The image is a representation of a painting by Octav Băncilă. On the left side of the painting there is a peasant running barefoot, with long hair (X type texture), dressed in a long, light, cloth (undulating line texture), with a protruding belt on his middle body. Right behind him, on the right side of the painting, two dead peasants are lying down in unnatural positions. The original painting has a lot more dead people, but here we have only two. Somewhere in the distance there is fog and smoke, as a manor house is burning, represented here in the picture in the upper side by a protruding non-rectangular shape, with four outgrowths as four flames.
The rule of King Carol I from 1866 to 1914, the longest in Romanian history, was beset by difficult moments. The gravest came in 1907, with the peasants’ revolt [Bibliography 1]. According to Keith Hitchins, the revolt started after a minor strife. On the 21st of February 1907 the inhabitants of the village Flămânzi in Botoșani County had a dispute with the manager of an estate belonging to a holding company named Fischer. The dispute was very peaceful in the beginning [Bibliography 2]. The peasants gradually radicalized. From March 13th they started occupying some estates [Bibliography 3]. The revolt becomes a social one, “We want land” being the primary demand of the rebels [Bibliography 4].
The Conservative Party, who was in government at that time, resigned. A new government is formed, on March 12th, the cabinet leader was Dimitrie Sturdza, the president of the National Liberal Party. Ion. I. C. Bratianu is appointed Minister of the Interior (Home Office) and the General Alexandru Averescu is nominated War Minister [Bibliography 5]. The purpose of the new government is to reestablish order, because Russia and Austria were threatening to send troops, in case the Romanian government proved to be unable to manage the situation [Bibliography 6].
Since March 16th the army and the peasants clashed. According to Lilly Marcou some 2.000 peasants entered the town of Botoșani and a bloody melee ensued. The revolt spreads to Moldavia in the next few days and then to Oltenia and Wallachia [Bibliography 7]. In the following days and weeks, the violence (between army and peasants) reaches a peak. On the orders of General Averescu the troops fire point blank into the insurgent peasants [Bibliography 8]. Contemporary testimonies speak about brief executions, about peasants shot on the spot in Olt County [Bibliography 9]. The large scale repression was heavily described as such by contemporary sources. An important journalist, Pamfil Seicaru said that the use of violence and repression was redundant, for the most part. Others said that the army displayed”unnecessary ferocity”. “General’s Averescu measures crushed the revolt in a matter of days, but the repression became an unnecessary ferocity. Eleven thousand peasants butchered without mercy. Of course <<the order>> was reestablished. From a political and national point of view the snuffing of the revolts is a vital necessity.” [Bibliography 10].
According to Keith Hitchins the “highest intensity” of the revolt occurred between March 25 and March 28 1907 in Oltenia, a region where “massive clashes between army and peasants took place”. The historian describes the army’s activity as a “robust campaign of repression”, and, under the guise of reestablishing order, “the army, under the leadership of General Averescu, used the most merciless methods, including shelling the villages, in order to regain control.” [Bibliography 11]. Some solidarity actions occurred during the revolt, workers in factories and even some reservists called to join the army refused to kill peasants [Bibliography 12]. Workers in Bucharest put forward a motion to start some reforms: “the takeover of all agricultural land held without real property papers, abolish the institution of intermediary lessor, revising the law of agricultural contracts and the banning the labor contracts with payment in products (not money).” [Bibliography 13].
Only after the revolt was fully crushed the politicians from both parties understood the full dimensions of the deep problems the peasants were facing. The Liberal Party assumed (little by little) the task of making a true land reform, which will be done by King Ferdinand I after the conclusion of World War I [Bibliography 14].
- Ioan Scurtu, Ioan Scurtu, Istoria Românilor în timpul celor patru regi. Regele Carol I, vol. I, București, Editura Enciclopedică, 2010I, p. 199
2-3. Keith Hitchins, Keith Hitchins, România. 1866-1947, IV edition, București, Humanitas, 2013, p. 183.
- Lilly Marcou, Carol al II-lea al României. Regele trădat, București, Corint, 2015, p. 72.
- Ioan Scurtu, Portrete Politice, Chișinău, Editura Prut Internațional, 2006, p. 102.
- Pamfil Șeicaru, Scrieri din exil. Portrete politice, București, Editura Saeculum I.O., 2002, p. 54.
- Keith Hitchins, op. cit., p. 183.
- Lilly Marcou, op. cit., p. 73.
- Alexandru Marghiloman, Note politice, București, Editura Scripta, vol. I, 1993, p. 73.
- N. Iorga et alli, Regii României. Carol I, Ferdinand, Carol al II-lea, Mihai I. O istorie adevărată, București, Tex Express, 1998, p. 25.
11-12. Keith Hitchins, op. cit., p. 184.
- Lilly Marcou, op. cit., p. 72.
- Keith Hitchins, op. cit., passim.