by John Oliver La Gorce
National Geographic, Vol. XXX, No. 3, September, 1916

FEW States in history have been called to such momentous decisions as Roumania faced when it plunged boldly into the Niagara of blood and carnage that has rolled down over Europe for these two long years.

But both hope and fear beckoned the Roumanians—the hope of a greater Roumania and the fear of a strangled homeland.

The brave people of this little kingdom—for it is less than one-fifth as big as Texas—have many proverbs. "The water passeth and the stones remain," they say, referring to their own persistence as a people in spite of the floods of humanity that have swept over their territory. And again, "Water draws to its current and the Roumanian to his race," a statement to illustrate the cohesiveness and national spirit of. the people.


In the whirlpool of racial rivalries of southeastern Europe—where Roman and Goth, Hun and Slav, Magyar and Mongol, with all of their descendant peoples, have run over one another and been run over in their turn—fate left the Roumanians in the majority in a territory of more than 90,000 square miles. It scattered more than 12,000,000 of them over these lands—more than 7,000,000 in Ronmania itself and some 5,000,000 elsewhere (see "Map of Europe," 28x30 inches, in four colors, published in the July, 1915, number of the Geographic Magazine).

In Bessarabia, a province of 17,000 square miles and 2,600,000 population, belonging to Russia, two-thirds of the people are Roumanian; in Transylvania, the eastern part of Hungary, a land of 21,000 square miles and having a population of 2,500,000, 60 per cent, Roumania claims, are Roumanians; in Bukowina, an Austrian crownland of 4,000 square miles and 1,000,000 population, more than half are said to be Roumanians (see also pages 201 and 202).

And so 12,000,000 people yearn for a "restored" Roumania—all ethnographic Roumania under the flag of political Roumania. If their country remained neutral, they reasoned, there would be no chance of such a happy result. They might, they felt, get something out of Russia if the Central Powers won with Roumania on their side; but Transylvania and Bukowina would still be beyond their grasp.

On the other hand, they believed Russia would give them Bessarabia as a prize for participation on her side, and the Allies Bukowina and Transylvania on condition of an allied victory.


The Wallachian peasant who has not adopted the homely clothes that come from the ready-to-wear factories of western Europe is a picturesquely dressed man. His costume is white. The trousers are something like twice the length of the leg and are made to rit with numerous wrinkles; his shirt is made to hang tunic-like over his trousers and is gathered at the waist with a red belt; his coat is a sort of military cape, usually of brown woolens or of tanned sheepskin. Photograph by Erdelyi


But if hope of a "reunited" Roumania appealed greatly to the Roumanian, the fear of strangulation, if not extinction, turned the scales positively to the cause of the Allies.

To show what this fear was and how it impressed the people of Roumania, I can do no better than to quote from a booklet issued from the Oxford University Press, whose author is D. Mitrany, a Roumanian advocating intervention. He says:

"But if the Allies win, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy will no doubt be dismembered, and Roumania will find herself in the not very enviable position of being tenderly squashed between the palm of the Slav and the fingers of the Magyar.

"But, further than this, one of the chief aims of Russian policy has always been the possession of the Dardanelles. Russia never was as near to its realization as she is now, when the Turkish Empire is a thing of the past and when she has England as an ally—England, who has always barred her way to the Golden Horn.

"Russia in Constantinople, however, means the strangulation of Roumania. Bulgaria has an outlet on the Ægean, Serbia will no doubt have one to the Adriatic, but Roumania depends entirely upon the Dardanelles. Her splendid position at the mouth of the Danube, her possessions on the Black Sea, will be of little worth with the mighty Empire of the Tsar dominating the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmora, and the Straits. Not only is the cheap waterway an absolute necessity for the bulky products—corn, petroleum, and timber—which form the chief exports of Roumania, but these also form the chief exports of Russia, who, by the stroke of the pen, may rule Roumania completely out of competition."



There are a million small farmers in Roumania and only a few thousand large ones; but the few big landowners have more land than the many small ones. The average size of the million small farms is 8 acres, while that of the 4,471 large ones is 2,200 acres. With so many small farms, naturally a prolific farming population has little money to buy machinery and must be content with the ways and methods of past generations.


Let us turn from her choice and the trials its making involved and go about among the people, in the hope that we may learn something of their ways, their viewpoint, their relationships, their history.

Roumania proper is a country of 53,000 square miles, with a population, as stated before, of less than 8,000,000. It is thus slightly larger than Pennsylvania, although it has half a million fewer people than the Keystone State.

