances when some people are calling out loud unjustified wishes in order to impose them as truths in political disputes”, as the historian Gheorghe Platon from Iași contends, “our whispering of the truths that we were born with and define who we are is only a reprehensible act.”[23]

Under the Austrian occupation, when Bucovina was only the name of a country in the Habsburg Empire, the multi-ethnical, multi-linguistic, multi-cultural character of this land grew deeper. But these territories had been populated by Romanians and Slavs, especially by Ukrainians, for a long time. Through their interventions, the authorities could accelerate or slow down some demographic or cultural processes, but only what had deep roots could resist the passing and changes of time. It is the same with the forests of Bucovina, where the trees lean on each other to grow, even though they belong to different species. Bucovina is The Beech Tree Country, but nobody could ever imagine that it is only the beech tree that grows there.

Bucovina is the country of all the people who love her and serve her faithfully. And so she shall stay. For only in this way can one speak about a culture specific to this Bucovinian land; the Romanian philosopher and poet Lucian Blaga was definitely right to define culture as a direct expression of a sui generis way of being, that enriches the image of the cosmos by another grain.

by Gheorghe Moldoveanu

(Translated by Valentina Curelariu)

[1] Cf. Mihai Costăchescu, Documentele moldovenești înainte de Ștefan cel Mare, Iași, vol. 1, 1931, p. 270

[2] Ibidem, p. 211

[3] Cf. Nicolai Grămadă, Toponimia minoră a Bucovinei, Centrul de Studii ,,Bucovina” din Rădăuți, Editura Anima, vol. I, 1996, p. 229

[4] Cf. Anatol Eremia, “Două limbi – două ideologii”, in Apă vie, Timișoara: Editura Augusta, 2001, pp. 232-233

[5] Cf. C. C. Giurescu, “Populația județului Putna la 1820. Constatări demografice, administrative, economice și culturale, pe temeiul unui recensământ fiscal inedit” in Buletinul Societății Regale Române de Geografie, București, 1940, pp. 215-218

[6] Ibidem., pp. 218-220

[7] The abbreviation t/n stands for “translator’s note”; t/n

[8] Cf. Niga I. Nichita, “Biserica satului Drăgoiești”, in Candela, No. 7, 2000, p. 20

[9] Rom. “populația 2013 locuitori, ruteni, relig. gr. or.”

[10] Cf. Constantin Olaru, “Urmele românismului în unele localități din nordul Bucovinei – anul 1991 în comparație cu 1926 (un mic adaos peste 65 de ani la lucrarea lui Dimitrie Țopa, Românismul în regiunea dintre Prut și Nistru din fosta Bucovină, Cernăuți, 1927)”, in Glasul Bucovinei, 1994, nr. 1

[11] Cf. Viorica Goicu, Nume de personae din țara Zarandului, Timișoara, Editura Amphora, 1996, p. 130

[12] Cf. Ion Posteucă, “Cât costă o literă sau cum a trebuit să demonstrez că eu sunt eu” in Arcașul, Cernăuți, anul VII, 2000, nr. 2-5, p. 15

[13] Verb agreement in the 3rd person singular in the original; t/n. (Rom.: “Eu e Dumnezeu.”)

[14] The Nominative case used instead of the Accusative in the original; t/n. (Rom: “… cum fără eu nu e Dumnezeu….”)

[15] On the 1st of January 1992, in the Chernivtsi region there were 184,836 Romanian ethnics, of which 100,317 considered themselves Romanians and 84,519, Moldavians. (Cf. Ion Popescu, “Partea românofonă a regiunii Cernăuți și zonele ei sociolingvistice”, in Glasul Bucovinei, 1994, Nr. 1, p. 22). 1, 060 of the inhabitants of Voloca declared themselves as Romanians, whereas 1,847, Moldavians. (Cf. Eugen Patraș, “Drepturile comunității româneșsti din Ucraina: între ficțiune și adevăr”, in Materialele primului congres al intelectualității românești din regiunea Cernăuți. 25 aprilie 1999, Cernăuți, Editura ,,Alexandru cel Bun”, 1999, p. 20).

[16] Cf. Ion Popescu, op. cit., pp. 25-26

[17] Rom. “să bocim în stârpea românească/ a locurilor astea ca o rană – / eu, mut, în limba mea moldovenească,/ ei, muți, în limba lor bucovineană.”

[18] Professor with the Classical and Romanian Philology Department, the Chernivtsi University, and honorary member of the Romanian Academy

[19] Alexandrina Cernov, “Învățământul în limba română în Ucraina: condiții, probleme și perspective”, in Materialele primului congres al intelectualității românești din regiunea Cernăuți, 25 aprilie 1999, p. 25

[20] Mircea Lutic, “Câteva considerații asupra patrimoniului spiritual românesc al Bucovinei din perspectivă istorică”, in Materialele primului congres al intelectualității românești din regiunea Cernăuți, 25 aprilie 1999, p. 25

[21] Maria Toacă, “Între aspirații și drepturi garantate”, in Plai românesc, Cernăuți, septembrie 1996

[22] The original poem uses words pronounced with a Moldavian accent (t/n): “Doamni, dac-ar și vodatâ/ Sâ vinim la jiudicatâ,/Sâ ni mai ierț din pacati,/ Câ li-am ispașât pi toati/ …/Am pierdut tot și ni-ai dat,/ Numa limba ni-am pastrat./ Dacâ șî limba li-om da,/ Doamni, cum ni-om mai ruga?/ C-Așel și ni ocrotești/ Știi numa românești.”

[23] Gheorghe Platon, “România în jocul politic al marilor puteri. Determinism și acțiune națională”, in Analele Bucovinei, 1995, Nr. 2, p. 234