The Beginnings of Slavonic Culture in the Roumanian Countries

Grigore Nandriş


(The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 24, No. 63 (Jan., 1946), pp. 160-171)



The study of early Slavonic influence in Roumanian culture seeks, in the first place, to answer the following questions : (1) When were the forms of Slavonic culture adopted by the Roumanians ? (2) Where did these forms come from and in what circumstances ? The evolution of Slavonic influence on Roumanian soil can be studied by means of documents, but around its beginnings several hypotheses have arisen.


The adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet by the Roumanians and the introduction of the Slavonic liturgical language in the Roumanian Church have always excited the curiosity of scholars interested in Roumanian and Slavonic culture. The Cyrillic alphabet was in use in the Roumanian countries until the middle of the nineteenth century. It was only in 1860 that Prince Alexander Ioan Cuza abolished it for official use in the institutions of the state i.e. the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. In the Roumanian Church the Cyrillic alphabet continued to be used up to 1890, when the Roumanians began to print their church books in Latin characters. The Cyrillic letters became during their long use a national patrimony of the Roumanians. When, in the 17th century, Greek culture penetrated their lands, the Cyrillic letters were used against the Greek influence and symbolised a national reaction against a foreign invasion. It was the national revival, at the beginning of the 19th century, which eliminated the Cyrillic alphabet altogether.


When was the Cyrillic alphabet adopted ? This question is directly connected with the introduction of the Slavonic language in the Roumanian Church and in the affairs of the two Roumanian Principalities.


The idea has been advanced that the Old-Church-Slavonic language was introduced into the Roumanian Church by the disciples of the Slav apostles, Cyril and Methodius. The author of this hypothesis, B. P. Hasdeu, [1] himself abandons it when he questions the authenticity of its source, the Slovak priest Stredovsky, [2] an unreliable chronicler of the 17th century (1679-1713) who took his information from the Moravian historical writer Christianus Hirschmenzel who lived half a century before him. [3]


The biographies of the Slav apostles Cyril and Methodius are the surest sources of information on contemporary culture. None of these biographies prove Stredovsky's allegation that two disciples of Cyril and Methodius preached in the Roumanian countries—Iaudow in Dacia and Moznapan " in Alpibus Valachicis". [4] Nor is this information confirmed from any other source.


We cannot exclude a priori the possibility of Slavonic influence entering the Roumanian countries from Moravia-Slovakia, in the period after the activity of Cyril and Methodius ; the aftermath of this activity was rich not only in Moravia and Bohemia but also in the parts of Slovakia adjoining the Roumanian territory. The existence of Slavo-Rumanian political organisations on this territory, at the end of the 9th century, speaks in favour of the expansion of Cyrillo-Methodian culture in that direction. The argument that this culture is Glagolitic does not eliminate that possibility. The traditional theory that the Slavo apostles used in Great Moravia only the Glagolitic alphabet and that the Cyrillic alphabet, the only one used in Slavo-Roumanian writing, is a later creation of one of the disciples of Cyril and Methodius, probably of Clement of Ohrida, is now not generally accepted.



1. B. P. Hasdeu, Limba slavică la Români până la 1400 (Ziarul "Traian" 1869, p. 168).


2. B. P. Hasdeu, Arhiva istorică, III, p. 178.


3. Jan Jakubec, Dějiny literatury české I 1929, 898, 913.


4. J. G. Stredovsky, Sacra Moraviæ Historia sive vita S.S. Cyrilli et Methodii, Solisbaci 1710, p. 231.







According to Ellis H. Minns, both alphabets were invented by Cyril, the Cyrillic first—for the benefit of the Slavs around Salonica. "Afterwards when sent on a mission into a land where Greek influence was struggling with Latin he transformed the Greek letters to make them less suspect in Latin eyes." [1]


We have no direct information about the expansion of the activity of the disciples of the Slav apostles in other countries than Bulgaria. The sources—especially the Biographies of Cyril and Methodius—say that after the death of the latter in 885, his disciples were driven out of Moravia by the German clergy and crossed the Danube into Bulgaria. The Hungarian invasion of Pannonia in 896, put an end to the evangelistic activity of the Slav apostles ; Prince Mojmir lost his life in the battle, his capital was plundered and disappeared from the earth. The successors of Cyril and Methodius fled where they found more favourable conditions for their work : in the first place they took refuge in the new Bulgaria, which was rising between Byzantium and the Frankish Empire. This state was in need of an autonomous church with a hierarchy and a liturgical language of its own, and Cyril's and Methodius' disciples, preaching in a Bulgarian dialect, could best fulfil this task. The Roumanian Slavist I. Bogdan maintains that the Roumanians borrowed the Cyrillic alphabet in the 14th century. [2] This opinion must be supplemented by one of his earlier studies, [3] in which he affirms that the Slavonic language was introduced into Roumanian lands by a slow penetration resulting from the cohabitation of the Roumanians with the Slavs. The chronological side of this hypothesis is based on the tact that the oldest Slavo-Rumanian charters date from the 14th century. The charter of the Voevod Vladislav refering to the monastery of Vodiţa in Wallachia dates from 1370 : the oldest Moldavian charter is that of the Voevod Roman, dating from 1393. The former of these has the paleographic characteristics of the Southern Slav charters, the second shows the caligraphic practice of the chanceries of southern Russia in the second half of the 14th century. [4] This does not mean there did not exist other older Slavo-Roumanian charters before those mentioned.


