History of the Romanians in Ukraine

This article is about the history of Romanians in what is now southwestern Ukraine, roughly between the Dniester River and the Bug River, who traditionally have not belonged to any Romanian statal entity (nor to Transnistria), but have been an integral part of the history of modern Ukraine, and are considered natives to the area. It does no refer to the Romanians of Northern Bukovina or Bessarabia, areas that were, between the World Wars, part of Romania. For articles regarding Romanians in those areas, see History of Romania, History of Moldavia, and History of Moldova. For the history of the whole modern state, see History of Ukraine.

History of the area

Ancient history

Inhabited by the Thracian (such as the Tyragetae, meaning "the Getae/Dacians of Tyras") and by Scythian tribes, the territory of modern Transnistria and southwestern Ukraine saw the appearance of ancient Greek colonies such as Olbia and Tyras, probably founded about 600 BC by colonist from Miletus. Situated on the mouth of the Dniester river (anciently known as the Tyras), it maintained commercial exchanges with the natives. It fell under the dominion of native kings whose names appear on its coins, and it was destroyed by the Dacians about 50 BC, with the development and expansion of the organised Dacia. The area saw the first contacts with latinity in AD 56, when the colony was restored by the Romans and henceforth formed part of the province of Lower Moesia, which also included Dobruja (now part of Romania) and northeastern Bulgaria. The Roman control lasted until the 3rd century, and in the next cenutries it was held intermittently by the Byzantine Empire. During the Age of Migrations, it came under successive control of different nomadic tribes.

Middle Ages

The attacks by pastoral nomadic peoples began to taper off in the 10th century, permitting an increase in population. The territory was slowly infiltrated by Romanians (Vlachs) from the west, Slavic tribes (Ulichs and Tivertsy) from the north, and as well as by Turkic nomads such as Pechenegs, Cumans and (later) Tatars.

Vlachs and Brodniks are mentioned in the area in the 12th and 13th century. As characterised by contemporary sources, the area between the Bug and Dniester had never been populated by a single ethnicity, or totally controlled by Kievan rulers. For example, Ukrainian historian Volodymyr Antonovych writes: "Neither the right bank, nor the left bank of the Dniester have ever belonged to Galician or other Ruthenian princes."However, due to the large Romanian element, the areas were often ruled by Moldavia princes. Ion Vodă Armeanul exercised control over the left-bank of the Dneister. In 1681 Gheorghe Duca's title was "Despot of Moldavia and Ukraine", as he was Prince of Moldavia and Hetman of Ukraine. Other Moldavian princes who held control of the territory were Ştefan Movilă, Dimitrie Cantacuzino and Mihai Racoviţă.

In the 17th century, in a letter to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Stefan Batory, the Prince of Transylvania stated that: "The lands between the Bug and Dniester are populated by a mix of races composed of Lithuanian Poles, Muscovites and Romanians. The Cossacks are raised from the Muscovites and Romanians".

Hetmans of the Cossacks: Ioan Potcoavă, Grigore Lobodă (Hryhoriy Loboda; ruled 1593–1596), Ioan Sârcu (Ivan Sirko; ruled 1659–1660), Dănilă Apostol (Danylo Apostol; ruled 1727–1734), Alexander Potcoavă, Constantin Potcoavă, Petre Lungu, Petre Cazacu, Tihon Baibuza, Samoilă Chişcă, Ion Sârcu, Opară, Trofim Voloşanin ("Românul"), Ion Şărpilă, Timotei Sgură, Dumitru Hunu.

High ranking Cossacks: Polkovnyks Toader Lobădă and Dumitraşcu Raicea (in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyy), Martin Puşcariu (in Poltava), Burlă (in Gdansk), Pavel Apostol (in Mirgorod), Eremie Gânju and Dimitrie Băncescu (in Uman), Varlam Buhăţel, Grigore Gămălie (in Lubensk), Grigore Cristofor, Ion Ursu, Petru Apostol (in Lubensk).

Historically, the Orthodox Churches from today's Transdneister and Ukraine were subordinated at first to the Romanian Orthodox Church, from the Mitropolity of Proilava (modern Brăila, Romania). Later, it belonged to the Bishopric of Huşi. After the Russian annexation of 1792, the Bishopsies of Ochakiv belonged to Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk). From 1837, it belonged to the Eparchys of Kherson with its seat at Odessa and Taurida with its seat at Simferopol.

Early Modern Times

The end of the 18th century marked Imperial Russia's colonization of the region, as a result of which large migrations into the region were encouraged, including people of Ukrainian, Russian, and German ethnicity. The process of Russification and colonization of this territory started to be carried out by representatives of other ethnic groups of the Russian Empire.

Modern Times

Another historical event which contributed to the future implementation of the anti-Romanian feelings constituted Romania’s behaviour in the World War II, when the Romanian regime allied itself with the Nazi Germany.

The Soviet Union

In Ukraine, the Soviet government continued this policy of assimilation of the native Romanian population.Fact|date=November 2007 Elite elements of the Romanian population were then deported to Siberia, much like their Bukovinian and Bessarabian counterparts. Russian and Ukrainian Fact|date=February 2007 settlers were recruited to fill the vacant areas caused by the deportation of Romanians. Romanians who continued to identify themselves as "Romanians" and not "Moldovans" were severely punished by the Communist regime.Fact|date=November 2007

The population of the former Moldavian ASSR, as a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Ukrainian SSR), had also suffered the Holodomor, the famine of the 1930s that caused several millions deaths in Ukraine.

