Files from the Whispered History of Romanians (2)

Moldavia of Stefan the Great and Holy,

permanently under the suzerainty

of one, two or even three countries:

Ottoman Empire, Poland and Hungary

Stefan the Great and Holy was voievode of Moldavia between April 14, 1457 and July 2, 1504, during which, according to his testimony, wore 36 battles, of which 34 won.

The most resounding battles won by Stefan the Great and Holy were against the Ottoman Empire, at Vaslui, on January 10, 1475, against Hungary, at Baia, on December 15, 1467, and against Poland, at Codrii Cosminului, on October 26, 1496.

Among other won battles, the most important were against the army of Moldavia, at Doljesti, on April 2, 1457, against the army of Wallachia, at Bucharest, on November 21, 1473, and against the army of Khanate of Crimea, at Lipnic, on August 20, 1469.

The lost battles of the Moldavian voivode took place against the Ottoman Empire, at  Valea Alba, on July 26, 1476, and against Hungary, at Chilia, on June 22, 1462.

Throughout all reign,  Stefan the Great and Holy was particularly active and surprising in the diplomatic field, made five major changes in foreign policy, in all not on par, but inferiority, sought permanent to ensure to a country relatively small, as is Moldavia, a protective suzerainty from one or more  countries, the suzerain countries being Poland, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, taken by one, by two or by all three put together. Only in the last five years of his life and reign, Stefan the Great and Holy was predictable in foreign policy, being constantly under Ottoman suzerainty.

Moldavia was under the suzerainty of Poland from 14 September, 1387, when Petru II, named also Petru Musat, voivode of Moldavia between 1375 and 1391, signed in Lvov a treaty in this sense with Vladislav II, King of Poland between August 15, 1382 and June 1, 1434.

On October 12, 1449, occurred the battle of Tamaseni, at which Bogdan II, father of Stefan the Great and Holy, helped by Iancu of Hunyadi, regent of Hungary, defeated Ciubar Voda, becaming voievode of Moldavia.

As a result, through two acts, issued on February 11 and July 5, 1450, in Roman, respectively, in Suceava, Bogdan II, the illegitimate son of Alexandu the Good (n.a. voivode of Moldavia in the period June 29, 1400 – January 1, 1432), recognized the suzerainty of Hungary.

As a reprisal, Poland helped Petru Aron, son of Alexandru the Good, to reach the throne. On October 16, 1451, in Reuseni, in the front of an army, Petru Aron succeeded to attack by surprise Bogdan II, while he was attending a wedding, and beheaded him.

Petru Aron did no more recognize the suzerainty of Hungary. After fighting for the throne of Moldavia with Alexandrel, the younger brother of Roman II, whom defeated definitively on May 24, 1455, Petru Aron passed back  Moldavia under the suzerainty of Poland, bringing fidelity homage in 1455, as well in 1456, giving at the same time privileges to the merchants of cloth from Krakow, privileges started during the reign of Alexandru the Good.

On June 5, 1456, at the request of Sultan Mohamed II, made the year before, and to be sure of throne, Petru Aron began to pay tribute to the Ottoman Empire, tribute in worth of 2,000 ducats.

Here it was a precedent, Petru Aron  brought Moldavia under a double sovereignty: Polish and Ottoman!

But the period of anarchy, of fighting for the throne of Moldavia, battle commenced on January 1, 1432, when died Alexandru the Good, not ceased. On the political arena  entered Stefan the Great and Holy, who has lived at the court of Iancu Hunyadi after July 5, 1450, when Bogdan II recognized the suzerainty of Hungary, and until August 11, 1456, when died the regent of Hungary.

In the battle of Doljesti, on April 12, 1457, Stefan the Great and Holy defeated the army of Moldavia, led by Petru Aron and began a reign of 47 years, the second longest in Romanian history, after that of 48 years, of Carol I.

In this battle, Stefan the Great and Holy was aided by soldiers of Vlad the Impaler, the husband of Ilona Szilagyi, and son in law of Mihaly Szilagyi, father in law, who, during the Battle of Doljesti was in full period of regency of Hungary. For more clarity, it should be added that Mihaly Szilagyi was brother of Erzebet Szilagyi, the  wife of Iancu Hunyadi and mother of Matthias Corvinus, in other words, Mihaly Szilagyi was the brother in law of Iancu Hunyadi and the uncle of Matthias Corvinus. It is also necessary to specify that Mihaly Szilagyi was regent of Hungary shortly after November 23, 1456, when died King Ladislaus VI, and until January 20, 1458, when the Diet choose Matthias Corvinus as king of Hungary.

So, Stefan the Great and Holy began his reign under a double suzerainty, Hungarian and Ottoman, he continuing to pay the tribute of 2,000 ducats, began by Petru Aron.

But, unwilling to enter into an anti-Ottoman alliance, as him demanded Matthias Corvinus, the king of Hungary, Stefan the Great and Holy made a first big change in his foreign policy. Thus, on April 4, 1459, when king of Poland was Casimir IV Jagiellon (n.a. king in the period June 25, 1447 – June 7, 1492), Stefan the Great and Holy acknowledged Polish suzerainty.

Started a period in which Moldavia was under another doble sovereignty: Polish and Ottoman. After the second assault, this time victorious, on January 24, 1465, on the fortress Chilia, Stefan the Great and Holy increased  the tribute to the High Porte to 3,000 ducats.