If we take into consideration the fact that the Christian faith was preached to the Roumanians at the latest by the beginning of the 4th century, as the Latin Christian terminology in the Roumanian language shows, and that the oldest written documents originating from the Roumanian countries are Slav charters from the 14th century, we cannot conceive of the existence of a Christian life for some ten centuries without writing. However rural this society might have been, it must have had a written language in which the Holy Word was worshipped during these centuries, although we have neither Latin, Greek, nor Slavonic documents. Doubtless Latin must have been employed in the Northern Balkan Peninsula and in the Dacia of Trajan until the invasion of the Slavs (6th–7th century), when the Illyrian bishoprics disappeared. Without fear of error we can go far beyond the 14th century to fix the limit ante quem the earliest Slavonic influence began to be exercised over Roumanian culture.


As to the way in which the Cyrillic alphabet and the Slavonic liturgical language were introduced in Roumanian countries, it is hard to conceive how it could have happened through the cohabitation of Roumanians with Slavs. This is an ethnical process with possible influences on the language and folklore, and with consequences of biological intermixture. Cultural influences are determined by the need of people for a spiritual life ; and by the prestige of a superior culture, with which that people comes in contact. Such cultural influences are maintained by political factors. Therefore the Slavs north of the Danube who



1. Ellis H. Minns, Saint Cyril really knew Hebrew (Mélanges-Paul Boyer, 1925, 97).


2. Bogdan, Dela cine şi când au împrumutat Românii alfabetul cirilic (Omagiu lui Titu Maiorescu, 585-94).


3. Analisă critică a câtorva notiţe despre introducerea liturgiei slave la Români (Convorbiri Literare, XXIII, 1889, 295-317).


4. Cf. E. K. Kałužniacki, Kirillovskoje pis'mo u Rumynu, 7-8 (Encyklopedija Slavjanskoj Filologiji, 4, 2, 1915).





were assimilated by the Roumanians could not transmit to the latter forms of Slavonic culture ; just as, on the other hand, the Slavs south of the Danube, who assimilated the greater part of the Roumanians who lived there, did not transmit to the non-Slavicised Roumanians still living among them forms of Slavonic culture. Roumanians of the Balkans have no Slavonic language in their churches. The French, Poles, Germans, etc., did not accept the Latin language in the Church and the State, because they lived together with the Latins. The Slav language was introduced in the Roumanian countries by a process similar to that which introduced the Latin language of the Roman Catholic faith to the Poles, Croats or Czechs.





The question of the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet to the Roumanians has at an earlier date interested the student of Roumanian culture and history. Opinions of earlier chroniclers regarding this question are only echoes of old traditions. The chronicler of the 17th century, Miron Costin, speaks about Serbian books which came from Ohrida. The term "Serbian" has the meaning of Middle Slavonic, because, after the fall of the Bulgarian state, Slavonic influence came into Roumanian countries from Serbia. Demetrius Cantemir aiscribes the introduction of the Slavonic language and the Cyrillic alphabet to the Metropolitan Theoctist during the reign of Alexander the Good (1400-32), and explains it as a reaction against Catholicism after his predecessor in the Moldavian See had adopted Catholicism at the Council of Florence. The Metropolitan Theoctist abolished the Latin letters, Cantemir says, with the intention of severing every bond with the Catholic West : [1]


"Before the Council of Florence the Moldavians wrote in Latin letters, like all peoples whose languages are derived from the ancient Roman language. After, however, the Metropolitan of Moldavia went to the above-mentioned Council where he turned over to the side of the Latins, his successor Theoctist, a deacon of Marcus of Ephesus, of Bulgarian origin, persuaded Prince Alexander the Good not only to expel the heterodox from the country, but also to delete the Latin letters from all writings and books, and to introduce in their place Slavonic ones, with the purpose of destroying all traces of Latin in the Moldavian Church, and of taking away every opportunity of reading the sophisms of the Latins to the young people."


This statement confuses the dates. The Council of Florence took place in 1437, Alexander the Good reigned from 1400 to 1432 ; but it echoes an old tradition and shows that after the Council of Florence the Slavo-Greek influence increased in Moldavia.


Among the modern historians, A. D. Xenopol represents the view that the Western form of Christianity was replaced in the Roumanian countries by the Eastern Slavo-Byzantine during the first Bulgarian Empire, in the reign of Tsar Boris (852-88) or of Tsar Simeon (893-927). This change in Roumanian Christianity was performed by violence. According to this historian, Slavo-Greek Christianity was introduced by the authority of the Bulgarian conqueror, therefore the Roumanian Church stood ecclesiastically under the direct jurisdiction of the Bulgarian Patriarch.


The Slavist E. Kałužniacki gives more chronological precision to this theory and maintains that the Roumanians borrowed the Cyrillic alphabet from the Bulgarians during the reign of Simeon, and that the Roumanian countries became a link between the southern and the northern branches of Byzantine culture when later, at the end of the 10th century, the Russians accepted the Christian, faith. This statement is made without further explanation in a footnote. [2] There are scholars who have tried to fix the date of the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet into Roumanian culture before the 14th century. I. Bărbulescu categorically fixes it in the 12th century, while P. Cancel goes even further into the past without however being precise. Bărbulescu supposes that the Roumanians



1. D. Cantemir, Descriptio Moldaviæ, 1700, ed. Acad. Rom, (1872), 168.


2. E. Kałužniacki, ibid., p. 1, note 3.





and the Slavs used the Latin and the Greek alphabets before the Slav language had been imposed North of the Danube by Tsar Asen. The same conception, in simplified form, occurs in the Slavo-Bulgarian History of Paisi of the 18th century. [1]





The hypotheses outlined above represent all the opinions concerning the beginning of Slavonic influences in Roumanian culture. For want of direct historical information they are based on conjectures. None of them exhausts the possibilities of explaining these obscure beginnings, while the results of later researches concerning the history of South-Eastern Europe have overshadowed them. In the following exposition the results of these researches will be taken into consideration.


