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Mihail Kogalniceanu

Mihail Kogalniceanu (1817-1891) Polymath (lawyer, historian, publicist, politician, cultural pacemaker) Moldovan leader and one of the most outstanding Romanians of his generation. Son of a Moldovan noble, he was connected by family and political ties to the highest circles. He was educated privately (along with Vasile Alecsandri) and then at a pension (again with Alecsandri and also Alexandru Ioan Cuza). Under the patronage of Prince Mihail Sturdza, he subsequently studied in France and Berlin and travelled extensively in Western Europe. It was in the "Athens of Germany" that he came in contact with and was greatly influenced by Savigny,Humboldt, and Ranke, and finished acquiring an enormous familiarity with contemporary historical, cultural, and social science. It was as a student that he published a pioneering study on the gypsies (Leipzig, 1837) and a Histoire de la Valachie, de la Moldavie, et des Vlaques transdanubiens (Berlin, 1837). Conflicts with Sturdza (who worried about the influence of Western radicalism on his protege) prevented him from completing his doctorate and he returned home to begin service as the prince's adjutant in 1838.

Koganiceanu continued to publish at an amazing pace. In addition to publishing the first editions of the Moldovan chroniclers and other books and articles, he founded a string of periodicals: Aluata Romaneasca (1838), Foaie Sateasca (1839), Dacia Literara (1840), Arhiva Romaneasca (1840), Calendarelor pentru Poporul Romanesc (1842), and Propasirea (1843). In 1840, he became co-director (with Alecsandri and C. Negruzzi) of the National Theater in Iasi, while serving as Prince Sturdza's private secretary. In 1843, he gave a celebrated inaugural lecture on national history at the Academia Mihaileana in Iasi, a lecture which greatly influenced Romanian students in Paris and the 1848 generation, not least with its profession that "I view as my country everywhere on earth where Romanian is spoken, and as national history the history of all of Moldova (before its dismemberment), that of Muntenia, and that of our brothers in Transylvania." (Among other professors at the Academy were Ion Ghica, Eftimie Murgu, and Ion Ionescu de la Brad.)

By 1843-1844, however, Kogalniceanu's reformist leanings were beginning to get him in trouble. His history course was suspended in 1844, his passport was revoked during a trip to Vienna in the same year (he was there as the secret emissary of the oppostion to discuss with Metternich Sturdza's possible ouster) and he wasbriefly imprisoned on his return home. In 1845, through Ion Ghica, he became involved with national and cultural agitation in Muntenia as well. His visit in February to the loosely-disguised opposition Literary Association (which included Ghica, Nicolae Balcescu, A. T. Laurian, Al. G. Golescu, and C. A. Rosetti) was the occasion of a nationalist celebration. From 1845 to 1847 he was in Paris (where he joined the Romanian Student Association in Paris that included Ghica, Rosetti, and Balcescu once more) and Western Europe.

With the advent of 1848, Kogalniceanu was drawn into the mainstream of Romanian nationalist politics. Though he did not sign the March 1848 Iasi petition for a number of reasons, Prince Sturdza was not deceived. The former princely aide was among those sought in the police roundup that followed. From Kogalniceanu's pen flowed several of the most vituperative pamphlet attacks on Sturdza, and by July a reward was offered for his apprehension "dead or alive." He fled soon thereafter to Bucovina and the hospitable confines of the Hurmuzachi estate.

Kogalniceanu now became a member of the Moldovan Central Revolutionary Committee in exile and its chief spokesman. His exposition of "The Wishes of the National Party," (August 1848) was both an excellent polemic manifesto and a comprehensive statement of the goals of the 1848 Romanian revolutions. It called for internal autonomy, civil and political liberties, abolition of serfdom and class priviledge, and union of Moldova and Muntenia. He published at the same time a "Project for a Moldovan Constitution," which showed how these ideas might be translated into reality. Kogalniceanu also became a collaborator of the Bucovinian Romanian journal Bucovina, the voice of the 1848 revolution in the Romanian lands.

A cholera epidemic forced him to leave Bucovina in January 1849 for France, where he continued to work for the Romanian cause. Paradoxically, Moldovan failure and frustration in 1848 was rewarded in 1849 when, subsequent to the Convention of Balta-Liman (April), Grigore Ghica, a liberal reformer and unionist was named Prince of Moldova (1849-1856) by the Sultan. With him to Iasi came Kogalniceanu, Al. I. Cuza, and other 1848ers who Ghica promptly installed in his new administration. A new day had dawned which, combined with the Crimean War, would eventually lead to the achievement in the 1850s and 1860s of most of the "wishes of the national party," and the practical conclusion of the Romanian 1848.

Kogalniceanu was appointed to various high level governmental positions after 1849, continued his prolific writing and cultural activities, and became the principal leader of the unionist movement that sought the creation of a Romanian national state through the merging of Moldova and Muntenia. His success in the campaign for elections to the Divan ad hoc led directly to the outmanuvering of the boiar opposition and triumph for the national party in the double election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza in 1859. From 1859 to 1865, Kogalniceanu was numerous times prime minister and the genius behind Cuza's internal reforms, including the secularization of the monasteries in 1863 and the agrarian reform of 1864.

Following Cuza's ouster in 1866, Kogalniceanu continued to be the leader of pragmatic reform liberalism in Romania, and was a cabinet member a number of times, including foreign minister in 1877-1878 when Romania achieved complete independence. He was elected to the Romanian Academy in 1868.

By temperament and education a conservative, Kogalniceanu was a democratic nationalist in the mold of Hardenberg and Stein, but not a radical. He believed in constitutional government, civil liberties, and other liberal positions, but gave precedence to the nation over the individual. These views and prudent attitude were typical of the Moldovan generation of 1848. As a politician, orator, and a cultural leader, Kogalniceanu played key and indispensable roles in the development of modern Romania for more than half a century, before, during, and after 1848.
Paul E. Michelson


Al. Zub, Mihail Kogalniceanu, 1817-1891 Biobibliografie. Bucuresti, 1971

_______. Kogalniceanu istoric Iasi, 1974.

_______. "Din activitatea politica a lui M. Kogalniceanu la 1848," Revista Istorica XXIX (1976), 999-1012.

Augustin Z. N. Pop, Peurmele lui Mihail Kogalniceanu Bucuresti, 1979.

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