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Algora Publishing
New York
© 2002 by Algora Publishing.
All Rights Reserved.

No portion of this book (beyond what is permitted by

Sections 107 or 108 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976)
may be reproduced by any process, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted in any form, or by any means, without the
express written permission of the publisher.
ISBN: 1-892941-86-4 (softcover)
ISBN: 1-892941-87-2 (hardcover)

Library of Congress Card Number: 2002-005746

Mitrasca, Marcel.
Moldova : a Romanian province under Russian rule : diplomatic history
from the archives of the great powers / by Marcel Mitrasca.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1-892941-86-4 (alk. paper)
1. World War, 1914-1918—Territorial questions—Bessarabia (Moldova
and Ukraine) 2. Romania—Foreign relations—1914-1944. 3. Allied and
Associated Powers (1914-1920) Treaties, etc. 4. Bessarabia (Moldova and
Ukraine)—History—20th century. I. Title.
D651.B4 M55 2002

Front Cover: Romania (1918—1940)

Printed in the United States


1. Bessarabia until 1919 1
2. The Paris Peace Conference and the Bessarabian Question 3
3. The Bessarabian Question since 1920 6

Opportunity from Crisis 9
Strategies 10
Terminology 10
Author’s Purpose 12
Resources 14




Background 27
Making the Union 31
Delays in Romania’s Ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty 39
The Aftermath of the Union 40
Comments 43
Decree of the People’s Commissars, Breaking Relations 46


Shifting Positions in the First World War 54
Success at the Paris Peace Conference 60
The Paris Peace Conference and the Bessarabian Question 66
A Chronology 68
Bratianu and the Council of Ten, February 10, 1919 85
Bratianu and the Council of Five, July 2, 1919 86
The Council of Ten and the Bessarabian Question, August 1, 1919 89
The Romanian Action in Bessarabia at the Council of Heads of Delegations,
October 11, 1919 92
Al. Vaida-Voevod and the International Council of Premiers 93
The declaration adopted by the Representatives of The Principal Allied
Powers on March 3, 1920 96



The Bessarabian Question and Soviet-Romanian Relations 105
Bilateral Relations Before and During the Paris Peace Conference 107
The Warsaw and Vienna Conferences 114
From 1924 to the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations 123
From the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations to the 1940 Crisis 132
The White Russians and the Bessarabian Question 142
Annex: Memorandum of the Bessarabian Delegates, August 1919 153


During the Paris Peace Conference 167
The UK’s Role in the Signing of the Bessarabian Treaty 170
Motivation 170
Reasons 172
Negotiations 174
The Ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty 186
The UK Position after the Ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty 190
Annex: Report, Frank Rattigan (Bucharest) to Lord Curzon 197


Romanian-French Relations during the Peace Conference 205
The French Ratification 214
Conclusion — The French Position after Ratification 226


Romanian-Italian Relations Before and During the Peace Conference 237
The Ratification Question. First Phase, 1920-1926 240
The Ratification Question. Second Phase, 1926-1927 251
The Aftermath of the Ratification 260


First Period: 1920 to 1927 270
Signing the Bessarabian Treaty 270
The “Passive” Period 272
The Ishii Note 276
The Establishment of Diplomatic Relations Between Japan and the Soviet
Union 280
From the Exchange of Letters to the Italian Ratification 287
Second Period: 1927 to 1932 289
The Ratification Question and the Fishery Negotiations 292
The Romanian Campaign for Ratification during the Ministry of Ion Aurel
Vassiliu 300
The Romanian Campaign for the Ratification during the Ministry of G.G.
Stoicescu 309
The Nakamura Interpellations 310
Charles Davila and the Japanese Ratification Question 312
The End of the Romanian Campaign for the Japanese Ratification 314
The Third Period: 1933 to 1940 316
The Mass Media and the Japanese Ratification Question 321
The Romanian Press 321
The Japanese Press 326
Conclusions 331
Romania’s Diplomatic Actions 331
Japan’s Relations with the Soviet Union 334


Romanian-US relations during the War 346
Romanian-US relations during the Peace Conference 352
The Russian Question and the US Position on Bessarabia 361
Romanian-US Relations during the 1920s 366
Davila’s Campaign for US Recognition of the Bessarabian Union 372
Conclusions 389



The Great Powers and the Bessarabian Treaty 401
Consequences of the Failure to Bring the Treaty to Force 411

The Bessarabian Treaty of October 28, 1920 417
Bibliography 421
Index 437


Many persons and institutions kindly supported me in my work, and I would like to
express my gratitude.
First among them is the Japanese Ministry of Education, who provided me the
necessary scholarship funding to conduct my research.
Dumitru Preda, the director of the Romanian Foreign Ministry Archives, was
unfailingly helpful both in granting me access to the files and in giving me advice in my
work, and his distinguished colleagues in the Archives were gracious in their support for
my research.
Mrs. Georgeta Anghel and her colleagues at the Romanian National Archives gave
me access to the microfilm collections of documents dealing with Romania that had been
identified in the French and British Archives.
I also enjoyed the privilege and pleasure of conducting research in the Archives of
the Japanese Foreign Minister in Tokyo, where I was accorded access to all the files that
were of interest to me and received guidance whenever needed.
I have received invaluable advice from my professors in Aoyama Gakuin University
of Tokyo, whom it is a great pleasure to thank here: Shigeki Hakamada, and Akio
Watanabe. The first is among the best-known Japanese scholars in Russian affairs and
was of great help to me especially for the chapters regarding the Soviet-Romanian and
Japanese-Romanian relations. Professor Akio Watanabe, a scholar in international
relations, pinpointed the correlations between the Bessarabian Treaty and the
international context. Taizo Watanabe, a former high-ranked Japanese diplomat, was
kind enough to give me insights into the workings of Japanese diplomacy.
Also, my deepest gratitude goes to my professors at Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj
Napoca for their professional guidance and advice regarding not only the present work
but also, generally speaking, my preparation as a historian. Among them Nicolae Bocsan,
Vasile Vesa, Marcel Stirban, George Cipaianu, Liviu Tarau, Nicolae Edroiu and Alexandru
Diaconescu, to mention only a few. Professor Gheorghe Iancu of the same university
played an important role in the making of the present book.
I would like to thank Miss Keiko Ito for her help in translating the Japanese
documents, and Algora Publishing for skilful editorial aid.
Last, but not least, great thanks to my wife, Delia, for her invaluable assistance in
every phase of the work.

Marcel Mitrasca
Japan, April 22, 2002

Bessarabia until 1919

DATE (parens. = Old Calendar) EVENT

AD 101-102, 105-106 Roman Empire wars against Dacia
271-274 Evacuation of Dacia by the Roman Empire
14th century The making of the Romanian Principalities
1511 Moldavian first ahidnames
1775, May 7 (18) Annexation of Bukovina by the Habsburg Empire
1812, May 16 (28) Annexation of Bessarabia by Russia
1818, April 29 (May 11) Bessarabian autonomy proclaimed
1828, Feb. 29 (March 12) Revocation of Bessarabia autonomy
Paris Peace Treaty gives southern Bessarabia back
1856, March 18 (30)
to Moldavia
1859, Jan. 24 (Feb. 5) Unification of Moldavia and Wallachia
Transformation of the Bessarabian oblast into a
Gubernija within Russia
1877, April 4 (16) Russo-Romanian Convention signed in Bucharest
1877, May 9 (21) Romanian declaration of independence
Berlin Peace Treaty gives southern Bessarabia
1878, July 1 (13)
back to Russia
1883, October 18 (30) Romania joins the Triple Alliance
Bucharest Peace Treaty – Romania acquires the
1913, July 28 (Aug 10)
Cadrilater from Bulgaria
The Revolution in Russia – first nationalistic
manifestations in Bessarabia
Festivities all over Bessarabia celebrating 100
years since her annexation
1914, July 22 (Aug. 3) Romania proclaims her neutrality
1914, Sept. 18 (Oct. 1) Convention between Romania and Russia
Convention between Romania and Entente re-
1916, Aug. 4 (17) garding Romania’s entry into war in exchange for
territorial compensations
1916, Aug. 14 (27) Romania declares war on Austria-Hungary
1917, March 12 (25) Formation of a workers’ soviet in Chisinau
1917, March 20 (April 2) The making of the Moldavian National Party
Gathering in Odessa of Moldavian officers and
1917, May 1 (14)
1917, May 21-24 (June 3-6) First Congress of Bessarabian peasants
1917, Aug. 27-31 (Sept. 9-11) Second Congress of Bessarabian peasants
1917, Sept. 8-14 (21-27) Kiev, Congress of the peoples living in Russia
Bessarabian Congress of workers’ and soldiers’
1917, Sept. 20-25 (Oct. 3-8)
1917, Oct. 20-27 (Nov. 2-9) Congress of the Moldavian soldiers
1917, Oct. 25 (Nov. 7) October Revolution in Russia

Bessarabia until 1919 (continuation)

Declaration regarding the rights of the peoples living

1917, Nov. 2 (15)
in Russia
1917, Nov. 21 (Dec. 4) First session of the Sfatul Tserii
1917, Nov. 22 (Dec. 5) Brest Armistice between Russia and Germany
Focsani Armistice between Romania and the Central
1917, Nov. 26 (Dec. 9)
1917 Nov. 28-30 (Dec. 11-13) Conference of Bolsheviks on the Romanian front
1917, Dec. 2 (15h) Proclamation of the Autonomous Moldavian Republic
1917, Dec. 10-23 (Dec. 23-Jan. 5) Second Congress of the Rumcerod
1917, Dec. 28 (1918, Jan. 10) Arrival in Chisinau of Rumcerod’s Frontotdel
The Bolsheviks arrest the Romanian Minister to
1917, Dec. 31 (1918, Jan. 13)
Russia, Constantin Diamandi
1918, Jan. 1 (14) Attempted Soviet coup in Bessarabia
Written guarantee by the Allied representatives in
1918, Jan. 2 (15) Jassy for the Bessarabian authorities regarding Ro-
manian military intervention
Romanian government decides to send Transylva-
1918, Jan. 6 (19)
nian troops to Bessarabia
1918, Jan. 7 (20) The Bolshevik “insurrection” starts in Chisinau
1918, Jan. 10 (23) Romanian army advances into Bessarabia
1918, Jan. 13 (26) The Bolsheviks break off relations with Romania
Declaration of independence of the Moldavian
1918, Jan. 24 (Feb. 5)
1918, Jan. 27 (Feb. 9) Ukrainian Rada signs peace with the Central Powers
Brest Litovsk Peace Treaty between Russia and the
1918, Feb. 18 (March 3)
Central Powers
1918, Feb. 20-24 (March 5-9) Averescu-Rakovsky Treaty
Buftea, preliminary Peace Treaty between Romania
1918, Feb. 20 (March 5)
and the Central Powers
Sfatul Tserii proclaims the conditioned Union of Bes-
1918, March 27 (April 9)
sarabia with Romania
King Ferdinand ratifies the Union of Bessarabia with
1918, April 4 (17)
Bolshevik Note of Protest against the incorporation
1918, April 5 (18)
of Bessarabia into Romania
Bucharest Peace Treaty between Romania and the
1918, April 24 (May 7)
Central Powers
President Woodrow Wilson analyzes the Bessara-
1918, April 18 (May 1)
bian issue for the first time
Romania decides to re-enter the war on the Entente’s
1918, Oct. 28 (Nov. 10)
1918, Nov. 15 (28) The Union of Bukovina with Romania
The Union of Transylvania, Banat, and Crisana with
1918, Nov. 18 (Dec. 1)
Sfatul Tserii proclaims the unconditional union of
1918, Nov. 27 (Dec. 10)
Bessarabia with Romania
The Romanian Parliament ratifies the Union of
1919, Dec. 20
Bessarabia with Romania
The Paris Peace Conference and the Bessarabian Question


Bessarabian representation at the Prince’s
Jan. 27, 1919 Council of Ten
Island (Prinkipo Conference)
Presentation of Romanian territorial
Feb. 1 Council of Ten
During its first meeting, the Commissions
Commission on Romanian
Feb. 8 considers that Bessarabia is Romanian
and Yugo-Slav Affairs
territory on of Bessarabia
Commission on Romanian Draft Article on Bessarabia – it should
March 5
and Yugo-Slav Affairs belong to Romania
Commission on Romanian Decision recommending the attachment
March 11
and Yugo-Slav Affairs of Bessarabia to Romania
Commission on Romanian
March 28 Final meeting of the Commission
and Yugo-Slav Affairs
Commission on Romanian The final report of the Commission is
April 6
and Yugo-Slav Affairs sent to the Supreme Council
Meeting between President Wilson and
April 11 Paris
Queen Marie of Romania
Council of Foreign Minis- American opposition to the attribution of
May 8
ters Bessarabia to Romania
Council of Foreign Minis- It is decided to postpone a solution to the
May 16
ters Bessarabian question
The “Bratianu guarantees” regarding the
May 17 Paris US investments in the exploitation of
Romanian oil
Bessarabian question in the dispatch sent
May 27 Council of Four
to Admiral Kolchak
Notes of Protest and ultimatums sent by
the Bolsheviks to Romania, demanding
May-June Bolshevik Government
the withdrawal of Romanian troops from
Council of Heads of Delega- Bessarabia on the agenda for future meet-
July 1
tions ings
Question of Bessarabia – the hearing of
Council of Heads of Dele-
the Report prepared by the Territorial
July 2 gations of the Five Great
Commission and of the Russian and Ro-
manian representatives
Meetings of the US Com-
July 23 Elections to be held in Bessarabia
Meeting of the Steering Dobrudja and Bessarabia – a possible ter-
July 26
Committee ritorial exchange
Council of Heads of Delega-
Aug. 1 Debate over the Bessarabian Question
Meetings of the US Com-
Aug. 13 The European borders of Russia
Meetings of the US Com-
Sept. 3 The frontier of Bulgaria in Dobrudja
Council of Heads of delega-
Sept. 5 Dobrudja and Bessarabia
The Paris Peace Conference and the Bessarabian Question (continuation)

Date Commission Topic

Council of Heads of Italian proposal for a territorial exchange Do-
Sept. 8
Delegations brudja for Bessarabia
Meetings of the US The question of Romanian elections to be held
Oct. 8
Commissioners in Bessarabia
Council of Heads of The question of Romanian elections to be held
Oct. 10
Delegations in Bessarabia
Council of Heads of The question of Roumanian elections in Bessara-
Oct. 11
Delegations bia
Council of Heads of US opposition to settling the Bessarabian ques-
Oct. 30
Delegations tion.
Council of Heads of British insistence that Bessarabia should go to
Nov. 11
Delegations Romania
Council of Heads of French attempt to bring the Bessarabian ques-
Nov. 13
Delegations tion into the Council’s debate
The International Romanian affairs – the hearing of the Romanian
Jan. 20, 1920
Council of Premiers Prime Minister, Al. Vaida-Voevod
The International The Council declares itself in favor of Bessara-
March 3
Council of Premiers bia’s union with Romania
The Commission prepared a final Draft Treaty
Commission on Ro- between the Principal Allied and Associated
April 15
manian Affairs Powers and Romania concerning Bessarabia
(with 9 articles)
Secretariat General of The Secretariat General asked for the American
April 15
the Peace Conference opinion regarding the draft Bessarabian Treaty
Negotiations Titulescu – Alan Leeper regarding
April London
the Draft Treaty
British proposal to send the draft Treaty to the
April 25 Supreme Council
Conference of Ambassadors for final discussions
Negotiations between Frank Rattigan (British
April - May Bucharest minister) and the Romanian government regard-
ing the Bessarabian Treaty
Negotiations Titulescu-Laroche regarding the
June 7 Paris
draft Treaty
Conference of The US refuse to join in the signing of the Bes-
June 19
Ambassadors sarabian Treaty
The Romanian Government agrees with the
June 28 Bucharest British and French conditions for the signing of
the Bessarabian Treaty
The British government asks for the ratification
of the Minorities Treaty before the signing of the
Aug. London
Bessarabian Treaty – Romania does so in a mat-
ter of days
Aug. 10 Washington The Colby Note on Russia
French attempts to postpone indefinitely the
Aug. 18 and
Paris signing of the Bessarabian Treaty, blocked by
Sept. 16
the British.
Increasing British and Romanian pressure on
Sept. Paris
France for the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty
The Paris Peace Conference and the Bessarabian Question (continuation)

Date Commission Topic

Exchange of notes between Romania and France
(Great Britain) regarding the payment by the
Sept. 17
Paris Romanian government of increased compensa-
(Oct. 27)
tions to the French (British) landowners expro-
priated in Bessarabia
Conference of British pressure for urging the signing of the
Sept. 29
Ambassadors Bessarabian Treaty
Council of Heads of Italian proposal for a territorial exchange, Do-
Sept. 8
Delegations brudja for Bessarabia
Meetings of the US British pressure for urging the signing of the
Oct. 8
Commissioners Bessarabian Treaty
Increased British pressure for signing of the Bes-
Conference of sarabian Treaty – Romania is asked by the Con-
Oct. 2
Ambassadors ference to sign two more treaties as a precondi-
tion to the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty
The Italians announced their readiness to sign
Oct. 5 Bucharest
the Bessarabian Treaty
Conference of The US Ambassador expressed his view with
Oct. 8
Ambassadors regard to the Bessarabian Treaty.
Conference of The Romanian reply to the Draft Treaty regard-
Oct. 11
Ambassadors ing Bessarabia
Meetings Titulescu – Leeper regarding the Ro-
Oct. 18 London manian proposed modifications to the Draft
Meeting Titulescu – Earl Curzon, pressure for
Oct. 20 London
the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty
Oct. 21 London Meeting Take Ionescu – Earl Curzon
Conference of The last modifications to the Draft Treaty are
Oct. 27
Ambassadors agreed upon
Conference of
Oct. 28 The signing of the Bessarabian Treaty
The Bessarabian Question since 1920
Feb. 1920 Copenhagen, Romanian-Bolshevik negotiations
Oct. 28, 1920 The signing of the Bessarabian Treaty
British insistence for the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty, argu-
June 8, 1921 ing that they have already ratified the Treaty, during the meeting of
the Conference of Ambassadors
Sept. – Oct. 1921 Russian-Romanian Conference in Warsaw
Memorandums by the Bessarabian Russians to the League of Na-
Sept. – Oct. 1921
tions regarding the rights of the Russian minority in Bessarabia
Romanian Foreign Ministry’s first attempt to ratify the Bessarabian
Nov.-Dec. 1921
Feb. 1922 Romania decides to close her Legation in Japan
Intensified British pressure for the ratification of the Bessarabian
Feb. 1922
The French Government sends the Bessarabian Treaty to the Parlia-
March 14, 1922
ment for ratification
Conference of the Ambassadors (Paris) – the British and French
March 15, 1922 representatives asked Italy and Japan to take the necessary steps for
the ratification
April 3, 1922 The Romanian Senate ratifies the Bessarabian Treaty
April 7, 1922 The Romanian Chamber ratifies the Bessarabian Treaty
King Ferdinand signs the Law for the ratification of the Bessarabian
April 13, 1922
Great Britain deposits the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty (in
April 14, 1922
Romania deposits the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty (in
May 19, 1922
April-May 1922 The Genoa Conference
French Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Affairs debates the
July 7, 1922
Project of Law for the Ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty
Note by the Romanian government to the British and French Lega-
Dec. 14, 1922 tions regarding the payment of indemnities to the British and
French landowners expropriated in Bessarabia
Talks between Cicerin and C. Diamandi regarding a possible solu-
Dec. 19, 1922
tion of the pending questions in the bilateral relations
Jan. – March Romanian pressure for the French ratification (negotiations Victor
1923 Antonescu – Peretti dela Rocca)
March-April Romanian-US negotiations regarding the Bessarabian immigration
1923 quota
The US Government decides to incorporate the Bessarabian immi-
June 1923 gration quota into the general Russian quota and to administer it
from Riga
Internal memorandum of the Romanian Foreign Ministry urging for
Oct. 1923
pressure in order to bring the Bessarabian Treaty into force
British pressure on France, Italy and Japan for the ratification of the
Nov. -Dec. 1923
Bessarabian Treaty
Japanese government states that it considers the Bessarabian treaty
Nov. 1923 ratification a European matter and, consequently, that it has no in-
tention to ratify at that moment
The Bessarabian Question since 1920 (continuation)

Romanian-Soviet Agreement regarding navigation on Dniestr and

Nov. 20, 1923
border incidents
The French government decides to increase the pressure on the Par-
Nov. 1923
liament for the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty.
Worsening US-Romanian relations due to the US policy on immigra-
Jan. -July 1924
tion and to Romanian economic policy
Italy recognizes the Soviet Government – secret verbal agreement on
Feb. 1924
March 11, 1924 French Chamber ratifies the Bessarabian Treaty
March 16, 1924 French Senate ratifies the Bessarabian Treaty
Mussolini provokes a diplomatic incident with Romania by suggest-
March 1924
ing the postponement of the Romanian Royal Family’s visit to Italy
March-April 1924 Soviet-Romanian Conference in Vienna
April 2-4, 1924 Prince Naruhiko Higashi Kuni visits Romania
May 8, 1924 France deposits the instruments for the ratification
May 31, 1924 The Ishii Note
May 1924 Verbal statement by Yoshizawa (to Karakhan) on ratification
The ratification question is debated during the Yoshizawa-Karakhan
Aug. -Oct. 1924
Romanian attempt to improve relations with Italy (the Constan-
Sept 1924
tinescu mission)
Oct. 12, 1924 The establishment of the Moldavian Autonomous SSR
Controversy in Italian press regarding the ratification of the Bessara-
Oct. - Nov. 1924
bian Treaty
The establishment of Soviets-Japanese diplomatic relations – the
Jan. 20, 1925
Karakhan–Yoshizawa exchange of letters on the ratification question
Feb. – March Worsening Italian-Romanian relations as a result of a new peak in
1925 the press campaign pro and contra ratification
Oct. 1925 Kopp-Shidehara negotiations in Tokyo regarding the ratification
Feb. 1926 Italia suggests to Romania the signing of a bilateral Alliance Treaty
June 10, 1926 The French-Romanian Friendship Treaty
Sept. 1926 Romanian-Italian negotiations for the ratification
Sept. 16, 1926 The Romanian-Italian Friendship Treaty
Oct. – Nov. 1926 Improvement in the Romanian-Italian relations
March 8, 1927 Italian Chamber ratifies the Bessarabian Treaty
King Victor Emmanuel and Mussolini sign the Royal Decree-Law for
March 9, 1927
the ratification
The Debuchi-Bessedovskii negotiations on the ratification resulting
March 1927
in a verbal agreement for the postponement of the ratification
April 3, 1927 The Italian Senate ratifies the Bessarabian Treaty

The Bessarabian Question since 1920 (continuation)
May 23, 1927 Italy deposits the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty
Soviet concessions to the Japanese regarding the Fishery talks going
May-July 1927 on in Moscow, in exchange for the postponement of the Japanese
Dec. 1927-Jan.
Romanian-Japanese negotiations for the ratification (Tokyo)
Aug. 1928 Romania signs the Briand-Kelloq Pact
Feb. 1929 The “Litvinov Protocol”
Dec. 1929 Tokyo, Romanian-Japanese negotiations for ratification
The start of the Davila campaign for the US de facto recognition of
Feb. 1930
Bessarabia’s union
Feb. 3, 1931 The second Nakamura interpellation on Bessarabia
The US Government decides to take the Bessarabian immigration
June 1931 quota out of the Russian quota and to move its administration from
Riga to Bucharest
Charles Davila suggests a new approach in order to obtain the Japa-
July 1931
nese ratification
Jan. 1932 Riga, Romanian-Soviet negotiation for a non-aggression treaty
New round of Romanian-US negotiations in Washington regarding
Feb.-May 1932
the US de facto recognition of Bessarabia’s Union
Sept. 1932 Geneva, Romanian-Soviet negotiation for a non-aggression treaty
1932 The end of the Romanian campaign for the Japanese ratification
March 1933 Davila starts once more the campaign for the US de facto recognition
By the Presidential Proclamation establishing immigration quotas for
June 16, 1933 the coming year the Bessarabian quota area has been merged with the
Romanian quota area
Romanian-US Draft Declaration regarding the implications of the
July 1933
decision on the Bessarabian immigration quota
July 1933 Convention for the Definition of Aggression
The establishment of diplomatic relations between Romania and the
June 9, 1934
Soviet Union
The first Romanian Minister to the Soviet Union presents his letters
Dec. 1934
of accreditation
Feb. 8, 1935 Railway Convention between Romania and the Soviets
Montreaux, the Titulescu-Litvinov Draft of a Mutual Assistance Pact
July 21, 1936
between Romania and the Soviet Union
Aug. 29, 1936 Titulescu’s dismissal as Romanian Foreign Minister
Feb. 15 and Mamoru Shigemitsu suggests to the Romanians that Japan is ready to
July 30, 1938 ratify the Bessarabian Treaty
Aug. 23, 1939 The Ribbentrop - Molotov Pact
The Soviet Union takes Bessarabia and northern Bukovina from
June 1940

Opportunity from Crisis

The world that came into being after the First World War was profoundly
different from the one that had existed before. Two of the most important changes
were the formation of the first communist state, and the use of the nationality prin-
ciple as the basis for the creation of new states (or for the enlargement of states al-
ready in existence).
The invocation of American idealism, with the famous Wilsonian points, pro-
voked such a revolution in international relations that even the United States re-
fused to approve the peace settlement, and in the end that “settlement” resulted in
another world war. Of course, there are many different theories regarding the evolu-
tion of international relations during the interwar period; this book will focus on the
Bessarabian Treaty and how the intricacies of the shifting international climate in-
fluenced Romania.
After the First World War, the Romanians saw their dreams becoming reality
through the creation of Greater Romania, by the union of Bessarabia, Bukovina,
Transylvania, Crisana, Maramures and Banat with the Old Kingdom. By these acqui-
sitions Romania more than doubled in size and emerged from the war with a popula-
tion of over 17,000,000 people (as against about 7,000,000 pre-war) and a territory of
295,049 square km (as compared to 137,000 before the war).1 Romania was trans-
formed almost overnight from a small country into the second largest state in eastern
Central Europe. The newly acquired territories transformed Romania from a nation-
state into a nationalities state, in which ethnic Romanians made up only 72% of the
population. The largest minority groups were the Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Rus-
sians, Ukrainians and Gypsies. These other nationalities posed serious problems,
especially in those parts of Romania where they outnumbered the Romanians (for
example, in southern Bessarabia or in some parts of Transylvania). Interwar Roma-
nia had to face the severe challenge of forging extremely diverse regions
(economically as well as culturally) into a unified and centralized state.

Moldova, a Romanian Province


Therefore, after obtaining international recognition of its new borders, in all its
foreign policy Romania was dedicated to maintaining the territorial status quo. Ro-
manian foreign policy pursued three main strategies. The first was based on the idea
of collective security, promulgated by prominent Romanian diplomat Take Ionescu
(more or less as a result of French influence2) and continued by one of his disciples,
Nicolae Titulescu. An Eastern European bloc made of five states (Poland, Czechoslo-
vakia, Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece) was intended to forestall any aggression
from the west (Germany, Hungary, Austria), the east (the Soviet Union), or the
south (Bulgaria or Turkey) and help to maintain peace in Eastern Europe. Unfortu-
nately, because of the multiple contradictions existing in the Central European and
Balkan area, this plan partially failed. What was finally achieved in the 1920s was the
Little Entente, between Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechoslovakia. The Little En-
tente was intended to contain Hungary and Bulgaria (revisionist States), and to pre-
sent a unified voice for the three countries in order to strengthen their stature before
the Great Powers. Through a system of bilateral treaties, Romania also sought to
forge an alliance with Poland against their communist neighbor and, in the 1930s,
Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey founded the Balkan Entente, with the
more or less direct aim of controlling Bulgaria.
The second broad strategy was related to the League of Nations. Because one of
the League’s main purposes was to maintain the territorial status quo, Romania be-
came actively involved. International recognition of Romania’s new frontiers was of
critical importance and it is here that the Bessarabian Treaty shows its value for Ro-
mania, justifying the efforts made by the Romanian diplomacy in order to bring it
into force.
Third, Romania sought to forge an alliance with at least one of the Great Pow-
ers, an alliance that should contain a clear commitment from the Great Power in case
of an attack on Bessarabia. In this sense, Romania’s diplomatic success was only par-
tial (at best).


First, what is Bessarabia? Second, what is Moldavia (or, in Romanian,

Chapter 1 presents a brief history of the region. Essentially, Moldavia, one of
the three Romanian Principalities, came into being during the 14th century, between
the Carpathian Mountains and the Dniestr River. Over time, most of the this terri-
tory stayed together under the control of the Moldavian Voevods, with just a few
parts being taken away by the Ottomans. The southernmost of those was called Bes-
sarabia. Towards the end of the 18th century (1775), the Habsburgs took away the
northern part of Moldavia, called Bukovina; the Russians decided to follow suit and,

< 10 >

by 1812, they carved off that piece of Moldavia between the Pruth and Dniestr Rivers,
and extended the name of Bessarabia over all this territory.
By 1859, what remained of Moldavia managed to effect a union with Walachia,
forming what came to be called the Old Kingdom, and laid the foundation of the pre-
sent Romania. By 1918, events in Russia allowed Bessarabia to unite with Romania.
But the union did not last long; by 1940, the Soviets already took back Bessarabia.
In the aftermath of World War II, the Soviets also took Bessarabia’s southern
and most of its northern parts, where the Romanians were not a substantial major-
ity, and incorporated them into Ukraine. Today’s republic of Moldavia, with its capi-
tal in Chisinau, occupies only what was left of Bessarabia after these territorial
But the people in the part of Moldavia that united with Walachia in 1859 to
form the Romanian Kingdom continued to call themselves Moldovans, and that re-
gion of Romania continues to be known as Moldova. Therefore, to a Romanian (or to
anyone living before World War I), the name Moldavia pertains to an integral part
of the Romanian territory and not to the former Soviet republic. Conversely, a per-
son whose frame of reference is the former Soviet Union will think of Soviet Molda-
via, currently the Moldovan Republic. In order to avoid confusion, and given the fact
that the treaty that is the focus of this book relates specifically to that region in its
interwar territorial limits (when it was known mainly as Bessarabia), the name of
Bessarabia will be mostly used.

During the entire interwar period, Bessarabia was the weakest point in Roma-
nian foreign policy. No Great Power was willing to defend Romania in case of a Rus-
sian attack on Bessarabia, and even among the small or secondary powers there was
only one possible ally, Poland. Because of the Soviet Union’s growing influence in
international affairs, as well as its continually growing military potential, Romania
stood alone on the Bessarabian issue.
Romanian diplomats had three options, each of them entailing serious risk: (1)
to ignore the Soviet Union in the hope that a non-Bolshevik government would take
power, sooner or later; (2) to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union; (3) to alter-
nate between the first two with the hope of securing the backing of a Great Power
before it was too late. It must be said that all the three approaches were tried, but
each of them fell short. Even today, when we have the perspective of many decades,
it is difficult to say what would have been the best approach for Romania.
Bessarabia was one of the less-known territories in Eastern Europe. Since the
fall of communism, things have started to change and gradually more and more pa-
pers have been published on various aspects of the region. Unfortunately, many of
these papers (including those published outside Romania or the former Soviet Un-
ion) still show the influence of political partisanship. Simply said, each side presents
its own version of the story, insisting on whatever arguments they may think of,
seeking to prove that their version is the only real or the most plausible one.4
After the collapse of communism, there was a publishing “boom” regarding the

< 11 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

history of Bessarabia, which had ceased to be taboo for historians both in Romania
and in the new Moldavian Republic. On one hand, Romanian historiography stands
by the old line, arguing that Bessarabia was (and still is) Romanian territory, that
the Union decision taken by the Sfatul Tserii (the Council of the Country — the rep-
resentative political body of all the people living in Bessarabia, discussed in Chapter
1), was a genuine expression of the national movement and that it was normal for the
Bessarabians to live together with their Romanian brothers. On the other hand, some
historians in the new created Moldavian republic follow the lead opened by a num-
ber of Soviet scholars in the 1920s, trying to demonstrate that, in fact, the Moldavi-
ans are a distinct population5 with their own Moldavian language.6 Continuing the
communist historiography, they refer to the interwar period as one of fierce exploita-
tion of the people by the Romanian bureaucracy (this complaint may have some jus-
tification, but that is true for any administration, anywhere in the world). Their
main purpose is to give a historical background to the newly proclaimed State, in
order to achieve a certain national cohesion in Bessarabia; the same phenomenon can
be observed in all the other post-Soviet republics. 7
Thus, “Moldavia” is the spelling most often used in English to designate what
the local people know as Moldova. Comparing the Romanians and the Moldavians
(or Moldovans), it becomes clear that there is no distinct literature, no separate lan-
guage, no history apart from that of the states and empires of which they have been a
part. Yet most Moldovans do feel themselves to be something other than simply Ro-
manians, and since 1991, they have had their own state to show for it.8 It should also
be pointed out that, while the Moldavians did not show themselves to be in much
hurry to get back together with Romania, preferring to have a state of their own,
neither have the Romanians made a concerted effort to convince them to unify. And,
as time passes, there is no sign of a change in Romanian public opinion that would
lead to stronger insistence on a union of Bessarabia with Romania. As for the Roma-
nian leadership, it seems to be so lost in the difficulties of the post-Ceausescu transi-
tion that it barely has the time and the will to work for such a union.9 In fact, it is
difficult to distinguish what exactly is the actual position of the Romanians regard-
ing a possible union of Moldavia with Romania: have they given up, or they are sim-
ply respecting the wish of the Moldavians?

Author’s Purpose

The aim of this book is to analyze the entire problem of the Bessarabian Treaty
of October 28, 1920,10 and through this analysis to offer a glimpse of Romanian foreign
policy in the 1920s. The Treaty was signed between Great Britain, France, Italy and
Japan, on one hand, and Romania on the other. Under that Treaty, the Great Powers
gave, two years after its de facto realization, an official recognition to the unification of
Bessarabia with Romania. The signing of the Treaty was a great success for Romania;
because of this de jure recognition of the union, Bessarabia was to be considered Roma-
nian territory, not a territory under the military occupation of Romania.

< 12 >

But one of the five powers that signed the Treaty failed to ratify it, namely Ja-
pan. And because Japan failed to ratify the Treaty, it never came into force.
Why did the Romanian government fail to bring the Bessarabian Treaty into
force? How did they allow this foreign policy success to slide into failure? Was it
because Romania stood no chance, in the long run, against a Great Power like the
Soviet Union? Was it because the Romanian government was unwilling to pay eve-
rything the signatory Great Powers asked in exchange for the ratification? Was it a
reflection of the more general failure in Romania’s relations with the Soviet Union
during the interwar period, or a reflection of the Great Powers’ reluctance to upset
the Soviet Union? Did Romania mismanage the ratification process, or were they
simply undone by a very well organized Soviet campaign against the Treaty? Did the
Great Powers worry that, once the Treaty came into power, it would trigger a new
war in the Balkans?
Romanian historiography gives an oversimplified answer to our question: the
Treaty did not come into force because Japan failed to ratify it. This answer has two
major flows: it lays all the blame on Japan (failing to show what exactly was behind
Japan’s decision), and it makes no mention of the US position regarding Bessarabia.
Of course, it was as a result of Japan’s failure to ratify that the Bessarabian Treaty did
not come into force — but we cannot overlook the fact that the Treaty required five
ratifications and that in every case with the possible exception of Britain, the Roma-
nian government handled the situation in a poor manner. It took a year and a half to
finalize even the Romanian ratification, and seven years to convince Italy to ratify.
Even without the Japanese abstention, and as proven by the US position, the Roma-
nian campaign for the ratification was exceptionally lethargic, particularly if we con-
sider that the Treaty imposed no concrete obligations on its signatories (except for
Romania), so that they had nothing to lose by ratifying. The Japanese failure to ratify
came, in this author’s view, not only (or even principally) as a result of Soviet pres-
sure but also as a result of Romania’s feeble effort to secure the ratifications in gen-
eral. In order to find out why the Bessarabian Treaty failed to come into force, we
must analyze the entire campaign for ratification and not simply blame it on Japan.
The international context evolved rapidly after the War, with Soviet Russia
quickly getting back on its feet; Romania proved unable to fully appreciate the full
significance of this recovery and, instead of hurrying to secure the ratifications, it
entered into complicated negotiations regarding the concessions to be granted in
exchange. Romania gave the Soviets exactly what they needed most in their conflict
with Romania over Bessarabia: time. Romania also went on dreaming that it would
be possible to convince one of the Great Powers (most likely France) to offer mili-
tary guarantees against a possible Soviet attack. Even worse, they failed to compre-
hend the changing realities in the international arena and neglected the two non-
European Great Powers, the US and Japan, who were both won over by the Soviets
in their conflict with Romania.
The sad fact is that, in the end, Romania paid almost everything the Great
Powers asked for in exchange for the Bessarabian Treaty, and invested resources in

< 13 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

the ratification campaign, but never could use the Treaty. Romanian historiography
continues to argue in favor of the “great excuse” cherished by Romanian diplomacy
during the interwar period: although the Treaty had not actually come into force, the
States that had ratified it had a moral obligation towards Romania in case of a Soviet
attack. The situation was quite different and this book will show the real state of
affairs, with both the British and Italians arguing that the Bessarabian Treaty was
not binding on them until ratified by all the signatories and dismissing any so-called
“moral obligation”.
The same historiography continues to praise Romania for its successes in con-
vincing France and Italy to ratify, without recognizing that, in fact, apart from the
concessions Romania gave in exchange for those ratifications, a hidden price was
paid: the loss of Japan’s ratification. None of the scholars analyzing different aspects
of the negotiations for the Bessarabian Treaty makes the connection between the
time lost in order to achieve the French or Italian ratification and the change in Ja-
pan’s position towards the Soviets. As one Romanian scholar has said: “As long as
the final score was 3-1 for Romania, we could not consider the ratification campaign
a failure”. This is simply not so: the final score was 3-1, but Romania needed a 4-0 in
order to qualify.
This book will focus especially on the ratification process. Two Great Powers,
the Soviet Union and the United States, were not among the five signatories — but
they played significant roles in the Bessarabian Treaty question due to their influ-
ences on those who were.
Against the backdrop of a general description of Romanian foreign policy, the
book attempts to offer insight into the workings of diplomacy, and especially Roma-
nian diplomacy. Its purpose is to present a more realistic image of this process by
highlighting the different opinions expressed by those involved, by analyzing the
multitude of approaches open to each player in the field, by presenting behind-the-
scene events, and by demonstrating the extraordinary importance of the interna-
tional context. To achieve this deeper perspective, it was necessary to abandon the
analysis of the Bessarabian question in its entirety and to focus instead on the
Treaty — a topic not so vast, but sufficiently suggestive for the entire matter. The
saga of the Bessarabian Treaty shows the evolution of the Romanian approach to the
issue and the policies of each of the interested Great Powers (except for Germany).
It also illustrates the increasingly global ramifications of every international policy
issue, as far back as the 1920’s, with two non-European Powers taking active part in
European matters despite their proclaimed isolationism (the USA) or neutrality
(Japan). To our knowledge, this book is the most comprehensive treatment of the
Bessarabian Treaty, analyzing the implications for Romania of both the signing and
the ratification.


The book is based mainly on information provided by primary sources, espe-

cially documents, many of which have never before been published. The main

< 14 >

sources for the unpublished documents are the Japanese and Romanian Foreign
Ministry Archives.
The Romanian orthography has been retained for most people and place
Footnotes are in abbreviated format; for full citations, please refer to the Bibli-
ography at the back of the book.
The author has lived in Japan for five years and thus has had the opportunity to
conduct extensive research in the Japanese as well as the Romanian Archives. Nearly
all the relevant French and British documents (yet unpublished) were available on
microfilm in Bucharest, due to an arrangement spearheaded in the late 1970s by the
Romanian National Archives. The author also attempted to search for documents in
the former Soviet Archives, but was unable to secure the necessary support to access
unpublished documents. As for Italian and US documents, his research was based on
published collections of documents and other secondary sources. The ideal work,
from the standpoint of “archive equilibrium”, would be one in which all the subchap-
ters follow the model of the one on the Japanese ratification.
Published collections, including Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy, Documents on
British Foreign Policy, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), Documents Diplomatiques
Français, I Documenti Diplomatici Italiani, and Romanian-Soviet Relations: Documents. 1918-
1934, provided further valuable information. Key portions of the citations will be
italicized to indicate this author’s emphasis.
The published documents are not necessarily complete, and they may also be
used (as will be shown) as propaganda tools. In recognition of this difficulty, the
author has sought to provide the reader with as complete a description of the events
as possible by comparing the documents published outside Romania with those
found in the Romanian Archives. On a different level, another source of information
was the mass media, especially the newspapers, from Romania but also from the ma-
jor capitals of the world.
One of the problems specific to the Bessarabian question is that anyone who
voices an opinion on historical, linguistic, demographic, or cultural developments in
Bessarabia (or Moldavia) inevitably becomes a party in the conflict. It is very diffi-
cult, if not impossible, to find a neutral stand and the only alternative is to present as
many documents as possible. A middle ground could be, at least theoretically, illus-
trated by the documents, which in the aggregate cannot be accused of being politi-
cized — even though, it is true, the selection process might be liable to charges of
subjectivity. The author has therefore relied to the greatest extent possible on offi-
cial documents rather than on papers written by various scholars. The author hopes
that, at some time in the future, he will have the opportunity to continue his work in
the other archives in order to round out the discussion.

< 15 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province


Vlad Georgescu, The Romanians; A History, p. 189.
Six months before the end of the war Philippe Berthelot had envisaged an “anti-German barrier”
composed of Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Italy. Nicole Jordan, The Popular Front
and Central Europe, p. 15.
As for Moldavia’s population, the 1989 census shows that out of the about 4.5 million people,
roughly 65 % are Romanians, whilst the Russians represent 13 %, the Ukrainians 13 %, the rest being
made by other minorities, some of which still leave in compact areas (like the Gagauz minority).
Helen Fedor, William E. Crowther, Belarus and Moldova: Country Studies, p. 99.
The relatively recent book published by Wim Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question in Communist His-
toryography: Nationalist and Communist Politics and History-Writing, offers some excellent references to
many of those papers. Also, another interesting analyses of the existing bibliography on Bessarabia is
presented in Gheorghe I. Florescu, “Bessarabia: a topic of the American historiography, 1945-1995”,
Anuarul Institutului AD Xenopol, Iasi, 1996.
An excellent presentation of this tendency is made by one of the leading scholars in the field on
Bessarabian history, Michael Bruchis, in his article “Moldavian National History – Ancient and Mod-
ern – as Presented in the Moldavian Soviet Encyclopedia,” published in Studies in Moldovan …, p. 3-28.
For a concise comparison of the phonology, morphology and syntax of the “Moldavian” language
and the Romanian, see Donald L Dyer, “The Making of the Moldavian Language” in Studies in Molda-
vian…, p. 92-101.
A good analysis of this “policy” of creating a Moldavian nation, both during the interwar period and
also for the period after 1989 is presented in Charles King, The Moldavans, passim.
Charles King, The Moldovans, p. 7.
The only notable exception in this sense comes from the well-thought educational program for
Moldavians willing to come and study in Romania, which includes a high number of scholarships
and which seems to target the future Moldavian intellectual elite.
As a technical matter, it should be mentioned that historians and diplomats used many terms for
the act signed on October 28: Convention, Protocol, and Treaty. In fact, some scholars even use two
terms in one work (such as, for example, the “so-called Bessarabia convention” and the “so-called
Bessarabian protocol” in Magda Adam, The Little Entente …, p. 212, 304). To avoid confusion, the term
“treaty” will be used exclusively in this book.

< 16 >


This chapter presents a short history of Bessarabia until 1918, including the
decision to unite with Romania. Some Romanian historians argue that there is no
history of Bessarabia before 1812 — only a history of Moldavia, of which Bessarabia
was part. Generally speaking, they are right. However, from the viewpoint of local
history we can identify a Bessarabian history and even find some small differences
with the general history of Moldavia.
There are several theories regarding the name of Bessarabia and the territory
associated with it. We will consider it to encompass the territory bounded by the
Black Sea on the south, the Pruth River on the west, and the Dniestr River to the
east and north. The Moldavian republic of today occupies this territory, minus cer-
tain portions that came to be assigned to Ukraine.
Significant factors that determined the history of Bessarabia include its agri-
cultural potential and the importance of control over the northern parts of the Da-
nube estuary. The Danube was one of the most important commercial routes in
Europe (and will be again, after somebody cleans up the mess NATO made of it).
During the Middle Ages and later, Bessarabia also had considerable influence over
navigation on the Dniestr River which, as the main link between Poland and
Ukraine and the Black Sea, was also an important commercial route.
The first people to realize the commercial importance of the Bessarabian terri-
tories were the Greeks, who established a number of colonies along the Black Sea
during the 7th century BC; the largest in the Bessarabia lands was Tyras. At about the
middle of the 1st century BC, one of the local tribal chiefs, Burebista, unified all the
Daco-Gaetic populations situated north of the Danube into the Kingdom of Dacia.
He extended his domination from Bukovina and Pannonia to the Bug River, covering
both Bessarabia and Transdniestria. Some three centuries later, the Roman Empire

< 17 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

defeated the Kingdom of Dacia and transformed it into a colony. The southern part
of Bessarabia was incorporated into the Moesian province even before the defeat of
Dacia. People from all over the Roman Empire had come to colonize these rich terri-
tories. About two centuries later, however, because of pressure from neighboring
barbarian tribes, Emperor Aurelian decided to abandon the northern Danube prov-
inces in order to secure a defensive line on the Danube River. He ordered the retreat
of the army and administration, which was done during AD 271-274. However, a
good part of the Daco-Roman population preferred to stay. The Roman Empire con-
tinued to keep close relations with this population and maintained its influence over
it; but the great migrations precluded the creation of an organized Daco-Roman
state for more than a millennium.
During the 14th century, the descendants of the Daco-Romans, the Romanians,
organized themselves into two states, Walachia and Moldavia. They also made up
the majority population of the Transylvanian principality, which was under the
domination of the Hungarian Kingdom. Moldavia was created, according to Hungar-
ian sources, by Romanians who left the northern parts of Transylvania (Maramures),
during the sixth and seventh decades of the 14th century. They unified the people
living in Moldavia and organized that territory as a state.
Soon after their formation, both Walachia and Moldavia had to fight for their
independence, first against Hungary and later against the Turks and the Poles. Mol-
davia was situated on the principal commercial route that linked the Baltic Sea with
the Black Sea. The Great Powers’ rivalry over Moldavia is best illustrated during the
reigns of Moldavia’s most hallowed voevods, Alexander the Good (1400-1433) and
Stephen the Great (1457-1504). After many battles, a negotiated agreement was
reached; both Walachia (1422) and Moldavia (1512, 1529, 1634) agreed to pay trib-
ute5 to the Sultan and to assist him in time of war, but they were allowed to con-
tinue to elect their own prince — and no Turks were to be permitted to settle in the
principalities.6 This understanding was established through special conventions
(called hatisherifs or ahidnames7) with the Ottoman Empire, by which the Sultan
promised that “the Moldavian borders would remain entirely intact.” Officially, the
Romanian principalities were under Ottoman suzerainty,8 and these treaties regard-
ing Ottoman-Romanian relations were still in force as late as 1812.
For the next two centuries, the Romanian principalities enjoyed a special
status within the Ottoman Empire. At no point in time were they entirely subju-
gated and transformed into a pasalic (like Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria). It was only
during the 18th century that the Turks eliminated some of their privileges, such as the
right to elect their own “voevod” (or Hospodar); now the Sultan named a leader for
them from among the Greeks living in Istanbul. The principalities had always been
distinguished from the other Balkan provinces by the survival of a powerful native
aristocracy. While in Serbia the nobles were exterminated and in Bosnia they saved
their property by surrendering their faith, in Romania they were able to retain both.
In accordance with Islamic law, the Ottomans regarded the principalities as some-
where between conquered territories (subject to direct Muslim rule) and areas out-
side the boundaries of Islam (hostile to the Muslim state, and with whom there

< 18 >

could be only temporary peace). Moldavia and Walachia were thus ahd (treaty) terri-
tories and lay in the intermediate zone of peace (dar alsulh), since they had not been
occupied by Ottoman armies and had not been incorporated into the Ottoman
state.9 Consequently, since they were not Ottoman territories, the Sultan had no
right to give them away. The Moldavian voevods and the boyars played on the inter-
national situation: any time the position of the Ottoman Empire was weakened, they
sought to increase their privileges and independence, either by fighting or by paying
off corrupt Ottoman officials in Istanbul.
The large fortress and the Black Sea ports Chilia and Cetatea Alba (Tiraspol),
on Moldavian territory, were the first to be conquered and taken from Moldavia by
the Ottoman Empire. During the sultanate of Suleiman the Magnificent (mid-16th
century), a part of the territory in southern Bessarabia (at that time, incontestably
part of Moldavia), was taken away by the Turks and transformed into the Bugeac
raia or sanjak (Turkish-controlled province);10 it was colonized with Tatars, in order
to keep better control over any initiatives the Romanian principalities might take.
After a number of years, the Moldavian boyars succeeded in recovering a part of that
territory, albeit a small one.11 It was this territory in the south that initially had been
known as Bessarabia.
That was not the only case of Moldavian territory transformed into a Turkish
province. Practically the same thing happened to the territories around Tighina and,
almost two centuries later, around the Hotin fortress.12 After transforming this part
into a raia, the Sultan colonized it with Bulgarian and Tartar families. There were no
more territorial losses for Moldavia until the 18th century.
The 18th century is characterized in Central and Eastern Europe by the so-
called “Oriental problem”: the contest to fill the power vacuum left by the weakness
(or decadence) of the Ottoman Empire. The Romanian principalities were caught in
the middle. All the wars taking place between the three Great Powers in the area
(Austria, Russia and Turkey) directly affected Romanian territory; military occupa-
tion of the principalities became almost a rule and the Romanians lost some of their
own territory.
In May 1775, as a result of the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774, Moldavia lost
its northern part, Bukovina (with a territory of 4,000 square miles and a population
of 70,000 people — of whom 56,000 were Romanians)13 to the Habsburg Empire,
with the silent approval of Russia, who considerably improved her position in the
principalities after the war. The Habsburgs managed to secure both Ottoman and
Russian acceptance of their new territorial acquisition.14 But, at least from the juridi-
cal standpoint, according to the ahidnames or hatisherifs, the Ottoman Empire had no
right to give away parts of Moldavia.15
By the Sistov Peace of 1791, Russia gained from the Ottoman Empire the terri-
tory situated between the Dniepr and Dniestr Rivers, thus for the first time estab-
lishing a common border with Moldavia.
After a few years of war and negotiations (1806-1812)16 between the Ottoman
Empire and Russia, the Sultan decided to pay the price for making peace with Rus-
sia, and on May 28, 1812, a peace treaty was signed in Bucharest. By that treaty, Rus-

< 19 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

sia incorporated the territory belonging to Moldavia situated between the Pruth and
the Dniestr Rivers, known as Bessarabia: around 17,350 square miles and almost half
a million people, the majority of them Romanians (about 85%).17 Although at the
beginning of the war the Russians had asked for both the Romanian principalities, in
the end, they also failed to establish the Siret River as the border, and had to settle
for just the territory between the Pruth and the Dniestr.18
This was not so much a loss for the Ottoman Empire as for the future Romania.
Considering the events of 1812, many historians argue that the Ottoman Empire’s
cession had been illegal: the Turks could not cede something that did not belong to
them, and the Ottoman Empire had never ruled the Romanian principalities.19 In
Karl Marx’s opinion, even the Turks had acknowledged this fact.20 When pressed by
the Poles at Karlowitz21 to cede Moldavia and Walachia, they responded that the
Ottoman Empire did not believe itself to be entitled to make any cessions of territo-
ries since the capitulations (hatisherifs) conferred upon it only the right to suzerainty
(which is quite different from sovereignty).
At the beginning of Russia’s domination over Bessarabia, what with great
numbers of peasants fleeing over the Pruth, a war going on with France, the terri-
tory’s great distance from the capital, and the Empire’s inadequate finances, the Rus-
sian government decided to grant Bessarabia a privileged status; this meant a certain
autonomy, which included the continuation of former privileges and the application
of traditional Moldavian laws.22 Tsar Alexander’s attitude was a combination of lib-
eral sentiment and tactical calculation: he hoped that Bessarabia was but a foretaste
of future annexation and he desired to win over the inhabitants. He instructed the
first head of the provisional Bessarabian government, Romanian boyar Scarlat

You must endeavor to lay the foundation for a larger building. Protect property
and its owners: make it as easy as possible for those who settle there to acquire
property. The public burdens must be equally distributed; the honesty of the
administrative officials must make the inhabitants forget the lack of a regular
system of laws. Let the inhabitants feel the advantage of a fatherly and liberal
administration. Draw the attention of neighboring people to this province by
making it happy.23

Unfortunately, only those parts of the program that were unfavorable to the
Moldavians were applied in practice. Even so, this policy of respect for the Bessara-
bians lasted only for a few years, until 1828. A policy of colonization (with Bulgari-
ans,24 Germans, Jews, Greeks and others)25 and Russification started soon after 1812,
and was continued for the next several decades with the purpose of increasing the
population26 and weakening the Romanian element in the province. From the Rus-
sian standpoint, Bessarabia was just another Christian territory to be “liberated”
from the Turks, while advancing Russia’s influence a step closer to the Straits and
securing control over the Danube estuary. Russian historiography during the 19th
and 20th centuries presented the 1812 act as a liberation of the Christian population

< 20 >

from the Turks, justified by the brotherhood of religion. As early as 1828, Bessarabian
autonomy was replaced by the implementation of Russian practices in the admini-
stration and a new constitution, ending most aspects of the province’s privileged
position inside the Russian Empire and aiming to establish a centralized administra-
tion for the province.
The privileges of Bessarabia and the Bessarabians were gradually limited and
finally, in 1871, all vestiges of their previous special position were abolished. Bessara-
bia became a regular gubernija (province). There was no more official bilingualism;
the use of the Romanian language in administration and education was forbidden
and Russification clearly became the key word for the administration.27
Romanian language speakers represented the bulk of the Bessarabian popula-
tion, as proved by Russian statistics. The 1856 official census shows a total popula-
tion of 990,000, of which 74% were Romanians. By comparison, in 1897, another offi-
cial statistic shows a total population of 1,935,000, of which 56% were Romanians. It
has been approximated that in 1918 the Bessarabian population was 2,725,000,
66.5% Romanian, 12% Russian, 10% Jewish, 7.7% Bulgarian and Gagauz, plus smaller
numbers of Germans, Greeks, Armenians and other nationalities.28
The ethnic mix was different in the rural and urban areas. While the cities
were almost entirely populated by Russians and Jews, with a strong anti-Romanian
tendency (which continued long after 1918), it was mainly Romanians who popu-
lated the villages. The rural character of the Romanian population explains the fail-
ure of the Russification process: Russian literature and education were never able to
reach the illiterate rural masses, which remained loyal to their folk culture and lan-
guage.29 This was an important factor in the 1917-1918 national movement and the
decision in favor of union, because the new administrators, Romanians, spoke the
same language as the villagers and thus were able to reach the rural areas and sway
the peasants with their propaganda effort.
The Crimean War of 1853-1856 opened a new chapter for the Romanian na-
tional movement.30 During the Paris peace negotiations the Romanians had, for the
first time, the opportunity to ask the Great Powers to intervene in their favor. They
asked for a political and institutional internationalization of their status as the prin-
cipalities of Moldavia and Walachia and for the retrocession of Bessarabia to Molda-
via by Russia. And indeed, their wishes were partially granted by the Great Powers.
It was decided that the principalities should be placed under the common guarantee
of the Great Powers — a decision which practically gave them independence, as it
was almost impossible for the seven Powers to come a complete agreement — but
the union between the two principalities was not approved. As for Bessarabia, after
prolonged negotiations, it was decided that Russia should return to Moldavia only
the southern part of that territory, plus the Danube Delta. But, as a result of the Ot-
toman intervention, the Danube Delta (which had been under Russian domination
before the war) was included in the Ottoman territory and not incorporated to Mol-
davia.31 In the end, a territory of about 2000 square miles, with modest economical
importance, was returned to Moldavia.
Therefore, as a result of the Crimean War, in 1856 Russia lost the southern part

< 21 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

of Bessarabia to the principality of Moldavia, because the Great Powers wished to

remove the Russian Empire from the mouth of the Danube and to give the Ottoman
Empire greater protection against an aggressive Russia. By an irony of fate, the three
southern districts which were now reunited with Moldavia were the very districts
where the Romanian population was the least numerous.32 This territory was later
incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, after the Second World War, and
has not been recovered by the Moldavian republic.
In 1859, Moldavia and Walachia both managed to elect Alexandru Ioan Cuza
as its domn (Hospodar), and a rapid process of unification of the two Principalities
ensued. By 1866, unhappy with some of the democratic reforms initiated by Cuza,
the political leadership decided to replace him. Still, they decided to keep the union
and, as the Ottomans had previously stated that they would admit the union only
during Cuza’s tenure as domn, they decided to replace him with a foreign prince.
Carol of Hohenzollern accepted the invitation, and became King. Their decision was
motivated by the need to avoid internal controversies regarding Cuza’s successor,
which could have endangered the union, by the need to have a neutral element arbi-
trating over internal politics, as well as in order to enhance the Principalities’ inter-
national status (since Carol had family ties with both the German Imperial House
and Emperor Napoleon III). In 1877, as a result of the war between Russia and the
Ottoman Empire, Romania became an independent state.
During the 1877-1878 war, Bessarabia came into the spotlight again. Before the
war started, the Romanian Prime Minister, Ion C. Bratianu, had worked hard to ne-
gotiate a military convention with Russia. Prolonged negotiations ended with the
signing of the Russo-Romanian Convention on April 4-16, 1877, by which the Rus-
sian Army was given permission to cross through Romanian territory but the Rus-
sian government explicitly agreed to defend the existing integrity of Romania.
There was great enthusiasm in Romania for the war and this was one of the
best moments in Romanian-Russian relations, with both countries fighting together
against their old enemy, the Ottoman Empire. Although, at the beginning of the mili-
tary operations, the Russians rejected Romania’s offer of military assistance, just a
few months later they became very keen to get it. The Romanian army fought with
the aim of gaining complete independence from the Ottoman Empire.33 The Serbs,
for various reasons, declined to declare war on the Ottomans, but Romania’s partici-
pation was valuable especially at Plevna.34
However, even before Russia entered the war against the Ottoman Empire, the
fate of southern Bessarabia had already been decided. Through secret agreements
with Austria-Hungary (at the Reichstadt, June 26, 1876 and in Budapest, January 3,
1877), Russia was to take back southern Bessarabia.35 The Romanians had no idea
about those agreements and they understood that they stood to benefit from the up-
coming war both by gaining independence from the Turks and also by acquiring
some territory in Dobrudja.36
As soon as the outcome of the war was decided, the Russians officially asked
the Romanian government for the retrocession of southern Bessarabia, in January
1878. This came as a shock to the Romanians, who had served Russia as an ally

< 22 >

throughout this conflict in return for the guarantee of safeguarding its territorial
integrity. The demand was presented as representing a matter of prestige for the
Czar.37 In order to make it easier for the Romanians to swallow the bitter pill, the
Russians offered to Romania the Danube Delta and a part of Dobrudja in exchange
for southern Bessarabia. Official (and unofficial) Romanian protest had no effect.38
Russia simply failed to keep her promise, access to Danube and the Czar’s pride be-
ing more important than Romania’s alliance. This was the first time that Bessarabia
became the most contentious issue between Russia and Romania (as a state).39 It
was also the first time that the Romanians, through the voice of Foreign Minister
Mihail Kogalniceanu (who was both a Moldavian and a historian), officially pro-
tested against the previous seizure of all of Bessarabia as a result of the 1812 Treaty.40
Thus both the San Stefano and later the Berlin Peace Treaties stated that
southern Bessarabia should revert to Russia, and offered to Romania “in exchange”
Dobrudja and the Danube Delta (which she had taken from the Ottoman Empire as
war compensation).41 Romania could do nothing but accept the deal proposed by the
Russians; there was no Great Power willing to back up Romania, and the Russian
Army was still on Romanian territory — making any resistance impossible. How-
ever, in fairness to Russia it should be mentioned that the Romanian leaders wel-
comed the acquisition of the Danube Delta and Dobrudja, although at the time it was
not considered that these territories were a fair exchange for southern Bessarabia.42
This Russian action had a great impact on Romanian foreign policy.
Actually, the Russian move was really a great success for the German Chancel-
lor Otto von Bismarck, who was able to kill two birds with one stone during the Ber-
lin Conference: Romania’s alliance (an important country for his policy in the Balkan
area), and Bulgaria’s alliance too (there had been a dispute between Romania and
Bulgaria over the city of Silistra, in southern Dobrudja; in 1880 it went to Bulgaria as
a result of Russian insistence and German approval).43 Bismarck also tried to obtain
Russia’s gratitude by supporting her claim to Bessarabia, but due to the other stipu-
lations in the Berlin Treaty, Russian public opinion — considering Germany the
main responsible for the Berlin Treaty — turned against him. Romanian distrust and
fear of the pan-Slav expansion only grew as a result of the Berlin Peace Treaty,44 and
ended up driving Romania away from Russia and into the arms of Austria-Hungary
and Germany.
In 1913, Romania took part in the Second Balkan War and, by the Peace signed
in Bucharest in 1913, acquired southern Dobrudja (Cadrilater) from Bulgaria.45
In 1916 Romania entered the war against Germany and the Austria-Hungarian
Empire with the purpose of unification with the Romanian territories controlled by
the former (Banat, Transylvania, Bukovina). In 1918, upon the unification of Bessara-
bia (April 9, 1918), Bukovina (November 28, 1918) Transylvania, Banat, Crisana and
Maramures (December 1, 1918) with the Old Kingdom, Romania became the state of
all Romanians.

< 23 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province


Stefan Ciobanu, Basarabia. Populatia. Istoria. Cultura, p. 47; also A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima
Basarabiei, p. 7.
For historical details on the name “Bessarabia” see Mihai Eminescu, “Basarabia. Numele si intinde-
rea ei” in Basarabia Romana. Antologie, p. 3-6. Also, Dennis Deletant, “Language Policy and Linguistic
Trends in the Republic of Moldavia, 1924-1992” in Studies in Moldavian . . . . p. 54-55. For a different
opinion, much closer to the reality, see Charles King, The Moldovans, p. 20-21.
For details on Bessarabia under the rule of the Roman Empire, see A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 48,
Most Romanian historians agree that these people were none other than the descendants of the
Daco-Romanian population, who never abandoned their territories; the same language, customs and
religion were prevalent all over the northern Danube territory. A somewhat different viewpoint is
presented in Boldur’s Istoria Basarabiei, p. 98-110, arguing that, in fact, the descendants of the Daco-
Romanian populations had already been politically organized, in the 11th and 12th centuries, into
what was known as the Countries of the Brodnics, and the Bolohovens. After the great Mongol inva-
sion, some of these people migrated southward, and made up the bulk of the population in the
northern parts of Moldavia, and had the main role in the making of the Moldavian state, p.124, 138-
The economic and financial obligations of the Romanian principalities towards the Ottoman Em-
pire gradually grew, reaching their highest level during the 18th century. For a concise account of
these obligations, see Keith Hitchins, The Romanians. 1774-1866, p. 12-17.
The 1634 Treaty between Vasile Lupu, voevod of Moldavia, and the Ottoman Empire, states clearly
that Moldavia was to be recognized as an independent state; that any interference of the Turks in
the administration of the principality was forbidden; that the Moldavian borders would be kept
intact entirely. C.U. Clark, “Basarabia, Rusia . . .” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 88.
The hatisherifs were rescripts issued by the Sultan, for example after the conclusion of the 1774
peace or in 1802, in response to Russian demands, which imposed drastic limits on Ottoman political
suzerainty and economic privileges, established through the earlier ahidnames. K. Hitchins, The Roma-
nians. 1774-1866, p. 15.
Tomasso Tittoni, “Basarabia, Romania si Italia”, in Convorbiri Literare, 1927, p.16. Tittoni presents a
good definition of suzerainty, which he correctly considers as being different from sovereignty.
K. Hitchins, The Romanians. 1774-1866, p. 7.
For details regarding the organization of a Turkish raia see K Hitchins, The Romanians. 1774-1866, p.
I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 23.
Still, the Turks did not try to denationalize the population living in those territories being satisfied
to only exploit it economically. S. Ciobanu, Basarabia . . ., p. 49.
Paul Cernovodeanu, Basarabia. Drama unei provincii romanesti in context politic international, 1806-1920, p.
9. Also, R.W. Seton-Watson, The History of the Romanians, p. 555-560.
For details on the faith of Bukovina under the Austrian rule, see Ioan Capreanu, Bucovina. Isotrie si
cultura romaneasca, passim.
T. Tittoni, “Basarabia, Romania si Italia” in Convorbiri Literare, p.15
The complicated Franco-Russian and Franco-Ottoman negotiations during the first decade of the
19th century regarding the future position of the Romanian principalities are very clearly presented in
P. Cernovodeanu, Basarabia . . . , p. 12-63. Also, I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 29-32, or A. Boldur,
Istoria Basarabiei, p. 281-288.
Ion Gherman, Istoria tragica a Bucovinei, Basarabiei si tinutul Hertei, p. 109.
P. Cernovodeanu, Basarabia . . . , p. 38-40.
F.C. Nanu, Politica externa a Romaniei, 1919-1933, p.106.

< 24 >

Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question . . . , p. 235-242. Van Meurs makes a very good analyze of the
political motivations behind the publishing by the Romanians of Marx’s comments in 1964.
By the Karlowitz Peace of January 1699 between the Poles and the Ottomans, although the former
applied pressure on the Ottomans to cede the northern parts of Moldavia to them, they received only
the territory of Podolia. The Ottomans argued that Moldova was independent and not theirs; there-
fore they could not give it away. I. Frunza, The rights of the Romanians upon Bessarabia, p. 13. Unfortu-
nately they were not able to maintain that position a century later.
Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question . . . , p. 47. Also, George F. Jewsburry, The Russian Annexation of
Bessarabia, p. 55.
Quoted in R.W. Seton-Watson, The History of the Romanians, p. 561.
For details on the Bulgarian colonization see Th. Holban, “Numarul bulgarilor din Basarabia” in
Basarabia Romana. Antologie, p. 527-532.
Irina Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania, p.93-94; also I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p.
The colonization was initially generated by the necessity to fill Bessarabia with people, in order to
make possible a better exploitation of the newly acquired territory, and not for depriving it of its
Romanian character. The Russian Empire appealed not only to people inside the Russian Empire but
also to any other people willing to work and live under its authority in exchange for a piece of land.
It was in this area that “the Russians registered their greatest success.” G.F. Jewsburry, The Rus-
sian . . . , p. 66-74. Also, A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 276.
For a fair and concise description of Bessarabia’s situation under the Russian administration see K
Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 239-250.
I. Scurtu, et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 57, 88.
Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question . . . , p. 48.
For a concise presentation of the Romanian Principalities during the Crimean War see P. Cerno-
vodeanu, Basarabia … , p. 64-70.
P Cernovodeanu, “Basarabia . . .”, p. 71-78. Although P. Cernovodeanu considers that the retroces-
sion of the southern part of Bessarabia to Moldavia meant a partial international recognition of the
illegality done in 1812 when Bessarabia went under Russian rule, the author of the present paper
considers that the retrocession came as a result of strategic reasons and had little to do with the 1812
Bucharest Peace Treaty.
R.W. Seton-Watson, The History of the Romanians, p. 562.
The war also offered the opportunity of a first contact between the Bessarabian and the Romanian
soldiers fighting together. Nicolae Ciachir, Basarabia sub stapanire tarista, 1812-1917, p. 57.
David MacKenzie, “Russia’s Balkan policies Under Alexander II” in Imperial Russian Foreign Policy, p.
P. Cernovodeanu, Basarabia . . . , p. 87, 90.
For details regarding the position of Romania before the start of the 1877 and of her difficult nego-
tiations with Russia and the other Great Powers see B. Jelavich, Russia and the Formation of the Romanian
National State, 1821-1878, p. 227-259.
P. Cernovodeanu, Basarabia . . . , p. 96.
The Russian action in southern Bessarabia did not come as much a surprise to the leading Roma-
nian political circles. During the bilateral negotiations in 1876-1877 Ion C. Bratianu had been told by
the Russians that they do intend to take back southern Bessarabia but, having no other available
options, he decided to go on the Russian’s hand, hoping probably in a more happier outcome. When
the things cleared and the Russians took southern Bessarabia the focus of the entire Romanian
propaganda was on the Russian betrayal and not at all on the territory offered in exchange to Roma-
nia. Pamfil Seicaru, Romania in marele razboi, p. 57. Also B. Jelavich, Russia and the Formation . . . , p. 242-
Xenia J. Eudin, Harold H. Fischer, Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927, p. XXIV.

< 25 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

B. Jelavich, Russia and the Formation . . . , p. 273-274.
For details on the Romanian position at the Berlin Peace Treaty negotiations see P. Cernovodeanu,
Basarabia . . . , p. 103-107; Also, B. Jelavich, Russia and the Formation . . . , p. 277-286.
B. Jelavich, Russia and the Formation . . . , p. 285. Still, on the other hand, Romanian public opinion
showed little enthusiasm for the acquisition of Dobrudja and thought it an unfair exchange for
southern Bessarabia. It was only in time and as a direct result of Romanian investments that the area
brought economic benefits to Romania.
B. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, p. 178.
Andrew Rossos, Russia and the Balkans, p. 134.
More information on the Romanian implication in the First and Second Balkan Wars is available
in Andrew Rossos, Russia and the Balkans, p. 134-152. For the Romanian account of events see the
memoirs of the Romanian prime minister at that time, Titu Maiorescu, in his book Romania, razboaiele
balcanice si Cadrilaterul, passim.

< 26 >


There are two different viewpoints regarding the 1918 Union between Bessara-
bia and Romania. Romanian historiography places the event in the context of the
long expected Union of all the Romanians into one state, a Greater Romania. Soviet
historiography considers it a military annexation of Bessarabia by Romania, achieved
through military means and by taking advantage of the situation in Russia at the end
of the First World War.
The Romanians argue that historically and demographically Bessarabia is Ro-
manian territory — that the Bessarabian population was made up mainly of Romani-
ans; and that the Ottoman Empire had no right to give it away to any other country.
The Russians simply consider that Bessarabia was taken (liberated) from the Otto-
man Empire and had become a Russian territory; in 1812 Romania did not exist as a
state and therefore could not have controlled Bessarabia. During the Soviet years, a
third viewpoint came into being, which is still promulgated today by some scholars
in the new Moldavian Republic. They consider that the Moldavians are neither Ro-
manians nor Russians but Moldavians, and they (the historians) are working hard to
combine the first two theories in order to build a history and a national feeling for
their people. In the view of the post-1990 events in Moldavia it must be admitted
that “the Soviet attempt to create the most artificial nationality of the USSR, the
Moldavians, and thus to hide the fact that over 2.8 million Romanians lived under
Soviet rule in a territory that once was part of the ethnic Romanian principality of
Moldavia”1 was, indeed, quite successful.
A description of the events in Bessarabia during 1917-1918 cannot be given
without referring to the events happening in the other parts of the Russian Empire,
and especially in Russia and Ukraine. The Bessarabians were not the only nationality
under strict Russian rule. All the nationalities had great hopes for their future and, as

< 27 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

the Empire entered the 20th century, its cohesion was decreasing because of the
spread of new ideas and the development of non-Russian national consciences
amidst all these populations. It became more and more difficult for the Empire to
maintain its unity and cohesion.
Bessarabia’s evolution was in many respects similar to that of other provinces;
the only difference that it decided in favor of unification with a state that had al-
ready existed before the war. In fact, the decision for Union is the point most hotly
contested by Soviet, Russian (and, today, by Moldavian) historiography. They do not
contest Bessarabia’s right to autonomy within the Russian Empire, or even its deci-
sion for independence, achieved on January 24, 1918 (the anniversary of the Union of
Walachia and Moldavia, 59 years earlier), but they draw the line when it comes to
the Union with Romania.
The main question is who, or what force, was behind the political events of
1917-1918 in Bessarabia, and how it affected those events. One underlying factor was
the awakening of national movements all over the Russian Empire, starting more or
less at the beginning of the 20th century. Scholars agree that without the events in
Russia there would have been no national awakening in Bessarabia. A second and
more complex factor is that of the national movement in Bessarabia. What kind of
nationalism was instigating the “hostilities” in Bessarabia — a Bessarabian, a Roma-
nian, a Moldavian, a Moldovan, or a Moldovan-Romanian nationalism?2 What was
the evolution of this nationalism and what were the factors that influenced it (and in
what degree)? To these questions it is difficult, if not impossible, to find an answer
accepted by all the scholars in the field; in the chapters to come, we will try to pre-
sent all the factors leading to the Union, while refraining from the attempt to con-
duct another exhaustive analysis of them. A third factor is the role played by the
quite sudden contact between Bessarabians and the Romanians living in Romania
and in Austria-Hungary during 1917-1918, a contact that had a significant influence
over the course of events in Bessarabia.
Nationality in the Bessarabian province is difficult to label. The descendants of
the Daco-Romanian population, the Romanians, populated the territory north of the
Danube River, including Bessarabia; they spoke the same language and shared the
same religion and customs, but they were divided into different political formations
or geographical regions. Before the development of the Romanian national con-
science, during the 19th century, the Romanians used to characterize themselves first
and foremost by using the regional denomination (such as “Moldovan”, “Regateni”,
“Olteni”, or “Ardeleni”). Local subdivisions also exist within these regions. Even to-
day, they continue to proudly call themselves by these regional names, but they do
consider themselves Romanians.
Until 1812, Bessarabia was a part of Moldavia and, since at that time the Roma-
nian national conscience was only in its nascent stages, it was quite normal for the
people living in Bessarabia to call themselves Moldavians and not Romanians. Be-
cause of their isolation from the other Romanian territories, due to Russian policy,
they called themselves Moldavians until 1918.

< 28 >

The controversy over the degree to which the Romanian-speaking people liv-
ing in Bessarabia are Moldavians and the degree to which they are Romanians is far
more recent.3 During the Russification process, the most powerful ally of the admini-
stration was the community (or identity) of religion, which was fully exploited. Due
to Russia’s control over the province, some differences did evolve between Bessara-
bia and the other Romanian-populated territories, such as the continued use of the
old Orthodox calendar.4 At the local level, among the peasants (the majority of the
population), there had been no interest — at least before 1917 — in political or na-
tional matters and whatever came from the official propaganda, including that from
the Church, was accepted as true. Both the Russian and Soviet propaganda exagger-
ated the differences between the Moldavians and the Romanians, to the point that
they finally managed to convince some Moldavians that they are, indeed, a distinct
Therefore, the main difference between the Bessarabian Romanians and the
Romanians in other provinces can be ascribed to the Russian control over Bessarabia
for more than a century. Nobody can argue convincingly that there was a great dif-
ference between the people living on the left and on the right sides of the Pruth River
before 1812. During the 19th century, the survival of the Moldavian identity was en-
sured by traditionalism, plus the isolation, backwardness, repressive character and
Russification policies of the Tsarist Empire.5
While during the first years after the annexation there were no notable differ-
ences, by about the middle of the 19th century the situation started to change, due to
the increasing Western, and especially French, influence over the Romanian princi-
palities — an influence that brought about reforms and development, a new ideol-
ogy, new customs and, finally, a state of all the Romanians.6
At the same time, Bessarabia was kept inside the Russian sphere and away
from Western influences. This gave the Bessarabians both advantages and disadvan-
tages. While in Romania there was a conflict between the government and the
Church, caused by the secularization of the land belonging to the churches and mon-
asteries, there was no such conflict in Bessarabia, and the Bessarabian priests were
more than happy with their situation. Russian propaganda was very successful in
convincing the Bessarabians that, in fact, they had a much better life under the rule
of the Czars than the peasants had in Romania.7
Before the beginning of the 20th century, there were manifestations of national
conscience among the Romanians living in Bessarabia — perhaps not very wide-
spread, but interestingly diverse: the Bessarabian boyars’ fight to maintaining their
privileges and autonomy during the first years after annexation;8 the books printed
in Romanian by Iacob Hanculov and by Ioan Doncev;9 the Moldavian boyars’ crea-
tion of a small political party during 1862-1863;10 the presentations made all over Bes-
sarabia by Romanian-language theatre groups; the movement of Bessarabian stu-
dents in Dorpat (1898-1902);11 the publication in Chisinau of a Romanian-language
newspaper called Mesajerul Basarabiei (The Bessarabian Messenger) in 1884;12 the smug-
gling of Romanian-language books and publications into Bessarabia; and, no less

< 29 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

significant, the printing of religious books in Romanian.13 Still, the most important
manifestation was the continuing usage of Romanian, not only in the administration,
schools (until 1867, when the official use of Romanian language was forbidden)14 and
Church, but also in the daily life, especially by the peasants. Directly connected to
this last factor was the enormous distance separating the intellectuals from the mass
of the people all over the Russian Empire, and Bessarabia was no exception. The very
low level of education in Bessarabia made the peasants incapable of receiving the
Russian culture, which thus had no influence over them.15 All these manifestations,
and the failure of the Russification process, point to the existence in Bessarabia at
the turn of the century of a pre-modern mass proto-nationalism.16
The 1905 Revolution in Russia signaled the awakening of all the nationalities
in the Empire. Political programs were launched all over the Empire, at first with the
idea of federalization of the nationalities in Russia and later with the idea of auton-
omy. The nascent Moldavian intelligentsia started to stir.17 Unfortunately there was
only a very small group of them fighting for the rights of the Romanians in Bessara-
bia. The most representative parts of the society (the boyars, the clergy, and the
peasants), for different reasons, had neither the interest nor the will to fight for na-
tional rights.
The first open manifestations of Bessarabian nationalism came in the form of
the Romanian-language press. A first such newspaper, significantly called Bessarabia
and using Latin, not Cyrillic, characters, was printed during 1905 in Switzerland by
Zamfir Arbore and Petre Cazacu, representing the views of the Romanian National
Party in Bessarabia.18 Although its focus was on universal suffrage and land reform, it
also called for the use of the Moldavian language in administration, education and
churches, and went as far as to ask for Bessarabian autonomy.19
A new step was taken in 1906 through the publication in Chisinau of a Roma-
nian newspaper called Bessarabia, edited by a group of Moldavian students and intel-
lectuals, under the leadership of E. Gavrilita. Their demands were, again, mostly of a
social character, but they also asked for the provincial autonomy of Bessarabia (as it
had enjoyed before 1869), and for the use of the Moldavian (actually Romanian) lan-
guage in schools, church, and administration. But the newspaper was published only
for a few months. During that time, the newspaper served as the basis for the forma-
tion of a small Democratic Moldavian Party, founded by the same E. Gavrilita.20
On a different level, but in connection with the revolution in Russia, comes the
movement to encourage the use of Moldavian language in churches. This was initi-
ated from within the Church, surprisingly, by the Russian high clergymen who real-
ized that, in fact, most of the Moldavian peasants were quite unable to understand
their sermons in Russian. Therefore, they took a number of measures to have their
message penetrate the minds of the peasants, allowing the local priests to use the
Moldavian language in churches and reopening the Eparchial Typography, which
started publishing religious literature translated into Romanian.21 It is important to
note that this movement continued after 1907 and had a certain influence over the
great mass of Bessarabian peasants (which was almost indifferent to appeals coming

< 30 >

from the intelligentsia), preparing it for the 1917-1918 events.