The cultural influences of one people upon another cannot be explained by "acts of violence". Cultural superiority of a people in a certain domain of civilisation, and the cultural need of another people, are the principal factors which determine cultural borrowings. Political circumstances help or hinder this process.


Early Roumanian Christianity in its Latin form was supported, North and South of the Danube, by the bishoprics which existed in Illyricum until after the arrival of the Slavs there in the 6th–7th century. We do not know anything about the existence of such bishoprics North of the Danube. The Illyrian bishoprics were dependent on the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rome. [2] The Slavs found in the Balkan Peninsula a Christianity which had been organised before the 7th century. The archdiocese of Salona with six bishoprics, the archdiocese of Prima Justiniana created in a.d. 535 for all provinces south of the Danube—i.e. also for the Roumanians who lived there—were dependent on Rome. Until the year 860 the archbishop of Thessalonika was nominated—move vetere—a Vicar apostolic in the provinces of Illyricum : Epirus, Macedonia, Thessaly, Achaia, Dacia Ripensis, Dacia Mediterranea, Moesia, Dardania, and Prevalitania. [3] The bishops of these provinces often developed missionary activities north of the Danube.


From among these stood out Niceta the missionary-bishop of Remasiana in Dacia Mediterranea (Bela Palanka of to-day). He lived at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century, developed a rich literary activity in Latin, and played an important rôle in the life of the Christians north of the Danube. Until the 4th century we have no archaeological proofs of the existence of organised Christian communities among the Romans in the Dacia of Trajan. Doubtless there existed isolated Christians among the Roman legionaries or the slaves' brought by the Romans into this province. The later researches of archaeologists show, however, that the epigraphic signs on a ring of Sarmisegetusa and the marks on a stone in Turda, regarded hitherto as Christian symbols of the first centuries, have nothing to do with Christianity. [4] Mansion's theory that in the Dacia of Trajan there existed in the towns Christian nuclei at the arrival of the Goths there has been challenged by Zeiller. [5]



1. Paisi, Carstvennikŭ ili Istorija Bolgarskaja, 45, Buda, 1844.


2. A. E. Burn, Niceta of Remisiana, his life and works, Cambridge, 1905, XXII;

F. Dvornik, Les Slaves, Byzance et Rome au IXème siècle, Paris, 1929, 73.


3. Cf. D. Onciul, Românii din Dacia Traiană, Bucarest, 1902, 36;

Louis Bréhier, Histoire d l'Eglise, vol. 4, 1937, 537;


" Au VIème siècle le patriarcat de Constantinople ne comprenait en Europe que le diocèse de Thrace. Le reste de la péninsule des Balkans formant la préfecture du prétoire d'Illyricum et comprenant les deux diocèses de Macédoine et de Dacie, bienque rattaché politiquement à Constantinople depuis Gratien, continuait à relever directement de la jurisdiction du pape, considéré comme patriarch d'Occident et représenté par le vicaire apostolique créé par le pape Damasc à Thessalonique."


4. M. Daicoviciu, Exista monumente creştine în Dacia Traianà din sec. 2-3 ? (Anuarul Institutului de Studii Clasice, II, Cluj, 1922, 203) ;

G. Brătianu, Les origines du peuple roumain : les donnés archéologiques, Bucarest, 1939, 27.


5. J. Mansion, Les origines du christianisme chez les Goths (Analecta Bollandiana, XXXIII, 1914, 5 sq.;

J. Zeiller, Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l'Empire Romain, 40-2.





There is an interesting agreement between linguistic and archaeological facts concerning the first traces of Christianity among the Roumanians. They agree for the 4th century. The Christian connotation of some of the Latin terms of Roumanian is relatively lately attested by texts, e.g. the word paganus acquired the sense of non-Christian, which it has in Roumanian at the beginning of the 4th century at the latest ; and basilica acquired a Christian connotation about the same time. [1]


In the second half of the 9th century the Balkan region South of the Danube underwent a political and ecclesiastical transformation. The Slavonic Church culture created by Byzantine scholars in Central Europe, in the sphere of influence of Rome, took refuge in the territory of King Boris of Bulgaria subject to the Byzantine influence. Boris, who had accepted Christianity in the year 864, relinquished ecclesiastical bonds with Rome and approached the Church of Constantinople—his godfather was the Emperor Michael—because this assured him more independence. The Byzantine clergy were more dependent upon the Emperor-Autocrator, while the Church and the clergy of Rome were subject to the authority of the Pope.