The most important Hungarian reprisal after the event of April 4, 1459 came after eight years, when the army led by Matthias Corvinus entered the territory of Moldavia and, consequently, in the night between December 14 and 15, 1467 occurred the battle of Baia, besides Suceava, with the army led by Stefan the Great and Holy. King Matthias Corvinus was wounded three times and his army escaped alive and unharmed only by half. Mathias Corvinus escaped, his running away being relieved by the hesitation the great “vornic” (n.a. in the Middle Ages, “vornic” was a high magistrate, charged with overseeing the Court, with the management of the country’s internal affairs, and having judicial powers)  Crasnas, commander of one of the three bodies Moldavian Army. This mistake was punished by Stefan the Great and Holy, who ordered to behead Crasnas, but for 24 other landowners, considered as traitors, he ordered to be executed by impalement, after the model of whom helped him to ascend on the throne, Vlad the Impaler.

The second major change in his foreign policy was in 1473, when Stefan the Great and Holy ceased paying tribute of 3,000 ducats, thus renouncing the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire.

In this way, Moldavia remained only under Polish suzerainty.

In the same time began the campaign of Stefan the Great and Holy to support  Laiota Basarab to ascend on the throne of Romanian Land, in order of a joined fight of their countries against the Ottomans. The army of Stefan the Great and Holy and the army of mercenaries of Laiota Basarab passed the river Milcov on November 8, 1473, and between November 18 and 20, 1473, took place the so – called battle of the Cursul Apei, near Gheorghita, from the current Prahova county. The army of Radu the Handsome, the brother of Vlad the Impaler, was beaten and the Wallachian ruler got refuge in Bucharest. Even there he did not found peace of mind, where on November 21 began a siege. Radu the Handsome retreated in Giurgiu, the residence of the Ottoman homonymous raya, and returned to Bucharest in front of an army of Vlachs and Turks, army which on November 26 was rejected at the entry into Bucharest by the troops led by Stefan the Great and Holy and Laiota Basarab.

Sensing the danger of a large Ottoman attack, Stefan the Great and Holy made a third big change in his foreign policy. On July 12, 1474, the Moldavian ruler  recognized again the suzerainty of Hungary, whose king was still Matthias Corvinus (n.a. king in the period January 20, 1458 – April 6, 1490).

Thus, Stefan the Great and Holy got two suzerains in his intention to face reprisals of the Ottoman Empire, which came after less than half a year.

On January 10, 1975, in Vaslui, Stefan the Great and Holy rejected the attack of the Ottomans, led by Suleiman Pasha, bey of Rumelia.

Then, after the Battle of Valea Albă, on July 26, 1476, had with the Ottomans headed, this time, by Sultan Mehmet II (n.a. sultan during the period February 18, 1451 – May 3, 1481), Stefan the Great and Holy and what remained from of his army retreated in the fortresses of Suceava and Hotin, applying the strategy of scorched earth.

On August 10, 1476, deprived of food, Mehmet II decided to end the siege of the two fortresses. Thus there were created the conditions for Stefan the Great and Holy to move to the fourth big change in his foreign policy. Moldavian sovereign signed a peace treaty with Mehmet II, through which Moldavia went back under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire and was again forced to pay the annual tribute of 3,000 ducats. As an aside, later in 1480, on its own initiative, Stefan the Great and Holy increased this tribute to 6,000 ducats, hoping that the Turks will not occupy, mainly, the fortress Chilia, hope which lasted four years because on July 14, 1484 the army led by Bayezid II (n.a. sultan in the period May 3, 1481 – April 24, 1512), conquered this very important commercial center of Moldavia.

Thus, Stefan the Great and Holy got to ensure to Moldavia three suzerain countries, the Ottoman Empire, Poland and Hungary, fact which was not of much use if already had  been torn off from her crown jewels like Chilia and Cetatea Albă.

Therefore, the triple suzerainty did not exist too much, Stefan the Great and Holy took the fifth biggest change in his foreign policy, he began to believe that to Moldavia will be sufficient an unique suzerainty, that of the Ottoman Empire.

Hungarian suzerainty over Moldavia gradually weakened, with the start from August 10, 1476, when Stefan  the Great and Holy went back under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire and ended tacitly after April 6, 1490, when Matthias Corvinus died.

Polish suzerainty lasted, in fact, until October 26, 1497, when took place the battle of  Codrii Cosminului, during the reign of King John Albert (n.a. king in the period September 23, 1492 – June 17, 1501). It is worth to mention that Polish suzerainty over Moldavia officially ceased as the result of a treaty between the two countries, signed on July 12, 1499.

After the battle of Codrii Cosminului, when Poles were defeated, fact pleased by Turks, the tribute claimed by the High Porte dropped to 4,000 ducats.

At the same time, we can say that Stefan  the Great and Holy has finally found a suzerainty strong enough to Moldavia, offering to ” the quickly eager to shed innocent blood,” as described by Grigore Ureche, the last five years of reign and life without battles, in the rest so necessary for his age of 65-70 years, age very advanced at that time.

Also, Stefan  the Great and Holy had the merit of choosing a suzerainty, who did not try to assimilate the population of Moldavia with that of Turkish language, as happened with other occupants of the Romanian territories.

This truth, that a relatively small country needs a suzerainty from a great power, foreign policy applied even for the most warrior Romanian ruler, Stefan the Great and Holy, must be said out loudly, not in a whisper or even passed under silence.

The problem is the science of choosing a suzerainty that does not dismantle us as people, being well known the previous cases of Russification,  Magyarization of a large number of Romanians…


The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”

(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)