Overall, the Bessarabian national movement during the 1905-1907 revolution in
Russia can be characterized, at best, as a weak one both in its manifestations (only a
few newspapers) and its adherence (limited to a very small number of intellectuals
and not including the boyars, the priests and the peasants — with some notable ex-
ceptions).22 It was also more social or cultural in nature rather than political.23 And,
although there are not many Romanian scholars stressing this point, it had a very
weak echo in Romania itself, where few intellectuals or political leaders expressed
any interest in the fate of the Bessarabians. The weakness and lack of support for
Bessarabian nationalism is best illustrated by the fact that no Moldavian (or Roma-
nian) was among those elected in 1906 to the new Imperial Duma.24
Needless to say, after 1906 the Russian reaction destroyed any national move-
ment inside the Empire, and in a very short time Bessarabian nationalism became
only a distant dream as many of its promoters had to move to Jassy, in Romania.25
The festivities the Russian administration organized in Bessarabia in 1912 to cele-
brate the 100th anniversary of the annexation were full of pomp and very few (in Bes-
sarabia or in Romania) people could have had the courage to raise the national flag
for the Bessarabians. Then, during the war and until the peak of the 1917 Revolution,
there were no new manifestations of Bessarabian nationalism,26 everybody being far
more concerned with the fate of Great Russia than with that of Romania or of the
Bessarabians. Even in Romania, almost everybody was looking towards the west
(Transylvania) and not to the east.27 Only after the beginning of the World War
were any voices heard in Romania (the best known of them was that of Constantin
Stere), and in some European capitals,28 arguing that the main objective of Roma-
nia’s policy should be the recovery of Bessarabia. One of the best descriptions of the
Bessarabian national conscience is to be found on Emmanuel De Martonne’s Report on
Bessarabia, presented to the French Committee of Study in July 1919:

It is not possible to deny that the national conscience was numb in Bessarabia
in 1914. One could think that it was the right time for Romania’s intervention if
she did not want to lose all the hopes of recovering a territory that seemed to
be lost definitively. Still, the events proved that it was not too late.29

Making the Union

One Romanian historian, Stefan Ciobanu, in The Union of Bessarabia, distin-

guishes two phases in the nationalities movement inside the Russian Empire, with
different particularities: national romanticism and national realism — which existed
both generally in Russia and in Bessarabia.
The first phase was the moment when different nationalities came to believe in
the Revolution and in the Provisional Government. People from all over the Empire
started to claim some national rights, as they had done in 1905; this was limited to
provincial autonomy, cultural autonomy, and use of their mother tongues in educa-

< 31 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

tion, church and administration. They held congresses and organized themselves
into political parties and societies. Unfortunately, the Provisional Government had a
radical tendency in resolving social problems and continued the policy of centraliza-
tion and Russification.
The second phase started when the different nationalities that made up the
Empire, disappointed by the Provisional Government’s policy, made the transition
from the idea of federalization to the idea of “self determination” or separation from
Russia through the creation of new independent states and/or unification with other
Although not all scholars agree,30 it is generally considered that in Bessarabia
the Moldavian National Party, founded on March 20 (April 2), 1917 under the leader-
ship of Bessarabian boyar Vasile Stroescu, guided the national movement. The press
was the favored tool for communicating with the people and for propaganda, espe-
cially the Moldavian Word (Cuvant Moldovenesc) newspaper, which was printed as early
as 1913.31 In the beginning they asked only for social, economical and political rights.
Their program was published on April 2 (15), 1917, in Moldavian Word, with the Na-
tional Moldavian Party specifying its objectives: Bessarabia’s autonomy, which
meant having their own government (self-government); use of the Moldavian lan-
guage in schools, church, and administration; and the right to live a Moldavian life,
with their own customs. Later, other objectives were included, like the national and
citizens’ rights established by the Russian revolution, for example universal suffrage,
and freedom of speech, printing, assembly and religion.32
More or less simultaneously with the founding of the Moldavian National
Party, local Soviets of soldiers, peasants, and workers were formed, initially in the
Russian garrisons of major Bessarabian cities and later in smaller towns as well. On
May 1 (14), 1917, a gathering of some 10,000 Moldavian officers and soldiers in
Odessa demanded political autonomy for Bessarabia and announced the formation of
separate Moldavian army units to maintain public order.33 Also, the Bessarabian stu-
dents and soldiers in Odessa and Kiev organized into groups and started working in
favor of the Bessarabian cause, editing Moldavian-language publications addressed
to the Bessarabian soldiers.34
One of the most important factors at this beginning was the contact between
the Bessarabians and the Transylvanian Romanians who, because of the war, were
present in great numbers all over the Russian Empire. It seems that under their im-
pulse and taking advantage of their experience in fighting for national rights, the
Bessarabian nationalist propaganda began to reach the masses.35
The first manifestation of Bessarabian nationalism among the peasants came
during the first meeting of the Soviet of Deputies of the Peasants in Chisinau, May
21-24 (June 3-6). After insisting on the right to speak their own language, and on
Bessarabian autonomy, the Moldavian deputies decided to leave the Congress and to
organize their own Moldavian Congress.36 It was an important step for the national
movement, although in the end the Moldavian peasants were brought back together
with the representatives of the other nationalities in Bessarabia (through the efforts

< 32 >

of I.D. Sokolov, the representative of the Petrograd Soviet of Soldiers and Workers)
and approved the Petrograd-made decisions regarding Bessarabia.37
During the first months of the Revolution propaganda played a very important
role. Because there were so many political and national orientations, there was a real
“boom” of publications printed in Bessarabia and, most important, in the Romanian
language. This proves that all the parties involved realized the importance of the
great mass represented by the Moldavian peasants and soldiers in the “sudden” birth
of Bessarabian nationalism. The use of Moldavian language in publications (even in
those published by the enemies of Bessarabian nationalism)38 and more and more
often in schools, church, army and even the administration, was a real boost for the
Bessarabian national feelings. Therefore, unlike during 1905-1907, the propaganda
was able to penetrate the masses.
The first enemy of Bessarabia’s autonomy was the Ukrainian Republic, which
was created in June 1917. Ukraine took the view that Bessarabia was part of Ukraine
and was especially opposed to the inclusion of the Hotin (in the north) and Acker-
man (south) districts within the Bessarabian territory.39
One by one, other organizations, like the National Peasants’ Party, the Molda-
vian Progressive Party, and professional leagues, were brought into existence and
they too argued in favor of the two main ideas of the Revolution — land reform and
autonomy — especially among the army and the intellectuals. It was not always a
fair fight, and intimidation by force and political assassinations were often used.40
The evolution toward autonomy was partially influenced by the Congress of
the Peoples Living in Russia, held in Kiev, September 8-14 (21-27); a Bessarabian
delegation leaded by Teofil Iancu and Vasile Cijevski took part. The Congress de-
cided in the favor of national autonomy for the nations living inside the Russian Em-
pire. It offered a good tribune for the Bessarabians to express their nationalist feel-
Between October 20 and 27 (November 2-9), 1917, the “Congress of Moldavian
Soldiers” was held in Chisinau; about 900 delegates representing more than 250,000
people took part (including both officers and soldiers). The Congress took a number
of decisions, the most important being autonomy, the nationalization of the Molda-
vian army (fighting under the command of Russian general Scerbacev, together with
troops from other parts of the Empire), land reform and especially the convening of a
National Assembly.42 It should be mentioned that they considered as part of Bessara-
bia those territories east of Dniestr that were populated by Moldavians, and ac-
corded those Moldavians the right to send ten representatives to the future National
On November 2 (15), the Bolsheviks published the famous Declaration regard-
ing the rights of all the peoples in Russia, which was, together with the similar Proc-
lamation made by the Kerensky Government on September 25 (October 8), the legal
basis for the national movements all over the Russian Empire.
After the elections,43 the Sfatul Tserii (the Council of the Country), opened its
debates at Chisinau on November 21 (December 4), 1917. The Sfatul Tserii was an in-

< 33 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

stitution created and organized like an ordinary provincial Diet, with the duties of
coordinating the political and administrative life and, most important, preparing for
autonomy. There were 150 deputies in the newly made Council (105 Romanians, 15
Ukrainians, 14 Jewish, 7 Russians, 2 Germans, 2 Bulgarians, 2 Gagauz, 1 Polish, 1 Ar-
menian, 1 Greek). The Sfatul Tserii was proclaimed the highest institution in Bessara-
bia and then an executive body was elected from its members. The executive body
was named “The Council of the General Directors” and was composed of a President
Director and ten General Directors; it had the basic attributes of a government. It
also took a number of important decisions regarding other questions of immediate
interest, such as agrarian reform, universal suffrage, human rights, minorities’ rights,
workers’ rights, the national army, the death penalty and so on.44
The government in Petrograd recognized the newly elected body as representa-
tive for Bessarabia. Politically, in the new Parliament all the political forces were rep-
resented: the National Moldavian Bloc (with about 47%), the Peasant Faction
(20%), the social democrats, the social-revolutionaries, and the landowners.45
A dispute regarding the constitutionality of the Sfatul Tserii was generated by
Soviet historiography.46 But their arguments led to the conclusion that almost all the
other similarly constituted assemblies (the Ukrainian Rada, for example) on Russian
territory were unconstitutional. Given that the Sfatul Tserii was elected on a fair ba-
sis, representing not only the existing political groups but all the nationalities and
all the professions in Bessarabia, its constitutionality is beyond doubt.
On December 2, (15) 1917, in Chisinau, the Sfatul Tserii proclaimed the auton-
omy of the Moldavian Democratic Republic.

Bessarabia is proclaimed from today the Democratic Republic of Moldavia, as a

member with equal rights inside the Russian Federative Democratic Repub-

On the basis of national self-determination, both the Petrograd Soviet and the
Council of People’s Commissars recognized the new Moldavian Republic, its gov-
ernment, and its Assembly.48
On December 8 (21), a delegation of the Sfatul Tserii went to Jassy to seek mili-
tary help from the Entente against the armed groups of cashiered soldiers. All they
received were promises.
Another important element in the equation was the state of war. In 1916, the
Russian and Romanian Armies were fighting together on the eastern front. Because
of events in Moscow, the problems inside the Russian Army deepened more and
more in 1917. There had been numerous riots and desertions caused by the lack of
provisions and the lack of will to fight. Soldiers started stealing food from the peas-
ants. Disorder was gaining in proportion along the eastern front (which crossed Ro-
manian territory). The Romanian authorities, with the approval of the Allied repre-
sentatives in Jassy, decided to take action against Bolshevik troops on Romanian
territory, at first by gradually arresting the members of the soldiers’ leading “Soviets”

< 34 >

and later by disarming the troops and preventing them from reaching the capital city
of Jassy.49 As a consequence, fighting broke out between the two armies that were
supposed to be collaborating against the Germans (as when the Russian attacked
Galatz, a Romanian city50). Unfortunately, Russian soldiers (or deserters) fleeing the
Romanians had to cross through Bessarabia, where they went on with their robbing
and pillaging.
The reaction in Moscow to the Romanian Army’s action against Russian
troops was very prompt. The entire personnel of the Romanian Legation in Moscow
was arrested and jailed on December 31, 1917 (January 13, 1918). As a result of the in-
tervention organized by other diplomats in Moscow, the Romanian representatives
were liberated after three days and were ejected from the country.51 Ten days later,
on January 13 (26), as a direct result of the Romanian Army entering Bessarabia, the
People’s Commissars decided to break off diplomatic relations with Romania (see
Annex No. 1). The only effective action it could take in this sense, due to its conflict
with the White Russians, was to seize the Romanian National Treasury in Moscow
(transported there for safekeeping during 1917), which it duly confiscated and sealed
on the same day. In fact, the Bolsheviks were so weak that, as one scholar presents it,
“Romania, herself defeated by Germany, still felt strong enough to encroach upon
Russian territory, a situation which would have seemed fantastic before 1917 or after
The Romanians argue that the Petrograd Government had no right to confis-
cate the Treasury in retaliation for their intervention in Bessarabia, after having sol-
emnly proclaimed that each of the nationalities living in the former Russian Empire
had the right to separate itself from the Russian Empire. Moreover, at Brest Litovsk,
they did not express any claims over Bessarabia.53
The situation in Bessarabia was worse than in Romania. The civil war between
the different military groups was bringing the population to a state of terror. Armed
robberies became a constant threat. The situation was such that, in mid-December,
in Chisinau there were no fewer than nine different committees, each one rejecting
the authority of the Sfatul Tserii.54 There was almost complete anarchy, fueled by the
Bolshevik propaganda and actions and by the Sfatul Tserii’s lack of the human and
material resources necessary to end the violence.
At the second congress of the RUMCEROD (the Central Executive Committee
of the Soviets of the Romanian Front, the Black Sea Fleet, and the Odessa Region —
a communist organization claiming control over southern Ukraine), a resolution
condemning the Sfatul Tserii was adopted and it was decided to take action against it
(December 27-January 9). The Front Section (Frontotdel), made up of hard-line Bol-
sheviks, was sent to Chisinau. On January 1 (14), 1918, the Frontotdel captured stra-
tegic locations and buildings in the city and proclaimed itself in command of the
Russian troops on the Romanian front and in Bessarabia, challenging the authority
of the Sfatul Tserii.55
The Bolsheviks attempted to take power for themselves by abolishing the Sfatul
Tserii and arresting the elected deputies, replacing it with a self-proclaimed Molda-

< 35 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

vian Soviet. None of its members were ethnic Moldavian; and this ethnic pattern
would repeat itself later, when the leadership of the Bessarabian communist party
mostly consisted of non-Moldavian individuals.56 However, the Bolshevik plan failed
when the Romanian Army intervened, at the request of the Sfatul Tserii.
The leaders of the Sfatul Tserii twice sent to Jassy for military assistance against
the Bolsheviks, but the Allies could do nothing and the only force able to intervene
efficiently in Bessarabia was the Romanian Army. At the time, as a result of both the
Russian and the Bolshevik propaganda, there were some reservations in Bessarabia
regarding the implication of a possible intervention by the Romanian Army. That
was seen as a potential first step towards union with Romania.57 In order to avoid
such a situation in the future, the Allied representatives in Jassy gave, on January 2
(15), a written guarantee to the Bessarabian authorities regarding Romanian military

This is purely a military measure, as its only object is to guarantee the normal
functioning of service for the Russo-Romanian front, in conformity with the
rules established in the belligerent countries. Thus, this cannot affect in any
way the actual or future politics of Bessarabia.58

On January 6 (19), 1918, the Romanian government decided that a group of

Transylvanian former war prisoners in Russia, arriving from Kiev, should take up
positions in Chisinau in order to defend the storage houses from looting.59 As soon as
they arrived there, the Bolsheviks, who had launched their insurrection on January 7,
seized their guns and sent them back where they came from. On that insurrectional
day the Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Caabac, cracked down on the Sfatul Tserii,
arresting its deputies and all the Romanian officers they found in Chisinau.60
In order to stop the disorder, at the request of both the Bessarabian authorities
and the Entente Powers, with a written request from General Scerbacev, the Roma-
nian Army crossed the border into Bessarabia on January 10 (23).61 In a matter of
days, it had liberated Chisinau, and it defeated all the Bolshevik troops during the
following weeks, establishing peace (actually, the end of looting) in Bessarabia. The
military intervention was supposed to be temporary and was expected to end as
soon as the mission (defending the railway and the depots) was completed. But in
the larger scheme of things, Romania’s decision to intervene militarily in Bessarabia
is justified for another reason: during the 19th century, neither Bismarck nor Cavour
had hesitated to use military action as a complement to their diplomatic sallies in
order to achieve the unification of their states. It does not seem extraordinary that
the Romanians should do the same. They simply seized an opportunity and did what
other nations had done, trying to repeat their success.
Petrograd’s reaction to the Romanian action came the same day; the Russian
Government broke off diplomatic relations with Romania. It should be mentioned
that, although at the beginning the Romanian Army was not very welcome in Bes-
sarabia, the advantages of a return to relative peace and order, plus the continuing

< 36 >

assurances from the Romanian generals that they had no intention of interfering in
Bessarabia’s political life (and the Allied representatives’ assurances that it was only
a temporary intervention), made many Bessarabians — including Ion Inculet, the
president of the Sfatul Tserii — change their opinion.62
The Ukrainian Rada raised no claims over Bessarabia before or after the signing
of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty with the Central Powers on January 27, which was
understood by both the Bessarabians and the Romanians as a confirmation that it
did not consider Bessarabia to be a part of Ukraine.63
A new step was made on January 1918, the date when Ukraine was proclaimed
an independent state, breaking any direct connections between Bessarabia and
Petrograd. On January 24 (February 5), 1918 (a date chosen for its special signifi-
cance, as it was the date of the union between Moldavia and Walachia), the Sfatul
Tserii proclaimed, not without an intense debate between the pro-independence and
pro-autonomy groups, the independence of Moldavia.64 During the following weeks,
the question of unification with Romania became one of the most urgent topics of
debate. The Sfatul Tserii realized that it was less and less able to control the situation
and to organize itself as a real administration (it could not levy taxes or organize an
army), so it decided to convene the People’s Assembly to decide the “union” ques-
During February, the situation of the Romanian refugees in Odessa worsened
considerably as a result of aactions initiated by the Rumcerod, under the leadership of
Christian Rakovsky. A large number of Romanian refugees had been arrested, at
Rakovsky’s orders, and were being detained together with the Romanian officials
arrested in Chisinau at the beginning of January, in miserable conditions, in Odessa.
The Rumcerod sent a number of notes to the Romanian Government, asking for the
withdrawal of its Army from Bessarabia and for the Allies’ mediation in the conflict
between Romania and the Rumcerod.65
On February 18, 1918, Russia signed the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty with the
Central Powers. As a direct consequence, Romania remained alone on the eastern
Important to our subject, because it was used as one of the main arguments in
favor of Soviet claims to Bessarabia, is the treaty regarding the end of the Russo-
Romanian conflict, signed on February 20 (March 5), 1918. By this treaty, Romania
undertook to evacuate Bessarabia during the following two months. Russian histori-
ography insists that Romania failed to respect this treaty by refusing to withdraw its
army and that, in order to find a justification to the continuous presence of the Ro-
manian Army in Bessarabia, the Romanian Government influenced the Sfatul Tserii to
declare the union of Bessarabia with Romania.
The Romanian Prime Minister at that time, General Al. Averescu, opened nego-
tiations with the Rumcerod through the offices of Italy’s representative in Jassy, Fas-
ciotti, who was the dean of the diplomatic missions. His aim was to improve the
general situation of Romania (by having peace at east), to secure the Romanian

< 37 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

army’s depots of materials and food in Bessarabia, and especially to help a great num-
ber of Romanian deputies and officers66 detained in Odessa by the Rumcerod.
Averescu accepted almost all of the conditions presented by Rakovsky, adding as a
preliminary condition the liberation of the Romanian prisoners.67 In addition to the
main agreement three protocols were signed, referring to an exchange of prisoners,
the return of Russian soldiers in Romania in case of Romania making peace, a gen-
eral political amnesty for Romanian political emigrants and deserters, and the
evacuation of the Ackerman district.68 But because the Rumcerod had to flee Odessa,
as soon as February 27, the exchange of prisoners did not take place and the treaty
was never applied.69 Adding to the controversy over this unimplemented agreement
is the fact that the independent Moldavian Republic was not invited to sign it.70
Therefore, the agreement was not binding on the Moldavian Republic, which was
free to decide her own future.
On March 27 (April 9), 1918, the Sfatul Tserii proclaimed, in a very festive atmos-
phere,70 the Union of Moldavia with Romania — but with conditions such as pro-
vincial autonomy for Bessarabia after incorporation, agrarian reform, and universal
suffrage, as well as a number of other political and social reforms.71 Some scholars
argue that the new relationship with Romania, as the Moldavians saw it, was to be
based upon federalist principles.72 The result of the vote for the Union was: in favor,
86 votes; against, 3 votes; abstentions, 36; and absentees 13 (of the 138 members).
The March 27 (April 9) resolution of the Sfatul Tserii that decided upon the un-
ion with Romania stated:

In the name of and on behalf of the people of Bessarabia, the Country’s Council
[Sfatul Tserii] declares that the Moldavian Democratic Republic [Bessarabia] —
within her boundaries formed by the Pruth, the Dniestr, the Black Sea and the
old frontiers with Austria — which had been cut off by Russia more than one
hundred years ago from the body of old Moldavia — in keeping with her his-
torical national rights, and on the principle that one nation alone should decide
upon her fate, decides to unite from now on with the motherland — Roma-

On April 4 (17) 1918, Ferdinand, the King of Romania, ratified the unification of
Bessarabia with Romania.
The reasons for including the conditions were related to both the situation in
Bessarabia (where a land reform was underway, while in Romania it was still only
theoretical) and the dissatisfaction with the pro-German orientation of the Roma-
nian Government leaded by Alexandru Marghiloman. Although the Transylvanian,
Bukovina and Bessarabian nationalisms developed on different coordinates they
came to have a significant common feature: they made ratification of their own rights
and execution of the land reform (promised in the Old Kingdom in 1917) a prerequi-
site for union into a Greater Romania.74 However, on November 27 (December 10),
after implementing the land reform and because the war had ended, the Sfatul Tserii

< 38 >

renounced to these conditions and proclaimed the Union without conditions.75

When the Union was proclaimed, the Ukrainian government sent a number of
notes to Romania, asking at first for a plebiscite in those Bessarabian territories that
were populated mainly by Ukrainians, and then for the incorporation of the entire
Bessarabia to Ukraine.76 However, in just a few months, the Ukrainian government
ceased sending notes of protest, and its relations with Romania improved. Russian
Foreign Commissar Gheorghi Cicerin also sent a note to the Romanian authorities to
protest the incorporation of Bessarabia, accusing them of not respecting the will of
the masses and of acting in the interests of the landowners (it is interesting that he
mentions the same landowners who were permanently fighting against the Union).77
Nevertheless, both the Central Powers and the Entente Powers gave their approval
to the Union.
The last internal action regarding the Union was its ratification, on December
20, 1919, by the newly-elected Romanian Parliament, which was made up of deputies
representing all the regions of Greater Romania, including Bessarabia. International
recognition of Bessarabia’s union with Romania came on October 28, 1920 when Ro-
mania, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan signed the Bessarabian Treaty. That
document and the maneuverings that took place before and after its signing form the
central focus of the chapters to come.

Delays in Romania’s Ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty

Although the Bessarabian Treaty signified the much-desired international rec-

ognition of the union, the Romanian government was slow in ratifying it, and was, in
fact, not even the first of the signatories to do so.
The first attempt to ratify the Bessarabian Treaty was made on November 22,
1921, when the Romanian Foreign Minister, Take Ionescu, sent a report to the Coun-
cil of Ministers asking for the Council’s agreement for the draft law regarding ratifi-
cation. The Council decided, on December 2, 1921, that the draft should be sent to
the Parliament for the necessary debates. On the same day, King Ferdinand also ap-
proved the sending of the draft to the Parliament, together with a Message in which
the reasons for ratification were presented. After underscoring the historical argu-
ments and the way in which the union had been made, the Message presents the
Treaty itself, stating, “Through this Convention the international side of Bessarabia’s
union with Romania has been closed definitively . . . the Bessarabian question exists
no more for the Romanian government”.78 But due to political events in Romania —
the fall of the Averescu government, followed a short time later by that of the Take
Ionescu government — the first ratification attempt failed.
In January 1922, the Liberal Party came back to power in Romania. Among the
actions they took in an effort to boost their image, they ratified the Bessarabian
Treaty. Unfortunately, their action came only after the British government an-
nounced that it had already ratified theTreaty and, most probably, as a direct result
of the French and British insistence for the ratification by all the signatories during

< 39 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

the meetings of the Conference of Ambassadors (March 15). On March 27, 1922, I.G.
Duca, the new Foreign Minister, sent the draft law to the Council of Ministers and
the King, asking for the requisite approval before sending the draft to the Parlia-
ment. The very next day his request was approved and the draft law, together with a
Message, was sent to the Parliament.79 On April 3 and 7 respectively, the Senate and
the Chamber unanimously adopted the law for the ratification of the Bessarabian
Treaty.80 On April 13, King Ferdinand gave his approval. The last step was taken in
the second half of May, when the ratification was officially deposited in Paris. The
Romanian minister to France, Victor Antonescu, signed the procès verbal regarding
the deposit of the Romanian ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty on May 19, 1922.81
After the deposit of the ratification in Paris, the Treaty was published in the Official
Monitor on August 8, 1922.
The question is why, when it would only take two weeks to ratify the Bessara-
bian Treaty, and when all the political parties were in agreement that it must be rati-
fied, did it take so long to do so?
And even then, to what extent did the ratification come about as a normal ac-
tion for Romania? Was it a result of her finally understanding the need to have the
Treaty brought into force before the Genoa Conference? Or was it actually triggered
by the British ratification? For unknown reasons, Romanian historiography carefully
avoids mentioning the fact that Great Britain was the first signatory state to ratify
the Bessarabian Treaty.
The only reason that could have justified the delay of the Romanian ratification
is the controversy between Romania and the Great Powers, during 1921, regarding
the status of the Danube. As the Bessarabian Treaty weakened the Romanian posi-
tion regarding the control of navigation on the Danube, the government might have
postponed its ratification in order to be in a better position during the negotiations
over the future status of Danube. Another possible reason (but one that does not
justify the delay) might be related to the internal political situation in Romania —
especially with regard to the policy of the Liberal Party, which was more than will-
ing to use anything that might have a positive influence over public opinion
(including ratification) in order to boost its electoral chances.

The Aftermath of the Union

Not everyone in Bessarabia was happy about the Union. A number of groups
opposed it, the most important of them being that of the former Russian civil ser-
vants. They could not imagine relinquishing their jobs and privileges; and many of
them only spoke the Russian language. On the other hand, they were afraid of com-
munism, which probably would have had a similar effect on their jobs. They hoped
that the White Army would succeed in its fight against the communists, and they
kept close relations with General Denikin, offering him considerable financial sup-
port. They disliked the Romanian State and refused to be sworn in for Romania, but
they did not resign from their administrative positions (a good job is always hard to

< 40 >

find). They continued to use theRussian language in their official activity. The old
administrative system, based on the zemstvo system, was still working and tried to
take on some of the government’s powers by imposing special taxes.
The great landowners were another category. The General Land Committee
was overseeing the nationalization of the great estates, including Church properties,
and of the Moldavians’ wealth. The landowners later started a powerful action
against the Romanian State, requesting compensation for the land. While they were
grateful to the Romanian Army for saving their lives, they were also unhappy be-
cause they did not receive back their land.
In the beginning, the Romanian government did not intervene directly in Bes-
sarabia’s administration, because of the war. However, the situation changed in Oc-
tober 1918. Without too much noise, the zemstva were abolished. In just a few weeks,
the administrative powers were transferred from zemstvo to government, and the old
Russian civil servants were dismissed, with the exception of those who chose to be
sworn in for Romania.
The economic situation of Bessarabia was very difficult. Because of the war,
there was inflation and many goods were unavailable. Speculation in goods and
money became the norm. The Romanian currency (called the “leu”) was refused in
many places and the ruble-leu exchange rate was arbitrarily established. The central
authorities tried to stop the speculation, but it was very difficult. The local authori-
ties were constantly asking for more money from the Romanian government (and
not from the Russian representatives), but they were very nervous when Romanian
public servants made inquiries about how it was being spent.
Still, it should be acknowledged that, because of the war, the first months of
the Romanian administration in Bessarabia (where the agricultural base had not suf-
fered as it had in Romania proper), were not very “liberating” for the new province.
Requisitions by the Army (which was forced, in conformity with the Bucharest
Treaty, to make requisitions for the Germans) and some measures taken by the pro-
German government in Bucharest, were not received well at all in Bessarabia.82 The
situation was complicated by the German-sponsored Ukrainian propaganda that
emphasized that, unlike the Romanian Army, the German Army intended to pay
something in exchange for the requisitions, and that the Bessarabians would fare
better under German occupation.
The Romanian government did not impose its own legislation and administra-
tion on Bessarabia at once. Bessarabia was integrated into Romania step by step. The
administrative integration was completed in June 1925, when the Romanian Parlia-
ment voted the “Law of Administrative Unification”. Within a few years, Romanian
public servants filled the vacuum created by resignation of the former Russian civil
servants. However, their corruption and the fact that they were named from Bucha-
rest (some of them considered this assignment a punishment, and tried to take re-
venge on the Bessarabian population), and the difficulty for Bessarabians to obtain
jobs in the civil administration, certainly displeased the local population. Some
scholars consider that, for the Romanian administration, Bessarabia was quite the

< 41 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

opposite of Transylvania: a particularly backward, refractory, and incendiary region,

whose problems were then compounded by its use as a bureaucratic exile for incom-
petent, corrupt or politically out-of-favor administrators.83 They also argue that the
province had been perhaps the worst governed of all Romanian provinces in the
interwar years, which is to say that it was very badly governed indeed.84 Still, in fair-
ness to the Romanians, it should be noted that even with such bad administration,
the results were incomparably positive compared to those of the Russian admini-
stration. The Bessarabians’ living standard improved — and there had been plenty of
corruption in the Bessarabian administration even before 1918.
But not only the Bessarabians were not pleased with the new administration.
The Transylvanian leaders too were disappointed by the attitude of those from the
Old Kingdom.85 The army, the high administrative positions, and the Foreign Service
remained strongholds of the Walachians and Moldavians, with some notable excep-
tions.86 In a sense, it was the same situation as in the new Serbo-Croato-Sloven
Kingdom, with the “Regateni” (individuals from the Old Kingdom) playing the role
of the Serbs.87 The central government’s treatment of the new, and sometimes more
highly developed, provinces (like Transylvania) was one of the reasons behind the
permanent discontent in the newly acquired territories. Certainly, the root of the
problem lay not only the Romanian government’s attitude toward the newly ac-
quired territories but also in the expectations of the people living in those territories
regarding the changes the union would bring. Of course, those changes came at a
very slow pace and did not always coincide with what was expected. Today’s Roma-
nia, in which is not at all difficult to find people arguing that life was better during
the communist rule, offers an excellent example in this sense.
At the same time, the fear of communist propaganda spread by laborers influ-
enced the economic policy of the Romanian ruling circles. That policy had a deleteri-
ous effect on Bessarabia’s economic development and led to the stagnation of its in-
dustry and its agriculture.88 During the economic crisis of 1929-1933, which affected
agriculture especially, Bessarabia suffered more than Walachia and Transylvania,
contributing to the Bessarabians’ dissatisfaction with the Romanian administration.
The corruption and abuses, some of which had been remarked even by the Great
Powers’ representatives in Romania, were still present in Bessarabians’ memory (of
course, with a little help from communist propaganda) even as late as 1990.
In fairness to the Romanian Administration, it should be said that during the
fifty years of communism, Russia fully utilized the realm of propaganda to deter Bes-
sarabia from any possible future union with Romania, by exaggerating the negative
aspects of the Romanian Administration during the interwar period. Any possible
comparison with the situation in the aftermath of the 1812 Russian occupation of
Bessarabia was carefully avoided, and there was never any mention of the fact that
the first Russian officials, both military and civil, were incompetent and corrupt. As
Count Kiselev describes the situation: “Everything is for sale, and the prefects are
obliged to steal more than the rest, as they have paid 20,000 or 30,000 rubles apiece
for their nomination”.89 The Soviet propaganda also constantly avoided mentioning

< 42 >

the progress made during the new administration in many fields, especially in educa-
tion and transportation,90 and that, precisely because of this Romanian Administra-
tion, no Bessarabian peasant died of starvation during the great Soviet famine of
In 1940, the situation of Bessarabia changed. On August 23, 1939, Germany and
the Soviet Union signed the famous Non-Aggression Pact and Secret Protocol, by
which the former received Germany’s “blessing” or neutrality regarding her claims
over Bessarabia. After a concerted military preparation, and taking advantage of the
disruptions in Europe at that time (France had been defeated by Germany), on June
26, 1940, Molotov gave Romania an ultimatum, demanding the total withdrawal of
the Romanian army and administration from Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. It
was only the German intervention that made the Russians stop short of taking all of
Bukovina. In the end, the Romanian government gave up Bessarabia and northern
Bukovina (plus the Herta territory, taken by the Russian army “by mistake”) with-
out fight. A very painful evacuation followed. One year later, Bessarabia was the mo-
tive for Romania to enter the war against the Soviet Union; and it was liberated in a
short time by the Romanian and German armies. But in 1944, the Soviets reoccupied
Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. During the Paris peace negotiations after the Sec-
ond World War, no voice in the international community rose to contest the “rights”
of the Soviet Union over these territories acquired from Romania.


Russian historians have found it easy to explain the vote in favor of union ac-
cording to the old official line (military aggression, oppression of the will of the peo-
ple); but, as previously stated, curiously enough they contested only the Union, not
the idea of autonomy within the Russian federation.
Perhaps the new communist government would have accepted (at least tempo-
rarily) independence for the Bessarabian territory, as it did for the Baltic States; but a
union of that territory with Romania was something else altogether. For a big power
like Russia to lose territory to a little country like Romania was unthinkable. And
the more powerful the Bolshevik government became, the more the Bessarabian
problem rankled. The Bessarabian situation went against everything in the Russian
tradition of foreign policy, a tradition in which Russia accepted the loss of territory
only when it was defeated by a coalition of great powers, and even then only as a
“temporary” setback. It was also a matter of international image for the Russians.
The best proof of this attitude was given to the Romanians in 1878, when the Rus-
sians took back southern Bessarabia, even though they had an alliance with Romania
(in a sense, Romania did the same to them in 1918). And they expressed this point of
view during the 1924 negotiations between the Soviets and Romania:

There is not the slightest analogy between the formation of new States on the
territory of the former Russian Empire [referring to the Baltic States] and the

< 43 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

seizure of Bessarabia by Romania. In the former case the Soviet Government, in

a number of peace treaties, voluntarily sanctioned the creation of these new
states and yielded to them a part of its own territory. In the latter case, a
neighboring State seized a part of Soviet territory by arms. . . 91

Russian Imperial pride was not abandoned or forgotten by the Soviets; indeed,
they went on developing their country until it became a superpower. The conse-
quences of their policy of territorial enlargement has impacted many of their
neighboring states.
Romanian historiography has analyzed the Union many times. The historical
and demographic arguments appear to offer the best background: before 1812, Bes-
sarabia belonged to the principality of Moldavia (which had a special status inside
the Ottoman Empire), and the majority of the Bessarabian population were Molda-
vian and spoke Romanian. Nonetheless, experts agree that without the Russian
Revolution, the Union never would have been possible. Events in Bessarabia paral-
leled those in Russia, and each phase of the Revolution had a similar phase in Bes-
sarabia. Early on, the revolution in Russia was social in nature, and later it became,
in part, a nationalities’ revolution: a revolution against Russian domination by non-
Russian peoples that had been incorporated into the Russian Empire. To some ex-
tent it was the same force that acted toward the dissolution of the Soviet Union at
the beginning of the 1990s.
Another important reason for the movement toward independence was the
fear of communism. The Bessarabian leaders were landowners and intellectuals, not
“workers”. Because industry was weak in Bessarabia, there was no working class.
The fearful image of a communist takeover had a certain influence over the Bessara-
bians’ decisions. The communist threat was one of the strongest impetuses for the
Romanian government to ask the Great Powers for help in making the Soviet Union
accept the Union.
Still, the most important factor to analyze is the national movement in Bessara-
bia. The transition from the pre-existing proto-nationalism to a modern nationalism
in such a short period of time requires some explaining. The factors driving the tran-
sition are clear enough; the challenge lies in establishing which were the dominant
factors and what role each of them played. The existence of pre-modern proto-
nationalism, fueled especially by the continuing use of Romanian language and cus-
toms92 in large parts of the society, is definitely a starting point. The roles of the
other factors have been analyzed at length, elsewhere, and for the present we will
simply enumerate them once again:

1. The failure of the Russification process;93

2. The fact that Romanian and Bessarabian soldiers fought side by side dur-
ing the First World War;
3. The development of a national conscience among the Bessarabian sol-

< 44 >

4. The example of nationalist successes in other parts of the Russian Empire;

5. The activity in favor of the Romanian national cause, on the part of Tran-
sylvanians and Bukovinians acting in Bessarabia and in other parts of the
Russian Empire;95
6. Actions that favored the Bessarabian cause, in Romania, by personalities
like Nicolae Iorga and Constantin Stere.
7. The Bessarabian intelligentsia. Romanian intellectuals came from rural
areas and they were still strongly connected to the rural reality; this con-
nection proved to be their greatest advantage in promoting the national
idea. These “rural intellectuals” undertook to initiate the agrarian reform.
They understood that, for the peasants, land was the biggest issue; they
sought to implement agrarian reform, knowing that the peasants would
side with whoever gave them land.
8. The peasants — the majority of the Bessarabian people;96
9. Contact with the Romanian army and administration during 1918;97
10. The Bessarabian clergy and the movement within the Church;
11. Progressive ideas, coming from the Russian Revolution, which reverber-
ated strongly with the Bessarabian masses;
12. The “general mood” of the times, in which union was the ideal not only of
the Romanians but also of many other nations in the Central and Eastern
European area.
13. Finally, the notion that there was just an inkling of a national movement
at the time, and that Romania’s military intervention was the main factor
behind the events that took place.98

< 45 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province


Decree of the People’s Commissars

Breaking Relations With Romania
January 26, 1918

The Romanian monarchy tried to save itself, its landowners and its bankers by
seizing Bessarabia and turning it into a rampart against the powerful torrent of the
Russian Revolution . . . In all these bloody crimes the Commander-in-Chief of the
Romanian front, General Scerbacev, takes one of the leading roles.
As a protest and a warning, the Council of People’s Commissars ordered the
short-term arrest of the Romanian Ambassador; this step proved ineffective.

1. All diplomatic relations with Romania are severed, and the Romanian rep-
resentatives are to leave the country by the shortest route.
2. The Romanian gold reserve held in Moscow is not to be touched by the
Romanian oligarchy. The Soviet Government assumes responsibility for the
safekeeping of this reserve and will hand it over to the Romanian nation.
3. The former Commander-in-Chief of the Romanian front, General Scer-
bacev, who has risen against the Revolution, is declared an enemy of the people
and an outlaw.99

< 46 >


Dennis Deletant, “Language Policy and Linguistic Trends in the Republic of Moldavia, 1924-1992”
in Studies in Moldovan . . . , p. 53-54.
The difficulties generated by the use of each of the mentioned terms are well illustrated by Dennis
Deletant in his article “Language Policy and Linguistic Trends in the Republic of Moldavia, 1924-
1992” in Studies in Moldovan . . . , p. 53. For technical reasons, during the following pages, the author of
the present paper will use the notion of Bessarabian nationalism in order to label what is known as
both Romanian or Moldavian nationalism in Bessarabia.
On the Romanian-Moldavian “controversy” see C.U. Clark, “Basarabia, Russia . . .” in Basarabia ro-
mana. Antologie, p. 99-100. Also, for a more recent and excellent illustration of the role played by the
Moldavian language in this context see Donald L. Dyer, “The making of the Moldavian Language” in
Studies in Moldovan . . ., p. 91-107.
For a concise account of the policy of Russification and centralization in the Bessarabian church
and the Moldavian answer to this tendencies see K. Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 244-248.
Ionas Aurelian Rus, “The Roots and Early Development of Moldovan-Romanian Nationalism in
Bessarabia, 1900-1917” in Anuarul Institutului A.D. Xenopol, Iasi, no. 33, 1996, p. 288.
For a good comparison, although expressing a different opinion from that of the majority of Roma-
nian scholars, between the development of the national ideology in Moldavia, Walachia, Transylva-
nia and Bukovina (unfortunately with almost no reference to Bessarabia) see Stephen Fischer Galati,
“Romanian Nationalism” in Nationalism in Eastern Europe, p. 373-395.
Onisifor Ghibu, “De la Basarabia ruseasca la Basarabia romaneasca” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p.
239. Ghibu also describes quite convincingly what were the main differences between Bessarabia
and Romania, concluding that there was almost no space for a “Bessarabian problem” both in Bes-
sarabia and in Romania, p. 226-230.
S. Ciobanu, Basarabia. Populatia . . . , p. 52-55.
The first one published a Romanian Chrestomathy in St. Petersburg in 1848; the second one published
A Primary Course of Romanian Language and The Romanian Primer in Chisinau (in Romanian) during 1864-
1866. O Ghibu, “De la Basarabia ruseasca . . .” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 230.
A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 386-387.
I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 66-67.
N. Ciachir, Basarabia sub stapanire tarista, p. 69.
Paul Mihail, Marturii de spiritualitate romaneasca in Basarabia, p. 25-37, 142-152.
S. Ciobanu stresses that the continuing use of Romanian language in administration and schools
was, at least partially, the result of the Bessarabians’ efforts and not a gift from the Russian admini-
stration. S. Ciobanu, Basarabia. Populatia . . . , p. 55-57.
The high rate of illiteracy among the Bessarabian peasants, over 90%, was the direct result of the
educational policy promoted by the administration. For details on the cultural aspects of the Rus-
sian administration see C.U. Clark, “Basarabia, Rusia . . .” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 102-104.
For a comparison with the measures in the same field taken during the Romanian administration see
S. Ciobanu, Basarabia. Populatia . . . , p. 73-83.
I.A. Rus, “The Roots and . . .” in Anuarul … , p. 293.
Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question, p 53.
I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 68-69.
In fact, the main orientation of the newspaper was of a social rather than national character, and
the idea of a possible union with Romania was inexistent. O. Ghibu, “De la Basarabia ruseasca . . .” in
Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 236-237.
I.A. Rus, “The Roots and . . .” in Anuarul … , p. 290.
P. Mihail, Marturii de spiritualitate … , p. 154-157. Also O. Ghibu, “De la Basarabia ruseasca …” in
Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 240-246.
Some scholars consider that the 1905-1907 had a more powerful impact over the development of

< 47 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

the national movement. S. Ciobanu, Basarabia. Populatia . . . , p. 62-63.

Although O Ghibu argues (quite convincingly) that Bessarabian nationalism at 1905-1907 was
clearly a social one, of Russian inspiration, fighting for social desiderata and not for nationalistic
aims, and considers that its failure to penetrate the masses was due to its lack of understanding that
the first thing to be done is to raise the cultural level of the peasants. On the other hand, Ionas
Aurelian Rus considers that it was actually a cultural nationalism.
K. Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 250.
C. King, The Moldovans, p. 29.
With the exception of a few pamphlets published by the League for the Liberation of Bessarabia,
acting in Romania, among which we mention Zamfir C. Arbore, Liberarea Basarabiei; A. Frunza, Roma-
nia Mare; Gh. Dighis, Sub jug strain. To this list, the books published by Dimitrie C. Moruzi should
also be added: Basarabia si viitorul ei, Instrainatii, and Pribegi in tara rapita.
Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga makes a notable exception; some of his pre-war articles on Bes-
sarabia have been re-published in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 27-70. A different view on the activity
of the Bessarabians living in Romania is presented in I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 76-78.
One of the very few Romanians arguing for Romanian rights over Bessarabia, although he agreed
that Romania should join the Entente Powers, was Nicolae Basilescu. In an article entitled “The
Romanian claims” published in Journal de Genève, on July 1, 1915, he openly stated that “Russia should
return to Romania the entire Bessarabia up to the Dniestr River, that it took from the Turks in 1812”.
The article is published in Basilescu’s book, Romania during the War and Peace, p. 131-135.
Quoted in Jacques Bariety, “Le Comité d’Etudes du Quai d’Orsay et les frontières de la Grande
Romanie, 1918-1919” in Revue Roumaine d’Histoire, Bucharest, 1996, no. 1, p. 51.
One of the scholars belonging to the new generation argues, based on the data regarding the elec-
tions for the All-Russian Constituent Assembly held in November 1917, and on some other argu-
ments, that the influence of the MNP was not quite as high as it is largely believed, and that the So-
viet of the Deputies of the Peasants had a greater influence over the Moldavians. I.A. Rus, “The Roots
and . . .” in Anuarul … , p. 293-295.
The importance of printing the “Moldavian Word” and its influence over the masses is best de-
scribed in O. Ghibu, “De la Basarabia ruseasca . . .” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 247-248.
Petre Cazacu, Moldova dintre Prut si Nistru, p. 255-258.
K. Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 271.
P. Cernovodeanu, Basarabia … , p. 138-139.
O. Ghibu, “De la Basarabia ruseasca . . .” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 264-266. Also, I. Scurtu et.
al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 81.
For the events related to the Congress see P. Cazacu, “Moldova . . .”, p. 251-253.
The main decision was that of nationalizing the land, the forests, and the subsoil in order to give it
back to those who worked it, without any compensation. C.U. Clark, “Basarabia, Rusia, . . .” in
Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 115.
A list, together with short commentaries on those pamphlets, are presented in O. Ghibu, “De la
Basarabia ruseasca . . .” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 268-276.
The best description of the reactions to Ukraine’s claims is presented in P. Cazacu, Moldova … , p.
For example, on the evening of August 20 under the leadership of some Bolsheviks, two of the
most prominent Bessarabian leaders, A Hodorogea and S Murafa, were killed. C.U. Clark, “Basarabia,
Rusia . . .” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 119.
P. Cazacu, Moldova . . . , p. 281-287. Also, P. Cernovodeanu, Basarabia . . . , p. 144-145.
A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 499.
For details on the structure of the electoral process and of the elected members of the Council, see
C.U. Clark, “Basarabia, Rusia . . .” in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 120-123.
I. Scurtu, et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 82. Also C.U. Clark, “Basarabia, Rusia . . .” in Basarabia … , p. 124.
A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 502.

< 48 >

A good discussion regarding the controversy over the constitutionality of the Sfatul Tserii may be
found in Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question, p. 354-360.
The text of the Resolution adopted on December 2 is published in A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima
Basarabiei, p. 105-108.
Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question, p 61.
DDI, Serie 5, Vol. 9, p. 553, Telegram addressed by the Ministers of United Kingdom, United
States, France and Italy, December 24, 1917. Also Glenn F. Torrey, General Henri Berthelot and Romania,
p. 133-137.
The Galatz battle was followed by the Reiney battle, in Bessarabia, both won by the Romanian
Army. Gogu Negulesco, Romania’s Sacrifice, p. 128.
An excellent account of the events related to Diamandy’s arrest and also of the harsh anti-
Romanian atmosphere in Moscow is presented in George F. Kennan, Russia Leaves the War, vol. 1, p.
330-343. For details regarding the meeting between the foreign diplomats acting in Moscow and the
communist authorities, including Lenin, see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 10-13.
Adam B. Ulam, Expansion and Coexistence . . . , p. 80.
F.C. Nanu, Politica externa a Romaniei, p. 107.
P. Cazacu, Moldova . . . , p. 336.
Details on the attempted coup by the Bolsheviks and on the Frontotdel’s activity are presented in
M. Bruchis, A. Chiriac, Rusia, Romania si Basarabia, p. 176-179, 186-191. Also P. Cazacu, Moldova … , p.
M. Bruchis, A. Chiriac, Rusia, Romania . . . , p. 200-205.
The Sfatul Tserii was actually divided regarding this matter. While Ion Inculet and Pantelimon
Erhan were negotiating with the Russian Chief of Staff in Odessa for the sending of two Kazakhs
Divisions in Bessarabia, Ion Pelivan and Vasile Cristi were negotiating in Jassy with general Scer-
bacev, the Entente representatives and the Romanian government. P. Cazacu, Moldova . . . , p. 338-343.
Charles Vopicka, Secrets of the Balkans, p. 159-160.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica pentru Basarabia, p. 75.
K Hitchins considers that the Bolshevik forces already dispersed the Sfatul Tserii as soon as January
4. K. Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 273.
F.C. Nanu, Politica externa … , p. 59. Also FRUS, 1918, Russia, Vol. 2, p 708-710.
Of course, not all of the Bessarabians accepted the Romanian occupation without complains. As
soon as the end of January there had already been a number of complains against the policy of Gen-
eral Brosteanu, the commander of the Romanian troops in Bessarabia, of systematically replacing the
Russian officials and officers in Bessarabia’s administration. Glenn F. Torrey, General Henry
Berthelot . . . , p. 149.
DDI, Serie 5, Vol. 10, Telegram Tomasi to Sonnino, January 27 1918, p. 115.
For the Declaration of Independence see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 17-19.
M. Musat, I. Ardeleanu, “Viata politica in Romania”, p 35
A very vivid description of the situation among the Romanian prisoners in Odessa is presented in
the report sent to the Foreign Ministry by George Lucasievicz, one of those who had to go through
this painful experience. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 20, p. 80-84.
There are some controversies regarding Averescu’s agreement for the treaty. While some historians
affirm that he only agreed with the exchange of prisoners and not with the withdrawal of the Roma-
nian army, others are of the opinion that, indeed, Averescu agreed to the Treaty. However, in Roma-
nia this subject was kept out of the history books during the communist period and the majority of
the Romanian historians writing on Bessarabian history, until quite recently, either simply remind it
or avoid mentioning it at all. For more on this topic see Van Meurs, “The Bessarabian Question”, p.
68; or Marin C. Stanescu, “Acordul Averescu-Rakovsky”, in Revista de Istorie Militara, 1993, No. 2.
Robert M. Slusser, A Calendar of Soviet Treaties, 1917-1957, p. 4-5.
All the official documents illustrating the Romanian stand regarding the Averescu-Rakovsky
Agreement are published, together with some very useful commentaries, in Relatii romano-sovietice.

< 49 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

Documente, p. 19-27. The Agreement itself is also published in Jane Degras, Soviet Documents on Foreign
Policy, Vol. I, p. 65-67.
The opinion of Romanian diplomacy regarding the Rakovsky-Averescu treaty is best presented in
the Geblescu memorandum. The Romanian arguments are: (1) the revolutionary organizations have
dissolved themselves before the expiration of the period shown by the Agreement; (2) with the ex-
ception of the Armistice, no other clause was executed; (3) the Agreement was of purely military and
not political nature; (4) by refusing to evacuate Tighina, the Romanian government implicitly re-
fused to evacuate the entire Bessarabia; (5) the Romanian troops did not go into Bessarabia with the
purpose of annexation, the Union was done by itself; (6) the revolutionary organizations in Odessa
had no right to deal in the name of those interested, whom clearly expressed their attitude. RFMA,
Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 20 bis, p. 29-36.
A very vivid description of the debates and of the enthusiastic atmosphere on March 27 1918 is
presented in M. Stefan, “Basarabia. Ziua intai a marii Uniri” in Magazin Istoric, 1991, No. 3. For the
other side of the story “with Romanian troops already in Chisinau, Romanian planes circling above
the meeting hall, and with the Romanian Prime Minister waiting in the foyer” [King forgot to say
that Marghiloman was waiting for no less than six hours outside the building of the Sfatul Tserii] see
Charles King, The Moldovans, p. 35.
Bessarabia’s union with Romania was proclaimed on March (April) 1918 and not on December
1918, as mistakenly is stated in British Encyclopedia, p. 1024.
Keith Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 277.
Dinu C. Giurescu, Romania. A Historic Perspective, p. 275-276.
Stephen Fischer Galati, “Romanian Nationalism” in Nationalism in Eastern Europe, p. 390.
Again, this is a controversial issue; the legality of that vote was a really debated matter because
there were only a quarter of the deputies attending the session. For more, see C.U. Clark, “Basarabia,
Rusia, …” in Basarabia … , p. 134-145; also, Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question . . . , p. 70-71. A
“Declaration of Ten Deputies Against the Decision to Renounce to Bessarabia’s Autonomy” offering
details over the manner of the voting are published in Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 36-39.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica . . . , p. 79.
F.C. Nanu, Politica externa . . . , p. 111.
For the entire Message see RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, p. 116-121.
In fact, it was the draft law prepared by Take Ionescu, only the signature was changed, and the
Message was cut short (from three pages to only half a page). RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, p.
The law and the Treaty have been recently published in A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima Basarabiei, p.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Antonescu to Duca, May 21, 1921. It was only on April
20 that the Romanian Legation in Paris was instructed to deposit the ratification instruments and,
somehow strangely (because the deposit was made on May 19) a report from the mentioned Lega-
tion states that the deposit has been made by May 1. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram
Stoicescu to Duca, May 1, 1922. While a number of Romanian scholars give the date of April 11 or 14
for the deposit of the ratification, which are clearly mistaken (there was no way that the Decree law
signed by King Ferdinand on April 13 could have reached Paris in the morning of April 14), in order
to “cover-up” the fact that the UK was the first State that ratified the Bessarabian Treaty, British and
Japanese sources consider May 19, 1922, as the date when the deposit of the Romanian ratification
took place. DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 24, p. 168; or Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official
Report, Fifth Series, vol. 235, p. 2277.
Again, one of the few Romanian scholars expressing these unpopular aspects is O. Ghibu. He also
observes that, in fact, the decision of the Union taken by the Sfatul Tserii on March 27 was not the
best solution from the standpoint of the development of Romanian nationalism in Bessarabia and
that the best solution would have been a development similar with that of Transylvania and
Bukovina’s union. But on this later point it can be easily argued that there was no way to know the
direction of the events in March 1918 and that the Union was seen by the majority of the Romanians

< 50 >

as the best solution. O. Ghibu, “De la Basarabia ruseasca . . .” in Basarabia … , p. 294-295, 300-301.
Joseph Rothschild, East Central Europe Between the Two World Wars, p. 286.
Robert Lee Wolff, The Balkans in Our Time, p. 145. Also, C. King, The Moldovans, p. 42-45. Still, both of
them, while deploring the situation of Bessarabia under Romanian administration, fail to compare it
to the situation under the previous Russian administration. For more details regarding the instaura-
tion of Russian administration in Bessarabia, presented in a fairly manner, and in which the similari-
ties with the 1918 instauration of Romanian administration are quite easy to spot, see George F.
Jewsburry, The Russian Annexation . . . , p. 58-60, 155-161.
Stefan Fischer Galati, Twentieth Century Romania, p. 31.
The correspondence between Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, one of the best known representatives of
the Transylvanian Romanians, a member in the Romanian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference,
and Iuliu Maniu, the leader of the Transylvanian Romanians, gives a good illustration of this frustra-
tion, especially during the first months of 1919. For example, the letter sent by Vaida-Voevod on
April 7, 1919, clearly points to his unhappiness regarding some of the practices used by the Regateni;
in 1920. Un act de justitie. Documente, p. 141-146.
B. Jelavich, The Establishment … , p.310.
M. Bruchis, A. Chiriac, Rusia, Romania . . . , p. 16.
R.W. Seton-Watson, The History of the Romanians, p. 561.
A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 507-512.
Jane Degras, Soviet Documents . . . , Vol. I, p. 440.
One of the most notable examples in this sense is the continuing practice of the Romanian local
civil law for the entire period of Russian administration. And not only was it kept but it was also
translated into Russian. A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 485-487.
The main factors behind this failure are presented in Petre Cazacu, Moldova . . . , p. 11-12.
A good account on the evolution and the importance of the national movement inside the army is
presented in P. Cazacu, Moldova . . . , p. 262-276.
While this influence is broadly considered to be of incontestable importance, O. Ghibu (a Transyl-
vanian himself, who played an important role during the events in Bessarabia) considers it the most
important one in reviving and organizing the national movement in Bessarabia.
At that time, laborers were an insignificant number of Bessarabia’s population, while people of
different ethnic origins, especially the Jews, made up the bourgeoisie — who had no interest in the
Bessarabian national movement. As for the landowners, they were negatively affected by the land
reform and, with few exceptions, all their efforts were directed at keeping their properties and not
toward nationalism.
A. Boldur considers the moment when the Romanian Army and the Bessarabian political society
interconnected, and the Bessarabian realized that there was no need to organize a new army because
there already was an Army — the army of all the Romanians — the most serious psychological step
taken towards the making of the Union. A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 505.
C. King argues that “the presence of the Romanian troops unquestionably augmented the power of
those groups looking to Romania for deliverance from the triple peril of Bolshevism, Ukrainian ex-
pansionism, and political anarchy”. C. King, The Moldovans, p. 33.
Jane Degras, “Soviet Documents . . .”, Vol. 1, p. 40

< 51 >

The 1919-1920 Paris Peace Conference had the difficult mission of creating a
new order, one in which wars should come to an end. After the War, there was in-
deed a great deal of change; unfortunately, not all of it was in the desired direction.
The Treaty of Versailles, nominally made with the aim of establishing an everlasting
peace, was dead on arrival because most of the states that were supposed to protect
and defend the Treaty recognized it as unfair. US President Woodrow Wilson was
unable to convince his own fellow countrymen to ratify his work — the Paris Peace
Treaties. Add in the fact that the defeated bloc (or, at least, Germany) and Russia
(the greatest power in Europe) were left out of the negotiation process, and it is easy
to understand why such a brief period of peace ensued. This situation has been well
expressed by Carole Fink:

It is by now a truism that the Paris Peace Settlement lacked mechanisms for
adjustment and proper enforcement, because the victors in World War I had
neither the strength nor the cohesion to rule the postwar world and the de-
feated were still strong and unrepentant.1

When the peace negotiations began, a number of bases (often, mutually con-
tradictory) for the future settlement were already in place: secret treaties, the princi-
ple of self-determination of peoples, geo-strategic and economical factors. The de-
feated powers (and sometimes Woodrow Wilson, too) defended the self-
determination principle and the concept of justice.2 Romania and Italy tended to
favor the secret treaties and a policy of maximum territorial enlargement. One of the
biggest problems for the Peace Conference was that of arbitrating the territorial dis-
putes between the victorious or allied states in Eastern Europe, to the detriment of

< 53 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

the other interested parties; a prime example is that of dividing the territory of Banat
between Romania and Yugoslavia.
The Western Powers, France and Britain, were equally concerned about the
restoration of the balance of power, but they wished to go about it by different
means. While France had the idea of replacing the former Russian alliance with a
frontier of eastern states, and to use them to control Germany, the UK wished to
restore a balance of power and to avoid, in pure British tradition, a hegemonic posi-
tion for France on the continent.
Romania went to the Peace Conference with the aim of obtaining international
recognition of its new borders — difficult as that goal might be. Romania was the
only state that, during the war, acquired territories from both the defeated and the
Allied Powers.

Shifting Positions in the First World War

Since 1883, Romania had been a secret member of the Triple Alliance
(Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy). During the Balkan crisis of 1912-1913, Austria-
Hungary acted against Romanian interests (by supporting Bulgaria), while the Rus-
sians expressed their support for Romania.3 Therefore, at the beginning of what be-
came the World War, Romania stayed neutral for a while and used the time to im-
prove its military preparedness and shore up its international position. The main
role in directing Romania’s foreign policy was played by Ion I.C. Bratianu, the Roma-
nian Prime Minister. As it is not the purpose of the present book to deal exhaustively
with Romania’s implication into the war, especially as there are some very good
studies on the matter, the author will simply point the facts, without much insis-
tence on details.4
The first dilemma for the Romanian government was that, because of its mem-
bership in the Triple Alliance, it should have backed the Triple Alliance’s decision to
declare war on the Entente, but, because of the situation facing the Romanians living
in Austria-Hungary (a very intense policy of denationalization) Austria-Hungary
was seen as an enemy more than as a friend or ally. The dilemma was complicated by
the pro-German orientation of King Carol, who not only was honor-bound to re-
spect his signature but also was convinced that victory would be on Germany’s
side.5 At the same time, sensing the direction of the Romanian public opinion, the
Russians started an intense process of restoring friendly relations with Romania in
First, Bratianu had to convince King Carol that neutrality was the best solu-
tion for Romania. Then, during the July 22 (August 3), 1914 Crown Council, to
which all the political leaders were invited, the great majority voted in favor of neu-
trality; it was justified on the same basis as Italy’s neutrality — the principle of casus
foederis was not valid in case of unprovoked aggression.7 This was a first victory for
Bratianu’s policy. In fact, in promoting this policy Bratianu gradually found himself
isolated, because of the increasingly powerful mood in favor of, and pressure for, in-

< 54 >

tervention in the war. But he was able to resist those pressures and to avoid engag-
ing the country until he had the necessary written guaranties regarding future terri-
torial gains for Romania.
After proclaiming neutrality, Bratianu launched intense negotiations with both
sides while, at the same time, he tried to improve the readiness of the Romanian
Army. During these negotiations Austria-Hungary offered to Romania “all of Bes-
sarabia and Odessa” if it would enter the war, but refused to make any concessions
toward improving life for the Romanians living in Transylvania.8 The Allied Powers
(in fact, Russia) were more generous, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sazonov, prom-
ising Transylvania in exchange only for Romania’s continued neutrality.9 Gradually,
Bratianu obtained written agreements on that from the Allied Powers. A first such
Agreement was signed in St. Petersburg on October 1, 1914, confirming Russia’s will-
ingness to recognize Romanian rights over Transylvania and part of Bukovina in ex-
change only for neutrality.10 In other words, “Sazonov promised Romania all that she
could hope to gain from Russia — Transylvania and an ‘ethnic frontier’ in
Bukovina — in return for Romanian neutrality. After this is was impossible to push
Bucharest into intervention without paying an exorbitant price for it.”11
Bratianu also had to face strong pressure from Romanian public opinion in fa-
vor of an alliance with the Entente. As suggested by Nicolae Basilescu, a member of
the Romanian Parliament, in a book published in 1919:

Yes, of course, Bessarabia is a Romanian land, essentially Romanian, and never,

never did the Romanian people renounce its duty to break her chains and bring
her back to the Mother Country. But the most urgent danger is not coming
from this direction: the Russians, rude and uneducated, were not able to dena-
tionalize Moldavian life in Bessarabia; even today they are still using the lan-
guage of Stephen the Great, the language they spoke in 1812, and they totally
ignore the Russian language. Therefore, the claim to Bessarabia could be post-
poned, without danger, for other times. The immediate danger, which must be
faced with no delay, comes from the excessive denationalization process car-
ried on by the Hungarians against the emancipation of the Romanians living in

For the next two years, Bratianu continued to negotiate with both sides while
maintaining friendly neutrality toward the Allied Powers. This was a delicate posi-
tion, and Bratianu’s conduct was read differently by different camps. In the Balkans,
everything was inextricably intertwined, and the situation was such that if one
country were to enter the war on one side, automatically one of her neighbors would
enter the war on the other side. The real issue for Romania was not which side to
join, or when, but under which conditions and with what guarantees. Bratianu had
every reason to ask for credible and secure guarantees.13 However, his caution and
secrecy caused him to be misunderstood by both groups of belligerents, and it infuri-
ated the Romanian interventionists.14 One of the best descriptions of Bratianu’s posi-
tion comes from the British representatives:

< 55 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

The enigma of the situation is Bratianu himself. His caution is so excessive as

to render him suspect in many quarters. . . . It is fairly certain, however, that
Bratianu believes in our ultimate success, and as long as he maintains that
opinion the position would seem to be negatively safe. . . . It is the general opin-
ion here that, should Bratianu resign, the military situation, being as it is, a po-
sition dangerous to the Allies might well ensue. The King would probably send
for Marghiloman or Maiorescu. . . . Neither Take Ionescu nor Filipescu have
sufficient power in the country . . . Under the circumstances there appears
nothing for it but to make the best of Bratianu. With him at least we are on a
rock, although an uncomfortable one. In the alternative we might find our-
selves on dangerous quicksands.15

Still, the Allied Powers failed to act decisively in order to influence the Roma-
nians to join the war in the autumn of 1915 when, after Italy entered the war, the
chances were better to convince the Romanian leadership that it was time to start a
military offensive.16
In fact, the Romanian leadership was divided into three camps: immediate in-
tervention on the Entente side, continued neutrality, or intervention on the Central
Powers’ side. The main problem for Bratianu was to avoid fighting on two fronts, one
in Transylvania or Bessarabia and one in Dobrudja (after the Second Balkan War, in
1913, Romania took the southern part of Dobrudja from Bulgaria), and to get written
guarantees of Romania’s territorial gains after the war. He negotiated stubbornly,
insisting on a few matters that were of great importance and that would prove es-
sential during the peace conference: a no-separate-peace clause (a separate peace
between the Entente and Austria-Hungary could have allowed Austria-Hungary to
keep Transylvania, rendering Romania’s engagement in the war pointless), equal
status at the future peace conference, Russian military assistance against Bulgaria,
an Allied offensive in the direction of Bulgaria, and the regular sending of Allied war
On August 17, 1916, as a result of a shift in the Entente’s position,18 Romania
and the Allied Powers signed the Political and Military Conventions, which were to
be kept secret; by these conventions, Romania undertook to enter the war against
the Central Powers. Article No. 1 stated that the four Allied Powers would defend
the territorial integrity of Romania (including southern Dobrudja). Article No. 2
stated that Romania would enter the war. No. 3 recognized Romania’s right to Tran-
sylvania and the Banat (up to the Theiss River, as far as Szeged) and Bukovina. Of
great importance was Article No. 5, by which Romania undertook not to sign a sepa-
rate peace with the enemy. Article No. 6 was interesting — here, the Allied Powers
promised Romania that during the peace negotiations after the war Romania would
have the same rights as themselves. In other words, Romania was to be on an equal
footing with the Great Powers. The fact that the Entente accepted Article No. 6,
which made Romania theoretically their equal, proves how badly they needed the

< 56 >

Romanian intervention.19 The Military Convention signed the same day stipulated
that France and England should start an offensive against Bulgaria and Turkey no
later than August;20 that Russia would send troops into Dobrudja; that the Allies
would send Romania at least 300 tons of provisions on a daily basis; that the Roma-
nian Army would not be subordinated to the Russian Army.21 During the war, most
of these clauses, with the exception of those imposed on Romania, failed to be re-
The August 27 Crown Council decided Romania’s entry into the war against
Austria-Hungary but the Romanian military campaign ended in disaster.22 Indeed,
the Romanians had had to fight on two fronts. In fact, Romania’s position was virtu-
ally indefensible without foreign aid: surrounded on three sides by mortal enemies,
with over 1,000 miles of frontier to defend, and linked to its allies only by an over-
burdened railroad through Russia, the chances for victory were slim.23 In fact, caught
between the Falkenhayn hammer and the Mackensen anvil, they were forced to flee
for their lives. The failure of the Allies to keep their promise and start an offensive
against Bulgaria left the Romanian southern front open to the latter’s attacks. At the
same time, the Russians failed to send the promised troops to fight the Bulgarians in
Dobrudja. The Romanian Army badly lacked arms and ammunition, and had no vi-
able war plan.24 One more cause of the Romanian defeat (one which the Romanians
carefully avoid mentioning) was their prolonged negotiations with the Allies. Had
they intervened at the height of the Russian offensive, the impact could have been
immense, but by August it was toolate.25 On the other hand, from the Romanian
standpoint, as stated by General Rudeanu at the time, “if it is regrettable that Roma-
nian intervention came late, it is also regrettable that the Allied Powers failed to pre-
pare the Romanian Army for the war any time earlier”.26
By the end of 1916, the Romanian government had to abandon more than half of
its territory and retreat into Moldavia, where the front was stabilized with the help
of the Russian Army. During the winter, the Romanians had to face not only the
Austrian-German-Bulgarian enemy but also a fierce frost, famine, and typhus (which
took more victims than the fighting), plus the attitude of the so-called Russian ally.27
Still, seemingly against the odds, the French Military Mission under the leadership
of General Berthelot was able to reorganize the Romanian Army so that, in the sum-
mer of 1917, with the help of a number of units of Transylvanian Romanian POWs
from Russia, it was able to stop the German counter-offensive in the direction of
The revolution in Russia generated new problems for Romania. The Provi-
sional Government decided to continue fighting while the Bolsheviks favored peace
with the Central Powers. In just a few months, Romania’s position deteriorated to
the point at which any resistance against the Central Powers became almost impos-
sible.28 Russian troops on the Romanian front started deserting and looting, their
only goal being to get home. The Romanian Army found itself alone to defend the
eastern front. Charles Vopicka, the US Minister in Jassy, gives an account of the
Russian troops’ action:

< 57 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

“They are delivering their war material to our enemies in exchange for alcohol,
and they are committing murder, arson, robbery and unspeakable crimes against
women. Having used a great part of the resources of their country, they are extend-
ing famine conditions by wantonly destroying food depots in Moldavia and Bessara-
The Allied Powers asked Romania to continue fighting and suggested that, if
defeated, the government and the Romanian Army should withdraw through south-
ern Russia in order to make contact with the British troops in Mesopotamia. But
even in 1917 this plan was considered too hazardous by the Romanian government,
who realized that it would be impossible to cross through Russia because of the in-
certitude and the fighting that was taking place between the Bolsheviks and the
White Russians. The Allies realized quickly that, in order to keep the Romanian
Army in the field, it was essential to have free access to the food supplies of Ukraine
and have friendly forces at its rear.30 At the same time, due mainly to events in Russia
which added to the isolation of Romania, a pacifist campaign was initiated by cer-
tain political and military circles who quaked at Romania’s position between an vi-
cious enemy and an ally who behaved even worse.31
On December 9, 1917, with the approval of the Allied ministers in Jassy, the
Romanians signed, in Focsani, a three-month armistice with the Central Powers,
stopping any fighting in the area. The Allies acknowledged that it was not a separate
peace and decided to give Bratianu a grace period.32 The strongest opponent of the
Romanian armistice (and later separate peace) was the French Prime Minister,
George Clemenceau. Previously, he had clearly instructed both Berthelot and Saint-
Aulaire to do all in their power in order to keep Romania on the active front.33 Dur-
ing the next months, the situation worsened. The Allies insisted that the Romanian
Army should continue fighting and then withdraw through Russia, even as the re-
ports from some of their representatives in Romania argued for the contrary.34 Of
course, the continuing fighting on the Romanian front would have kept a sizeable
number of Central Powers troops away from the western front, making the Allies’
efforts easier. But the option of a retreat through Russia was definitively lost when
Romania intervened against the Soviets of soldiers leading the Russian Army in Ro-
mania, and later by the occupation of Bessarabia.
During the armistice period, Romanian political circles had fiercely debated an
eventual separate peace. There were strong arguments in favor of it: it was impossi-
ble to get more direct help from the Allies; Walachia would be recovered from the
Central Powers; Bessarabia would be recognized as a Romanian territory by the
Central Powers; Wilson refused to recognize the 1916 Treaty with Romania; Russia
imminent exit from the war, illustrated by the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations with
the Germans; and the fear that without a separate peace, all the country would be
occupied by the Central Powers.
On the other hand, there was increased pressure, both officially and through
the mass media, from the Western Allies, to keep Romania fighting.35 Those who
favored continued fighting were grouped around Take Ionescu, who preferred ca-

< 58 >

pitulation to negotiations with the enemy, arguing that only by continuing fighting
could Romania keep her mortgage over the Entente. General Berthelot was the only
Allied representative in Jassy who steadfastly opposed any negotiations between
Romania and the Central Powers, for either an armistice or a separate peace;36 his
opposition was based both on Clemenceau’s instructions and on military reasons
(the Germans, taking advantage of the armistice, had transferred a great part of their
military units to the western front, so they were far from having the necessary re-
sources to start a new offensive against the Romanians, and the heavy winter was
clearly on Romania’s side).37 At one point, due to the failure of the Allied action in
Ukraine and with the hope of increasing their influence over Ukraine, the British
leaders changed their position on the issue of a Romanian separate peace, and op-
posed it based on reasons similar to those of General Berthelot.38
Lloyd George’s speech of January 5, 1918, which mentioned reassessing the se-
cret treaties and stated, “the breakup of Austria-Hungary is not part of our war
aims”, together with President Wilson’s 14 Principles expressed on January 8, 1918
(which said the same thing regarding Austria-Hungary), had a serious impact on the
Romanians.39 The two statements gave a powerful argument to those favoring peace.
Bratianu argued, “There is no use for Romania to keep on fighting because, according
to the speeches of President Wilson and Lloyd George, even if the Allies win Roma-
nia is not to get any additional territory.”40 The Central Powers also understood that,
in order to soften the Romanians’ attitude, they should reassure King Ferdinand that
his abdication would not be demanded as a peace condition, and they offered assur-
ances to King Ferdinand in this sense at the beginning of February.41
The final decision was taken after the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty was signed
(March 3, 1918). A preliminary Peace Treaty was signed in Buftea, on March 5 and,
two months later, on May 7, 1918, the new pro-German Romanian government
headed by Alexandru Marghiloman signed the Peace Treaty in Bucharest.42 It was a
very difficult moment for Romania, which had to cede all of Dobrudja (but to the
Central Powers, and not directly to Bulgaria, as the latter had expected),43 and some
territories in the Carpathian Mountains (2,200 sq. miles with some 150,000 inhabi-
tants); and harsh economic conditions were imposed on Romania. Furthermore, Ro-
mania was required to improve the status of the Jews living in Romania (this same
point had been on the agenda of the Paris Peace Conference, in the form of the Mi-
norities Treaty). The only good outcome, one which no one had foreseen in 1914 or
1916, was that the Bucharest Treaty awarded Bessarabia to the Romanians by giving
them permission to occupy the area, in a move that was intended to avoid a possible
new Russo-Romanian alliance. This Treaty had a very short life, lasting only a few
In fairness to King Ferdinand and the liberal party, it should be mentioned that
they did everything possible in order to oppose the German pressure to ratify the
Bucharest Treaty, although ratifying it would have brought quite important material
(an end to the requisitions and to the unlimited issue of paper money authorized by
the Germans) and strategical (a confirmation of their position in Bessarabia) bene-

< 59 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

fits. Even as the newly elected Parliament, under the control of Marghiloman’s con-
servative pro-German party, ratified the Treaty, the King stubbornly refused to sign
it, preventing it from becoming a valid title.45 “By its human and material sacrifices,
as well as by its aspirations, Romania never considered itself outside the Entente,
but waited for the favorable time to rejoin it, in order to fight for a common cause”.46
The evolution of the military operations during 1918 changed the balance in
favor of the Allied Powers. On November 10, 1918 Romania declared war on the Cen-
tral Powers, reentering the war before the general armistice was signed, and an-
nounced the reopening of diplomatic relations with the Allies.