Autonomous Moldavian Republic in Soviet Ukraine

At the end of World War I in 1918, the Directory of Ukraine proclaimed the sovereignty of the Ukrainian People's Republic over the left bank of the Dneister. At that time, the population was 48% Ukrainian, 30% Romanian/Moldavian, 9% Russian, and 8.5% Jewish.Fact|date=November 2007 After the Russian Civil War ended, in 1922, the Ukrainian SSR was created.

The geopolitical concept of an autonomous Transnistrian region was born in 1924, when Bessarabian-Russian military leader Grigore Kotovski founded, under the auspices of Moscow, the Moldavian Autonomous Oblast, which on 12 October 1924 became the Moldavian ASSR of the Ukrainian SSR.

The intention of Soviet policy was to promote Communism in recently-lost Bessarabia and surroundings, and eventually to regain the former province from Romania. (Soviet authorities declared the "temporarily occupied city of Kishinev" as "de jure" capital of the ASSR.) The "Moldavian ethnicity theory" was also born there in the 1930s, including the Moldovan language created through the cyrillization of the Romanian language spoken by approximately one third of the autonomous republic's population.Fact|date=November 2007

The ASSR had a mixed Ukrainian (46%) and Romanian (32%) population which was estimated to be 545,500.Fact|date=November 2007 The area was 8,100 km² and included 11 "raions" by the left bank of Dniester.

Moldavian SSR

In 1940, under duress from a Soviet ultimatum issued to the Romanian ambassador in Moscow and under pressure from Italy and Germany, Romania ceded Bessarabia to the USSR. As many as 90,000 died as the Red Army entered and occupied the territory on June 28. The official Soviet press declared that the "peaceful policy of the USSR" had "liquidated the [Bessarabian] Soviet-Romanian conflict". The Moldavian SSR was created from Bessarabia and the western part of the Moldavian ASSR. Bessarabian territory along the Black Sea and Danube, where Romanians were in the minority, was merged into the Ukrainian SSR to insure its control by a stable Soviet republic. [Charles King, "The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the politics of culture", Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2000. ISBN 0-8179-9792-X.]

Transnistria (WWII)

Having allied with Nazi Germany, after recapturing territories taken by the Soviets under the ultimatum which led to the creation of the MSSR, Antonescu failed to heed the counsel of his advisors and continued beyond Romania's pre-war boundaries, also beyond historical boundaries of Romanian and Moldavian sovereignty, invading Ukraine beyond the Dniester and occupying the territory extending to the Bug. The Soviets eventually expelled the Romanians, including permanently reoccupying the territories originally ceded under duress by Romania.


In line with common practice, Ukrainian, the language of the historical ethnic/linguistic majority, is constitutionally the sole state language, and the state system of higher education has been switched to Ukrainian. [INCONSISTENT LANGUAGE POLICY CREATES PROBLEMS IN UKRAINE, Oleg Varfolomeyev, EURASIA DAILY MONITOR, Volume 3, Issue 101 (May 24, 2006), available online at [http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=414&issue_id=3737&article_id=2371110] ]

In June 1997 Romania and Ukraine signed a bilateral treaty which included addressing territorial and minority issues. [ [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35722.htm] U.S. Department of State] By the terms of the agreement, Ukraine guaranteed the rights of Romanians in Ukraine and Romania guaranteed the rights of Ukrainians in Romania. There are schools teaching Romanian as a primary language, along with newspapers, TV, and radio broadcasting in Romanian.Dominique Arel, "Interpreting 'Nationality' and 'Language' in the 2001 Ukrainian Census," Post-Soviet Affairs, Vol. 18 No. 3, July-September 2002, pp. 213-249, available online in JRL #6535 at [http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/6535-8.cfm] ]

Language and demographics

According to the Soviet 1989 census, Romanian speakers accounted for just under one percent of Ukraine’s total population: 134,825 counted as Romanians, 324,525 as Moldovans, or 459,350 total, with the largest minority in Chernivtsi (approximately one fifth of the region's population).



* Ion Nistor. "The History of Romanians in Transnistria"
* Charles King. "The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture", Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2000. ISBN 0-8179-9792-X.

ee also

* Romanians of Serbia
* Vlachs of Serbia
* Aromanians
* Northern Maramuresh
* Bessarabia
* Northern Bukovina

External links

* [http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=414&issue_id=3737&article_id=2371110 "INCONSISTENT LANGUAGE POLICY CREATES PROBLEMS IN UKRAINE"] , Oleg Varfolomeyev, EURASIA DAILY MONITOR, Volume 3, Issue 101 (May 24, 2006)
* [http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/6535-8.cfm "Interpreting 'Nationality' and 'Language' in the 2001 Ukrainian Census,"] , Dominique Arel, Post-Soviet Affairs, Vol. 18 No. 3, July-September 2002, pp. 213-249, appearing in JRL #6535
* [http://lists.microlink.lv/pipermail/minelres/2004-November/003694.html "The Romanian Minority in Ukraine"] , Ionas Aurelian Rus, Center for Prevention of Conflicts and Early Warning, Policy Paper Nr. 704R, Bucharest, June 2004

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