The rôle of the Illyrian bishoprics subject to Rome was inherited by the Bulgarian Church, whose independent organisation began under Boris, and was completed under Simeon ; the latter having been educated in Constantinople. He abandoned the Tartar title of Sublime Khan and called himself, on the Byzantine model, Tsar-Autocrator of the Bulgarians and of the Greeks. His capital, Preslav, near present-day Šumla, became a political, cultural and ecclesiastical centre, and his ambition was to give to his capital city the splendour of Constantinople. Simeon founded here a Patriarchate. The first Bulgarian Patriarch recognised by the Œcumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, was Demetrius, under the reign of Simeon's son Peter (927-69). Recognition, however, was not given to the patriarch of Preslav. The title of the Bulgarian Patriarch was to be "metropolitan of Silistra and patriarch of all Bulgaria", because Silistra, the ancient Durostolum, was one of the oldest bishoprics in Balkan Christianity.


The cultural activity of the disciples of Cyril and Methodius, established during the reign of Boris in the monastery of St. Panteleimon founded by Boris, near Preslav, and in Ohrida, developed a flourishing literary school which created the Golden Age of Old Slavo-Bulgarian literature. This literature consists of numerous translations and compilations from the Greek. Bishop Constantine wrote Didactic Gospels with an introduction in verse, the first attempt at Slav versification, the exarch John wrote the Šestodnev (Hexameron) and other translations, the monk Gregory translated John Malalas' Chronicle. Simeon himself is supposed to have translated parts of John Chrysostom. Probably here in Preslav the complicated Glagolitic alphabet, created in Moravia after the model of the Greek minuscule, was replaced by the simpler Cyrillic deriving from the Greek majuscule. While in the west, in Croatia and Dalmatia, and also in Macedonia the Glagolitic alphabet continued its existence in an altered form, in Eastern Bulgaria the Cyrillic was used exclusively. It is surprising that the Apology of the Slavonic Letters written by the monk Hrabr at the beginning of the 10th century, does not speak of two Slavonic alphabets. On the other hand it is significant that from the beginning of her literature Russia uses exclusively Cyrillic. Probably the two graphic systems coexisted for some time, and it is evident that the Cyrillic, being clearer and simpler, was used with preference (perhaps exclusively) in the new territories acquired by the expansion of Slavonic culture, i.e., north of the Danube and in Russia.


The conclusion to be drawn from the historical circumstances expounded above is that after the organisation of the Slavo-Bulgarian Church on the model of Byzantium, the Roumanians north of the Danube, who in early centuries had had an ecclesiastical relationship with the bishoprics of Illyricum, entered into relations with this Slavo-Bulgarian Church of East Bulgaria, which was the



1. J. Zeiller, Paganas, étude de terminologie historique, 1917, p. 16;

idem., Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l'Empire Romain, 1918, p. 40.





succession to the bishoprics of Illyricum. In the historical process which took place in Central and South-Eastern Europe in the 9th century and after, the struggle between the two centres of Christian life, Rome and Byzantium, Rome lost the Carpatho-Balkan territory while Byzantium lost its foothold in Central Europe. The penetration of the one to the west and the expansion of the other to the east was at an end. The Roumanians of the Carpatho-Balkanic region came under the influence of Byzantium. They received the Byzantine culture in Slavonic form through the Bulgarians, who established state and church between the straits and the Carpatho-Danubian region.





The Slavo-Byzantine culture of the young Bulgarian state radiated to the north across the Danube into a region which had always had relations with the south. It was the continuation of a spiritual life between the north and the south. Only, the ecclesiastical head, as well as the centre of culture and the liturgical language, have, been changed. This change corresponds to a completely new orientation in the life of the Balkans after the arrival of the Slavs. The Slavonic liturgy and the Slavonic language of the chanceries could have been introduced in the Rumanian countries without a political conquest of these countries by any Slav people. It was the cultural prestige and the necessity for these elements of culture which determined their adoption by the Church and by the chanceries of the Roumanian Princes. The cultural rôle of the Slavonic language in the Roumanian countries was similar to that of Latin in Western Europe.


From Simeon's Bulgaria Slavo-Byzantine culture radiated to other countries which had adopted Christianity of the Eastern form. It spread to Kiev after this became Christian in a.d. 987 under Vladimir, and also to the neighbouring Serbia. [1] It is natural that the Slavo-Byzantine culture should have been transmitted from Bulgaria to the Roumanians north of the Danube, with whom many friendly links existed ; when in 972 the Byzantine Emperor John Tsimiskes, an Armenian, conquered Preslav and abolished the patriarchate established by Simeon, the Patriarch of Preslav, Damian, took refuge in Silistra on the Danube ; from Silistra he wandered to Ohrida in the West Bulgarian state of Samuel. [2] Ohrida was an important centre of Slav culture which continued the tradition of Clemens, the first Bulgarian bishop sent to Ohrida from Preslav. After the fall of the West Bulgarian state, however (1014), it became towards the middle of the 11th century a centre of Greek culture. The Greek bishops established here now enjoyed more independence in their relations with Constantinople than the Bulgarian Church, which fell under the direct administration of the Patriarch.


These facts may explain the existence of early relations between the Roumanian Church of the 14th century and Ohrida, which continued the tradition of the Preslav hierarchy, and enjoyed the prestige of an independent partner of Constantinople. The nature of these relations are not yet clear. Lately, the existence of any canonic or cultural relation between the Roumanian Church and the archbishopric of Ohrida has been categorically denied.