Success at the Paris Peace Conference

Sound analyses have already been published on the relations between Romania
and the Great Powers during the Paris Peace Conference;47 therefore, in this sub-
chapter we will merely outline the general problems related to Romania during the
Paris negotiations, and in the next subchapter we will focus on the making of the
Bessarabian Treaty, seeking to examine the Bessarabian question within, and outside
of, the general context of Romania.
Generally speaking, relations between Romania and the leadership of the Peace
Conference had been far from positive and during 1919 only grew worse. At one
point even Saint Aulaire, the French Minister to Romania, expressed his disappoint-
ment with the attitude of the Conference: “At the Supreme Council in Paris, this
Areopagus which, under the presidency of Clemenceau and Wilson’s inspiration,
promulgated the new chart of humanity, all the favors are for the Soviets and all the
rigors are for Romania, their main victim.”48
What the Romanian delegation was hoping to gain from the Conference was
international recognition that the newly unified territories belonged to Romania,
who was entitled to them according to the 1916 Treaty with the Entente. The main
difficulty lay in the fact that Romania had signed the Bucharest Peace Treaty with
the Central Powers, against the stipulations of the 1916 Treaty; the Romanian propa-
ganda therefore focused on justifying the need to sign a separate peace, pointing to
the Allies’ failure to keep their commitments towards Romania and making much of
what was called “the Russian betrayal” in Dobrudja.49 They based their action on the
following points: the validity of the 1916 Treaty with the Entente; the free will ex-
pressed by the majority of the people living in the newly acquired territories for a
union with Romania; and the great efforts made by the Romanians during their fight
against the Central Powers.
The Delegation emphasized these points in a different manner towards each of
the Powers. Seeking to obtain US backing for their territorial claims, the Romanians
relied on the nationality principle.50 When they had to deal with the Italians, they
always insisted on the validity of the 1916 Treaty. However, during the last month of
the war, the Romanians had sent mixed signals to the Entente Powers, due to Take
Ionescu’s activity in Paris — he had said that he considered the 1916 Treaty not valid,

< 60 >

and had tried to reach an agreement with the Yugoslav representatives, over the
head of the Romanian authorities.51
The biggest problem facing Romania at the beginning of the negotiations was
the Great Powers’ attitude toward the 1916 Treaty and the Bucharest Peace Treaty, an
attitude that would color everything regarding Romania. Both France and Great Brit-
ain seemed to be signaling that they did not consider the Treaty valid, while the US
clearly stated that it did not recognize any of the secret treaties; Bratianu tried to
make use of it nonetheless. However, Romania had two big advantages on her side:
Romanian armies were occupying many of the claimed territories (including all of
Transylvania, by April 1919); and the Allies were divided on at least some of the Ro-
manian demands. Another circumstance that worked in Romania’s favor was that the
Allies, tired after the war, could not or would not commit sufficient troops to Central
Europe to control the situation that had resulted from the disintegration of Austria-
Hungary. This allowed the Romanians, encouraged by the French government (more
or less openly), to extend progressively over the territory of Transylvania.
First, there was the question of Romania’s status at the Paris Peace Confer-
ence. Before the Conference began, a few debates were generated by the fact that
Romania had signed a peace treaty with the Central Powers; still, Romania was al-
lowed to participate as an Allied Power.52 Second (and this proved to be one of the
most painful questions for Romania) was the question of the role Romania would
play during the negotiations. Based on Article No. 6 of the 1916 Treaty and the posi-
tion Romania had held inside the Triple Alliance, before the war, Bratianu had imag-
ined some good could come out of the Peace Conference. On the other hand, he
knew that Romania would not be welcomed warmly. And indeed, the Great Powers
decided that the 1916 Treaty had been broken because Romania made a separate
peace with the enemy (no matter what the reasons for that), so that Article No. 6 did
not apply.
Therefore, events shaped up quite contrary to Romania’s interests. It was de-
cided that Romania should have only two plenipotentiaries at the Conference, the
same number as the newly created kingdoms of Hedjaz and Siam (the Serbs and Bel-
gians each had three). Bratianu felt betrayed by the Great Powers — they considered
Romania a “Power” with limited interests — and he decided to do everything he
could in order to obtain their recognition for the new Romanian boundaries by
adopting a policy of no compromise.53 This did not enhance his popularity at the
Conference (particularly with the Big Four). Even some Romanian politicians criti-
cized his position, too, but it proved to be quite effective.54
The most intense debates during the peace conference were related to territo-
rial issues. Romania was involved in five of them: Banat, Bukovina, Transylvania
(including Crisana and Maramures), Dobrudja and Bessarabia. Another problem,
directly connected to the territorial questions, was that of protecting the rights of
the national minorities existing in the newly acquired territories.
The Banat: The territory of Banat (formerly under Hungarian rule) was claimed
by both Romania and Serbia (in addition to Hungary). The Banat had around 11,000

< 61 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

square miles and a population of about 1.5 million, 600,000 of them Romanians,
385,000 Germans, 358,000 Serbians, and 240,000 Hungarians. During 1915, Serbian-
Romanian relations had been excellent, primarily because Romania had permitted
transit of supplies destined for Serbia.55 The Romanians asked for all the Banat terri-
tory, as the 1916 Treaty stipulated, arguing that the German population would prefer
Romanian rule, while the Serbs insisted that the territory should be divided. The
Serbs invoked the presence of a great Serbian majority in the western parts of the
Banat and the area’s strategic importance for the defense of Belgrade; they asked for
two thirds of the territory. The Serbs had the advantage of controlling the area mili-
tarily, for a period, and they had the Allies’ sympathy for their heroic fighting. The
first misunderstandings between Romania and Serbia took place at the end of 1918,
but it was believed that these differenced could be solved. As the US Minister to Ro-
mania, Charles J. Vopicka, put it on January 10, 1919:
“I am sure that this question can be settled between the Romanians and the
Serbians if the Romanians will receive a free hand regarding the northern portion of
Bukovina and Bessarabia.”56
Finally, after strenuous negotiations, the Great Powers divided the Banat be-
tween Romania (two thirds), and Serbia (the western third). Neither Romania nor
Serbia was satisfied, but they had to accept it.57 This left a shadow over Romanian-
Yugoslav relations so that, although both countries avoided open antagonism, they
still hoped to modify the new frontier in the Banat.
Bukovina (a former Romanian territory, occupied by the Habsburgs in 1775):
Apart from Romania and Ukraine, there was no other state to ask for this territory;
yet the Americans intended to create a Ruthenian state that would control the
northern part of Bukovina too. When the Americans realized that there was no sup-
port for the notion of a Ruthenian state (another blow to President Wilson’s princi-
ple of national self-determination), they agreed to consider Bukovina Romanian ter-
ritory, with the exception of a small part in the north, which was given to Poland.
Southern Dobrudja: One of the most controversial sections along the Romanian
border was that of southern Dobrudja. In 1913, at the end of the second Balkan War,
Romania acquired from Bulgaria a territory at the south of Dobrudja (Cadrilater).
The Bulgarians made up a good part of the Cadrilater’s population. During the First
World War, Bulgaria entered the war against Romania with the purpose of taking
back not only the Cadrilater but also all off Dobrudja. Based on ethnic criteria, the
American representatives considered that Bulgaria should have her frontier in south-
ern Dobrudja as it had been before the second Balkan War. Because of the American
interference the Cadrilater became a territorial question. The problem for the Ameri-
cans was that the Cadrilater belonged to an Allied state (Romania) and none of the
other Great Powers accepted the idea of a defeated state receiving territory that, be-
fore the war, had belonged to an Allied state. The Americans tried in vain to con-
vince the other representatives of their point, arguing that Dobrudja would be a fac-
tor of destabilization in the Balkan area. Romania eventually was to keep all of Do-
brudja, including the Cadrilater.

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Transylvania: It was this question that generated the biggest problems between
Romania and the Great Powers. All of them agreed that Transylvania should belong
to Romania, but there were two problems: where to draw its western boundary, and
what to do with the Hungarian and German minorities in the region. The western
boundary of Transylvania would divide the territory called Crisana, between Roma-
nia and Hungary, which actually was not part of Transylvania proper but had a Ro-
manian majority. The territory bordering Transylvania to the north, Maramures, was
also populated by a Romanian majority in its central and southern parts; it belonged
to Hungary before 1918, but the Peace Conference divided it between Romania and
Making the situation more complicated was the Armistice signed on Novem-
ber 13, 1918, between the Allied Powers and Hungary (known as the D’Esperey Armi-
stice, after the name of General Franchet D’Esperey, at that time the Supreme Com-
mander of the Allied Army in the Orient), which established a demarcation line be-
tween the Hungarian and Allied troops that divided Transylvania in two. The Hun-
garians considered this line recognition of their rights to Transylvania; the Romani-
ans, of course, considered it temporary and did everything they could to erase it.
The main problem with Transylvania was (as it continues to be to this day)
that the Hungarian population is concentrated in the east central part of the terri-
tory. To the west, nearer the border with Hungary, the inhabitants are predomi-
nantly Romanian; and the main groups of Hungarians in Transylvania are thus cut
off from Hungary proper, making any partition of Transylvania on ethnic grounds
impossible. In the words of Winston Churchill:

The problem of Transylvania was insoluble by the principle of self-

determination. It presented the feature of a considerable Hungarian population
isolated within a Romanian border belt. The peoples of the Romanian zone
wished to join Romania; those of the Magyar nucleus [wished] to adhere to
their kinsmen in Hungary. Either decision would have conflicted with self-

Another controversy developed over the lands in the west (Crisana), where the
Hungarian and Romanian population lived together, along the line formed by the
cities of Arad, Oradea, Carei and Satu Mare. Generally, the cities were predomi-
nantly Hungarian while the countryside (as in Bessarabia) was Romanian. An im-
portant railroad connected these cities; control of the railroads was a decisive eco-
nomic and strategic advantage. The problem was that a true ethnic line (requested
by the Americans) would bisect the rail line in several places, making it almost inop-
erable, so the solution pushed (especially by the French representatives) was to give
the entire railroad area to Romania. But even so, the borderline was about 40 miles
east of the one promised to Romania by the 1916 Treaty. Bratianu’s main advantage
in solving the Transylvania problem proved to be the communist regime that came
to power in Hungary; that was none too welcome to the Great Powers.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The Territorial Commission on Romanian and Yugoslav Affairs was the scene
where the representatives of the Big Four presented their proposals and decided Ro-
mania’s territorial future.59 (Clive Day and Charles Seymour represented the USA;
Sir Eyre Crow and Alan Leeper, Britain; André Tardieu and Guy Laroche, France;
Giacomo de Martino and Count Luigi Vannutelli Rey, Italy.) There were two camps:
the Americans, sometimes allied with the British representatives (as illustrated by
the February 1 Anglo-American Conference), and the French and Italians.60 Bessara-
bia was the only issue related to Romania that everyone had agreed upon since the
beginning of the Commission’s work; it was decided that Bessarabia should belong
to Romania. Controversy was sharp over all the other territories. In regard to
Bukovina, the Americans advocated the creation of a Ruthenian state; on Banat, they
(together with the French) were in favor of a cession of territory to Serbia; and the
same for Dobrudja. The most heated dispute by far was that of Transylvania’s west-
ern boundary. In April, the Territorial Commission decided to give all of Transylva-
nia to Romania, but the new borders were slightly smaller than what the 1916 Treaty
promised. Still, this partially contradicted the ethnic principle, because sizable ur-
ban centers populated mainly by the Magyars were given to Romania — a decision
based on strategic and economic grounds.
After some debate, the Supreme Council decided to establish a neutral zone
between the Romanian and Hungarian troops in Transylvania, but the communist
takeover of Hungary complicated the situation. Romania exploited the new situa-
tion by playing up the Bolshevik danger. President Wilson adopted a conciliatory
attitude toward the Hungarian communist government, but Bratianu was not about
to tolerate another communist threat at Romania’s borders. Bratianu had the moral
backing of the French military leaders. On April 16, the Romanian Army launched an
offensive, intending to occupy all those Transylvanian territories that had voted in
favor of the union with Romania on December 1, 1918; the goal was achieved in a
matter of weeks.61 The Great Powers were not at all satisfied with the Romanian
move and asked Bratianu to withdraw these forces behind the Arad-Oradea-Satu
Mare line; they made the mistake of not telling Bratianu that that line was actually
the newly-established border. Bratianu refused to withdraw. This was the beginning
of a fierce confrontation between the Supreme Council and Bratianu.
Thus, in May, while the Supreme Council was deciding (in secret) the new
Romanian border in Transylvania, Bratianu threatened to continue the offensive —
to capture Budapest and to establish a government favorable to Romania. The Great
Powers, and especially the Americans, were appalled, and demanded that the Roma-
nian army withdraw from Hungary. However, they were not disposed to send troops
to back up this demand.
By the end of May the situation worsened. The projected Treaty with Austria
provoked the bitter response of Romania and some other small states as well, espe-
cially on economic grounds. The Minorities Treaty was another irritant;62 elaborated
by the Great Powers, as a result of the Jewish influence, it allowed them to intervene
in favor of ethnic minorities. Ostensibly, the Treaty was prepared especially in order

< 64 >

to protect the Jewish minority, and it had the same purpose as the Bucharest Peace
Treaty between Romania and the Central Powers in this respect.
Bratianu considered the Minorities Treaty a form of foreign intervention into
the internal matters of an independent state, and refused to sign it. It was not easy
for the Romanians to understand why they, in the victorious camp, had to accept the
same conditions as in the camp of the defeated. Bratianu argued that, when the Ro-
manian representative in the Commission of the League had proposed inserting into
the statutes of the League some general clauses aimed at guaranteeing the rights of
minorities, the representatives of the Great Powers had opposed him, with the fatu-
ous argument that they were civilized states in which the rights of everyone are re-
spected. Bratianu objected to this discrimination against Romania and refused to
accept different treatment. Bratianu also observed that Germany, the “enemy”, had
not been obliged to sign a minorities’ treaty.63 This was one of the numerous reasons
behind Bratianu’s decision to leave Paris on July 2,64 and the Romanians’ refusal to
sign the Austrian Treaty on September 10. Unfortunately, all the other interested
States (except for Yugoslavia), being in no position to upset their powerful allies,
agreed to sign the Minorities and the Austrian Treaties; and Bratianu was almost
alone against the Big Four on this matter.
The Big Four countered Bratianu’s argument on May 31, deciding against any
possible Romanian occupation of Budapest and asking him to withdraw the army
from Hungary. Bratianu asked, in return, for some guarantee from the Great Powers
against a possible attack from Hungary. The guarantees were not forthcoming, and
President Wilson demanded immediate withdrawal. The Romanians (with unoffi-
cial French backing) refused, conditioning any such move on the disarmament of the
Hungarian Army. For, although the representatives of the Great Powers were preoc-
cupied with finding a way to eliminate the communist regime in Hungary, none of
them was disposed to send her own troops in and the Hungarians took the opportu-
nity to reorganize their army.
On July 20, Bela Kun (the communist leader of Hungary), encouraged by his
success against the Czechoslovaks, took a fatal decision and ordered an attack on
the Romanian Army. The Hungarian Army was defeated in just a few weeks. This
time the Romanian Army took Budapest, and eliminated the communist regime. The
Romanian occupation of Budapest created another nuisance for the Supreme Coun-
cil, who, during the next six months, would have to use everything in its power
(including even the threat of refusing Transylvania or other territories to Romania)
to induce the Romanians to withdraw from Hungary. Romanian requisitions in
Hungary aggravated the situation.65
At the same time, the scission within the Supreme Council — with France
adopting a pro Romanian stand and with the American influence diminishing —
worked in favor of Romania. The climax came when the Supreme Council sent an
ultimatum in the form of a Note to Romania on November 15, threatening to cut off
diplomatic relations if Romania refused to comply with the Supreme Council’s de-
mands. Romania accepted the ultimatum.
The new Romanian government, led by Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, signed the

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Minorities Treaty (with modifications made at the insistence of the Romanians), the
Austrian Treaty and the Bulgarian Treaty on December 10, 1919. Since November, the
Romanians had gradually been withdrawing their army from Hungary. However,
Romanian troops were still kept on the Theiss line — not quite in accordance with
the Council’s expectations. In January 1920, Vaida-Voevod made a visit to Paris and
was received by the Supreme Council. The January 20 meeting, which will be dis-
cussed in the next subchapter, ended with the Romanian promise to withdraw its
army from Hungary, which actually happened during the following two months.
Overall, it should be stated that the Romanian occupation of Hungary lasted much
longer than necessary and that it failed to bring any service to Romania in doing so.
On June 4, 1920, the Treaty with Hungary was signed.
The Paris Peace Conference proved to be a great success for Romanian diplo-
macy, even though not all the Romanian territorial demands were met. These
achievements came as a result of a number of objective factors and not at all as a gift
from the Great Powers. Of course, there were some imperfections, such as the small
quota of war reparations to be paid, or the status of the Danube (given that some
portions of the River were entirely on Romanian territory, the Romanians expected
to have more control over its navigation, meaning the right to levy taxes; but the
Great Powers were unwilling to lose control over the Danube and insisted that it
should have an international status, giving Romania little voice on such matters)
but, on the whole, the Romanians had every reason to be satisfied with the results.
In the following years, Romanian diplomacy would focus mainly on the need to
guarantee that the decisions taken by the Peace Conference were respected, and to
prevent any possible revision of the borders established by those treaties.
It is interesting to note that, while in Paris many of the representatives of the
Great Powers had been against Romania, the same could not be said about the Great
Powers’ representatives in Bucharest (Charles J. Vopicka for the US, Saint-Aulaire
for France, Frank Rattigan for the UK, T. Franklin for Italy). Their superiors, in fact,
considered each of the four ministers to be too much in favor of the Romanian cause.
Their reports during the crises between Romania and the Supreme Council highlight
the differences in view from Bucharest and from Paris.
Frank Rattigan showed by far the clearest understanding of the Romanian
situation. His reports remain to this day valuable descriptions not only of Romanian
affairs but also of the Romanian people. This difference is really striking because
each of the Ministers represented the interests of his own country, which one would
suppose were the same whether seen from Paris or Bucharest, and yet the ministers
in Bucharest each fought, as much as possible, against the decisions taken by their
superiors to the detriment of Romanian interests.

The Paris Peace Conference and The Bessarabian Question

To bring some clarity to a complex situation as it unfolded, a chronological

presentation follows, outlining the evolution of the Bessarabian question during the
Paris Peace Conference. Clearly, events were taking place on two levels — an official

< 66 >

level (meaning everything that was presented during the meetings of the Peace Con-
ference) and an unofficial one (meaning the under-the-table direct negotiations be-
tween Romania and the Great Powers). The present chapter will analyze the Con-
ference as a whole, on only the official level; the role played by each Great Power in
the making of the Treaty, and their particular interests regarding the Treaty, repre-
senting the unofficial level, will be presented in subsequent chapters. Since the US
had been the biggest opponent to the Bessarabian treaty, and expressed their oppo-
sition officially, we will also go into a bit more detail on their position (the real moti-
vation behind their attitude will be analyzed in Chapter 9). At the end of this chap-
ter, we present the Foreign Relations of the United States collection (FRUS) record
of the conversations whenever the Bessarabian question was the subject of an in-
tense debate in one of the Conference’s commissions.
An intense propaganda campaign was undertaken at the Conference by the
Romanian government, both at the official and the unofficial levels, to convince the
public and the deciding Powers of the rightfulness of Romania’s territorial and eco-
nomic claims. Memorandums were sent to the various commissions of the Peace
Conference, unofficial contacts were made with the delegates to the Conference,
pamphlets were printed and articles and interviews were published in the mass me-
Although the Paris Peace Conference officially started in January 1919, its be-
ginnings should be traced to January of the prior year, when the famous 14 Wilson-
ian Points had been presented before the American Congress. The European situa-
tion changed considerably between the day the 14 Points were proclaimed and the
day the war ended; the points needed to be adjusted to the new situation. The Cobb-
Lippmann memorandum of October 29, 1918 achieved that task. In regard to Roma-
nia, the memorandum states:

The 6th point, referring to Russia, only makes indirect reference to Bessara-
bia. The only reference made to Romania is that the Bucharest Peace Treaty
must be canceled as palpably fraudulent.
The 10th point, referring to the peoples of Austria-Hungary, states,
“Transylvania will undoubtedly join Romania, but provisions must be made for
the protection of Magyars, Szeckelers and Germans who constitute a large mi-
The 11th point, referring to Romania and Serbia, states, “the relations of the
several Balkan states to one another should be determined by friendly counsel
along the historically established lines of allegiance and nationality . . . Roma-
nia will have acquired the Dobrudja, Bessarabia and probably Transylvania . . .
Bulgaria should clearly have her frontier in the southern Dobrudja as it stood
before the second Balkan War”.66

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

A Chronology

February 1, 1919 – During the Council of Ten discussions of Romanian territo-

rial claims, Romanian Prime Minister Ion I.C. Bratianu, seeking to justify the armi-
stice Romania signed with the Central Powers, observed:

At the demand of the representatives of the Entente, who declared in writing

that this operation was the last military cooperation that they were entitled to
expect from Romania, the Romanian army commenced open hostilities with
the Bolshevist troops and then occupied the whole territory of Moldavia and
Bessarabia. It was thought that this supreme effort would at least ensure the
existence of an Ukraine friendly to the Allies.67

Bratianu presented, in an official manner for the first time, the justice of Roma-
nia’s claims to Bessarabia. In answer to a question from Lloyd George, he also main-
tained that “In Bessarabia, elections had taken place under the Russian Republican
government, and the Assembly thus elected had proclaimed the Union with Roma-
nia, subject to certain reservations which the Assembly had since withdrawn, on
condition that it should be granted a special Agrarian Law.”68

After the withdrawal of the Romanian representatives, the Council decided

that the Romanian Treaty of August 1916 should be considered annulled due to Ro-
mania’s signing the Bucharest Peace. However, they acknowledged that Romania
should have proper representation at the Peace Conference. After further delibera-
tions, the Council decided, “the Romanian territorial interests should be referred for
examination in the first instance by an expert committee, composed of two repre-
sentatives each of the USA, the British Empire, France and Italy.”69
Bratianu’s introductory remarks, made before presenting his report, were in-
dicative of his relationship with the other leaders, and characteristic of his personal-
ity; they were clearly directed against at least some of those in the room: “This is the
second time I have to take an oral examination in Paris. The first time was when I
took my engineering license; at that time, my examiners knew more than me.”70

February 8 – The first meeting of the Commission on Romanian and Yugo-Slav

Affairs.71 The Commission was the first of five territorial commissions that came into
being and the immediate reason for its creation was the Romanian-Yugoslav conflict
over the Banat. Much of its work would be focused on the Banat border and the bor-
der between Romania and Hungary. The Commission had no competence to pro-
nounce judgment on the validity or non-validity of the 1916 Treaty. Like the other
territorial commissions, its mandate was not to decide what the frontiers of Roma-
nia were to be, but to recommend to the Council of Ten what, in their opinion
(based on ethnic, geographic, and necessary economic grounds), those frontiers
ought to be. Strategic reasons, arising from temporary political exigencies, were not
permitted to influence their decision.72

< 68 >

André Tardieu was supposed to preside over this first meeting of the commit-
tee, but he suddenly left the meeting and Giacomo de Martino therefore led the dis-
cussion. This change altered the course of the debates, because Martino requested
that the discussion should start by discussing the validity of all the treaties invoked
by the Romanians in their favor (with a view to Italy’s own secret treaty with the
Entente). Although the French representatives agreed, the Americans flatly refused
to take into account any treaty of which they had no official knowledge; the British
considered that, if the cited treaties had still been valid, then they simply would have
been implemented by the Conference.73
As for Bessarabia, both the British (Eyre Crow) and American (Clive Day) rep-
resentatives asked that the ethnic and national principles be included in the future
treaty of Bessarabia. The French representative (Laroche) insisted on the ethnic and
historical arguments, which were the basis for the Union and for its international
recognition. Clive Day also raised the possibility of future difficulties with Russia
due to the Union’s recognition.74 In the end, Laroche, with the agreement of all the
other members in the Commission (including the Americans), stated that:

Of all the territories under discussion by the Committee, Bessarabia is . . . the

only one which, at a recent period, belonged to Romania, and to which Roma-
nia is able to make not only a national but a real historical claim. Bessarabia is a
definite province that has been removed from a definite State. As a result, its
return to this State could not create difficulties in the future with Russia.”75

The Commission met again, a number of times (the most important meetings
took place on February 11, 17, and 22), the main point of debate being that of Roma-
nia’s future western border, and there were some unofficial meetings as well. During
none of these meetings was Bessarabia mentioned, which would indicate that it was
not seen as a problem and that it was clearly accepted as Romanian territory.

March 5 – Meeting of the Commission on Romanian and Yugo-Slav Affairs.

The Romanian Commission took up the Bessarabian problem in order to prepare a
draft for the final decision of the Commission. In agreement with Laroche’s proposal,
the Commission decided in favor of the Union between Bessarabia and Romania.
March 11 – Meeting of the Commission on Romanian and Yugo-Slav Affairs.
The Commission in unanimity adopted its final decision on Bessarabia. The decision

The Commission, taking into consideration the general aspirations of the Bes-
sarabian populations, the Moldavian character of that region, both geographi-
cally and ethnographically, as well as the economic and historic arguments,
favors the attachment of Bessarabia to Romania. It believes that this attribu-
tion should take place under a form that will safeguard the general interests of
Bessarabia, notably as regards its relations with the neighboring countries, and

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

which will guarantee the rights of the minorities in accordance with the provi-
sions of the League of Nations.76

In fact, it was not only the Commission but also the “official” historians of the
Peace Conference who considered that Bessarabia rightfully belonged to Romania:

Geographically and historically a Romanian province with a predominantly

Romanian population, Bessarabia was clearly marked out for reunion with Ro-
mania. It was considered that any discontent that might have arisen during the
past year of Romanian occupation was due to personal mistakes or the general
hard times rather than to any deep distaste for union with Romania, in which,
it was felt, lay Bessarabia’s (and Romania’s) best hope of progress and peace.
Diplomatically, however, there was the difficulty of Russian susceptibilities,
and it was attempted to salve these by phrasing the decision in the most tactful

March 28 – Final meeting of the Commission on Romanian and Yugo-Slav Af-

fairs. This time, expert international jurists took part, in order to examine the legal-
ity of the articles included in the treaties establishing the future frontiers. The final
report of the Commission, together with a number of annexes, had been sent to the
Central Territorial Commission, which approved it and then sent it to the Council of
Foreign Ministers. As for the Bessarabian border, the American representative
Charles Seymour stated, privately, “it is rather embarrassing because part of the
frontiers abut on Russia and the Ukraine, but there is no one there with whom we
can sign a treaty.”78
April 6 – The final Report of the Committee for the Study of Territorial Ques-
tions Relating to Romania and Yugoslavia was presented to the Supreme Council.
After presenting a general outline of the future Romanian frontiers, including Bes-
sarabia, the Report presented six draft articles to be inserted in a treaty with Russia.
These articles would form the basis of the future Bessarabian treaty.79 On April 15,
the Central Committee on Territorial Questions approved the Report and sent it to
the Supreme Council.
May 8 – Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. The recommendations of
the Romanian Territorial Commission, approved by the Central Territorial Commis-
sion, had been handed over to the Council of Foreign Ministers for debate.
At this meeting, the new American policy regarding Bessarabia was presented
for the first time by Secretary of State Robert Lansing:

After a short discussion it was decided not to consider the boundary of Roma-
nia on the Russian side, but only to deal with its boundary on the Hungarian
side. Mr. Lansing said that in his opinion when the delimitation of Romania
and Russia was made, it would be necessary that Russia should be represented.
The Peace Conference could not adjudicate on territory belonging to a state
with whom the Powers represented were not at war.”80

< 70 >

The proximate reason for this declaration was President Wilson’s intention to
recognize the White Russian Government headed by Admiral Kolchak as the official
government of Russia; Kolchak seemed willing to allow a plebiscite to take place in
the central parts of Bessarabia.81
And indeed, the change in US policy came at the height of the Kolchak cam-
paign when, as presented by Lloyd George on May 7, “we are witnessing the verita-
ble collapse of Bolshevism . . . according to our information Kolchak is about to join
his forces with those at Archangel; it is also possible that he will arrive in Moscow
soon and establish a new government”.82 The problem here is that, even after Kol-
chak’s defeat, the US position remained the same as expressed on May 7.
Lansing also asked for a plebiscite to be held in Bessarabia, knowing that it
would be unacceptable to the Romanian authorities (or to any other state in a simi-
lar situation) — because the plebiscite would have meant choosing between democ-
racy and communism, and even if the plebiscite should be in favor of union, the Rus-
sians would not accept it. Therefore, the only result of a plebiscite for Romania
would have been intensified communist propaganda and the possibility of losing its
military control in Bessarabia. Bratianu presented these arguments clearly, later on.
In fact, it was not only Bratianu who was concerned about the danger posed by Bol-
shevism. The Allies themselves considered the spread of Bolshevism toward Central
Europe as a real danger and took steps to counterbalance it.83
As early as May 1919, US Secretary Robert Lansing expressed a new position
toward the Bessarabian question, a position different from that expressed by the
American representatives in the Romanian and Central Territorial Commissions.
May 16 – The Council of the Foreign Ministers. During the debate over the fu-
ture Bulgarian frontier and in connection with the situation in Dobrudja, it was
pointed out that, “Romania’s frontier in Bessarabia had been left undecided, by rea-
son of Mr. Lansing’s remark that this frontier could not be decided in the absence of
Russia . . . Mr. Balfour observed that the objection to settling the frontier in Bessara-
bia, as involving a partial dealing with the Russian problem, was a sound one”.84 The
British sided with the Americans, clearly as a result of Kolchak’s military success,
but it was only temporary.
May 27 – The Council of Four. It was pointed that the question of Bessarabia
had been omitted from the dispatch to Admiral Kolchak, and that this would proba-
bly cause difficulties with Romania when the dispatch was eventually published.
After some discussions, the following addition to the dispatch was approved:
“Sixthly, the right of the Peace Conference to determine the future of the Romanian
part of Bessarabia shall be recognized.”85 In some diplomatic circles it was consid-
ered that, by this article, the Great Powers undertook to recognize Romanian rights
in Bessarabia.
July 1 – The Council of the Heads of Delegations. After some debate it was de-
cided, at Clemenceau’s suggestion, to take up the Bessarabian question. The Ameri-
can (Paul Eugene Dutasta) and British (Lord Balfour) representatives opposed dis-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

cussing the Bessarabian problem on the grounds that “as this subject concerned Rus-
sia, no decision has been made” and that “no treaty has to be made either with Rus-
sia or with Romania”. But the Italian (Tittoni) and French representatives argued
that “the Council should make an effort to eliminate elements of disturbance and
[that] the area in question was very disturbed”. The final decision was that the next
day the Council should hear a report from André Tardieu (the President of the Com-
mission on Romanian and Yugo-Slav Affairs) and that Maklakoff and a Romanian
delegate would be heard separately on the same subject. 86
July 2 – The Council of the Heads of Delegations. The Bessarabian question
was discussed in the most official manner and at the highest level. Both the Russian
and Romanian opinions were heard, plus the conclusions reached by the Commis-
sion on Romanian and Yugo-Slav Affairs. Very important for the Bessarabian ques-
tion is the report presented by Tardieu, which reads:

The Committee had been unanimous in their wish to grant Bessarabia to Ro-
mania, but the Council had sent a telegram to Admiral Kolchak, which ap-
peared inconsistent with that decision. In the telegram in question the council
had only stated that the Romanians rights in Bessarabia should be preserved in
favor of that country. 87

It was only the American representative, Secretary of State Lansing, who ob-
jected to discussing the Bessarabian question, arguing that, as it was a conflict be-
tween two friendly states (toward the Entente), he did not have the necessary pow-
ers to deal with it. Still, the conflict between Romania and Yugoslavia was also one
between friendly States, but this did not stop the US representatives from directly
Because of the importance of both the Russian and the Romanian reports, we
will present them entirely, as an Annex to the present chapter. The main points in
Bratianu’s presentation were the Sfatul Tserii’s decision for union, and the plebiscite.
Lansing had asked for a plebiscite in Bessarabia; that was adamantly rejected by Bra-
tianu, who said that neither now nor in the future would he accept the organization
of a plebiscite in Bessarabia. His reason was clear and simple: it would lead to an
onslaught of revolutionary and Bolshevik propaganda that could have a dire effect on
the future of Bessarabia and Romania.
July 23 – Meeting of the US Commissioners. The discussion started with the
problem of the elections to be held in all the Romanian territories, including Tran-
sylvania and Bessarabia, and the fact that the Bessarabian representatives, Kroupen-
ski (one of the richest Bessarabian landowners) and Schmidt (former mayor of Chisi-
nau), had protested that the Romanians were preparing to hold an election in Bes-
sarabia for members to the Romanian Parliament.
The entire meeting shows how much the US “specialists” relied on unverified
information. In Prof. Coolidge’s words: “There was to be an election in all the Roma-
nian territories, but in the new territories no one had a right to vote until he was

< 72 >

forty years of age, which seemed to be an ingenious way of giving a majority to the
people in the older territories”.88 This is dead wrong; the Romanian electoral law
stipulated that the 40 years age limit referred only to the Senate, and was valid all
over Romania. The Romanians (and not only the minorities) living in the newly ac-
quired territories would hardly have sat still for such an arrangement as Coolidge
had dreamed up. In reality, this episode says much about Romania’s image with the
US delegates, who were ready to believe any such story without checking their
sources. Allen W. Dulles opposed sending the matter to the Committee on Minori-
ties, arguing that it was not a problem of minorities’ protection, as the minorities
were able to vote on the same conditions as the Romanians. Then, they remembered
that nothing was to be done in any of the territories that formed part of Russia, as
Secretary Lansing had previously stated. The discussion continued on the general
situation of Bessarabia, simply describing the positions previously expressed by Bra-
tianu and Lansing on July 2.
July 26 – Meeting of the American Steering Committee.89 This meeting is im-
portant because it was one of the few moments when some of the US representatives
seemed eager to “solve” the Bessarabian question. The Committee discussed the
situation of Dobrudja and Bessarabia. Dr. Johnson suggested that the two questions
might be taken up with Romania at the same time, with the idea that Romania’s as-
pirations in Bessarabia might be satisfied in case she would consent to certain con-
cessions in the Dobrudja.90 The suggestion was later abandoned, as the British posi-
tion regarding Dobrudja was opposed to that of the Americans, the British clearly
favoring the Romanians.
August 1 – Council of Heads of Delegations. Again, it was the French represen-
tative who reopened the Bessarabian question, saying that “it would be difficult to
settle the Romanian question as a whole, and to make that country accept clauses in
the Peace Treaty on the subject of minorities if, at the same time, its frontiers had not
been notified to it”. 91 Answering questions, Tardieu pointed out twice that the Com-
mittee had been unanimous in their wish to grant Bessarabia to Romania, but admit-
ted that some delegations (referring to the Americans) had altered their opinions
after the lapse of a few months. After more debate (presented in the Annex) it was
decided, in the same manner as before, to postpone the discussion on Bessarabia
(together with Bukovina and Dobrudja), this time the postponement being justified
by the need to wait until the formation of a new Romanian government.
August 13 – Meeting of the US Commissioners. During discussions regarding
Poland’s frontier with Russia, Bessarabia was mentioned. Again White pointed out,
“We have laid down the rule that we do not think that any of the territory that we
formerly called Russian territory should be disposed of until we know what the Rus-
sian situation will be.” The problem was that Lansing had admitted some exceptions
to this rule in regard to Finland and Poland; such exceptions might or might not ap-
ply to Bessarabia.

Dr. Lord: The nearest to a thoroughly official act is the note of the Council
of Four to Admiral Kolchak, in which they make a distinction between Bes-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

sarabia and other parts of the former Russian Empire. They expressly reserve
the right of the Peace Conference here to settle the Bessarabian question. . . .
Colonel Grant: The Bessarabian question deserves a special settlement, for
it is very much mixed up by the Romanian situation at the present time.92

September 3 – Meeting of the US Commissioners. The main point of the dis-

cussion was the Bulgarian frontier in Dobrudja, and in that context the Bessarabian
question was mentioned. The American representatives had their own ideas regard-
ing Dobrudja and they went so far as to use the Transylvanian question in order to
strong-arm the Romanians. The following fragments illustrate that discussion:

Mr. Polk: Now the Dobrudja question is a question to be settled with a

friendly state — that is Romania — and therefore that could properly be in a
separate treaty. It is obvious at the present moment that Romania would not discuss that
question unless she were given compensations in Bessarabia (author’s emphasis). Now, I
understand the position of the Delegation has been that we could promise
them nothing in Bessarabia; that that is a part of Russia, and that therefore we
would not be a party to the disintegration of Russia. . .
Dr. Johnson: The position of the American Delegation on the Territorial
Commission was — and it was supported by Mr. Lansing and later by the
President — that although Romania was a friendly state we had a right to require the
cession of the Bulgarian portion of the Dobrudja to Bulgaria, in view of the fact that we
were giving Romania very large areas of territory which were acquired as the result of
the common victory of the Allies, not by the Romanians’ own efforts. The Brit-
ish and the Italians did not support that point of view, and took the position
that, Romania being a friendly state, we could require no cession of territory.
But our position has been that while we may not require outright cession of
territory, we will say “we will give you this territory if you cede that”.
Mr. Polk: Aren’t we more or less blocked? We cannot give them Bessarabia.
Dr. Johnson: But even outside the question of Bessarabia, there is Transylvania.
Mr. Polk: There is Transylvania, of course. . . .
Mr. Polk (concluding): Now, in view of the present attitude of Romania, it
would be a waste of time to attempt to draw the line (in Dobrudja).93

Still, Frank Polk did the opposite, and took the first opportunity to reopen the
Dobrudja question.
September 5 – Council of Heads of Delegations. Frank Polk insisted that the
Dobrudja question should be mentioned in the treaty withBulgaria, but the British
and French representatives were clearly opposed to this idea, only the Italian repre-
sentative trying to somehow back the US proposal.

Lord Balfour: [He] was ready to state that the attribution of southern Do-
brudja to Bulgaria would be conducive to a lasting peace in the Balkans. But he

< 74 >

thought that it was impossible, as long as Romania remained an Allied Power,

or, at worst, a neutral, to insert any clause in the Treaty with Bulgaria requiring
a surrender of Romanian territory.
Mr. Polk: According to the future provisions of the Treaty with Hungary,
Romania stood a chance of receiving considerable accessions of territory in Tran-
sylvania and Bukovina. Her acquisition of these territories might be made contingent on her
yielding ground in the Dobrudja.
Mr. Balfour: The frontiers in Transylvania and Bukovina were drawn on
ethnological lines. It would be difficult to alter these frontiers without violat-
ing the principles of the Conference.
Mr. Pichon: A serious question of principle was involved. The Conference,
hitherto, had never attempted to revise Treaties anterior to the war. . . .
Mr. Tittoni: The question of Dobrudja could not be made corollary to the
question of Transylvania or Bukovina. The matter of Bessarabia, however, re-
mained. [He] would be inclined to ask Romania to make a concession in the
Dobrudja as a condition of obtaining what the Commission recommended in
Bessarabia. . . .
Mr. Polk: Nothing [he] said had committed him to an offer of Bessarabia to
Romania in exchange for southern Dobrudja.94

The Americans were not willing at that time to make any compromise in re-
gard to Bessarabia but they were disposed to do so regarding Transylvania. This is
interesting, because for everybody (including the Americans) it was not only quite
clear but also already agreed (based on a series of demographic, ethnic, historical,
economic and strategic facts) that all of Transylvania belonged to Romania.
So, Polk was willing to encroach upon at least few of the principles used as the
basis for the building of a new world by the Paris Peace Conference in order to
achieve his aim regarding southern Dobrudja. The question is, why did he use the
Transylvanian question and not the Bessarabian one, on which nothing had yet been
decided? And, in the first place, what was the reason behind the American insistence
in the cession of southern Dobrudja? The whole matter shows that Polk had clear
instructions from his superiors in Washington that the Bessarabian question was
untouchable, whatever the circumstances. This comes to support the view that, for
his superiors, Bessarabia had a different significance, as presented in a following
chapter, seemingly being considered as more important than the Transylvanian
September 8 – Council of Heads of Delegations. During the discussions over
the Peace Treaty with Austria, one of the main objections the Romanians had raised
was in regard to the national minorities (Article 60). The Bessarabian question came
into discussion as the representatives were analyzing the implications of Romania’s
refusal to sign the Austrian Treaty.

Mr. Tittoni said that Romania might be satisfied with actual possession of
the Bukovina and Transylvania without a title de jure to either, because she

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

might argue that neither Austria nor Hungary would be able for a long time to
dispute her possessions. But in the case of Bessarabia, unless treaty rights were
acquired, it must be clear to Romania that Russia, once restored to power,
would certainly wish to regain the country. In this instance, Romania would
see that it required the assistance of the Allied and Associated Powers or the
League of Nations. This might be pointed out to Romania, perhaps becoming
influenced by this argument.
Mr. Polk said that he was not prepared to bribe Romania into good behav-
ior. He did not think that the Council had fallen so low as to be forced to resort
to such tactics. [Interesting, just a few days earlier, he had been willing to use
the Transylvanian question in order to obtain Romania’s cession of southern
Dobrudja to Bulgaria.]
Mr. Tittoni pointed out that he would not have made his proposal unless
he had regarded Romania as having a good title to Bessarabia.
Mr. Balfour said that he thought the proper course was to make no men-
tion of Bessarabia at all.95

October 7 – Meetings of the US Commissioners. It was decided to bring the

matter of the parliamentary elections to be held in Bessarabia to the attention of the
Supreme Council.96
October 10 – Council of Heads of Delegations. Frank Polk raised the problem
of the Romanian action in Bessarabian. He told the Council:

He wished to say that the conduct of the Romanians in Bessarabia had called
for strong adverse comment. He was informed that the Romanian authorities
were holding elections and enforcing conscription. He thought that the action
of the Romanian government in Bessarabia should be considered by the Coun-

In fact, Polk was acting as a result of a new note sent by the so-called Bessara-
bian representatives in Paris, Kroupenski and Schmidt, in which they complained
once more against the Romanian authorities, proving quite successful in obtaining
the backing of the US delegates.
October 11 – Council of Heads of Delegations. The Bessarabian question had been
placed on the agenda by the American delegation on the previous day. At first, the
Council read a note (the same, or similar to, the one cited above). The point ex-
pressed by Mr. Polk was that:

He did not intend to ask the Council to take a decision. . . the fact that the Ro-
manians were exercising rights of sovereignty in Bessarabia, and that the si-
lence of the Conference in regard to this matter might give the Romanians
grounds for believing that the Council consented to their having assumed this

< 76 >

He was afraid that the Romanians would present this as a fait accompli and, as
this policy was counter to his instructions regarding Bessarabia, he had to use any-
thing at hand in order to counter the Romanian move.
October 30 – Council of Heads of Delegations. The Americans tried again to
obtain the agreement of the other representatives for a settling of the southern Do-
brudja problem in favor of Bulgaria. Once more, the French representatives clearly
opposed any solution contemplating the transfer of parts of Dobrudja to Bulgaria
and tried to bring the Bessarabian question into discussion. But Polk argued again
that the question of Bessarabia should not be discussed at the present moment par-
ticularly on account of the situation in Russia. He also stated, “The chief trouble was
that Romania had been given everything she wanted in a territorial way without any
equivalent being demanded. The time to bargain would have been when Romania’s ter-
ritorial requests had been freely granted.”99 The question is, was Polk referring to the
1914 negotiations, when Romania decided to stay neutral, although it was a member
of the Triple Alliance, or to 1916, when Romania decided, under intense pressure
from the Entente, to enter the war against its former allies, placing all her resources
in the Entente’s service?
November 11 – Council of Heads of Delegations. The British representative, Sir
Eyre Crowe, tried to bring the Bessarabian question into the Council’s debate, but
was opposed by Frank Polk, who argued that, in his opinion, it was not possible for
the matter to be settled at that time. Notwithstanding Polk’s opposition, Sir Eyre
Crowe stated, “they were clearly of the opinion that Bessarabia should go to Roma-
nia”.100 The British position is significant for at least four reasons: (1) they clearly
backed the Romanian position regarding Bessarabia, even at a time when the rela-
tions between the Conference and Romania were really strained; (2) they under-
stood the influence that a solution in favor of Romania would have over the latter’s
cooperation with the Peace Conference; (3) it was the beginning of the British pres-
sure in favor of the Bessarabian Treaty, a pressure targeting at first the US but soon
the French representatives, too; (4) the British statement also shows the weakening
of the US delegation’s influence over the Conference.
November 13 – Council of Heads of Delegations. During the discussions regard-
ing the ultimate note to be sent to Romania, the French representative (Charles
Berthelot) opened the debate regarding Bessarabia: “The question certainly had been
discussed by a Commission which had come to the unanimous decision to give the
whole of Bessarabia to Romania, but the Council had not taken any decision to that
effect, and its liberty of action remained unimpaired”.101 It is interesting that at any
time when the Bessarabian question was discussed, the French kept reminding the
Americans about the unanimous decision (which means that the American represen-
tatives too agreed on the matter) taken by the Commission on Romanian and Yugo-
Slav Affairs.
January 20 – The International Council of Premiers. The main difference is that
now the Americans have no power to influence directly the decision on Bessarabia as

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

they decided to leave the Peace Conference. Still, the US Ambassador in Paris, An-
drew Wallace, was assisting the works of the Peace Conference. The new Romanian
Prime Minister, Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, had been invited to justify the Romanian
policy towards the Peace Conference, with a special accent on the Hungarian situa-
tion. The main point of the discussions regarding the Bessarabian question,
(presented in detail in the Annex), was the verbal agreement that the Conference
would give official recognition to the Romanian rights in Bessarabia as soon as the
Romanian Army will be withdrawn from Hungary. This deal is excellently expressed
by Lloyd George:

We are convinced of your intention to evacuate Hungary, but we think you

may be faced by certain difficulties from the military party and we think the
military party would be more willing to obey the order of the Conference to
evacuate Hungary immediately if you said to them: ‘The Conference is awaiting our
evacuation of Hungary before deciding that Bessarabia shall be definitely Romanian’. . .
The Council took note of the statement made by Vaida-Voevod; it acknowl-
edged that, although it had as yet come to no decision as to the attribution of
Bessarabia and could not do so until Romania had carried out the orders of the
Conference in Hungary, the Commission on Romanian Affairs was unanimously
of the opinion that this territory should be attributed to Romania.102

Still, it should be noted that the connection between the Bessarabian question
and the withdrawal of the Romanian Army from Hungary was only a temporary one.
After this meeting, Vaida-Voevod would continue his official visit in Paris and
London in order to influence the two Great Powers for signing a treaty regarding
Bessarabia.103 He also complied with the Conference’s request and ordered the com-
plete withdrawal of Romanian troops from Hungary. In fact, as soon as the commu-
nist regime was defeated and as it became clear that the new Hungarian government
had neither the will nor the necessary military power to attack Romania, plus the
fact that the Conference had clearly decided the new frontier in Transylvania, the
presence of the Romanian Army on Hungarian territory did not exactly help the Ro-
manian cause in Paris. At the same time, Vaida-Voevod started direct negotiations
with the Soviets, in order to solve the existing conflicts on a peaceful manner.
March 3 – The International Council of Premiers. The Romanians asked the
Supreme Council for its opinion about the opening of direct negotiations with the
Bolsheviks and obtained the approval. Vaida-Voevod asked the Council to take a
definitive decision in the Bessarabian question, which was, in his opinion, the only
problem between Romania and Russia. The Council decided to make a declaration
in this sense (presented in the Annex), which stipulates:

The Principal Allied Powers pronounce themselves in favor of the reunion of

Bessarabia with Romania . . . and it is their desire to conclude a treaty for the
recognition . . . The Allied Powers consider that by this annexation the general

< 78 >

and particular interests of Bessarabia are protected, especially those regarding

its reports with the neighboring states, and that the minorities rights must be

April 15 – The Commission on Romanian Affairs examined the Draft Treaty

prepared by the Drafting Committee to give effect to the Supreme Council’s recogni-
tion of Romania’s sovereignty over Bessarabia. To the initial six articles in the Draft
three others were added; two of them (Articles No. 7 and 9) were proposed by the
British delegate, Alan Leeper, while the third one (Article No. 8) came from the
French delegation. Although the French also insisted that a special clause regarding
the indemnification of the French subjects expropriated in Bessarabia by the new
agrarian law (amounting to about 10 million French francs) should be inserted in the
Draft Treaty, the British opposed this, considering that “it would be inconvenient to
introduce in a Treaty of this nature a clause relating to certain temporary private
interests and that it would be preferable for the French delegation to negotiate it
privately with the Romanian delegation”. 105
Two points should be made, here. Article No. 9 failed to mention that the
Treaty would come into force only after all its signatories ratified it; and second, it
was drafted in the name of the US too, with the hope that, in the end, the US govern-
ment would sign the Treaty. 106
April 15 – The Secretariat General of the Peace Conference forwarded the draft
Bessarabian Treaty to the American Ambassador in Paris, Andrew Wallace, asking
him to verify his government’s position regarding the Draft Treaty.107
April 25 – The British Secretary of foreign Affairs, Lord Curzon, proposed dur-
ing the San Remo meeting of the Supreme Council that the Bessarabian Treaty,
which was drafted already, should be referred to the Conference of Ambassadors in
Paris, which should be authorized to discuss and approve it finally. The Supreme
Council accepted in unanimity the British proposal.108
June 19 – The Conference of Ambassadors. Ambassador Wallace explained to
the Conference the official position of the US government regarding the Bessarabian
question, as it was expressed in the instructions received from his government:

This government has steadily refused to become involved in the discussion of

Romania’s claims in the province of Bessarabia, and at the meetings of Supreme
Council last autumn the attitude of the US was made entirely clear . . . the US
must again decline to become a party to any treaty tending to Russia’s dismem-

The Romanians understood that the Conference was not yet prepared to sign
the Bessarabian treaty and they decided to increase their pressure. In this sense, and
bearing in mind their previous negotiations with the British representatives, they
took a decisive step to meet the British and French demands regarding the signing of
the Treaty. By a telegram sent to the Romanian Legation in Paris in June 1920, Take

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Ionescu acknowledged the agreement of the Romanian government to pay equitable

compensations to 13 landowners in Bessarabia (9 French, 2 British, 2 Americans) in
exchange for their expropriated land. More concretely, the Romanian government
undertook to pay an amount of compensation higher than the one established by the
land reform law, an amount that was to be established through collaboration be-
tween the Romanian and the interested governments.110 Finally, after making a gen-
eral estimate regarding the amount of compensations to be paid,111 the Romanian
government undertook to embody in an exchange of letters the requested assurances
regarding the compensations.
The Romanian Agrarian Reform expropriated the lands of foreigners in order
to give them to the peasants in exchange for an amount of money to be paid during
the following 10-15 years. It was feared that the Romanian government would not
pay a satisfactory amount of money to the former landowners. The exchange of notes
took place on September 17 with France and on October 27 with the UK, and stated:

The Romanian government undertakes to pay directly to the British [and

respectively French] government on behalf of the British [and respectively
French] landowners in Bessarabia whose property has been expropriated by
virtue of the Romanian expropriation law, compensation which shall represent
the real value of the expropriated property. The amount of this compensation
shall be fixed by common agreement and without taking into account the rules
laid down by Romanian expropriation law.112

The Romanian government made a real concession in offering to pay foreign

citizens a different amount than it was paying its own citizens. But this was one of
the conditions set by both France and the UK in order to sign the Bessarabian treaty,
and it did not seem to be such a high price to pay. Of course, there were not many
British or French landowners in Bessarabia. The problem was to keep this arrange-
ment secret from the Romanian landowners, and in this aspect the Romanian gov-
ernment assumed a certain risk.
The Romanian government made the mistake of offering this advantage only to
France and the UK, and not to the other Signatory Powers too. Of course, Japan had
neither knowledge of nor interest (there were no Japanese citizens living in Bessara-
bia) in the mentioned exchange of notes; however, in a sense the Japanese could have
used it later in order to justify their failure to ratify, arguing that they had been
“humiliated” or “discriminated against” by not receiving the same treatment as the
other Powers.
The Italian government, though, took real offense. Even though there were few
Italians in Bessarabia, the Italian pride as a Great Power was at stake. Therefore, one
of the obstacles invoked by the Italian government when the Romanians pressed for
the Italian ratification was this exchange of notes.
Meanwhile, Romania stepped up its propaganda in Paris, London and Rome,
urging the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty. However, the French were waiting to

< 80 >

see how the Polish-Russo war developed, while the British seemed to be waiting for
the results of the negotiations between Lloyd George and the Soviets’ representative,
Krassin. Each government blamed the other for the delay in signing the Bessarabian
The stabilization of the Russo-Polish front toward the end of September also
worked in favor of Romania. Both Britain and France were afraid that, due to the end
of the war with Poland, Bolshevik troops would become available for deployment
against the Romanians in Bessarabia. In order to boost the Romanian position and to
avoid the start of a new war in Eastern Europe, they understood that the interna-
tional recognition of Bessarabia’s union would provide a powerful deterrence against
any military action of the Bolsheviks regarding Bessarabia.114
Still, the Great Powers, and especially the British, wanted to use the Bessara-
bian question as leverage to induce the Romanian government to ratify the Minori-
ties Treaty. Once Romania ratified it, the ethnic and religious minorities living in
Bessarabia would automatically be under its protection. The Powers clearly stated to
the Romanians that the Bessarabian Treaty would be signed only after Romania rati-
fied the Minorities Treaty,115 which Romania actually did in August 1920.

September 29 – After sending a memorandum to the Secretary General of the

Conference of Ambassadors, stating that there were no more reasons for postponing
the signature,116 the British representative urged his counterparts to sign the Bessara-
bian Treaty. As Lord Derby presented his action:

I must insist on being allowed to sign the Bessarabian Treaty without delay,
and that I could not agree to further postponement pending discussion on the
subject with the United States government. My colleagues all agreed on princi-
ple to immediate signature, but Mr. Laroche, speaking on behalf of the French
government, urged that the Conference should ask the US Ambassador to
make a last appeal to his government in the hope that they might be induced to
sign with the other Powers. Mr. Wallace also urged that he should be given
time to consult his government after the Treaty was formally communicated to
the Romanian government. I objected to any such delay, and it was finally
agreed that the Treaty should be communicated officially on Monday next
(October 4) to the Romanian government, and that all arrangements should be
made for it to be signed on October 11, or as soon as possible after that date.
These dates will give sufficient time for Mr. Wallace to consult his govern-
ment, as he wishes to do, but it is understood that whatever the reply he re-
ceives the signature of the Treaty will be proceeded with.117

That same day, Ambassador Wallace sent a telegram to his government, asking
for instructions regarding the Bessarabian question.118 Secretary of State Colby’s an-
swer came after a few days and was in line with the previous instructions:

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

In view of the consistent refusal of this government to approve a policy which

tended toward the dismemberment of Russia, as so recently emphasized in the
note to the Italian Ambassador, you should inform your colleagues that you
have been instructed not to sign at this time any treaty disposing of Bessarabia.
You should add that it is the Department’s opinion that hasty action in this
matter would only tend to give the Bolsheviks another pretense for arousing
national spirit on the ground that the Allies were disposing of Russian terri-
tory at a time when a representative Russian government could not be heard.119

In fact, the Romanians already knew, prior to the Conference meeting, that the
French and British governments had decided to make a common appeal to Washing-
ton for signing the Bessarabian Treaty. They understood the reasons behind the new
postponement but had to agree with it as they were promised that the Treaty would
be signed no latter than October 25.120
October 2 – Conference of Ambassadors. The British pressure for signing the
Bessarabian Treaty continues. As Lord Derby reports,

The Secretariat General, having failed to report the resolution taken at the last
meeting with regard to the Bessarabian treaty, I thought it well to insist that
the Treaty was to be presented on the 4 instant to the Romanian government,
no matter whether the US, Japanese and the Italian Ambassadors were still
awaiting instructions from their governments or not. If necessary the treaty will be
presented in the name of Great Britain and France instead of in the name of the Conference of
Ambassadors. It was decided to take the opportunity of requesting the Roma-
nian government at the same time to sign the two treaties regarding (1) Central
European frontiers and (2) the obligations taken over by the inheriting States
of the ex-Austria-Hungarian monarchy, which were signed at Sevres on Au-
gust 10.121

October 5 – The Italian Legation in Bucharest announced that the Italian gov-
ernment had already given the necessary instructions to his Ambassador in Paris in
order to sign the Bessarabian Treaty.122
October 8 – During the 78 meeting of the Conference of Ambassadors the
American Ambassador, Andrew Wallace presented his government’s view regarding
the Bessarabian problem, insisting that it was not opportune to sign the treaty at
that moment because of the bolstering effect that it would have for the Bolsheviks’
cause. But the Americans not at all impressed the British representative. As Ambas-
sadors Wallace reported,

Derby, however, reiterated that he hoped the treaty could be signed at earliest
possible moment and that he was prepared to sign even if he was only one of my col-
leagues who could do so. It appeared that he was only one of my colleagues who
was not concerned over the statement made by me pursuant to Department’s
instructions. 123

< 82 >

Britain’s position towards the Treaty is detailed in Lord Derby’s report regarding the

The Italian Ambassador stated that he had meanwhile received authority to

sign the Bessarabian Treaty but, in view of Mr. Wallace’s statement, he sug-
gests that the actual signature should be postponed until the Allied govern-
ments had time to express an opinion on the view held by the US government.
I objected to any postponement, insisting that I must sign on October 11 or as
soon as possible afterwards.
As a matter of fact it is unlikely that the Treaty can be signed on 11 instant
as the Romanian government have not yet replied to the note addressed to
them by the Conference, still less have they appointed their plenipotentiaries. I
made it clear to the Conference that the Bessarabian Treaty is to be signed even
if the Romanian government refuses to sign the New States Treaty and the
Central European Frontiers Treaty.124

October 11 – The Romanian answer to the proposed Draft Treaty asked for two
modifications. First one referred to the first paragraph of Article No. 7 regarding the
Chilia arm of the Danube, which they wanted to be omitted and to be referred to the
Conference on the status of Danube. The second one was referring to the Article No.
9, asking for the addition of words “non prévus” after the words “details”,125 accord-
ing to the agreement reached by Titulescu in London in May 1920. At the same time,
the Romanians announced their decision to sign the other two Treaties. While for
the first demand there had been no concession from the Great Powers, the second
one was met by them. In the final form, the Article 9 included the sentence “It is well
understood that the boundaries in the present Treaty and the sovereignty of Roma-
nia over those territories are not included in this right.”
October 27 – The Conference of Ambassadors discussed again the Bessarabian
Treaty. The British Ambassador informed the Conference that, after negotiations in
London, the Romanian government agreed to withdraw his objections to Article No.
7 and also that the new amendment to Article No. 9 had been accepted. The Confer-
ence approved the amendment and decided that the treaty should be signed on the
next day.
Significantly, it was “stipulated that subject to necessary deposit of ratifica-
tion, treaty is to come into force simultaneous to Romanian minorities treaty. Such a
stipulation appears to be necessary in view of fact that Minorities treaty is referred
to in Article 3.” 126
In order to have the treaty signed by all the members in the Conference, it was
decided that the treaty should also contain a clause allowing for an extension,
namely until December 15, during which contracting parties could sign. The main
reasons behind the mentioned clause, which was not unusual, was a request from
the representatives of the British Dominions, who were not yet familiar with the ex-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

act content of the Draft Treaty, as well as the fact that the Japanese Ambassador at
the Conference was not in Paris at that time.

October 28 – The Bessarabian Treaty was signed on behalf of the British Em-
pire, France, Italy and Romania. The Japanese Ambassador and the representatives
of the British Commonwealth signed a few days later. The Romanian plenipotentiar-
ies also signed act of adhesion to the New States Treaty and the Central European
Frontiers Treaty, made on August 10, 1920, in Sèvres.

Toward the end of the Peace Conference, Romania managed to obtain the
Great Powers’ official recognition of Bessarabia’s union with Romania. It was not
easy; the Great Powers still thought of Russia as the Ally that, for more than three
years, had fought for their cause; and they felt some compunction over giving away
territories that had belonged to the Russian Empire. On the other hand, they were
also worried about Russia’s potential renascence as a power and wanted to limit its
impact as much as possible. Thus, they resorted to the so-called “peeling the orange”
approach while, at the same time, keeping a door open for a future rapprochement
with Russia.
The delicate phrasing of the Bessarabian Treaty is a reflection of this desire to keep
the door open and to avoid future conflicts with Russia: while recognizing the union
of Bessarabia with Romania, the Treaty omits any obligation on the part of its signa-
tories to intervene in favor of Romania in case of a Russian attack on Bessarabia.
Romania seized the moment, and moved to keep Bessarabia for herself. Few
Romanian leaders at that time could foresee that Russia would regain its position as
a Great Power. All warnings coming from different parts of Europe were left unan-
swered by the Romanian leaders.

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Annex No. 1

Bratianu and the Council of Ten, February 1, 1919

In FRUS, PPC, Vol.3, p. 847-848

As regards Bessarabia, there were at the present moment some 500,000 Roma-
nians on the other side of the Dniestr, more than 100,000 in Bulgaria, more than
3000,000 in Serbia, and several hundred thousand in Macedonia, but they did not
form groups sufficiently compact for Romania to be able to claim them at present. It
was otherwise in Bessarabia, which was severed from Moldavia in 1812. Part of the
province was restored to Romania after the Crimean War, but after the war of 1878,
Russia took back this province, although admitting the integrity of Romania by a
formal treaty.
The Romanian claims had always extended to Bessarabia, but they would
probably not have been allowed if a great political event had not occurred; Tsarist
Russia collapsed and Bessarabia constituted itself an autonomous Republic, recog-
nized by the Russian Government under the presidency of Mr. Kerenski. The Bol-
shevist disturbances created a serious situation in Bessarabia, and the Government
there applied to Romania for help in maintaining order. Romania had refused until
she received similar requests from Jassy. The military occupation of Bessarabia by
Romanian troops only took place, therefore, with the consent of the local Govern-
ment and at the request of the Ukraine and the representatives of the Entente. Sub-
sequently, Bessarabia separated itself completely from Russia and, later, the Bessara-
bian Government declared its desire to unite with Romania, and united itself once
more to Moldavia, from which it had been severed in 1812.
Such was the history of the reunion of Bessarabia and Romania. A great injus-
tice had thus been righted. More than 72% of the inhabitants are Romanians, the
remainders are Slavs, Bulgarians, or Germans, and they did not represent even 15% of
the populations; therefore from every point of view Bessarabia was a Romanian
The incorporation of Bessarabia with Russia was an anachronism which could
no longer be allowed to exist. Whatever may be the fate of Russia, she could and
must no longer exercise supremacy in the Balkans. This dream was perhaps cher-
ished by the Russian Government at the beginning of the 19th century, and the occu-
pation of Bessarabia was doubtless a first step towards the occupation of Moldavia,
Bulgaria and Constantinople, but it was a false political move. Bessarabia was, more-
over, of the importance to Russia, for there was scarcely a Russian in the country.
But after having once seized the country, it was difficult for Russia to restore it. As
soon as circumstances allowed, it returned to Romania who was able to prevent the
work of destruction, which the Bolsheviks had begun. It was far more advantageous
to have a friendly country as neighbor than a country foreign in her ideas and ways of
life. Now Bessarabia would possess community of ideas with Romanian national

< 85 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

For all these reasons, Romania believed that the Peace Conference would not
question the justification of the union of Bessarabia with Romania.

Annex No. 2

Bratianu and the Council of Five, July 2, 1919

FRUS, PPC, 1919, vol.7, p. 9-14

Mr. Tardieu said he had been asked to open the discussion on Bessarabia by
explaining the views of the Committee which had studied the question. He read the
Report made by the Committee:
“The Committee, after taking into consideration the general aspirations of the
population of Bessarabia and the Moldavian character of that region from the geo-
graphical and ethnical points of view, as well as the historical and economic argu-
ments, pronounces itself in favor of joining Bessarabia to Romania.
“It considers that this measure should be effected in a form which will safe-
guard the general interests of Bessarabia, more especially as concerns its relations
with the neighboring countries, and which will guarantee the rights of minorities in
conformity with the provisions of the League of Nations”.
Since the Committee had reported, a protest had been received from Mr.
Tchaikowsky1 on behalf of the Russian Committees in Paris, protesting against any
annexation by Romania, and stating that Russia could not recognize any such act,
and further alleging that the Romanian troops had behaved in a very arbitrary man-
ner in the country. Mr. Tchaikowsky ended by demanding a free plebiscite.
Mr. Lansing said that the practical question was to know whether a decision
regarding Bessarabia could find a place in any of the Treaties of Peace.
Mr. Balfour pointed out that he had made the same remark on the previous
day. He had thought it was important to do all that was necessary to complete the
Treaties first. Mr. Clemenceau, however, had thought the Bessarabian question
pressing and had therefore urged that it be taken up. Mr. Lansing, however, had
pointed out that no resolution could be adopted on the subject, and this statement
had not been met by any dissent.
Mr. Lansing observed that the powers accorded to him as plenipotentiary were
limited to the negotiation of Peace. They did not enable him to deal with a conflict
between two friendly powers. President Wilson, no doubt, might have been able to
deal with such a question. He himself was not in that position.
Mr. Tardieu said that it had been decided on the previous day to hear a Russian
and a Romanian representative. They had been asked to come, and each would
doubtless say what he thought should be the frontier line in Bessarabia. Should the
two agree, which he admitted was not likely, Mr. Lansing would not be placed in the
difficulty to which he alluded. Should they not agree, the Council would then be
forced to see what further action could be taken. He would point out, however, that

< 86 >

it was difficult to make a Treaty with Romania if one of her frontiers were left gap-
ing. He suggested that Mr. Maklakoff should be heard.
Mr. Lansing agreed to this, but pointed out, however, that if any resolution
were asked for, he could not take any share in it. He had given this warning in order
that no false impression should be produced.
(At this stage, Mr. Maklakoff entered the room, and was asked by Mr. Tardieu
to express his views of Bessarabia.)
Mr. Maklakoff said that two memoranda had already been sent to the Peace
Conference on the subject of Bessarabia: he would endeavor to give a gist of the argu-
ments. In the first place, he must point out that no portion of the domains of the
Russian State could be disposed of by third parties without the consent of that
State. Not even the Peace Conference could assume that power. He and his friends
had no authority to speak for any constituted Government of Russia. He wished to
make this point quite clear at the outset. As to the merits of the question, he would
observe that there had never been any agreement between Romania and Russia, au-
thorizing the former to demand Bessarabia. Romania had entered the war on certain
terms. Those terms had not touched the question of Bessarabia. Romania could
therefore base no claim on the right of conquest. . . .
It was the very statement that Bessarabia desired to join Romania that he chal-
lenged. Bessarabia was not a Romanian country as a whole. . . .
He would point out that the word Bessarabia was often wrongly used. He
would not go back to remote antiquity. In the eighteen century, Bessarabia had been
part of Moldavia, which was a Turkish province. The Christians in those parts had
always been under the moral protection of Russia. In 1812, a few months before the
Napoleonic invasion, Bessarabia became a Russian province, captured from Turkey.
There were at that time some 300,000 inhabitants. At the present time there were
some three millions. . . .
Ethnographically, the last census had not established a Moldavian majority in
the country. There was no reason to allege that the statistics had been falsified in any
manner. Parts of the country were completely Russian. There were, however, four
districts in the center that were mainly Moldavian. It was only in these districts that
the question of a referendum arose. These districts might be united to Romania
should the population really wish it. He would not, in principle, raise any objection.
The Romanians, however, declared that Bessarabia had already expressed its will.
This he denied. Immediately after the Russian revolution, municipalities elected by
universal suffrage had been set up. They were the best organs for the expression of
the popular will. They had not asked to be annexed to Romania. These municipali-
ties had since been dissolved by the Romanians, and their representatives had pro-
tested against the Romanian desire to annex the country. The vote, however, had
since been secured from the Sfatul Tserii, which was an emanation of the Council of
Workmen and Soldiers, the latter largely composed of Moldavian deserters. . . .
It was a matter for surprise that a revolutionary assembly should have voted in
favor of its inclusion in a Monarchy. The whole vote, he submitted, was open to sus-

< 87 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

picion. It had been given during a military occupation of the country, and it was a
minority vote of an arbitrarily self-appointed body. If he believed that the people
backed this vote, he might be disposed to acquiesce in it, but he felt quite sure that a
free plebiscite would yield a completely different result. . . .
Romania had got all she had fought for and all she had asked for before the
War. Therefore, he protested with the greatest force against the claim now made by
Romania, especially as it was not founded, as alleged, on the desire of the majority of
the population. Finally, he would say that if there were districts showing a small
Moldavian majority, wishing to join Romania, he would be disposed to let them go.
As it was, he constantly received complaints even from Moldavians in Bessarabia, of
the treatment they received at the hand of the Romanians. The vote of the Sfatul
Tserii was being used quite fallaciously to justify what a reasonable conducted plebi-
scite would undoubtedly upset. He pointed out that similar votes had been obtained
in Lithuania and in Latvia, in favor of annexation by Germany. Any decision annex-
ing Bessarabia to Romania would be source of permanent grievance, and would do
harm to Romania, which would not be in a position to absorb an unwilling popula-
tion. The most he could admit was a plebiscite in the district in which the Molda-
vian population was predominant. . . .
Mr. Tardieu suggested that Mr. Bratianu2 should only be questioned regarding
the vote alluded to by Mr. Maklakoff.
Mr. Tittoni said that the Council was in full possession of ethnical statistics
and that it was unnecessary to hear Mr. Bratianu on that subject.
(At the stage Mr. Bratianu, Mr. Misu3, Mr. Diamandy4 and Mr. Pellivan5 en-
tered the room).
Mr. Tardieu addressing Mr. Bratianu said that the members of the Council had
studied the ethnological question thoroughly. They would like to know what degree
of sincerity and authority Mr. Bratianu attributed to the vote obtained in the Sfatul
Mr. Lansing interposed that it mattered little how the vote had been obtained.
It was more important to know how the consultation of the people could be carried
out in the future.
Mr. Balfour said that he thought the question put by Mr. Tardieu arose from
the statement made by Mr. Maklakoff.
Mr. Tardieu said that there was a connection between the two. He therefore
asked Mr. Bratianu to reply.
Mr. Bratianu said that he believed the vote alluded to did express the will of
the people and had been given in full freedom. He admitted the assembly was a revo-
lutionary assembly but similar assemblies had expressed the will of the people in
Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and elsewhere. The Romanian occupation had found that
assembly in power and in control of the country. Its authority had resulted from the
various successive developments that had taken place in Russia since the downfall of
Czarism. Mr. Lansing suggested a plebiscite. Bessarabia, he would point out, was a
Romanian country attached by force to the Russian throne for over 100 years. When

< 88 >

Russian autocracy felt, Bessarabia had come back to Romania. The Romanians had
been called in by the people and even by the only recognized Russian authority at
the time, namely, the Ukrainian Government. Difficulties did not arise on the ques-
tion of nationality. It was the social question that caused all the trouble. The Bolshe-
viks were dissatisfied with the Romanian Government merely because it established
Governmental order. The agrarian reform introduced made the peasant pay for the
land obtained by the expropriation of the landowners. The landowners on their side
grumbled because they were expropriated.
Mr. Lansing said that he wished to put a plain question to Mr. Bratianu.
Would he object to a plebiscite?
Mr. Bratianu replied that he did. He did so because the choice offered the peo-
ple would be that between Bolshevism and order. It was dangerous to offer such a
choice to a country on the border of disturbed Russia. Should the Romanians with-
draw their troops there would be endless tumult in the country.
Mr. Lansing asked whether Mr. Bratianu, if given possession of the country,
would agree to a plebiscite in two years.
Mr. Bratianu said thatwould not as only revolutionary agitation would result
from the knowledge that a plebiscite would take place in that period.
Mr. Lansing asked whether Mr. Bratianu would object to a plebiscite at any
other specified time in the future.
Mr. Bratianu said that he would object still more strongly, as it would only
prolong the agitation. He further begged to be allowed to state that the possession of
Bessarabia by Russia was now an anachronism. It had been for the Russian Empire a
march on the road to Constantinople. It could no longer serve that purpose. Russia
owed Romania a great debt as being largely responsible for her misfortune. Circum-
stances pointed very clearly to the best way in which Russia could discharge that
debt. It would be by the cession of Bessarabia.

Annex No. 3

The Council of Ten and the Bessarabian Question, August 1, 1919

FRUS, PPC, 1919, VOL. 7, P. 457-459

Mr. Tardieu said he wished to draw attention to a question not on the order of
the day, but one demanding an early solution; the problem was that of Bessarabia, on
which the Council had taken no decision.
Mr. Maklakoff and Mr. Bratianu had expressed Russian and Romanian points
of view. After they had been heard, the Council had discussed the matter briefly
without coming to a decision. It remained to be known what solution the Council
would adopt, for it was difficult to settle the Romanian questions a whole, and to
make that country accept clauses in the Peace Treaty on the subject of minorities, if,
at same time, its frontiers had not been notified to it.

< 89 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

Mr. Pichon said that the question was particularly important, in that the mi-
norities question would arise in Bessarabia.
Mr. Tardieu said that the Committee had been unanimous in their wish to
grant Bessarabia to Romania, but the Council had sent a telegram to Admiral Kol-
chak, which appeared inconsistent with that decision. In the telegram in question
the council had only stated that the Romanian rights in Bessarabia should be pre-
served in favor of that country.
Mr. Clemenceau said that it was evidently important to be able to inform Ro-
mania what its frontiers exactly were.
Mr. Balfour asked whether Mr. Tardieu thought that the Committee
would remain of the same opinion if the question were referred back to it for
a further report.
Mr. Tardieu said that the Committee had been unanimous when it had
studied the problem. But they knew that certain Delegations had altered
their opinions after the lapse of a few months. The difficult point was the tele-
gram sent to Admiral Kolchak.
Mr. Pichon said that he did not think that the Council had been inconsistent,
since it had not stated to Admiral Kolchak that Bessarabia, as a whole, would be
granted to Romania.
Mr. Balfour asked whether M. Pichon thought the telegram to Admiral Kol-
chak was not binding on the Council.
Mr. Pichon said that Admiral Kolchak’s attention had only been drawn to the
fact that the Council upheld Romanian rights in Bessarabia.
Mr. Tittoni said that he wished to draw the attention of the Council to an im-
portant point, which was, that the Committee had justified its proposals by saying
that it wished to maintain the administrative and geographical unity of Bessarabia,
and that it would give to Romania, in compensation, a strip of territory in the Do-
brudja, which belonged properly to the Bulgarians. By such a measure Romania
would be compensated for the Northern portion of Bessarabia left to Russia..
Mr. Balfour said he did not think he could admit compensations, which con-
sisted in balancing the cession of groups of human beings, by the cession of others to
foreign sovereignties, as a matter of principle.
Mr. Tittoni remarked that the question had therefore still to be examined.
Mr. Clemenceau said that the problem ought to be solved rapidly, and he pro-
posed to put it on the Agenda for the following day.
Mr. Balfour said that he ought to call attention to the fact that Romania was
actually protesting strongly against the minority clauses. It would therefore be suffi-
cient to tell that country, that it would not receive the territory now being consid-
ered, unless it accepted the minority clauses and signed the Treaty. In addition to
this, Romanian Statesmen did not really deny that the Southern part of Dobrudja
should be granted to Bulgaria. Had Romania been our enemy during the war she
would have been obliged to cede the territory. By the fact that she had been our Ally,

< 90 >

she could only be persuaded to accept our solution. Was it therefore possible to say
to that country, that it was going to receive a great extension of territory, but only
under the condition that it would be willing to consent to the cession of the Do-
brudja, which had been seized in 1913, and which, if left in her hands, would be a
ceaseless cause of friction. The Romanians were difficult people to deal with, and
Mr. Bratianu was no exception.
Mr. Tittoni said that he had heard that a new ministry had been set up in Ro-
mania, and that the President of the High Court had been instructed to form it.
Mr. Balfour said that he had also heart that, but the Cabinet had not been
formed, and the Bessarabian question was so important that he hoped that each one
of his colleagues would give it his consideration.
Mr. Polk said the policy of the United States had been to oppose the division of
Russia. Admiral Kolchak in his reply had protested against his country being di-
vided. He thought that dividing Russia would have a bad effect in that country, and
was therefore of the opinion that it would be better not to settle the question
straight away, but to await the return of ordered government in Russia.
Mr. Tittoni remarked that Russia’s point of view had been presented to the
Mr. Polk said that the Romanians opposed any idea of a plebiscite in Bessarabia.
Mr. Tittoni said that that was so, because the result of a plebiscite would be
the establishment of Bolshevism.
Mr. Balfour said he did not desire to settle the question on that day, but that he
would be willing that it should be taken up again in a few days’ time, if it were possi-
ble to settle it then. He did not, however, believe that it would be. In his opinion, he
thought it better not to consider Russia, and to regard our hands as free. He was
willing to wait for the formation of the new Romanian Cabinet in the hope that it
would be possible to negotiate with it and to settle outstanding problems.
Mr. Tardieu said that it would undoubtedly be better to wait for the formation
of the new Government, but even if it were favorable to our point of view, we should
have to inform it of our opinions on the Bukovina, Bessarabian and Dobrudja prob-
lems. It was not possible to do this at present.
Mr. Balfour said that if the new Romanian Government proved satisfactory, it
would send a representative to the Conference with whom the Council could nego-
tiate. It would then be possible to tell this new representative that the Council was
favorably disposed towards territorial concessions advantageous to Romania, on the
condition that the Romanians themselves should give evidence of goodwill in the
discussion of problems not yet solved.
Mr. Clemenceau said that it should be remembered that the Bulgarian Delega-
tion was now actually waiting for the Conditions of Peace at Neuilly.
Mr. Balfour said that the Peace Treaty with the Bulgarians could be discussed
and settled whilst the present question remained open.
(It was decided to postpone the discussion on Bukovina, Bessarabia and the

< 91 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

Dobrudja until the formation of the new Romanian Government.

It was further decided that the above questions should be put on the Agenda as
soon as the new Government had been formed.)

Annex No. 4

The Romanian Action in Bessarabia at the

Council of Heads of Delegations, October 11, 1919
FRUS, PPC, 1919, Vol. 8, p 578-579

Mr. Berthelot said the question had been placed on the agenda by the Ameri-
can delegation.
Mr. Polk said that Mr. Misu had informed him on the previous day that the
Romanian Government was about to hold elections in Bessarabia.
Sir Eyre Crowe said that the Bessarabian question had not yet been settled. He
thought that the note of the Bessarabian delegates could be examined at the time
that the question of Bessarabia was discussed.
Mr. Polk pointed out that the question was somewhat important in view of the
fact that according to the information that he had received, the Romanians were
holding elections, applying conscription and confiscating large properties.
Mr. Laroche said that the Bessarabian question was somewhat peculiar. It was
at the request of the Russian General Scerbacev that the Romanians had been asked,
at the beginning of the Russian debacle, to occupy the country. In order to stop the
development of Bolshevism, it had appeared to be the simplest method to favor the
autonomist element in Bessarabia. Soon afterwards Bessarabia had declared herself
independent. Later the National Assembly pronounced itself in favor of a union with
Romania. The Council were now faced with the wish expressed by the population.
The Conference had not yet decided the Bessarabian question, but it should take
account of all that had occurred, for there was no doubt that “the journey which Mr.
de Martonne recently made in Bessarabia had brought new proofs” to show that the
country was really a Romanian land. As far as the agrarian question was concerned,
the matter was most important. The distribution of landed property was particularly
unequal in Bessarabia, and the majority of the population was in favor of the neces-
sary reform. The persons who protested were Russified landowners, whose interests
were menaced.
Mr. Polk said that he did not intend to ask the Council to take a decision. He
had simply wished to bring to the attention of the Council the fact that the Romanians were exercis-
ing rights of sovereignty in Bessarabia, and that the silence of the Conference in regard to
this matter might give the Romanians grounds for believing that the Council con-
sented to their having assumed this sovereignty. In a conversation which he had had
with Mr. Misu on the preceding day, he had pointed out the possible danger to Ro-
mania, if Romania tried to make a fait accompli. He had asked him what would hap-

< 92 >

pen when Russia was reconstituted and when she claimed Bessarabia. Romania
would have to rely upon a position of fact. In order to retain Bessarabia, Romania
depended upon the good will of the League of Nations and of the Conference. Roma-
nia should be discouraged from making any attempt, apart from the decision of the
Conference, to annex Bessarabia definitely. He thought that Mr. Misu would, in all
probability, transmit a communication to the Conference on this subject.

