Table of Contributors   Table of Contents   Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

Tell, Christian

Christian Tell (1808-1884) Muntenian military man and political leader. Though from a poor but free peasant family, Tell was educated by Gheorghe Lazar and then at St. Sava School in Bucuresti, where he came under the influence of Ion Heliade-Radulescu, whose moderate approach to national affirmation he shared. In the 1820s, he served in the military and fought in the Russo-Turkish war in 1829-1830 as a captain. Tell entered the newly-founded Muntenian militia in 1830 and advanced steadily, becoming a major in 1841. At the same time, he was inspired by national political ideals, becoming one of the four founding members of the Fratia secret revolutionary society in 1843 along with Nicolae Balcescu, Ion Ghica, and C. A. Rosetti.

With advent of 1848, Tell mobilized the support of his troops for reform and revolution in Muntenia, and came to be known as the "sabre of the revolution." He was present at the assembly in Oltenia on June 9, which issued the Proclamation of Islaz, and was named as one of five members of a provisional government set up at that time. Two days later the revolution was launched in Bucuresti. Tell became a member of a new provisional government established in the capital. He was temporarily shunted aside by the counter-revolutionary machinations of Colonel Ion Solomon, but emerged as leader of the new regime's military forces, and was promoted to general. He took energetic steps to arm and train his new troops as well as to establish a national guard. In August, he was named as one of the three regents (along with Heliade-Radulescu and Nicolae Golescu) of a reformed provisional government is an attempt to appease growing Ottoman hostility. Though essentially a moderate and even anti-revolutionary, Tell supported the organization under General Magheru of a last ditch military stand in Oltenia, but in the end when the Muntenian revolution was confronted with a joint Ottoman-Russian intervention agreed to the suspension of armed resistance.

After the defeat of the revolution, Tell was expelled from the army and exiled to Chios. The three former regents, Tell, Heliade-Radulescu, and Nicolae Golescu, tried unsuccessfuly to continue as leaders of the Romanian emigration, which now openly fragmented into three groups, a moderate wing associated with the three regents, a reformist wing associated with Balcescu and Ion Ghica, and a radical wing associated with the Bratianus and C. A. Rosetti. He returned from exile in 1857, was an active participant (deputy, coordinating commission of Focsani) in the unionist activities which resulted in the dual election of Prince Cuza in 1859 and the establishment of the Romanian state thereafter. He served numerous times as cabinet minister between 1862 and 1876.
Paul E. Michelson


Anastasie Iordache and Constantin Vladut, Christian Tell Craiova, 1976.

Table of Contributors   Table of Contents   Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

JGC revised this file ( on October 26, 2004

Please E-mail comments or suggestions to

© 1999, 2004 James Chastain.