"Never has Moldavia submitted, not even in principle, to the archbishopric of Achris (Ohrida) ; it is not possible to admit that in the 15th or 16th centuries there existed any intimate cultural or literary relations between the Church of Moldavia and the archbishopric of Achris. As far as Wallachia is concerned it is useless even to discuss whether it was ever dependent on that archbishopric, because nothing authorises such a hypothesis." [3]


There are, however, not only authorities which admit that both Roumanian Churches were dependent in the 15th century on the bishopric



1. Cf. N. van Wijk, Geschichte der altkirchenslavischen Sprache, 7, 1931, 12.


2. Cf. H. Gelzer, Der Patriarchat von Achrida, 3 (Abhandlungen der. phil. hist. cl. d. kgl. Sächs. Gesellschaft d. Wiss., XX, nr. 5, Leipzig, 1902).


3. Michel Lascaris, Joachim, métropolite de Moldavie et les rélations de l'Église moldave avec le Patriarcat de Peč et l'archevêché ďAchris au XVème siècle. (Académie Roumaine, Bulletin de la Section historique, XIII, 1927, 142).





of Achris, but some affirm that the Moldavian and Wallachian Churches were dependent on Achris even before the foundation of the Roumanian principalities.


For early relations between the Bulgarian and Roumanian Churches there is quoted also the Charter of the Emperor Basil II, dated May, 1020. [1] This Charter is a confirmation of the situation found in the Bulgarian Church by John Tsimiskes when he conquered Bulgaria in the year 922. The Charter submits the bishops of Dristra (Silistria), Bodina (Vidin) and Rhasos (Rasa) to the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Ohrida. Reference is made in the Charter not only to the enumerated bishoprics subject to the Bulgarian Archbishop, but also to other bishoprics which are on Bulgarian soil and in towns which "have not been mentioned in this our Charter". The document mentions also that the authority of the Bulgarian Church extends over "the Vlahs of all Bulgaria". If we admit that Simeon's Bulgaria stretched also north of the Danube and that the Charter of 1020 confirms the situation of the time of Simeon, we may find in this Charter proof of relations between the Bulgarian and Roumanian Church. If the sovereignty of Simeon's Bulgarian state reached north of the Danube over the Roumanians, the authority of the Church of Preslav was also extended over the Roumanian Church. On this Charter some historians base their affirmations that the jurisdiction of the Bulgarian Church extended under Simeon's and Peter's reigns over Wallachia and Moldavia ; others even hold the opinion that Bulgaria exercised its authority in Wallachia through the bishops of Vidin and Vranica (Braničevo in Serbia), and in Moldavia through the bishops of Dorostolon (Silistra) and Tomi [2] an opinion without any historical justification.


"The Vlahs of all Bulgaria" may refer rather to the Roumanians south of the Danube, as some later documents of the Archbishopric of Ohrida prove. The fact that sources do not at this time mention the Roumanian Church is not surprising. The existence of an organised church is conditioned by the existence of a politically independent state in the feudal sense. As long as the political organisation is reduced to minor forms (knezats or voevodats without a central monarchical organisation) there cannot exist an autonomous church with its own hierarchy. These conditions did not exist in the Carpatho-Danubian countries before the foundation of the two Roumanian principalities.


The rural Christianity of the time before the foundation of the principalities, as is shown by the fundamental Christian terminology in Roumanian, was a creation of the missionaries who came from south of the Danube, and depended upon the Thraco-Illyrian bishoprics. The Slavs destroyed these bishoprics, but Christianity survived. Under Boris and Simeon the Balkan Church was organised again. Under Simeon the number of metropolitans and bishops dependent on the Patriarch of Preslav is estimated at 19 metropolitans, with 56 bishops subject to these metropolitans, and 26 bishops subject to the patriarch, i.e. 101 bishops in all. It is natural that the bonds between the Roumanians and the new Bulgarian Church organised on the foundations of primitive Balkan Christianity should have continued.


At some epochs the Bulgarian Church was the intermediary between the Roumanians and Constantinople, in other epochs it had jurisdictional power. In the north, in Moldavia, the Church of Halič played, on a smaller scale, the same rôle in relation to the Church of Moldavia. When the Roumanians appear in the limelight of history, it is with a Byzantine culture in Slav form, and their Church is dependent on the Patriarch of Constantinople.


Another historical circumstance agrees with the facts set out above in sending us to the epoch of Simeon to seek for the beginnings of Slavonic culture in Roumanian countries. The Slavonic language was common to the churches of the three Danubian principalities : Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania. That



1. Cf. E. Golubinski, Očerkú istoriji pravoslavnychú cerkvej : bolgarskoj, serbskoj i rumynskoj ili moldovlaskoj, Moscow, 1871, 259-63;

Heinrich Gelzer, Abrissder griechischen Kaisergeschichte, 996 (Krumbacher, Gesch. d. byz. Lit.);

N. Dobrescu, Întemeierea mitropoliilor şi a celor dintâi mânăstiri din ţară, Bucharest, 1906, 3.


2. E. Golubinski, ibid., 348.





means that Slavonic influence had penetrated at the same time into the culture of all Roumanians. That could not have happened in Transylvania unless before the Magyars arrived in this province in the name of Western Catholicism, i.e., before the year 1000, in the epoch of Slavo-Roumanian community (7th-12th centuries), when the existence of Slavo-Roumanian and Cumano-Slavo-Roumanian political organisations existed in Transylvania.


Moreover, the Vita S. Gerhardi states that the Transylvanian Prince Ahtum of Morisena (Târgul Mureş), a contemporary of the Hungarian King Stephen, was baptised in Vidin "secundum ritum Grecorum", and that he "accepit autem potestatem a Grecis et construxit in predicta urbe Morisena monasterium in honore beati Ioanis Baptiste constituentes in eodem abbatem cum monachis grecis". This happened about a.d. 1000.