Annex No. 5

Al. Vaida-Voevod and the International Council of Premiers

January 20, 1920
FRUS, PPC, 1919, Vol. 9, 915-917

If it is the desire of the Council, the incident shall be considered closed, and the
Romanian President of the Council shall speak to us on the subject of Bessarabia. I
will now ask him to speak, but he must not forget that the Conference has already
come to a decision on that subject.
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: The Conference has in theory come to decision on this sub-
ject, which I have not forgotten; it has recognized Romania’s right to annex Bessara-
bia, but, without desiring to weary you a long statement, I should like to ask the
Conference to ensure the realization of that decision.
Mr. Clemenceau: Yes, but you must understand that your position is a false one: you do
not carry out certain decisions of the Conference while you ask it to carry out others. I know you
are not personally responsible for this. I have explained to you the state of mind of
the Conference.
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: After the ratification of the Treaty of Peace, the frontiers of
Romania on the Bessarabian side will be finally determined. The population of Bes-
sarabia has decided to join Romania, a decision which was proclaimed for the third
time by the deputies appointed at the last elections, without distinction of speech,
race or nationality; on December 29, 1919, they all voted for union with the mother
country. The Conference has virtually recognized this state of affairs, but it has not
actually proclaimed it, and our position is difficult in consequence since we are
neighbors of the Bolsheviks and have to live, not to philosophize. Bolshevist ideas
were spread among us, especially recently, by Russians who fled from Odessa when
the Bolsheviks again approached that town. We offered them generous hospitality,
but we could not distinguish among the refugees those who were Bolsheviks and
those who were not. The Conference has not yet fully granted us Bessarabia and, if
the Russians advance still more, the population will be in a state of great uncer-
tainty. Some people among them are in favor of the Bolsheviks because they hope to
render impossible the execution of the agrarian reform begun by us. Moreover, there
are Romanian priests who were brought up at Kiev and who long for the old regime

< 93 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

which gave them a position privileged in comparison with that which they now
have: they are pro-Russian agents. Such a state of affairs cannot come to an end until
you recognize that Bessarabia must be joined to Romania; until then it will be im-
possible to restore order in that part of our territory.
Mr. Clemenceau: Will you kindly summarize what you ask of us?
Mr.Vaida-Voevod: We have summarized our requests in a note that I have ven-
tured to transmit to the Conference. We want the Conference to recognize the un-
ion of Bessarabia with Romania de jure.
Mr. Clemenceau: Have we not already done so?
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: Yes, but that was at the time when it was still hoped that
Kolchak would defeat the Bolsheviks. That was some time ago, but if now the Con-
ference would proclaim the union of Bessarabia with Romania, the result would be a
legal position on which we could base the restoration of order.
Mr. Clemenceau: It is not the defeat of Kolchak which prevents us from giving
you satisfaction, but it is your disobedience of the unanimous wishes of the Confer-
ence. First of all we want the evacuation of those territories which are not given to
you by the Treaty of Peace and you talk of postponing the evacuation of Hungary
once more for a month or six weeks. That is what troubles us, although we are in
agreement in principle.
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: We will carry out that evacuation in the shortest possible
Mr. Clemenceau: You say so, but we have been awaiting your evacuation for
months: I am explaining to you the difficulty by which we are confronted.
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: The two questions should not be connected, since the Mag-
yars attacked us.
Mr. Clemenceau: But you disobeyed the Conference from the very beginning. I
know that is not in the least your fault and I should like to satisfy you. Only a short
time ago we agreed not to give you Bessarabia because you constantly disobeyed the Conference.
Now your opinions are different, but we cannot reply unconditionally to your re-
quest; we are obliged to defer our reply because you yourselves deferred evacuation.
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: Sir, I undertake to wire this very day ordering evacuation as
soon as possible.
Mr. Clemenceau: Please believe that I am not hostile to you – quite the con-
Mr. Lloyd George: We cannot grant you what you ask if, when we take a deci-
sion in your favor, you accept it, but when we take a decision which is not beneficial
to Romania, Romania resists.
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: The engagement which we have taken to carry out the deci-
sion of the Conference shall, I assure you, be fulfilled. The present Romanian Gov-
ernment cannot be punished for the faults of the former regimes.
Mr. Clemenceau: We want to help, not to punish you.
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: I will give the order for the evacuation in conditions which
are considered practicable by the Conference, but I cannot give a promise which I

< 94 >

might be unable to keep.

Mr. Clemenceau: The Conference is in sympathy with your cause, but it has
been hindered by your predecessor for two years.
Mr. Lloyd George: We are convinced of your intention to evacuate Hungary,
but we think you may be faced by certain difficulties from the military party and we
think the military party would be more willing to obey the order of the Conference
to evacuate Hungary immediately if you said to them: “The Conference is waiting
our evacuation of Hungary before deciding that Bessarabia shall be definitely Roma-
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: I thank you with all my heart. From that I conclude that the
Conference will acknowledge our claim to Bessarabia from the day evacuation is af-
fected. I may say that?
Mr. Clemenceau: Yes.
Mr. Lloyd George: We cannot now say that we undertake to recognize your
right: we can only say that we are going to discuss it as soon as you have evacuated
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: That does not give me the moral support which I require.
Mr. Clemenceau: I would willingly go further than Mr. Lloyd George: in my
name, and I think I can say in the name of France, I can state that we are prepared to
recognize Romania’s right to Bessarabia.
(Mr. Millerand made a sign of assent).
Mr. Lloyd George: As Mr. Berthelot pointed out, the Commission on Romanian
Affairs, on which all the Powers are represented, has unanimously decided to attrib-
ute Bessarabia to Romania. That is the actual position.
Mr. Clemenceau: We are all sincere in this matter.
Mr. Vaida-Voevod: Gentlemen, I thank you for the great concession you have
granted me; I will do my best to ensure the evacuation of Hungarian territories as
soon as possible and also the settlement of the question of Bessarabia.
(Mr. Vaida-Voevod and Mr. Cantacuzens withdrew.)
The Council took note of the statement of Mr. Vaida-Voevod; it acknowledged
that, although it had as yet come to no decision as to the attribution of Bessarabia
and could not do so until Romania had carried out the orders of the Conference in
Hungary, the Commission on Romanian Affairs was unanimously of opinion that
this territory should be attributed to Romania.

< 95 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province

Annex No. 6

The Declaration Adopted by the Representatives of

The Principal Allied Powers on March 3, 1920
FRUS, 1920, Vol. 3, p. 430-431

The Principal Allied Powers have hitherto found themselves unable to make
any definite decision on the Bessarabian question both because they considered it a
part of the general Romanian question on which difficulties with the former Roma-
nian Government had impeded a settlement and because they had hoped that it
would be found possible to bring about a friendly arrangement between Romanian
and Russia. There appears to the Principal Allied Powers no reason any further to
delay a settlement. The Romanian Government have shown proof of their desire to
settle in the interest of Romania and Europe generally the outstanding questions at
issue and have submitted to the ruling of the Supreme Council on the question of the
withdrawal of their troops from Hungary, relying on the assurance of the Principal
Allied Powers. The Allied Governments moreover feel that in the best interest both
of the Romania and neighboring countries the Bessarabian questions should no
longer be left undecided.
After taking into full consideration the general aspiration of the population of
Bessarabia and the Moldavian character of that region from the geographical and
ethnographical points of view, as well as the historic and economic arguments, the
Principal Allied Powers pronounce themselves therefore, in favor of the reunion of
Bessarabia with Romania which has now been formally declared by the Bessarabian
representatives and are desirous to conclude a treaty in recognition of this as soon as
the conditions stated have been carried out. They consider that in this reunion the
general and particular interest of Bessarabia should be safeguarded, more especially
as regards its relations with the neighboring countries and that the rights of minori-
ties in it should be guaranteed on the same terms as those residing in other parts of
the Romanian Kingdom. The Principal Allied Powers reserve the right to refer any
future difficulties that might arise from either of these two questions to the arbitra-
tion of the League of Nations.

The President of the London Conference (Lloyd George)

To the Romanian Prime Minister (Vaida-Voevod)
London, March 3, 1920

Your Excellency: I have the honor to inform you, on behalf of the Peace Confer-
ence, that the Supreme Council have today considered the demands addressed to
them by Your Excellency touching the recognition by the Conference of the reunion
of Bessarabia with Romania. I take this opportunity of reminding Your Excellency
that the decision of this question by the Peace Conference was adjourned till the
Romanian government had carried out the evacuation of Hungary. The Supreme

< 96 >

Council have, however, taken note of the pledge given them by Your Excellency on
the February 26 that the evacuation of the Romanian troops should not be delayed
beyond the dates fixed by the Inter-Allied Mission to be dispatched on the spot. The
Council, therefore, in consideration of this, have agreed on the annexed formula [the
Draft Treaty concerning Bessarabia] in recognition of the reunion of Bessarabia with
Romania. This recognition cannot, however, be embodied into the legal form of the
treaty till such time as Romanian troops have completely evacuated Hungary.
In this connection I have to refer to the question raised by the Romanian Gov-
ernment of making peace with the Soviet Government of Russia. The Supreme
Council would refer in reply to the statement contained in their communiqué of the
February 24. From this will observe that the Supreme Council are agreed that they
cannot accept the responsibility of advising Romania to continue a war which may
be injurious to their interests. Still less could they advise Romania to adopt a policy
of aggression towards Russia. Should, however, Soviet Russia attack Romania
within its legitimate frontiers the Allies will give her every possible support. The
Conference consider that the present recognition by themselves of the reunion of
Bessarabia with Romania should remove the chief obstacle to any such negotiations
between the Government of Russia and Romania as the Government of Romania
may consider advisable.

< 97 >
Moldova, a Romanian Province


Carole Fink, “1922-1923 From Illusion to Disillusion” in A Missed Opportunity … , p. 28.
B. Jelavich, The Establishment … , p. 299.
K. Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 150-154.
For a bibliography of the main papers dealing with Romania’s policy during the war, see Dumitru
Preda, Romania si Antanta, p. 97-99.
HWV Temperley & Co, “History of the Paris Peace Conference”, Vol. 4, p. 214
P Seicaru, “Romania in marele razboi”, p. 62-64
Bratianu argued that Romania had been relieved of her treaty obligation to come to the aid of Aus-
tria-Hungary by the latter’s failure to consult the Romanian government before delivering its ultima-
tum to Serbia and by the character of the ultimatum itself, which had been formulated in such a way
as to force a war upon Serbia. K. Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 252-253.
A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p.512. Also, Georges Castellan, A History of the Romanians, p. 153. Still,
there was one exception: on September 7, 1914, Ottokar Czernin was ready to also offer Bukovina to
Romania and Transylvania’s autonomy in return for Romania’s neutrality and possible future alli-
ance. Both the Romanian and Hungarian leaders rejected his proposal. Gheorghe Iancu, The Ruling
Council, p. 11.
It is argued, at least by the British scholars, that in Romania the British let the Russians to do the
bidding, British and French efforts being limited to the offers of financial assistance made in Septem-
ber 1914. Therefore, they blame Sazonov’s eagerness to obtain a signed assurance of Romanian neu-
trality for minimizing the chances of enlisting her into the war. L.H. Curtright, Muddle, Indecision … , p.
While the Romanian sources consider the date of the agreement as being on October 1, some other
scholars use the date of October 2 (C.J. Lowe, M.L. Dockrill, British Foreign Policy, p. 186) or Septem-
ber 29 (L.H. Curtright, Muddle, Indecision … , p. 40).
C.J. Lowe, M.L. Dockrill, British Foreign Policy, p. 190.
Nicolae Basilescu, La Roumaine dans la Guerre et dans la Paix, p. 101.
George Cipaianu, “Dillemes, options et risques dans le relations internationals de la Romanie pen-
dant la Premiere Guerre mondiale” in La fin de la Premiere Guerre Mondiale … , p. 16-17.
At one point in 1915 the Russians and French even agreed to support the Serbian claims in the
Banat if Romania remained neutral throughout the war. Ivo J. Lederer, Yugoslavia at the Paris Peace
Conference, p. 18.
Telegram A.P. Bennett to T. Russell, November 6, 1915, FO 800/71, quoted in C.J. Lowe, M.L. Dock-
rill, British Foreign Policy, p. 518-520.
C.J. Lowe, M.L. Dockrill, British Foreign Policy, p. 202.
For a detailed account of the negotiations between Bratianu and the Entente, presenting the Ro-
manian view, see D. Preda, Romania si Antanta, p. 12-96.
At the beginning of July 1916 the Entente representatives declared to Bratianu that, in order for the
Romanian offensive to be of value for them it should start immediately. If Romania fails to intervene,
it is risking the withdrawal of all the advantages promised her by the Entente. Comte de Saint Au-
laire, Confession d’un vieux diplomate, p. 334.
What Bratianu failed to find out was that, on August 11, 1916, Sturmer (for Russia) and Briand (for
France) agreed privately that the gains promised to Romania would be conceded, “only to the extent
allowed by the general situation at the end of the war”. In particular, the Russian representative
reserved the right for his country to raise the question of the Serbs in the Banat should future cir-
cumstances require it. R.H. Johnston, Tradition versus Revolution, Russia and the Balkans in 1917, p. 71.
For details regarding the political, military and diplomatic implications for Romania of the pro-

< 98 >

jected Salonique offensive see David Dutton, The Politics of Diplomacy … , p. 100-107.
S.D. Spector, Romania la Conferinta de Pace … , p. 31-32.
Interesting details regarding the situation of Romania during the first months of fighting are pre-
sented in Charles Vopicka, Secrets of the Balkans, p. 89-97. Also Comte de Saint Aulaire, Confession d’un
… , p. 338-346.
G.E. Torrey, “The First World War and the Union of 1918” in Romania. A Historic Perspective, p. 284.
Keith Hitchins has a different opinion regarding the causes of the Romanian disaster, considering
that the Russian and Allied failure to keep the promises made to Romania were not the main cause
of the defeat, as it is considered by the majority of Romanian scholars and participants. “The main
causes of the defeat of the Romanian army were the industrial underdevelopment of the country and
the lack of adequate equipment for the army. In addition, the Romanian general staff had not pre-
pared a sufficiently comprehensive and detailed plan of operations, which was essential for the co-
ordination of forces dispersed over such a far-flung battlefront. As events showed, the improvised
shifting of units from one front to another weakened the offensive and defensive capabilities of the
army as a whole.” K. Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 262-265.
Ivo J. Lederer, Yugoslavia at the Paris Peace Conference, p. 22. Also “the Romanian action coincided
with beginning of Brusilov’s retreat and proved to be more of a liability than Alekseev had originally
feared” in C.J. Lowe, M.L. Dockrill, British … , p. 204-205. On the other hand, it is argued that “the six
weeks it took to negotiate the details of the Treaty does not appear unreasonable, given that it in-
volved both a political and military convention.” G.E. Torrey, “The First World War …” in Romania … ,
p. 284.
General Vasile Rudeanu, at that time a colonel, was representing the Roumanian Army in Paris.
Quoted in D. Preda, Romania si Antanta, p. 152.
Saint Aulaire was so unpleased with the attitude of the Russians that he believed that there was a
secret understanding between Russia and the Central Powers with the aim of dividing Romania
between Russia and Austro-Hungary. Comte de Saint Aulaire, Confession d’un … , p. 349-353. General
Berthelot too was very disappointed (read displeased) with the fighting tactics of the Russian Army
and shared Saint Aulaire’s fears. Thierry Sarmat, “La desintegration de l’armee russe sur le front rou-
maine d’apres les rapports du general Berthelot, 1917-1918” in La fin de la Premiere Guerre mondiale … , p.
For details see G.E. Torrey, General Henri Berthelot and Romania, p. 105-165. The title of the subchapter
dealing with the September 1917 – March 1918 period is significant: “The Russian Betrayal”.
G.E. Torrey, The Diplomatic Career of Charles J. Vopicka in Romania, 1913-1920, in Romania between
East and West, p. 327. For more details see C. Vopicka, Secrets of the Balkans, p. 137-139, 144-145.
Richard Ullman, Anglo-Soviet Relations, vol. 1, p. 40.
In fact, General Berthelot was very unpleased by this campaign, attributed by him to Romanian
General Alexandru Averescu, whom he accused of coward ness and mismanagement in leading the
Romanian Army. Berthelot tried all he could to counter-balance this propaganda but with no suc-
cess in the end. G.E. Torrey, General Henri Berthelot … , p. 116.
DDI, Serie 5, Vol. 9, Telegram Sonnino to Bonin, Fasciotti and Catalani, December 11, 1917, p. 467.
As soon as November 1917 Clemenceau adopted a very decided position towards the Romanian
plans of signing a separate peace, arguing that there is no way for the Romanian Army, reorganized
with so many sacrifices, to be dismantled, even if the events in Russia worked in Romania’s disad-
vantage. G.E. Torrey, General Henri Berthelot … , p. 121-122.
C. Vopicka, Secrets of the Balkans, p. 150-151.
For a good selection of French press regarding the pressure on Romania to keep fighting, around
February 10-11, see Gogu Negulesco, Romania’s Sacrifice, p. 129-136.
According to the view of general Barter, the British military representative in Jassy, it would have
been impossible to continue fighting on the Romanian front, due mainly to the great difficulty of
sending supplies to the area in conditions of incertitude regarding Ukraine’s position. In fact, the

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

British War Cabinet agreed on December 10 that the situation of the Romanian Army was so help-
less that Romania should be allowed to make a separate peace. Michael Kettle, The Allies and the Rus-
sian Collapse: March 1917-March 1918, p. 169, 183.
Berthelot insisted repeatedly that Mackensen, the commander of the Central Powers armies on the
Romanian front, was simply bluffing, but his opinion had little echo with the Romanians. G.E. Tor-
rey, General Henri Berthelot … , p. 139-141, 151-154 As time passed, Berthelot’s position regarding the
Romanian separate peace became more and more radical, blaming the Romanian leadership
(excepting the King) and mainly Averescu for their weakness in dealing with the enemy.
The January 7 meeting of the British War Cabinet decided that all the measures necessary for
keeping Romania into war should be taken together with France and that Romania should be in-
formed of the British position. If during the next month the British would support Clemenceau’s
policy, as soon as February 11 it was clear for them that Romania was doomed. Michael Kettle, The
Allies and … , p. 183, 225, 229.
DDI, Serie 5, Vol. 10, Telegram Fasciotti to Sonnino, January 16, 1918, p. 62.
FRUS, 1918, Supplement I, Telegram Vopicka to the Secretary of State, February 9, 1918, p. 757.
V. Mamatey, The United States … , p. 206.
For the text of the Treaty see FRUS, 1918, Supplement I, p. 771-777.
The effects for Romania coming from the loss of Dobrudja, including no direct access to the sea,
are best presented in Gogu Negulesco, Romania’s Sacrifice, p. 141-145.
Pamfil Seicaru, one of Romania’s best known journalists argues that, in fact, the Romanians, con-
vinced that the Central Powers will finally loose the war and that they will have to justify the sepa-
rate peace, intentionally accepted the harshest conditions in order to point to Romania’s desperate
situation at the time. P. Seicaru, Romania in marele razboi, p. 333. Somehow arguing in favor of his opin-
ion is General Berthelot, who points that Romania could have obtained much better conditions if it
would have been willing to do so (by making use of her Army). G.E. Torrey, General Henri Berthelot … ,
p. 160-165.
The matter of the ratification is a disputed one. A number of historians (like H.W.V. Temperley)
argue that, in fact, the Treaty was not ratified by the Parliament. Others (like Keith Hitchins) cor-
rectly argue that the Romanian Parliament ratified the treaty. However, due to the King’s attitude,
the Bucharest Treaty failed to come into power.
G. Iancu, The Ruling Council, p. 14.
The best such book, although a bit “old”, is Sherman David Spector, Romania at the Paris Peace Confer-
ence. A Study of the Diplomacy of Ioan IC Bratianu, New York: Bookman, 1962.
Comte de Saint Aulaire, Confession d’un … , p. 484.
A number of papers on Romania during 1918-1920, especially those written by Romanians and the
Frenchmen were blaming the Russian passivity during the Bulgarian offensive in Dobrudja as the
main cause of Romania’s defeat, considering it as the Russian betrayal.
Boris Ranghet, Relatii romano-americane … , p. 181.
Eugene Boia, Romania’s Diplomatic … , p. 29-30. For details on the controversy between Take Ionescu
and Ion I.C. Bratianu and especially for the viewpoint of those defending Bratianu’s actions see best
Ghe. I. Bratianu, Actiunea politica si militara a Romaniei in lumina corespondentei diplomatice a lui Ion I.C. Bra-
tianu, passim.
D. Preda, In apararea Romaniei Mari … , p. 120-122.
A. Iordache, “Ion I.C. Bratianu la ...” in Revista istorica, 1993, No 9, p. 3.
The only territories the Romanians were entitled to, according to the 1916 Treaty, and were not
recognized to them were the Western Banat and a strip of territory about 60 km west of the actual
Hungarian-Romanian border. But in exchange Romania got the entire Bukovina, although it was
supposed to receive only two thirds of it, and Bessarabia.
E. Boia, Romania’s Diplomatic Relations with Yugoslavia, p. 23.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 2, Telegram Vopicka to the Secretary of State, January 10 1919, p. 405.

< 100 >


For a concise presentation of the Romanian-Yugoslav controversy over the Banat ,see Ivo J.
Lederer, Yugoslavia at the Paris Peace Conference, p. 97-100, 142-144, 172-182, 234-236.
Winston S. Churchill, “The World Crisis; the Territorial Settlements of 1919-1920” in The Versailles
Settlement: Was it Foredoomed to Failure?, p. 83.
A casual and interesting description of the atmosphere in the Commission and of its activity is
presented by one of its members, a number of years later. Charles Seymour, Letters from the Paris Peace
Conference, passim.
Ivo Lederer has a different theory “During its existence, the committee split into two factions,
with the French, British, and Americans constituting one and Italians the other. The Americans,
however, did not really act as part of a given bloc but pursued an independent line.” Ivo J. Lederer,
Yugoslavia at the Paris Peace Conference, p. 179.
For details regarding the Romanian military operations against Hungary see D. Preda, In apararea
Romaniei Mari … , passim.
See the Draft Treaty in FRUS, PPC, Vol. 7, p. 579-585.
S.D. Spector, Romania la … , p.180.
Bratianu’s decision to leave Paris remains controversial. On one hand, it is considered that he did
so in order to place more pressure on the Great Powers and to influence their decisions regarding
Romania. On the other hand, it might also be argued that, by doing so, he simply abandoned the
fight for Romania’s interests.
As for the Romanian requisitions there are mainly two different stories, first one belonging to the
Inter-Allied Military Commission acting in Budapest and representing the interests of the four Great
Powers, which describes the requisitions in a very negative color. The second one belongs to the
Romanian representatives and, whilst admitting that there had been requisitions argues that, in fact,
the Romanian Army did nothing else than to recover what was taken from Romania during the 1917-
1918 occupation and which things (especially the railway material, like wagons and engines) be-
longed clearly to Romania and had to be taken back. It also points that the stories presented by the
Commission are exaggerated and that, in fact, the Romanian Army used its provisions in order the
feet the Hungarian population in Budapest and other cities.
FRUS, 1918, Supplement I, The Cobb-Lippman Memorandum, p. 409-411.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 3, p. 843.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 3, p. 849. For the entire debate see Annex no. 1.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 3, p. 855.
S.D. Spector, Romania la … , p. 105.
A good description of the meeting, including a confirmation of the understanding between the
British and US representatives is presented in Charles Seymour, Letters from the Paris Peace Conference,
p. 157-159. Very interesting is his remark referring to the viability of the 1916 Romanian Treaty: “the
only trouble was that I had to represent our side of the case and it was a side of which I personally
disapproved, but had been over persuaded by Day, Johnson, and Lord”.
H.W.V. Temperley et. al., The History of the Paris Peace Conference, Vol. 4, p. 227.
B. Ranghet, Relatii romano-americane … , p. 184-185.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica … , p. 79-80.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Ion Patroiu, “American Opinion on Bessarabia at the Paris Peace Conference”, in
“…” p. 7.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Ion Patroiu, “American Opinion …” in Revista de Istorie a Moldovei, 1991, p. 8.
H.W.V. Temperley, The History of the Paris Peace Conference, Vol. 4, p. 228-229.
C. Seymour, Letters from the Paris Peace Conference, p. 192.
For the Draft Articles see V.F. Dobrinescu, I. Patroiu, “American Opinion …” in … , p. 17-18
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 4, p. 672.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica … , p. 80.
Quoted in Louis Fischer, Russia’s Road from Peace to War, p. 38-39.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The immediate threat of revolutionary Bolshevism was on the French and British agenda even
before the war ended. In the spring of 1918 the Red Army existed only on paper or in the imagination
of L.D. Trotsky. The following autumn, it was becoming a formidable force, one that could spread
revolution into Europe. In these conditions, stopping the expansion of bolshevism became the prin-
cipal concern of the French government. M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention … , p. 110.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 4, p. 719.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 6, p. 72. It might be interesting to find out what exactly was meant by using the
formulation “the Romanian part of Bessarabia” instead of simply using Bessarabia.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 7, p. 5.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 7, p. 9.
For the entire debate, see FRUS, PPC, Vol. 11, p. 340-341.
The participants were Leland Harrison, Dr. James Brown Scott, Col. U.S. Grant, Douglas Johnson,
John Dulles, and Alan Foster Dulles. V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica … , p. 81.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 11, p. 470.
For the entire debate see FRUS, PPC, Vol. 7, p. 457-459.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 11, p. 382-383.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 11, p. 406-407.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 1, p. 634-635.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 8, p. 136.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 11, p. 445.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 8, p. 542.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 8, p. 579. See the Annex for the entire debate.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 8, p. 838.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 9, p. 101.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 9, p. 145-146.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 9, p. 917.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica … , p. 83.
FRUS, 1920, Vol. 3, p. 430-431.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, April 15, 1920, c. 368.
In this sense, it is important to note that Lord Derby, the British Ambassador to Paris, considered
(in the previously quoted telegram) that, even as the US delegation failed to respect their promise of
sending a representative to the Commission’s meeting, the US would sign the Treaty.
FRUS, 1920, Vol. 3, Telegram Wallace to the Secretary of State, April 15, p. 427.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Note by Lord Curzon, April 26, 1920, c. 386.
FRUS, 1920, Vol. 3, Telegram Secretary of State (Colby) to Wallace, June 12, 1920, p. 432.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 20, Telegram Take Ionescu to Ghika, June 28, 1920. For more on
this problem see the chapter on the UK and the Bessarabian Treaty.
According to Ghika, the compensations to be paid to the French landowners were in amount of
around 20,000 crowns. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Ghika to Averescu, June 19, 1920.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 14, 1920, p. 491.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Ghika to Averescu, July 19, 1920.
T. Sandu, “La France et la Bessarabie roumaine de 1918 a 1920 …” in The Establishment of … , p. 381.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Titulescu to Take Ionescu, August 5, 1920.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, British Memorandum to Secretary General, September 14,
1920, c. 703.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, September 29, 1920, p. 477.
FRUS, 1920, Vol. 3, Telegram Wallace to the Secretary of State, September 29, 1920, p. 432.
FRUS, 1920, Vol. 3, Telegram Colby to Wallace, October 5, 1920, p. 433.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Ghika to Averescu, September 25, 1920.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 2, 1920, p. 479.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Note from the Italian Legation to the RFM, October 5, 1920.

< 102 >


FRUS, 1920, Vol. 3, Telegram Wallace to Secretary of State, October 11, 1920, p. 434.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 8, 1920, c.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica … , p. 88. For the details see the chapter on the UK.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 27, 1920, p. 499.

Annex Notes

N. V. Tchaikowsky, President of the Russian Provisional Government of the Northern Region
(Archangel) and a member of the Russian political Conference at Paris
Jean J. C. Bratiano, President of the Council and Minister of Foreign Affair of Romania; plenipoten-
tiary to the Peace Conference
Nicolae Misu, Romanian Minister at London, plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference
Constantin Diamandy, Romanian Minister at Petrograd; plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference
Jean Pellivan, Director of Justice in Bessarabia

< 103 >



The Bessarabian Question and Soviet-Romanian Relations

Over the last two centuries, Romanian-Russian relations have gone through
every possible permutation: good, bad, worst, excellent, and almost normal. What is
clear is that only when Russian interests conflict with those of a stronger coalition
of powers are manifestations of Romanian nationalism allowed to appear. This state-
ment is equally true for the events of 1856, 1918, 1941, 1964, the mid-1980s and 1990.
Romanian historiography, especially after the Second World War, gave a spe-
cial status to the two countries’ relationship. Although during the first years after
the war Romanian historiography was under Moscow’s control, and the accent was
placed on moments that illustrated good relations between the two States, starting
in the 1960s the situation changed and the much publicized “historical friendship”
between the two nations disappeared. Of course, the reason behind this disappear-
ance had to do with the emancipation of the Romanian communist regime from So-
viet dominance. Since 1989, an increased number of papers dealing with bilateral
relations have been published in Romania, including a very important, very solid
volume of documents regarding Romanian-Soviet relations. The present work will
only present the most important moments in Russo-Romanian relations and will
attempt to deal with a subject which has received almost no attention, that is, the
connection between the White Russians and the Bessarabian question.
It should be mentioned that there has been a unity in the views expressed by
different Romanian historians regarding bilateral relations, a unity which originated
from the fact that they all relied on the extant Romanian documents (official docu-
ments and the memoirs of Romanian diplomats) as their main source of information.1
A look into the Russian documents might confirm many of the viewpoints expressed
in Romanian historiography, but might also remodel some of them. For example, one
of the points most strongly emphasized in Romanian historiography regarding is the
“deal” proposed by Lev Karakhan during the Warsaw Conference: the Romanian

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

National Treasury in exchange for recognition of Bessarabia’s union with Romania.

Although on the basis of reports made by Filality (the Romanian representative at
the Conference) most Romanian scholars take this deal for granted, one could not
but express some doubt — not necessarily as to the existence of such a proposal, but
as to Russia’s readiness to actually back it (it could have been just a trial balloon to
test the Romanians’ reaction, the Russians having no intention of pursuing it).
Understanding this, a number of Romanian historians have undertaken the
difficult task of sorting through the relevant documents in the Russian (former So-
viet) Archives.2 But, for various reasons (such as the secrecy still maintained by the
Russians with regard to their documents,3 the large number of documents to be re-
viewed, the scarcity of financial resources) they have been only partially successful
in their attempt.
The relations between the two countries during the interwar period could be
characterized most simply by words like mistrust, fear, and suspicion on the Roma-
nian side and enmity and aggressiveness (to varying extents), on the Soviet side. Nei-
ther one trusted the other and each tried to lay the blame for the situation at the
other’s door. There are two explanations for this: the Bessarabian question, and the
fact that the Romanian ruling class deeply feared and hated communism.4 From the
Soviet viewpoint, “Our relations with Romania are in a class by themselves. They are
connected with the question of Bessarabia”.5 At every occasion, they contested
(directly or indirectly) the Union of Bessarabia. While Moscow recognized the inde-
pendence of the newly proclaimed republics and even accepted the inclusion into
Poland of some Russian territories, the case of Bessarabia was different. “[The] So-
viet doctrine of self-determination simply did not apply to this clearly non-Russian
and non-Slavic land. . . . Moreover, Soviet behavior toward Romania during the
interwar period was characterized by a strange arrogance that was not, on the sur-
face at least, directed toward other governments then administering ‘lost provinces’
of the Russian Empire.”6
On the other hand, the Romanians wanted the impossible: Russia’s blessing for
the Union. That was impossible because of two reasons. First, Romania was in no
position to deal on an equal footing with her giant neighbor. Second, the Russians
never would have accepted losing to a small State a territory that had belonged to
them for more than a century. That would have gone against all their history, tradi-
tions and, of course, pride — and the best proof in this sense is the Russian attitude
after the imposed cession of southern Bessarabia to Romania in 1856; the tension
reached a peak during the 1877-1878 War with the Ottoman Empire, with the Czar
mentioning repeatedly that the retrocession of that area was, more than anything
else, a question of Russia’s pride.7 In a sense, it can be argued that the interwar pe-
riod simply repeated the 1856-1877 epoch and that there was no difference between
the foreign policy of the communists and that of the Czars when it came to territo-
rial matters.
Any treaty or agreement the Soviets were disposed to sign would only have
been of temporary value because it became clear to everybody, as time passed, that it

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was out of the question for the Soviets to agree that Bessarabia should remain Roma-
nian territory. Of course, in hindsight it is patently clear; but nobody anticipated in
1918 that the communists not only would stay in power but would transform the old
Russian Empire in just a few decades into a superpower. In 1918 Romania saw a
great opportunity, a chance too good to turn down. At the same time it was a great
risk, and the stakes were not clear until it was too late to adjust or seek a compro-
mise solution. In 1940, Romania paid for taking this risk by losing half of Bukovina
(instead of only one third, as stipulated in the common agreements signed during the
war) and the Herta region (which had belonged to Romania before the World War
I) to the Soviet Union, plus a great part of Transylvania to Hungary (recovered after
World War II, as a result of the Soviets’ insistence at the Peace Conference) and the
southern Dobrudja to Bulgaria. And if we add to this the Romanian National Treas-
ury, moved to Moscow in 1916 for “safe-keeping” during the war and only partially
returned, we have a good sense of the scope of Romania’s losses (even after the fall of
communism, the Russians still refuse to return the Treasury to Romania, at least the
part of it still identifiable, as the gold and jewels vanished during the Russian Revo-
Regarding diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, the Romanian govern-
ments adopted an attitude based on the following principles: Romania was not at
war with the Soviet Union;9 there was no territorial dispute between the two, be-
cause Bessarabia was an old Romanian territory that had decided to unite with Ro-
mania; the Great Powers recognized the Union by the Bessarabian Treaty of October
28, 1920; the Romanian National Treasury should be returned intact to Romania;
and a policy of non-intervention in the political matters of another state.
On the other side, the Soviet government still contested the Romanian border
and refused to recognize the Union of Bessarabia, sometimes attacking the attitude
of the Romanian government in a very “noisy” and propagandistic manner, at other
times trying to reach an agreement with Romania regarding Bessarabia. For example,
at the beginning of 1920, they made efforts to avoid a common Polish-Romanian of-
fensive against the Soviet Union and were disposed to make concessions to Romania
regarding the Bessarabian question. Still, it is difficult to support the claim that they
were actually ready to sign an agreement regarding Bessarabia at any point during
the interwar period,10 and even more difficult to speculate what would have been the
validity of such an agreement in 1940.

Bilateral Relations Before and During the Paris Peace Conference

In 1916 Romania decided to enter the war on the Entente side. After a short,
victorious offensive, the Romanian Army was defeated, a great part of the country
including Bucharest was occupied, and the government relocated itself to Jassy, the
old capital of Moldavia. The front was stabilized in the Carpathian Mountains, and
in the summer of 1917 the Romanian Army was able to resist the German offensive
toward Moldavia. Still, relations between the Russians and the Romanians were far

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

from friendly: mutual suspicion was at its height. On the one hand, the Romanians
blamed Russia for their defeat while, on the other, the Russians were quite unhappy
with Romania’s hard bargaining.11 In this situation, it was quite difficult for the two
countries to support each other as reliable allies.
The situation became worse after the revolutionary events in Moscow, and the
Romanian Army found itself almost alone to defend its positions. This was the mo-
ment when the first armed incidents took place between Romanian authorities and
groups of Russian soldiers. The communist propaganda inside the Russian Army
was disturbing to the Romanian authorities, for two reasons: the troops became un-
willing to continue fighting against the Central Powers; and communist ideas could
also spread among the Romanian soldiers. As Romania was forced to exit the war in
May 1918, the Germans encouraged the actions of the Romanian Army in Bessarabia
(seen as a territory to be taken by Romania in exchange for the territories lost
through the Bucharest Peace Treaty). In fact, since 1914 the German leadership had
been offering Bessarabia to Romania — in order to win over Romania to their side
and to weaken Russia.
As previously mentioned, in January 1918 the communists broke off diplomatic
relations with Romania as a result of the Romanian Army entering Bessarabian terri-
tory. During the following weeks the Bolsheviks in southern Ukraine (organized as
RUMCEROD) sent a number of ultimatums to the Romanian government demand-
ing the immediate withdrawal of the Romanian Army from Bessarabia. The situation
was temporarily pacified by the March 5-9, 1918 Treaty between the two sides, by
which Romania undertook to withdraw its troops in the following two months. But
at the end of March, Sfatul Tserii voted the Union of Bessarabia with Romania, so there
was no withdrawal of Romanians troops from Bessarabia; it then became Romanian
territory. Due at first to the German occupation and later to the civil war and the war
with Poland, the Russians could not deploy their army to take back Bessarabia.
Inside the Russian leadership during the first years of communism there had
been three orientations regarding the Bessarabian question.12 Leon Trotsky and
Maksim Litvinov, who were prepared to give up Bessarabia and recognize Romanian
sovereignty in exchange for certain conditions, illustrate the first position. The sec-
ond, illustrated by the military men such as generals Mihail Frunse (born in Bessara-
bia) and Kliment Vorosilov, argued in favor of reconquering Bessarabia by military
force.13 Somewhere in the middle were Christian Rakovsky,14 the influential leader of
the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, and Gheorghi Cicerin, who constantly reminded the
Romanian Government of the Russian (later Soviet) view regarding Bessarabia
through diplomatic notes of protest, international and internal propaganda, military
maneuvers and border incidents staged along the Dniestr River. In other words, they
took a wait and see attitude, in which no major risks were taken but also no real
concessions were made. Not only did the last orientation prevail (although not quite
from the beginning)15 but it proved, over time, to be the best way of protecting So-
viet interests and weakening Romania’s international position.16 Romania was
among the few States towards which the Soviets adopted this strategy of opposing

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as much as possible economic-financial development and national consolidation by

means of propaganda and military threat. This strategy made Romania more vulner-
able in its relations with the other neighbors as well.
As for the Romanian policy towards Russia, there were at least three tenden-
cies: to negotiate with the Soviets in the hope of reaching some sort of agreement
regarding the Bessarabian question; to postpone any negotiations with the Soviets in
the hope that the communist regime would soon fail; to wait and see, while combin-
ing the previous two options. Alexandru Vaida-Voevod (Prime Minister during the
first months of 1920) best exemplified the first one, while Take Ionescu (Foreign
Minister during the second part of 1920 and 1921) the second. In the end, after using
each of the first two approaches, the Romanian side decided in favor of a compro-
mise solution: that it should continue negotiations but only at an unofficial or semi-
official level while opposing any discussion regarding the fate of Bessarabia. It was
finally on this line that an agreement, although a very limited one, was reached with
the Soviets and the bilateral relations restored in 1934.
On April 18, 1918, Gheorghi Cicerin, the Russian Commissar for Foreign Affairs,
sent the Romanian Prime Minister a note of protest against the incorporation of Bes-
sarabia into Romania.17 This formal protest, contesting especially the way in which
the union was proclaimed, was the only one to come as an immediate result of the
union. During the following period there were no more official threats ultimatum
notes from the Soviet power, and the reason for that is related to the internal power
struggle in Russia. At the same time, there were numerous border incidents in Bes-
sarabia between the Romanian troops and the Red Army.
It was only during the Paris Peace Conference that Cicerin sent a new telegram
on Bessarabia to the Romanian authorities, on May 1, 1919. This time the note was
sent in the name of Ukraine, too. The telegram is indicative of the Russian viewpoint
regarding events in Bessarabia: that it had been liberated from the Turks in 1812; that
it had been under Romanian military occupation since 1918; and that both the Sfatul
Tserii and the Union decision were non-representative in nature. The position ex-
pressed in the telegram has remained unchanged until today and those ideas still
form the basis of any Russian attempt to deal with the Bessarabian question. After
amply criticizing the Romanian position on Bessarabia, in very strong words, the
ultimatum demanded:
1. The immediate withdrawal of Romanian troops, officials, and agents from
the whole of Bessarabia, and full liberty for the workers and peasants of Bes-
sarabia freely to organize their own government.
2. That all those responsible for crimes against the Bessarabia workers and
peasants and against the entire population of Bessarabia be brought before
public tribunals.
3. The restitution of Russian arms and war material taken by Romania as
4. The restitution to the inhabitants of Bessarabia of all the property of which
they have been deprived by plunder and confiscation.18

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The last request is peculiar at best, as the inhabitants of Bessarabia who were
deprived of their property were the landowners, the same landowners against whom
the communist revolution was directed and who were accused of being behind Bes-
sarabia’s decision to unite with Romania.
Soon after this telegram, a new ultimatum came from Christian Rakovsky, the
exiled leader of the Romanian communist movement and at that time the communist
leader of Ukraine, asking for the withdrawal of the Romanian Army from Bessarabia
in forty-eight hours. The exchange of notes between the Ukrainian and the Roma-
nian governments went on until June 19, 1919, each side arguing its thesis along the
lines already described.
The sudden reawakening of Russian interest in Bessarabia should be seen in
relation to Romania’s action against the Hungarian communist government. The
Moscow government tried to take advantage of Romania’s military conflict with
Hungary while, at the same time, offering brotherly help to the Hungarian commu-
nists in their fight against Romania. The development of events in Russia (the com-
bined White Army offensives) and the defeat of the Hungarian Army lay behind the
Bolshevik decision to stop threatening the Romanian government, given the risk that
Romania might join the offensive against them. Instead, they decided to try a more
conciliatory approach that might win some precious time, and starting in the late
summer 1919 they left aside any strong words — at least for a while.
As has been stressed by many scholars, time was what the Bolshevik govern-
ment needed most in order to consolidate its grip on power. To the Bolsheviks, that
was what mattered most during the first years. And, to obtain this precious time,
they were disposed to make all sorts of concessions — the best example being that
of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with the Central Powers. Through that Treaty they
bought breathing space that, in the circumstances, was worth more than any
amount of territory lost to the Germans.19 Their relations with Romania followed a
somewhat similar pattern for, as long as they needed time, they carefully avoided
provoking the Romanians; on the contrary, they tried to bribe them with the prom-
ise of concessions. On the other hand, the Romanian diplomacy failed to take advan-
tage of the Bolsheviks’ weakness and their indecision simply played on the Bolshe-
viks’ hands.
Alexandru Vaida-Voevod’s advent as leader of the Romanian Government
brought about a change in the Romanian foreign policy. Not only was he able to ob-
tain a number of concessions from the Peace Conference but he also agreed to insti-
tute direct negotiations with the communist Russians, which he believed would be
the best way to improve Romania’s relations with that nation. As a result, in Febru-
ary 1920, the first negotiations between Romania and the Bolshevik government
took place in Copenhagen (after the break in diplomatic relations, January 13-26,
1918), with the purpose of normalizing bilateral relations.20 The representatives were
D.N. Ciotori for Romania and Maxim Litvinov for the communists.
The main aim of the negotiations was to prepare the basis for a future confer-
ence on the re-establishment of bilateral relations. The principal Romanian requests

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were the recognition of Bessarabia’s union; the restitution of the Romanian National
Treasury; and the liberation of the Romanian prisoners of war still held in Russia.21
Litvinov acknowledged that it was possible for Russia to recognize the Union of
Bessarabia and to resolve the problem of the Romanian National Treasury (although,
as far as the Treasury, the Russians were only prepared to propose that the Romani-
ans forgo their claim, as compensation for the military and other materials taken by
Romania in 1917-1918).22 As noted above, this sudden Russian readiness to resolve
her problems with Romania was due to the conflict with Poland and the fear that
Romania might join Poland in a military campaign against Russia. The Bolshevik
fears were amplified by the fact that the Romanian Army, withdrawn by now from
Hungary, was free to be employed against them. But when the government of Alex-
andru Vaida-Voevod resigned in March 1920, the new government terminated the
The war against Poland offered Russian diplomacy the best incentive to con-
tinue pressing for an agreement with Romania.23 And, in order to convince Romania
not to side with Poland, the Russians showed themselves ready to come to a resolu-
tion on all the points raised by the Romanians: the recognition of Bessarabia’s union;
the repatriation of the Romanian POW held in Russia; the restitution of the Roma-
nian National Treasury.24 Starting in July 1920, Cicerin made new proposals to the
Romanian government in order to restart the bilateral negotiations, but Take
Ionescu (Romanian Foreign Minister at the time) considered them inopportune and
insignificant compared to the official recognition of the Great Powers. Although Ro-
manian-Russian historiography argues that he believed that the communists would
be defeated and that, under these conditions, an agreement with them would com-
promise Romania, it seems that French opposition to the Russian-Romanian nego-
tiations was another major reason for his temporization or postponement of the ne-
gotiations.25 He adopted a policy of wait and see, postponing under various pretexts
any bilateral negotiations while the exchange of notes between Cicerin and Alexan-
dru Averescu, the Romanian Prime Minister, continued. Toward the end of October
the Soviets’ tone towards Romania changed, for a number of reasons: their discon-
tent over the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty (especially as they were not con-
sulted); the end of the Polish war; and the fact that the remnants of General
Wrangel’s Army found refuge in Romania.
As regards the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty, Cicerin and Rakovsky sent a
note to Romania on November 1, 1920, in the name of both Ukraine and Russia, de-
claring that they:

. . . could not recognize the validity of a treaty concerning Bessarabia, signed

without their participation, and [that they] were not bound in any way by an
agreement on this subject which was signed by foreign governments.26

However, it should be noted that, if this were true, the efforts and concessions
made by the Soviets to preclude the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty would

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

have been unnecessary.

On the other hand, during 1919 and 1920 the Romanian Government was firm
in its decision not to intervene against the Bolsheviks, even as France, a friend of Ro-
mania, insisted repeatedly that Romania join the war against Bolshevism (either at
the time of the French occupation of Odessa, or during the Polish-Russian war). Ro-
mania refused to give any kind of military assistance to the White Russians despite
France’s pressure.27 Even the French promise of Odessa in exchange for Romanian
help could not convince the Romanian Government to open hostilities against the
Bolsheviks. Romania’s only intervention in the war was indirect: it hosted the
French military command in Bucharest, as well as some French troops directed to
fight against the Bolsheviks, and provided Petliura’s Army with modest military sup-
plies.28 In fact, at least during 1919 the Romanian government had no real ability to
intervene militarily in Russia due to its war with Hungary. During 1920, the Army
was free to act in Russia but the scarcity of resources hampered any such initiative
in any case.
The Romanians tried throughout this period to maintain an attitude of neu-
trality towards the Soviets, although they won nothing by it and received only accu-
sations in exchange from the Russians. In fact, this neutrality became one of the leit-
motifs of Romanian diplomacy whenever they were dealing with the Soviets:

There had been so many situations in which Russia found herself implicated in
internal and external fights, but still Romania kept the same loyal attitude of
today. If we had had hostile intentions against you, we could have pursued
them at that time . . . 29

In the end, the Romanian neutrality (which was justified on economic

grounds, if not necessarily on moral or strategic grounds) only boosted the Russian
position and it proved to be quite a success for Russian diplomacy, as they did not
have to pay anything to secure Romania’s non-intervention in either the Civil War
or the war against Poland. The hypothesis that a show of power, even as a bluff,
might have had a certain influence on the Bolshevik leaders should not be excluded.
But by adopting a policy of neutrality instead of aggression (presumably more in
words than in practice, as the necessary resources were missing) the Romanian lead-
ership missed this chance, failing to understand one of the main characteristics of
Russian behavior: that the only argument they care about is force.
During 1920-1921, the communists were prepared for direct negotiations with
Romania and, in the view of many Romanian diplomats and scholars, were ready to
make certain concessions.30 The main question is how far they were prepared to go.31
The impetus included not only their war with Poland but their fear of an Western
military campaign against communism. Russia’s aims were to avoid an alliance (and
especially a military campaign) between Romania and Poland against them; to es-
cape the diplomatic isolation which had enveloped them; to win some precious time
to consolidate their power both internally and internationally; and to avoid the

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transformation of Romania into a training base for counter-revolutionary groups.

The communist government hoped to achieve their purposes by using the Bessara-
bian question. Finally, even as the military alliance between Romania and Poland
came into being in March 1921, they still insisted on negotiations with Romania.
On the other side, the Romanian government expressed its intentions for the
negotiations: to obtain the recognition of the Union as a fait accompli and to discuss
only matters regarding the transfer of sovereignty between the two states; also, to
resolve the financial questions pending between the two states.
During the preparation period prior to these direct negotiations (August 1920-
September 1921), illustrated best by the Cicerin-Averescu correspondence, the dis-
pute between the two parties centered at first on where the negotiations should take
place and then on the topics that should or should not be discussed — especially,
what questions should be avoided.32 The communists intended to have all the exist-
ing problems between the two parties, including that of Bessarabia, on the negotia-
tion table:

The Russian Government sees no reason to persuade it to reduce the number of

questions which should be dealt with by Russia and Romania, to limit discus-
sions to those which are clearly defined and to exclude others. Your wireless of
10 November suggests that the Romanian Government will propose the limita-
tion of discussions to a certain group of questions. The Russian Government,
on the contrary, is of the opinion that in order to be able to establish lasting
pacific and friendly relations between the two countries, it is necessary to sub-
mit to the consideration of the conference proposed by us all questions of in-
terest to Romania and Russia without exception.”33

On January 15, 1921, a new note came from Cicerin, with a more conciliatory
tone that would characterize Russian correspondence with Romania until the end of
the Warsaw negotiations:

The Russian Republic is firmly determined not to permit the peaceful relations
now existing between Russia and Romania to be disturbed. In the opinion of
the Russian Government it would be highly desirable to enter into negotia-
tions with Romania for the purpose of establishing between our two countries
relations solidly based on a formal treaty. . . . We are ready, in the higher inter-
ests of peace, to limit the agenda of the future conference to those practical
questions whose solution is the most urgent, such as the re-establishment of
commercial relations and the regulation of navigation on the Dniestr.”34

What made the Russian side abandon its initial proposals and accept the Ro-
manian ones? The answer lies in the strengthening Romanian-Polish relations.
In 1921 the Russians had four main objectives in negotiating a treaty with Ro-
mania: to regulate navigation on the Dniestr; to oblige Romania to respect maximum
neutrality towards Russia; to provide for exchanges of goods; and to exchange repre-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

sentatives (in order to use Bucharest as an observation point for the Balkans). To
these principal objectives should be added other less important ones, including an
exchange of war prisoners and the signing of sanitary, postal and railroads conven-
tions. However, any mention or suggestion in the treaty that Bessarabia was Roma-
nian territory had to be avoided, meaning that the articles of the treaty referring to
the common border were to be given only a provisory character.35
The Romanians centered their efforts, apart from seeking Russian recognition
of Bessarabia’s union with Romania, on resolving a number of outstanding financial
matters: the Romanian National Treasury in Moscow; the Romanian deposits of mu-
nitions, armament, and effects that were on Russian territory; the goods belonging to
the former Romanian Legation in Petrograd; the cash deposits belonging to the Ro-
manian Commission of Provisioning in Russia, moneys which were still in Russian
banks; and compensation for the damages done by the Russian troops during their
retreat from the Romanian territory.36

The Warsaw and Vienna Conferences

As a result of the exchange of notes between the Russians and the Romanians
during the beginning of 1921, it was decided that a preliminary conference between
the two states should take place in Reval, the two parties being represented by
Maxim Litvinov (initially, but replaced by Lev Karakhan) and Gheorghe Filality.37
But the Russians delayed the planned conference, focusing instead on a minor aspect
of the relationship, namely navigation and fishing on the Dniestr Liman. And, indeed,
a number of bilateral meetings took place between the two parties in July 1921, in
Cetatea Alba, but with no results.38
In September-October 1921, a preliminary conference between Russia and Ro-
mania took place in Warsaw with the aim of fixing the program of a future bilateral
conference having as its purpose the normalization of relations. There were six offi-
cial meetings, but with no result.39
The first two meetings were of a general nature, both sides expressing their
views regarding the future negotiations for the treaty. At the end of the second meet-
ing Lev Mikhailovici Karakhan, the Russian representative, privately proposed to
Filality a very interesting compromise solution between the two States. Justifying it
as a way to speed up the negotiations, Karakhan proposed, in his personal name:

Let’s take out of the next Conference’s program Bessarabia and the minorities
and, as compensation, you should agree not to include the question of the fi-
nancial matters between us. In this way we could explain to the masses that
these questions have remained en suspens. . . . This question of financial matters
is the most boring and it took us about six months to resolve these issues dur-
ing our negotiations with the Poles … If we do so, we would agree easily on the
other points and in 15 days we may even sign the agreement and re-establish
diplomatic relations.40

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At Filality’s insistence on the National Treasury, Karakhan declared that as

soon as diplomatic relations were re-established, the papers included in it would be
returned to Romania — but that he could not guarantee the same for the gold.
Although many Romanian historians seem to lay particular emphasis on the
kind of “bribe” implicit in Karakhan’s proposal, this author considers that it had a
different significance. The proposal simply expressed the Russians’ main goal at the
conference: to come to some agreement with the Romanians without saying any-
thing that could result in a claim being made that they had recognized Bessarabia as
Romanian territory. From their viewpoint, they were not so much renouncing Bes-
sarabia as deferring the question (they were still playing desperately for time, in
1921). Karakhan wanted, according to his instructions, to avoid the negative influ-
ence of the Bessarabian question over the bilateral relationship, but he also wished
to make it look as though his side were making a great concession, and therefore he
asked the Romanians to defer their financial requests in exchange. In other words,
he was hoping to hit two rabbits with a single shot. In these conditions, it is not sur-
prising that the Romanians, having nothing to win from the Russian proposal, re-
jected it. It was only a few years later that certain Romanian diplomats and scholars
started arguing that Take Ionescu should have accepted the deal.
One other possible explanation for Karakhan’s proposal is that, realizing after
the first meetings that the negotiations would produce no results, he simply used the
“Bessarabia for the Treasury” deal as a trial balloon, in order to see what the Roma-
nian reaction would be. Arguing in favor of this reading is the fact that Karakhan
knew all too well that, while the Romanians would not agree with it, such a pro-
posal might win some time for him.
Filality declined the Russian offer at the insistence of the Romanian Foreign
Minister, Take Ionescu. The description of the main points of the debate and also
Take Ionescu’s views regarding relations with Russia are best expressed in the in-
structions he sent to Filality on October 17:

I never thought that our Treasury would be returned to us, just as I knew
that the Soviet Government has no other purpose than to re-establish diplo-
matic relations with Romania in order to poison our country with revolution-
ary propaganda, under the protection of diplomatic immunity. It is clear that
we would be making the gravest error to agree to such a proposal, in which we
would lose everything without gaining anything.
Karakhan’s claim that the Romanian state would have any interest whatso-
ever in getting the recognition of the Union from the Bolshevik government is
entirely groundless. . . . Moscow’s recognition of Bessarabia today could only
damage Romania’s interests vis-à-vis tomorrow’s Russia. The Bessarabian
question would become an internal affair for Russia instead of remaining
within the compass of international law.
My view is that, whatever the consequences, the Bessarabian question

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

should not be included as a discussion point between the two governments.

The same is valid for the Romanian-Ukrainian border and the minorities’ ques-
tion. . . .
We will never agree to first have diplomatic or even commercial relations
and only later to have the question of returning the Treasury negotiated with
our minister in Moscow. . . . The frightening responsibility of having a number
of Bolshevik officials in Romania. . . .
I hope that Karakhan did not ask you in writing for the famous declaration
of neutrality he requested from us, in case Russia came under attack.41 In fact,
we have decided to abstain from any attack against Russia, except for the
stipulations existing in our treaty of alliance with Poland, which is a defensive
alliance. But, to stipulate through a convention with a state that you would be
neutral, indifferent the circumstances, is a way of signing a small alliance with
it. And, it is against both Romania’s interest and dignity to have the honor of
being the second country after Kemal’s Turkey in a sui-generis alliance with the
Soviets. This request is inadmissible.
We must necessarily obtain the freedom of our hostages in Russia, who are
being kept through an abuse of power unknown in relations between civilized
states.42 If the Russians can point out any Russian citizens in our prisons we
will free them immediately. But the thought of talking about Romanian citi-
zens, condemned by our justice system, whom we would set free or send to
Russia at Moscow’s request seems to me so cynical that I could not honor it
with any response. . . .
We must stand by our position that we are not at war and, therefore, we
do not have to sign a peace treaty. . . .
During these negotiations it must not be forgotten that Romania has no
interest except for that of keeping the promise made by Prime Minister Vaida
in February 1920, while the Soviets have not only the interest of re-establishing
diplomatic relations with us but also to negotiate and sign something with an
organized State that has such a considerable past as ours.”43

In these circumstances, to which should be added the French opposition to the

re-establishment of Russo-Romanian relations, it is clear why the Warsaw Confer-
ence ended without any gain for the Romanians. For the Russians, on the other
hand, the Conference was not a complete failure because they were able to gain pre-
cious time. Time was on their side, and they took full advantage of it so that, more
than a decade later, the Romanians had to agree to many of the same points they had
opposed in 1921, in exchange for much less. The best example would be Titulescu’s
agreement to open diplomatic relations first and only later to negotiate the return of
any parts of the Treasury.
One other point characterizing the relationship before and after the Warsaw
Conference was the question of the White Russians who had found refuge on Roma-

< 116 >


nian soil. The Russians continuously protested the Romanian attitude towards those
fighting against the Red Army, people like General Wrangel’s or Petliura’s support-
ers. In a telegram sent on November 11, 1921, Cicerin asked again for Romania to take
measures against the activity of White Guards on Romanian territory, as proof of
Romania’s willingness to have peace with Russia and Ukraine. In fact, these con-
tinuous demands were made in order to justify a possible military intervention. By
this device, public opinion (and especially international opinion) would be led to
accept that Russian troops were entering Romania only in order to stop the bandits
based there from making incursions into Soviet territory, and not in order to retrieve
Bessarabia. Still, the Romanians always claimed that the border incidents were evi-
dence of Bolshevik attempts to penetrate into the Romanian territory.44
The telegram mentioned above points up one more characteristic of the bilat-
eral negotiations:

We were no less surprised to note in your statement that you appear to believe
that our consenting to discuss the question of navigation on the Dniestr im-
plied recognition of the incorporation of Bessarabia into Romania. On the con-
trary, in a whole series of statements made by the Russo-Ukrainian delegation
we made it clear in precise and unambiguous terms that the object of the con-
ference was not to fix the frontier between the two countries, but solely to es-
tablish a demarcation line, having regard to the de facto occupation of Bessara-
bia by Romanian troops.45

At every point when an agreement was reached between the two States, or
some negotiations took place, or when both of them were signing a multinational
treaty, the Romanians considered it a diplomatic victory signifying Russian recogni-
tion of Bessarabia’s union. They argued that, by agreeing to deal on an equal footing
with Romania as a state, the Soviets recognized its authority over all the territories it
controlled. The fact that their interpretation was a mistake is proven plainly by the
attitude of the US towards the Bessarabian question: the US had diplomatic rela-
tions and even signed a number of treaties with Romania without de facto recogniz-
ing her rights over Bessarabia. Of course, soon after the Romanian declarations, the
Russian side would make the necessary corrections, specifying that its position to-
wards Bessarabia remained unchanged, and the Romanians would argue back.46 The
same thing happened after the Briand-Kellogg pact was signed in 1928, and after the
London “Convention for the Definition of the Aggression” was signed in July 1933.
The moment when the Soviets’ international position clearly began to improve
came in 1922, as a result of signing the Rapallo Treaty with Germany (April 16, 1922),
by which the latter officially recognized the Soviet government and undertook to
help it reorganize its military and economic capacities. From then on, the Soviets
were no longer an isolated and unrecognized Government. The new Russian posi-
tion was apparent during the Genoa Conference (April-May 1922) that had been
called in order to address relations between the Soviets and the European Powers,

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relations that had been poisoned by the difficult problem of recovering the goods
that belonged to Westerners in Russia and had been nationalized by the Soviets
(and the issue of responsibility for the public debt of the former Russian Empire).
The Rapallo Treaty was a slap in the face of the Great Powers and a great success for
both Germany and the Soviets, and it resulted in the failure of the Genoa Conference
to reach any agreement.
Just a few weeks after Rapallo, the Russians made it known to Romania that
their position regarding bilateral relations had changed. During the Genoa Confer-
ence, Cicerin openly expressed Russia’s policy toward Bessarabia. In connection
with the Romanian attempt to insert into the common memorandum of the Powers
negotiating with Russia the principle regarding the necessity of respecting the po-
litical and territorial status quo of the states involved, (May 17), Cicerin stated that:
“respect for the status quo between Ukraine and Romania, for example, does not at
all mean for Russia the recognition of the Romanian status quo and particularly, the
recognition of the present Romanian occupation of Bessarabia.”47 The same day, the
Romanian Prime Minister Ion I. C. Bratianu expressed Romania’s readiness to sign a
permanent non-aggression pact with Bolshevik Russia, based on respect for the ex-
isting status quo. As the Bolshevik representatives refused the Romanian proposal,
Bratianu undertook a unilateral obligation of non-aggression, stating that Romania
would abstain from any military operations directed against Bolshevik Russia.
Although their international position was improving, the Russians were still
cautious and preferred to continue the dialogue with the Romanians. A few weeks
later, during the Hague Conference (June-July 1922), the Russians indicated that
they were still inclined toward a compromise with Romania.48 The new element that
came out during the negotiations was a Russian proposal for a conference on disar-
mament, in Moscow, at which all the states bordering Russia in Europe should take
part. The Romanians conditioned their attendance, as they had the signing of any
pact of non-aggression, on the recognition of the existing frontiers; as the Bolsheviks
rejected their conditions, Romania was the only European state bordering Russia
that refused to send representatives to the Conference.49 The Conference on disar-
mament was a good propaganda move from the communists and the Romanian re-
fusal, which they probably anticipated, gave them new propaganda material — espe-
cially with regard to international public opinion. In September, Cicerin again sug-
gested the exchange Karakhan had proposed earlier: Bessarabia in exchange for the
During the Lausanne Conference (December 1922), Cicerin proposed to the
Romanian Minister in Paris, Constantin Diamandi, the signing of a non-aggression
pact for two or five years. Insisting that it was only an exploratory proposal made by
him and not yet approved by his government, Cicerin suggested that the Pact should
be based on “the recognition of Bessarabia in exchange for the Romanian National
Treasury and the Crown Jewels, the complete liquidation of reciprocal debts and the
resolution of all the other pending matters”.51 The Romanian government rejected
the Russian proposal.

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An important moment, and probably the only remarkable step in Russo-

Romanian relations during the first part of the 1920s, was the signing, after a few
months of negotiations in Tyraspol, on November 20, 1923, of a border agreement
between the two States, called “Statutes on Ways and Means for Prevention and
Solution of Conflicts that May Arise along the Dniestr River”.52 The agreement
stipulated the resolution of border incidents by a joint Soviet-Romanian commission
which, indeed, had held a number of meetings.53 Although initially the Romanians
had great hopes for the negotiations, in the end they had to accept only a very lim-
ited agreement, far less than they had expected.
Cicerin presented the new position of the Soviet government towards Romania:

In the portfolio of diplomatic instructions, approved by the Central Com-

mittee, it is shown that, for the moment, we must restrain our action to molli-
fying Romania through commercial negotiations, without signing a final treaty
with her.
Signing a navigation agreement on the Dniestr with the Romanians would
be equivalent, in fact, to recognizing the Dniestr as the border. At our request,
chief-commander Kamenev has shown that exactly for this reason he considers
a navigation agreement on the Dniestr to be undesirable. Continuing the bor-
der negotiations, we will avoid anything that could be understood as recogni-
tion of the Dniestr as the border. But, the initiation of commercial relations, in
a prudent and limited form, is possible without these negative consequences.
While a complete and definitive commercial treaty would help the consolida-
tion of Bessarabia inside Romania, a limited and provisory commercial agree-
ment, with the amendment that it is not resolving the question of the border
regulation, might be useful to us. This agreement would reduce the intensity of
relations between Romania and Poland and, in this way, would weaken the
international position of the latter. Such a step would be in conformity with
the line approved by the Central Committee.
For this reason, we propose to use now the existing contact points with
Romania in order to start the negotiation of the provisory agreement regarding
limited commercial relations between Romania and USSR.54 The negotiations
should go forward without any haste.55

As a result of the improvement in the bilateral relations after the Tyraspol ne-
gotiations it was decided that a new conference between Romania and the Soviet
Union should be called, the parties agreeing on Vienna as the host city.56 Constantin
Langa-Rascanu headed the Romanian delegation and Nikolai Nikolaievich Krestin-
sky the Soviets’. The objectives of the two parties, as presented in the instructions
sent by Bratianu and Cicerin, show the great distance separating the two sides and
the practical impossibility of reaching an agreement. Russia’s broad objectives re-
garding relations with Romania were in no way different from those already pre-
sented, except for the insistence on the idea of a plebiscite:

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

During the conference, the word plebiscite must be heard. It is probable that as
soon as you mention Bessarabia the Romanians will leave, therefore among
your first words in mentioning Bessarabia you should use plebiscite. Use this
word even in your first phrase.57

As for the Romanian aims at the conference, Ion I.C. Bratianu stated:

Your leading principle would be the separation of the Bessarabian question

from that of the Treasury, following our talks in Lausanne.
You should show, from the beginning, that in order to establish good
neighborly relations between the two countries such relations cannot exist
without the border being regulated; and, regulating the border means recogni-
tion of the union of Bessarabia, which is and must be ours, so that there can be
no discussion on this question.
The positive part for us would be to obtain the recognition of Bessarabia
and the return of the Treasury, at least the non-metallic part, meaning the pri-
vate deposits and the archives. You must remember that the Soviets have re-
turned numerous and valuable art works to the Poles . . . if the Bessarabian
question is untouchable, that of the metallic Treasury is touchable, in the sense
that it could be renounced but only after a prior liquidation of all the financial
matters between us. . . .
The Russian representatives should be shown that Bessarabia represents an
anachronism in Russian history: captured with a view toward conquering Con-
stantinople, which for Russia meant controlling the keys to the Black Sea, Bes-
sarabia was the first step towards the realization of this plan. But when the
Czars realized that it was impossible to make this dream of conquest come true,
they could only renounce Bessarabia. . . . No economic interest justifies ties be-
tween Bessarabia and Russia.58

To respond to Soviet claims over Bessarabia, Bratianu also instructed Langa-

Rascanu to insist on all the known arguments, including the Bessarabian Treaty, and
especially on the national and economic points. Although Bratianu agreed with the
idea of signing a non-aggression pact with the Soviets, he clearly rejected any plebi-
scite in Bessarabia, as he was aware the Soviets might propose.59
Between March 27 and April 2, 1924, four meetings between the two delega-
tions took place.60 But after a few consistent “theoretical” exchanges in which each
part demolished the other's arguments as to its rights over Bessarabia, the two
proved unable to reach a consensus over the Bessarabian question. The Soviets were
unwilling to make any real concessions; the only matter they were prepared to ad-
dress was that of a plebiscite in Bessarabia. Their thesis was that a plebiscite would
be the only way to resolve the Bessarabian problem once and for all. Of course, they
had not thought that way a few years earlier, regarding Georgia. More surprisingly,

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they did not even mention a plebiscite as a way of resolving the Bessarabian question
in 1940 or after the Second World War. But in 1924 they were the most fervent par-
tisans of the plebiscite solution, and the reason was clear: propaganda. They wanted
to show the world that they are willing to resolve the Bessarabian question but that
the Romanian Government was opposed to any possible agreement. And indeed,
they were partly successful in propagating that view, as the international press did
pay attention to the negotiations, publishing almost daily dispatches from Vienna.61
The Vienna Conference was the last attempt of the two parties to settle the
Bessarabian dispute through negotiation, ending the bilateral negotiations that
started in February 1920. It was the last act in the bilateral On the Romanian side,
some voices had criticized the idea of participating in a conference in which the Bes-
sarabian question was to be discussed, considering that the best policy would have
been to keep quiet on the matter.62 The failure to reach an agreement, expected by
the Soviets, only gave them more reason to intensify their actions against Romania,
especially at the propaganda level. Border incidents in Bessarabia and the concentra-
tion of troops at the border were two other methods the Soviets used against Roma-
nia during the inter-war period. Any time the Soviets needed propaganda material, a
new border incident took place in Bessarabia.
In view of recently published Russian documents (in Relatii romano-sovietice.
Documente, 1917-1934), it can be clearly stated (and not only speculated, as has been
the case until now) that, in fact, the Soviet representatives came to the conference
knowing from the beginning that it would be impossible to reach an agreement, and
not only that, but with precise instructions against signing anything more than a
provisory commercial agreement. In 1924, as the communists consolidated their grip
on power as well as shoring up their international position, they were no more in
particular need of time; and as a result, they are not looking for a compromise agree-
ment with Romania, but for a chance to clearly state their position on Bessarabia as
territory belonging to the “Soviet peoples”. Their main intention for the conference
was propaganda-related and they plainly used the opportunity well, bringing the
Bessarabian question to the attention of the international public in a manner that
was as favorable to the Soviets as possible. Soviet diplomats placed great emphasis
at the time on the French ratification, presenting it as the main obstacle to a Roma-
nian-Soviet agreement (it had encouraged the Romanian hopes that France would
come to their help in a possible conflict with the Soviets) — although the situation
was clearly very different.
Propaganda is one of the most powerful weapons of any government, and the
Soviets knew very well how to use it in their conflict with Romania. The Soviets
used propaganda directed at international public opinion to justify their claim to
Bessarabia not only from the historical viewpoint (which could have been easily con-
tested by the Romanians) but from the viewpoint of self-determination.63 They
knew that the self-determination principle (based on statistical data that might eas-
ily be manipulated) is more popular in public opinion than historical considerations,
and so offered them a better position for anti-Romanian propaganda. The Soviets

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insisted that the Romanian authorities were abusing the Bessarabians because they
refused to obey to Bucharest’s orders and that the only way to resolve the Romanian-
Soviet conflict over Bessarabia would be by organizing a plebiscite. The reaction in
some Western circles against the Romanian action in Bessarabia during the Tatar-
Bunar episode proves that the Soviet propaganda was quite effective. It was even
more successful in the case of Romania’s allies: in the aftermath of the Vienna Con-
ference, some Yugoslav and Czechoslovak newspapers argued that Romania should
return control over Bessarabia to Soviet Russia or at least accept the Soviet request
for a plebiscite in the region.64
Another way the Soviets acted against the Romanian authorities was through
communist organizations and infiltrators. These actions, planned even before the
start of the Vienna Conference, aimed at provoking land revolts in Bessarabia as a
way of boosting the Soviet position. But the Romanian authorities were prepared,
and acted to avoid that eventuality by outlawing the Communist Party in April 1924.
Still, those members of the Romanian Communist Party who were not in prison re-
ceived instructions from Moscow to organize peasant riots in Bessarabia and
Bukovina against the Romanian Government and thus to offer a rationale for a possi-
ble intervention by the Red Army. The more dramatic the riots, the more the West
would doubt the Romanian character of Bessarabia and the more they would sup-
port Soviet intervention. Such riots had taken place before, in January 1919 near
Hotin and May 1919 in Tighina, but had no lasting effects.65
In September 1924 Communist agents made a successful attempt to start a riot
in Bessarabia, at Tatar-Bunar, instating a self-proclaimed Moldavian Soviet Repub-
lic. But the Romanian Army quickly quelled the uprising, supported by the German
population in the area. A few hundred people were arrested.66 The Russian propa-
gandists used the occasion to mobilize the communist parties from all over the
world and public opinion in general against imperialist Romania.
As a follow-up to the September events in Bessarabia, the Moscow government
established the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, on the left bank of
the Dniestr River, on October 12, 1924. The newly created republic had an area of
about 3,000 square miles, with a population of more than 500,000 people, of which
the Moldavians (Romanians) represented 60%.67 The capital was initially at Balta but
in 1929 it was moved to Tyraspol. Thus, a territory that had never before been called
Moldavia nor had ever been part of the medieval principality of Moldavia (although it
was populated by Moldavians) was created, in an effort to lend credibility to the So-
viet government’s claim to Bessarabia and to provide a catalyst for the “reunification”
of the Moldavians on the left bank of the Dniestr with those on the right bank.68 In
1940, the eastern part of the MASSR was returned to the Ukrainian SSR, while the
rest was incorporated into the new Moldavian SSR. Nowadays part of this territory
makes up the self-proclaimed Transdniester Republic, with which the Moldavian
Republic had to fight a fierce war in recent years. Of great importance was the fact
that the Western frontier of the newly created republic was set at the Pruth River,
considerably farther west than the Dniestr. This action was considered to be an open
declaration of Soviet intentions towards Bessarabia.69

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There are two other possible reasons for the Soviet decision to create a Molda-
vian Autonomous SSR. Its creation coincided with the advent of a number of other
autonomous republics (Turkmen, Uzbek) and it fit very well with the Kremlin’s
campaign against Ukrainian nationalism.70 Furthermore, it can be seen as an element
of the broader Soviet policy of using the logic of national liberation to draw border
regions away from neighboring states, illustrated by the formation of two other re-
publics in especially contentious border regions: the Karelian autonomous republic
(targeting Finland) in 1920 and the Buriat-Mongol autonomous republic (targeting
Mongolia) in 1923.71
The Romanians were puzzled by this action. Bratianu declared in the Roma-
nian Parliament that: “We can only be happy because one of our neighbors has ad-
mitted that in our territorial claims we did not go as far as necessary”.72 In other
words, this could have been used, under certain conditions, by Romania as a pretext
for new territorial gains from Russia, or in order to counterbalance Ukraine’s claims
over the Bessarabian areas of Hotin and Ackerman.73

From 1924 to the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations

For the Soviet Government, 1924 was a year of great successes in the interna-
tional arena. Finally, the Government was officially recognized by Italy, Great Brit-
ain, France and, in January 1925, Japan. The same forward motion was not enjoyed
by Romania: apart from worsening relations with Italy, in the aftermath of the Vi-
enna Conference, during the Prague Conference of the Little Entente (July 11-12,
1924), both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia refused to promise any active support
over Bessarabia.74 Even more, while Czechoslovakia signed a Friendship Treaty with
France in 1924, Romania’s attempt had to be postponed until 1926.
After 1924, there was a period of relative silence regarding Bessarabia. From
1926, the Romanian position became somewhat stronger because of the treaty signed
with France and the improvement in her relations with Italy.
The Soviets took a wait-and-see approach to the Bessarabian question during
the years after the Vienna Conference, as illustrated by Maxim Litvinov:

In conditions of peace, an agreement should always be based on reciprocal ad-

vantage; therefore when the Romanian government is proposing an agreement
based on our renunciation to Bessarabia it should ask itself: what is such agree-
ment offering to the other part? Romania has almost one third of its borders
unrecognized neither by us nor at the international level. Our recognition of
the Bessarabian border would certainly be of great advantage to Romania but,
for us, it would mean the renunciation to one of our foreign policy basic princi-
ples and at the revolutionary slogans regarding the self-determination of the
peoples. Considering the great length of the USSR borders, the non-regulation
of the border question on a relatively small sector for us is not as important as
it is for Romania; even from the economic viewpoint we are only at a small loss

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by having no relations with Romania. For these reasons, if the Romanian gov-
ernment is unwilling or unable to bring up acceptable proposals, we prefer to
keep the situation unchanged.75

And, as long as the Romanians did not come forward with any new proposal,
Soviet diplomacy held her course. It was only because of the German and Japanese
dangers a few years later that the Soviets became more malleable, so that a compro-
mise could be agreed with Romania.
However, it is possible that there was one departure from this Soviet policy.
According to Gregorij Bessedovskii, a high-ranking Soviet diplomat who defected in
1931, Stalin was ready in October 1927 to adopt a more conciliatory position with
regard to Bessarabia in order to both improve the Soviets’ international standing (by
overcoming the recent difficulties with Great Britain and France) and to boost his
internal position with a foreign policy success. Stalin’s purported attempt to initiate
negotiations was hampered by the intervention of the Commissariat on Foreign Af-
fairs against the initiative (of course, Stalin denied any involvement) and the Roma-
nians’ unwillingness to agree to Bessedovskii’s proposal. Indeed, the Romanians
were justified in rejecting the proposal, for it fell far short of what they were pre-
pared to accept: Bessedovskii mentioned not only the Romanian National Treasury
but also territorial modifications in northern Bessarabia as the price to be paid by
the Romanians.76 Still, as there are no other proofs to support Bessedovskii’s story
and as he has been found to have sometimes exaggerated, in his book and in the arti-
cles published in various newspapers after his defection, it is difficult to assess what
role, if any, Stalin played in this context.
During 1928, in an effort to strengthen relations between the Little Entente and
the Soviets, the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, Eduard Benes, attempted to jump-
start the Soviet-Romanian negotiations.77 But because neither of the two parties
seemed ready to move away from the positions expressed during the Vienna Confer-
ence, the proposed negotiations failed to materialize.
In August 1928 Romania signed the Briand-Kellogg Pact, renouncing war as a
means of exercising national policy. After a few months, in February 1929, Romania,
Poland, Estonia and Latvia signed the Moscow Protocol with the USSR, also known
as the Litvinov Protocol, for the application of the Briand-Kellogg Pact.78 Later,
Lithuania, Turkey and Iran signed the Litvinov Protocol too. Once again, the Roma-
nian Government considered that the problem of Bessarabia finally had been re-
solved; but Litvinov stated that while the signature eliminated the legal possibility of
resolving the Bessarabian dispute by force, neither the Pact nor the Protocol preju-
diced Soviet claims in any way. As stated by Litvinov, “the renunciation to war can
not mean a renunciation to our rights over the territory occupied by the Romani-
ans”.79 With the exception of Romania, USSR signed bilateral treaties with all its
European neighbors. After the signing of the Protocol, a meeting that was to be the
beginning of a new round of bilateral negotiations took place between Litvinov and
the Romanian representative, Charles A. Davila. Litvinov concluded the following,
regarding the meeting:

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Although the war danger has been deferred to some extent through the signing
of the Protocol and the Briand-Kellogg Pact, Romania is still willing to come to
an agreement with us.
The division of Bessarabia would be refused as the basis for an agreement.
Contrary to the Bratianu government, which clearly rejected even a discussion
on the plebiscite, the actual government, through Davila’s person, raised the
question of plebiscite without theoretically rejecting it.80

In fact, Litvinov was so sure that the Romanians were ready to change their
position that he even proposed concrete ways for organizing the plebiscite. He ar-
gued to Stalin that a reopening of the bilateral negotiations might be used in order to
dissuade Romania from the Polish plan to transform the Polish-Romanian defensive
military alliance into an offensive one. He considered the main conditions for start-
ing the negotiations to be: the plebiscite question, which should materialize in ac-
tual fact; the reciprocal renunciation of all financial and material claims, with the
exception of returning the cultural assets still kept by one side (meaning the non-
metallic part of the Romanian National Treasury); the signing of a pact for non-
aggression and non-participation in hostile combination, following the example of
the Turkish-Soviets Treaty.81
During 1931, the two countries did re-open negotiations, in the hope of signing a
non-aggression pact. This new initiative was related mainly to European politics. Be-
cause of the increase in German revisionism, the Poles expressed their wish to have a
non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union (who welcomed the initiative, being
pressed in her turn by the Japanese action in Manchuria). France too was ready to
sign a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, but she was tied to Poland by a
mutual assistance treaty. The problem was that Poland had an alliance with Romania
that requested her to consult Romania before making any shift in her policy toward
the Soviets (and of course Romania had no interest in seeing Poland tied with the
Soviets). At the end of 1930, as a result of secret talks between Poland and the Soviet
Union, the Poles took the initiative of mediating a non-aggression pact between the
Soviets and Romania. At first, Litvinov was opposed to any Romanian-Soviet negotia-
tions, one of the reasons being Poland’s alliance with Romania. However, as the Japa-
nese advance in Manchuria became more menacing, Litvinov became more amenable
and in October 1931 he agreed to negotiate with the Romanians.82
More or less as a result of Polish mediation,83 as well as French pressure, both
parts agreed to start a new round of talks, this time with the purpose of signing a
non-aggression pact; but there was a clear lack of enthusiasm, as neither of them
expected any worthwhile results. In January 1932, the negotiations opened in Riga,
but things went much the same as on previous occasions and no agreement was
Mihail Sturdza, the Romanian representative, was instructed not to allow any
mention of Bessarabia and to propose a Romanian draft of the non-aggression pact

