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Vasile Alecsandri

VASILE ALECSANDRI (1821-1890 One of the leading Romanian literary, political, and diplomatic figures of the 19th century, Alecsandri was born in Moldova in a boyar family with connections to the court of Prince Mihail Sturdza. Educated privately at home (along with Mihail Kogalniceanu), he was sent with several Moldovan young men, including Alexander Ion Cuza, to Paris in 1834 where he studied medicine, law, literature, and enjoyed Parisian social life. He built strong relationships there with Muntenian students (especially Ion Ghica) who as a group came to view themselves as Romanians, rather than as Moldovans or Muntenia ns.

He returned to Iasi in 1839 to work in the Treasury of Moldova, and to write, publish, and promote the idea of the union along with Kogalniceanu and others. He was one of the leaders of the Romanian theater in Iasi after 1840, both as an organizer, director, and writer. And he was an editor of the nationalist journals Dacia Literara (1840), founded with Kogalniceanu, and Costache Negruzzi and Propasirea, founded by Kogalniceanu in 1844.

Alecsandri was heavily involved in the activities of the Moldovan 1848 revolutionaries. During the 1840s, he had worked with the underground by carrying messages and encouraging them through his correspondence. He was a frequent visitor to the Costache Negri estate, Minjina, a center for Muntenian and Moldovan reformers. (He was also romantically involved with Negris sister, Elena, whose illness and death in 1847 deeply affected him.) With pressure building in and around Moldova in 1848, Prince Mihail Sturdza called a meeting to allow some of the young idealists, including Alecsandri, to present of their complaints. In response, Alecsandri edited a petition-proclamation for the reformer/ revolutionaries promoting the ideas of union and liberty. He also wrote at this time his poem-manifesto Desteptarea Romaniei.

After the collapse of revolutionary activity in Moldova, Alecsandri fled to Transylvania to avoid arrest, where he published the brochure "Protest in the Nam e of Moldova, Humanity, and God." He wrote more unionist poetry inspired by the assembly at Blaj in May 1848, and signed the May "Our Principles for Reform of the Country." Finally, as he analyzed the death of the revolution in Moldova, he became even more of a unionist.

In June, Alecsandri moved to the Hurmuzakis in Cernauti where he became the secretary of Moldovan revolutionary committee which contributed to the underground revolutionary activity in Moldavia. He issued in the name of the committee the "Proclamation of the National Party of Moldova to All Romanians," and published poetry in the Pan-Romanian journal Bucovina. In September the revolutionaries sent him to Paris as a diplomat and propagandist to inform Europe of the Romanian national cause. He was also sent to Constantinople, Hungary and Transylvania to promote the ideas of union and liberty. Throughout this period Alecsandris correspondence and literature encouraged the exiles. He also gave materia l support to the cause, especially Balcescu. Settling in Paris, Alecsandri edited along with Nicolae Balcescu and Alecu Russo (The Future Romania) in Paris.

In late 1849, the newly-installed liberal/unionist Prince Gregore Ghica (1849-1856) brought him back home and made him State Archivist. He was prominent in nationalist and unionist activities. His journal, Romania Literara (1855), played an important role in Romanian cultural life. In 185 6, his Hora Unirii was published; it became the hymn of the unionist movement. After the double election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1859), Alecsandri became one of his key advisors, served as foreign minister, and as Romanias ambassador to major capitals. After Cuzas ouster, he was much less active in politics, but did spend the last five years of his life as Romanian ambassador in France (1885-1890).

Alecsandri was an inspirer, influence, and leader of Romanian literary endeavors until his death, a mentor of the Junimea movement, and doyen of Romanian writers and playwrights. His collection of folkloric popular poetry (1852) was a first, his poems inspired a generation of poets, and his heroic, historical dramas were highly successful. His work was known in France and Italy, winning a prize in 1878 for Romance language poetry at Montpellier and gaining him a reputation as a kind of Victor Hugo of the East. He was also a noted letter writer.
Jean T. Michelson


Vasile Alecsandri, Cele mai frumoase scrisori, Marta Anineanu(ed.) Bucuresti, 1972.

G. C. Nicolescu, Viata lui Vasile Alecsandri Bucuresti, 1975

Dumitru Vitcu, Diplomats of the Union Bucuresti, 1989.

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