After the conquest of Transylvania by the Magyars, between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Hungarian rulers would have hindered the introduction of Slavonic influence in a territory conquered for the expansion of Rome, and the establishment of a Church organisation with roots in a rival Church, with a liturgical language banned by Rome. [1] In other words, if the relations of the Church of Transylvania with the Church of Wallachia and with that on the other bank of the Danube had not existed at the arrival of the Hungarians it is hard to imagine how these relations could have started and developed under Hungarian domination. That the rulers of these organisations and the people of their countries had a Greek form of Christianity is proved by the foundation of the Cumanian bishopric (1227-8), by the fact that the Papal Bull of 1234 mentions Greek heretics, bishops of the Wallachians in the bishopric of the Cumans. These later facts have an indirect value for an earlier epoch in which we are interested.


To the above hypothesis the following objection might arise : Slavonic influence began to penetrate north of the Danube from Western Bulgaria under the reigns of Šišman and of his son Samuel (977-1014) ; Ohrida, capital of Western Bulgaria, became a centre of Slavonic culture by the settlement here and in the nearby monastery of Devol, of some disciple-missionaries of Cyril and Methodius. The founder of this School was Clement, the first Bulgarian bishop, who came from Preslav in this country called Kutmičinica (886). This School of Slavonic culture still had a Glagolitic character, although it may have used in the later period the new Cyrillic alphabet too. [2] Here, at Ohrida, the culture of Preslav took refuge again after the sack of this capital in 972 by the Emperor Tsimiskes. We should not forget, however, that in the second half of the 9th century Western Bulgaria was uninterruptedly at war with Byzantium ; until in 1018 the Emperor Basil II Bulgaroktonos destroyed its independence. These political circumstances were less favourable to a cultural expansion than the epoch of prestige and splendour of Simeon, under whose reign peace lasted for twenty years.


Slavonic literary works were either imported or copied on Roumanian soil. The various Cyrillic schools of different epochs and regions have their representatives in the Roumanian lands. The older ones have been destroyed, and disappeared from circulation ; those in existence belong to the Middle Slavonic period, when Slavonic influence in the Roumanian countries was increased on a larger scale.


This period corresponds to the epoch of the second Bulgarian Empire of the Asen dynasty. In the time of John Asen II the Empire reached again power and prosperity favourable for cultural life as in Simeon's time. The capital Tărnovo was a centre of Slavonic culture until the Turks invaded the Balkans and occupied it in 1393. During this period the bonds with the Roumanians north of the Danube are better known. Kaloyan or Ionitsa associates himself with the Cumans and the Roumanians against the crusaders. John Asen II was



1. Golubinski, ibid., 346-7;

P. P. Panaitescu, La littérature slavo-roumaine (XVe-XVIIe siècle) et son importance pour l'histoire des littératures slaves, 2 (Sbornik pracî I Sjezdu slovanských filologů v Praze, 1929, sv. II, Praha, 1931).


2. Cf. N. van Wijk, ibid., 11-18.





married to the daughter of the Voevod Basarab of Wallachia. The historical sources speak repeatedly of "populi Bulgarorum et Blachorum" and of "Bulgariae et Vlahiae provinciae". [1]


Based on these sources modern historians emphasise the rôle played by the Roumanians in the life of this Empire :


"The final success of the Bulgarian movement was due not only to the Slavs, but also to the Turkish tribes of Cumans or Poloytsi and to a Romance element—the Wallachs (Vlachs) or Roumanians. The Wallachs, siding with the Bulgars, took a particularly active part in the insurrection. At the head of the Bulgarian movement stood two brothers, Peter (or Kalopeter) and John Asen, who were perhaps descendants of the former Bulgarian Tsars ; but they had grown up among the Wallachs and adopted their tongue." [2]


To quote the historian V. V. Vasilievsky (in Jurn. Min. Nar., vol. 204, p. 181) :


"In the persons of the leaders there was embodied exactly that fusion into one unit of the two nationalities, Bulgarian and Wallachian, that has been obvious in all narratives of the struggle for freedom and has been emphasised by modern historians."





The history of the Roumanian language supports the hypothesis which looks to Eastern Bulgaria for the beginnings of Slavonic influence in the Roumanian countries. Slavonic influence came into Roumania from various directions in different epochs. There exist Slav influences, of an early date, which direct us towards Eastern Bulgaria because they are explained by the Eastern Bulgarian dialect. This fact proves the existence of interchanges between Eastern Bulgarian and Roumanian linguistic territory, and these interchanges have the features of old borrowed elements. We must make here a clear distinction between linguistic and cultural facts. The first presuppose ethnical contacts between the respective groups, the latter political relations. The linguistic facts, however, are an indirect proof in support of cultural relations. In what follows I shall try to point out the most important isophones and isoglosses which group Roumanian closer together with the Eastern Bulgarian language, i.e. with that territory from where the oldest Slav influence is supposed to have come into Roumanian culture :


(a) The Eastern Bulgarian dialect is characterised by the vocalisation of aboriginal Slav (ŭ) in strong position into o. This vocalisation seems to have started in Macedonia. In the West Bulgarian dialect this phenomenon appears in isolation and was introduced from the East. Sporadically it appears in Old-Church-Slavonic of the 9th century. The Slav elements in the Roumanian language have the same vocalisation : Rum. dobitoc " cattle " < Sl. dobytŭkŭ ; Rum. vârtop " hole " or " ravine < Sl. vrŭtŭpŭ ; Rum. tocmai "just" (adv.) < Sl. tŭkŭmo.