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

based mainly on the Briand-Kellogg Pact. At the same time the Soviet representative,
Boris Spiridonovici Stomoniakov, asked that terms like integrity, inviolability, and
sovereignty be excluded from the Treaty but that the existence of a litigious ques-
tion between the two States (that of Bessarabia) should be mentioned. Sturdza
asked that no mention be made of a territorial controversy between the two states.
After six sessions in January 1932, the talks ended in failure. Mihail Sturdza tried to
alert those in Romanian diplomatic circles who believed that the Soviets might yet
be willing to renounce, in time, Bessarabia in exchange for whatever Romania was
prepared to offer:

The most elementary perspicacity, the lowest political sense should prove to
any Romanian in direct contact with the Soviet representatives that Bessarabia
is for them neither a simple question of prestige nor a minimal territorial ques-
tion. Bessarabia has remained until today for the Soviets one of the most im-
portant accessories, the first reserve of the drama that they are preparing in

The Romanian Foreign Ministry’s readiness to negotiate with the Soviets was
amply criticized by Nicolae Titulescu:

It was a mistake to accept the opening of negotiations with the Soviets with-
out taking advantage of the precious occasion offered by the Soviet interest to
have the signature of our allies, France and Poland, in order to ask, in the com-
mon interest of all the parties implied, the definitive regulation of the Bessara-
bian question in our favor. I remind you especially of Romania’s mistake in ac-
cepting negotiations with the Soviets without having at least the certainty that
Poland would not sign without us.86

In the meanwhile, on July 25, 1932, the Polish-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact was
concluded, but the Poles continued to promise Romania that they would not ratify it
until the completion of the Romanian-Soviet pact. The French were in a similar
situation, promising Romania that they would not sign their pact with the Soviets
before the achievement of a Romanian-Soviet accord.87 In exchange for these prom-
ises, they asked the Romanians to make some concessions to the Soviets and insisted
on the re-opening of Romanian-Soviet negotiations for a non-aggression pact. This
time Titulescu, who tried via French and Polish mediation to come to an agreement
with the Russians, played the leading role for the Romanians. But the Soviets were
unwilling to give up their main condition for signing such a pact: an explicit mention
of the existence of a litigious question between the two states.88 Their position was
clearly boosted by the Polish decision to go ahead and ratify the non-aggression pact
that November without waiting for a similar pact between Romania and the Soviets.
In fact, the Polish move came as an immediate result of a change in the Polish foreign
policy leadership (Joseph Beck replaced Auguste Zaleski as Foreign Minister),

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which brought into place a new policy of preferring good relations with Poland’s
neighbors over its existing alliances.89
Thus, the new Polish Government signed the Polish-Soviet non-aggression
Pact while continuing to press, together with the French Government, for a similar
Romanian-Soviet pact. The Polish-Soviet Pact was a real blow to the Romanian se-
curity system, and many in Romania believed that the Romanian-Polish alliance had
collapsed. Although the Romanian government published a declaration stating that
Romania and Poland would go on working together with regard to foreign policy
and that the Polish government would not ratify the pact until the Romanians sign a
similar one, it was quite clear that the Soviets were able to provoke serious damage
to the Polish-Romanian alliance.90 And this was not the only problem for Romania
during 1932.
Another major blow to Romania’s security network was the failure of the
League of Nations to cope with the Japanese invasion in the Far East; the League was
severely discredited. Then, on November 29, 1932, France signed a non-aggression
pact with the Soviets, which led to the signing of the Mutual Assistance Treaty of
May 1935 between the two. Trying to take advantage of the new French interest, the
Soviets insisted that the Soviet-French pact and the Romanian-Soviet pact should
definitely not be presented as being interconnected.91
The improvement in French-Soviet relations was not at all in Romania’s inter-
est, and left Romania with three practical choices: to replace France with Germany
as her best ally (the only Power able and willing to fight against the Soviets); to con-
tinue her relationship with France while working diligently to reach an agreement
with the Soviets; or to pursue a policy of neutrality. Under the leadership of Nicolae
Titulescu it was decided that the second course was best;92 thus, they ignored not
only the German card (Germany had made a number of attempts to achieve closer
relations with Romania) but also the Italian one (due to the mistakes made by the
same Titulescu during the Italo-Abyssinian conflict).93
In September 1932 the negotiations began again in Geneva, and again failed.94
Litvinov and Victor Cadere, the Romanian representative, reached agreement on
every point except the protocol of signature, almost exactly as Sturdza and Stomoni-
akov had in January 1932. The debate centered around the word “existing” (the So-
viet proposed Draft stated “The establishment of such relations does not bring any
prejudice to the existing litigation between the two Contracting Parties about Bes-
sarabia”).95 Although at one point it seemed that the two parties had found a middle
course, using the word “conflicts” (referring to present and future conflicts) but
omitting “existing”, in the end the Romanians backed off from the new wording,
which the Soviets accepted, and no pact was signed.96
The Soviets’ main aim during the 1932 negotiations was to obtain Romanian
recognition of the existence of a conflict between them, and they were ready to offer
a number of different formulas in this sense, all with the same meaning. Conversely,
the Romanians refused to sign anything that used words like conflict, litigation, or
dispute — with one notable exception, justified by Romanian internal political ma-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

neuvers.97 At the same time, in response to French and Polish pressure for an agree-
ment, both sides blamed each other for the failure to reach agreement. Litvinov re-
leased a polemical press account of the talks, charging that Bucharest had reneged
on an acceptable formula and was responsible for the failure. In an interview pub-
lished by Izvestia on October 16, 1932, he characterized the negotiations as follows:

Romania proposed formulas for the non-aggression undertaking which might

be interpreted as implicit recognition by the Soviet government of the occupa-
tion of Bessarabia. We emphatically rejected these formulas, and for our part
proposed others in which it was clearly stated that the USSR undertakes that
in any circumstances would not resort to force to settle any question in dis-

Still, the truth was somewhat different, as presented by Jiri Hochman:

Nothing shows that at any point of these negotiations between July 1931 and
September 1932 the Soviets professed their willingness to sign with Romania a
pact similar to those signed with other countries, and no one can seriously
blame the Romanian government for striving for the same guarantees that were
not missing in other contemporary treaties of nonaggression”.99

In a certain sense, the 1931-1932 negotiations could be characterized as a “war

of words”. The main task of each side was to either avoid the inclusion of certain
words or to press for the inclusion of certain words. At least it was not a war of
By the beginning of 1933, Romanian Foreign Minister Nicolae Titulescu was
already considering that, in order to Romania’s improve her international position,
and to counter-balance her isolation in the Bessarabian question, it would be neces-
sary to improve relations with the Soviet Union. One reason was his fear of fas-
cism — not only in Europe (he clearly foresaw the danger that fascism and Nazism
posed to the Versailles Peace system) but also at home (represented by the Iron
Guard). He was quite concerned about the Romanian fascists, who considered him
among the persons most responsible for Romania’s crises; and it seems that this fear
influenced his policy of rapprochement with the Soviets: the only ones who could
counterbalance fascism. In a well-known remark, Titulescu said: “A telegram sent to
him by Litvinov, saying that the Soviet Union and Romania reciprocally guarantee
their borders by military means, would suffice to end fascism in Romania”.100 How-
ever, Titulescu (like many other leaders in his day) failed to take into account the
possibility of a Soviet-German alliance, which later materialized — proving that ide-
ology is much weaker than strategic needs or opportunities.
Titulescu was a famous Romanian diplomat and, because of his involvement
with the League of Nations (he had twice been its President), a first class interna-
tional personality. His approach to the Bessarabian question had been based, at least

< 128 >


theoretically, on staunch opposition to any political act by which the Romanians

would recognize the existence of a conflict between their country and the Soviet
Union. But this position did not mean that he was opposed to an agreement with the
Soviets, quite to the contrary. He knew that the international status of Bessarabia
was questionable because of the Soviets’ refusal to recognize the Union but also for
other reasons (he was not completely satisfied with the legality of Bessarabia’s deci-
sion for union, and the 1920 Treaty did not enter into force because Japan had not
ratified it).101 Understanding that a Soviet blessing of the union was not likely to
come without concessions from Romania, Titulescu tried to normalize relations
with the hope of at least limiting the Soviet propaganda.
It is also possible that Titulescu had a much greater aim in normalizing Soviet-
Romanian relations, namely that of fostering the alliance between France and the
Soviets against Germany. The main problem with such an alliance was that, in case
of a German attack against France, the Soviet troops had to cross through either Po-
land or Romania in order to effectively help France, but neither of the two was will-
ing to risk having the Red Army on her territory. This situation made the French-
Soviet alliance practically ineffective for the French, who could not benefit from So-
viet military aid (even if the Soviets were indeed willing to provide such aid). Still, as
a terrain for massive Soviet military movements westward to engage Germany in the
case of a Franco-German war, Romania was, for purely geographical reasons, of
rather limited importance. On the other hand, the Romanian territory would be very
important if Germany attacked Czechoslovakia, as it would provide an easy route
for Soviet troops going to support the Czechoslovaks.102 The normalization of So-
viet-Romanian relations might be seen as an important step in solving this problem,
although there was still a long way before convincing the Romanians, whom did not
forget the experience of 1877-1878, to agree to the transit of Soviet troops through
Romanian territory.103
One of the elements in Titulescu’s strategy for reaching an agreement with the
Soviets was to rely on the collective weight of the Little Entente, to whom he pro-
posed a common recognition of the Soviet Union, hoping to receive from the Soviets
(in exchange for greatly improving their security) certain concessions regarding Bes-
sarabia. He believed that he could take advantage of the new international situation,
which was not very favorable for the Soviet Union. The way for the Soviet Union to
improve its position in the world was to bolster her position in Europe. At the same
time, Czechoslovakia’s position also played an important role in the Soviet-
Romanian negotiations. Because of her conflict with Germany, Czechoslovakia real-
ized that normalizing relations with the Soviets had become more and more a neces-
sity. For that to happen, she needed the approval of both Romania and Yugoslavia,
the other two members of the Little Entente. The main obstacles were the Bessara-
bian question, in the case of Romania, and the help given to the White Russians, in
the case of Yugoslavia. The need for the Little Entente to show real solidarity regard-
ing her members’ foreign policy prevailed for a while over the Czechoslovak wish to
establish normal relations with the Soviets.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The first occasion Titulescu found for reaching any sort of agreement with the
Soviets was during the Geneva disarmament conference, in May 1933. The bridge
between the two sides had been the definition of aggression, where Titulescu and
Litvinov reached a compromise: Titulescu backed the Russian proposal after the
Russians agreed to his suggestion that “the territory covered by the new criteria of
aggression should be understood to be that over which a state exercised his de facto
On July 3, 1933 the Soviet Union and seven of her neighbors, including Roma-
nia, signed the “Convention for the Definition of Aggression” in London. The follow-
ing formula was adopted: “The act of invading the territory of a state constitutes es-
sentially an act of aggression, independently of any declaration of war. Territory
must be understood here to mean the territory over which a state exercises its au-
thority in fact.”105
According to the Conventions106 and based on the definition of aggression
agreed in Geneva, the violation of the Bessarabian frontier by the Soviets was to be
considered an act of aggression. Romanian scholars consider that, during the nego-
tiations leading up to the signing of the Convention, the Soviets agreed not to use
force against Romania.107 At the same time, Titulescu and Litvinov came to a verbal
agreement — a gentlemen’s agreement — by which they undertook not to raise pub-
licly, in any form, the question of Bessarabia. Titulescu describes the signification of
the Convention:

I want to let you know what Litvinov repeatedly declared to me during the
negotiations in London and in the presence of the Turkish Foreign Minister.
“I know that by signing this convention we gave you Bessarabia. It is only
because of the difficulties I would have to face with the public opinion in my
country, and especially in Ukraine, that I cannot recognize this fact officially.
But when I am obliging myself to never commit an aggressive act over Bessara-
bia and when I could not ask for a revision, and this is not only because the
Soviet Union is not a member of the League of Nations but also because we are,
in principle, opposed to revisionism, which means war, then what means could
I possibly still use to get Bessarabia back?” I answered to Litvinov that Bessara-
bia was given to us by God and not by him. Then we both agreed that the best
solution is to avoid any discussions on Bessarabia.108

The events of July 1940 show how much such a promise was worth. Litvinov
also confirmed the existence of the gentlemen’s agreement, although for him it had a
slightly different meaning:

During the talks for the re-establishment of relations, Titulescu asked for our
pledge that we would never raise the Bessarabian question by diplomatic
means, which would be equivalent to our unequivocal recognition of Bessara-
bia’s annexation. In my turn, I proposed him an amendment regarding the ex-

< 130 >


isting problems, which are still open. We both agreed to make no kind of
pledges regarding Bessarabia.109

Almost all of Romanian historiography has praised Titulescu for obtaining the
Soviets’ implicit recognition of the territorial integrity of Romania,110 but the situa-
tion was not that simple, as proved by the following two arguments. Firstly, during
the following period the Soviets stubbornly avoided any mention of the Dniestr as
the border between the two countries, indicating that, given the possibility of acting
in order to retrieve Bessarabia at a later stage, they had no intention of officially rec-
ognizing Romanian sovereignty over Bessarabia. The entire business was more a
matter of throwing dust in the eyes of the Romanian public (successfully, to be
sure), as the Soviets proved fully in 1940.
Secondly, the US example raises serious doubts over the Romanian thesis that,
by recognizing as Romanian territory the entire area over which Romania exercised
its administration, the Soviets would have to recognize Bessarabia as properly Ro-
manian territory, as well. The diplomatic, political and economic relations existing
between Romania and the US did not prevent the US government from considering
Bessarabia as territory under Romanian occupation (rather than Romanian terri-
tory) and from avoiding any action that might have been interpreted as de facto recog-
nition of Bessarabia’s union with Romania.
In January 1934, during the Zagreb meeting of the Little Entente, the three
member states decided that it would be opportune to establish diplomatic relations
with the Soviet Union as soon as the interests of each Member State, and especially
of Romania, were met. The decision was a normal development along the lines that
had been proposed during the Belgrade meeting and that had been followed closely
in Titulescu’s policy towards the Soviets; it was also a result of the pressure coming
from the French, and of the Hungarians’ eagerness to establish relations with the
Soviets.111 After a number of preparatory meetings between Romanian and Soviet
diplomats, Titulescu and Litvinov met in May 1934 with the purpose of reaching an
agreement regarding the establishment of diplomatic relations between USSR and
Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Referring to these negotiations, Titulescu
later wrote:

I talked with Litvinov about all the questions related to the establishment of
diplomatic relations. First, Bessarabia: “It is a question that you do not have to
raise; this is because of the non-aggression Convention, which defines the ter-
ritory of each signatory as being the territory presently under its authority,”
said Litvinov. Then I went further, asking “But what shall I do if the Soviet
minister comes into my office for a peaceful discussion regarding the return of
Bessarabia?” “You should simply kick him out.”112

Although Titulescu’s possible reaction to the Soviet ultimatum of June 26,

1940, remains simple speculation, it is patently clear that he could not have simply
“kicked out” the Soviet representative.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The negotiations between the two diplomats were not limited to the normali-
zation of diplomatic relations. They also discussed the accession of the Soviet Union
into the League of Nations and a mutual assistance pact between the Soviet Union,
Romania and Poland. Titulescu also had to handle certain sensibilities coming from
the Little Entente: Czechoslovakia was pressing for the immediate opening of diplo-
matic relations with the Soviets, while Yugoslavia was still opposed to establishing
such relations at all.
Finally, on June 9, 1934 the official exchange of letters between Titulescu and
Litvinov regarding the establishment of diplomatic relations took place in Geneva,
including also a commitment to nonintervention in each other’s internal affairs and
an undertaking not to engage in propaganda activities counter to each other’s inter-
ests.113 Thus, the Romanians fell short of the goal of trading their recognition of the
Soviet Union for formal Soviet renunciation of Bessarabia, which they had been hop-
ing for since the early 1920s. In the end, Titulescu had to abandon his April 1933 po-
sition that “there could be no question of an exchange of diplomatic representatives
between Bucharest and Moscow until the Soviet government formally acquiesced in
Romania’s possession of Bessarabia”.114 On the other hand, a number of scholars con-
sider that the Soviets did have to make at least one important concession regarding
Bessarabia: according to Litvinov’s own interpretation, the Soviet passing over in
silence of the Bessarabian question constituted a de facto recognition of the province’s
possession by Romania.115
Still, as proved by later events, it was only a temporary solution, giving a sort of
win-win perspective to the deal. The Soviets, pressed between Germany and Japan,
were able to improve their position in Europe by establishing diplomatic relations
with Romania and Czechoslovakia, without making any important concessions. Al-
though they failed to get Romania’s official agreement regarding the existence of a
territorial conflict between the two, they only had to agree to keep silent over the
Bessarabian question and not to recognize Bessarabia’s union with Romania. On the
other hand, all the Romanians achieved was a temporary let up in the Soviet propa-
ganda regarding Bessarabia. As happens so many times in diplomacy, neither state
fully achieved its objectives and they had to come to a compromise, one that each of
them presented to the domestic audience in a different manner. The fact is that the
Soviets proved able, a few years later, to take full advantage of the standoff regarding
Bessarabia, while the Romanians went through the bitter experience of losing it
once again.
The final step in the establishment of diplomatic relations between Romania
and the Soviet Union took place in December 1934, when the first Romanian minis-
ter to Moscow officially presented his letters of accreditation.

From the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations to the 1940 Crisis

During the ensuing period, relations between the two states diversified and
improved. Leaving aside the Bessarabian question, papered over in diplomatic si-

< 132 >


lence, there was real progress in bilateral relations. The Romanians were able to re-
cover a part of the National Treasury from the Soviet authorities (the Archives, not
the gold reserves), and the border skirmishes along the Dniestr and the Soviet propa-
ganda offensives regarding Bessarabia came to an end.
The Soviet aims in Romania are best described in the instructions sent to Mi-
hail Semionovici Ostrovski, the Soviets’ first representative in Bucharest:

We will be awaiting from you characterizations of the political leaders and

information on the movements inside the political structure of certain parties
and groups.
Here, we are working hard for the re-establishment of direct railroad and
telegraphic connections with Romania. . . .
We have not yet taken a definitive official solution regarding the return of
the Archives, but the general mood in our People’s Soviet is that it should not
take too long for the Archives to be returned.
Ciuntu insists on the re-establishment of connections with Romania over
the Dniestr. He wishes to settle this question before the complete reconstruc-
tion of the bridge over the Dniestr. We have no objections regarding the estab-
lishment of connections over the Dniestr. I foresee that, when this happens, the
denomination of the Dniestr will become a problem. The Romanians would
insist that the Dniestr is the border between Romania and the Soviet Union.
We would not agree to call it border. The Romanians would not accept any
other denomination, as a demarcation line or administrative line. For this rea-
son, I think that in our documents we would simply use “the course of the Dni-
estr River” and “the right and the left bank of the Dniestr River”. . . .
In principle, we are connected with Romania by certain common objectives
regarding foreign affairs. Friendly relations might be established through these
common objectives and hopefully, the two parties will do their best in order
not to exaggerate or to aggravate the divergences regarding the regulation of
the pending matters.”116

The above instructions are among the best proofs that the Soviets were only
postponing the Bessarabian question and that they were not only far from recogniz-
ing Bessarabia as a Romanian territory but also from signing anything that the Ro-
manians might use in this sense, even after the re-establishment of diplomatic rela-
In September 1934, the USSR became a member of the League of Nations. The
famous Article No. 10 in the Status of the League of Nations (which refers to the
recognition of the territorial integrity and political independence of all members)
underscored the implied Russian recognition of the Romanian border. But, as will be
shown later, the same Article No. 10 could be understood in the case of Romania as
covering all her borders with the exception of Bessarabia.117
As early as February 8, 1935, a Railroad Convention for the re-establishment of

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

direct connections through Tighina and Tyraspol was signed in Moscow between
Romania and the Soviets.118 As a gesture of friendship, the Soviets on two occasions
returned to Romania (in February and May 1935) parts of the National Treasury,
namely the National and some private Archives, some of the documents and manu-
scripts belonging to the Romanian Academy, and the remains of Dimitrie Cantemir,
one of the most famous Romanian voevods, who had died two centuries earlier while
under forced exile to Russia.119 Also along the lines of collaboration, a Payment
Agreement was signed between the two states in Bucharest, on February 15, 1936.
The next step Titulescu took was to negotiate a Mutual Assistance Treaty
(MAT) with the Soviets, following the French example.120 Opposition to a Roma-
nian-Soviet pact was great, not only at the international level (Germany, Hungary
and Italy) but domestically, too. And, although Romanian scholars have avoided
stressing this point, the necessity of such a treaty for Romania remains doubtful:
against whom was it supposed to be directed, when the Soviet Union was Romania’s
principal enemy? Analyzing both Romania’s position and Titulescu’s possible goals,
Anthony Komjathy states:

Realistic political considerations thus deny that changes in the demands of

Romania’s security necessitated a mutual assistance treaty with the Soviet Un-
ion, unless Titulescu hoped that he could incorporate into the treaty Soviet
guarantees for Romania’s territorial integrity [which the Soviets clearly op-
posed]. The words “mutual assistance” are misleading, “non-aggression” truly
describes the purpose of the Titulescu-Litvinov negotiations. . . . If Titulescu
could have incorporated Soviet guarantees into any kind of treaty, he would
have done the greatest service to his country . . . He tried and failed.”121

The signing of the French-Soviet Mutual Assistance Treaty on May 2, 1935,

boosted Titulescu’s position.122 After long negotiations (i.e., internal political maneu-
vers) and pressure on the Romanian political establishment, on July 15, 1935 Tit-
ulescu received from the government (i.e., King Carol II) a first mandate to negotiate
and sign a Mutual Assistance Treaty with the Soviets, based on recognition of the
territorial status quo. Titulescu hoped for a French-sponsored accommodation with
the Soviets, so that he sought to underwrite his negotiations with Litvinov by a pre-
cise French commitment that would replace explicit Soviet recognition of the dis-
puted Bessarabian frontier.123 Still, in the end he achieved neither objective. As soon
as September 1935, during a series of meetings with Litvinov in Geneva, he expressed
Romania’s readiness to sign a MAT with the Soviets; but Litvinov not only gave him
a negative answer but also made a public statement to that effect on October 24,
placing Titulescu in a very awkward position at home.124 However, Litvinov’s refusal
was not due to the fact that, for him, the main obstacle in bilateral relations was Ro-
manian internal politics (meaning the growing popularity of the extreme right,
which openly criticized the communism),125 but a result of the general Soviet policy
towards Romania.

< 134 >


Although Titulescu was able to convince the King of the necessity of signing an
MAT with the Soviets, he did not persuade the Romanian public, which was aware
of the danger inherent in allowing the Red Army to cross through Romania. In order
to satisfy the public, the Romanian government had to issue a statement officially
declaring that there were no negotiations going on to that effect. By the same token
we have the answer Titulescu gave during the debates of the Romanian Parliament,
on December 13, 1935, to the interpellations made by Gheorghe Bratianu: he denied
the existence of any secret negotiations with the Soviets but insisted very convinc-
ingly on the necessity to maintain good relations with them.126 Still, it must have
been difficult indeed, even for a person of Titulescu’s abilities, to find any wriggle
room between the promises made to the French and to the Romanian public. It is
strange at the very least that Titulescu seemed inclined to trust the Soviets’ word
while most Romanians were against such a deal. Probably he was thinking of a So-
viet-Romanian alliance, which would be highly advantageous to Romania and was
quite possible at that time — if we omit the Bessarabian question. Speculating, of
course, the big question is: was he ready to give up Bessarabia (or at least, a part of
it) in order to greatly enhance Romania’s security? If so, could he really be blamed for
this initiative? And, first and foremost, could the Soviets be trusted to desist in their
claims over the rest of Bessarabia, once they had received part of it (either in the
south or north)?
During 1935 Titulescu took one more initiative that triggered a strong reaction
against him both at home and in Europe’s capitals: he pushed Romania into the fore-
front of the Ethiopian debate, becoming the greatest defender of the authority of the
League and promoting sanctions against Italy, although Romania had nothing to
gain from such a policy.127 It was one of the moments when Titulescu proved to be
too great an asset for Romanian foreign policy, indeed too heavy a one, simply pull-
ing her down.
Another element greatly complicating Romania’s situation was the possibility
that the Red Army would cross through Romanian territory without the agreement
of the Romanian government, in order to back Czechoslovakia or France. That
would place Romania in a very awkward position: to attack the Soviets would mean
to help Germany against France while, conversely, giving free access to the Red
Army would mean risking the loss of Bessarabia. In the words of the Czech foreign
minister, Kamil Krofta (on April 15, 1936), “The USSR made known to Prague that in
case of an attack on Czechoslovakia, the Russian Army would come to help, through
Romania, with or without the consent of the Cabinet in Bucharest”.128 The main
question for the Romanians was whether the Soviets were indeed prepared to offer
military support to France or Czechoslovakia, or if they were simply bluffing. Add-
ing to Romania’s woes was France’s failure to react to Germany’s remilitarization of
the Rhineland in March 1936 (in violation of the stipulation against remilitarization
in the Versailles Peace Treaty — France was neither prepared nor willing to start a
war with Germany). This failure to react caused deep concern in East Central
Europe and raised questions in Romania regarding the French ability to intervene in
her favor in case of war.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

In order to have the solid support of the government in his negotiations with
the Soviets, Titulescu went to Bucharest in July 1936. After a meeting of the leading
ministers, on July 14, his mandate to negotiate the MAT with the Soviets was recon-
firmed. A number of other decisions were also taken, expressing the solidarity of the
entire government with the foreign policy promoted by Titulescu: the press attacks
against the Soviet Union should stop and articles favorable to the Soviet-Romanian
alliance should be published; the alliance would be officially backed at the meetings
of the National Liberal Party; and the influence of foreign representatives in Bucha-
rest over Romanian public opinion should be limited.129 It was more than enough for
Titulescu, and he went back to Montreaux to meet Litvinov and present him with a
concrete draft of the MAT.
On July 21, 1936, Titulescu and Litvinov (taking advantage of both countries’
participation in the Black Sea Straits Conference) signed a protocol containing the
basic principles of a mutual assistance pact. Romanian historiography considers
that, by this document, for the first time a Soviet official recognized explicitly that
the Romanian border was on the Dniestr, and considers it one of the greatest
achievements in Titulescu’s policy.130

The Soviet Government recognizes that by virtue of the these different ob-
ligations for assistance, the Soviet troops may never cross the Dniestr without a
formal request from the Romanian Royal Government and, at the same time,
the Romanian Government recognizes that Romanian troops may never cross
the Dniestr against the USSR without a formal request from the Soviet Gov-
At the request of the Romanian Royal Government, Soviet troops would be
obliged to retreat immediately from the Romanian territory East of the Dniestr,
the same as, at the request of the Soviet Government, Romanian troops would
have to retreat immediately from the Russian territory West of the Dniestr. 131

Still, can we consider that the agreement provided for a Soviet guarantee to
Romania against any aggressor and settled the question of Soviet military presence
on Romanian territory in a manner compatible with Romania’s sovereignty? On the
one hand, the biggest threat to Romania was posed by the Soviet Union. Although
some scholars consider it “a great diplomatic victory for Romania”,132 it should be
clear that, in order to obtain satisfaction on these points, Titulescu again dropped
the demand for explicit Russian recognition of Bessarabia. On the other hand, the
Soviets kept to their course of signing nothing that might be interpreted as recogni-
tion of Bessarabia’s belonging to Romania. Words like border, frontier, integrity,
sovereignty are not to be found in the Draft. Litvinov simply decided to use the word
Dniestr, as suggested by Krestinsky after the re-establishment of diplomatic rela-
tions, with reference to the East and West banks of the Dniestr. He clearly did so in
order to avoid allowing the Romanians to claim that they had secured the Soviet rec-
ognition of Bessarabia’s union.

< 136 >


After signing the draft, Litvinov asked for the necessary time to get the ap-
proval of his superiors for the Pact, and the two agreed that the actual Pact should
be signed in September. When everything seemed to be on the right track, a sudden
modification in Romanian internal policy changed the situation: Titulescu was dis-
missed as foreign minister on August 29 and replaced by Victor Antonescu.133 It
seems that those who orchestrated his dismissal had no idea, at the time, of the exis-
tence of the aforementioned Draft and it would be interesting to speculate what
their position would have been, had they known about the Montreaux agreement.
As soon as Litvinov learned of Titulescu’s dismissal, he considered the MAT to be a
lost cause and canceled any new discussions, not only on the specific Draft but also
on the general idea of a Soviet-Romanian MAT. It may be that he thought he’d gone
too far in the Montreaux Draft and so took advantage of Titulescu’s dismissal in or-
der to save face in Moscow. It might also be that he considered Victor Antonescu’s
replacement of Titulescu as Foreign Minister (a replacement decided in Titulescu’s
absence) as the beginning of a new Romanian foreign policy (or as the end of the
new Romanian policy of promoting closer relations with the Soviets).134
After Titulescu’s replacement as foreign minister, the Romanians tried, or so
they claimed, to continue Titulescu’s orientation towards closer relations with the
Soviets, but without success.135 In practical terms, Romanian foreign policy took a
new direction: that of neutrality. Victor Antonescu tried to revive the old project of a
non-aggression pact between the two countries but the Soviets refused. Less than
one year after the Montreaux convention, the Russian representatives reopened the
discussion of the Bessarabian problem. During the Paris International Exposition,
inside the Soviet pavilion two big maps were presented on which Bessarabia was
shown not as a part of Romania but as separate territory. At the same time, Litvinov
publicly stated in July 1937 that:

We have to defend ourselves against the agreements Titulescu made us sign.

We want Bessarabia’s potential to become Russian, not German. I would also
like to let you know that we will try to retrieve Bessarabia by using every ju-
ridical and military means possible.136

The Soviet press broke its silence on Bessarabia, referring again to the exis-
tence of a territorial conflict. Significantly, the first border incidents in a long period
were again occurring along the Dniestr. It was definitely the end of Titulescu and
Litvinov’s gentlemen’s agreement. Still, in the following years the Soviets refrained
from putting out too much propaganda on the Bessarabian question, waiting to see
how the European events developed. The Romanians were, if not satisfied, at least
resigned to the situation along Bessarabia’s border and hoped that the situation
would remain fundamentally unchanged. They were mistaken.
Relations continued to oscillate during 1938. The main impetus for worsening
relations, apart from the Bessarabian question, was the anti-communist propaganda
of the Romanian Iron Guard, which was none too welcome to the Soviets. Another

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

event that had negative consequences was the Butenko affair, when the Soviet repre-
sentative in Bucharest defected and the Soviet government blamed the Romanian
authorities. However, due to the issue of Soviet aid to Czechoslovakia against Ger-
many, negotiations between Romania and the Soviet Union did take place and the
chances of reaching an agreement on the Bessarabian issue appeared to have im-
proved. France and Czechoslovakia pressed both parties to come to an agreement.137
On the other hand, they were both keen to avoid openly acting against Germany.
Romania’s position was even more complicated due to her alliance with Poland,
which was clearly opposed to any Romanian-Soviet rapprochement. The Poles en-
deavored to exact a promise from King Carol that he would never permit a Russian
crossing, even if Czechoslovakia might be vitally endangered.138 Meanwhile, an
agreement had practically been achieved to allow the crossing through Romanian
aerial space, during spring and summer 1938, of a number of Soviet military airplanes
that had been bought by the Czechs (it is unclear how many such airplanes there
were, in total; estimates range from 50 to 300).
A critical episode in Soviet-Romanian relations occurred in September 1938, on
the eve of the Munich Conference. Czechoslovakia was one of Romania’s allies and
the Romanian government tried to help her resist the German claims to a part of its
territory (the Sudeten region). As the Little Entente was not directed against Ger-
many, Romania was not committed to militarily helping Czechoslovakia in case of a
German attack but could offer protection in the event of a Hungarian attack (which
seemed probable), and that allowed the Czechs to concentrate their efforts on one
front. Romania also sought to ascertain the Yugoslav position regarding any poten-
tial aggression against Czechoslovakia (a position that was clearly more reserved,
due to the “real politik” promoted by the Yugoslav leaders), hoping not to find herself
alone against Germany.139 Still, at that time what seemed to be the biggest help Ro-
mania could offer Czechoslovakia was to allow the transit of Soviet troops through
its territory.
Granting passage to the Red Army posed a great threat to Bessarabia; it un-
doubtedly would have made Romania a target of the German air force and would
have incurred the risk of her involvement in the war much sooner than would hap-
pen otherwise.140 And, even worse, in case of a German victory on the Czechoslovak
front, Romania would have become a war theater as the Red Army retreated through
Romania with the Germans in close pursuit. Although all previous negotiations be-
tween the Soviets and Romania on this topic had failed due to the conflict over Bes-
sarabia, in the summer of 1938 the Romanian position changed considerably.
By the end of August, Litvinov had information regarding a possible change in
the Romanian attitude towards the transit of Soviet troops through her territory.
During a meeting between Litvinov and von Schulenburg, on August 27, the former
said, “Poland and Romania are unlikely to grant transit rights to Soviet troops”, but
Litvinov replied that Romania was “very greatly worried about the future, as she was
afraid of being next on the list”.141 In fact, Litvinov was not mistaken; during the Lit-
tle Entente Foreign Ministers Conference at Bled on August 22 the Romanian

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Petrescu-Comnen told his Czech counterpart, Kamil Krofta, that he had decided to
inform Litvinov that Romania would not interfere with Soviet aircraft flying high
over her territory into Czechoslovakia.142 This was already a clear concession from
Romania, as the ramifications of Soviet military transit through Romanian air space
were many (supposing a Soviet airplane hit by the Germans landed on Romanian
territory; or supposing a dozen Soviet planes landed in Bessarabia, citing technical
In early September the Romanian government offered, during the talks in Ge-
neva between Nicolae Petrescu-Comnen and Litvinov, free passage for Soviet mili-
tary planes going to support the Czechoslovak army in case of a German attack.143
However, Litvinov insisted that he needed official Romanian consent for the transit
of Soviet troops, too. Also, in order to hamper the Czech and French efforts to soften
the Romanian position regarding the transit issue, Litvinov stated that Russia would
come in only after France did so, and that she would then request the League of Na-
tions Council to “recommend” Romania allow the passage of Russian planes and
According to one source, it seems that, when the situation deteriorated for the
Czechs, Romania took the final step, agreeing on September 24 to the transit of So-
viet troops both via the Romanian railway system and its air space, and even more,
explicitly renouncing all conditions and Soviet guarantees.145 The Romanian pro-
posal confirms Louis Fischer’s statement that, “clearly neither Poland nor Romania
would make an ‘anticipatory’ engagement, but Romania might have consented at the
moment of the crisis by closing her eyes without an ‘engagement’”.146 However, dur-
ing September 1938, Moscow made no effort to open serious negotiations with Ro-
mania regarding troop transit, thus proving her disinterest in Czechoslovakia’s fate
and ignoring as well an opportunity of finding a diplomatic solution for the Bessara-
bian question.147
The main question is, why was Romania willing to allow transit for Soviet
planes and possibly troops? There was, of course, French and Czechoslovak pressure
on the Romanian government to do so, but this pressure had been in place for several
years, with no results. Besides, there was German and Polish pressure against such a
move. More probably, the Romanian leaders understood the danger of having
Czechoslovakia divided by the Germans and considered that, if this were permitted,
Romania would become next on the list, sooner or later. One more possibility, at
least theoretically, is that the Romanian leaders were simply bluffing in order to
please their allies, knowing that the Soviets were unwilling to go to war with Ger-
many on Czechoslovakia’s behalf. However, if we consider the Soviet propaganda
machine and the previous threats that the Soviet Army would cross through Roma-
nia with or without her agreement, seems unlikely that the Romanian leaders were
bluffing. Still, there were no reports of massive troop concentrations at the Soviet
western borders and Romanian anti-aerial artillery was scarce (if not non-existent),
so that that they could not effectively stop Soviet planes from crossing Romanian
territory in any event. Whatever the reasons behind the Romanian move and the

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secrecy that surrounded it, one fact is clear: whatever the risks, the Romanian gov-
ernment was willing and ready to help their Czechoslovak ally in its conflict with

In 1939 Viaceslav Molotov, the new chief of the Commissariat for Foreign Af-
fairs, reaffirmed publicly the Russians’ claims over Bessarabia but this time he also
took decisive action. The famous Ribbentrop-Molotov Non-Aggression Pact of Au-
gust 23, 1939 was a great success for the Soviets and it meant the first firm step to-
ward retrieving Bessarabia.149 The additional Secret Protocol clearly stated the Soviet
“interest” in Bessarabia, meaning that when the Soviets moved to occupy it the Ger-
mans would do nothing to stop them.150 As an immediate result of the Pact, Romania
found herself in almost complete isolation, and what allies she had were in no posi-
tion to help her against a Soviet attack. In only a few days time, Romania’s position
became even worse, as Poland was attacked by Germany. The ensuing division of
Poland between Germany and the Soviets clearly indicated the future of Romania,
which was considered the next victim on the list. As the war went on, it became
more and more clear that Romania’s hopes for Western intervention in case of a So-
viet attack on Bessarabia were vain. The only Western power still fighting, Great
Britain, was more interested in provoking a war between Germany and the Soviets
over Romania than in defending Romania’s integrity, and so they tried to boost and
to bolster the Soviet territorial claims over Romanian land.
The Romanian government tried two approaches to counter-balance the Soviet
move. The first was to initiate closer relations with Germany, which they finally re-
alized was the only European power with the motivation and the ability to defend
Romanian interests at that time.151 However, because of the existing good relations
with France and Britain, the notion of a rapprochement with Germany was still con-
sidered with some restraint by many in the Foreign Ministry and by King Carol II;
therefore, there could be only a gradual rapprochement, built on a number of eco-
nomic, geopolitical and strategic factors.152 The second approach was to continue the
earlier policy of achieving a position of neutrality between the Great Powers, with
the risk of having no back-up in case of a possible Soviet attack.
In the aftermath of the French defeat, the Soviets took decisive action regard-
ing the Baltic States and Romania. The Soviets, after a series of negotiations with the
Germans regarding their territorial claims over Romania (which included not only
Bessarabia but also the entire Bukovina), received Germany’s blessing (with the no-
table exception of southern Bukovina, the Germans considering that only its north-
ern parts should go to the Soviets).
On June 26, 1940, Molotov handed over to Gheorghe Davidescu, the Romanian
minister to Moscow, an ultimatum demanding the evacuation of Bessarabia and
northern Bukovina. After two Crown Councils, in which all of Romania’s possible
alternatives were analyzed, the Romanians decided to accept the Soviet conditions
and to withdraw their army and administration from Bessarabia and northern
Bukovina, beginning on June 29. This was a profoundly painful experience for Roma-

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nia, and the Red Army did everything possible to hinder the Romanian retreat in
order to capture as much matériel and as many people as possible.153 They also occu-
pied the Herta region (about 200 sq. miles, and a population of about 50,000 people
in 1940),154 which belonged to Romania long before 1918.
This seemed to close the Bessarabian question. Some scholars argue that, in
fact, the Soviets asked for more than Bessarabia in order to force a Romanian-Soviet
war that the Soviets could not lose, and at the end of which they could have won
control not only over Bessarabia and Bukovina but also over the Danube Delta and
probably gained a common border with Bulgaria too.155
Over the years many Romanians have asked themselves how it was possible for
Romania to give up Bessarabia, and a few weeks later, northwestern Transylvania
and southern Dobrudja, without a single gunshot.156 Many of them blame the former
playboy King Carol II (and the Royal camarilla, or private cabinet) for this situation.
And not without reason, as he did destroy the entire Romanian political system by
subordinating and later outlawing the political parties. Still, it was not only the
King’s fault. Although it was clear to everyone in the political establishment that
Carol lacked the skills and inclinations necessary to promote Romania’s interests
(although he seemed resourceful enough at promoting his own), it was the political
infighting that had allowed him to come back from exile and then promoted him to
the top rank in the country’s political and economic life. Thus, the political parties
and especially their leaders, with very few exceptions after the mid 1930’s,157 also
played a part in bringing Romania to disaster; instead of fighting for the well-being
of the country they focused on currying favor with the King and closed their eyes to
the illicit deals being made by the royal camarilla, deals that left the Romanian Army
in a deplorable state in 1940.158
In 1941 Romania declared war against the Soviet Union, in order to retrieve the
territories lost in June 1940 and to avenge the excessive harshness of Bessarabia’s
evacuation. (Even Hungary’s takeover of northwestern Transylvania and Bulgaria’s
of southern Dobrudja, painful as they were for the Romanians, were clearly less bar-
barous in execution.) The Romanians were shocked to find that their country’s
“powerful” or “stable” international position had been nothing but empty words
from the political leadership, and the Soviets amplified the Romanians’ bitterness.
They charged in, in advance of the agreed plan of deployment, and took or destroyed
everything they could. And, although not many scholars stress this point, the hu-
miliation and wish for revenge they inspired (along with military and political rea-
sons) fueled the Romanians’ drive forward in 1941, prompting them to cross the Dni-
estr after liberating Bessarabia and northern Bukovina.
Thus in 1941, after the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, Romania recovered
the territories lost in June 1940; then, in 1944, she lost them again, but this time for a
much longer period.
In conclusion it should be said that, although most Romanian historians con-
sider that it would have been possible to obtain Russian recognition of the Union in
1920-1921 in exchange for neutrality and recognition of the communist government,

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

or in exchange for a Treaty of Neutrality and the renunciation of Romanian financial

claims on the National Treasury in Moscow, this was never the case.159 The Soviets
had no intention, at any point, of relinquishing Bessarabia. All their suggestions of a
compromise during the early 1920s were simply efforts to stall for time, and they
succeeded. While the Soviets gradually consolidated their international position, the
Romanians were unable to keep the pace with them and failed to make the necessary
adjustments to their policy towards the Soviets. However, in fairness to the Roma-
nian government it should be said that, in fact, keeping pace with the Soviet Union
proved difficult even for the US some years later.
The Bessarabian Treaty, the only international document recognizing Roma-
nia’s rights over Bessarabia, offers one of the best illustrations of Romanian policy
towards the Soviets. It was a real diplomatic coup when it was signed, but Soviet
diplomatic successes prevented the Treaty from coming into force, so that the Roma-
nians were unable to use it. While the Romanian representatives had a great advan-
tage over the Soviets in 1919, some twenty years later the situation had changed com-
pletely. The only attempt to improve bilateral relations came from Titulescu, but it
was already too late to make a difference.
Even if Romania had signed a special Treaty with the Soviets for the recogni-
tion of the Bessarabian Union, or had accepted and won a plebiscite, for how long
would that have been respected? Stalin proved many times that there was no treaty
he could not break, and a treaty with Romania would not have been any different. As
for the plebiscite question, and the possibility of Romania voluntarily accepting a
partition of Bessarabia, this author’s opinion is that the Soviets almost certainly
would have contested the results of such a plebiscite in Bessarabia and would have
considered the division to be only temporary, taking advantage of the first opportu-
nity to retrieve all of Bessarabia plus a part of Bukovina.

The White Russians and the Bessarabian Question

One aspect that has been dealt with only tangentially, both in Romanian and
Soviet historiography, is the impact of the White Russians on the Bessarabian ques-
tion.160 During the period immediately following the union of Bessarabia and espe-
cially during the Paris Peace Conference, there was an intense lobbying and propa-
ganda campaign regarding Bessarabia waged by the White Russians. From their
viewpoint, Bessarabia was Russian territory and they almost completely agreed with
Moscow’s thesis. The White Russians had a number of other factors working
against them: at certain times, they needed Romania’s help in fighting the commu-
nists (and so they had to make concessions regarding Bessarabia); Bolshevik propa-
ganda underscored their non-representative status at Paris; and the great rivalry
within their own ranks.
For a better understanding of the activity of White Russians regarding Bes-
sarabia a distinction should be made between those originating from Bessarabia it-
self (for which the term “Bessarabian White Russians” will be used) and the others.

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The former were, of course, the more active, especially at the propaganda level, hav-
ing clearly greater interests in Bessarabia and therefore more reason to be unhappy
with the Romanian administration. It should also be specified that the Bessarabian
White Russians and their comrades (those fighting the communists) was made up
not only of Russians but also of Ukrainians, Jews and, during 1918, even Romanians.
As for their social status, they were almost identical with those of the White Rus-
sians based in the other provinces of the former Russian Empire.
As already mentioned, after the Union and especially after the two very impor-
tant reforms that followed (the administrative and the land reform), the Russian
aristocracy and intellectuals living in Bessarabia had been hit hard and were left
with very few options: they could go back to Russia (and some of the intellectuals
actually did that); or accept the Romanian administration while retaining some of
their privileges and land properties; or fight together with the other White Russians
against the communist regime; or fight against the Romanian administration in Bes-
sarabia. While the majority chose to stay and tried to build a life under the Roma-
nian administration, accepting it at least theoretically, a number of them decided to
contest the Romanian administration in Bessarabia. At first they used the same argu-
ments as the Soviets but, at some point, understanding the international climate and
the special attention given to minorities, they switched to the rights of the Russian
minority living in Bessarabia, basing their action on the provisions inserted in the
Bessarabian Treaty.
As long as there was still some hope of defeating the communists, the White
Russians’ efforts to retrieve Bessarabia were both powerful and numerous. As soon
as it became clear that the Soviet regime could not be defeated, their actions (and
their international standing) decreased.
As soon as the Romanian troops entered Bessarabia in January 1918 and the
idea of a union with Romania began to gain ground, the Bessarabian White Rus-
sians’ actions against the Romanian administration began. In order to counter-
balance the Romanian intervention, many of them decided at first to collaborate ei-
ther with the communists or with the White Armies fighting against the commu-
nists. As time passed and it became clear that the Romanians were intent on install-
ing their administration in Bessarabia, the Bessarabian White Russians shifted their
action from the local to the international level. Their first complaints were directed
to General Scerbacev, the commander of the Russian troops on the Romanian front.
He was asked to represent their interests with the Romanian government, and to the
Allied representatives in Jassy, but without much success.161 Next, they acted in the
leading European capitals, organizing in March 1918 in Geneva a society for propa-
ganda against the Romanian annexation of Bessarabia. The founders of the Society
were M. Gassenko and Ukrainian Baron Tichkevitch, both considered by French
diplomats to be agents paid by Austria. They claimed the Society had about 100
members, all Ukrainians, and asked for an Austrian occupation of Bessarabia.162
The biggest move made by the Bessarabian White Russians in Romania took
place on November 28, 1918, after the Sfatul Tserii voted for an unconditioned union

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

with Romania. First came a Declaration of 10 deputies, limited to criticizing the

manner of voting.163 Next, 40 deputies in the Sfatul Tserii, under the leadership of
Vladimir Tsiganko, Ion Pascaluta and Nicolae Alexandru, sent a memorandum to the
Romanian government contesting the legality of the vote expressed by the Sfatul
Tserii and demanding the complete restoration of Bessarabia’s autonomy in ten days’
time.164 Their action, however justified it may have been, found no echo within the
Romanian government — which decided that the November 27 decision for uncon-
ditioned union was legal. This response by the Romanian government meant the end
of the very short-lived attempt to influence the fate of Bessarabia from within the
Romanian political establishment.
The opposition of the Bessarabian deputies, among whom were some Romani-
ans, to the unconditioned union is normal and understandable. The Romanians in
Transylvania felt the same way and held onto their autonomy for a period of time,
understanding that union with Romania was one way in which they could preserve
their values and choose the most suitable approach toward the process of legislative
and institutional unification.165 But the government defeated them, albeit more
gradually that was the case in Bessarabia. The main impetus driving the Bucharest
government in this action was its fear (still relevant) that any form of autonomy for
Transylvania or Bessarabia would harm the process of integrating the new provinces
into Greater Romania and undermine the unity of the state.
At the same time, those who were unhappy with the new Romanian admini-
stration in Bessarabia took refuge on Russian territory and organized themselves
into a Committee for the Salvation of Bessarabia (CSB), with its headquarters in
Odessa and under the leadership of Kroupenski, Schmidt, and Ion Pascaluta. Among
the members of the CSB, one was accorded the status of Governor of Bessarabia and
figured on the salary list for General Denikin’s staff.166 While maintaining close con-
tacts with the deputies in the Sfatul Tserii who were unhappy with the workings of
the Romanian administration, they also kept close relations with General Denikin’s
army. They even organized a volunteer-based military CSB, financed by the land-
owners expropriated in Bessarabia, with the purpose of attacking Tyraspol.167 Due to
the military operations in southern Russia, the CSB was short-lived and its leaders
moved to Paris, hoping to better support their cause there. As soon as the military
situation changed in favor of the White Army, during 1919, the CSB surfaced again in
The Bessarabian White Russians suffered from the same weakness as the rest
of the White Russians’ movement: no unity in action. They were divided into pro-
tsarist and irredentist camps, some of them helping Petliura while others sided with
Denikin, and so on. They were also divided over what should be the fate of Bessara-
bia, some of them wishing a return to the prewar situation while others wanted an
autonomous Bessarabia within Russia.
The Bessarabian Russians’ best-known action took place during the Paris
Peace Conference and its main protagonists were Alexander N. Kroupenski, former
marshal of the Bessarabian aristocracy,168 Alexander C. Schmidt, former mayor of

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Chisinau, and Vladimir Tsiganko, former deputy in the Sfatul Tserii. During the Con-
ference, the Bessarabian White Russians and other White Russians (led by person-
alities like Maklakov, Sazonov, Ceaikovski, Count Lvov) who claimed to represent
the interests of Russia, acted together in reference to the Bessarabian question.
While the former were mainly in charge of anti-Romanian propaganda, writing a
number of articles, pamphlets and memoranda designed to sway public opinion, the
latter acted more in the direction of lobbying the representatives of the Great Pow-
ers taking part in the Conference.
At the same time, the Bessarabian White Russians kept pressuring the French
and British representatives in Odessa, constantly complaining about the Romanian
treatment of Bessarabians. The two representatives became the target for a number
of petitions, memoranda and complaints by all those unsatisfied with the Romanian
administration in Bessarabia: landowners, postal workers, officials in the admini-
stration. Their accusations went as far as to state that their experience during the
past months had done more for the Russification of Bessarabia than all the Russian
government’s efforts over the years.169 And indeed, their activity proved quite suc-
cessful in influencing the British representatives in Odessa, who were quick to blame
the Romanian administration for the difficult situation in Bessarabia.170 The Roma-
nian government needed the support of Frank Rattigan, the British Minister to Bu-
charest, to offset at least a part of this negative image.171
The White Russians succeeded in directing the attention of the Great Powers
to the Bessarabian question, but only during 1919, by stressing that the decision by
the Sfatul Tserii to unite with Romania had been non-representative. Further argu-
ments they used to shore up their thesis were the points that Bessarabia was Rus-
sian territory liberated from the Turks in 1812, when Romania did not exist as a state
(an argument making them unpopular with the Italians, who were claiming some
former Italian territories from Austria-Hungary, and whose claims could have been
rejected based on a similar argument); that Bessarabia became Russian territory ac-
cording to an internationally recognized Treaty between the Sultan and the Czar;
that the Romanians made up less than 50% of Bessarabia’s population; that the vote
for unconditioned union on November 27 was dubious in nature; that Romania’s
military occupation of Bessarabia was the only thing that made Bessarabia a part of
Romania; and that under Romanian rule, the Russian minority were oppressed.
As early as mid-January 1919, Sazonov, former Russian Foreign Minister, sent a
first memorandum to the French government announcing an anti-Romanian insur-
rection;172 this was followed by another one on February 2, 1919, in which he clearly
rejected the possibility of Romania taking part in the fight against the Bolsheviks in
exchange for Bessarabia.173 The representatives of the so-called Russian Conference
sent a new memorandum on Bessarabia to the Peace Conference on March 22, insist-
ing on historical and demographic arguments, while asking for the unlimited post-
ponement of a final decision regarding the fate of Bessarabia and defining as
“necessary” the consultation of the people living in that region before any decision
would be taken.174 Their position had been greatly improved by the successful begin-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

nings of the Kolchak offensive in April 1919, which brought about a change in the
Great Powers’ attitude towards Bessarabia. Both France and the US became less
willing to settle Bessarabia’s fate definitively. In fact, the French position moved
from argumentation on ethnical and historical grounds to de facto negotiations with
the White Russians, making Bessarabia a counter-partite of the Western aid for
Even so, the decision by the Council of Four on May 27, 1919, to add a point to
the dispatch sent to Admiral Kolchak (considered to be the authorized representa-
tive of the Russian people) was none too welcome: “Sixthly, the right of the Peace
Conference to determine the future of the Romanian part of Bessarabia shall be rec-
ognized.”176 Still, this decision might be seen as both a win and a defeat for the Rus-
sians: a win because it referred to “the Romanian part of Bessarabia” instead of Bes-
sarabia, which seems to suggest agreement with the Russian theory that Bessarabia
was not entirely Romanian and that only a number of districts had a Romanian ma-
jority,177 and also because the fate of Bessarabia was to be decided by the Conference
and not by Romania, which would have offered little chance of overturning the un-
ion. But at the same time it was a defeat, because the fate of Bessarabia was to be
decided by the Peace Conference and not by its former holder, Russia.
The next and the most important action taken by the White Russians regard-
ing Bessarabia came on July 2, 1919, when one of their representatives (Maklakov)
was given the opportunity to officially present to the Council of Five (the highest
authority at the Conference) their view on Bessarabia.178 The biggest concession he
was willing to make in order to resolve the Bessarabian question was a plebiscite in
the districts in which the Moldavian population was predominant; these were iden-
tified in a later memorandum (July 24, 1919) as the four districts in the center of Bes-
sarabia. As for the rest of the territory, he considered that it should belong to Russia.
This compromise project was designed to satisfy the Western Allies, especially
France, in order to continue benefiting from their assistance. Later, the Soviets
would also use the idea of a plebiscite but they attached a slightly different meaning
to it.
Understanding that the US representatives were on their side and against the
Romanians, the White Russians tried to take full advantage of the situation by tar-
geting the American delegation (the only one willing to take action against the Ro-
manian administration in Bessarabia) with an increased number of written and ver-
bal protests. As an immediate result of one such protest, made by Kroupenski and
Schmidt, the US Commissioners debated the problem of the upcoming election in
Bessarabia for members to the Romanian Parliament; it was regarded as an act of
sovereignty over a territory that did not belong yet, at least officially, to Romania.179
Likewise the Hungarians living in Transylvania, while preferring to abstain from
voting altogether, tried to use the elections in the same sense. In fact, the problem of
holding Romanian Parliamentary elections in Bessarabia was used as a propaganda
tool not only in Paris but also in London, although with little success. As a result of
this propaganda, an interpellation took place in the House of Commons on August 5,

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1919, by Sir Samuel Hoare, who observed that the British position of allowing the
elections to take place actually meant that Romanian elections would take place in a
country that was not yet ceded to Romania. The same Sir Hoare spoke out on No-
vember 27, 1919, but his initiative failed again to bear fruit.180
On July 24, 1919, the Russian delegation sent a new Note to the Peace Confer-
ence. After protesting once more against the actions of the Romanian government in
Bessarabia, they proposed a compromise solution: that a plebiscite should be held in
Bessarabia, but only in the four districts in which the Moldavian population made
up the majority (the other parts clearly belonging to Russia). In order for the plebi-
scite to be held, a special Commission should be organized which should install a
provisory regime in Bessarabia and which should oversee the execution of the plebi-
scite in the four districts.181
The greatest enemy of the White Russians’ diplomatic campaign was the de-
feat of their troops by the Bolsheviks. As soon as the Great Powers, and especially
France and Great Britain, understood that the White Russians’ fight against the Bol-
sheviks was a lost cause, they shifted again towards Romania. In July 1919, as a result
of the White Russians’ military defeat, France switched back to a more pro-
Romanian position, avoiding any opposition to the projected Romanian elections in
However, it was not until the end of 1919, when their military situation wors-
ened considerably, that some of the White Russians expressed a willingness to cede
Bessarabia to Romania (albeit not for free). On September 29, 1919, through British
intermediaries, Denikin transmitted to Bratianu that he was ready to accept the de-
cision on Bessarabia taken by the Conference but that, in exchange, he required the
Romanians’ help, as they had helped Petliura. Bratianu expressed his willingness to
provide that help, but conditioned it on a formal agreement to that effect.183 How-
ever, due to the Red Army’s offensive, as well as the reticence of certain White Rus-
sian leaders (like General Wrangel) towards any deal that would exchange Bessara-
bia for Romanian military help, together with the Romanians’ unwillingness to in-
volve themselves directly in the Russian Civil War, it was impossible to reach a for-
mal agreement.
The Russians continued to send notes to the Peace Conference, directed
mostly to the American delegation, insisting on the danger posed by the upcoming
elections in Romania. As has been noted, their activity was not in vain. The Ameri-
can delegation appeared to take at face value every word in the Russian notes and
they brought the matter before the Peace Conference on October 10 and 11. (As an
illustration of the White Russian actions, one of the Notes they sent at the end of
August 1919 is presented at the end of this chapter as Annex No. 1.) It should be
mentioned that during 1919 the Russian delegation, together with the Bessarabian
Russians, sent some ten such notes or memoranda to the Peace Conference (the last
one on November 15) and were more or less successful in their efforts as long as the
American delegation was in Paris. Once the Americans left, the Bessarabian question
found a quick solution and the White Russian machinations in favor of a Russian

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Bessarabia came to a clear failure. Of course, the events in Russia and the defeat of
the White Armies also greatly diminished the White Russians’ influence in Paris.
The most active party regarding the Bessarabian question during and after the
Peace Conference had been the Bessarabian White Russians. Not only did they pub-
lish a number of articles and pamphlets on the topic but they also took on the diffi-
cult task of addressing the Conference when the other representative of the White
Russians abandoned the Bessarabian cause. For example, only days after the signing
of the Bessarabian Treaty, they sent a comprehensive Memorandum to the Japanese
representatives at the Conference, entitled “Bessarabia; some thoughts on the occa-
sion of its attribution to Romania”. The memorandum presented all the known argu-
ments, and made much of the notion that Bessarabia had been given to Romania as
recompense for Prime Minister Vaida-Voevod’s docility in heeding the Conference’s
demands (in contrast to Bratianu), and asked for a plebiscite.184
Among the papers they printed, the best known are “Summary of Events in
Bessarabia 1917-1918” and “Bessarabia and Romania”, both written by Kroupenski
and Schmidt.185 Their main aim was to bring the Bessarabian question before the
court of international public opinion in order to contest Romania’s rights. They did
succeed in part, by laying down the foundation for future (more organized) propa-
ganda activities orchestrated from Moscow. They also maintained close ties with the
White Russians fighting in southern Russia, especially with General Denikin,
through the same CSB that was still active in Odessa.
During the military campaigns of 1919 and 1920, both Great Britain and France
tried to persuade the Romanian government to intervene militarily against the Sovi-
ets. The Romanians refused, since Romania already controlled Bessarabia and had no
other territorial claims in Russia; that disappointed the French, in particular. The
White Russians’ attitude towards Romania, considering it more as an enemy than a
potential ally, was one factor that influenced the latter to avoid any military inter-
vention. The Romanians understood clearly that, in the event of the White Russians’
victory, they would still have to fight for Bessarabia.
It was only as a result of French influence that the retreating White Russians
found refuge in Romania against the Red Army at the end of 1919. The Romanians
were not at all happy to have them on Romanian soil, and especially in Bessarabia.
The Russian military refugees were disarmed and interned in special camps near the
towns of Brasov and Oradea, some 300 miles from Bessarabia’s border, in order to
keep them away from the fighting. It was more difficult for the Romanian govern-
ment to deal with those White Russians who found refuge within Bessarabian terri-
tory. Not only were the Romanians subjected to the provocations of the Red Army
during 1919-1921, but they also had to avoid any attempt by the White Russians liv-
ing in Bessarabia to organize internal riots against the new administration. This task
proved so difficult that, at one point, the Romanian Minister of War, charged with
the internal security of Bessarabia, proposed that all foreigners be expelled — as
there was no practical way to organize new camps for the refugees (approximately
16,000 people).186 The request was rejected, since there was also no way to send the

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refugees back to the east side of the Dniestr; and many of them either continued to
live in Bessarabia or left to seek refuge in other countries (mainly in Yugoslavia).
At the end of 1920, even after the Peace Conference took the final decision re-
garding the Bessarabian question and the White Russians were clearly defeated on
the battlefront, the Bessarabian White Russians decided to carry on their actions in
favor of a Russian Bessarabia. They organized secret societies and groups all across
Europe and tried to keep the Bessarabian matter at the forefront of the public dis-
course and with the League of Nations. Still, as time passed, their material resources
evaporated and their action weakened more and more.
The most important and successful action they were able to organize, apart
from publishing articles and books on Bessarabia, was to bring the Bessarabian mat-
ter into the debates at the League of Nations (late 1921). What is interesting is that,
unlike the Soviets, the Bessarabian White Russians centered their propaganda ef-
forts on the Romanian authorities’ treatment of the ethnic minorities in Bessarabia.
In other words, instead of contesting the possession of Bessarabia, they focused on a
more limited objective after 1920: that of improving the conditions of Russians living
in Bessarabia. Without deigning to recognize the validity of the Bessarabian Treaty,
they decided to take advantage of the stipulations in it. In fact, the idea of involving
the League of Nations in matters regarding the treatment of minorities in Eastern
Europe was picked up especially by the German (in the case of Poland) and Hungar-
ian (in the case of Romania) minorities,187 and its usage by the Bessarabian White
Russians was minor by comparison.
On September 25 and October 27, 1921, Kroupenski sent two memoranda to
the Secretary General of the League of Nations in Geneva. Calling himself president
of the Bessarabian delegation, Kroupenski tried to show that the Romanian govern-
ment was not respecting the stipulations of the Bessarabian and the Minorities Trea-
ties, and asked for the League’s intervention:

Romania actually takes advantage of all the stipulations included in the

Bessarabian Treaty, considering Bessarabia as Romanian territory, as results
from the vote of the Romanian Parliament in favor of Bessarabia’s annexation.
In these conditions it is clear that Romania is bound by all the stipulations in-
cluded in the Bessarabian treaty. By contrast, if Romania, taking advantage of
the non-ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty, considers that its stipulations
are not binding on her, all the humanitarian intentions of the Main Allied and
Associated Powers are reduced to nothing. . . .
Before the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty, the Bessarabian population
should have been consulted through plebiscite. . . .
As a result of the fact that there is no recognized and authorized represen-
tative of Russia in Romania, the interests of the Russians living in Bessarabia
cannot be protected, no one being authorized to intervene in favor of the Rus-
sian nationals. The Russian minority is deprived of any rights stipulated for her
in Art. No 3 of the Bessarabian Treaty. . . .

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The language used in school is mainly Romanian and there is only one Rus-
sian secondary school. By the same token, only the Romanian language is used
in church, and only two Russian churches have been allowed to function in
Chisinau. . . .
Although the Russian nationals have the right to choose another citizen-
ship and to keep their real estate, in reality they are forced to accept Romanian
citizenship. The fact that the land reform was more radical in Bessarabia than
in the other Romanian provinces (the compensation to be paid to the expropri-
ated landowners is lower than in other provinces) is a means of discrimination
against the Russians and is contrary to the stipulations of Art. No 5. . . .
The League’s efforts should center on: the usage of Russian language in
schools and church; halting the sending of young men as military recruits until
they take their option for a citizenship; bringing an end to Romanian govern-
ment’s action directed at confiscating real estate properties belonging to the
Russian nationals and the return of those already expropriated.188

The two memoranda received a quick response from the League. Due to the
formulation of the memoranda (Kroupenski insisted that he was appealing to the
League only in order to find out if Romania had ratified the Bessarabian and the Mi-
norities Treaties, in other words more on juridical than humanitarian grounds), he
received an answer in a matter of days. Erik Colban answered the first memo on Oc-
tober 3, 1921, simply stating that the Bessarabian Treaty had not yet been ratified. As
a result, Kroupenski slightly changed the argumentation in his second memoran-
dum, focusing on the Minorities instead of the Bessarabian Treaty. On November 1,
1921, his second memorandum was answered, this time by Helmer Rosting, stating
that Romania had ratified the Minorities Treaty.
The action initiated by Kroupenski did have some consequences. On Novem-
ber 10, 1921, Helmer Rosting gave notice of the Russian action to the Romanian min-
ister at the League, stating that he had not yet submitted the matter to the members
of the League Council because he was waiting for the Romanians’ opinion regarding
the matter. And indeed, on December 5, 1921, the Romanian government answered
Rosting’s inquiry by sending a letter to Sir Eric Drummond, the Secretary General of
the League. The letter expresses the viewpoint of the Romanian government, focus-
ing on answers to Kroupenski’s accusations:

Even though the Romanian government has not yet ratified the Bessarabian
Treaty, it is scrupulously applying its provisions. . . .
Kroupenski represents nobody; he is self-appointed as the representative of
the Bessarabian people in Paris. . . .
Kroupenski refuses to recognize the validity of the March 1920 decision of
the Conference of Ambassadors and of the Bessarabian Treaty but he attempts
to make use of them. . . .
Not only the Russians but also all the other national minorities living in

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Romania cannot be defended (protected) by the representatives of other states

accredited in Bucharest. . . .
The Bessarabian Treaty does not oblige the Romanian government to spon-
sor Russian-language schools, and the said government has nothing against
private schools. Still, at this time seven secondary schools for Russians and
Ukrainians are functioning (with grants from the government), plus a number
of secondary schools for Bulgarian, German, Armenian and Jewish students, as
well as a considerable number of such primary schools. . . .
As for the land reform, Romania could not treat representatives of an eth-
nic minority differently than Romanian subjects. [The land reform in Bessara-
bia was made by the Bessarabians and not by the Romanian government and
this is why it was more radical than in other parts of Romania] . . .
Why is Kroupenski complaining that the two Russian churches in Chisi-
nau are not enough, when everybody knows that the Jewish people make up
the majority of the city’s population? . . .189

The Secretary General of the League decided to address the matter and created
a committee of three with the purpose of analyzing the memoranda sent by Krou-
penski; the Chinese and Spanish representatives to the League’s Council, as well as
one of his secretaries, were appointed. After further studying the matter during
March 1922 the committee had been unanimous in deciding that there are no reasons
to send the case to the League’s Council.190
Kroupenski’s action could be considered the last initiative of the Bessarabian
White Russians that was not influenced by the Moscow government. Not only did
the communists contest the Bessarabian Treaty but they considered it an unaccept-
able foreign intervention into Russian matters; therefore they did not consider, at
any time, the possibility of using it the way Kroupenski did. The exploitation of the
Bessarabian Treaty in order to make propaganda in favor of an autonomous Bessara-
bia, together with the desire to improve the existing situation of the Russians living
in Bessarabia, were the main differences that set the White Russian propaganda
apart from that of the Soviets.
In the end Kroupenski’s actions felt short of achieving their purpose; the Bes-
sarabian White Russians kept on publishing articles and pamphlets and sending
memoranda to anyone they thought might help their cause, but with less and less
response.191 Even as the Soviets (more resourceful and better orchestrated) gradually
overshadowed their propaganda activities, they went on organizing Bessarabian so-
cieties in various European cities with the purpose of contesting Romanian author-
ity in Bessarabia. Those societies, generally speaking, did not have much impact, and
the only ones who paid them much heed were the representatives of the Romanian
government. For example, in order to respond to the actions of the so-called Union
of Bessarabian Emigrants, the Romanian government decided to organize a Bessara-
bian Club in Paris, on December 30, 1926.
The Bessarabian question continued to be a topic for all the White Russians

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

who found refuge in Europe or America. They insisted that Bessarabia was not Ro-
manian territory and that “once the Soviet regime [fell], the first duty of the new
Russia would be to modify the borders with Poland and to occupy Bessarabia, the
Russian province stolen by the Romanians”.192 Similar signals came from Prague,193
Berlin, Paris, Bucharest and Chisinau.
The trend of Bessarabian emigration went through a significant change during
1925, caused by the events related to the Tatar-Bunar uprising and the trial of those
who took part in it, and by a more decisive and better organized infiltration of the
White Russians by the communist machine (using money and political activists). A
number of societies were organized under names like the Czecho-Bessarabian or
Belgian-Bessarabian Friendship Society, made up mainly of Bessarabian students
who kept in close contact with the developing events at home. They acted mainly by
organizing congresses all over Europe, and at each one they demanded Bessarabia’s
autonomy, while keeping up a steady stream of publications complaining about Bes-
sarabia’s plight under Romanian administration.194 Their targets were the same as
those of the Soviet propaganda: left-wing politicians, especially in France (Paris was
where they were best organized), the intellectuals, and the workers. Such congresses
took place in Luxembourg (June 1927), Paris (December 6, 1928), and Seraing, in
Belgium (December 9, 1928).195
Although there had been countless misunderstandings between the White and
the Red Russians, they generally agreed on the Bessarabian question. The only differ-
ence comes in their attitude towards the Bessarabian Treaty, even as they both de-
nied its validity. While the Bessarabian White Russians used it, even while contest-
ing its legitimacy, the Soviets officially considered it a res inter alia treaty having no
value whatsoever, and unofficially they worked hard to prevent the Treaty from
coming into force.
Since they agreed that Bessarabia belonged to Russia, be it communist or czar-
ist, the gradual takeover of the Bessarabian White Russian emigré movement by the
Soviet propaganda machine should not come as a surprise. And there were a number
of other factors that gave Soviet propaganda the advantage: the Bessarabian White
Russians’ lack of material resources; the public’s gradual loss of interest in the White
Russians and the rapid waning of their influence — while the public interest in (and
sometimes admiration of) the new communist regime constantly grew; the sizable
Bessarabian emigration inside the Soviet Union, which was very easy for the commu-
nists to exploit for propagandistic purposes. The gradual takeover ensued without
much opposition from the Bessarabian White Russians. The Soviet activists under-
stood the importance and the influence of the emigré movement and successfully
subordinated it to their interests.196
The decision to establish the Moldavian Autonomous Republic on the left
bank of the Dniestr in 1924 might also be understood as an attempt to tighten the
control over Bessarabian emigration. Soon after this decision was made, a Society of
Bessarabian Refugees was organized in Moscow, with the aim of representing not
only the Bessarabians living in the Soviet Union but also the refugees living in other

< 152 >


foreign countries.197 According to Romanian sources, by 1927 they were able to infil-
trate the organizations of Bessarabians living overseas, taking on the coordinating
role in the actions initiated by the Bessarabian emigrés.198 As instruments of propa-
ganda they used two publications: Red Bessarabia (Moscow) and The Red Ploughman
Concluding this attempt to bring to light one aspect of the Bessarabian ques-
tion, closely connected to the Bessarabian Treaty question, it must be stated that the
purpose of the present subchapter was not to treat this aspect in great detail but
simply to highlight its existence by presenting the main actions initiated by the Bes-
sarabian White Russians. A future study would be useful in giving a complete pres-
entation of their activity regarding Bessarabia.

Memorandum of the Bessarabian Delegates, August 1919
FRUS, PPC, 1919, Vol. 8, p. 587-589

The delegates of Bessarabia for the President of the Peace Conference

In the official statement of the organ of the Romanian Government in Bessara-

bia, the Casa Noastra, published in the newspapers of Kishinev of August 10, 1919, the
Bessarabian landowners are informed that a time limit of one month has been fixed
to obtain their subjection to Romania, as well as to name Chargés d’Affaires to re-
place them to assist in the work of the Commission on the expropriation of their
The Bessarabian Delegation has already once before protested on this subject
before the Peace Conference on April 15, 1919. The Russian Political Conference ad-
dressed on April 20, 1919, a memorandum on this subject to the Peace Conference. At
the present moment we are forced to make another plea to the Peace Conference in
the hope of obtaining its support in the just cause which we are defending.
It is to be observed that the official statement, a translation of which is at-
tached, clearly indicates that those landowners who accept Romanian subjection
will be treated differently from those who refuse. The difference will evidently be in
favor of those who bow to the demands of the Romanian Government.
Speaking in the name of all our mandatories, we consider the exactions of the
Romanian Government as tending to force the landowners in Bessarabia to swear an
oath of allegiance to the King of Romania, an act profoundly unjust and outraging
their dignity of citizens of a country that does not form part of the Kingdom of Ro-
mania. It is also an outrage to international law as well as to the respect due to the
decisions of the Peace Conference that Romania has not been accorded the posses-
sion of this Russian province.
The regime established by the Romanian Government in Bessarabia is truly
intolerable for the population, and if the Peace Conference does not raise its voice
against the Romanian abuses of power in the name of justice and with the authority

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

that it alone possesses, bloody uprisings in the Bessarabian population will be inevi-
In defiance of all justice and rights of peoples, the Romanian Government
forces all the population, under the penalty of heavy fines, to take part in the parlia-
mentary elections of Romania, that is to say of a country which, until today, was for-
eign to her.
Through you, Mr. President, we ask the Peace Conference to condemn the ille-
gal and unjust acts of the Romanian Government and to declare them as such before
the civilized world.

< 154 >



Mihail Sturdza, a former Romanian diplomat and member of the Iron Guard, in his memoirs Roma-
nia si sfarsitul Europei, makes a notable exception from this orientation, especially for the fourth dec-
ade. He blames Nicolae Titulescu and his followers for re-establishing diplomatic relations with the
Soviets; he considers that Titulescu had offered transit through Romanian territory to the Russian
Army and that his pro-Soviets and anti-German policy was very damaging to Romania. Although the
results for Romania of Titulescu’s policy, not to mention his personality, speak for themselves many
Romanian scholars are still quite far from criticizing him or his policies.
For details regarding the results of their research see Gheorghe Buzatu, Romanii in Arhivele Kremlinu-
lui, passim. However, the best presentation of documents existing in the former Soviet Archives and
referring to Romania has been published recently as a result of a collaboration project between the
Romanian and Russian Foreign Ministry Archives, in Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente 1917-1934. The
collaboration is supposed to continue so that, in the near future, two similar volumes of documents
are expected to be published, dealing with the 1935-1940 and 1941-1947 periods.
I experienced this closed-door policy myself when, during my attempts to study the Soviet docu-
ments on foreign policy, I was granted permission to study only those already published and kept in
the former Soviet Foreign Ministry’s Archives, and not the “confidential” (and more interesting)
ones, to which I could not gain access.
Dov B. Lungu, Romania and the Great Powers, 1933-1940, p. 53.
J. Degras, Soviet Documents . . ., Vol. 2, p. 378.
Jiri Hochman, The Soviet Union and the Failure of Collective Security, p. 62.
B. Jelavich, Russia and the Formation of the Romanian National State, p. 62.
Michael Kettle argues, “Hill and Boyle somehow managed to take the Romanian gold reserve and
the Crown Jewels, which had been kept in the Kremlin since the fall of Bucharest, back to Romania”.
M. Kettle, The Road to Intervention: March-November 1918, p. 23. If this were so, then what sense would
there be in Karakhan’s proposed deal (Bessarabia for the National Treasury). In fact Kettle makes a
great mistake: what Colonel Boyle brought back to Romania by train was the paper money printed
in Moscow by the Romanian National Bank and not at all parts of the gold reserve or the Crown
Jewels; they have remained in the Kremlin.
This particular Romanian stand is arguable. The Russian Government was of the opposite opinion,
considering that, given the role played by Romania as the center of the counter-revolution in the
south, Russia was still at war with Romania. G Buzatu, Romanii in Arhivele Kremlinului, p. 107.
Charles King, along with a number of other scholars, asserts that it would have been both profit-
able and possible for Romania, in the early 1920s, to resolve the Bessarabian issue by reaching an
agreement with the Soviets, but it was because of Romania’s alliances with France and Poland (both
promoting an anti-Soviet policy) that Romania failed and was forced to normalize relations with the
Soviets at a less propitious juncture (in the mid 1930s). C King, The Moldovans, p. 40. In fact, things
were not that simple; even in the early 1920s the Soviets were not prepared, as this author will show
during the following pages, to give up Bessarabia and neither were the Romanians prepared to come
to a compromise regarding Bessarabia. However, the fact is that the theory regarding the possibility
of resolving the Soviet-Romanian dispute in the early 1920s came into being in the second half of the
1930s and was used in order to pass the blame for Romania’s difficult international situation onto
those who were unable to defend themselves.
Russia’s displeasure with Romania is presented in detail in R.H. Johnston, Tradition Versus Revolu-
tion . . ., p. 69-75. He argues, “Of all Russia’s allies it was Romania who bargained the hardest, was
promised the most, delivered the least and collapsed the quickest.”
Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question . . ., p.74.
On November 27, 1924, the Politburo of the Communist Party discussed a Memorandum prepared
by Frunse, in which it was argued that “the best solution to the present situation is to force a regu-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

larization of the Bessarabian question by sending the Red Army into Bessarabia during May-August
1925”. Although the Memorandum was approved and the Politburo asked the Military General
Headquarters to prepare a plan accordingly, Frunse’s proposal was to be applied only 15 years later.
C. Iordan, Romania si relatiile internationale din sud estul European: modelul Locarno, p. 92.
A good discussion on Rakovsky’s opinion on Bessarabia, as expressed in his broadside on Bessara-
bia published in 1925, is presented in Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question . . ., p. 157-160.
In January 1919 the Bolshevik Ukraine launched a series of attacks along the Dniestr line, which
were stopped by the Romanian Army. For details regarding the military operations at the Bessara-
bian border during January-April 1919, see D. Preda, In apararea Romaniei Mari, p. 259-290.
For a glimpse of the struggle for influence between the different groups in charge of Soviet foreign
policy, and especially the Cicerin-Litvinov conflict, see G. Bessedovskii, The revelations . . ., passim.
J. Degras, Soviet Documents …, Vol. 1, p. 70.
J. Degras, Soviet Documents …, Vol. 1, p. 155-157.
Richard Ullman, Anglo-Soviet Relations, Vol. 1, p. 331.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica . . ., p. 86. Also M. Musat, I. Ardeleanu, Political Life in Romania, p.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 20 bis, The Geblescu Memorandum on Russo-Romanian Relations,
f. 37-38. During the second part of the 1930s Dan Geblescu was secretary of the Romanian Legation
in Belgrade.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente. 1917-1934, Telegram D.N. Ciotori to Vaida-Voevod, March 4, 1920,
p. 49. For the Romanian account of the negotiations see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 43-51.
Also F.C. Nanu, Politica externa … , p. 113.
According to Giorgio Petracchi, the Polish attack on Ukraine in April 1920 only interrupted the
Soviets’ March preparations for an all-out offensive in the direction of Berlin. Giorgio Petracchi, “La
Russie Sovietique et L’Europe Occidentale” in A Missed Opportunity . . . , p. 284. In this context of
course they were interested in obtaining Romanian neutrality, and this justifies their readiness to
negotiate with the Romanians but also points to the fact that they were only playing for time, and
not ready for real concessions. A successful offensive on Berlin no doubt would have changed the
situation in Bessarabia.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Report D.N. Ciotori to Alexandru Averescu on his unofficial
meetings with the Russian representatives, Krassin and Klisco, July 1, 1920, p. 53-54.
In his instructions to the French representative in Bucharest, George Leygues expresses his total
opposition to the Soviet-Romanian negotiations and especially to a possible recognition of the Sovi-
ets, which would jeopardize the projected Polish-Romanian alliance. RNA, Fond France microfilm,
R 189, Telegram Leygues to Daeschner, December 21, 1920, c 345.
Quoted in Alfred L.P. Dennis, The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, p. 171. Also M. Musat, I. Ardeleanu,
Political Life . . . , p. 37.
Alexandru Cretzianu, “Politica de pace a Romaniei fata de Uniunea Sovietica”, in Ocazia pierduta, p.
202. Still, the Romanian government delivered some military supplies to the Ukrainians who, led by
Petliura, were fighting the Bolsheviks and were willing to recognize Bessarabia as Romanian terri-
During October 1919, General Denikin, one of the White Army’s leaders, tried to use British media-
tion in order to obtain Romanian help against the Bolsheviks. Bratianu’s position was that, if Deni-
kin officially agreed to accept the decision on Bessarabia taken by the Conference, he would consider
Denikin an ally and stop the armament transports for Petliura in case of a conflict between the two
armies. In the end, no agreement was reached. The Romanians were also worried about the fighting
capability of Denikin’s army, which they considered to be clearly inferior to that of Petliura. RNA,
Fond France microfilm, R 226, Telegram Pichon to Magras, October 18, 1919, c. 651; also Report on
visit by Antonescu to Laroche, November 18, 1919, c. 660.
Telegram Take Ionescu to Cicerin, March 27, 1921, quoted in A. Cretzianu, “Politica de pace . . .”, in

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G. Buzatu, Romania cu si fara Antonescu, p. 54.