The country today is governed by a king, who is a constitutional monarch, and a parliament made up of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. The Senate has 120 members, who are elected for eight years. No man with an income of less than $1,880 a year can be a senator. The Chamber of Deputies has a membership of 183, and the term of a deputy is four years. The masses can vote for deputies indirectly, but not even indirectly for senators. It takes fifty manhood-suffrage votes to offset one property-owner's or educated-man's vote. The men who get their right to vote on the basis of manhood suffrage and not on the basis of wealth or education simply vote for a man to cast their vote for deputy, and it takes fifty of them to have one vote cast in their behalf.

The electorate is divided into three classes, the value of their respective votes being dependent on the status of the individuals entitled to vote in the several classes. The manhood-suffrage contingent above referred to constitutes the third class. Railroad passes are given by law to all government officials, including both senators and deputies.


Military service is compulsory, and usually every boy has to spend two or three years with the colors upon reaching his majority, after which he goes into the occasionally maneuvered reserve. During times of peace the ranks were filled in many localities by drawing lots, for army discipline was trying to them after the free and easy life of the peasant home, and the young men seldom liked to serve.

In normal times the receipts and expenditures of the government amounted to approximately $120,000,000, or one-eighth as much as our own. The king receives half a million dollars a year, and the heir to the throne $60,000.


In the old days of the United States, before the advent of the mower and the reaper, the mountain folk came down into the valleys in the planting and reaping seasons. The Wallachians, to this day, in times of peace go into Hungary by the tens of thousands to help with the sowing and reaping. Photograph by Erdelyi


One may get a good idea of the relative standing of Roumania and her Balkan neighbors from a few statistical comparisons. She has a population of 141 per square mile, as compared with Serbia's 137, Greece's 94, and Bulgaria's 108. Her imports amount to $15 per capita, as compared to Serbia's $7.50, Greece's $7.80, and Bulgaria's $8.75. Her exports per capita amount to $18.42, as compared with $7.63 in the case of Serbia, $7.21 in the case of Greece, and $7.87 in the case of Bulgaria. She also spends approximately one and a half times as much per capita for governmental purposes as Greece, Serbia, or Bulgaria in normal times.

Industrially the country is almost entirely given over to agriculture, and, area for area, it produces more cereals than any other great grain-producing nation in the world. Its farm lands are about equally divided between the small farmer and the rich land-owner. There are about a million farms with an average size of eight acres, and then there are 4,471 estates with an average size of 2,200 acres.

The result is that one finds the strangest contrasts in farming methods. Here is a big estate, where every sort of farm machinery that the United States has to offer is to be found—the binder, the mower, the steam gang plow, the riding cultivator, the manure spreader, and even the steam header and thresher. And then hard by are a hundred small farmers who still harvest their grain with the sickle, thresh it with the flail, or tread it out with oxen and winnow it with the home-made fork. They mow their grass with the scythe, rake it with the hand rake, and haul it in with ox-carts.

But even with the very primitive methods that characterize half of the farming of the country, they manage to coax a rather bountiful crop out of the soil. They produced 89,000,000' bushels of wheat last year, an average of nearly twenty bushels to the acre—a yield almost a third greater than our own. Their corn crop amounted to 110,000,000 bushels, or nearly twenty-two to the acre. They also had a 29,000,000-bushel crop of barley and an oat crop of similar proportions.

The year before, 1914, they experienced the throes of a crop failure, the wheat yield being cut in half and other cereal crops being sadly below normal.

In normal years they have a big surplus, with about 40,000,000 bushels of corn, 50,000,000 bushels of wheat, and 11,000,000 bushels of barley to throw into the world's markets. Heretofore, since the outbreak of the war, the Central Empires had been able to buy the bulk of this surplus, and the blow of Roumania's participation in the war will probably be as heavy from an economic as from a military standpoint.


This picturesque old town, Medgyes, has walls and bastions and churches that are survivals of the days of medieval Europe. It lies in Transylvania, that part of Hungary which the irredentists want to bring under the Roumanian flag. Photograph by Erdelyi


The great bulk of Roumania's population belongs to the peasant class, for there are comparatively few cities and most of them are small. Many of these peasants live on the great estates, where their forebears for generations have farmed for the absentee landlords.

An interesting class these peasants form, with their peculiar customs, their striking superstitions, their primitive ways of looking at things in general.

The evil of race suicide has never invaded rural Roumania. It is regarded as worthy of honor to be the head of a numerous family. As in all lands where many of the people are more or less illiterate, there is a high death rate, though the fact that the bottle-fed baby is almost unknown in peasant Roumania tends to overcome the high infant mortality that would otherwise result.

That they are a fecund folk is revealed by the fact that, although their death rate is high, they still have an annual excess of 118,000 births over deaths. Apply that same ratio of increase to the American people, and without a single immigrant we would grow at the rate of more than a million and a half a year—fifteen million or more between census years. Yet, even with our enormous immigration, between 1904 and 1913, inclusive, we grew only a little more than 14,000,000.