(b) Another isophone which encloses the Roumano-Eastbulgarian area is the reflex of Old Slav. ě > 'a, e.g. trěba > tr'aba "thing" or "business". Although this evolution appears also in West Bulgarian, and, on the other hand, the West Bulgarian evolution ě > e is to be found sporadically in East Bulgarian dialect, it is characteristic of the East Bulgarian dialect and of the Slav elements of the Roumanian language. In certain positions 'a is altered in Bulgarian and in Roumanian. [3]


(c) The unstressed vowels a, o, e change in East Bulgarian their timbre : a > ă, o > u, e > i, e.g. Cárigrat > Cărigrăt, otíde > utîde, stojálo > stujálo, grend > grind. [4] The same tendency appears in the Roumanian vocalism, e.g. máre "big ; great" : măríre "greatness", mor "I am dying " : murím "we are dying",



1. Cf. Theiner, Vetera monumenta Slavorum meridionalium, I, 42-54.


2. A. A. Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire, II, 1929, 99;

cf. also F. Lot, Les invasions barbares et le peuplement de l'Europe, I, 1937, 229.


3. Cf. S. Mladenov, Gesch. d. bulg. Sprache, 90, 94 sq.


4. L. Miletič, Das Ostbulgarische, 68, 80, 81 (Wien. Ak. d. Wiss., Schriften der Balkankomission, Linguistische Abt. I, Südslavische Dialectstudien, II, 1903).





cetim "we are reading" : citim "idem". The alteration of unstressed a > ă is common to Roumanian, Bulgarian and Albanian. It is, however, regular in Roumanian and Eastern Bulgarian. The Albanian sometimes preserves a in unstressed position, e.g. Rum. cal "horse" : călare "on horseback" — Alb. Kal : Kaluar "cavalier". In the Albanian Gheg dialect, however, ă (ë) appears only in unstressed syllables, or in words which do not bear the accent in the sentence. [1] Opinions differ about the origin of this phenomenon. Doubtless the accent played an important rôle in originating this change. The Bulgarian language has no trace of aboriginal Slav musical accent and of vowel quantities. The Bulgarian accent is a strong dynamic one. This accent is the cause of the alteration of vowels in unstressed syllables. The same accent has the same effects in Roumanian and partly in Albanian (in the Gheg dialect). In the Roumanian dialect of Moldavia, where the accent is less dynamic, a remains unchanged in unstressed syllables, e.g. barbă "beard" : barbat "man", Mold. împarat "emperor" : lit. Rum. împărat.


(d) The aboriginal Slav phonetical groups -tort-, -tolt- (diphthongs with liquids between consonants) are reflected in the Roumanian words of Slav origin by -trat-, -tlat-, as in the Southern Slav languages, e.g. Rum. slatină " salted water Sl. slatina < aborig. Slav. *soltina ; Rum. prag " threshold " < Sl. pragŭ < aborig. Slav. *porgŭ. Roumanian possesses, however, a few isolated elements of Slav origin containing the reflex -talt-, -tart-, e.g. baltă "pool, lake", daltă "chisel", gard "hedge", alongside the South Slav blato, dlato, gradŭ. The oldest texts of Eastern Bulgarian present forms with the same reflex of the group -tolt- as these isolated Roumanian words. In Exarh John's Hexameron (Šestodněv) we find the forms baltĭna "pool" or "lake", maldosti "youth", salnostĭ "salt", as well as vŭzalŭkati "to be hungry" : vŭzlakati. The Exarh John is one of the outstanding writers of Simeon's period whose centre was Preslav. He probably introduced these words in the literary language, taking them from his Eastern Bulgarian dialect. [2]


(e) The existence in Roumania of the form rob "slave" instead of the expected rab may be explained through the same Roumano-East Bulgarian linguistic relations, although this form is to-day usual not only in Bulgarian but also in Serbian and in Slovene. In the Codex Suprasliensis the form rob occurs frequently instead of rab which is rarer. The Zographensis has only rob. Codex Suprasliensis is considered by competent scholars as an East Bulgarian text. It presents also other East Bulgarian linguistic features. [3]


The linguistic facts given above show that the Roumanian linguistic territory north of the Danube had of old close contacts with eastern Bulgaria. We should not, however, forget to take into consideration a circumstance which may reduce the value of these facts for the argumentation we have here in view, viz. the fact that some Roumano-Bulgarian conformities may be explained through the Slav dialect of Dacia, which was more akin to the Bulgarian dialects of the Balkans. Nevertheless, in view of the fact that the Roumano-East Bulgarian territory constitutes an isoglotic area, and some of the above considerations, e.g. the rôle of the accent, are apparently only East Bulgarian phenomena, we can consider them as peculiar to the East Bulgarian and Roumanian languages. The Daco-Slav dialect is unknown to us.


Slavonic culture in South-Eastern Europe changes from one centre to another according to the political situation which favoured its development. After the fall of Preslav, Slavonic culture takes refuge behind the walls of the monasteries in Ohrida and its surroundings. During the second Vlaho-Bulgarian Empire,



1. Cf. G. Weigand, Albanesische Grammatik, 1913, 3;

Kr. Sandfeld-Jensen, Linguistique balkanique, 1930, 125-6.