F.C. Nanu, Politica externa . . . , p. 116-117.
According to Kalervo Hovi, the Bolsheviks’ position at the beginning of 1920 had been strengthen-
ing both at the international and the domestic level. The governments of England and Italy were
inclined to strive for practical, primarily economic relations with Soviet Russia. The return of peace
in the Baltic region, which made the blockade of Soviet Russia even more difficult to impose and the
Soviet-German negotiations in 1920 also point to the same fact. K. Hovi, Alliances de Revers . . . , p. 35-
40. In this situation, of course the Bolsheviks were not as ready to make concessions to the Romani-
ans as is assumed by the majority of Romanian scholars.
For details regarding Russo-Romanian correspondence see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 57-
82. Also F.C. Nanu, Politica externa . . . , p. 117.
J. Degras, Soviet Documents . . . , Vol. 1, Telegram Cicerin to Take Ionescu, December 14, 1920, p. 224.
J. Degras, Soviet Documents . . . , Vol. 1, Telegram Cicerin to Take Ionescu, January 15, 1921, p. 230.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Telegram Rakovsky to Cicerin, February 17, 1921, p. 87-88.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, Special Files, R 1, Vol. 43, Telegram Diamandy to Filality, February 25, 1921.
Filality, the Romanian minister in Constantinople, was chosen only after a number of more quali-
fied personalities refused this task. Therefore, he was given very limited power and strict instruc-
tions. RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 189, Telegram Daeschner for Paris, March 20, 1921, c. 396.
The minutes of the meetings are published in French in Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 104-
127. For more details see RFMA, Fond 71/1920-1944, Special Files, R 1, Vol. 44, passim.
F.C. Nanu, Politica externa … , p. 119-121. For the necessary details on the Warsaw Conference see
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 135-169.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Report Filality to Averescu, September 26, 1921, p. 140.
He was referring to one of Karakhan’s proposals, that Romania should also sign a declaration of
neutrality towards Russia as a condition for signing a common treaty. Karakhan said “with such a
declaration we could go before the masses and explain why we gave away Bessarabia without dis-
cussion”. RFMA, Fond 71/1920-1944, Special Files, R 1, Vol. 43, Telegram Filality to Ionescu, October
7, 1921.
A description of the conditions in which the Romanian POW (mainly Transylvanians) were living
in Russia is presented by Vasile Suciu, the Bishop of Alba Iulia, in an attempt to sensitize the Roma-
nian government, asking for rapid intervention in their favor. RFMA, Fond 71/1920-1944, Special
Files, R 1, Vol. 45, Letter Vasile Suciu to Take Ionescu, February 1921. For a later account see G.
Iancu, “Dor de tara. Scrisoarea unui prizonier roman din Uniunea Sovietica din anul 1926” in Tribuna,
July 2000, p. 22.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Telegram, Take Ionescu to Filality, October 17, 1921, p. 155-159.
For the Romanian account of the border incidents during 1921 see the Reports prepared by the
Romanian Ministry of War to the Foreign Ministry in RFMA, Fond 71/1920-1924, Special Files, R 1,
Vol. 45, passim.
J. Degras, Soviet Documents . . . , Vol. 1, Telegram Cicerin to Take Ionescu, November 11, 1921, p. 275.
Still, in the case presented, Ionescu correctly argued, as even the Russians acknowledged later,
that it would not be possible for Romania to regulate the navigation on the Dniestr if she was not
considered to be a riparian State, which she became only as a result of Bessarabia’s union. Relatii
romano-sovietice. Documente, Telegram Take Ionescu to Cicerin, November 16, 1921, p. 174.
V. Moisuc, Premisele isolarii . . . , p. 132.
During the Hague Conference a private meeting between Litvinov and Diamandi took place on
July 19, 1922. The tone of the discussion was still conciliatory. Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Tele-
gram Diamandy to Duca, July 20, 1922, p. 184.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Telegram IG Duca to Constantin G. Nanu, August 8, 1922, p. 186.
F.C. Nanu, Politica externa . . . , p. 123.
I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei . . . , p. 183; also, Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Telegram I.G. Duca

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

to George Marzescu, December 20, 1922, p. 197-198. Still, it should be mentioned that these were not
actually Cicerin’s words but the interpretation given to them by I.G. Duca.
The 19 articles agreement is published in French in Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 207-212.
M. Bruchis, The Republic of Moldavia, p. 18
And indeed, in November 1923 negotiations for the signing of a commercial agreement between
the two states started in Tyraspol, but with no results. Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 212-218.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Letter Cicerin to the Political Bureau, September 3, 1922, p. 203-
Therefore, the Vienna Conference came as a normal continuation of previous negotiations and not,
as argued by Magda Adam, “in spring 1924 … after long hesitation, even Romania began talks, not
least because of Hungary’s negotiations with the Soviet representatives about the development of
economic contacts and the establishment of diplomatic relations” or as a result of the pressure com-
ing from Czechoslovakia for the recognition of the Soviet Union. Magda Adam, The Little Entente … , p.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Letter Cicerin to Krestinsky, March 24, 1924, p. 219-220.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Verbal instructions by Ion IC Bratianu to the Romanian delega-
tion at the Vienna Conference, p. 220-223. Still, judging by the last argument, one that Bratianu also
used during the Peace Conference, he was somewhat out of touch with reality. His line of argument
would have been unacceptable to any state in the world, especially to a proud state like the Soviet
Union. Bratianu also seems to forget the importance of controlling the Danube Estuary and the Bes-
sarabian agricultural potential when he insists on this idea.
He opposed the plebiscite for the following reasons: it would be harmful to the existing peace and
order in Bessarabia; it would mean a self-contradiction of Romania’s policy towards its allies, who
had admitted through a treaty that Bessarabia belonged to Romania; and of all the new states bor-
dering the Soviet Union, a plebiscite was requested only in the case of Bessarabia.
The protocols of the four meetings are published in French in Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p.
The best such presentations were made in Times, on March 27, March 31, April 1, and April 3, 1924.
Such was the opinion of Nicolae Titulescu, mentioned by Ion M. Oprea, “Basarabia la conferinta
romano-sovietica de la Vienna, 1924”, in Revista istorica, 1992, No. 1, p. 5.
In his memorandum, while presenting a detailed account of the Vienna Conference, Geblescu
points up the Soviets renunciation of the historical claims over Bessarabia and their appeal instead
to the principle of self-determination as one of the main characteristics of the Soviet diplomatic ap-
proach during and in the aftermath of the Vienna Conference. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 20 bis,
The Geblescu Memorandum on Russo-Romanian Relations, f. 78-104.
E. Boia, Romania’s Diplomatic . . . , p. 116.
Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question … , p. 76-77, 289-293. Also, for the Hotin riot, see General M.C.
Schina, “Basarabia, ianuarie 1918 - iunie 1919”, in Basarabia romana. Antologie, p. 203-204.
The great majority of them were not Moldavians, but belonged to other nationalities. M. Bruchis,
A. Chiriac, Rusia, Romania si Basarabia, p. 221-222. For the Romanian account of the events related to
the Tatar-Bunar episode see best Gheorghe Tatarescu, Marturii pentru istorie, p. 75-109.
A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 515; Also I Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 185-187.
Denis Deletant, “Language Policy and Linguistic Trends in the Republic of Moldavia, 1924-1992”,
in Studies in Moldovan . . . , p. 56.
Also, according to Charles King, “the establishment of MASSR signalized the crystallization of a
new argument against the Romanian occupation of Bessarabia that had began to develop shortly
after the end of the Russian civil war: the notion that the majority population in Bessarabia consti-
tuted an ethno-national group separate from the Romanians and that, therefore, their incorporation
into a unitary Romanian state had usurped their right to national self-determination”. C. King, The
Moldovans, p. 57.

< 158 >


Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question … , p. 38.
C. King, The Moldovans, p. 55.
A. Boldur, “Istoria Basarabiei”, p. 516.
F.C. Nanu, “Politica externa . . .”, p. 124.
E. Boia, “Romania’s . . .”, p. 119-120.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Report by Litvinov on Meeting with Charles Davila, February 9,
1928, p. 283.
G. Bessedovskii, Revelations . . . , p. 192, 212-216.
In fact it was with a view to open diplomatic relations between the Soviets and the Little Entente
member states at the same time. On the Romanian side, this idea (later used by Titulescu) seems to
have been expressed first by the Romanian minister in Prague, Theodor Emandi, who understood
that both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia would have to open diplomatic relations with the Soviets
in the not too distant future, and believed that Romania might take advantage of the situation and
finally gain the Soviet recognition of Bessarabia’s union. Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Report T.
Emandi to G.G. Mironescu, May 8, 1929, p. 293-296 and August 26, 1930, p. 303-307.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 278-281. Also Ion M. Oprea, “O etapa rodnica . . .”, p. 92.
I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei … , p. 189. Also, Walter M. Bacon, Behind Closed Doors, p. 7.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Litvinov’s Journal, February 9, 1929, p. 284. As for the plebiscite,
Davila states that he raised the question of the plebiscite only in order to prove to the Russians the
practical impossibility of holding a plebiscite in Bessarabia (for example, it would be very difficult to
find a neutral party to supervise the integrity of the plebiscite). Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente,
Report Davila to Mironescu, February 13, 1929, p. 286-290. However, Davila’s action was clearly
disapproved at home and he paid for it.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Letter Litvinov to Stalin, March 23, 1929, p. 291-292.
W.M. Bacon, Behind Closed Doors, p. 9.
In fact the Russians were keen to avoid Polish mediation and, as a result, they preferred to negoti-
ate, in December 1931, with the Romanian representative in Turkey regarding the time and place of
the future round of negotiations. Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 315-320.
Unlike the other rounds of bilateral negotiations, there are plenty of published materials regarding
the Riga negotiations. For this reason the present work will only summarily present the Riga nego-
tiations. For both the Romanian and Russian accounts see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 319-
371; for the Romanian account, based mainly on documents belonging to Nicolae Titulescu, see W.
M. Bacon, Behind Closed Doors, p. 54-93; also for Sturdza’s account, together with some very interest-
ing comments on Romanian diplomats, see Romania si sfirsitul Europei, p. 65-77.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Report Sturdza to N. Iorga, January 30, 1932, p. 370.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Letter Titulescu to King Carol, July 24, 1932, p. 383-384. Although
Titulescu expressed this position during the summer of 1932 (and he was right about that), only one
year later he was ready to sign an agreement with the Soviets, in conditions that had not greatly
improved. Still, this seems to have been only one of Titulescu’s intrigues; he was upset that he was
not consulted about the negotiations, and he used the Soviet card only with the intent of becoming
Foreign Minister.
W.M. Bacon, Behind Closed Doors, p. 14.
For details on Titulescu’s attempts see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 375-388.
David E. Kaiser, Economic Diplomacy and . . . , p. 103.
Dov B. Lungu, Romania and the Great Powers, 1933-1940, p. 12.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Telegram Litvinov to Dovgalevski, August 20, 1932, p. 389.
Due to Titulescu’s influence, before signing the non-aggression pact with the Soviets, the French
government insisted that the Soviets give them a letter in which they undertook not to resolve their
conflict with Romania by force. In fact, it was a non-aggression pledge taken by the Soviets with the
advantage that the word “conflict” was not mentioned in a document addressed to Romania (which

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

could not accept such a wording). RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 20 bis, The Geblescu Memoran-
dum, p. 289.
For Titulescu’s position regarding Romania’s relations with Germany, see M. Sturdza, Romania . . . ,
p. 79-99. Although Sturdza’s view towards Titulescu and other Romanian leaders is animated by
personal feelings generated by his membership in the Iron Guard, the fate of Romania during 1940
proves that his judgment of Titulescu’s policy was not far from the truth, and that Titulescu played
an important role in bringing on the bulk of the disaster that befell Romania in 1940. For a more
objective and fair presentation of Titulescu’s policy, without the exaggerations that still character-
izes many Romanian scholars, see Anthony Komjathy, The Crises of France’s . . . , p. 143-172.
After a preliminary meeting between Litvinov and Cadere on September 17 in Warsaw, it was
decided that the negotiations should take place in Geneva (September 26-October 8). V.F. Do-
brinescu, Batalia diplomatica . . . , p. 104-105; also F.C. Nanu, Politica externa . . . , p. 157-158.
For details on the Geneva negotiations, see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 394-402.
W.M. Bacon, Behind Closed Doors, p. 22.
It was almost a desperate attempt by Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, the Romanian Prime Minister, to
boost his position by reaching an agreement with the Soviets, which failed as a result of both Tit-
ulescu’s and the French intervention.
J. Degras, Soviet Documents . . . , Vol. 2, p. 546; also, Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 402-405.
J. Hochman, The Soviet Union and . . . , p. 65.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Note by M.I. Rozenberg (Soviet Chargé d’Affaires in Paris) re-
garding a conversation with Titulescu, April 18, 1934, p. 423. Still, the question remains: as the Soviet
Union was the main threat to Romania, against whom the Soviets were supposed to guarantee the
Romanian border, especially as the Little and Balkan Ententes protected her against Hungary and
Bulgaria while Germany was too far to pose a threat to Romanian territory?
Dov B. Lungu, Romania and . . . , p. 24-25.
J. Hochman, The Soviet Union and . . . , p. 60.
M. Sturdza argues that, in fact, the French-Soviet alliance was of greater importance to Titulescu
than the safety of Romania and that he was planning to offer access through Romania for the Soviet
troops. M. Sturdza, Romania si . . . , p. 103-107.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 409; also, V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica . . . , p. 106-109.
A. Cretzianu, Captive Romania, p. 11. For the entire text of the Convention, see Relatii romano-
sovietice. Documente, p. 411-414.
In fact, two almost identical Conventions had been signed: the first one on July 3 by the USSR,
Romania, Poland, Afghanistan, Latvia, Estonia, Persia, Turkey, and ratified by Romania on October
16, 1933; the second one on July 4 between Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Turkey and the
USSR, ratified by Romania on February 17, 1934. The second had one more article indicating that it
remained open to any other state that would like to sign it.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica . . . , p. 108-109. Also I.M. Oprea, “O etapa . . . ”, p. 93-94.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Telegram Titulescu to Ion Lugosianu, July 19, 1933, p. 414-415.
Also Ion Constantin, Romania, marile puteri si problema Basarabiei, p. 31.
Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Telegram Litvinov to Potemkin, June 27, 1934, p. 430-431.
See, for example, A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima Basarabiei, p. 48.
Dov B. Lungu, Romania and . . . , p. 53.
I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 190.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica . . . , p. 110. For details, see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p.
428-430. However, Yugoslavia decided to postpone official recognition of the Soviet Union for a
period, but gave a free hand to Romania and Czechoslovakia in recognizing the Soviets.
J. Hochman, The Soviet Union and . . . , p. 66.
Dov B. Lungu, Romania and . . . , p. 56.

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Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, Letter Krestinsky to Ostrovski, December 26, 1934, p. 433-434.
For many Romanian scholars, there is no arguing that Art. No. 10 extends over Romania’s Bessara-
bian border too. See best A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, p. 518-521; or V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica
… , p. 112. But because the Bessarabian Treaty failed to come into force, it might be argued that there
was no valid international treaty recognizing the union of Bessarabia with Romania; consequently
Art. No. 10 did not cover the Bessarabian border.
Many Romanian historians fail to mention the Railroad Convention, which could have been inter-
preted as a real improvement in the bilateral relations. M. Sturdza gives a possible reason for this
omission, considering that the wording of the Convention was clearly unsatisfactory to Romanian
interests. M. Sturdza, Romania si … , p. 107.
A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima Basarabiei, p. 50.
For the French-Soviet negotiation for a MAT see Max Beloff, The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, Vol.
1, p. 138-161.
A. Komjathy, The Crises of France’s … , p. 146-149.
It seems that Titulescu played an important role in the signing of the mentioned Pact. In fact,
according to M. Sturdza, Titulescu used to pride himself with effectively preparing the Draft Treaty
(as a specialist in international law), in exchange for a considerable amount of money from the
French government. M. Sturdza, Romania si … , p. 103-106. On the other hand, as previously explained,
the French-Soviets pact was of no use to France as long as the Soviet troops could not cross through
either Poland or Romania, and Titulescu’s involvement meant that he would try to get the agreement
of his government in this sense.
Nicole Jordan, The Popular Front and Central Europe, p. 189.
Jiri Hochman attributes a special signification to the Soviet refuse, considering that it shows a
clear lack of interest from the Soviets in a course of action that would significantly facilitate the
resolution of the geographical asymmetry of the alliances with France and Czechoslovakia; he also
connects it to an improvement in Soviet-German relations. J. Hochman, The Soviet Union … , p. 67-69.
N. Jordan, The Popular Front … , p. 193.
I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 193.
A good analyses of Romania’s options during the Italian-Abyssinian conflict and of the effects of
Titulescu’s actions is presented in A. Komjathy, The Crises of France’s … , p. 154.
Quoted in J. Hochman, The Soviet Union … , p. 70.
Politica externa a Romaniei. Dictionar cronologic, p. 214-215.
For example V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica … , p. 114-115; A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima
Basarabiei, p. 50-51; I. Scurtu et. al. , Istoria Basarabiei, p. 195.
A copy of the Draft is published in A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima Basarabiei, p. 143-144.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica … , p. 114.
Although there were quite a number of reasons behind Titulescu’s replacement, the proximate
cause was his intervention regarding the Spanish Civil War; he chose to disregard his instructions in
late August: “Deciding that Romania did not need the one hundred cannons and fifty airplanes
which she had ordered from France and were now ready for delivery, Titulescu directed this war
material to be transported to the Spanish republicans”. A. Komjathy, The Crises of France’s … , p. 170-
Dov B. Lungu considers that, in fact, the Romanians were no longer interested to sign a MAT with
the Soviet Union. Dov B. Lungu, Roumania and … , p. 99.
Although Victor Antonescu took advantage of the first opportunity he had, on September 19, to
personally reassure Litvinov that there was no change in the Romanian foreign policy, he could not
convince Litvinov.
Quoted in I. Constantin, Romania, marile puteri …, p. 33.
As French General Gamelin recalls, “King Carol had told him [in 1937] that France could count on

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

his secret permission to let the Soviet troops pass”. Quoted in John Lukacs, The Great Powers … , p. 100.
J. Lukacs, The Great Powers … , p. 99-100.
For details see E. Boia, Roumania’s … , 242-245.
A. Komjathy, The Crises of France’s … , p. 219.
Quoted in Louis Fischer, Russia’s Road … , p. 312-313.
J. Lukacs, The Great Powers … , p. 144, 178-179.
Politica externa a Romaniei. Dictionar cronologic, p. 222-223.
J. Lukacs, The Great Powers … , p. 180.
Jiri Hochman published “Text of a Note from the Romanian Government to the Government of
the Soviet Union, September 24, 1938”, sent from Bucharest to Litvinov in Geneva, which he asserts
to have found in the RFMA (No. 71/1938 – C/8, vol. 3), a note that I was unable to find in the men-
tioned place and which is mentioned by no other Romanian scholar (raising some doubts as to its
existence). The Note shows the Romanian government offering transit through its territory for
100,000 Soviet troops (by land) and un unlimited number by aerial means, explicitly renouncing all
previous Soviet guarantees referring to the border in Bessarabia. It also presents a very detailed plan
of operations for the transit of Soviet troops. J. Hochman, The Soviet Union … , p. 194-201.
L. Fischer, Russia’s Road … , p. 312.
A good analysis of the Soviets ‘willingness’ or ‘unwillingness’ to go at war for Czechoslovakia is
presented in J. Lukacs, The Great Powers … , p. 172-182.
Even if we consider the document presented by Jiri Hochman as false (footnote 145), the Romani-
ans’ offer to grant passage for Soviet military aircraft and her action in order to restrain Hungary’s
intervention against Czechoslovakia should be enough proof in raising question marks over the ve-
racity of some comments made by Rebecca Haynes, in her attempt to analyze Romanian foreign
policy at the end of the 1930’s. For example: “in reality, the 1938 Czechoslovak crisis was marked by a
desperate attempt by Romania to evade her treaty obligations toward Czechoslovakia in order to
avoid the possibility of finding herself at war with Germany. … the Romanian government made
every effort to deny the right of passage through Romania to the Red Army to aid its Czechoslovak
ally … in mid-September, as the Sudeten crisis reached its climax, the Soviet Union was still pressur-
ing Romania to allow her right of passage … it was by now quite clear that the Romanians would not
allow Soviet right of passage … Romania has refused to bow to Soviet pressure to grant right of pas-
sage”. Rebecca Haynes, Romanian Policy towards Germany, 1936-40, p. 52-54. Haynes seems to forget
that the treaty obligations have been directed against Hungary and not against Germany and that,
with respect to a possible Hungarian military intervention against Czechoslovakia it was clearly
stated that it would bring Romania into the war. Just as the Little Entente treaties did not oblige
Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia to intervene in favor of Romania in case of a Soviet attack in Bessara-
bia neither was Romania obliged to intervene in case of a German attack on Czechoslovakia. And, as
previously presented, the transit of Soviet troops through Romanian territory signified war with
Germany, who most probably would have sent its airplanes to destroy the Romanian railway net-
For a concise presentation of the Pact’s origins see R.H. Haigh, D.S. Morris, A.R. Peters, Soviet
Foreign Policy, the League of Nations and Europe, 1917-1939, p. 98-120. Also Edward H. Carr, “The Nazi-
Soviet Pact”, in Readings in Soviet Foreign Policy, p. 155-160.
Romanian historiography dealt in detail with the Pact’s consequences for Romania. See, for exam-
ple, I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 202-204; also A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima Basarabiei, p. 58-
62, 304-305. It should be mentioned that even nowadays the Russian leadership still refuses to de-
nounce the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and especially the Secret Protocol, although Romania repeat-
edly asked for this action, arguing that Hitler denounced the Pact on June 22, 1941.
Wishing to make full use of Romania’s resources, especially her petroleum and grains, the Ger-
mans started a powerful economic and diplomatic offensive in order to bring Romania into their
camp. Although they had a number of successes in the economic field, the same was not true in the

< 162 >


diplomatic field. For details on the German economic penetration of Romania see, best, William S.
Grenzebach, Germany’s Informal Empire in East-Central Europe, p. 69-95, 173-208. Also, David E. Kaiser,
Economic Diplomacy … , p. 144-145, 158-159, 264-267.
R. Haynes considers that this shift also had ‘partly ideological’ reasons, pointing to anti-
bolshevism, anti-Semitism and fear of pan-Slavism common to both Nazism and Romanian right
wing. R. Haynes, Romanian policy … , p. 176. Still, if one compares the Carlist dictatorship with that of
Hitler what is striking is not the ideological similarities (supposed to foster a rapprochement be-
tween the two states), but the differences: one was characterized by order, planning and fuhrerprinzip,
the other by corruption, self-interest and leading by a mistress; one sought territorial expansion
while the other was simply trying to defend its territory; one sent the Jewish people to gas chambers,
the other kept them in influential positions, and so on.
For a glimpse at the events surrounding the evacuation of Bessarabia see A. Karetki, A. Pricop,
Lacrima Basarabiei, p. 70-86; also, I. Scurtu et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 202-224.
Ion Gherman, Istoria tragica a Bucovinei, Basarabiei si tinutul Hertei, p. 110.
J. Lukacs, The Great Powers … , p. 307.
With the notable exception of the resistance by the Romanian troops led by colonel Bota, at
about 11 km from the city of Herta, which opposed the Red Army’s marching into a territory that
belonged to Romania before 1918 and that was supposed to remain under Romanian rule. I. Scurtu
et. al., Istoria Basarabiei, p. 216.
One of the very few Romanian officials who openly expressed his opposition to King Carol Second
was Charles A Davila, one of the best Romanian diplomats, and for that action he lost his Romanian
citizenship. Corvin Lupu, Relatii diplomatice … , p. 150.
A good attempt to sort out who is to blame for the 1940 cession of Bessarabia is done by historian
Dinu C. Giurescu. Although he avoids clearly pointing the finger to the guilty ones, he mentions
some of the reasons behind the Bessarabian tragedy: the failure of the Bucharest government to take
the most elementary measures (like a limited evacuation or plans for a forced evacuation of Bessara-
bia), the underestimation of Soviet plans until September 1939, the poor material state of the Roma-
nian Army, the continuing internal political fight, and the influence of France’s collapse. Dinu C.
Giurescu, Romania in the Second World War, p. 24-33.
It is difficult to say who was the first diplomat or historian to present this opinion in writing:
probably Dan Geblescu or Frederic C. Nanu. However, this represents the opinion of an important
group in the Romanian Foreign Ministry and is to be found also in some of the more recent papers
on Romanian-Soviet relations.
The best description of the activity of the Bessarabian Russians, although limited to the Peace
Conference, is presented in Petre Cazacu, “Moldova dintre Prut si Nistru”, p. 425-433.
G.E. Torrey, General Henri Berthelot … , p. 149-150.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Telegram from Geneva, May 19, 1918, c. 561.
For the memorandum, called “Declaration of Ten Deputies Against the Decision to Renounce to
Bessarabia’s Autonomy”, see Relatii romano-sovietice. Documente, p. 36-39.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 29, Report by the General Police and Safety Inspectorate in Bes-
sarabia regarding the evolution of the Russian and pro-Russian groups in Bessarabia, February 23,
1923, p. 145.
For details on the Transylvanian’s attempt to maintain autonomy inside Romania see, best,
Gheorghe Iancu, The Ruling Council; the Integration of Transylvania into Romania, 1918-1922, pas-
P. Cazacu, Moldova dintre Prut si Nistru, p. 425. The CSB is also known as the League for the Libera-
tion of Bessarabia. G. Buzatu, Romanii in Arhivele Kremlinului, p. 102.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 29, Report of the General Police and Safety Inspectorate in Bessara-
bia regarding the evolution of the Russian and pro-Russian groups in Bessarabia, February 23, 1923,
p. 146.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The influence of the Kroupenski family was so all pervading in Bessarabia at the beginning of the
20th century that liberal publicists gave Bessarabia the nickname of “the Kroupenskian Province”. R.
W. Seton Watson, The History of the Roumanians, p. 564.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Telegram Cooke (Odessa) to Lord Curzon, January 20,
1919, c. 36.
The best example in this sense comes from a report prepared by Major Barrat, in which he criti-
cizes almost everything done by the Romanian administration in Bessarabia. RNA, Fond England
microfilm, R 394, Report on Bessarabia, January 1919, c. 40-46.
Rattigan reported home of the high number of telegrams sent to him by Bessarabian peasants from
different counties, in order to reaffirm the desire of the districts concerned for the incorporation of
Bessarabia in Great Roumania. RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Telegram Rattigan to Lord
Curzon, August 6, 1919, c. 110.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Memorandum by Sazonov, January 18, 1919, c. 580.
Traian Sandu, “La France et la Bessarabie roumaine de 1918 a 1920…” in The Establishment …, p. 373.
P. Cazacu, Moldova dintre … , p. 425-427. For the memorandum see RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol.
25, p. 32-37.
T. Sandu, “La France et la Bessarabie roumaine de 1918 a 1920 …”, in The Establishment … , p. 376.
FRUS, PPC, vol. 6, p. 72.
And, indeed, in a later Memorandum, the White Russians stressed that the formula “the Roma-
nian part of Bessarabia” implied the existence of non-Romanian parts. RNA, Fond France microfilm,
R 226, Memorandum by Sazonov, Lwow, and Maklakov, September 24, 1919, c. 644.
For his speech see “The Making of the Bessarabian Treaty” chapter, Annex No 2.
FRUS, PPC, Vol. 11, p. 278.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 119, p. 141-142 and
Vol. 121, p. 1883. Lloyd George’s answer to the second interpellation was very laconic “the question of
Bessarabia has still to be discussed by the Peace Conference”.
P. Cazacu, Moldova dintre Prut si Nistru, p. 427-428.
T. Sandu, “La France et la Bessarabie roumaine de 1918 a 1920 …”, in The Establishment … , p. 377.
Anne Hogenhuis-Seliverstoff, Les Relations Franco-Sovietique, p. 146.
JFMA, Fond B 7.6.0, 2, Vol. 1, Letter Ishii to Uchida, containing 17 pages Memorandum on Bes-
sarabia, November 5, 1920.
Until July 15, 1921, Kroupenski and Schmidt published a number of ten propagandistic brochures
in English and French. Among them: “The ‘Parliament’ of Bessarabia”, “Memoire sur la situation de le
Bessarabie” (the most comprehensive of all), “La question de la Bessarabie devant la conference de la
paix” (by Vladimir Tsiganko), and “Lettre de Bessarabie …”. To these should be added “The Case for
Bessarabia”, published by the Russian Liberation Committee, with a preface by historian Paul
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, Special Files, R 1, Vol. 45, p. 47-49.
On this topic see Gheorghe Iancu, “Problema minoritatilor etnice din Romania reflectata in docu-
mente ale Societatii Natiunilor” in Relatii interetnice … , p. 176-199.
For the two memorandums see. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, p. 88-100.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Letter Romanian Government to the Secretary General of the
League, December 5, 1921.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Lahovary to I.G. Duca, April 28, 1922. The letter
through which Hymans informed the Romanian government of the events regarding the Bessarabian
question is also to be found in the same file, p. 169-170.
One example in this sense is the memorandum sent to the Italian Embassy in Vienna on April
1924, called “Questione della Bessarabia”, signed by a certain Filippani Poltoratzki, which found no
echo with the Italian authorities. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 29, p. 157-162.
The quotation is from a description made by Georges Picot, the French representative in Sofia,
after a meeting with the White Russians. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 29, Telegram Langa Ras-

< 164 >


canu to Take Ionescu, April 19, 1922.

In Prague, the Russian students were able to organize during 1921-1922 a society called “Oreste”
and to publish a newspaper called “The Student”, which, among other matters related to Russia,
took a decided stand against the Romanian administration of Bessarabia. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2,
Vol. 29, Note on the Activity of the Bessarabian Emigration, December 1928, p. 207-208.
For example, in 1927 a brochure called “La probleme Bessarabien; memorandum” was published in
Paris by “The Conference of the Associations of Bessarabian Emigrants in France, Belgium, Germany,
Austria and Czechoslovakia”. They also printed some magazines, with significant titles, like “The
Voice of Bessarabia” or “The Oppressed Bessarabia” during 1928.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 29, Note on Activities Initiated by the Bessarabian Emigration,
December 1928, p. 207-208.
G. Buzatu argues that, in fact, the Kremlin used the documents belonging to the White Russians
as very powerful arguments in order to support its claims over Bessarabia. He also points out that all
such existing documents in the Archives of the former Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs were filed
and organized in June 1940, just before the ultimatum sent to the Romanian government for the
evacuation of Bessarabia, and that this was by no means a mere coincidence. G. Buzatu, Romanii in
arhivele Kremlinului, p. 103.
The Society was conceived as a ‘reserve tool’ that was to be used only when necessary - this hap-
pened in 1938, when the Society was revived by the communists. Vitalie Varatic, Preliminarii la raptul
Basarabiei si Nordului Bucovinei, p. 51-54, 216-217.
The best available resources for the activity of Bessarabian emigration are those existing in the
RFMA, consisting on notes and reports regarding their activity. The reports cover the entire inter-
war period, sometimes (like the October 28, 1936, Report) providing detailed information on the
amounts of money and the strategy used by the communists for their propaganda, and also on the
people involved in these actions. RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 29, passim. Some of the documents
available in the RFMA and dealing with the activity of the Bessarabian emigration during 1938-1940
have been recently published in V. Varatic, Preliminarii la raptul Basarabiei si Nordului Bucovinei. Another
source of information on the activity of the Bessarabian emigration are the Russian archives, and the
existence of an organized and reach inventory of such information is confirmed in G. Buzatu, Romanii
in Arhivele Kremlinului, p. 102-103.

< 165 >


The United Kingdom was the Great Power that insisted the most on signing
the Bessarabian Treaty and was the first of the five signatory countries to ratify it,
depositing the necessary instruments for ratification in Paris, on April 14, 1922.
There were two main reasons for the British position: (1) improving British-
Romanian relations; and (2) the general policy of the British Empire, and especially
of Lloyd George, towards Russia. One of the best presentations of this policy is
found in Richard Ullman’s comprehensive analysis of Anglo-Soviet relations:

In talking with Frank L. Polk [on November 24, 1919], Lloyd George did
not hide his strong feeling that a unified Russia would be a danger to Europe.
He hoped, he said, for Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bessarabia, the Ukraine, the Baltic
provinces, Finland, and perhaps even Siberia, all to be independent. Here was
the Prime Minister’s answer to Disraeli’s fear of ‘a great, gigantic, colossal,
growing Russia’. To John W. Davis, the American Ambassador in London, he
later [December 3] made the same statement: he favored the ultimate division
of Russia into a number of independent states, leaving none large enough to
threaten the peace; and he was not adverse to treating with the Soviet govern-
ment to achieve this goal.1

By contrast, France and the USA saw a powerful Russia as a necessity for their
foreign policy aims. In these conditions it comes as no surprise that the British lead-
ers were the friendliest toward the Romanian cause in Bessarabia, at least during the
Peace Conference and the first years thereafter.

During the Paris Peace Conference

During the war the UK’s attitude toward Romania underwent several changes.
At the beginning, it backed all the Romanian territorial claims by signing the 1916
Treaty. But by January 5, 1918, Lloyd George was insisting that the UK’s purpose was

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

not the dismemberment of the Habsburg Monarchy, but only to see that more rights
were given to the Romanians and other minorities living within the Empire. The idea
of autonomy for the Romanians in Transylvania, expressed in his speech, was con-
sidered incompatible with the 1916 Treaty between Romania and the Entente.2 This
idea was expressed once more in a telegram Lloyd George sent to Bratianu on Janu-
ary 24, 1918, which encouraged the Romanians to keep on fighting ¾ while making
no mention of their aspirations for national unification.3 Toward the end of the war,
when the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire became evident, the UK’s at-
titude shifted back to supporting the Romanian territorial claims.
Published in 1920 as the Peace Manuals, the final recommendations made by the
Department of Political Information in the Foreign Office (the British equivalent of the
Inquiry Commission) stated that: Transylvania should belong to Romania; the Banat
should be divided between Romania and Serbia;4 Bukovina should be divided between
Romania and a Ruthenian State; Romania should cede some territories to Bulgaria in
southern Dobrudja; the traffic on the Danube River should be placed under the super-
vision of an international commission; and that Bessarabia should belong to Romania.5 As
can be seen, the territorial recommendations were not that different from those stipu-
lated in the 1916 Treaty. Still, as for Bessarabia, not all the British officials agreed (at
least, not during the first months after the end of the war) that it should go to Roma-
nia. Some argued that Bessarabia should be taken under the protection of an interna-
tional commission for a number of years until a plebiscite could be held in the prov-
ince;6 others that only a part of the province should go to Romania:

It is therefore suggested that in the final settlement with Russia the whole
of Bessarabia should be acknowledged as Romanian, except for the Czerno-
vitz-Kiev railway, which, together with the strip of Bessarabia north of it,
should be given to Russia.7

During the Peace Conference the UK’s position toward Romania was some-
where in the middle, oscillating between the strong demands of the US and the com-
promise policy favored by France and Italy. The British diplomats took a wait-and-
see approach, skillfully maneuvering between the French and American proposals on
Romania.8 Their main purposes during the Peace Conference were to continue pro-
tecting British interests all over the world, and to temper the French influence on
the Continent, ruling out a possible French hegemony in Europe. As a result, they
sought both to reduce France’s influence in Romania and to increase their own.
As it did in France, the Romanian propaganda in London played a role in the
decisions taken by the UK Government: the Romanians attracted the sympathy of
some influential figures in London. Robert W. Seton-Watson published numerous
articles in favor of the Romanian claims in his influential weekly journal The New
Europe. A special mention should also be made of the role played by the British Min-
ister in Romania, Frank Rattigan, one of those who really understood Romanian re-
alities and politics.

< 168 >


The main controversies between Romania and the UK during the Peace Con-
ference were related to the situation in Hungary, the status of Bukovina, and the Da-
nube, with Hungary proving to be the most important. The British representatives,
like the US representatives, spoke in favor of Hungary and they had been on the US
side during the conflict over the withdrawal of Romanian troops, arguing in favor of
decisive measures against Romania. However, when it came to Bessarabia, the UK
representatives were on Romania’s side from beginning to the end, and it was a di-
rect result of their insistence in 1920 that the Bessarabian Treaty was signed.
The misadventures between Romania and the Peace Conference having been
presented in the previous chapter, we will not go into them again. The British policy
towards Romania is clear from the reports presented by George Clerk and Alain
Leeper at the end of their September 1919 mission to Romania. The latter presented a
very insightful “Memorandum on the Romanian Situation”, which reads:

Mr. Bratianu makes no secret of the fact that he expects to win in his pol-
icy of resistance.
Both in Paris and Bucharest he [Bratianu] continues to argue that the great
danger of the future is pan Slavism, and that it is necessary for Romania and for
Romania’s allies to take every step to prevent the resuscitation of Russia. For
this quadruple alliance [Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary] Mr. Bratianu
confidently relies on securing the support of Italy and, less confidently, that of
France. Britain he regards as more or less disinterestedly neutral, and the US he
frankly considers Romania’s worst enemy.
The Government press at Bucharest is full every day of the differences of
opinion between the Great Powers at the Conference. . . .
In conclusion I would venture to urge that the only method of maintaining
Romania in the alliance, of preventing her from entering on a course of foreign
policy calamitous to herself and prejudicial to us, and of securing her a reform
of the present corrupt and inefficient administration which encumbers her, is
prompt and unequivocal action by the Peace Conference. I would venture to
urge that the best course would be that at such a moment as the Conference
considers opportune ¾ and the sooner that moment is chosen the more deci-
sive and beneficial will be the effect ¾ a firm but friendly demand should be
addressed to the Romanian Government calling on them within a delay of a
few days to decide whether or not they will sign the Treaty with Austria, in-
cluding the famous minority clause. In the same communication the Romanian
Government should be informed that the Conference would welcome a discus-
sion as to the exact wording and application of the Treaty. . .9

The course suggested in the Leeper Memorandum was adopted not only by the
British representatives but also by the other representatives at the Peace Conference
towards the end of 1919, and proved to be a success.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Regarding the Bessarabian question, since the beginning of the Peace Confer-
ence the British representatives had expressed the opinion that, based on ethnic,
economical, geographical, historical and political reasons, the province should be-
long to Romania. In the first phase, the British diplomatic team concluded that, in
order for the Union to be officially recognized, Romania should fulfill three condi-
tions: Bessarabia’s separation from Russia would be on the basis of the ethnic prin-
ciple and not a military occupation of the province in favor of Romania; nothing
should be done that could impinge on Russia’s economic or other vital interests in
Romania; the national minorities living in the area should receive internationally
guaranteed cultural and local autonomy.10
The British position on Bessarabia was presented officially during an interpel-
lation in the House of Commons, on December 4, 1919. Asked by Captain Moreing
whether HMG would regard with sympathy the desire of the inhabitants of Bessara-
bia to be reunited with Romania, Lloyd George answered “It had been the policy of
HMG, throughout the Peace Conference, to endeavour to unite national majorities
where ever it is practicable to do so. They will approach the consideration of Bes-
sarabia in this spirit.”11

The UK’s Role in the Signing of the Bessarabian Treaty


In 1920, the UK was the Great Power pushing hardest for the official recogni-
tion of the union between Bessarabia and Romania. Why did they take such a
“friendly” attitude, why were the British so active in a matter that was not of any
direct interest to the British Empire? A “Memorandum on Bessarabia”, prepared at
the Foreign Office in January 1920, might give us a head start. The Memorandum
In June 1919 Admiral Kolchak’s Government declared that the principle of
ratification of covenants regarding national groups by a Russian Constituent
Assembly must be applied to the question of Bessarabia . . .
Mr. Bratianu invariably replied that the one deciding factor in his Russian
policy was the question of Bessarabia. Ukraine acknowledged the Romanian
claim to this province, while Denikin did not; therefore, until the latter did so,
Romania would withhold all real support from him and assist Ukraine.
During the last few days of November and the early part of December Petli-
ura seems to have been eliminated from Ukraine. General Denikin has since
been defeated everywhere and may lose Odessa. Before he does so the moment
seems appropriate for reaching a decision at Paris in regard to Bessarabia. The
Peace Conference noted on December 11 that this question has still to be dis-
cussed. . . . At the Bessarabian frontier trouble may arise in an acute form ow-
ing to the insecurity of the Vaida government in Romania and General Deni-
kin’s incapacity to hold the situation in South Russia.

< 170 >


It is suggested therefore that in addition to the encouragement of effective

cooperation between Poland, Romania and South Russia . . . a definite decision
should be reached by the Conference of Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretar-
ies in Paris as to the boundaries and sovereignty over Bessarabia. It is impor-
tant to strengthen the Vaida Government and at the same time to re-
move the principal obstacle to the co-operation of Romania in the re-
generation of Russia.12

As can be seen, by January 1920 one of the main reasons behind the UK’s inten-
tion to settle the Bessarabian question was the situation in Russia and the hope of
having Romania act in a more positive manner for the “regeneration of Russia”,
whatever was to be understood by this formula. On January 20, as previously shown,
according to the suggestion presented in the Memorandum, Lloyd George took a
decisive step regarding the Bessarabian question by promising the Conference’s offi-
cial recognition of its union with Romania. However, the Russian-Polish War
brought about a change in the British position by dimming their enthusiasm regard-
ing that regeneration of Russia.
The person who seems to have had the greatest influence over the formulation
of the British policy on Bessarabia, namely Alan W.A. Leeper, was a high-ranking
official in the Foreign Office. Whenever a matter regarding Bessarabia came up for
debate, his opinion was asked. The Report he prepared on February 28, 1920, offers
an example; his suggestions were clearly followed by Lloyd George during the March
3, 1920, meeting of the Peace Conference:

The Romanian Prime Minister, who has been urgently summoned by the
Romanian King, is most anxious to obtain from the Peace Conference a consid-
eration of the Bessarabian question. . . . It is therefore a question whether the
consideration of the recognition of Bessarabia’s reunion with Romania should
be postponed until the Romanian troops have finally left Hungarian territory
completely. If this is done it means that Vaida-Voevod will return to Bucharest
empty handed, his position becoming impossible from the view of Romanian
internal politics. In view of the fact that Vaida-Voevod represents and agrees
with precisely the policy of close alliance and friendship with this country, the
result of his defeat could not fail to be disastrous from the view of British-
Romanian relations.
I venture therefore to submit that Mr. Vaida-Voevod might be given an oppor-
tunity of stating briefly his proposals and that on condition of his accepting and
abiding by absolutely the ruling of the Allied Military Commission, as to the stages
of evacuating Hungary, the Supreme Council might furnish him with a decision on
the Bessarabian question in accordance with the terms of the draft that I venture to
annex hereto [presented as Annex No. 6 of Chapter 2].
It may be added that, if the reported offer of the Soviets to make peace with
Romania is authentic, the case for an immediate decision on the Bessarabian

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

question is strengthened.
There is no doubt, alike in the interests of the Bessarabian people them-
selves, who have already fully accepted union with Romania and in the interest
of peace and order throughout Romania and neighboring countries, that a set-
tlement of the Bessarabian question on the lines indicated is urgently needed.13


The British insistence on the making of the Bessarabian Treaty was driven by
many factors.
(1) Preventing Russia from playing too important a role in European policy,
from becoming “a menace” to Europe, was a major British concern. The British gov-
ernment had no interest in seeing a powerful Russia. Similarly, they had no interest
in seeing France achieve a hegemonic position in Europe; and consequently the Brit-
ish chose to assist the revival of Germany. However perilous this policy proved to be
some two decades later, it was the choice of the British leadership; they had no use
for a strong Russia, one that would open the door to the French by keeping Germany
on her knees. The Bessarabian question was part and parcel of this policy, as ex-
pressed by Lloyd George during a parliamentary interpellation (March 1, 1920):

Lt-commander Kenworthy asked the Prime Minister whether any deci-

sion had been reached at the Peace Conference with regard to Bessarabia;
whether the Royal Romanian Government has been approached by the Soviet
Government with a view to the settlement of this question and the making of
peace; what advice has been tendered by HMG on this question; and whether
we have entered into any agreement with Romania to support it if peace with
Russia is not concluded.
The Prime Minister: . . . the future of Bessarabia has been subject of dis-
cussion between the Supreme Council and the Romanian Prime Minister.
The answer to the second part is in the affirmative. As for the third and fourth
parts, HMG have adopted the same attitude in this regard toward Romania as they had
already taken towards Poland and the Baltic States.14

What is important here is the fact that Bessarabia is considered to be in the

same category as the Baltic States and the Russian parts of Poland. This position was
exactly the opposite of that adopted by the US government, which clearly consid-
ered Bessarabia to be a special case, as shown in the Colby Note of August 10, 1920.
(2) The British government wanted to keep Romania out of the Polish-Russian
War.15 Of course, as Bessarabia was the main reason for Romania to intervene in the
war, offering the necessary international guarantees regarding her possession of Bes-
sarabia seemed to be the best option. As stated by Frank Rattigan:

In the view of Mr. Lloyd George . . . His Majesty’s Government were in no

sense prepared to advise Romania to take any action which would involve her

< 172 >


in active hostilities with the Bolsheviks. If she took such action, she must
clearly understand that she did so on her own responsibility and could not ex-
pect any assistance from Great Britain.16

Indeed, throughout the interwar period, one of the main aims of British foreign
policy was to avoid any new war; the fear of seeing the British Empire embroiled in a
new conflict in Europe was acute. The British leadership was active during the third
and fourth decades in seeking to resolve all conflicts at the negotiating table.
(3) Negatively influencing Romanian-British relations was the question of the
future status of the Danube. In accordance with its longstanding policy of control-
ling the principal navigable waterways, the UK had imposed, together with France,
the internationalization of the Danube and the establishment of a European Com-
mission on the Mouths of the Danube. The Danube River flows into the Black Sea
through a delta where it divides itself into three arms with the northernmost, the
Chilia Arm, being the most suited to navigation. The Chilia Arm had previously been
the border between Romania and Russia (and, therefore, had been considered inter-
national waters — or, under international control) but, as a result of the union, it
became exclusively Romanian territory. In order to preclude Romanian control of
the main navigable arm of the Danube (and to answer the propaganda campaign ini-
tiated by the Liberal Party, at that time in opposition, against the acceptance of the
decision taken by the Peace Conference on the status of Danube), the British govern-
ment decided to “weaken” the Romanian position. In April 1920, they added to the
initial draft of the Bessarabian Treaty a special article regarding navigation on the
Chilia Arm and control over the mouth of the Chilia (Article No. 7), protecting their
interests from any possibly costly Romanian decision (for example, the Romanians
could have imposed a new tax on navigation through the Danube Delta).17
(4) The British sought to consolidate the non-Bratianist Government (at that
time the Liberal Party, controlled by the Bratianu family, was the best-organized
political party in Romania) and to increase the British influence in Romania. With
no more US representatives in attendance to be blamed, and because of the Danube
question and certain other economic and political matters, Great Britain became “the
bête noire of the Bratianists”.18 As previously shown, the British intervened in favor
of the Romanian cause in Bessarabia during the January 20 and March 3, 1920 meet-
ings of the Peace Conference in part due to the need to strengthen the Vaida-Voevod
government. Even after that government was replaced with the one headed by Alex-
andru Averescu, they continued their support, with a view not only to counterbal-
ancing the anti-British propaganda initiated by the Liberals but also to increasing
their general influence in Romania.
(5) Conceivably, another reason would be the fact that Bessarabia was Roma-
nian territory according to the ethnographical and historical data. However, it is
difficult to ascertain how much that argument may have influenced the British posi-
tion on Bessarabia. The same point had no influence whatsoever on the US govern-
ment, which considered its strategic interests more important than any historical or

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

demographic realities. In the case of France, opinion was divided, some French
scholars arguing that economically Bessarabia would fare much better under Rus-
sian administration, which offered a huge market for its products, compared to Ro-
mania, which produced more or less the same goods as Bessarabia. Officially, the
British representatives stressed that their main reason for backing the union of Bes-
sarabia with Romania was based on clear demographical and historical realities, but
in British secret documents regarding Bessarabia there is almost no allusion to that.
(6) The Bessarabian Treaty stipulated no concrete obligations for its signato-
ries in case of a Russian-Romanian War over Bessarabia. Therefore, even when the
Treaty came into force, the signatory Great Powers would have only a moral obliga-
tion towards Romania, and even this obligation was not a direct one — it was the
League of Nations and not the signatory Powers that would be responsible for tak-
ing whatever measures were considered necessary in case of a Russian attack on Bes-
sarabia. This situation was clearly in agreement with the British policy of avoiding
any concrete obligations on the Continent.
During 1920, British interest in the Treaty shifted its accent from the negotia-
tions between Romania and the Conference of the Ambassadors to the bilateral Ro-
manian-British negotiations, the former simply confirming the agreements reached
by the latter. As a result, British diplomacy played the decisive role during the final
stages in the making of the Bessarabian Treaty.
However, while the British government had reason enough to act in favor of
the international recognition of Bessarabia’s union, it took the opportunity to link it
to other seemingly minor questions on which Romania seemed unwilling to listen to
British and French “advice”. There were at least three such questions: the with-
drawal of the Romanian Army from Hungarian territory; Romania’s signing and rati-
fication of the Minorities Treaty and other treaties; and increased compensations to
be paid by Romania to the foreign landowners expropriated in Bessarabia. It should
be noted that none of those matters was of long-term importance to the British; they
all came into play as a result of combined French-British pressure.


British-Romanian negotiations regarding the Draft of the future Bessarabian

Treaty started in April 1920. The Romanian Prime Minister, Alexandru Averescu,
first named Take Ionescu as his representative in London but, the latter refusing the
assignment due to his being nominated as foreign minister, the task of negotiating
the new treaty passed to Nicolae Titulescu. Therefore, before becoming Finance
Minister (June 1920), Titulescu was responsible for negotiating, both in London and
Paris, the Draft Treaty.19 Years later he described the negotiations:

When, as a delegate of the Averescu Government at the Peace Conference, I

had to discuss the draft of the Treaty recognizing the union of Bessarabia to
Romania, obtained by the Vaida Government, the Allies proposed a formula

< 174 >


which was totally unacceptable and which admitted the Soviets’ right to make
appeal at the League of Nations against the decision of the Great Powers to
recognize the political union of Bessarabia with Romania. I had to fight for the
entire month of May in London in order to empty the proposed formulation of
any substance, clearly stipulating that the Romanian sovereignty over Bessara-
bia and her borders are exempted from the right to make appeal recognized to
the Soviets.20

The British government backed the French in insisting that the Romanian gov-
ernment offer substantial compensation to the foreign landowners who were expro-
priated in Bessarabia. Although there were only three (initially two) such British
landowners, HMG did whatever it could in order to offer them satisfaction. While it
opposed the French proposal to insert the matter into the draft of the Treaty itself,
considering that it would be inappropriate to introduce into a treaty of this nature a
clause related to temporary private interests,21 it clearly insisted on reaching another
type of agreement with the Romanian government in order to resolve the matter.
Frank Rattigan informed his Government of the need to make certain reserva-
tions in the application to British subjects of the Bessarabian agrarian law, before
signing the Bessarabian Treaty, but he considered it unnecessary to make any such
stipulation a part of the agreement itself.22 After all, it would have been unusual to
condition a treaty of such importance on a private financial matter that offered no
material advantages whatsoever to the British government. Therefore the British
government instructed him to approach the Romanian government and request the
necessary assurances, stating that the British delegation could not sign an agreement
on Bessarabia until these assurances were obtained.23 On the surface this instruc-
tion, as well as the ensuing negotiations, clearly shows the “materialistic” side of the
British foreign policy: British interests, however minor they might be, must be pro-
tected in any situation and at any price. On the other hand, when we consider the
reasons motivating the British to press for the Bessarabian Treaty, the same instruc-
tions take on a different light: they were either trying to please the French (who
were not very happy with this solution) or they were “playing tough” with the Ro-
A few days later, Rattigan reported home of his attempt to act, together with
the French minister in Bucharest, in order to resolve the matter of foreign subjects
expropriated in Bessarabia — an attempt that was motivated by the need to avoid
inspiring anti-British feelings but that failed as a result of the prolonged French de-
lays. Rattigan decided to send a separate note to the Romanian Foreign Affairs Min-

I have asked the Romanian Government.

1. To indemnify expropriated British subjects on the same basis as in force
in Old Kingdom.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

2. To accord fair compensation for expropriation of rights in forests, town

property, quarries, fisheries etc.
3. To repay to proprietors all arrears of rent etc. collected by Romanian au-
thorities up to date of definitive expropriation.24

In Paris, the French were also negotiating with the matter of foreign subjects
expropriated in Bessarabia. Titulescu having expressed to Guy Laroche (under Sec-
retary for Europe in the French Foreign Ministry) his objections regarding Articles 7
and 9 in the draft treaty, articles added to the initial draft on Britain’s insistence,
Laroche expressed his discontent with the fact that the agrarian law was damaging
for the French subjects in Bessarabia. Titulescu answered that his government was
ready to indemnify the mentioned subjects and promised to study a procedure that
might confirm this undertaking.25
The British government was the first to be informed of the Romanian agree-
ment to resolve the matter. As reported by Rattigan after a meeting with Foreign
Minister Take Ionescu: “He gave me assurances that arrears of rent would be paid to
British proprietors and that they would be compensated for the rights confiscated”.26
The British government considered the assurances satisfactory, but insisted they be
put in writing as soon as possible in order to have the Bessarabian Treaty discussed
at an early date.27
The Romanian minister in France, Dimitrie Ion Ghika, also pressed the French
government into signing the Bessarabian Treaty.28 As soon as he received word of his
government’s resolution regarding the French interests in Bessarabia, he presented it
to the French government: nine French subjects had been identified and their re-
quests sent to the Public Works Ministry; also, as Titulescu had been named Fi-
nance Minister, there would be no problem with the payment, Titulescu having all
the necessary elements in order to ascertain the amounts and the modalities of pay-
On June 28, 1920, the Romanian Government agreed to offer written assur-
ances to the British and French governments regarding the payment of increased
indemnities for their subjects expropriated in Bessarabia as a result of the agrarian
law. The modality proposed was an exchange of notes, embodying the assurances
required, between the Romanian Minister in Paris and the Conference of Ambassadors.30
Why did the Romanian government then change its decision, so that instead of
an exchange of notes with the Conference, there was an exchange of notes only with
France and Britain? Was it in order to keep the matter secret from the Romanian or
Russian landowners, who might have asked for the same increased compensations?
Or was it simply because the Romanians understood that the British-French Entente
was the main engine behind the Peace Conference, and no real influence was dis-
cernable from the other Great Powers? It is true that, as it turned out, the French
and British agreement was sufficient for the signing of the Treaty. Consequently,
when the Romanians decided to take the first practical steps in this direction, they
did not call on the Conference but on the British government:

< 176 >


The Romanian government will allow an indemnity to the 13 foreign land-

owners in Bessarabia. The Romanian government will fix the increase in allow-
ance, but we request the Foreign Office to ascertain from owners the value of
their properties. The Romanian government has taken this engagement hoping
that the treaty relating to Bessarabia will soon be signed.31

Satisfied with the proposal, the British government asked Rattigan to offer the
necessary information to the Romanian government, observing, “They are anxious to
push on with signature of treaty; such is also the desire of HMG”.32 Three weeks
later, Rattigan was able to report home that the Romanian government fully agreed
to the British demands: they would pay the two landowners for the expropriated
land, at a value to be established together by the two governments, and the money
would be paid directly to the British government; they would also pay the rent ar-
rears due to the landowners, starting at the moment of expropriation.33 The Roma-
nian willingness to resolve the matter so agreeably can be ascribed to their wish to
see the Bessarabian Treaty signed as soon as possible and the relatively limited
amount of money to be paid.
Anton Bibescu, the Romanian chargé d’affaires in London, continued to press
for the signing of the Treaty, as soon as possible. To strengthen his case and to over-
come the foot-dragging of the French, Bibescu insisted that postponing the Bessara-
bian question or linking it to the general peace negotiations to be opened eventually
with the Soviet government (as suggested by the French), would be considered by
the Romanian government as harmful to the preservation of order in Romania. The
last argument seemed to be convincing for the British: “There is great force in the
Romanian argument about the situation in the East, as the Soviet government may at
any moment make extravagant decisions about Bessarabia”.34
However, although the Romanians agreed to indemnify the British subjects
expropriated in Bessarabia and with all due consideration of the danger posed by the
Soviets, the British government still considered that the Bessarabian Treaty might
prove useful in settling another matter that had been left in suspense by the Romani-
ans: the Minorities Treaty. Therefore, by early August, Bucharest was informed that:

There is another question which obviously affects the Bessarabian settle-

ment, the Minorities Treaty. It is clearly desirable that Romania should facili-
tate the conclusion of the arrangement for the Bessarabian Treaty by ratifying
the Minorities Treaty as soon as possible.35

On August 4, 1920, Titulescu had a meeting with Harold Nicholson (of the
British Foreign Ministry) in which he presented the Romanian solution to the ex-
propriation question (the exchange of letters). He also tried to play on the British-
French competition for influence in Romania, by arguing that, when he visited Paris,
the French government had been very anxious to sign the Bessarabian Treaty but

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told him that the British government was largely responsible for the continuing
postponement.36 As it was highly unlikely that the French had blamed the British for
the postponement, Titulescu’s argument was seen as a transparent diplomatic at-
tempt to intensify the pressure for ratification, and it seems to have failed to impress
the British. As stated by British officials:

If we give way over Bessarabia before the ratification of the Minorities

Treaty by Romania we lose a powerful lever without which she will probably
never ratify. I would suggest that the note to Mr. Boerescu [Romanian Minis-
ter to UK] should go forward despite any capital that our French allies may
make out of this at Bucharest. . . .
If the immediate solution of the Bessarabian question is so important to the
Romanians, they have it in their own hands to obtain it. If they will frankly
explain to their Chamber that the ratification of the Minorities Treaty is a con-
dition of obtaining the cession of Bessarabia, they ought to be able to have the
ratification voted at once.37

It should be admitted that, although the idea of tying the ratification of the
Minorities Treaty to the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty came up rather late, it was
immediately embraced by the British. This time, unlike in the case of compensation
for expropriated landowners, the British government, with the French government
immediately backing it, initiated the new condition imposed on the Romanians in
exchange for signing the Bessarabian Treaty.
On August 8, 1920, another meeting took place between Titulescu, Boerescu
and Lord Curzon, with the Romanians stating that the Senate had ratified the Mi-
norities Treaty unanimously and asking for the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty.38
The Romanian government had proven once again how much value it placed on the
Bessarabian Treaty, fulfilling the British condition in a matter of days. It is true the
law for the ratification of the Minorities Treaty (a part of the Peace Treaty with Aus-
tria) had already been slated for debate by the Romanian Parliament. In fact, most
probably the British insistence on the ratification of the Minorities Treaty came as a
result of Romanian internal politics, as the Liberal Party tried to use the Minorities
Treaty as a weapon against the Averescu government.
The Romanians having complied with both British demands, Lord Derby was
instructed to take the necessary action for the official recognition of Bessarabia’s
union with Romania:

His Majesty’s Government were unwilling to sign the Bessarabian Treaty

before Romania had:
a. Given certain assurances in regard to British property in Bessarabia;
b. Ratified the Minorities Treaty.
[Point] (a) has now been complied with and in regard to (b) the Romanian
Senate has ratified the Minorities Treaty.

< 178 >


Please, therefore, arrange with French Government for signature of Bes-

sarabian Treaty directly authoritative information is received as to ratification
by Romanian Chamber, which is daily expected. 39

It should also be noted that, in matters regarding the Bessarabian Treaty, the
British representatives were supposed to consult only their French counterparts and
not the Italians or the Japanese representatives, who were also members of the Con-
The Romanians understood that the British government was on their side and
they kept up the pressure, informing them of developments regarding the ratification
of the Minorities Treaty and asking for a quick resolution to the Bessarabian ques-
tion.40 Their efforts were successful: Minister Boerescu was informed that the British
government had already instructed his Ambassador in Paris to arrange for the sign-
ing of the Bessarabian Treaty with the least possible delay.41
According to his instructions, Lord Derby asked the French government when
they would be ready to sign, presenting the British view on the matter and dismiss-
ing the French “official” reason for the postponement:

As soon as the Romanians ratify the Minorities Treaty, the British Govern-
ment will be ready to sign the Bessarabian Treaty . . . HMG is of the opinion
that the adherence of the US government to the Treaty is of little real impor-
tance, since the Treaty contains reference to the League, which would make it
practically impossible to secure the ratification of the US. While regretting
therefore that the US government are unable to be a party to the Treaty, HMG
do not feel that their abstention can be adduced as a reason against the prompt
signature and ratification of the Treaty by the Principal Allied Powers.42

The British argument failed to impress the French, who tried to temporize,
maintaining that there was no urgency. They argued that between the ratification of
the Minorities Treaty by Romania and the deposit of that ratification in Paris there
would be a period of a few weeks during which they could easily analyze the situa-
tion. And, in order to completely dissipate the British pressure, after insisting again
on the US adhesion to the treaty, the French proposed waiting until the Soviets
should officially recognize Bessarabia’s union with Romania: “Do the HMG believe
that the Soviet government will accept the cession of Bessarabia and, if so, should we
not wait until the end of the Romanian-Soviet negotiations?43
Notwithstanding the French opposition, as soon as news of the Romanian rati-
fication of the Minorities Treaty reached Paris, Lord Derby insisted again on the
signing, suggesting the first week of September for this action. As he received no
answer from the French government, Lord Derby sent a new Note on September 8,
1920,44 only in order to receive an answer one week later, along the same lines as pre-
viously: we should wait for the US government’s agreement.45
The Romanian Crown Prince Carol visited the UK, and he met the Prime Min-

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ister on September 11. During the meeting, Romanian foreign policy was among the
topics, with the Romanians insisting that they could not enter any negotiations with
the Soviets before the Bessarabian Treaty was signed.

Lloyd George: Romania should defend her own frontiers. If she limited her-
self to this she would receive the sympathy of Western Europe and, if attacked,
would probably receive such help as could be spared . . . [T]he difficulty with
the Poles was that they had so far antagonized public opinion that Parliament
had shown itself indisposed to help them . . . it was peace that the world
wanted. It would be an advantage to Romania to get a treaty conferring Bes-
sarabia upon her, signed by some de facto Russian Government. Once Romania
had got Bessarabia in this way it was unlikely that anyone would attack her.
M. Boerescu stated that the Bessarabian Treaty agreed to by the Powers
had not yet been signed. Lord Hardinge told him that the British Ambassador
in Paris had been given full powers to sign, and that there were no difficulties
as regards the British government. He was somewhat puzzled to know why
the signature had not taken place.
The Prime Minister undertook to make inquiries on this point, and in-
structed Sir Maurice Hankey to take the necessary action.46
M. Boerescu thanked the Prime Minister and stated that the Minorities
Treaty had been ratified and all formalities complied with, so that no obstacle
to the Bessarabian Treaty was to be found there.47

Lord Derby made the necessary inquiries again and presented the French posi-
tion, as well as his personal views, to his government:

Even as they did not change their position towards the Bessarabian Treaty,
they still believe it necessary to have the US signature and also to ensure Ro-
mania against troubles in the future with Russia . . . by having the recognition
of both the Soviets and the Southern Russian government for Bessarabia’s ces-
sion. As this is practically tantamount to an indefinite postponement of the
Treaty, I should be glad to know if HMG attach particular importance to its
early signature and if so on what grounds. The first thing to do is to induce the
US government to withdraw their objection and I venture to suggest that the
best way of doing this would be by direct representation at Washington.48

The French position, arguing that the treaty should be postponed for the
spring 1921 in view of the need to wait for the recognition of the union by the Soviets
as well as by the Southern Russian government, received a dim reception in London.
The British displeasure is clearly presented by Alan Leeper:

This new move on the part of the French is as dishonest as it is easily expli-
cable. They are anxious to stand well with General Wrangel and have obvi-

< 180 >


ously given him some assurances in regard to Bessarabia. To postpone signa-

ture of Bessarabian Treaty till Americans, Bolsheviks, General Wrangel’s con-
sent have been obtained is to postpone it till the Greek Calends. I have dis-
cussed this with Mr. Harrison, of the US Embassy in Paris, from every angle
and it is clear that the American consent is unattainable [it would contradict
the Colby Note]. If cession will be made dependent on their consent (Soviets,
General Wrangel) they will naturally attempt all sorts of blackmail at Roma-
nia’s expense (in the Copenhagen conversations, Litvinov agreed to cession).

The Romanians have loyally fulfilled the two preliminary conditions laid down
by HMG; our word is therefore pledged. Lord Derby should be informed that in
the opinion of HMG the Treaty should be signed at once and that in the event
of the Allied governments withholding their signature, HMG will have no
course open but to attach their signature alone.49

Following the line suggested by Leeper, Lord Derby received the necessary instruc-

. . . French attitude, which is presumably affected by obligations under-

taken towards General Wrangel, cannot be allowed to influence position of
HMG explained to you in my telegrams. On August 19 I informed Romanian
Chargé d’Affaires that I had “instructed HMG Ambassador at Paris to arrange
for the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty with the least possible delay”. I can-
not therefore agree to the indefinite postponement that would be required in
order to obtain American consent and that of the Soviet Government and Gen-
eral Wrangel.
Please therefore at next meeting propose to Ambassador’s Conference that
treaty should be signed next week and inform your colleagues that while strongly
hoping that they will sign the treaty you have instructions to attach your own signature to it
in any case.50

As can be seen, the British position was a decisive factor in signing the Bessara-
bian Treaty during 1920. The British pressure was very influential in convincing the
French that the time had come to sign the Bessarabian Treaty, even as they insisted
on further postponements — as they needed time to see how the things would
evolve in the Russian-Polish war. The British representatives found the best means
to modify this policy, by insisting that they were prepared to be the only Power to
sign the treaty. The last argument proved to make the difference for France, who was
unwilling to risk seeing all her influence in Romania disappear over night. The
French were also aware that, with the UK being the only Great Power pressing for
signature, the view from Bucharest could not be to France’s advantage.51 Therefore,
the French government finally came up with a time frame for the signing of the Bes-
sarabian Treaty: they insisted that the US government should be asked once more to

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

sign, but this time in common by all the members of the Conference, with October
25 as the deadline for their answer.52
Following his instructions, Lord Derby kept pressing the French government,
informing it that his government opposed any new postponement and that he was
quite prepared to be the only Ambassador to sign.53
The British held firm to their decision to sign the Bessarabian Treaty as soon as
possible. Just a few days later, the Ambassadors Conference suggested that, as a con-
dition for signing the Bessarabian Treaty, the Romanian Government should be
asked to sign two other treaties (Central European Frontiers Treaty and the Treaty
regarding the obligations taken over by the inheriting States of the ex-Austria-
Hungarian monarchy, signed at Sèvres on August 10, 1920), but the British govern-
ment opposed this suggestion as a new postponement. As noted by Alan Leeper: “I
submit that the willingness of HMG to sign the Bessarabian Treaty at once should
not be made conditional on Romania’s will to sign the other two treaties, although it
is well to press them to do so”.54 Once again, Lord Curzon entirely followed Leeper’s
opinion: “Desirable though it be that Romanian signature of other two treaties be
obtained now, it cannot be made a condition sine qua non of your signature of the Bes-
sarabian treaty to which . . . HMG are now unconditionally pledged.”55
Apart from pressuring the French, the British government was also taking
steps in order to obtain the adhesion of the British Dominions to the Bessarabian
Treaty. Although the representatives for the Dominions agreed in principle to sign
the Treaty, they asked for the Treaty to be left open for signature by them for a
month, as had been done in other cases. Their motivation was simple: they had not
been supplied with copies of the draft. The Dominions’ request was quickly ap-
proved by the Conference, and a protocol was drafted allowing the Dominions to
sign up to one month after the principal signatories.56
After the Romanian answer to the proposed Draft Treaty was received in Paris
(October 11), negotiations regarding the modification requested by the Romanian
Government took place in London, during the visit of the Romanian Foreign Minis-
ter, Take Ionescu. In Paris, Lord Derby considered the Romanian amendments in-
convenient and asked for instructions:

Failing agreement regarding Chilia mouth at the Danube Conference which

Romanians could block, the status quo would, according to new Romanian
draft, be maintained; i.e. the Romanian Government would evade the obliga-
tion which they contracted as a result of discussions in May which virtually
assured the placing of the Chilia mouth under the Danube Commission.57

Alan Leeper, who was in charge of negotiating the proposed modifications

with Romania, best expresses the British position:

This is most unfortunate as it may invoke further delay.