The average Roumanian peasant is not given to the kind of thrift that leads him often to a savings bank. The patrimony of his sons and daughters is more often good will, good health, and an honest mind than it is land, or money, or houses. So narrow is the margin upon which a young couple starts out in life that it has come to be a proverb among them, "Married today and out at the elbows tomorrow." For children come apace, and the prices of the things the peasant has to sell are even lower than the prices of those he has to buy, and not until his own labors are supplemented by those of sons and daughters has he much chance to prepare for even the shortest of rainy days.

When a young Roumanian peasant lad's thoughts turn to love and his mind begins to incline toward marriage, he goes to his mother rather than to his sweetheart with his tale. He tells her all about it, but rarely thinks of confiding the happy secret to his father; for Roumanian peasant fathers have faced the stern realities of life so long that they are apt to forget that they were once boys, and therefore have little sympathy with love-lorn tales.


But the mother acts as ambassador to the father, and if he can be induced to look with favor upon the lover's choice, he calls in two of his best friends in the village, tells them of the son's dreams, and asks them to accompany the said son to the house of the object of love's young dream. Mayhap the girl herself has not yet received from the youth a single hint of his love ; but even so, as he and his spokesmen approach the house she suspects the object of his visit and peeps through any crack or cranny that is convenient.

If it happens to be winter, the father of the girl invites the company in, and, surmising their mission, gives some hint as to his attitude by the way he looks after the fire. If he keeps it burning brightly, they know he is favorable. If he lets it die down a little, they understand he is only of an open mind on the subject. But if he lets it go out entirely, there is no use arguing the question.

It usually happens that the father of the girl is of an open mind, and the boy's spokesmen tell what a fine, husky young fellow he is, what a good brother he is to his sisters, what a good son to his mother, what his patrimony is, how industrious he is, etc.


The Roumanian peasants have a saying that they must dance on Sunday to keep the creak out of their bones on Monday. Most of the dances are at the public houses—dance halls under the blue sky, as it were—and young and old gather there. The old folk spend the day with the tipple, while the young ones dance. There is very little drinking on any other day of the week, and a tipsy man except on Sunday is seldom seen.

The national dance is a sort of cross between a jig and the game of ring-around-the-rosie. All the dancers clasp hands and form a ring. They then begin a stepping, swaying motion that never moves them out of their original tracks, and to the music of the Tzigana band they keep it up for hours.

The dances are organized by the boys of the community. They arrange for the music, provide the refreshments, and preside as masters of ceremonies. When the girls reach a marriageable age and have been sufficiently instructed in the household arts, they are allowed to attend these dances as participants. "She dances at the dance" is the peasant way of saying that a girl has made her debut and is eligible for matrimonial attentions.

"Many hands make light work" is another proverb of the Roumanian peasant, often put into practice. Almost every night there is a neighborhood gathering like the old-fashioned apple-cutting or apple-butter boiling in early American rural history. The houses have their turns at these parties, and there is always a kettle of cornmeal mush and baked pumpkin and potatoes and popcorn ready for the occasion. All hands join in the evening program of combing, carding, and spinning the household supply of wool or flax, the while neighborhood gossip passes current among the elders and occasional words of love or childish jest among the more youthful members of the party.

One-third of the area of the country toward the north and west is inhabited by semi-civilized shepherds. Up in the Carpathians in summer and down in the sheltered valleys in winter they lead their flocks, sleeping in the open with them and despising any other shelter than that which primitive nature and the starry sky afford. They seldom speak; indeed, their solitary lives leave them little opportunity for conversation. They wear their hair and beards long, and have coarse, white woollen shirts and long mantles of wool-covered sheepskin.


The Roumanian peasant is much given to superstition, and he has a sign for everything. If shingles are not nailed on a roof in the proper sign, they will turn up at the ends; if potatoes are not planted in the proper sign, they will grow on top of the soil and be a failure; if you have money in your pocket when you see the new moon, you will not "go broke," at least not until another new moon comes. On the other hand, it is held to be dangerous to announce to those in the house that the new moon has appeared, for in that case all the pots and pans in the kitchen will be broken before the waning moon passes.

When a peasant child is christened, all of those present assume the relation of god-parents, and it is a superstition that there must be no intermarriages between god-fathers and god-mothers. The result is that christenings are not widely attended, and those with matrimonial ambitions eschew them entirely.

The utmost care is taken by some to prevent a child from seeing its image in a mirror before it is three years old, for if it does it will become a victim of the "falling sickness," which will send it stumbling through life.

The girls of Roumanian country districts take great pride in a clear, healthy complexion. And just as the girls in our own rural districts a generation ago would get up before breakfast and steal down unobserved on the first day of May to wash their freckles away in the dew of the morning, so the girls of Roumania take red and white threads, twist them into cords, from which they suspend coins around their necks. These talismans they wear from the dead of winter to the moment they see the first blossom of spring, feeling sure that thereby they will guarantee themselves a milk-white complexion, rosy cheeks, and ruby lips.