2. Cf. S. Mladenov, ibid., 346-7;

N. van Wijk, ibd., 97;

G. Nandriş, Les diphtongues à liquides dans les elements slaves du roumain (Mélanges de l'Ecole Roumaine en France, II, Paris, 1925, 3-25);

Al. Rosetti, Revue de linguistique romane, III, 227 sq.


3. Cf. N. van Wijk, ibid., 57; idem., Zur Komposition des aksl. Codex Suprasliensis (Mededeelingen der koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, A. Let., Deel 59, Serie A, Amsterdam, 1925, 25).





Tărnovo is the centre of cultural life. After the fall of Western Bulgaria, Slavonic culture found more favourable conditions for its development in a free Serbia, and, after Serbia came under Turkish domination, the Roumanian lands and Orthodox Russia became centres of refuge for Slavonic culture. According to these changes Slavonic cultural influence in the Roumanian countries came from different directions in the different epochs, beginning with Preslav of Simeon.





We have tried to fix the historical events which form the background for the earliest Slav influence in Roumanian culture. We have built more on conjecture than on facts, which are scarce for this period of Roumanian history. We have therefore looked for information also in linguistics.


Bulgarian culture of the 9th-13th centuries, with its centres in Preslav, Tărnovo and Ohrida, together with the historical events of this period, form the background on which should be projected the first influence of the Slavs on the Roumanian culture. Political relations between the north and the south of the Danube were close in this period, especially towards its end. The Bulgarian rulers asked help from the Cumans and from the Roumanians in their wars against Byzantium. The same rulers were related by marriage with the Roumanian Voevods.


The influence of the Bulgarian Church extended to the north over the Danube. The title given by the Pope to Basil, the primate of the Vlaho-Bulgarian Empire, was "primate of Bulgaria and of Wallachia". Bulgarian bishops are nominated in Wallachia, as the case of Jeremiah shows. The political and ecclesiastical links between the north and the south of the Danube could not have existed without consequences on the cultural ground.


As long as the Roumanian countries had no organised state, they had not their own ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Patriarch of Constantinople exercised his jurisdiction through the Church of Bulgaria. As soon as an organised state appeared in the Roumanian countries it claimed an ecclesiastical order in direct relation with the oecumenical patriarch. The foundation of the Roumanian Metropolitan Sees confirms this thesis. This brings us, however, to the 14th century and we enter the period which can be studied in the light of historical sources.


These sources throw light on the past events. A Charter dated May, 1359, of the Synod of Constantinople transferred, at the request of the Voevod Alexander, the Metropolitan of Vicina to the capital of Wallachia and decided that the Church of this country be submitted to the Patriarch of Constantinople. [1] Before that it is supposed that the Roumanian Church of Wallachia was dependent on the Patriarch of Tărnovo. In 1370 a second Metropolitan See of Wallachia was created and metropolitans from the south of the Danube found refuge in Wallachia. [2]


The metropolitan of Moldavia is mentioned for the first time in a charter of the patriarch of Constantinople dated July 36, 1401, referring to the bishop Joseph who had been consecrated by the metropolitan of Halič and was now recognised as Metropolitan of Moldavia by the Patriarch. The Metropolitan See of Moldavia must have been established towards the end of the 14th century. A charter of May, 1395, issued by the Patriarch of Constantinople instituted the priest Peter as administrator of the metropolitanate of Moldavia. The Moldavian Church must formerly have had some relations with the Church of Halič, but also with the Church of the Slavs of the Balkans, judging from a letter of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Matthew, who says that his predecessor Anthony did not recognise the bishops of Moldavia because they had been consecrated and sent there by the Serbian hierarchs who illegally assumed rights over Moldavia. [3]



1. Cf. Miklosich-Müller, Acta patriarchatus Constantinopolitani, I, 1860, 383-8.


2. Cf. Miklosich-Müller, ibid., II, 12, 519;

G. Nandris-G. Millet, Documente româneşti în limba slavă din mănăstirile Muntelui Athos, 1937, 17.


3. Miklosich-Müller, ibid., II, 528 sq., 532.





The older relations of the Patriarch of Constantinople with the Roumanian Church of Transylvania are attested by the Charter dated August 14, 1391, of the Patriarch Anthony, who states that the monastery St. Archangel Michael at Peri (Hruševo) in Maramureş, founded by the Voevods Baliţă and Dragoş is to be a staropigium, i.e., to depend directly on Constantinople.


From the above considerations referring to the oldest ecclesiastical bonds of the Roumanian Church of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania with the Patriarchate of Constantinople we may draw the following conclusions :


(a) There have existed ties between the Church north of the Danube and the Illyrian bishoprics, before the arrival of the Slavs in the Balkans.


(b) After the settlement of the Slavs in the Balkans and their conversion to Christianity, the Slav bishoprics entered into the function of the old bishoprics of the Balkans and continued relations with the Church north of the Danube. Because there did not exist independent Roumanian states, an independent Church and hierarchy did not exist. There was a primitive Roumanian Church with a rural character in ecclesiastical dependence on the Bulgarian Church or on the Church of Halič, and through them on Constantinople.


(c) When Roumanian independent states were created south and east of the Carpathians (14th century), autonomous Churches were also created with their proper hierarchy in direct dependence on Constantinople. Relations with the Slav Churches continued in the cultural field in accordance with the established tradition.



    Grigore Nandriş.