The Romanian proposal to omit paragraph 1 of Article 7 and simply to leave

< 182 >


the question to the general Danube Conference, without undertaking necessar-

ily to accept its decision, is quite unsatisfactory. The Romanian delegates are
quite incorrect in saying that when the question was discussed in London in
May 1920 it was laid down that the question of the Chilia Branch should be
settled by the Danube Conference. It was in fact agreed in the conversation
between Titulescu, General Mance and myself, and was afterwards approved,
that in any case the Chilia Branch should pass under the same regime as the
other mouths of the Danube, unless the Danube Conference took another deci-
sion. At the time the Romanians hoped that they might be able at the Confer-
ence to secure the merging of the European Commission of the Mouths of Da-
nube into the new international Commission for controlling the general course
of the river. This they failed to do and the European Commission remains in
existence according to the Treaty of Versailles. I do not see any way out of this
except to remind Titulescu of the agreement we made and to tell him that the
present formula suggested by the Romanian delegation is not at all the same
Secondly, the Romanian delegation proposes the addition in line 5 of Arti-
cle 9 of words “not provided for” (non prevus) after “details”. This entirely
changes the character of the article, which was deliberately drafted in order to
safeguard under the control of the signatory parties the rights of Russia to
state her case on the subject with regard to any violation of her interest, which
may have been committed owing to the fact that she has not been represented
in the negotiations. Still, this could be arranged somehow.58

The fact that the Romanians understood that their proposed amendments
would be negotiated in London and not in Paris might be considered as one more
proof of the leading role played by the UK in the signing of the Bessarabian Treaty.
On the other hand, as it was the British government that added Articles 7 and 9 to
the initial draft, it was normal for the Romanians to discuss them in London and not
in Paris.
In fact, the Danube question played an important role in the British decision
not only to sign but also to ratify the Bessarabian Treaty. It was this specific problem
in the Bessarabian Treaty that triggered the intervention of the British ambassadors
in Japan, France and Italy in asking for ratification at the end of 1923. Article No. 7 of
the Treaty in fact transferred the Mouth of Chilia Branch to the jurisdiction of the
European Commission.59 This proves once again the pragmatist British policy: while
they were against any French postponement in signing the treaty, they were unwill-
ing to sign a treaty in which their interests would be impinged. In fact the Romani-
ans were more concerned with the territorial questions and did not consider the Da-
nube a vital question during the Peace Conference; it was only later that they started
a forceful campaign to resolve the question in Romania’s favor.60
On October 18, 1920, Titulescu and Leeper met twice, focusing on the proposed
Romanian modifications to the draft treaty. Leeper said,

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Titulescu willingly agreed to drop the words “non prevus” and to insert in-
stead of them, between “present treaty” and “as well as any difficulties”, the
words “with the exception of matters regarding the frontiers as defined by the
present Treaty and of Romania’s sovereignty”. I submit that this formula
should be accepted.
The Chilia question is much more difficult. Titulescu declared that he had
no intention, and I believe that this is true, of altering the agreement made in
London in May, except in so far as the Danube Conference has already altered
the position. All he wishes is to reserve the right to discuss the Chilia question
at the Conference, to whose decision, whatever it might be, he will bow. I
could not offer him any assurances, as we prefer the May 1920 formula. I do not
think we could accept Mr. Titulescu’s proposal without obtaining Colonel
Baldwin’s views first, for everything depends on whether we can feel sure of
the Danube Conference supporting our view. This means further delay, as it is
clear from Lord Derby’s telegram that General Mance is not satisfied.
The proposed note on the subject of compensations for British interests
seems quite satisfactory. . . .
Titulescu, in a further conversation with me yesterday evening agreed to go
a step further and add the words “and Romania will accept the decision of the
Conference”. If then we can rely on the Conference deciding in favor of our
viewpoint, there should be no further obstacle to signing.61

Describing the same meetings some 20 years later, Titulescu had a somewhat
different view of the proceedings. While making no mention of the Chilia question,
in which he failed, he stressed the opposition of the British diplomats to modifying
Article 9, as they considered the Russians to have an inalienable right to appeal in
questions regarding their former province, and presented the compromise formula
that had been reached for Article No 9:

The right to make appeal should be maintained but it must not extend to the
Romanian sovereignty over Bessarabia and to her borders. And the Englishmen
agreed with this last formula, as it would not have been equivalent to refusing
the right to appeal.62

Based on a letter written by Nicolae Titulescu to King Carol II in August 1939,

A. Karetki and A. Pricop consider that in fact it was Titulescu who initiated the pro-
posed modifications because he was dissatisfied with the wordings of Articles No. 7
and 9, and they praise him for defending Romanian interests.63 However, the matter
was not that simple. Whereas the above may be true for Article 9, the situation re-
garding Article 7 was quite different, as is shown by the British documents. Tit-
ulescu had already agreed in May 1920 with the British condition regarding the
Chilia Branch of Danube and, in October, he offered once again a compromise solu-
tion by offering Romania’s acceptance of the decision taken by the Danube Confer-

< 184 >


ence in Paris regarding the Chilia Branch. This compromise solution was already a
step back from the initial amendment asked by the Romanians for Article 7.
The question is, who or what was behind the proposed modification of Article
7, since neither Titulescu nor Ionescu seemed too keen to back it up? Was it sug-
gested in order to increase the chances for acceptance of the proposed modification
to Article 9, or only in order to quiet those among the political opposition who were
critical of their handling of the Danube question? The question remains particularly
opaque as the British government seemed willing to come to a compromise solution
regarding Article 7 on the line suggested by Titulescu during his second meeting
with Leeper on October 18, and was quite surprised when the Romanians decided to
entirely drop that proposed modification.64
Lord Derby received new instructions outlining the agreement that was
reached: the modification agreed with regard to Article 9, and the new solution
found for Article 7 (with the Draft Note prepared by Malkin); and the agreement of
the British Board of Trade for the proposed formula for indemnification of British
subjects in Bessarabia.65
A new conversation between Take Ionescu and Lord Curzon took place in
London on October 21, 1920. Although the main topic was the future Balkan Entente,
with the British favoring the creation of a Little Entente whereas the Romanians
wanted a larger one, the question of Bessarabia was also taken into discussion. The
Romanians asked the British opinion of the Romanian-Russian negotiations, and
Lord Curzon insisted again that an arrangement should be concluded without delay.
He also considered, unlike the Romanians or the French, that any agreement on Bes-
sarabia signed with the Soviet Government would in all probability have, after the
fall of the Soviets, a sort of binding force upon its successors and would not be detri-
mental to Romania’s long-term interests.66 The British insistence that the Romani-
ans secure an agreement with the Soviets was exactly the opposite of the French
position, with Take Ionescu clearly favoring the later.
The final British-Romanian negotiations regarding the signing of the Bessara-
bian Treaty took place in Paris, on October 26-27, 1920. The Romanian Minister to
France, Dimitrie Ion Ghika, handed over to Lord Derby the Note regarding the spe-
cial indemnification for British subjects expropriated in Bessarabia, on October 26,
to which Lord Derby answered on October 27. Then, as a result of a conversation
between Lord Derby and Take Ionescu, the latter agreed to withdraw the Romani-
ans’ proposed amendment to Article 7 of the Treaty.67
On October 28, 1920, Lord Derby was able to report to his Government that
the Bessarabian Treaty had been signed by the representatives of all the Great Pow-
ers with the exception of the Japanese Ambassador, who was not in Paris. He also
mentioned the only voice that raised objections to the signing of the Treaty: “The US
Ambassador took the opportunity to protest against what he described as the inop-
portune dismemberment of Russia”.68

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The Ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty

And so the Bessarabian Treaty was signed. In the period that followed, British-
Romanian relations were not very different from before. Most of the diplomatic cor-
respondence between the two states was related to economic matters, the most im-
portant being those regarding the exploitation of Romanian petroleum, the repara-
tions by the UK and France for the destruction of the Romanian oil fields in 1916,69
Romania’s war and pre-war debt, the conditions for obtaining new loans in the UK,
and the negative consequences for British capital of the Romanian policy of eco-
nomic self-sufficiency, prin noi insine, or “doing it by ourselves”.
In the field of politics, the British government observed the relations between
Romania and her neighbors, the creation of the Little Entente, and the special rela-
tionship between Romania and Poland. Among the differences between the two
states were questions related to the evolution of the newly unified territories, and
especially Transylvania. The British Government had been quite open to the com-
plaints expressed by the ethnic Hungarians living in Romania (they even set out to
call the attention of the League of Nations to what appeared to be a violation of the
Minorities Treaty by Romania, in February 1923, but French opposition stopped
them), and public opinion in the UK slowly shifted in favor of Hungary in its conflict
with Romania.70 Regarding Bessarabia, the British Government continued to observe
and analyze the situation in the region. Herbert G. Dering, the UK Minister to Ro-
mania, sent this report in late February 1922:

There was probably a moment in the earlier days of the Averescu Admini-
stration when the menacing telegrams sent here by Cicerin were considered by
the Foreign Minister to be more formidable than he decided them to be later
[referring to the ultimatums sent to Romania during the summer of 1920]. For
that reason he studiously avoided their publication for fear of alarming the Ro-
manian public in regard to Bessarabia, where the internal conditions were, and
still remain, far from satisfactory. It is difficult to see how they could be other-
wise, with a population of so many of Russian origin, and when the Dniestr
frontier is as laxly guarded by the Romanian troops as it is known to be. Propa-
ganda is freely disseminated there by Jewish Bolshevik agents, who cross the
river by means of bribery, and the people are far from content with Roma-
nian rule.71

The UK had been the first of the signatory countries to both ask for the ratifi-
cation of the Bessarabian Treaty and to deposit the necessary instruments for the
ratification. As soon as June 8, 1921, during a meeting of the Ambassadors Confer-
ence, the British Ambassador suggested that it would be wise to have all the ratifica-
tions deposited at the same moment, informing the Conference that his government
had already taken the necessary steps for the ratification.72
The British government’s ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty was not wel-

< 186 >


come news to the British representatives in Romania. As they had to deal with the
question of Romanian indemnification for the British landowners expropriated in
Bessarabia (and with their complaints), they were afraid that ratification prior to the
fulfillment of the obligations assumed by the exchange of letters would result in Ro-
mania’s refusal to pay. Millington Drake, one of the British Legation’s secretaries,
sent the following telegram on August 1921:

I understand that we have ratified the Bessarabian Treaty. Have we depos-

ited the ratification? If so, does the Protocol refer to the exchange of notes in
Paris on October 26? Or, if the protocol of the ratification has not yet been
drawn up, is it intended that, when drawn up, it shall contain a reference to
this stipulation as a condition of ratification? I have been going thoroughly into
cases under this guarantee and they have received practically no satisfaction.
One of the lawyers of the “sinistres” has hinted that it is doubtful whether this
exchange of notes could not be repudiated on the ground that, though it in-
volves payment, it has not received sanction from the Romanian Chamber.73

After three weeks Drake received a reply from London:

The last we heard as to ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty is that on the

8th June last the Conference decided to invite the Allied Powers signatory of
the Treaty to proceed to immediate ratification. We are asking the Parliament
how the matter stands and requesting them to expedite ratification if the de-
posit has not yet taken place.
As regarding your suggestion that some conditions should be attached to
the deposit of the ratification providing for a reaffirmation of the Romanian
undertaking as to Bessarabian claims, we consider that as these notes were
sufficiently explicit, and as Mr. Take Ionescu has recently emphasized to you
his recognition of the fact, it would not be necessary to adopt so abnormal a proceeding
as to include in the final protocol a reference to this exchange of notes.74

The answer to Drake’s telegram is interesting for two reasons: it indicates

where the ratification process stood in August 1921; and it shows that there were
always differences in how that matter looked from Bucharest and from London. The
last comment shows that the suggestions coming from the British representatives
overseas were not always welcome in London.
The whole matter shows how much Romania’s image with the members of the
British Legation in Bucharest had changed since Frank Rattigan was recalled. In this
sense, it seems that at least Drake was completely under the influence of the three
expropriated landowners, and gave no credit to the Romanian government. His dis-
trust of Romania’s willingness to meet its international obligations was, as proven
by the final settlement of the matter, quite unjustified, especially as a quite limited
amount of money was at stake (some 300,000 Pounds Sterling). The British govern-
ment had been quite keen from the beginning to avoid inserting any mention of im-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

mediate private interests into the Bessarabian Treaty; Drake’s suggestion was ex-
actly the opposite of this position. Trying to justify his mistake, and further illustrat-
ing his distrust of the Romanians, Drake sent a new letter home arguing his case:

My letter of August 10 was written just a few days before I saw Take
Ionescu at Sinaia, when he repeated his assurance that they would keep to
their bargain. There had been some rather disquieting indications and I must
say I was pleasantly surprised at the earnestness with which he said that they
would carry out their undertaking. All the same he then immediately tried to
put off the first step towards its fulfillment, regarding the counter-evaluation.
But what I had in mind in my letter to Malkin was the possible attitude of
another government or another Foreign Minister; say a year or two years
hence. The successors would probably be the Liberals and they are distinctly ill
disposed, especially as regards any obligations undertaken by Romania in
I quite understand that, as you say, mention of the exchange of notes in the
ratification would be abnormal, but then it is also unusual that the signing of a
treaty should be so entirely conditional on an agreement contained in an ex-
change of notes, as was the Bessarabian Treaty. At least, so I understood.
We have seen that there is a long distance between Take Ionescu’s under-
taking and fulfillment of it by him. But the distance between Ionescu’s under-
taking and fulfillment by his successors would, I think, be infinite. My own
feeling is that once the Bessarabian Treaty is ratified in the ordinary way, our
chances of getting anything substantial out of the Romanian government
would be very thin. . . .
In any case, when the case comes for the deposit of ratification it would
perhaps be well that there should be a pause to see how far the Romanian gov-
ernment have, at that moment, fulfilled their obligation. If little or no further
progress has been made by then, ratification might perhaps be suspended for a
while; or it might be worth while your consulting French government whether
any stipulation could be put into the ratification.75

Notwithstanding Drake’s suggestions, the British government took the neces-

sary steps for the deposit of ratification and instructed Hardinge of Penhurst, the
new British Ambassador in Paris, in this sense:

My Lord, with reference to paragraph 8 of Your Excellency’s telegram of June 8,

I should be glad to learn whether the Protocol for the ratification of Bessara-
bian Treaty has yet been deposited. Should this not be the case, I would sug-
gest that the French government might be asked to expedite the process of this

Lord Hardinge answered as follows, giving the reasons for the British post-
ponement in depositing the ratification:

< 188 >


The French do not regard the matter as one of particular urgency, espe-
cially in view of the fact that none of the Signatories other than HMG are yet
ready to deposit their ratification, not even the Romanian government itself,
the only party which can have any special interest in the matter.77

In February 1922, with an eye on the upcoming Genoa Conference, the British
government decided to take the final step and to ratify the Bessarabian Treaty. A
memorandum on Bessarabia was prepared by the Foreign Office, presenting a review
of the main phases in the making of the treaty as well as some comments regarding
its actual situation:

The presence of a Russian delegation at the Genoa Conference will pre-

sumably entail the recognition of the Soviet government, provided they are pre-
pared to give satisfactory assurances regarding Russia’s debts . . . and a simple
way out of any difficulty would be to make their acceptance of the Bessarabian
Treaty one of the conditions for recognition. They will then under Article No. 9
be at liberty to appeal to the League of Nations in any smaller point they might
wish to raise. The Soviets have apparently tried to strike a bargain with Roma-
nia on this question . . . Romania would probably be wise to conclude a bargain
on these lines, as the gold is almost certainly spent, but I admit that we can
scarcely ask her to do so.
The US will probably maintain their attitude and France, provided she gets
assurances regarding Russian debts, will almost certainly be unwilling to risk
them for Romania by insisting on Russia’s adherence to the Treaty if the Sovi-
ets show great opposition.78

As anticipated at the Foreign Office, during the March 15, 1922 Conference of the
Ambassadors in Paris, the Bessarabian Treaty came again under debate:

Mr. Cambon [Jules Cambon, the French representative] pointed out the
desirability of bringing the Bessarabian Treaty into force before the meeting of
the Genoa Conference, so as to prevent any discussion at Genoa as regards the
validity of the transfer of Bessarabia to Romania. At present HMG alone has
ratified this treaty. The French Government are now taking measures to ratify
it in their turn, and it was decided to invite the Italian and Japanese Embassies
to urge their Governments to do likewise.79

In order to answer the French proposal, the British government instructed

Lord Hardinge as follows:

There may be some delay in depositing the King’s ratification of this instru-
ment, owing to the necessity of making arrangements to meet the position of

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

the Irish Free State. HMG have, however, no intention or desire to postpone
the deposit on its merits; on the contrary, they are of the opinion that the
treaty should, if possible, be ratified by all concerned before the opening of the
Genoa Conference.80

On March 28, 1922, Lord Curzon informed Lord Hardinge that there was no
longer any reason why the King’s ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty should not be
deposited.81 As a result, on April 14, a few days after the beginning of the Genoa Con-
ference, Hardinge of Penhurst, the British Ambassador in Paris, deposited the neces-
sary instruments for the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty. There was no imme-
diate reaction from the Soviet Union. In fact, the British ratification received little
space in the press at the time, passing almost unobserved.
The fact that the UK was the first signatory state to ratify the Bessarabian
Treaty (even while there were still some complaints regarding the property of Brit-
ish citizens in Bessarabia, as was the case with France) as well as the first state to
ask for ratification, shows that at least one of the four signatory Great Powers hon-
ored her signature without linking it to other new matters. The ratification was even
more significant if we consider that it comes from a State that was understood by
the Romanians as neutral towards them and not from France, whom the Romanians
had perceived as the friendliest Great Power. And more, although its deposit was
delayed, the British ratification preceded by almost one year the ratification of the
state with the greatest interest in the Treaty — namely, Romania.
One of the interesting aspects of the British ratification is that it was followed
by almost no reaction in the mass media, neither British nor Romanian nor Soviet.
There are three possible reasons for this silence: (1) the British were in the middle of
a new round of negotiations with the Soviets and they had no interest to advertise
their deposit of the ratification, as it would have influenced the mentioned negotia-
tions; (2) the Romanians avoided any publicity due to the fact that the British ratifi-
cation came ahead of theirs and it might have had a negative effect over the image of
the Romanian government; (3) the French and the Italians also had no interest in
advertising the British ratification, since the only result would have been to increase
the pressure for their ratification.

The UK Position after Ratifying the Bessarabian Treaty

Ratifying the Bessarabian Treaty did not mean that the British Government
would stop following the Bessarabian situation closely in the coming years. Any time
the Romanian Government was afraid of a possible communist invasion from the
East, the British representatives were informed and asked for their opinion. In the
reports prepared after such meetings, they usually made a careful analysis of the
situation, which proves that they were still collecting important information in the
area. Herbert Dering sent this report from Bucharest, in May 1922:

< 190 >


M. Duca [Romanian Foreign Minister] called on me . . . on the subject of

the concentration of Soviet troops which was alleged to be in progress in the
neighborhood of the Bessarabian frontier . . .
I am of the opinion that the Romanian authorities are quite capable of deal-
ing with local disturbances in that province, but that it is as well that they
should take in good time any military precautions which they consider neces-
sary, in view of limited means of transport, especially in Bessarabia . . . 82

On October 13, 1925, Dering presented another report after a meeting with
Walter Collins, an Intelligence officer who had just visited Bessarabia, describing
the situation in the province:

He could not report conditions in Bessarabia to be satisfactory, although

admitting that there had been no frontier disturbances during his tour.
The Romanian gendarmeries were, as everywhere, highly unpopular. The
Moldavian peasants in Bessarabia proclaimed themselves dissatisfied with
conditions under Romanian rule and many complaints were heard of corrupt
tax collectors, but the Romanian military authorities were, on the other hand,
he reported, popular now on all sides . . . He had gathered that a great amount
of Bolshevist propaganda was carried out and money distributed by resident
Jews and that arms could be smuggled across the Dniestr without much diffi-
culty . . . there was no particular cause to anticipate active unrest.
It might therefore be concluded that unless active encouragement were
afforded by the Soviet military aggression in Bessarabia there is not at present
much likelihood of disturbances in that province, which is subject to military
law, apparently rendered with good intent acceptable to the inhabitants.83

On the other hand, the British government continued pursuing the matter of
compensations for the British landowners expropriated in Bessarabia. In October
1922 an agreement was reached between the Romanian and British governments
regarding the amount to be paid and the mode of payment: 332,306 Sterling Lira pay-
able in consolidation bonds (made out in Sterling) and carrying 4% interest.84 On
December 14, 1922, the Romanian government sent a Note to the British and French
Legations by which they agreed to include the indemnities due by the Romanian
government to the French and British landowners expropriated in Bessarabia in the
law for consolidation of Romanian external debt, as suggested by the British and
French governments.85 This was quite the opposite of what Millington Drake had
envisaged one year earlier.
As the compensation issue seemed to be coming to an end, the British
government proved to be a very good manager of its resources and instructed
Dering to “ . . . ensure that the expenditure incurred in connection with the evalua-
tion of the properties is repaid by the claimants as soon as they receive payment from
the Romanian government.”86

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

In November-December 1923, the British Government took a last initiative in

order to bring the Bessarabian Treaty into force. This time it directly asked the Japa-
nese, French and Italian Governments to take the necessary steps for the ratification,
indicating that:
Difficulties have arisen with the Romanian representatives at the European
Commission of the Danube as to the application of Article No. 7 of the Treaty
regarding Bessarabia signed in Paris on October 28, 1920. The Romanian Gov-
ernment has declined to be bound by this Article so long as the Treaty is not
ratified by all its signatories.87
This initiative clearly shows one of the main reasons for Britain’s insistence on
bringing the Bessarabian Treaty into force. More or less coincidentally, at the end of
October a controversy came up between Romania and the other members in the Da-
nube Commission, and the Romanians decided to block navigation on the Chilia.
They argued that, as the Bessarabian Treaty had not been ratified, the Commission
could not use Article No. 7 regarding the Chilia mouth, at least not until France and
Italy had ratified. The Commission argued back that the Romanian position might
be presented to France or Italy, signatories of the Bessarabian Treaty, but not to the
Commission, which had a neutral status.88 However, the British government realized
that there was still a long way to go until that would happen, and they set out to
resolve the question of the status of the Danube by other means.
The British stance on Bessarabia seemed about to change in February 1924,
when the UK officially recognized the Soviet Union. At that time there was a small
diplomatic controversy around the Bessarabian question. The Soviet Government
considered that:
The British government has accorded de jure recognition to the Government
of the USSR, whose authority extends over the entire territory of the former
Russian Empire, with the exception of territories that have seceded by agree-
ment with it and have formed independent states.
By accepting this wording, Britain recognized the sovereignty of the Soviet
Government over the entire territory of the USSR as well as over territories
whose seizure had not been recognized by the Soviet Union, for example Bess-
The British thesis was different; while de jure recognizing the Soviet govern-
ment, the British government was very keen to note that it was referring to the
“former Russian territories that have accepted its authority”.90 In so doing, the Brit-
ish, even as they were making a “friendly” gesture towards the Soviets, did not hesi-
tate to confirm Bessarabia’s possession by Romania; the independent Moldavian re-
public was clearly a territory that refused to accept the Soviet authority.
The Bessarabian question continued to be scrutinized not only by the officials
of the Foreign Office but by British politicians as well. The Parliamentary interpella-
tions are significant in that they represent the official position of the British Govern-
ment towards the Bessarabian question.
While the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty by the British government

< 192 >


went almost unobserved by the British Parliament,91 the French ratification pro-
voked a number of interpellations in both Houses of the Parliament. One took place
on March 10, 1924:
Sir Archibald Sinclair: [asked] whether the Bessarabian Treaty has been
deposited with the League and, if not, when it is proposed to do so; and what
has been the cause of the delay?
The Prime Minister: The treaty has not yet been deposited with the League,
because the deposit of the ratification by all the signatory Powers has not yet
been completed in Paris, in accordance with Article No. 9 of the Treaty. The
only signatory powers which have ratified the Treaty so far are Great Britain
and Romania.92

On April 29, 1924 the Ormsby-Gore interpellation regarding the present stage
of negotiations between Romania and Russia, also touching the Bessarabian Treaty
question, took place in the House of Commons:
Ormsby-Gore: [asked] which other countries have ratified the Bessarabian
Treaty, and whether, both as a member of the League and on account of our
other treaty obligations, we are bound to support Romania in resisting any
attempt on the part of Russia to violate the frontier of Bessarabia?
Mr. Ponsonby: . . . only Great Britain and Romania have ratified. . . . As re-
gards the last part of the question, the Treaty is not yet in force, and therefore
HMG is not bound by its terms. Whether HMG would, as a member of the
League of Nations, be bound to take action in the event specified must natu-
rally depend upon the circumstances of the case.93

The British position was clearly expressed: until all the signatory Powers rati-
fied the Bessarabian Treaty, the treaty was not binding on the UK. This thesis is
definitely different from the one developed later by the Romanians, who considered
that the importance of the Bessarabian Treaty resides in the fact that three European
Great Powers had recognized de jure the union of Bessarabia with Romania.
Unfortunately, as the interpellation proves, the British government failed to
consider its ratification of the Treaty as sufficient to create specific obligations to-
wards Romania in case of a Russian attack, unless the Treaty came into force. How-
ever, even then, as the League of Nations was supposed to deal with all matters re-
lated to the Treaty, there were no special obligations stipulated in it for any of the
signatory Great Powers individually in case of a Soviet attack on Bessarabia.
That things were not in fact as the Romanians described them is proved by a
new interpellation in the House of Commons, on May 7, 1924:

Sir Archibald Sinclair: [asked] whether this Treaty is legally binding upon
those countries which have ratified it, or whether it will have to be ratified by
all the signatories before it will become binding upon those who have already

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Mr. Ponsonby: . . . The Treaty becomes binding when all the signatories
have ratified.94

The British position clearly shows that, as a direct consequence of the Japanese
failure to ratify, not even the UK government felt that the Bessarabian Treaty should
be binding on them despite their own efforts to have it signed and ratified. The indi-
rect consequence was that after the Second World War the UK and France had a
free hand in handling the Bessarabian problem, and neither of them took any step
against the Soviet seizure of the province. The Japanese government, in deciding not
to ratify the Bessarabian Treaty, were fully aware of the interpretation given by the
HMG to the ratification question, and in 1927 realized full well how important its
ratification (or, better said, non-ratification) was to the Soviet Union.
Another interpellation regarding Bessarabia took place in the House of Com-
mons on May 26, 1924, at the initiative of Lt-commander Kenworthy. This time the
British position on the Bessarabian Treaty was questioned from a different perspec-
tive, that of the Rakovsky-Averescu Treaty of March 1918. When Kenworthy asked
whether HMG was aware of this treaty when it agreed to recognize the Romanian
annexation of Bessarabia, he simply received an affirmative answer but nothing
more. Although Kenworthy insisted on more information regarding the actual Brit-
ish position towards the Bessarabian treaty he was denied an answer. Another mem-
ber of the Chamber, Sir Harry Britain, tried to respond, reminding him that the Brit-
ish position on Bessarabia when the treaty was signed was based on sound geo-
graphical and ethnic data proving that Bessarabia is Romanian territory.95
One week after this interpellation, on June 2, 1924, Kenworthy stood up again:

Kenworthy: [asked] what obligations HMG has entered into with regard
to the Romanian annexation of Bessarabia; whether this country guarantees
that annexation in any way; whether a treaty has been drawn up; whether it
has been ratified by HMG and by the other governments concerned; whether it
is now in operation; and whether it has been or will be laid before Parliament.
The Prime Minister: . . . the entire question of Bessarabia is to be found in
the treaties; that the Bessarabian Treaty had been ratified by Great Britain,
France and Romania but not by the Italian and Japanese governments and it is
therefore not yet in force. . . . In order to answer the point regarding the British
ratification, I would refer you to Command Paper 1747 of 1922. . . . I think that
it has been laid before Parliament. If it has been laid at all, it has been in the
ordinary form.
Captain Berkeley: . . . the attention drawn by the press to the very serious
situation on the Bessarabian border, and may we have an undertaking that no
obligations will be undertaken by this country in that connection without the
approval of the Parliament?
The Prime Minister: There are no obligations involved in the treaty.96

< 194 >


On June 18, 1924, Sir Harry Britain reopened the Bessarabian Treaty question,
asking again for information on the actual situation on the Bessarabian border, but
he too received no answer. However, unlike the previous cases, this time the initia-
tive was made in order to help the Romanian cause in Bessarabia:

Sir H. Britain: [stated that] in view of the fact that, with the exception of
the period of Russian occupation, Bessarabia has been for centuries Romanian
territory, that the majority of population is of Romanian stock speaking the
Romanian tongue, and seeing that any suggestion of a plebiscite at this date
would be both useless and dangerous, [he would] urge that no step in this di-
rection would be taken without the approval of the League of Nations.
M. Ponsonby: No, Sir. HMG are not directly concerned in this question,
and could not properly take the action suggested.
Sir H. Britain: Will they agree not to remain supine if the question devel-
ops, because it will have a most serious effect on the whole of the Balkans?97

Not one to give up easily, Sir Harry Britain asked again on June 23, 1924, for
official information regarding the situation on the Bessarabian border; but he was
once more denied an answer.98
As for the Bessarabian Treaty itself there had been two more interpellations, on
July 7, 1924 (Sir John Simon), and April 1, 1925 (Harry Britain), but with no particu-
lar significance since they only asked what was the actual status of the Treaty, and
received the answer that nothing had changed.99

One of the most curious things about the Bessarabian Treaty is that so few of
those who, at one point or another, referred to it had actually read the Treaty itself
(which they could easily have done, as the Treaty was not secret). There were not
only diplomats and political leaders but also journalists who had no idea of the
stipulations included in the Bessarabian Treaty and who simply fell victim to either
the Romanian or the Soviet propaganda. There can scarcely be any other explanation
for the failure of so many persons to understand that the treaty would come into
force only when all the signatories had ratified it. The mentioned exchanges in the
British Parliament, and the reaction of the press in the aftermath of the Italian ratifi-
cation, are illustrative.
In 1927, when Italy ratified the Treaty, the British government received the
ratification with pleasure. Still, that pleasure was caused more by the possibility of
drawing Italy much closer into its conflict with the Soviet Union and not by the rati-
fication itself. It was hoped that Mussolini’s decision to ratify the Bessarabian Treaty
meant a step toward a British-Italian alliance against the Soviets.
For the last time the Bessarabian Treaty came to the attention of the Chamber
on February 5 and 26, 1930. The first interpellation read:

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Mr. Allen: [asked] whether, in accordance with Article No. 9 of the Bes-
sarabian Treaty, HMG, having recognized the government of the USSR, pro-
poses to consult with the other High Contracting Parties to the Treaty who
have pursued the same course with a view to inviting Russia to adhere to the
A. Henderson: No, Sir, this question does not arise, since the Treaty is not
yet in force.100

The second interpellation shows that not all of those with an interest in the
Bessarabian Treaty had failed to do their homework:

Mr. Allen: [asked] whether, in view of the ratification of the treaty respect-
ing Bessarabia, signed in Paris on October 28, 1920, by the governments of
Great Britain on April 14, 1922, Romania on May 19, 1922, France on April 30,
1924, and by Italy on March 8, 1927, HMG have received any communication
from the Japanese government stating the reasons for the non-ratification of
the Bessarabian Treaty.
A. Henderson: No, Sir, HMG have received no communication on this sub-
ject from the Japanese government.101

Although there had been a good number of reasons behind the British decision
to push for the signing and ratifying of the Bessarabian Treaty, by 1940, due to stra-
tegic considerations, the British position on Bessarabia had changed radically. The
British government tried to back the Soviet claims to Bessarabia, with a view to pro-
voking a conflict between Germany and the Soviets over Romania in order to take
the “German heat” off the British Isles. This plan failed, the Bessarabian question
having already been settled by the Soviet-German Pact of August 23, 1939, but dur-
ing the war the British government was clearly on the Soviets’ side regarding the
conflict over Bessarabia. With the Soviets emerging as a world power, the strategic
situation changed as much as it had when the peace was negotiated at the end of
World War Two. There were no British (or French) calls now for a Romanian Bes-
sarabia, nor even for a plebiscite in Bessarabia.

< 196 >



Report, Frank Rattigan (Bucharest) to Lord Curzon

DBFP, Series 1, Vol. 6, p.280-283

Bucharest, October 8, 1919

My Lord,
The relations between this country and the Allies appear to me to be reaching
so serious a state that I venture to draw the attention of your Lordship to certain
aspects of the situation which are perhaps easier to comprehend here than abroad.
I cannot help thinking that an atmosphere has been created by a chain of extra-
neous circumstances which is obscuring the main issue. It would seem that the first
question we should ask ourselves in deciding upon our policy in the Near East is
“What are the chief elements of order upon which we can rely to carry out that pol-
icy?” Romania is in my opinion the first of such elements, if not the only real one. The
fact that the country has for some time past been exploited by a gang of unscrupu-
lous politicians is apt to blind the eyes of the average foreign observer to the real
qualities of this people. The mass of the population, and especially the peasant
classes, are simple primitive people, with many of the virtues one would expect to
find in such conditions as exist here. They are, for example, sober, hard working,
easily contented, fairly honest, and above all orderly. These characteristics of the
population make Romania very unfruitful soil for the propagation of the new com-
muno-socialism. In fact the peasants are fiercely hostile to the idea and will oppose
with all their power any attempt to pool their small properties. In these circum-
stances there is little doubt that Romania may be relied on to resist any Bolshevist
wave which may advance from either East or West. A glance at the map will show
that she stands as a rock in a sea of actual or potential Bolshevism.
If therefore it is once admitted that Romania may be regarded as the most reli-
able weapon to our hand for the carrying out of a policy of law and order, based on
such ideas as the League of Nations, as opposed to the Bolshevist tendencies of the
surrounding Slav — and possibly Magyar — races, then it seems to me that we
should attempt to do all in our power to conciliate her and bring her back into the
fold from which she is in danger of being severed. She will then inevitably develop
into the outpost of western civilization against the disruptive tendencies of Bolshe-
I do not for a moment suggest that Romania has not brought upon herself
much of the treatment with which she has met. Her choice of representatives at the
Paris Conference was undoubtedly unfortunate. Mr. Bratianu is certainly a patriot,
but his character lacks the pliancy necessary for such work, and apparently suc-
ceeded in exasperating all those with whom he came in contact by the excessive na-
ture of these claims and the somewhat arrogant and unbending manner in which
they were presented. Naturally this state of things reacted very unfavorably upon the
Romanians’ case. Moreover it created an atmosphere of suspicion, in the light of

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

which the action of Romania, even when possibly of an innocent character, was
looked upon — not unnaturally — with grave mistrust.
To take a case in point, presumably no reasonable man would now maintain
that her action in resisting the Hungarian Bolshevists’ wanton attack upon her, de-
feating it, and pursuing the remnants of the beaten enemy to Budapest, was anything
but justifiable. Yet it must be admitted that at first, at any rate, the Conference was
inclined to take the view that she was entirely at fault, and that she was openly
flaunting the Allies. Surely nothing could have been further from the truth. She was
in fact accused of disregarding an armistice in which she had taken no part, which
had not protected her from attack, and which the Allies themselves could not have
regarded as still in existence by the fact that they had asked for Romanian co-
operation in the event of an Allied advance on Budapest. . . . From the moment of the
Romanian entry into Hungary proper the question entered on a new phase. Anyone
with knowledge of the Romanian character could not but be aware of the fact that
there would be abuses. . . .
Thus the elements of discord and suspicion were sown at the very outset. It
must be remembered that there is much of the naughty child in the Romanian char-
acter. Conscious that he is doing wrong, and frightened at the impending punish-
ment, he becomes almost impossible to deal with. In such conditions there is need of
the greatest tact to prevent the situation developing along fatal lines. Unfortunately
this tact has been throughout conspicuous by its absence. The Allied generals, with
all their many qualities, are necessarily inexperienced in diplomacy or statecraft. . . .
But I cannot help thinking that more could have been done to combat these by a
spirit of friendly advice and cooperation than by the methods employed.
I had the honor to recommend in my dispatch No. 168 that, in view of the above
circumstances, it might be advisable to replace the four Allied generals by one high
civil functionary representing the Conference. This would have the advantage of
making the Romanians understand that the Allies have one single policy. At present
it cannot be said that the four Allied generals are entirely “solidaires”, and the Roma-
nians are consequently inclined to try and play off one group against the other. As
your Lordship is aware, the French are really on their side, but are obliged to yield to
Anglo-American pressure. . . .
Whatever the real rights and wrongs of all these questions may be, they would
appear capable of adjustment if handled with tact and goodwill on both sides. In
Budapest, however, at present these qualities are, as I have said above, conspicuous
by their absence. I do not suggest that firmness is not also needed in our relations
with the Romanians. On the contrary, I consider that in dealing with them it is es-
sential to exercise great firmness so as to make them understand that no nonsense
will be tolerated. But it should be possible to combine firmness with an attitude of
friendliness and goodwill.

< 198 >


Richard Ullman, Anglo-Soviet Relations, Vol. 2, p. 311.
S.D. Spector, Romania la Conferinta de Pace, p. 43.
Telegram Lloyd George to Ion IC Bratianu, January 24, 1918, in 1920. Un act de justitie. Documente, p. 33.
During the debate in the territorial committee regarding the division of Banat between Romania
and Serbia the British representatives were actually more pro-Romanian than the French representa-
tives. Ivo J. Lederer, Yugoslavia at the Paris Peace Conference, p. 173-174.
S.D. Spector, Romania la . . . , p. 127.
In a comprehensive Report on Bessarabia found in the Foreign Office Archives, signed by a Captain
Hill, while criticizing the Romanian administration of Bessarabia its author comes up with three
proposals regarding the future of the province: an International Commission; Bessarabia to be given
by the Conference to Russia but only when a Russian government would be able to take it under its
protection, offering the widest form of local autonomy and protection of national interests in the
province; Romania to receive a protectorate over Bessarabia, for a number of years, under the condi-
tion that it totally change its policy in the province and name as Governor General a figure that all
the Bessarabians would agree on (e.g., General Averescu or Prince Carol). RNA, Fond England mi-
crofilm, R 394, Report on Bessarabia, August 20, 1919, c. 111-320.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Report “Notes on the Frontiers of Bessarabia”, prepared by
the War Office for the Russian Department of Foreign Office, December 20, 1918, c. 5.
D. Preda, In apararea Romaniei Mari, p. 121.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 6, Memorandum on the Romanian Situation, September 1919, p. 271-278.
V.F. Dobrinescu, Batalia diplomatica . . . , p. 79.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Fifth Series, Vol. 122, p. 562.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Memorandum on Bessarabia, January 14, 1920, p. 364-365.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Memorandum on Bessarabia by Alan Leeper, February 28,
1920, c. 347-349.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 196, p. 19.
Ozer Carmi, La Grande Bretagne et la Petite Entente, p. 29.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Rattigan to Lord Curzon, June 24, 1920, p. 422.
In 1920 England founded the Danube Navigation Company, with a capital of 1,200,000 pounds.
Spiridon G. Focas, The Lower Danube River, p. 439.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Rattigan to Lord Curzon, July 20, 1920, p. 435.
A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima Basarabiei, p. 31.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Bessarabia 1917-1932, Vol. 20 bis, Telegram sent from Lausanne by N.
Titulescu, July 7, 1932.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, April 15, 1920, c. 368.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Telegrams Rattigan to Lord Curzon, April 15 and 23, 1920,
c. 368, 380.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Telegram Lord Curzon to Rattigan, April 27, 1920, c 382.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Rattigan to Lord Curzon, May 11, 1920, p. 393.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note by Laroche, June 7, 1920, c. 683.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Telegram Rattigan to Lord Curzon, June 13, 1920, c 423.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 394, Telegram Lord Curzon to Rattigan, June 21, 1920, c 425.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Ghika to Take Ionescu, June 19, 1920.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Letter Ghika to Laroche, June 21, 1920, c. 685.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Rattigan to Lord Curzon, June 28, 1920, p. 425.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Letter Anton Bibescu to Lord Curzon, July 2, 1920, c 32.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Telegram Lord Curzon to Rattigan, July 3, 1920, c. 33.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Note Take Ionescu to Rattigan, July 26, 1920, c. 47.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, ad noted (July 31) on Note Bibescu to Lord Curzon, July 29,
1920, c. 42.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Note Lord Curzon to Bibescu, August 2, 1920, c. 40.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Note of Conversation between H. Nicholson and Titulescu,
August 2, 1920, c. 50.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, ad noted by Leeper (August 2) and by Earl Curzon (August
5) on Note of Conversation between H. Nicholson and Titulescu, August 2, 1920, c. 50.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Minutes of Discussions, August 8, 1920, c. 55.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Curzon to Lord Derby, August 14, 1920, p. 443.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Telegrams Boerescu to Lord Curzon, August 9 and 19, 1920,
c. 60-63.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Telegram Lord Curzon to Boerescu, August 19, 1920, c. 67.
Two weeks later, Boerescu’s insistence received one more answer: “You asked me today about the
position of the Bessarabian Treaty. I am sorry to say that we have heard nothing more since the in-
structions to Lord Derby. We are inquiring the reasons for the delay.” RNA, Fond England micro-
film, R 202, Note Hardinge of Penhurst to Boerescu, September 9, 1920, c. 68.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Letter Lord Derby to Clemenceau, August 16, 1920, c. 690.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Letter Clemenceau to Lord Derby, August 18, 1920, c. 692.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Notes Lord Derby to Millerand, August 21 and September 8,
1920, c. 696-698.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note Millerand to Derby, September 14, 1920, c. 699.
Which he actually did the same day: “a telegram should be sent to Lord Derby asking him why the
Treaty has not yet been signed and when he anticipates signature will take place”. RNA, Fond Eng-
land microfilm, R 202, Note Hankey to Hardinge of Penhurst, September 11, 1920, c. 72.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Curzon to Rattigan, September 17, 1920, p. 465.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, September 16, 1920,
c. 78-79.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, ad noted by Leeper on Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Cur-
zon, September 16, 1920, c. 78-79.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Earl Curzon to Earl of Derby, September 19th 1920, p. 472-473.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Telegram Daeschner to Millerand, September 23, 1920, c. 706.
In order to avoid such a situation, Daeschner was instructed to clearly explain to the Romanians that
the French decision to postpone the signature was the result of her wish to spare the US and not at
all subordinated to Wrangel’s agreement. RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Telegram Millerand
to Daeschner, October 2, 1920, c. 713.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note Millerand to Lord Derby, September 22, 1920, c. 705.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note Lord Derby to Millerand, September 23, 1920, c. 710.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, ad noted by Leeper on Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Cur-
zon, October 2, 1920, c. 85.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Curzon to Lord Derby, October 6, 1920, p. 482.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Telegram Lord Curzon to Lord Derby, October 7, and Tele-
gram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 8, 1920, c. 101-103.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 14, 1920, p. 491.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, ad noted by Leeper on Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Cur-
zon, October 14, 1920, c. 118.
S. Focas, The Lower Danube River, p. 443.
Richard C. Frucht, Dunarea noastra. Romania, the Great Powers and the Danube Question, p. 46. Also V.F.
Dobrinescu, Relatii romano-engleze, 1914-1933, p. 108-110.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Meetings between Leeper and Titulescu, October 18 and 19,
1920, c. 119-120.
Letter Titulescu to King Carol, August 1939, in A. Karetki, A. Pricop, Lacrima Basarabiei, p. 31.

< 200 >


A Karetki, A Pricop, “Lacrima Basarabiei”, p. 31
They prepared a Note to be addressed by the Romanian Plenipotentiary while signing the Bessara-
bian Treaty: “the Romanian government agrees that the regime to be applied to the Chilia mouth of
Danube shall be determined by the Danube Conference now sitting in Paris, and hereby undertakes
to accept the decision of the said Conference, taken if need by a majority, in this respect.” RNA,
Fond England microfilm, R 202, Draft Note by Malkin, c. 122. When news of the Romanian decision
to withdraw their objection to Article 7 reached London, Leeper considered that “this is most sur-
prising but, of course, very satisfactory”. RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, ad noted by Leeper
on Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 27, 1920, c. 159.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Curzon to Lord Derby, October 20th 1920, p. 493
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, Telegram Lord Curzon to H. Dering, October 21, 1920, p. 494. For details
regarding the British policy towards the creation of the Little Entente see Ozer Carmi, La Grande
Bretagne et la Petite Entente, p. 28-32.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 27,
1920, c. 160.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 202, Telegram Lord Derby to Lord Curzon, October 28,
1920, c. 165.
The crux of the whole question for Romania was whether there would be a cancellation of war
debts . . . the Romanians were insistent in claiming that a debt that which was
‘liquide’ (compensation claims) could not be rightly set off against a debt which was not
‘liquide’ (war debts). DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 12, p. 418-420, 752.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 24, Telegram Lord Crewe to Marquis of Curzon, February 3, 1923, p. 498-450,
and Memorandum on the Hungarian Minority in Transylvania, April 9, 1923, p. 575-579.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 24, Report Dering to Marquis of Curzon, February 24, 1922, p. 155.
JFMA, Fond B 760.2, Vol. 1, Telegram Ishii to Uchida, June 8, 1921.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 210, Telegram Millington Drake to Malkin, August 10, 1920, c. 33.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 210, Telegram Harold Nicholson to Drake, August 30, 1920, c. 31.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 210, Telegram Drake to Nicholson, September 7, 1921, c. 36-37.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 210, Draft Telegram (signed by SP Waterlow) Secretary of State
to Lord Hardinge, August 30, 1921, c. 35.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 210, Telegram Lord Hardinge to Lord Curzon, September
9, 1921, c. 39.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 213, “Bessarabia” – memorandum prepared for Mr. Leeper, Feb-
ruary 22, 1922, c. 159.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 24, Telegram Lord Hardinge to Lord Curzon, March 15, 1922, p. 168.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 24, Telegram Lord Curzon to Lord Hardinge, March 22, 1922, p. 168.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 213, Draft Telegram Lord Curzon to Lord Hardinge, March 28,
1922, c. 172.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 24, Report Dering to Lord Curzon, May 2, 1922, p. 197.
DBFP, Serie 1, Vol. 27, Telegram Dering to Chamberlain, October 13, 1925, p. 253-254.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 213, Note on Compensations for the Landowners Expropriated
in Bessarabia, October 1922, c. 1-20.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 213, Telegram Drake to Lord Curzon, December 17,
1922, c. 76-78.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 213, Telegram Secretary of State (signed Miles W. Lampson) to
Dering, November 29, 1922, c. 27.
JFMA, Fond B 760.2, Vol. 1, Letter British Embassy to Japanese Foreign Ministry, November 1923.
A. Gromyko, V. Ponomarenko, History of Soviet Foreign Policy, p. 206.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note for the President of the Council, February 2,
1924, c. 787.
There is no mention of the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty by the British Government in the

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

“Parliamentary Debates” of 1921 or 1922. In 1924 there was a reference to a certain Command Paper
1747 of 1922 with regard to the ratification but nothing more.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 170, p. 1944
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 172, p. 1580. The
interpellation is presented in a special Report sent to Tokyo by the Japanese representative in Lon-
don, proving the Japanese interest in anything related to the Bessarabian Treaty Question. JFMA,
Fond B 760.2, Vol. 1, Telegram from London, May 1924.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 173, p. 397.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 174, p. 18
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 174, p. 856 Also,
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, June 6th 1924
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 174, p. 2092.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 175, p. 68-69.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 175, p. 1793 and Vol.
182, p. 1288.
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 173, p. 397. Also
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, February 1930
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Official Report, Fifth Series, Vol. 235, p. 2277.

< 202 >


During the creation of the Romanian state in the mid-19th century, France
was the most influential and helpful of the Great Powers towards the Romanian
cause.1 However, due to her defeat in the 1871 war against Germany, before the
Great War France found herself playing second fiddle within Romania both eco-
nomically and politically. Then, during and after the war, France’s position in Ro-
mania improved again considerably. The Romanians were grateful for France’s war-
time help, particularly the radical reorganization of Romanian Army under the
leadership of the French Military Mission, and at the same time developed bitter
feelings against Germany. Soon after the war, the proportion of French capital in-
vested in the Romanian economy, and French political influence, grew. Between
1922 and 1937 the Romanians borrowed more than twice as much from Paris than
from London, while Berlin’s loans were negligible. As Romania’s first creditor, sec-
ond investor, and third trade partner, France played a considerable role in the eco-
nomic life of the country.2 Indeed, Romania served well not only the economic in-
terest of France, but the political and strategic interests too. Her strategic position
at the Black Sea made it possible to establish good communication/transport links;
she was rich in natural resources, including the petroleum that France sorely
lacked; and she had a vast reservoir of peasant soldiery.3
The French government thought that Romania could play a useful role in East-
ern Europe and be an important partner in opposing their rivals, namely Germany
(now defeated) and Italy. And such was the case. During the inter-war period Roma-
nia and France were among the countries most actively fighting against any revision-
ist tendencies. Still, France had to skillfully weigh the Romanian request for immedi-
ate recognition of the Bessarabian union against Russian sensibilities.
On the other hand, Romania had to compete with the other states in Central
Europe, especially Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, for French
“benevolence”.4 This competition was intensified by France’s paucity of resources in

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

the immediate and not so immediate aftermath of the war.5 While all the states vied
with each other over economic concessions, the Romanians’ “unique” propaganda
tool in this competition was the common Latin origins of the two nations. However,
shared cultural origins faded in significance compared to their competitors’ main
argument: a common border with Germany. Two years of difficult negotiations with
Romania (1914-1916) had proven that it is not easy to convince Romanians to go to
war, even when they are directly interested (unless something quite tangible is of-
fered as inducement). And, in the case of a French-German war there was nothing
territorially that could be offered to Romania to entice her to join the fray. Thus the
French policy towards Poland and Czechoslovakia was clearly friendlier and there
were times when Romania was seen only as a possible back up in the defense of the
two. The fact is that, during the Peace Conference, when Clemenceau talked of sur-
rounding Russia with a barbed wire entanglement, he was really only concerned
with building up Poland.6
The main enemy of improving French-Romanian relations during the interwar
period was the Soviet Union. Choosing between Romania — a faithful ally ready (at
least theoretically) to back up France in case of a war with Germany but lacking the
necessary material resources to make a difference, and the Soviet Union — a former
ally that had the resources but not necessarily the will to defend France, and who
still owed France a great deal of money: this was one of the biggest dilemmas facing
French policy makers. The economic aspects were clearly in favor of the Soviets.7 In a
sense, Romania’s case was similar to Poland’s, with one big difference: Romania had
neither a common border with nor a territorial conflict with Germany.
The only apparent solution would be to end the Soviet-Romanian conflict over
Bessarabia; then the French would avoid having to choose, and would be able to use
both of them at the same time. During Titulescu’s tenure as Foreign Minister in the
1930s, the French government seriously tried to mediate the Romanian-Soviet con-
flict, but without much success. However, during the 1920s, there was no solution in
sight that would be satisfactory to both parties, and French policy constantly shifted
between a pro-Romanian and a pro-Russian (later pro-Soviet) stance. In the end, the
French leadership’s failure to choose (and either forge a powerful alliance with the
Soviet regime at the expense of its neighboring states, or offer full guarantees to
those states against a Soviet attack), or to achieve a settlement of the territorial
questions between the Soviets and their neighbors, contributed to the French disas-
ter in 1941. As described by Kalervo Hovi:

The greatest practical problem . . . seemed to have been the fact that while
waiting for this new Russia (which would acknowledge France’s economic
claims and which could be used as an ally against Germany), it could not get
along without the new states springing up on its periphery. On the other hand,
they could not be fully supported, since their core national goals were in con-
flict with all possible Russian governments.8

< 204 >


The French leaders understood the importance of having Romania in the

French sphere of interest at the end of the war. The idea was to make Romania an
outpost of “Latin” civilization, a bulwark against German and Slav expansionism,
while providing a counterweight to the growing Italian influence in the area. It was
considered that, “Romania, which was the last to join the Latin family and which,
through its geographic position, is also the most endangered branch, sought to at-
tach itself exclusively to the most illustrious member of the family”.9
The French representatives in Bucharest understood, as presented by Edouard
Tavernier, that if Romania entered the war it would be necessary to gear French
propaganda towards having France take the place of the Central Powers in the post-
war Romanian market and to make France’s future political influence a function of
French economic influence.10
One more reason for France’s desire to increase her influence in Romania was,
most definitely, her need of petroleum. With petroleum consumption increasing at
high speed, the French Government had been looking for a dependable source of oil,
independent of the British and American companies.11 Although Romania could not
supply all the French needs, it was an important target in the French quest for oil
supplies. However, the French were not the only ones aiming at the Romanian oil;
the British, the Americans and the Italians were competing as well.

Romanian-French Relations during the Peace Conference

The French Government prepared intensively for the Peace Conference. As

early as February 1917 (some might find that a little bit premature) the “Comité
d’Etudes” was created at the initiative of Aristide Briand, at that time the Prime Min-
ister of France. Its purpose was to reflect on the problems that might arise after the
war and to offer the necessary informational background to guide French diplomacy
during the future peace settlements. Among its members were mainly university
professors such as Charles Benoist, Ernest Lavisse, Charles Seignobos, Paul Vidal de
la Blanche and Emmanuel de Martonne.12 The latter was in charge of preparing the
reports regarding new frontiers for Romania, and he did it in a way that was gener-
ous towards the Romanians. Needless to say, there was some friction between this
ivory tower Committee and the “old hands” at the Foreign Ministry, who resented
the notion that academics would provide a more objective and accurate view of vari-
ous territorial matters (a similar dynamic was at work in the US).
During the Paris Peace Conference, France had been the friendliest Great
Power toward Romania, for reasons ranging from culture to security. The French
policy makers opposed President Wilson’s idealism as much as possible, giving pri-
ority to strategic and economical interests instead of ethnic reasons wherever a new
border was being drawn up. Romania was one of the countries that would benefit
from that approach.
However, not everything France did at the Peace Conference was in Romania’s
favor. It was impossible for France to influence every decision taken by the Confer-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

ence with regard to Romania; besides, she was there to protect her own interests
and those were not always advantageous to Romania. Then there was the rivalry
between the French and the Romanian Prime Ministers, George Clemenceau and Ion
I. C. Bratianu, which played its part not only during the Peace Conference but also
during the war.13 As for the Bessarabian question, while they were helping the White
Russians against the Bolsheviks, the French leaders dangled it alternately before the
Romanians and the Russians — a policy which perhaps did not make anyone very
Romanian propaganda in Paris was clearly the best propaganda Romania had
abroad. Ion Pelivan, a former deputy in the Sfatul Tserii, coordinated the propaganda
on Bessarabia, skillfully counterbalancing the Russian propaganda against the un-
ion.14 Even if Clemenceau was somewhat reticent with regard to Romania, Romania
had numerous friends within the French Foreign Ministry, at high levels of the
French Army, and in the French media. 15 Her best friends in Paris were inside the
French General Military Headquarters, from where they contributed to policy deci-
sions on Romania both during the Peace Conference and later.16
French-Romanian relations during the war are best described by two of those
who had leading roles in improving them: General Henri Berthelot, head of the
French Military Mission to Romania, and Count Auguste Felix de Saint Aulaire,
French minister to Romania during 1916-1919.17 Their accounts are excellent presen-
tations of both the French policy towards Romania and the difficult situation of Ro-
mania during the war.
As long as Romania remained neutral, France was one of the countries that
insisted most vehemently that she enter the war on the Allied side, and promised in
exchange to help Romania acquire the territories that were populated by Romanians
but situated under Austria-Hungarian domination. As a result of Romania’s pro-
longed negotiations, in 1916 France decided to replace her Minister to Romania,
Camille Blondel, with the more experienced Count de Saint Aulaire, whose main
task was to bring Romania into the war by any possible means. He succeeded.18 Dur-
ing the winter of 1916-1917, the French Military Mission in Romania led by General
Berthelot helped reorganize the Romanian Army, preparing it for the victories of
1917. Although Clemenceau was the staunchest opponent of Romania’s decision to
make a separate peace with the Central Powers, France was the only Allied Power to
acknowledge Romania’s sacrifices during the war and to promise, when the Bucha-
rest Peace with the Central Powers was signed, that all the engagements taken to-
wards Romania when it entered war would be respected.19
As for the French policy on Bessarabia’s union with Romania, the opinion ex-
pressed by the end of January 1918 by General Berthelot, one of Romania’s support-
ers, is suggestive:

As for Bessarabia I am not too happy about the manner in which General
Brosteanu acts. It is not anymore an operation of military police but a political

< 206 >


enterprise, which comes before its time. It is certain that the bulk of the popu-
lation is Moldavian and that it seems to be oriented toward Romania, but there
is a risk of compromising the harvest by collecting it too soon.20

Saint Aulaire shared Berthelot’s opinion. He prepared a very objective report

on Bessarabia (June 1918), presenting all the good and the bad points of the Roma-
nian administration and indicating the main reasons behind the French acceptance
of the union:

I advised them that the Union is the best solution against the Russian anarchy
but that it could not be definitive without the Entente’s official approval. . . .
The Allies must ratify the Union for a clear reason; Romania will always offer
them more certain guarantees than Russia. The Union is in conformity with
the general interest of order and equilibrium and the positive influence of
France in Romania will extend to Bessarabia too.21

This effort to stake out a middle way position between Romania and Russia
(or, this faint-hearted irresolution) comes to light once more during the Hotin riot in
February 1919, when, as argued by Michael Jabara Carley:

The Quai d’Orsay hastened to block the use of French troops in the suppres-
sion of this uprising. Pichon observed to Clemenceau that although the French
government could not oppose Romanian territorial aspirations “without risk-
ing the ruin of its influence” in that country, neither did it want to alienate
Russian elements sympathetic to France who opposed the cession of Bessara-
bia to Romania. “Our situation in this regard” commented Pichon “is particu-
larly delicate in the view of our long alliance with Russia”.22

The Romanians’ intransigence towards the Russians, particularly after the

start of the Peace Conference, irritated the French leaders; they felt that at least
those Russians fighting against the Bolsheviks deserved some consideration.23 Some
of them went so far as to suggest that the Romanian refusal to intervene in the Rus-
sian Civil War stemmed from the fact that the Romanian government preferred the
Bolshevik solution, which seemed to be less dangerous vis-à-vis Bessarabia than the
establishment of a conservative military regime. 24
The French dilemma of discerning which of the two possible allies (the Roma-
nians or the White Russians) would be the stronger at the end of the day, together
with that of choosing between the multiple factions representing the White move-
ment, was steadily growing more complex. In fact, between January 1918 and Octo-
ber 1920 the French position regarding Bessarabia had been continuously shifting,
tied as it was to the situation in Russia.25 Whenever the White Russians had the
upper hand in their conflict with the Bolsheviks, the French diplomats expressed
“neutrality” regarding Bessarabia, whereas when the Bolsheviks defeated them the

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

French expressed their “agreement” that Bessarabia should belong to Romania. Dur-
ing 1918 the French government tried to stay away from any direct implication into
the Russo-Romanian conflict, ordering to all its representatives overseas to avoid
discussing it and to maintain clear neutrality.26 In December 1918, the French re-
ceived green light for Bessarabia, considered to be a part of the French “sphere of
action” in Russia; the British left all initiatives in the area in the hands of France. By
June 1919, some French diplomats were already arguing that the Peace Conference
should recognize Bessarabia’s union with Romania:

In my Department’s opinion, Bessarabia is totally Romanian; she is nothing else

than a part of Moldavia; the only convenient frontier on its territory is the Dni-
estr; in short, ethnically, historically and demographically this territory must
belong to Romania; at the same time, we are against a plebiscite, which is un-
necessary in view of the up-coming general elections.27

Still, the French aim in 1918 was to offer the province to that Ally most ready to
recommence the fight against the Central Powers and, after the end of the war, to
that Ally most willing to defend France against possible German revenge.
Regarding Romanian territorial claims, the biggest help came from two influ-
ential French personalities, André Tardieu (president of the Central Territorial
Commission) and Emmanuel de Martonne. While André Tardieu was in charge with
the diplomatic aspects of establishing the new Romanian borders, de Martonne's
task was to offer the necessary historical, geographical and ethnic background re-
garding the future borders of Romania.28 De Martonne, like the other French leaders,
preferred a division of the Banat, but was 100% on Romania’s side regarding Transyl-
vania, Crisana, Maramures and the southern Dobrudja (he calculated a 55% Roma-
nian majority in that region, a figure that differs substantially from the US experts’
claim of about 1%). Regarding Bessarabia, his opinion (which became the French
official position), was that the entire Bessarabia should belong to Romania, based on
the majority of the Romanian population in the area (72% in his opinion) and based
on the Romanians’ heroism during the war (both the Americans and the British
failed to take this factor into consideration in their recommendations). In De Mar-
tonne’s own words:

Romania had never raised any official claims to Bessarabia. She entered the war in order
to realize her national unity, without saying a word about Bessarabia. Bessarabia had been
given to Romania in a moment when she was conquered, suffocated by the enemy and forced to
sign a shameful peace, at a time when it seemed to her that will have to renounce for ever to
Transylvania, the land for which Romania decided to take up arms.29

The only point on which France did not support Romania’s territorial claims
was the Banat. The heroism of the Serbian Army during the war was still fresh in the

< 208 >


French imagination and many considered Bratianu’s demand of the entire Banat to
be exaggerated. Of course, Bratianu intended to have all the Banat for Romania and
was unwilling to make any compromise, knowing that, in any case, Italy would back
him on that question. On the other hand, France had been 100% on Romania’s side
on the question of the southern Dobrudja, French representatives blocking all con-
trary American proposals for a cession of territory to Bulgaria.
With all the sympathy for Romania expressed at so many different levels, it has
been argued that France had to bow before the pressures coming from her American
and British allies. Clemenceau continuously maintained a reserved attitude towards
Romania, pleasing the Americans but seriously disappointing the Romanians. Many
of the French diplomats posed as “victims” of American pressure: “Because of Amer-
ica’s intransigence towards us, France had to carry on this unfair policy towards Ro-
mania. They are so powerful and we need them so much.”30
However, although there were times when the French had to give in to the US,
it should be said that, in fact, the French took advantage of America’s inexperience
in world affairs and used them as a scapegoat to justify some of their own actions. As
the French intended to retain their influence over Romania, whenever a contentious
matter came up, they cleverly allowed the US representatives to come to the fore, all
too happy to pose as defenders of whatever rights. They also blamed some of the de-
cisions on the British or Italian representatives. At times, the British and Italians
used the same tactic. To these pressures, however powerful they may have been, we
must add the personal antipathy Clemenceau felt for Bratianu, the influence of Hun-
garian and Jewish propaganda in some political circles in France, and the Russian
question, when we seek an explanation for the French oscillations during 1918-1920.
The French policy towards Romania is presented in the Note sent by the
French Ambassador in the US (Jusserand) to the Secretary of State, indicating that
on December 26, 1918, the Romanians had published a Decree-Law uniting Transyl-
vania to Romania. He asked the Secretary of State to instruct the American Ambas-
sador in Bucharest to remind the Romanians that the Congress of Peace alone could
decide on such matters, and would do so taking into account the general situation
and the wishes of the populace. They asked the same from the British and Italians, so
that they were able to organize a common front of the Entente against territorial
modifications unilaterally made by the Romanians. This French request is consid-
ered to be the Allies’ first official sign of disapproval of the actions taken by Romania
to legalize the territorial unions.31 For the Great Powers it was more of a formal ges-
ture, aiming to show Romania that she would not be given a free hand in the men-
tioned territories. Although the idea of opposing the de facto territorial policy of the
Romanians came from the French, they were very keen to avoid being perceived as
enemies of Romania’s territorial unification and, as described above, tried to have
others appear to be the ones acting against the Romanians.
The main question was not French recognition of Romanian territorial expan-
sion, but how that expansion would be achieved. In order to boost her position in
Romania, France was very keen to show herself as Romania’s best ally and to keep

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

reminding the Romanians of her enormous support during the peace negotiations —
as long as the Romanians were confident they could do it by themselves, they
would have no need to make “under-the-table” concessions to win French support.
Therefore, while keeping quiet about Jusserand’s Note against her territorial moves,
the French insisted that Romania had been granted the status of an Ally during the
Peace Conference mainly as a result of their initiative and of their insistence with the
other Great Powers, at the end of December 1918.32
The Great Powers intended, after all, to keep the so-called Small Powers subor-
dinated, and the territorial questions were the best tools at hand. The French real-
ized that once Romania’s territorial claims were officially approved there would be
no more leverage with which to persuade Romania to heed French advice or, indeed,
the recommendations or decisions taken by the Conference. Also, it would have pro-
vided a very important basis for French propaganda in Romania if they could always
remind the Romanians that international recognition of the Union came only as a
result of France’s long efforts on her behalf. France had little to win by simply ap-
proving the Romanian territorial demands from the outset.
Fighting Bolshevism was one of the common goals of Romania and France; and
Marshal Foch considered Romania an important piece in his chess game for the
elimination of Bolshevism in Europe. In view of the French military withdrawal from
Odessa, he thought the Romanian Army would be a more reliable bulwark against
the Bolsheviks than Denikin’s army was proving to be.33 During the late March 1919
crises in Hungary, France therefore supported the Romanian view, and declared that
the Conference should not deal with Bela Kun (as proposed by US representatives).
They wanted to see Romania fighting, directly or indirectly, against the Bolsheviks
in Russia. However, Bratianu had two very good reasons to avoid any military adven-
ture in Russia: Romania already had control over the entire territory that it was
claiming from Russia; and the Romanian Army was in no condition to fight on two
fronts simultaneously. Although few Romanian scholars stress this point, the French
military planners were realistic enough to drop the idea of involving Romanian
troops in the planned intervention in southern Russia almost from the moment
when they were forced to whittle down the scale of the intervention, as they real-
ized that it would be almost impossible to convince the Romanians to cross the
During the summer of 1919, Clemenceau sensed the direction in which Ameri-
can policy was moving; and renewing the traditional French policy of encircling Ger-
many, France adjusted its policy towards Romania and the other Eastern European
states accordingly. Because of events in Russia (France’s traditional ally against Ger-
many), the only hope was in the new states in Central and Eastern Europe which
could, at least theoretically, replace Russia as an impediment to future German ex-
pansionism. Romania, as the second largest state in the region, could play an impor-
tant role in those plans, and it was no surprise that France then defended certain
Romanian actions against the decisions of the Conference. If, previously, the French
had tried to avoid anything that might strike the Romanians as being directed

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against their interests, from now on they were twice as careful. By the time the
Americans understood the reasons behind French policy toward Romania, and the
extent to which this weakened the Peace Conference, the damage had already been
After the Americans withdrew from the Peace Conference, the Romanian posi-
tion improved. Still, French diplomats continued to play the role of defenders of Ro-
manian interests against US and British subterfuge. As expressed by Saint Aulaire:

No doubt, in order not to expose Romania to the dirty maneuvers of the

British and the US . . . [Clemenceau] should take the initiative in this matter . . .
The US minister in Romania told me that . . . some circles in the US are press-
ing President Wilson in order to provoke, by any means, a split between the
Entente and Romania, and if these plans are not counterbalanced by the other
powers in the Entente, and especially France, Romania would no longer be
treated as an ally but as a rebel and it would be possible to exploit it without
any limits.35

One of the best presentations of France’s policy toward Romania is to be found

in the instructions sent by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Millerand, to the
newly appointed French Minister in Bucharest, Emile Daeschner, on March 6, 1920.
After describing the poor political relations between France and Romania before the
war, caused by German influence in Romania, Millerand observes:

Close relations had been established between the Romanian and the
French and British governments. But it was not the same with the Russian
government, where there still were some frictions. By her alliance with Russia,
Romania had to limit her claims to Bukovina and to abandon her claim to Bes-
sarabia. However, it is true that Romania had a free hand in Transylvania and
Banat. Still, the relations with Petrograd had no cordiality . . .
The tragic circumstances resulting from the Russian Revolution and the
Bolshevik betrayal gave way to Germany to impose on Romania the disastrous
Bucharest Peace. At the same time, the Romanian Government took its liberty
vis-à-vis Russia and occupied Bessarabia, which its troops saved from the Bol-
shevik tyranny. . . .
As soon as victory was clearly on the Allies’ side, the entire Romanian na-
tion, with the Berthelot Mission still fresh in their minds, had been animated
by the biggest enthusiasm for France. However, this enthusiasm failed little by
little because of a certain bitterness. . . .
In other questions we have been the most faithful defenders of Romania. It
is mainly because of us that they received the Hungarian counties bordering
Transylvania [Crisana]. And, if in the Banat case we backed the legitimate
claims of the Serbs, our allies, regarding the Bessarabian question, for example,
we have given Romania the most ardent assistance. . . .

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Romania is not the only one interested in herself. Placed at the mouth of
Danube, she is bound to become a warehouse for the riparian countries. This is
another reason for us to concentrate our efforts in order to dominate this mar-
ket. . . .
We have to deal in this context with a delicate question, that of the Da-
nube regime . . . The Commission of Danube . . . is a sort of state in state. It is
difficult for Romania to support this European servitude and she will make
every effort to replace it, by taking control of the international services on the
Danube. . . .
Regarding the delicate question of Romania’s relations with Russia, you
will receive, under the circumstances, the necessary specific instructions. As a
general manner, we advise the Romanian government to manifest great pru-
dence regarding everything that may touch the Russian national feelings. But,
regarding the Bessarabian question, France maintains the position favorable to
Romania that she already adopted and which has been confirmed by the deci-
sion of the Supreme Council.
On the other hand, you should stay away of any intervention, even an indi-
rect one, in the Dobrudja question.36

In just a few words, Millerand synthesized the past and future evolution of
French diplomatic relations with Romania. He also directed Daeschner to take ad-
vantage of France’s intellectual prestige and to act decisively in the economic field, in
which France was facing fierce competition from England and the US. In the next
few years French diplomacy would follow the directions outlined in the above-
mentioned document, with but one temporary exception: Bessarabia. A matter of
weeks after the instructions were sent to Daeschner, the French position on Bessara-
bia changed.
As a direct result of the Polish-Russian war in 1920, the situation was greatly
complicated for the French — just when it had seemed that there could be no fur-
ther reason to postpone international recognition of the union. France badly needed
Poland in order to encircle Germany and, when the Poles were on the brink of mili-
tary disaster, Romania’s help against the Bolsheviks was one of the few options
France had. The Romanians were quite set against entering war and the French lead-
ers had only one card to play that could induce them to change their minds: Bessara-
bia. If, from January to March 1920, French efforts came close to bringing the Bes-
sarabian question to a final resolution favorable to Romania, things changed during
March, once the Russo-Polish war started. Instead of openly supporting military
intervention against Russia, the Romanian Prime Minister Alexandru Vaida-Voevod
decided, with British approval, to open negotiations with the Soviets, dealing a seri-
ous blow to the French diplomacy. As a result, the French became even more de-
cided to use the Bessarabian question as a diplomatic pledge of Romania’s fidelity
towards Poland.37 Vaida-Voevod’s replacement as Prime Minister brought the Ro-
manian-Russian negotiations to an end, improving the French position, particularly

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after the Francophile Take Ionescu took the lead in the Romanian Foreign Ministry
on June 13, 1920; but the Romanians stood by their decision not to intervene in the
Russo-Polish war.
The French position was complicated even more as a result of her relations
with the White Russians: as it was the French who were asking for a White Russian
offensive against the Bolsheviks, in order to ease the pressure on the Polish front,
they were in no position to tell the Russian generals that at the same time their gov-
ernment was supporting the Romanian claim to Bessarabia.
In order to put pressure on Romania by postponing the signing of the Bessara-
bian Treaty, the French once again enrolled the US as a scapegoat. The French ar-
gued to both the Romanians and the British that they were very keen to obtain the
US signature on the Bessarabian Treaty, and by so doing to give more power to the
Treaty. In fact, they knew that a US adhesion to the Treaty would be altogether im-
possible and furthermore that it would bring only a doubtful prestige since the US
Congress was refusing to ratify the Peace Treaties. This maneuver, however, allowed
the French to play for time, waiting for a clear signal in the Russo-Polish war. Tak-
ing into account the previous chapter it might be argued that, without the decisive
British pressure to sign, the French would have kept stalling indefinitely. Still, it
would be unfair to blame the French: they expected to recover quite an impressive
sum of money from Russia and they needed Russia as a potential ally against Ger-
many. By recognizing Bessarabia’s union with Romania they clearly would have for-
saken their chances of achieving either of the two objectives. As a poor consolation
for the funds lost in Russia, the French intended to resolve the matter of French
landowners expropriated in Bessarabia in a highly favorable manner and to ask Ro-
mania to assume part of the international debt of the former Russian Empire (by
adding Article No 8 to the projected draft Treaty).
The Colby Note (August 10, 1920) further complicated the situation, as the
French government stated its full support for the Note, provoking some uncertainty
in Romania.38 In August 1920, French uncertainty regarding the Bessarabian Treaty
was so high that they saw no alternative but to postpone the signing for an unlim-
ited period of time: by waiting until both the Soviets and Wrangel should accept
Bessarabia as Romanian territory and until the US joined in the Treaty.

It is difficult for us to decide on a certain line or position regarding Bessara-

bia. On one hand, the British are pressing for the signing of the Bessarabian
Treaty, insisting that the US approval is unnecessary. On the other, in the re-
cent telegram sent to Washington regarding our policy towards the Soviets,
the French government expressed its agreement with the US policy of not
sanctioning any territorial dismemberment of the Russian Empire without the
agreement of Russia.
Romania gives Bessarabia the highest importance. A postponement is not
good because it would generate a Russian-Romanian conflict, which must be
avoided, so that the only logical solution, in accordance with the ethnographi-

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cal situation and the will of the people, is to leave Bessarabia to Romania. On
one hand, we must avoid taking a decision too early. On the other, we also have
to try and obtain a general agreement regarding the inclusion of Bessarabia in
Romania. The simplest solution would be to wait for the result of the Roma-
nian-Soviet negotiations, even as we cannot recognize the validity of a treaty
signed by the Soviets. But the Soviets’ agreement could, generally speaking, be
harmful for Romania in the future, in case the Romanian government should
try to negotiate a pact with a future Russian government. As for Wrangel, we
could obtain his recognition in exchange for our (and Romanian) help, espe-
cially after the Soviets’ agreement.
Once both Russian sides declare their agreement for an identical solution,
we can consider the signing of the treaty during the spring. Because these ne-
gotiations require time, it is clear that we should avoid an immediate solution,
which might embarrass us.39

By October 1920, as a result of combined British and Romanian pressure, and

particularly with a view to the fact that France would lose all sway in Bucharest if
the British were the only Great Power to sign the Bessarabian Treaty, and given that
a direction was becoming clear in the Polish-Russian war, the French decided in fa-
vor of Romania. Take Ionescu’s visit to Paris in mid-September gave them the neces-
sary assurances regarding both the indemnification of the French subjects expropri-
ated in Bessarabia and the attitude of Romania towards the Soviets. Ionescu asked
for the French opinion regarding the negotiations with the Bolsheviks, and agreed
with them that the recognition of the Soviets would only increase the Soviets’ inter-
national prestige and bolster the communists and anarchists acting inside Roma-
nia.40 On the other hand, the need to stop the growing anti-French movement in Ro-
mania, organized by the Liberal Party headed by Ion I. C. Bratianu (who could not
forget his failure in Paris) as well as some other political parties, also weighed in
the French decision.41 Signing the Bessarabian Treaty seemed the ideal solution in
order to counterbalance the anti-French propaganda and to enlist Romania among
France’s Eastern Allies.

The French Ratification

France regarded a strong Romania as an important political and military inter-

est. She conceived its strategic role as that of a rearguard charged with preventing
Soviet Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria from impeding the action of Poland and
Czechoslovakia, France’s only fully fledged allies in Eastern Europe, in a war against
Germany.42 At the same time, France had economic interests in Romania, seeing it as
both an important market for its products and as a supplier of raw materials
(especially petroleum).
During the first years after the war, economic matters seemed to prevail over
the strategic or political considerations. The French Government and businessmen

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expected Romania to fulfill the financial obligations she had undertaken towards
France, such as repaying the war credits, and to also allow a growing penetration of
French capital into the Romanian markets. But the Romanian Government had dif-
ferent plans regarding the payment of foreign debts, and asked for a number of post-
ponements, justified by the difficult situation of the country after the war. By 1922,
soon after coming back into power, the Liberal Party was already elaborating plans
for its “by ourselves” economic policy that would limit the penetration of foreign
capital in key sectors of the economy. The French, dissatisfied with the Romanian
economic policy, looked upon the postponement of the Bessarabian Treaty ratifica-
tion as a useful tool in this regard as well.
In March 1922, the Romanian Minister in Paris described the bitter feelings
provoked among the Frenchmen by this Romanian policy:

The allusion made by the French President that “Romania is eluding” was
referring in ensemble to the non-execution of contracts like the ones for wheat
and petroleum, the contract for aviation and others, plus some other initial
proposals and promises that are not followed in practice. We are all having
here the feeling that these methods are not helping us in maintaining our es-
teem and trustworthy relations.43

Influenced by the British position and the suggestion that the Treaty should be
ratified before the meeting of the Genoa Conference, the first international confer-
ence in which Bolshevik representatives were invited to take part, the French took a
first step towards the ratification. On March 14, the French Government decided to
send the Bessarabian Treaty to the Parliament for ratification. The French action had
three purposes: first, to obtain the Romanian adhesion to the French proposals dur-
ing the Conference; second, to avoid offering the Soviets any possibility of raising the
Bessarabian question during the workings of the Genoa Conference; third, to pres-
sure the Romanian government into coming to an agreement regarding the payment
of indemnities for the French landowners expropriated in Bessarabia.
On March 21, 1922, the president of the Conference of Ambassadors, Jules
Cambon, following his March 15 proposal that all the signatories should ratify before
the beginning of the Genoa Conference, asked Georges Leygues, the president of the
French Parliament’s Commission of Foreign Affairs:

On the eve of the Genoa Conference it seems indispensable to me to avoid

the existence of any possible doubts regarding the will of France and her Allies
to recognize the rights of Romania over Bessarabia. It was in this spirit that the
Government deposited the Treaty in Parliament for ratification on March 14.44

A few weeks later, the Romanian representatives in Paris were notified that
the draft of a law for ratification had been deposited at the Chamber of Deputies but,
as the Chamber was in recess until May 25, the project would have to wait. Still, the

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

situation in the Chamber was far from favorable to the proposed ratification, so that
the Romanian representatives had to increase their efforts to gather the necessary
support in the Chamber. The difficulties are described in a report sent by Victor An-
tonescu, the Romanian minister in Paris:

Senator Helmer d’Alsace, whose wife is of Bessarabian origin and who

owns land properties in Bessarabia, is campaigning against the Treaty, a cam-
paign justified by the fact that the Romanian State did not keep its promises
towards the French citizens who had land properties in Bessarabia.
I recently met Peretti dela Rocca and Guy Laroche (sub-director for politi-
cal affairs in the French Foreign Ministry). They confirmed the campaign initi-
ated by Mr. Helmer and also by some other deputies interested in the Credit
du Levant et Bousac affair, which Vintila Bratianu knows well. I insisted on
them showing the bad impression a postponement of the ratification as a result
of protecting the interests of some French senators and deputies would have
over the Romanian public opinion, especially when the Soviets are contesting
in Genoa the Romanian rights over Bessarabia. I asked them if the French Gov-
ernment intends to connect the question of compensations for the French citi-
zens in Bessarabia with the draft of law [for the ratification]. They answered
that this was not the Government’s intention but, taking into account the
enormous difference between the 33 millions lei offered and the amount as-
sessed by the French experts (10 million gold rubles), it would be helpful that a
compromise formula should be reached before sending the draft for the Cham-
ber’s approval. In this sense the French Government would be satisfied by the
nomination of a Commission made of French and Romanian experts in order to
evaluate the mentioned properties, in agreement with Daeschner.
Forges is favorable to us and he insists on reaching a compromise before
May 23.45

The direct interest of certain influential French Parliamentarians in the matter

of land properties expropriated in Bessarabia explains France’s initial insistence that
the matter should be inserted in the draft Treaty. Their influence over French foreign
policy seems to have been quite powerful, since they were twice able to change the
government’s position regarding Bessarabia. This was a strange twist of fate that, of
just nine French landowners in Bessarabia, one should have had such a strong con-
nection to the French Parliament.
The answer from the Romanian Foreign Ministry came on the next day:

It is impossible to solve the question of evaluating the French possessions

in Bessarabia before May 24. The Council of Ministers tries to avoid the estab-
lishment of a connection between the ratification and this question. It is re-
grettable that the French Parliament could be so easily influenced by financial
questions when it comes to one of the main allies of France. I think that the

< 216 >


real solution is not a negotiation with Mr. Daeschner but an open discussion
between Bratianu and Poincare in Paris. Please let me know if Bratianu should
leave for Paris earlier.46

However, no government does a favor to another government based simply on

friendship. The best weapon in politics was (and remains) money. Unfortunately,
Bratianu apparently failed to understand that basic equation in international rela-
tions and over-estimated the French strategic interest in Romania.
The same day, Victor Antonescu communicated the Romanian response to the
French diplomats, only in order to have them restate their position:

I met Poincare. He told me that he has decided to pass the draft law for the
ratification of Bessarabia’s union through the Parliament but that it would be
helpful and useful to have the Romanian Government give him some explana-
tions and also some proofs regarding the payment of compensations to the
French subjects.47

Ion I. C. Bratianu, who was in Genoa at the time, also expressed his unhappi-
ness with Poincare’s position and, according to French sources, it seems that what
upset him most was the idea of subordinating the ratification to the interests of a
few landowners of French nationality.48
The French diplomats, not directly interested in the Romanian payment of
compensations, seemed to be on Romania’s side. Louis Barthou, the French Foreign
Minister, declared during a reception in the honor of Bratianu on May 24, that “the
French government has a strong desire to obtain the ratification of the Bessarabian
Treaty from the Parliament”.49 But in the absence of any new concessions from the
Romanians, the sympathy of Barthou was not enough to convince the Parliament.
Taking advantage of his visit to Paris during the second half of May 1922, Prime
Minister Bratianu raised the ratification question, with no results. Although the ne-
gotiations went on the problem remained the same, as well described in a British

My French colleague informed me in a conversation that the French Govern-

ment intended to bring up a Bill in this sense for discussion in Parliament this
summer but desisted on being warned that it would meet with strong opposi-
tion in view of the non-payment of the compensation due to French landown-
ers expropriated in Bessarabia.50

On July 7, 1922, the Parliament’s Commission on Foreign Affairs debated the

Draft Law for the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty, presented by Mr. Forges.
The Draft contained a general description of Bessarabia’s geography, population,
industry, history, and economy, all the controversial matters being presented in a
fairly objective manner, without much Romanian bias.51 Although the Commission

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

adopted the Report presented by Forges, no further step was taken towards ratifica-
tion, and all that followed was a controversy between the Parliament and the Gov-
ernment as to whom to blame for the delay.
Poincare instructed the French minister in Bucharest:

Faced with the actual circumstances, the French Government is in fact obliged
to take into account general considerations that influence the sanction of Bes-
sarabia’s cession to Romania. . . . From this viewpoint comes the inconvenience
of expressly relating this question to that of French properties, but it is essen-
tial for us to take advantage of this occasion and to pressure the Romanian
Government to give us satisfactory guarantees regarding the conclusion of an

The Romanian refusal to grant the French request for compensations (in part
because of the exaggerated evaluation presented by the Frenchmen, particularly as
they were being offered higher compensation than that offered to expropriated Ro-
manians), was the reason the French put forward to justify their failure to ratify in
1922. And it worked as the French intended: “The question of the French landown-
ers expropriated in Bessarabia is about to be resolved because we have a very effi-
cient means of pressuring the Romanians in order to give us satisfaction: our recog-
nition of Bessarabia’s annexation by Romania”.53
However, there were other reasons for the French to withhold their ratification
as well. Even after settling the compensation dispute, they stalled for another year.
The other financial questions pending also played a certain role regarding the French
Also playing into this process in the summer of 1922 was the French hope that
the Bolshevik Government, which was on the verge of being accepted as a member of
the international community, would be willing to pay back at least a part of the in-
ternational debt of the former Czarist Government. If that were the case, in order to
boost its position with the Soviet government the French would need bargaining
chips, and the Bessarabian Treaty was one. Soviet recognition of the Czarist debt
would have been a first serious step towards re-establishing the French-Russian alli-
ance, an alliance that would have greatly decreased the strategic importance of Ro-
mania vis-à-vis the French. In the meantime the compensations question gave the
French government an excuse to postpone the ratification.
Thus, the first opportunity to obtain the French ratification was lost by the
Romanians. While the French correlated ratification with payment, the Romanians
ostensibly expected the French ratification to come simply out of “friendship” from
their “best ally”. It probably would not have been all that difficult to come to terms
on the settlement for the French landowners, as the amount requested was not terri-
bly high and the French surely expected the Romanian government to negotiate the
amount downward. The Romanians misplayed their hand, and France refused to
ratify the Treaty in 1922.

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In fairness, one might speculate on the French position regarding the Bessara-
bian Treaty if the Romanians had indeed accepted a compromise on the compensa-
tion question before the summer of 1922. The year that passed between the resolu-
tion of that matter and the French ratification certainly proves that the compensa-
tion was not necessarily the main reason for the French foot-dragging. It might also
be argued that, in fact, the French government was simply continuing its summer
1920 policy on Bessarabia.
In any event, following the Romanian refusal to pay a higher amount in com-
pensation, the ratification question was deferred for a period. Whether this issue
was real or just window-dressing, the logjam was broken when the Romanians de-
cided to offer satisfaction to the expropriated French landowners. In October 1922,
as a result of combined negotiations with the British and the French, Romanian For-
eign Minister I.G. Duca informed the French government that the payment to the
French landowners would be made in consolidation bonds (made out in French
Francs), carrying 4% interest. He also stated that, when the Romanian government
succeeded in contracting the projected loan that it was negotiating in France, it
would consider the modality of effectively paying these titles.54 By the end of the
year, the Romanian government agreed to include the indemnities due to the French
and British landowners expropriated in Bessarabia in the law for the consolidation
of the Romanian external debt.55
Once the compensations matter had been settled, by January 1923, the Romani-
ans raised again the question of ratification. During a meeting between Victor An-
tonescu and Peretti dela Rocca, among other topics, Antonescu asked Peretti to
speed up the ratification of the Treaty. All he got was a polite answer: “I will talk to
Poincare and he will take the necessary steps”.56 Two months later, after another
similar meeting, the Romanians were more successful, dela Rocca sending a letter to
Georges Leygues asking for the ratification in view of Russian war preparations.57
The answer from Georges Leygues (March 28) states that the Commission on For-
eign Affairs had already adopted the Report on the Draft Law for the ratification,
fulfilling its duty, and that the delay was not their fault as the Government would be
the one to take the next step, namely, to bring the Draft into the Chamber’s debate.58
This was the beginning of a Government-Commission controversy as to who should
take the next step for ratification. However, as soon as Poincare decided to take an
active interest in the matter, the Ratification Law was voted, so it can be seen that in
this round the blame for the delay resided with the Government.
In June 1923, in the context of the decision regarding the inclusion of a separate
immigration quota for Bessarabia into the general Russian immigration quota, ad-
ministered from Riga, the US government asked the French government what was
the actual situation of the Bessarabian Treaty. They had asked the Japanese govern-
ment the same question in May. As will be shown in a different chapter, the US used
the failure of the Bessarabian Treaty to come into force as their main justification for
the immigration quota decision. Arguing that the Romanian government had asked
the US to sign the Bessarabian Treaty, the US government stated that it remained

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

unwilling to sign it and that they would like to know whether France intended to
ratify the Treaty.59 While the French government officially responded that it had
sent the Treaty to the Parliament for ratification on March 14, 1922, unofficially it
ordered its representative in Washington to make inquiries regarding the US inten-
tions vis-à-vis the Treaty. The answer from Jusserand, the French Ambassador, was
clear: “The US government does not intend to adhere to the Bessarabian Treaty for
the moment”.60 (Traian Sandu argues that the US intervention came about as a result
of a Romanian initiative to increase the pressure for a French ratification, by signal-
ing to the French that while they were postponing the ratification, the US were will-
ing to sign; but this was not the case.61) In reality, the intervention was motivated
by the need to use the Romanian government’s failure to bring the Bessarabian
Treaty into force as a justification for the decision to merge the Bessarabian im-
migration quota with the Russian immigration quota (as presented in a follow-
ing chapter), although it was formulated in such a manner as to avoid raising
any suspicions from the French or the Japanese.
The Romanian Foreign Ministry officials charged with the execution of trea-
ties analyzed the situation in October 1923, asking for intervention in order to obtain
the ratification:

As until now only Great Britain has ratified, this treaty is not yet valid from the
international viewpoint and, as a result, a number of questions which devolve
from this ratification are pending, for example, the right to choose the desired
nationality, which covers a period of two years since the ratification. This delay
could cause certain prejudices to the Romanian State regarding the application
of the land reform in Bessarabia.62

More or less as a result of the aforementioned report, I.G. Duca decided to initi-
ate a new campaign in favor of ratification. The difference was that this time he in-
tended to put pressure on all the remaining signatory Powers. He sent telegrams to
Paris, Rome and Tokyo asking for ratification, and stepped up the pressure on the
three countries’ diplomatic representatives in Bucharest.63 At the same time, he used
the Danube question in order to speed up the French ratification, asking Antonescu
to remind the French how easily the workings of the Danube Commission would
proceed if the Bessarabian Treaty came into force.64
As proved by both the British (who undertook to ask the Japanese, Italian and
French governments to take the necessary steps for ratification) and French reac-
tion, the latter initiative was successful. Poincare sent a letter to Georges Leygues,
observing that the work of the Danube Commission was indeed being impeded, and
asking for the ratification. The answer from Leygues was almost identical to the one
sent on March 28, 1923, noting that, in fact, it was the duty of the Government and
not of the Commission to place the debate of the draft law for ratification on the Par-
liament’s agenda.65
Unhappy with the French Senate’s refusal to approve a credit for Romania’s
military needs, while Poland had received one that was four times higher than that

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requested by the Romanians, I.G. Duca expressed his dissatisfaction with the French

If there were anything to reproach the French with, we could talk about this
credit solemnly promised to us almost two years ago; also the non-ratification
of the Bessarabian Treaty in four years, or about the strange conditions im-
posed for the recognition of this Romanian province.66

Impressed by Duca’s position or simply by the possibility that French influence

over Romania was fading away, Poincare decided that the time to close the Bessara-
bian Treaty question had come. He instructed his subordinates to take the necessary

The Draft Law for the ratification has been approved by the Commission
on July 7, 1922, and placed on the Parliament’s agenda on July 12, 1923. Unfor-
tunately, it is among the last items and it will not be possible to have it voted
before the end of the year. This is a regrettable situation.
The fact that we keep postponing makes a poor impression in Romania,
especially as the Romanian government has scrupulously executed all our con-
ditions regarding the union, paying compensations for the expropriated French
landowners on bases clearly more advantageous than the ones used for Roma-
nian landowners. As a result of parliamentary interpellations regarding the
payment of compensations for British and French landowners in Bessarabia,
the Romanian government is in a delicate position, having to justify somehow
the very high level of those indemnizations. The non-ratification also influ-
ences the Danube Commission. . . .
I wonder if it is not possible for the ratification Law to avoid waiting its
turn and to come into debate ahead of other items.67

The answer to Poincare states:

Poincare suggested the Political Director to ask Forges to make possible

the voting of the draft law as soon as possible, without debate, in order to sat-
isfy the Romanians. But on November 23, 1922, an amendment was proposed
by the socialist deputies, with the purpose of subordinating the approval of the
treaty to the agreement of the Russian government. The existence of this
amendment makes a debate necessary and the project cannot be voted as asked
by the President [without debate]. Due to the objections coming from the same
opposition, the item could not be placed ahead of other projects.68

The British government joined the Romanian government in pressing for the
French ratification, arguing that ratification was necessary in order to bring an end
to the Romanian opposition to the Danube Commission’s activity on the Chilia Arm.

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The British were informed that the French government had already taken all the nec-
essary measures for ratification, which probably would be done during the current
parliamentary session.69 The result of the British intervention was another exchange
of letters between Poincare and Leygues. It is interesting that, about a month later,
when the Italian government asked the French whether the British government had
pressed them to ratify, the answer was negative, indicating that, wishing to improve
her relations with Romania and to ease the traffic on Danube, France intended to
ratify anyway.70
Therefore, the French decision to place the ratification law on the Parliament’s
agenda at the end of November 1923 came as the combined result of a number of
facts: the Romanian government’s payment of a satisfactory amount for the French
landowners expropriated in Bessarabia; the new Romanian campaign for the ratifi-
cation; the Romanian leaders’ bitter feelings toward France as a result of the French
Senate’s refusal to grant the long-negotiated credit for armament; the Romanian ac-
tion regarding the Chilia Arm which prompted the British intervention; the appar-
ent improvement in Russo-Romanian relations; the still difficult diplomatic position
of France in the aftermath of the Ruhr occupation; and the benefits ratification
would bring by boosting French influence in Romania.71
In January 1924 France signed a Friendship Treaty with Czechoslovakia and,
with a view toward increasing her influence in Eastern Europe at the expense of It-
aly, Poincare planned to sign similar friendship treaties with Yugoslavia and Roma-
nia too. The conflict with the Soviets over Bessarabia stood in the way of signing
such a treaty with Romania. In this sense, Magda Adam argues, “It was obvious that
the struggle for influence in Romania would be won by the country which was pre-
pared to grant a loan and ratify the Bessarabian convention the soonest; the French
government promised both”.72
Still, the situation was not necessarily so simple: on one hand, the Romanians
wanted much more from France than ratification; on the other hand, Magda Adam
exaggerates Italy’s influence in Romania (even if Italy had ratified the Bessarabian
Treaty and offered a loan, the Liberal Party was neither ready nor willing to replace
France with Italy). Even more, by February 1924 Mussolini already had an agreement
with the Soviets regarding the postponement of ratification.
At the end of January 1924 Poincare pressed Leygues once again for ratification,
only to receive the same answer as before. However, this time Poincare was told that
it would be advisable to talk personally to the presidents of the Chambers and, in
agreement with them, to fix a date for debating the draft law.73 Poincare’s advisers
were already providing him with the necessary data in order to respond to the
amendment proposed by the socialist deputies. They emphasized historical and eth-
nographic arguments as well as the British “competition”: they had already ratified
the Bessarabian Treaty, but also were very keen to point out that, although they rec-
ognized the Soviet government, they considered Bessarabia to be Romanian terri-
On March 11, 1924, the French Chamber ratified the Bessarabian Treaty by a

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majority of 478 votes against 74. The votes against belonged to the leftist deputies. In
order to convince the Chamber to ratify the Treaty, the French Prime Minister Ray-
mond Poincare had presented a detailed and very passionate history of the Bessara-
bian question, noting that Bessarabia should under ordinary circumstances belong to
Romania. The counter arguments of the leftist opposition illustrate the degree of
influence the Soviet propaganda had in France, showing that the brotherhood of
“origins” did not stand up to the brotherhood of ideology (meaning socialism). The
fact that a number of French parliamentarians (bear in mind that the Romanians
considered France the friendliest Great Power) were clearly on the Soviet side in the
conflict proves that Romanian propaganda in France was none too effective.
Poincare’s opponents (the deputies of the Left), especially Marcel Cachin and
Mr. Morucci, presented a number of arguments in order to persuade the Chamber
not to ratify the Treaty, but to no avail. Even after the ratification, the leftist deputy
Ernest Lafont made a long speech asking that the article regarding ratification (“The
President of the French Republic is authorized to ratify and make executable the
Bessarabian Treaty . . .”) should be followed by the clause, “after agreement with the
Russian Government”. Of course, the result would have been another postponement.
A new vote took place and Ernest Lafont’s proposed amendment was rejected by a
majority of 415 votes against and 74 in favor. (The difference comes from the fact that
at the time of the second vote there were only 489 voters present, while at the first
vote there had been 552. The 63 missing voters were probably taking a break, due to
Lafont’s rather long speech).75
The following is a short excerpt of the French Parliamentary debate.

M. Morucci: Russia is unwilling to give up her territory, to be separated

from the Moldavian population. . . .
You know very well that, according to the treaties, Russia has the right to
Bessarabia. She pretends or claims that Moldavia is Ukrainian land. She also
states that Romania, by having received Dobrudja through the Berlin Treaty,
has no right to claim Bessarabia. . . .
Do not bring into being the risk of a new conflagration with Bessarabia. . . .
Poincare: In his remarkable report, Mr. Forges has clearly presented, in the
name, I think, of the entire Commission for Foreign Affairs, the reasons justify-
ing this treaty. He has made an impressive description of the geographical na-
ture and also of the ethnographical character of Bessarabia. He has proven that
the majority of the population there is Moldavian, from the standpoint of their
customs as well as their race. He has equally proven that Bessarabia is con-
nected to Romania by common geography as well as by economic, commercial
and banking interests. . . .
The fate of Moldavia, and especially of the territory between the two rivers,
worsened again at the end of the 18th century due to the rivalry between the
Ottomans and the Russia of Catherine II, whose legacy you demand today to
be restored. This is what the Bolsheviks are demanding from you today. . . .

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

The Romanian peasants had to bear with more and more requisitions and,
three years later, in 1809, the country had been virtually stripped clean when
the Russian army had to retreat to Odessa and cross the Dniestr. The Romani-
ans were condemned to carry out the most diverse duties; thousands of them
died as a result. A French Report, prepared in 1812, ascertained that the Rus-
sian exigencies had brought the exasperated inhabitants to the boiling point.
This is what one keeps on calling “a Russian province”.
Marcel Cachin: It is a hundred years since that happened.
Poincare: I think that justice is not a matter of years.
In the territory ceded to her, Russia felt herself the need to create a special
province, which it named Bessarabia, as a remembrance of the family of Prince
Bessarab, the Wallachian princes that once reigned over this territory.
During the last war, when the Russian defection took place . . . the Molda-
vians in Bessarabia started, as I said, by proclaiming their autonomy. Then, a
Parliament, a veritable Parliament, was organized and it decided to call in the
Romanian troops for defending the country against the Russians. On March 27,
1918, this Parliament proclaimed the union between Moldavia and Romania. . . .
It is by all means strange that the Bolsheviks are claiming today the legacy
of Russian Imperialism.
The British government, which is willing to de jure recognize the Soviets, as
you know, has ratified the treaty with no difficulties from Russia. It even rati-
fied it on April 14, 1922, which was exactly the moment when Lloyd George
was negotiating with the Russians, in Genoa and later in Hague.
I repeat that it is in the interest of improving our relations with Romania
that we quickly vote the Treaty. Our Romanian friends, and not only the Ro-
manian King but also the people all over Romania, are not favorably impressed
by the delay in the ratification. They accepted our conditions regarding the
payment of compensations for the French landowners expropriated in Bessara-
bia as a result of the agrarian reform. . . .
Ernest Lafont: In the report presented by Mr. Forges one can see that a
large part of the population is incontestably and exclusively Ruthenian . . . In
any case, Bessarabia has never been consulted. If we examine the question in
detail we demand you to consult the population of Bessarabia, which previ-
ously decided in the presence of soldiers and machine guns, but this time
through a referendum organized with all the necessary guarantees. . . .
Poincare: I will read again the Single Article — The President of the French
Republic is authorized to ratify and execute, if it is the case, the treaty regard-
ing Bessarabia signed in Paris on October 28, 1920, between France, the British
Empire, Italy and Japan, the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, and Ro-

Although by fall 1923 Poincare had already decided in favor of the ratification,
the moment chosen by the French government for the ratification had a special sig-

< 224 >


nificance. The Romanian Royal Family was preparing a visit to Paris, and the ratifi-
cation came as a welcome sign from the French, indicating a growing interest in Ro-
mania, with a view to a future Treaty of Friendship between the two states. Simulta-
neously, a new round of Russo-Romanian negotiations was about to start in Vienna.
Another factor that could have influenced the French decision, speeding it up, was
the improvement in Russo-Italian relations, which some French diplomatic circles
believed to be a threat to French influence in Eastern Europe. In order to counterbal-
ance the Italian move, Poincare sought to improve relations with Romania, and the
best way was by ratifying the Bessarabian Treaty.
The Romanian reaction was very positive and I.G. Duca intended to use it to
bolster the Romanian position during the up-coming Vienna Conference:

The actual circumstances make the ratification so welcome. Generally, the im-
pression produced on the public opinion by the ratification was very positive.
Still, the French Senate vote should be sped up so that everything will be fin-
ished before March 24 when the negotiations with the Russians start in

On March 16, 1924, the French Senate voted unanimously in favor of ratifica-
tion and, two weeks later, France officially deposited the ratification instruments.
The ratification brought about a real improvement in French-Romanian rela-
tions, particularly regarding the Romanian government’s attitude towards France
(this time an attitude backed by all the Romanian political parties). The “chill” char-
acterizing the bilateral relations at the end of 1923 vanished overnight, so that both
governments felt the need to further improve their relations; consequently France
proposed the signing of a bilateral political treaty.78
The Soviet representatives reacted strongly to the French ratification. While
debating the ratification in the French Chamber, Poincare had presented Bessara-
bia’s history and the entire Bessarabian question from the Romanian viewpoint; he
was accused of making propaganda in favor of the Romanian cause exactly when a
new round of negotiations between the two countries was about to begin. In Ci-
cerin’s words, the French action was “a third party intervention which would inevi-
tably prevent the establishment of a lasting peace. The Soviet Government holds
France responsible for any damage it may suffer.”79
However, it should be clear that the stress Cicerin laid on the fact that the
French ratification came just weeks before the new Soviet-Romanian negotiation
was simply propaganda, since the French ratification had far less effect than sug-
gested on the final outcome of the Vienna Conference.80 At no point (including 1924)
had the Romanians been willing to accept the Russian conditions, which would
have meant recognizing the existence of a conflict over Bessarabia between the two
states, nor, certainly, the idea of a plebiscite. Neither were the Soviets, as previously
mentioned, prepared to make any significant concessions to the Romanians. If they
had been prepared to make concessions, as they claimed, there was nothing to stop

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

them from doing so after a few months, when everybody had forgotten about the
French ratification; instead they took a tougher line in their relations with Romania.
The fact that in a matter of weeks the Soviets seemed to have forgotten the French
ratification and failed to take any measures against France proves that, indeed, Ci-
cerin was simply bluffing for propaganda reasons. In a sense, it might be considered
that the French ratification matched quite well with the Bessarabian propaganda
campaign prepared by the Soviets during 1924 and with their change of policy to-
wards Romania.
But it was not only the Soviets who were upset by the French ratification. An
article published in The New York Times in March 1924 shows the American opinion
on the matter: “The recent vote in the French Parliament seems to have done Russia
greater service than Romania, inasmuch as it has spurred Russian nationalism and
reinforced the centripetal sentiment of the outlying elements of the Russian confed-
erated union, like the Ukraine and White Russia . . . ”81 This quotation (and indeed
the entire article) reminds us of the official American stance on the Bessarabian
However sharp the initial Soviet reaction, in just a few weeks the Soviet repre-
sentatives changed their tactic and tried to downplay the importance of the ratifica-
tion. During the Soviet-Romanian negotiations in Vienna, Litvinov took the oppor-
tunity to express the view that the French ratification was far from a definitive solu-
tion to the Bessarabian question and that the Soviets still had sufficient means to
block the Bessarabian Treaty from coming into force:

It could scarcely be credited that Japan, which has offered to resume negotia-
tions with the Soviets, desires to aid new claims to the list already presented to
it by the Soviet Government. Similarly, Italy, which has begun friendly rela-
tions with the Soviet Union, cannot desire to compromise the results of the
Italo-Soviet commercial treaty for the beautiful eyes of Romania and France.
They will understand perfectly that any support given to Romania in the Bes-
sarabian question is considered by the Soviets as a direct act of hostility and an
indirect participation in the invasion of Soviet territory . . . 82

Conclusion — The French Position after Ratification

Although it came some two years later than the Romanians initially expected,
the French ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty was a Romanian diplomatic suc-
cess. It also boosted the Romanians’ hopes to get much more from France, namely,
guaranteed French military involvement in case of a Russian attack over Bessarabia.
While Romania alone or with the help of her neighbors was able to handle the
threats from Hungary or Bulgaria, the situation was quite different regarding the
Soviet Union. In order to counterbalance the huge military potential of the Soviets,
Romania had two choices: (1) to make peace with them at the price of returning at

< 226 >


least a part of Bessarabia; (2) to establish an alliance with a Great Power — and
there were only two states to choose from — France and Germany. (Italy was too
small for such a task; Great Britain was set on neutrality). The Romanians took the
second option and France, only to find themselves disappointed; and, in the end,
they lost all of Bessarabia plus northern Bukovina.
The two years France took to sign the Bessarabian Treaty and the additional
four years to ratify it exemplify both the failure of Romanian diplomacy to secure a
solid French support and the French vacillation with regard to Romania. In fact,
some scholars consider that, for a number of reasons, French political interest in Ro-
mania remained lukewarm until the late 1930s, even though she was a member of the
French-supported alliance system in Eastern Europe.83
One of the consequences of the French ratification was that it gave a real impe-
tus to the negotiations for a bilateral Friendship and Alliance Treaty. The Romani-
ans’ principal purpose was to obtain written guarantees of a French military inter-
vention in case the Soviets attacked Bessarabia; that is exactly what the French were
reluctant to offer. The negotiations for the Treaty started as early as March 1924,
influenced also by the signing of the French-Czechoslovak Friendship Treaty.84 But
the French failure to mention the Bessarabian question displeased the Romanians.
On March 28, during a meeting with Peretti dela Rocca, Antonescu expressed the
Romanian view: “Romania is strong enough to defeat Bulgaria or Hungary in a war.
The situation is different with Russia”.85 The Romanian request was perhaps unex-
pected for the French and it was not welcome:

The Romanian demand to expressly mention Bessarabia in the projected treaty

is inadmissible . . . our treaty with Poland has no similar clause. For us, the pur-
pose of the Treaties signed with Poland and the Little Entente is essentially
that of maintaining the political status established by the Peace Treaties. A
special clause regarding a territory that has not been liberated by the Allied
Armies from the enemy is unjustified, and a little bit imprudent from the view-
point of French interests.86

Further negotiations took place in Paris between Duca and the French leaders,
with the latter insisting on a general draft while the Romanians sought more con-
crete obligations, namely a military convention;87 but the French proved unwilling to
give in, arguing,

Why should we guarantee Bessarabia? We did not ask Romania to guarantee

us the province of Bretagne . . . What Duca wants is a military treaty and not a
general political treaty, which has an extraordinary moral value. Is it not clear
that the simple existence of a French-Czechoslovak Treaty is enough to make
Russia hesitate in attacking Czechoslovakia?”88

Duca decided to postpone any negotiations regarding the treaty at least until

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

the international situation would be more favorable to Romania.

In May 1924 the political situation in France changed and the new government
headed by Edouard Herriot decided on a different course for French foreign policy.
Herriot was not very favorable to the system of Eastern alliances and decided to
open diplomatic relation with the Soviets in October 1924.89 One of the immediate
consequences of the French recognition of the Soviets was that, according to a prom-
ise France had made during the war, she would return the Russian fleet (to “the first
recognized government of Russia”). For Romania, this meant facing the danger of a
very powerful Russian Black Sea Fleet. Under the circumstances, the Romanians
proposed the establishment of a common Anglo-French naval base on Romanian
territory, at Constanta, or asked that France refuse the Soviet request for the former
Russian fleet.90 The negotiations for the Alliance Treaty continued, the Romanians
insisting that it should stipulate the presence of a French military contingent in Ro-
mania in case of war with Russia. However, the French were opposed, Herriot justi-
fying his refusal by saying, “I am afraid that in a few years we will have a common
action of Germany against Danzig combined with a Russian action in Bessarabia”.91
During the negotiations for the Alliance Treaty, the French also pinned down
their real position regarding the Bessarabian Treaty: “Poincare declared that the Bes-
sarabian territory could not be guaranteed against an attack, the Bessarabian Treaty
being only a recognition of her annexation by Romania.” Quite upset by this inter-
pretation, Duca replied (written on the document) that “If France is not neighboring
Russia, neither are we Germany’s neighbor”.92
Trying to answer Poincare’s interpretation, during the same meeting Diamandi
raised the matter of the French position in case the Soviets, attacking Bessarabia,
should also attack a village on the territory of the Old Kingdom. He raised this point
in order to counterbalance the distinction made by Poincare between the Bessara-
bian Treaty and the Peace Treaties (a distinction probably, but not necessarily,
based on the fact that the Bessarabian Treaty had failed to come into force), showing
that the distinction could not stand up to a practical examination. However, worse
was still to come: the French “step back” regarding the Bessarabian Treaty. One and
a half years earlier, when the same Poincare had insisted on the ratification, he failed
to mention that he did not actually consider the treaty to be among the Peace Trea-
ties. This French position actually gives a different significance to the Treaty: if it
was not one of the Peace Treaties, France did not have to guarantee it in the same
manner. Simply said, the French indecision regarding the Bessarabian Treaty comes
to the surface once again in 1925, in a new way.
Although political reasons were important in delaying the signature of the Alli-
ance treaty, economical reasons also figured in. A Report prepared by the French
Finance Ministry in March 1925 identified no less than seven financial matters not
yet solved; only six such matters had been resolved after 1920.93 In fact, as remarked
in April 1925 by Constantin Diamandi, the Romanian Minister to France, the Roma-
nians were quite unhappy about the French policy of constantly giving priority to
economic matters in their bilateral relations:

< 228 >


I realized that, since 1919, there has been no kind of political collaboration with
us, no exchange of opinions; during different conferences, instead of looking for
our help and collaboration we are kept at a distance, suspected; the shadow of
the Supreme Council is still alive and, whenever we go to the Quai d’Orsay I
hear only requests regarding the payment of our debts; mercantilism.94

In fact, this French policy only points up France’s slender military and strate-
gic interest in Romania as compared to their economic interests. Since neither side
was willing to abandon her position, what followed was a new postponement in the
negotiations until the signing of the Locarno Agreement (meant to reinforce the
new European frontiers established at the end of World War I).
The Romanian Government, left out of the guarantees offered by the Locarno
agreements and sensing the need to strengthen its international position, insisted on
signing an alliance with France. However, the much-publicized “spirit of Locarno”
blocked France from undertaking any kind of concrete engagements outside the
League of Nations Pact. This was one of the reasons behind the continuous post-
ponement in signing the treaty with Romania, as well as in voiding it of concrete
military obligations and the attempt to keep it secret for as long as possible.95 On the
other hand, as stated by Poincare: “Whatever you might tell me and even adding in
the non-aggression pact, the Bessarabian question characterizes the treaty between
us as directed against Russia”.96
A major reason for the French postponement was the need to avoid exacerbat-
ing relations with Russia. As a result, they successfully kept on postponing the sig-
nature of the Treaty,97 even as the treaty was ready to be signed in September 1925,
when the Romanians abandoned their request regarding Bessarabia and accepted a
general Treaty with two annexes — a non-aggression statement by Romania to-
wards the Soviets and a military convention.98
On June 10, 1926, the long negotiated Friendship Treaty between Romania and
France was finally signed in Paris, prompted more or less directly by the Soviet sign-
ing of a political treaty with Germany (April 24, 1926) and by the ongoing Roma-
nian-Italian negotiations for an Alliance Treaty. However, it was quite short of what
the Romanians had hoped to achieve. It stipulated only that in case of an unpro-
voked attack upon one of its signatories, the two parties would consult, within the
framework of the League, as to the measures to be taken against the aggressor. In
order to please both signatories, it was completed with a Military Convention (to be
kept secret) and a Protocol. The Protocol reiterated Romania’s unilateral non-
aggression pact towards the Soviet Union, initially proposed during the Genoa Con-
ference of May 1922, offering in this way a written guarantee to the French that they
would not be dragged into a war started by Romania against the Soviets. On the
other hand, the Military Convention, although it was “secret”, was only of a general
nature, stipulating that the Military Headquarters of the two states should come
into contact in case of war but providing no clear obligations. The Treaty certainly

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

gave a moral boost to the Romanians, but it felt short of offering military guarantees
of the inviolability of the Romanian frontiers, particularly in Bessarabia.
The blame for the general nature of the Military Convention does not lie only
with France. One of the conditions for appropriate military collaboration would
have been for Romania to have a strong army and a firm High Command. Unfortu-
nately, in the Romanian High Command there were too many generals, and the war
preparedness of the Romanian Army was low.99 The French were eager to rectify
this situation, and offered to send a new military mission to Romania with the pur-
pose of reorganizing the Romanian High Command, and also to cover the ammuni-
tion needs of the Romanian Army; but they had to abandon their plans due to the
Romanians’ opposition.100
Somewhat worse for the Romanian government was the French insistence on
keeping the signing of the Treaty secret for as long as possible, a secrecy determined
by the need to avoid setting off Soviet and Italian reactions. On August 13, when the
Romanian government officially confirmed the news of the treaty, the press in the
main European capitals took up positions against it, considering it proof of a Roma-
nian-Polish-French military block.
Yet, there are scholars who, due to the common interest of maintaining the
existing European order, consider that “the French and the Romanians regarded
themselves as allies even without a formal treaty”.101 The other side of the story, more
“pessimistic” is:

The attachment of Romania, a state without border on Germany, to the Polish-

Czech nucleus of the French eastern system introduced the complexities of
Bucharest’s relations with USSR . . . the meagerness of France’s obligations
under the 1926 treaty — consultation at the outbreak of a conflict — also re-
stricted the chance of French embroilment in what internal memoranda, in a
reference to antecedents of the First World War, called “obscure Balkan quar-

Overall, the Friendship Treaty offers one of the best illustration of the French
foreign policy dilemma of choosing between the Soviet Union and the Eastern Euro-
pean countries, as well as of the failure of Romanian attempts to secure the help of a
Great Power against her powerful neighbor in the East.
A small controversy between the French representatives in Moscow and Bu-
charest regarding the Bessarabian question and Soviet-Romanian relations comes as
an excellent illustration of both the French dilemma and the Romanian failure. After
a meeting with Litvinov (May 1927), in which the Soviet position on Bessarabia and
the idea of a Romanian-Soviet non-aggression pact were discussed, the French Am-
bassador to the Soviets, Jean Herbette, argued:

It is not in Romania’s interest to put the Soviet recognition of Bessarabia’s un-

ion as a necessary and preliminary condition for a Soviet-Romanian rapproche-

< 230 >


ment. . . . The de facto situation is clearly in Romania’s advantage and she has all
the interest to prolong and use it in order to gain the sympathy of all the people
living in Bessarabia (not only a majority). . . . Instead, Romania chose to aban-
don her favorable position as a defendant and to pose as a plaintiff, and by do-
ing so has offered the Soviets an opportunity to challenge her title [to Bessara-

The answer to Herbette’s comments came from the French Minister to Roma-
nia, George Clinchant:

Romania is asking the Soviets to recognize her rights over Bessarabia because
she feels that time is working against her. In my view, Odessa is the natural
outlet for Bessarabian agricultural products, because they do not have to com-
pete with the similar Romanian products; the day when Russia will inspire
enough confidence for commerce will be the day when a plebiscite in Bessara-
bia will definitely be detrimental for Romania. From the Soviet view, time
would be used for a better internal organization and an increase in its interna-
tional prestige; therefore the Soviets have all the interest to leave the Bessara-
bian question open. . . . I think that, while we have to watch closely the evolu-
tion of Romanian-Soviet relations, we do not have, at least for the moment, any
interest to either interfere with the manner in which Romania intends to con-
duct her policy regarding Bessarabia or to give her any advice on this topic.104

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Moldova, a Romanian Province


For the French intervention in Romania’s favor during the 1856 Paris Peace negotiations see Barbara
Jelavich, Russia and the Formation of the Romanian National State, p. 68.
Dov B. Lungu, Romania and . . . , p. 8.
Nicole Jordan, The Popular Front and Central Europe, p. 50.
For a glimpse at the competition for influence existing inside the Little Entente, with insistence on
the more favorable position of Czechoslovakia in this contest, see Magda Adam, “The Genoa Confer-
ence and the Little Entente”, in Genoa, Rapallo, . . . , p. 187-199.
“The record of French diplomacy in Eastern Europe from 1935 through 1937 shows a strong connec-
tion between economic and political developments; because the French government could not meet
its eastern allies’ economic needs, it found it increasingly difficult to maintain its political relations
with them”. David E. Kaiser, Economic Diplomacy . . . , p. 216-217.
Richard Ullman, Anglo-Soviet Relations, Vol. 2, p. 314.
During the Genoa Conference “there was evidence that France tried seriously to establish a satis-
factory de facto relationship with Russia that met France’s specific needs, even if it did bypass the
multilateral negotiations then under way”. Anne Hogenhuis-Seliverstoff, “French Plans for the Re-
construction of Russia”, in Genoa, Rapallo, . . . , p. 134.
K. Hovi, Alliance de Revers . . . , p. 36.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 168, Report by Saint Aulaire, April 18, 1919, c. 687-694.
David Dutton, The Politics of Diplomacy . . . , p. 151.
Anne Hogenhuis-Seliverstoff, “French Plans for the Reconstruction of Russia”, in Genoa, Rapallo, . . . ,
p. 139.
For details on the making and the composition of the Committee see Jacques Bariety “Le Comite
d’etudes du Quai d’Orsay et la frontiere rhenane (1917-1919)” in The Establishment of Frontiers . . . , p. 251-
A look at Clemenceau’s newspaper, “L’Homme Enchaine”, gives a good illustration of his opinions
and especially of his attitude towards Bratianu.
Armand Gosu, “Ion Pelivan la Conferinta de pace de la Paris”, in Revista istorica, 1993, no. 9, p. 1-17.
At one point, the British and American representatives were so disgruntled with the pro-
Romanian attitude of French Foreign Ministry officials that they asked for the sessions of the Coun-
cil of Ten and Council of Four to be moved from Quai d’Orsay to another place. S.D. Spector, Romania
la . . . , p. 225.
During the war, the most numerous of the French Military Missions was in Romania. Of course
that the war camaraderie established between the French officers and the Romanian military and
civil leaders lasted long after the war and had a benefic effect on the bilateral relations. Jean Noel
Grandhomme, “Le general Berthelot auxiliaire de la diplomatie francaise en Romanie, 1922-1930” in
La fin de la Premiere Guerre mondiale . . . , p. 107-126.
Glenn E. Torrey, General Henri Berthelot and Romania . . . , passim. Comte de Saint Aulaire, Confession
d’un vieux diplomate, p. 301-496.
He was instructed to do everything necessary, including encouragement for those in opposition
that were in favor of an immediate intervention, at Bratianu’s expense. Comte de Saint Aulaire, Con-
fession d’un . . . , p. 307, 331.
Comte de Saint Aulaire, Confession d’un . . . , p. 461.
He also points out the difficult position for the French in front of their Russian Allies, the Roma-
nian intervention in Bessarabia being heavily used by the German propaganda in Russia. G.E. Torrey,
General Henri Berthelot …, p. 150.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Telegram Saint Aulaire to Clemenceau, June 20, 1918, c. 562.
M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention . . . , p. 166.
Admiral de Bou, Commander of the Naval Army, presents this opinion in a Report prepared on
March 1, 1920, also pointing the underestimation by the Romanians of the Bolshevik danger. RNA,
Fond France microfilm, R 189, Report on Romania, March 1, 1920, c. 256-258.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 189, Report by Jules Cambon on “Romania and the Soviet Govern-
ment”, October 12, 1920, c. 289-290.
T. Sandu, “La France et la Bessarabie romaine de 1918 a 1920 …” in “The Establishment of …”, p. 369.
“Until the Conference will take a decision we must avoid, in our quality of old allies of Russia,

< 232 >


which places us in a special situation, any armed action against the Russian population in this re-
gion”. RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Instructions by Stephen Pichon, February 17, 1919, c. 584.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Telegram Pichon to Saint Aulaire, July 13, 1919, c. 626-627.
He was one of Romania’s best friends in Paris. Professor of geography at Sorbonne University he
wrote a few brochures in favor of Romania’s territorial claims, including one on Bessarabia. As a
member in the Committee d’Etudes, De Martonne presented four reports on Romania, all based on
geographical, ethnic, demographical, economical and strategical considerations: Dobrudja on May 6,
1918; Transylvania on May 22, 1918; Banat on February 3, 1919; and Bessarabia on July 1919. It is im-
portant to show that the first two reports were presented at a time when Romania was in the most
difficult situation, after the Bucharest Peace, showing a continuing French solidarity with the Roma-
nian cause. For a resume of the four reports see J. Bariety, “Le Comite d’Etudes du Quai d’Orsay et …”
in Revue Romaine d’Histoire, 1996, no. 1, p. 43-51.
Quoted in S.D. Spector, Romania la . . . , p.127.
The declaration belongs to Philippe Berthelot and was made in September 1919 during a conversa-
tion with the Romanian representatives in Paris. Quoted in D. Preda, In apararea . . . , p. 123, 301.
DDI, Serie 6, Vol. 1, p. 430-431. Also S.D. Spector, Romania la . . . , p. 92.
Telegram Stephen Pichon (French Foreign Minister) to French representatives in Bucharest, Lon-
don, Washington and Brussels, December 28, 1918, quoted in 1920. Un act de justitie. Documente,
p. 101-102.
Maxime Mourin, Les Relations Franco-Sovietique, p. 105.
M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention . . . , p. 111-113.
DDF, 1920, Telegram Saint Aulaire for Paris, January 14, 1920, p. 17.
DDF, 1920, Letter Millerand to Daeschner, March 6th 1920, p. 309-312
T. Sandu, “La France et la Bessarabie romaine de 1918 a 1920…”in The Establishment of . . . , p. 379-380.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Telegram Daeschner to Millerand, August 27, 1920, c. 697.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note for the President of the Council, August 20, 1920, c. 694.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 183, Telegram Pichon to Daeschner, September 14, 1920, c. 147.
General Petin, the French military attaché to Romania, prepared a very comprehensive report on
the anti-French campaign in Romania in September 1920, stressing both the causes and the main
actors in the campaign. RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 183, Report by General Petin, September 29,
1920, c. 153-160.
Dov B. Lungu, Romania and . . . , p. 8.
RFMA, Fond 71/France, Vol. 63, 1920-1926, Telegram Diamandi to Duca, March 1, 1922.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note Cambon to Leygues, March 21, 1922, c. 727.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Antonescu to Duca, May 15, 1922.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Duca to Antonescu, May 16, 1922.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Antonescu to Duca, May 16, 1922.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 189, Telegram Barrere (in Genoa) to Barthou, May 17, 1922, c. 478-
RFMA, Fond 71/France, Vol. 63, 1920-1926, Telegram Antonescu to Duca, May 26, 1922.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 213, Telegram Dering to Lord Curzon, August 9, 1922, c. 197.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Report French Chamber of Deputies, 1922, No. 4752, c.
Quoted in T. Sandu, “Les avatars de la ratification …”, in Revue Romaine d’Histoire, p. 64.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 183, Report of French-Romanian relations, December 26,
1922, c. 441.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 213, Note Duca to the French Legation, October 25, 1922, c. 25.
RNA, Fond England microfilm, R 213, Telegram Drake to Lord Curzon, December 17, 1922,
c. 76-78.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Antonescu to Duca, January 16, 1923.
T. Sandu, “Les avatars de la ratification …”, in Revue Romaine d’Histoire, p. 65.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Letter Leygues to Poincare, November 14, 1923, c. 774.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note by de la Baume, June 21, 1923, c 758.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Telegram Jusserand to Poincare, July 13, 1923, c. 760.
T. Sandu, “Les avatars de la ratification …”, in Revue Romaine d’Histoire, p. 65.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Report prepared by the Department for the Implementation of
Treaties, October 24, 1923.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Notes by Duca to the French, Italian, and Japanese Legations in

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

Bucharest, October 26, 1923.

RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note on visit by Antonescu to Peretti, November 6,
1923, c. 766.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Letter Poincare to Leygues, November 10, 1923, and Leygues
to Poincare, November 14, 1923, c. c. 773-774.
RFMA, Fond 71/France, Vol. 63, 1920-1926, Telegram Duca to Antonescu, November 18, 1923.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note Poincare to the Political Director, November
23, 1923, c. 775.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note Political Director to Poincare, November 27,
1923, c. 777.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Letter Lord Derby to Poincare and Letter Poincare to
Lord Derby, December 12 and 20, 1923, c. 780-781.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note on Visit by Count Vanutelly to Peretti, January
9, 1924, c. 784.
As for this last matter, “an immediate ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty by our Parliament
would be really welcomed in here”. RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 189, Telegram Maneville to Poin-
care, February 1, 1924, c. 544.
M. Adam, The Little Entente . . . , p. 210.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note Leygues to Poincare, January 30, 1924, c. 785.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 226, Note for the President of the Council, February 2nd
1924, c 787
French Chamber of Deputies, Debates, 1924, Vol. 2, p. 1204-1211.
French Chamber of Deputies, Debates, 1924, Vol. 2, p. 1204-1211.
RFMA, Fond 71/1914, E 2, Vol. 21, Telegram Duca to Antonescu, March 15, 1924.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 183, Note on matters regarding Romania, April 8, 1924, c. 566-578.
The Times, March 20, 1924.
There are scholars arguing that, in fact, the French ratification was one of the main causes
for the failure of the Romanian-Soviets Conference in Vienna. T. Sandu, “Les avatars de la
ratification …”, p. 68.
The New York Times, March 17, 1924.
The Manchester Guardian, April 10, 1924.
Keith Hitchins argues that the French government was not interested in a military alliance with
Romania because it considered the latter’s army incapacity to undertake a serious military campaign.
K. Hitchins, Romania, 1866-1947, p. 427.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191, Report by Peretti on his meeting with I.G. Duca, March 14,
1924, c. 20.
Quoted in M. Adam, The Little Entente . . . , p. 213.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191, Note by Guy Laroche, March 28, 1924, c. 29-31.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191, Report by Peretti on his meeting with Duca, April 15,
1924, c. 37.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191 (c. 64) and R 183 (c. 614), Report by Peretti on his meeting
with Duca, April 27, 1924. On the other hand, referring to the same meeting, Magda Adam mistak-
enly argues, “Duca accepted that the political agreement should include no military clauses”. M.
Adam, The Little Entente . . . , p. 214.
Although Magda Adam argues that “the Franco-Yugoslav and Franco-Romanian agreements were
removed from the agenda for a number of years”, as proved by the documents in the RFMA, the ne-
gotiations for a treaty continued even under Herriot’s government. M. Adam, The Little En-
tente . . . , p. 223.
The French position on the proposed naval base was that it would be of great utility but against
Turkey and not against Russia, also realizing that the Romanian condition for such a base would be
the signing of an Alliance Treaty. RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191, Report by Laroche on his
meeting with Diamandi, February 20, 1925, c. 108. On the other hand, considering the limits of the
French War Navy, Briand was against the projected naval base. RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191,
Report on Briand-Diamandi meeting, April 25, 1925, c. 120.
RFMA, Fond 71/France, Vol. 63, 1920-1926, Telegram Diamandi to Duca, January 12, 1925.
RFMA, Fond 71/France, Vol. 63, 1920-1926, Telegram Diamandi to Duca, July 24, 1925.
RFMA, Fond 71/France, Vol. 63, 1920-1926, Note by the French Finance Ministry on French-
Romanian financial matters, March 1925.

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Telegram Diamandi to Duca, April 28, 1925, quoted in C. Iordan, Romania si relatiile internationale din
sud estul Europei: modelul Locarno, p. 35.
C. Iordan, Romania si relatiile internationale din sud estul European; modelul Locarno, p. 131.
RFMA, Fond 71/France, Vol. 63, 1920-1926, Telegrams Diamandi to Duca, December 18 and 23,
“The postponement in the signing of the French-Romanian Treaty comes in order to avoid any
false interpretations and it is necessary due to our Locarno negotiations and the talks with the Sovi-
ets.” RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191, Telegram Berthelot to de Billly, February 17, 1926, c. 528.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191, Telegram Briand to de Billy, September 10, 1925. Briand in-
structs de Billy that “although the drafts are ready, the signing is not opportune yet, due to France’s
An excellent report on Romanian Army’s situation was prepared by the French military attaché to
Romania, lt. colonel Thierry, pointing to its insufficient preparedness for war, due mainly to the
inexistence of adequate supplies of war materials. RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 191, Report by
Thierry, July 1, 1926, c. 236-250. In fact, although not too many Romanians are eager to say it, the
poor state of the Army continues today, being one of the main reasons why Romania, with all her
strategic potential, has been left out of NATO.
Jean Noel Granhomme, “Le general Berthelot …” in La fin de la Premiere Guerre . . . , p. 122-123.
Dov B. Lungu, Romania and . . . , p. 9.
Nicole Jordan, The Popular Front and Central Europe, p. 15.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 189, Telegram Herbette to Briand, May 4, 1927, c. 718-719.
RNA, Fond France microfilm, R 189, Telegram Clinchant to Briand, June 3, 1927, c. 729-730.

< 235 >


Romanian-Italian Relations Before and During the Peace Conference

Italy’s role in the Bessarabian Treaty process, and especially in connection with
the ratification, offers an interesting insight into Italian foreign policy. Romania’s
efforts to obtain Italy’s ratification, although they came a little late, illustrate the
Treaty’s importance for Romania and its international impact.
Before the World War, Italy and Romania had been, at least theoretically, on
Germany’s side. When the war started, they proclaimed their neutrality and started
negotiations with both sides in the conflict. They each had misgivings about the
Austria-Hungarian Empire, which they had considered their principal enemy. And
also, as a condition for going to war, both states had signed secret treaties with the
Entente Powers in an effort to guarantee the fulfillment of their territorial aspira-
Soon after the war began, a secret agreement was reached between Italy and
Romania, by which the two countries undertook to communicate each other their
future intentions regarding the war.1
During the Paris Peace Conference afterward, Italy’s main concern was to see
that the secret treaty signed with the Entente Powers would be respected; that
would ensure her territorial ambitions and it was also likely to help produce a close
relationship between Italy and Romania. As a result, Italy was the country that in-
sisted most in favor of the validity of the 1916 Entente Treaty with Romania, consid-
ering that if the Romanian Treaty were respected, the Italian Treaty would be also.
On a general plan, the Italians had been disappointed with the attitude taken
by the other Powers at the Conference. They were admitted to the Council of Five
and, at least theoretically, had the status of a Great Power, but their real influence
and territorial gains were reduced as a result of French and US policies. When the
Conference ended, Italy was disappointed with its results, even though it had
achieved a great part of its territorial aspirations; this discontent would have pro-

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

found consequences for Italian foreign policy during the interwar period. Many
scholars also blame what they consider to be the utterly misguided policies of V.E.
Orlando and Sidney Sonnino for the Italian cry of la vittoria mutilata.2
Italy’s staunchest opponent during and after the Peace Conference was France.
Both Italy and France had their own plans regarding the future of Europe and they
each considered the Balkan area vital to their interests. The French influence in East-
ern Europe was a threat to Italy’s plans, especially because of the sympathy France
showed to the Serbs. One other country in which the fast-growing French influence
was worrisome was Romania, as described in a February 1919 Report from Bucha-

Romania seems almost completely subordinated to the French, who keep in-
creasing their influence by systematically imposing it over all the state admini-
stration. Nothing moves without French authorization and the French also
dominate the Romanian Supreme Military Headquarters. The Romanian peo-
ple, having had enough Gallicism, would like to end this situation but cannot
liberate itself.3

Italy’s attitude, backing up Romania’s territorial claims at the Conference, was

clearly expressed by the Italian Foreign Minister, Sidney Sonnino:

For the Oriental boundaries: we recognize the complete annexation of Bessarabia.

For Dobrudja we defend the 1913 Treaty but we recognize that for ethnic rea-
sons proposed by other delegations it is possible to give Bulgaria a partial recti-
fication of the border South of the Silistria-Mangalia line. [Actually, it was not
for ethnic reasons but for strategic reasons that Italy pronounced itself in favor
of Bulgaria, which was supposed to have an important role in the Italian strat-
egy of containing Yugo-Slavia.]
For the Occidental boundaries: we recognize the plain validity of the 1916
Treaty of Alliance. Because of the fierce opposition of the French, English and
American delegations, caused for the first two by the concept of favoring the
Slavs at any costs, and for the last by a meticulous appreciation of the ethnic
situation, the Italian delegation had to renounce that first scope, which left her
in an isolation that could prejudice her more vital interests.4 However, the Ital-
ian delegation, in order to adhere to the restrictive modifications of the line
established by the 1916 Treaty, made a verbal statement that it considers such a
solution not to be the best.
Regarding particularly the Banat, the Italian delegation, failing to give all of
it to Romania, proposed the division of the remaining region between Serbia
and Hungary. [In essence, this equates to an admission that the Banat could be
Romanian or Hungarian territory, as long as it is kept away from the Serbs.]
The Italian delegation made another proposal that provoked a powerful
reaction from the other three delegations, for the attribution to Romania of

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Ruthenian territories situated between the Carpathian Mountains and the

Theiss as a way to give Transylvania a direct communication route with Poland
on the railway running from Jablonitza.5

Things did not go their way during the Peace Conference, which eventually led
the Italian representatives abruptly to leave the Conference. The more Italian inter-
ests were dismissed by the Conference, the fiercer was the Italian opposition to the
decisions taken by the other delegations — especially regarding territorial modifica-
tions. Whenever the Conference came to a conclusion regarding Romania’s borders,
the Italian delegation argued for something different (particularly during the debates
in the Territorial Commission);6 and Romania’s affairs were only one area where this
opposition was shown.
During the Hungarian crisis, Romanian-Italian relations took a turn for the
worse as a secondary effect of the Italian attempt to isolate Yugoslavia. The union of
the Croats and Slovenes with the Serbs was an unexpected and worrying develop-
ment for the Italians. Their initial plans had been to obtain territorial claims from
the Habsburg Empire and to use Austria as a bulwark against Slavdom in the Bal-
kans; Croatia and Slovenia were to remain parts of a reduced Habsburg Empire,
which would naturally retain Fiume as its only outlet to the sea. Instead, a vigorous
unitary Slav state had emerged, and claimed Dalmatia, the Islands and Fiume, and
also Istria, Gorizia and Trieste.7 As a result, Serbia grew to a degree where it could
contend with Italy, and it offered refuge to the Croats and Slovenes, whom Italy had
always considered enemies. (Croat troops fought for the Monarchy until the last
days of the war, hoping to achieve a better position inside the Empire afterward.)
Italy wanted to isolate Yugoslavia, and for that it needed to have Austria, Ro-
mania, Bulgaria and Hungary on her side. However, Romania had territorial disputes
with both Hungary and Bulgaria, disputes that made any diplomatic arrangement
between them impossible.
Still, Bratianu agreed during 1919 with the Italian policy of isolating the Yugo-
slavs, hoping to get all of Banat for Romania. But Italy’s move toward closer relations
with Hungary during the summer of 1919 (by supplying armament to the Hungari-
ans), and Italy’s attitude on the South Dobrudja question (in which they proposed
negotiations between Romania and Bulgaria) won them no friends in Romania.
The worst part for the Italian side was the military and diplomatic conflict be-
tween Romania and Hungary over Transylvania, which proved to be an insurmount-
able barrier to any possible alliance between the two countries. In June 1919,
Sonnino instructed Prince Borghese, in Budapest, to support a projected Romanian-
Hungarian alliance; the thought was that some form of agreement could be built on
the basis of a common understanding to weaken and isolate Yugoslavia.8 The Italians
had already started to put into practice their dream of completely isolating the
Yugoslavs, but their policy of helping Hungary clearly displeased the Romanians.
They remembered clearly that, when the Romanian Army had entered Budapest in
pursuit of Bela Kun’s army, it was an Italian colonel who came to negotiate in the

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

name of the Hungarian communist government — proving that it was Italy who had
supported Hungary’s war against Romania with weapons and ammunition.
During the debates over the ultimatum sent to Romania on November 15, 1920,
the Italians supported the Romanian cause, convincing the other delegates to make
some modifications and agreeing only at the last moment to play a part in delivering
it to the Romanians.9 This attitude was dictated by the Fiume crisis, which had
some similarities with the Hungarian crisis; the Italians were aware that an action
such as this one against Romania would create a precedent that might someday be
used against Italy. As stated by one of the British representatives in Paris:

I called the attention to the necessity for making the most exact arrangements
for the immediate delivery of this note by all the Allied representatives in Bu-
charest. I quoted some of the information which has reached me as to the ex-
traordinary maneuvers of the Italian Minister at Bucharest and his insertion in
the Romanian press of statements that Italy disagreed with the decisions of the
Supreme Council, and that Romania could rely on Italian support in a policy of
resistance to the Council’s notes.10

As previously noted, after the American withdrawal, the Peace Conference de-
cided to recognize de jure and not only de facto the union of Bessarabia with Romania.
Italy too signed the Bessarabian Treaty of October 28, 1920. The only difference be-
tween Italy, on the one hand, and the UK and France, on the other, while negotiating
for the Treaty, was that the Romanian Government did not propose to the former an
exchange of notes regarding compensation for land expropriated in Bessarabia. Al-
though initially the Romanians had in view an exchange of notes with the Peace
Conference, they changed their position and left out Italy and Japan. This decision
was probably related to the more and more passive attitude taken by the Italian for-
eign policy team with regard to the Peace Conference, the need to keep the exchange
secret from Romanian landowners, and the discontent regarding some of Italy’s ac-
tions. The Romanian Government understood that the real forces at the Conference
were the UK and France, and considered that Italy and Japan were almost powerless
to resist those two. A few years later, in the context created by Mussolini’s foreign
policy, the Romanians had to pay a certain price for under-estimating Italy.

The Ratification Question. First Phase, 1920-1926

During the inter-war period, Romanian-Italian relations had not, with one ex-
ception, been very friendly. Despite their shared Latin roots, as with France, political
and strategic factors complicated the situation. The Italian drive to isolate Yugosla-
via was thwarted by the establishment of the Little Entente (Romania, Czechoslova-
kia, Yugoslavia), and by France’s influence in the area. To counterbalance the Little
Entente, Italy tried to increase its influence in Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria. How-
ever, in each of its actions in the Balkan area, Italy was confronted with the Little

< 240 >


Entente. Putting a definitive chill on Romanian-Italian relations were Italy’s actions

in favor of Hungary, especially arms deliveries, and interventions in favor of the eth-
nic Hungarians in Romania; the leaders of the Romanian National Party (one of Ro-
mania’s biggest, based in Transylvania), expressed their discontent with the pro-
Hungarian policy of Italy,11 and Bratianu noted both that and Italy’s opposition to
the Little Entente.12 A number of open economic issues also had a negative influence.
It is difficult to take the Bessarabian Treaty ratification out of the context of
Italian-Romanian relations in general. Ratification was among Romania’s main goals
with Italy, especially between 1924 and 1927. Economic matters were more at issue
for the Italians, who hoped for a favorable solution to a number of pending financial
questions and also for a larger share of the Romanian market.
The Italian Minister in Bucharest, Martin Franklin, analyzed Romanian-Italian
relations in January 1923 in a memorandum to the Romanian Foreign Minister, I.G.
Duca, noting the problems en suspens between the two countries:

In order to give a greater intimacy to Romanian-Italian relations it is first nec-

essary that the Romanian Government gives a satisfactory solution to the question
of equality of treatment regarding the expropriations in Bessarabia and a liberal ap-
plication for the other expropriations [of land/property in areas other than Bessara-

The Romanian Government should take measures to solve the financial

problems in order to dissipate the unfavorable atmosphere produced by the
grave consequences of its actions in this field. These questions . . . have been:
the war debts; the Treasury Bonds; Stamps; credits for the payment of the de-
stroyers; credits from the Bank of Italy for the Romanian Legation in Rome;
payment of the interest for the Romanian public debt in Italy. . . .
The most delicate and gravest question is that of Italian properties in Bes-
sarabia. The Italian Government cannot admit that the Italians are not treated
in the same manner as the English and the French just because the Italian Gov-
ernment had recognized the annexation of Bessarabia with brotherhood zeal
and without conditions.13

As for the last matter, the accent placed on it comes at the beginning of 1923 as
a result of the Romanian payment of compensations to the expropriated French and
British landowners, when the news of the 1920 exchange of letters “transpired”, infu-
riating the Italians. However, for Italy it was more a matter of prestige than money,
and that is why Mussolini reacted to it so strongly. As there was only one Italian
landowner in question, it is difficult to understand why Romania waited another
year before solving this minor problem.
When Mussolini came to power, he carefully avoided any action that could
encourage Hungarian or Bulgarian revisionism and, most important for Romania, in
1923 Italy showed no sympathy for Hungary’s claim to Transylvania.14 During his

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

first months in office Mussolini preferred a rapprochement with the Little Entente
rather than with Hungary and Bulgaria. And, as proved by the signing of the Pact of
Rome with Yugoslavia and by on-going negotiations with the Czechoslovaks, he
seemed to be successful in this approach. The Italian-Czechoslovak negotiations
offer an interesting comparison to Romanian-Italian negotiations, as Mussolini was
trying to settle war debts with both Romania and Czechoslovakia, and the latter
both sought to have Italy more concretely committed to guaranteeing their borders.
Of the three members in the Little Entente, Romania would have appeared to
be the most open to an understanding with Italy, as they had no territorial problems
between them and they had the cultural bridge created by their common Latin ori-
gins. However, the Romanians were clearly much closer to the French and even to
the British than to the Italians, as they doubted Italy’s ability to impose her ideas or
interests at the international level; they considered that Italy lacked the military and
economic might necessary to enforce her international status. In fact, during the en-
tire interwar period, and especially during Titulescu’s tenure as the Foreign Minister
the Romanians, following in the footprints of French diplomacy, were very keen to
avoid any reference to Italy as a Great Power. The failure of Bratianu’s plan to obtain
for Romania a position similar Italy’s at the end of the war also played a role. So that,
adding up the two political sore points (the Italian-Hungarian partnership and the
Bessarabian Treaty ratification) with the French influence, skepticism and a few
financial issues, there were plenty of obstacles.
Soon after Mussolini came to power, the Romanians tried to improve their re-
lations, hoping for an Italian military guarantee of Romania’s borders both in Tran-
sylvania and Bessarabia. However, as soon as January 1923 Mussolini had already
expressed his view, using his famous formula that a political agreement should be
preceded by increased economic cooperation, hinting especially at the newly-opened
oilfields in Romania.15 Mussolini’s proposal not only failed to make a good impres-
sion in Bucharest but also coincided with the Liberal Party’s campaign for the imple-
mentation of the so-called “by ourselves” economic policy, aimed at reducing the
control of Romanian economy by foreign investors. The Italian quest for Romanian
oil also collided with French, British and American interests in the area. As a result,
Romania decided to slow down the economic negotiations (particularly over the
treasury bonds controversy) initiated by Pompeo Aloisi, the new Italian Minister to
In October 1923, the Romanian Foreign Ministry opened a discussion regard-
ing ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty with the Italian representatives, only to be
disappointed. One might ask why Romania waited three years to ask; there were at
least four reasons. First, it took Romania herself about a year and a half to ratify the
Treaty (and even then, with a little British “help”); how, then, could she ask the Ital-
ians to ratify? Second, as the Romanians considered the French guarantees to be
worth far more than the Italian or Japanese, it is possible that they focused only on
France. In a sense, that would mean a continuation of the 1920 policy of neglecting
Italy and over-evaluating France and Great Britain. Then, there were the unresolved

< 242 >


economic issues existing between the two states, and the Italian attitude towards
Hungary. Unfortunately, while the Romanians were placing all their bets on France,
Italy was won over by one of Romania’s adversaries, the Soviet Union.
In February 1924 Italy gave official recognition to the Soviet Union, at the same
time as Great Britain, but without having ratified the Bessarabian Treaty.17 There
were rumors at the time that Mussolini had agreed not to ratify the treaty in ex-
change for economic benefits from the Soviets, and subsequent events suggest that
there was some truth to that. Regardless, Italy’s recognition was bad news for Ro-
mania, as it further decreased the number of possible allies against the Soviets.
That spring, a potential crisis emerged in the form of the Treasury Bonds dis-
pute.18 Mussolini had been personally insisting, for over a year, that the Romanian
authorities should solve this problem as soon as possible. Perhaps coincidentally, in
early March 1924, just a few weeks after the recognition of the Soviet Union, Musso-
lini suggested putting off the planned visit of the Romanian Royal Family to Italy
due to the bad press Romania was given for the Treasury Bonds question19 and the
different treatment accorded Italian landlords expropriated in Bessarabia.20 This
suggestion was received in Bucharest as a slap, and the Royal Family rescinded its
decision to visit Rome. The King found it inappropriate that a manifestation of
friendship between sovereigns should be obstructed by mere financial considera-
tions.21 With the honor of the Romanian Royal Family at stake, there was a risk of
eroding Romanian-Italian relations to a dangerous level. Realizing that he may have
over-stepped, Mussolini tried to soften the message a little, suggesting that he had
only asked for the postponement because the Italian public opinion had become hos-
tile to Romania as a result of her economic policy. However, he adamantly repeated
that the Romanian Government should solve the Treasury Bonds problem.22
The worst aspect of the crisis was that it came at a time when the French Par-
liament had ratified the Bessarabian Treaty and negotiations between Romania and
Russia were about to begin in Vienna. In other words, Mussolini’s action vitiated the
advantage given by the French ratification, giving an advantage to the Soviet delega-
tion.23 Mussolini was not about to allow the French influence in the Balkans to in-
crease; with this gesture, Mussolini was able to improve his relations with the Sovi-
ets while giving a warning to Romania as to Italy’s importance in Balkan politics.
And it seems that, indeed, the Romanians changed their policy towards Italy. As for
Soviet-Italian relations, there is every indication that indeed Mussolini had come to a
verbal agreement to delay ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty.24 But did Mussolini
have another agreement with the Soviets, promising to provoke a brief crisis in Ital-
ian-Romanian relations in order to offset the effect of the French ratification and
thereby shift the balance at the Vienna negotiations?
Only a few weeks later, the whole incident was forgotten. As Alan Cassels ex-
pressed it: “After the storm blew over, the stalemate remained as before; the Romani-
ans sought political assurances and the Italians economic assurances, with both
sides reluctant to equate one set of desiderata with the other”.25
Later that March, the Italians indicated that they would ratify as soon as the

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Italian landowners expropriated in Bessarabia had been compensated, at the same

level as for the French and British subjects.26 This time, the Romanian government
set out to give satisfaction, and the results proved that, in fact, the Italians had been
exaggerating the compensation question in order to use it as a cover for other exist-
ing motives, as France did in 1922:

We took the decision long ago to compensate the Italian landowners in Bes-
sarabia in the same way as the French and English. Until today Malabassi is
the only case we know of, and his rights we have already estimated. I do not
have to add what a good impression would be made, in these conditions, espe-
cially today, by a quick ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty.27

Understanding the real importance of the Italian ratification, the Romanian

side took action to improve the bilateral relations, and the problem of Treasury
Bonds was partially solved. At the beginning of August 1924 the Romanian Foreign
Minister, I.G. Duca, had a meeting with Pompeo Aloisi, the Italian Minister in Bu-
charest. Duca proposed that the two countries sign a Treaty similar to the Italo-
Czechoslovak Treaty, with a special emphasis on Italy’s ratification of the Bessara-
bian Treaty. When the Italian Minister expressed his opinion that the ratification
could not be considered, for the moment, because of its implications for Italian-
Soviet relations, Duca offered the necessary “incentives”, suggesting that the political
accord could be followed by oil concessions, contracts for the Romanian Railways
System, and so on. In fact the Romanians, whenever the Italians delayed, tried to
induce them with the kind of economic arguments that Mussolini sought with his
favorite slogan, niente per niente. Concluding his report, Aloisi stated:

It is clear that the Romanian Government, after the spring incidents, and
especially during the last few months, has demonstrated and continues to dem-
onstrate greater willingness for a rapprochement with Italy, for two reasons:
improving its foreign credit; solving the Bessarabian question and finding a
more stable asset for its foreign policy.28

However, Mussolini was unwilling to abandon his position:

On diverse occasions, Lahovary [Romanian Minister in Rome] asked me

about the Italian ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty and I tried to avoid giv-
ing him an explicit answer. I am still waiting for the Romanian-Russian nego-
tiations to continue, wishing that they would end with a satisfactory result.
You should make Duca understand that, in any case, our accord with Romania
should coincide with a commercial treaty. . .29

As a sign of good faith on the part of the Romanian Government, on September

1924 the Minister of Agriculture, Alexandru Constantinescu, went to Italy. The ne-

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gotiations focused mainly on economic issues, the ratification being put off again by
Mussolini’s proposal to start conversations with the Soviet Ambassador in Rome for
an amicable solution to the Bessarabian question.30 On the same day, Mussolini had
a conversation on the same matter with the leader of the People’s Party, Alexandru
Averescu (former Romanian Prime Minister). Although the Romanians had not
asked for Mussolini’s intervention in improving Romanian-Soviet relations, he was
all too glad to undertake this task, for two reasons. One, he could pose as someone
doing everything for the Romanian cause in Bessarabia by exerting his influence over
the Soviets — while justifying the delay in the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty.
And two, this offer fit well with Mussolini’s more general objective in recognizing
the Soviets: his dream of mediating between Bolshevism and the West.31
Although it seemed that Romanian-Italian relations were on the right path, in
just a few days a new crises erupted, provoked by information published by the
semi-official Stefani Agency: that the Italian Government was about to ratify the
Bessarabian Treaty. This generated a polemic in the Italian press, with arguments
pro and con.32 While Il Mondo, opposed to Mussolini, was on the Romanians’ side
and pleaded in favor of ratification, a number of other newspapers expressing the
official government viewpoint (such as Il Popolo d’Italia), argued the contrary. And
worse, pleading against ratification, they used the Russian thesis regarding Bessara-
bia, calling for a plebiscite and claiming that, in fact, the Italian non-ratification had
spared Romania from a Soviet military campaign. The Romanian press hit back, as
soon as the word spread.33
In this context Mussolini’s secret agreement with the Soviets on ratification
became a leitmotiv of the mass media. The Romanian side officially concluded that
no such secret agreement existed:

There is no proof of the existence of such an agreement; the only indications

come through its effects:
1. The mild tone used by the Soviet press towards Mussolini;
2. During the Matteoti affair, Moscow simply kept complete silence, fail-
ing to protest in any way;
3. The attitude of the Italian communist party is more and more strange
(they oppose the boycott of the Chamber initiated by the opposition par-
ties as a result of the Matteoti affair);
4. The existence of a reciprocal agreement between the Rosta (Russian)
and Stefani Press Agencies regarding the publication of news;
5. Mussolini’s attitude regarding the Bessarabian question;
6. The existing affinities between the Soviet and the Mussolini regimes.34

The question is, what kind of proof was Cretzianu looking for? If it was a verbal
agreement, no signed papers could be expected. And, as it was supposedly a secret
that neither Mussolini nor the Soviets would have an interest in leaking, it would be
surprising to find any concrete proof. Still, in this author’s view, it does appear, from

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published Italian documents, that a secret verbal agreement on the ratification did
Realizing that the press campaign both in Italy and Romania was not at all
benefiting the Romanian cause, Duca instructed Alexandru E. Lahovary, the Roma-
nian minister to Italy, to take action in order to put an end to it:

I think that it is necessary to end this campaign because, as you know,

Mussolini is unwilling yet to make known his intentions, of which he assured
us, so that the actual dispute could only place him in an unpleasant situation.35

Still, the campaign went on and, as a result, relations between the two states
once again froze. The troubles were discussed during a meeting between I.G. Duca
and H. Dering, the British Minister in Romania, in December 1924. As Dering re-

I asked whether Italy showed any signs of ratifying the Treaty recognizing Ro-
mania’s sovereignty over Bessarabia. Duca replied, not yet, but that Mussolini
still declared that he was trying to induce the Soviet Government to give simi-
lar recognition, when he, Duca, supposed Italian ratification would, in that
rather unlikely contingency, follow. I expressed wonder over what Italy ex-
pected to be the outcome of her negotiations with the Soviet Government . . . I
merely remarked that Italy generally expected something in exchange for fa-
vors. Duca agreed with a smile, remarking, “a policy of du ut des”.36

The press campaign continued, reaching a new peak in February-March 1925.

One of the most controversial moments came as the Italian press published passages
taken from Cicerin’s speech in Tiflis regarding the Bessarabian question. The Roma-
nians were outraged and asked the Italian government for explanations, arguing that
the sentiment of the Romanian public could only become anti-Italian as a result of
this kind of article. After a meeting with Contarini, Lahovary reports:

Contarini declared that he does not know exactly the declaration made by
Cicerin; that Mussolini has not lost his hope that, in time, the Soviets would
recognize the Bessarabian Treaty; that the articles published in Il Mondo could
only harm the Romanian cause. He advised us [nonetheless] to have patience
because time is a great master and that by insisting we only risk to infuriate Mussolini
and he might even decide to take the Italian signature off the Bessarabian Treaty. That, in
the end, a Government, the same as an individual, is free to change his opinions
and decisions as he wishes. . . .
Finally he asked me what was the situation of the commercial negotiations
between us. I told him honestly that Italian economic interests could not ex-
pect to be welcome in Romania as long as the Italian ratification is missing.”37

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This position suggests that Contarini (and probably Mussolini as well) was
either really upset about the articles published in Il Mondo or that he had no idea how
international customs or procedures work; these might be the only explanations as
to why did he came with such an aberrant idea of taking Italy’s signature off the Bes-
sarabian Treaty. Even if this had been possible, at that stage it actually would have
offered a small advantage to Romania, at least logically, because if the Italians were
no longer party to the Treaty, their ratification would become unnecessary. More
probably, as Mussolini had no interest to completely alienate Romania (and even he
realized this), it was only the usual Italian bluffing.

Unsatisfied that the press campaign kept on going, Duca insisted again:

You have done well in answering immediately the Russian Ambassador [in the
press] . . . Still, I believe that it would be better to end this campaign. While
the interest of the Soviets is to agitate the Bessarabian question, we do not
have such interest. Therefore, as this depends on us, it would be necessary to
exercise our influence in order to stop this campaign . . . in this moment a press
campaign regarding the Bessarabian question is more inopportune than ever,
so I ask you to take the necessary measures.38

It should be noted that the Romanian representatives in Italy did not actively
sponsor the pro-Romanian writings. Of course, they were happy to publish informa-
tion on Bessarabia when asked by journalists but there were no payments made by
the Legation in order to publish articles favorable to Romania, precisely because
Duca was clearly against the campaign.
However, the ratification question offered a good weapon for those who
wished to use foreign policy controversies to weaken Mussolini. In a sense, the Bes-
sarabian issue was more of a weapon against Mussolini than a manifestation of
friendship towards Romania. A similar attempt was made in Japan, initiated not by
the press but by members of another political party, when the postponement of the
ratification was used in order to criticize the foreign policy of Baron Shidehara.
Aloisi analyzed the Romanian political circles in April 1925 and concluded that
the Bessarabian question was the main reason for the existing chill in Romanian-
Italian relations; a chill that could affect the economic interests of Italy in Romania:

I do not think that for the moment any special demonstrations are necessary,
but with the purpose of maintaining firm the principles regarding our Bessara-
bian policy, I find it opportune that, in order to clarify the situation, something
favorable for Romania should be done in other field.39

Romania’s representatives also consulted with leaders of the remaining Italian

opposition in an attempt to obtain the ratification. However, Don Sturdzo, one of
Mussolini’s political enemies, blamed them squarely for the failure:

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Moldova, a Romanian Province

As for the Bessarabian question he said, why have you been so late with your
request? Italy would have ratified much more easily three years ago. But today I
can see no possibility, none.40

Summing the result of his negotiations during 1925 Lahovary concludes: “After
prolonged talks I came to the belief that, in the current circumstances, it is not pos-
sible to obtain, either directly or indirectly, the much desired Italian ratification of
the Bessarabian Treaty.”41 Still, as he had clear instructions, Lahovary continued to
pursue the matter by initiating new negotiations with the Italians and trying to in-
duce them to ratify:

Contarini declared: it seems to me that you have forgotten that Constan-

tinescu has made a number of promises which have failed yet to became reality,
and which were in a sense the preliminary conditions asked for by Mussolini.
You must not think that we have been inactive since that time; it is just that
our interventions could not greatly modify the Soviets attitude.
I answered by showing him the great opportunities for investment offered
by Romania, especially in mining and oil extraction, and gave him the example
of French investments in Romania, suggesting the sending of an Italian eco-
nomic delegation to Romania.42

In December 1925 the new Italian Minister in Romania, Marquis Durazzo,

tried to defuse the situation. After a number of meetings with Romanian policy mak-
ers, he sent an impressive report to Mussolini, making a case that Romania was im-
portant for Italy and stressing the need to improve bilateral relations. He understood
clearly, the same as his predecessor had, that the main holdback, in the Romanian
view, was Bessarabia.
In his report, Durazzo gave an excellent review of both the Romanian and Ital-
ian positions on the Bessarabian question:

The Romanian arguments were:

1. The obligation assumed by Italy in signing the treaty;
2. By not fulfilling her obligation Italy is siding with Romania’s enemies in
a question that is vital for Romania;
3. Assurances given by us in the past indicating that the ratification
would come soon after solving the questions en suspens;
4. The grave consequences resulting for Romania from the postponement
of the ratification — it only prolongs the situation existing in Bessara-
bia by the fact that there is no definitive sanction of Romanian rights in
there, which can only serve the Russian attempts at disturbing the re-
5. Only if the Treaty is ratified by all signatory powers can the annexation

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of Bessarabia to Romania be considered on the same footing with the

other territorial modifications made after the war, sanctioned by trea-
6. The Italian postponement of the ratification represents one of the main
arguments of the Bolshevik agents . . . in showing that the Romanian
administration in the area is only temporary.

The Italian arguments were:

1. The Romanian government should not understand our attitude as an
unfriendly one;
2. The Treaty was signed when Russia was completely excluded from the
European international community, but even when the Treaty is rati-
fied by all the signatories it will have no practical value, [if that were so,
then why did Romanian, British and French governments insist on the
ratification?] while the ratification can influence our relations, which
already have promising practical results, with Moscow;
3. Above all, Romania should understand that Bessarabia is and will re-
main under her possession, and should not believe the illusion that one
international sanction can in any case change the situation, which is in
the end a matter of opposed interests and forces and not one of rights
that are more or less recognized by others;
4. I consider that it is in the interest of Romania and in the general inter-
est of peace to postpone the ratification, because it could generate a
violent reaction from Russia.
5. Because of its position in the Bessarabian question and of its good rela-
tions with the Moscow Government, the Italian Government has the
best position to act as a moderator in the difficult Romanian-Russo
relations. . . .

I have to insist that, if we cannot repair somehow the still actual repercus-
sions of the postponed ratification not only with the Government but also with
the public opinion, we will continue to be practically excluded from any advan-
tageous economic or political collaboration that we can hope for in this coun-
try . . .
By continuing to postpone the ratification we will be in no position to es-
tablish profitable relations with this country. . . .
Italy could give Romania an assurance, bound to remain secret, that in case
of Russia opening the discussion over Bessarabia, whether by guns or only dip-
lomatically, the Italian Government would offer Romania all the necessary sup-
port, both moral and diplomatic. . . . Mussolini could play the role of mediator
between Romania and Russia in order to make them sign a non-aggression
pact. . . . [and extend] an official invitation for the Romanian Royal Family to
visit Italy and a great reception while they are there.43

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Durazzo’s Report had no effect on Mussolini, who simply answered that he

might take the initiative for the non-aggression pact and that “as regards the visit of
the Romanian Royal Family, it should be preceded by progress in the commercial
negotiations or by some other concrete manifestation of goodwill.”44
As for the idea of mediating the conflict over Bessarabia, a leitmotiv of Musso-
lini’s diplomacy, it seems that he actually took it seriously and came up with a com-
promise solution based on the idea of self-determination for Bessarabia: that the So-
viets should recognize Romanian sovereignty over Bessarabia, and the Romanian
government should offer the greatest possible autonomy to the province, under the
leadership of a General Governor named by a local Council.45
By February 1926 the Italian government suggested signing an Alliance Treaty
with Romania, in a formula that guaranteed the Romanian borders.46 Although it
failed to mention the ratification of the Bessarabian Treaty, the Italian move seemed
to signal a shift in policy towards Romania. Of course, it is possible that the main
impetus behind this proposal was the news of the ongoing French-Romanian nego-
tiations for an Alliance Treaty. Mussolini understood that, in order to counterbal-
ance the French influence, he would have to come up with something. Still, Musso-
lini insisted, in his characteristic manner, that a commercial treaty should precede
the military one.
Although the Romanians were dissatisfied with the Italian draft, Mussolini
took the opportunity to express his displeasure with the French-Romanian negotia-
tions, arguing that it was unfair for the Romanians to play at two different tables at
the same time (a peculiar complaint, given that Mussolini was constantly negotiat-
ing with both the Romanians and the Soviets). He claimed that an Italian-Romanian
alliance should actually preclude a Franco-Romanian alliance.47 Since Romania was
by no means willing to renounce to the nearly complete draft Treaty with France for
a speculative one with Italy, the negotiations came to a halt.
Not every Romanian diplomat agreed with the line suggested from Bucharest
and particularly with the necessity of immediate Italian ratification. Illustrative in
this sense is the opinion expressed by Langa-Rascanu, one of Romania’s representa-
tives in Italy, in a report sent to Bucharest in May 1926:

It will be a great deception to believe that the Italian ratification would

solve the Bessarabian question or would lead to the establishment of Russo-
Romanian relations.
Let’s suppose that Italy gives us the ratification. What would be the re-
sult — a freeze in Russo-Italian relations and an increase in the animosity of
the Soviet government against us. Thus, no practical results. By contrast, the
Italian ratification could postpone even longer the day of reestablishing normal
relations with Russia. It would also generate a freeze in Romanian-Italian rela-
tions, as a result of Romania’s insistence.
Our intervention in Rome would face increased difficulties because Musso-
lini would try to take advantage, especially in the economic field, of the recent

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break-off in Russo-British relations.

Romania needs not Italian ratification but Italian mediation, because Ro-
mania needs not the Italian ratification regarding Bessarabia but the Russian
ratification. And only Italy could reconcile us with the Russians and of course
Mussolini would be very happy to elevate himself with this achievement. Still,
the most difficult problem is to find a reconciliation formula between Romania
and Russia.48

The Ratification Question. Second Phase, 1926-1927

During the second half of the 1920s, Italian foreign policy became even more
aggressive and Mussolini’s hostile attitude towards the Little Entente more acute.
His aim was to weaken or even liquidate both the Little Entente and the French in-
fluence in Eastern Europe.49
The best period for Romanian-Italian relations was during the Alexandru
Averescu Government (March 1926-June 1927). Averescu, the hero of the Romanian
Army, had close personal ties with Italy (he had studied at Turin Military School, his
wife was Italian, and in 1926 he became a Marshall in the Italian Army), ties which
would prove to have a powerful influence on the bilateral relations.
It was in February 1926, before Averescu came to power, that Italy had pro-
posed to Romania a treaty of alliance with the purpose of maintaining the territorial
status quo. The Romanians had welcomed the Italian proposal and tried to use it to
boost their negotiating position with the French. Analyzing the Italian proposal dur-
ing a meeting with Austin Chamberlain on February 18, Nicolae Titulescu observed
that it was motivated by the current impossibility of the Italian government to ratify
the Bessarabian Treaty. He believed that the Italian government had committed not
to ratify the Bessarabian Treaty and that, to the eventual reaction of the Soviets re-
garding the alliance treaty with Romania, Mussolini could answer: “It is a purely
defensive agreement, conceived in the spirit of Locarno, which would come into
power only in case of an unprovoked Russian attack”.50 But what was behind Tit-
ulescu’s remarks: did he have any firm evidence of the existence of a Soviet-Italian
agreement on the Bessarabian Treaty (which had been clearly dismissed earlier by
Cretzianu) or it was only an expression of his Italo-phobia?
Initially, Mussolini insisted that the French-Romanian negotiations should be
suspended but the Romanians refused. The French-Romanian negotiations did
stimulate Italy to reach some accord with Bucharest, lest Romania slip completely
into the French orbit; and Averescu was willing to balance his Francophile gesture
by an agreement with Italy.51
Averescu understood that in order to improve relations, he would have to start
in the economic field. Therefore, he sent Mihail Manoilescu, undersecretary at the
Ministry of Finance, to Rome in June, where he signed an agreement regarding the
consolidation of the Romanian war debt in Italy52 and accepted a credit of 200 mil-
lions Italian lira that Romania would use to buy Italian products.

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But Romania’s commercial concessions were not enough for Mussolini. Un-
happy about the French-Romanian Treaty, Mussolini changed his projected draft
Treaty with Romania, proposing in July 1926 only a Friendship Pact with a more
circumscribed character than had initially been proposed. Although the Romanians
were disappointed, Averescu agreed to drop the formula proposed by the Bratianu
government — that Italy should guarantee Romania in its curren