These are Roumanians whose ancestors crossed the Transylvanian Alps out of Wallachia and into Transylvania. The longing of Roumania to unite under her flag all her people—Wallach and Moldave alike—whether they dwell north of the eastern Alps or east of the Pruth, was one of the influences that led her to enter the raging torrent of war that has all but engulfed the continent of Europe. Photograph by Erdelyi


The peasant woman usually grows some silk. She buys the silk-worm eggs and uses the spare bed, if there be one in the house, as a hatchery. She feeds the worms on mulberry leaves, and, if the ants do not invade the place and destroy the worms, she soon has enough fiber for a veil or a waist. She spins and weaves it herself. Photograph by Erdelyi


But if there is primitive simplicity in Roumanian peasant life, there is ultra formality in the polite circles of Bucharest, the national capital. "The Paris of the East" its inhabitants proudly call their city, and in the character of its architecture, the ways of its people, the prices in force at its hotels, it justly deserves the title it has vauntingly assumed.

This near-eastern metropolis is about equal in size to our own National Capital, and yet it has twenty times as many restaurants and cafes, ten times as many street lights, and twice as many theaters. It is regarded as the most expensive place in the world for the well-to-do and the cheapest for the poor. Prices at the Hotel du Boulevard are higher than in New York or London, and travelers who have visited Monte Carlo's leading hotels and then journeyed to Bucharest have found its rates from 15 per cent to 25 per cent higher than those obtaining in the hostelries of Monaco.

But if their prices are high, their service and their food leave nothing to be desired. The cuisine of the leading hotels and private homes is French, and money is no consideration—quality is paramount. Some of the finest restaurants east of Paris are in Bucharest, and the night life, with its passionate, pulsating gypsy music, its sparkling wine, its beautiful women, its scintillating jewels, its handsome men, is as gay and alluring as anything the world has to offer.

As to clothes, everybody who pretends to dress at all dresses in the mode of Paris, and the gowns of the elite are as up-to-the-minute as those to be seen on the Champs Elysees.

Gambling flourishes openly, and high stakes are the rule rather than the exception. Many of the players own farms as big as an American county, and their incomes are proportionately large.


The source of the wealth of Bucharest is the big country estates and the cheap labor. The rich "boyar." has a whole army of retainers, who receive little more for their toil than did the slave in our own country before the Civil War—their "victuals and keep." The result is an immense income, which finds its first expression in a very fine residence in Bucharest, and later in the maintenance of an ultra-expensive establishment. It is said that the Roumanian Government has the finest home for its foreign ministry to be found in all Europe. It was built by one of these "boyars," or landed proprietors, who had the misfortune to die soon after his palatial home was completed. The government thereupon acquired it.

Nobody but the proletariat thinks of walking in that picturesque capital. Nearly all of the "cabbies" own their own teams of long-maned, flowing-tailed Russian horses. They are Russian exiles of the Skopti sect, who have a religious belief that no family should have more than one male child and who resort to a religio-surgical ceremony to insure this condition.

They wear great blue-black velvet coats, the skirts of which reach to the ground. Their waists are bound about with multihued sashes, the flowing ends of which drop back over the seat, and one can guide his driver by pulling one end or the other of this sash when language difficulties stand in the way.

If the presence of the landed aristocracy in Bucharest reminds one of Buenos Aires, the driving customs bring to mind those of Mexico City. Every evening all polite Bucharest turns out in its smartest equipages and drives up and down the beautiful parkway known as the "Chaussee." Along this superb drive the endless-chain procession moves in double file, with the center of the boulevard reserved for the royal turnouts. There is no physical line of demarcation between this "king's highway" and the other part of the boulevard, but courtesy toward the royal family draws and respects an imaginary one.


Banffy Hunyad lies in Transylvania, but its population is not Roumanian. It is the center of a rich district, "Kalotaszeg," which is a small island of Hungarian civilization in the sea of Wallachian Transylvania. The women are noted for their beauty and the men for their stalwart build. The tight-fitting jackets of the women are a mass of harmonious colors, and their raven-black hair is bound in ribbons. Photograph by Erdelyi


But Roumania was not always thus. Forty years ago it was, both as to country and as to capital, one of the most backward nations of Europe; and then it called Prince Charles of Prussia to its throne. Although he had to travel to Bucharest incognito in order to escape the secret service of Austria, which was determined to keep him out, he immediately set to work to bring the country up to a higher standard, and the story of his reign, which closed with his death soon after the European war began, is largely the same sort of story of development as that of Germany during the reign of his Hohenzollern kinsman. King Carol, as he was called, had for his queen Elizabeth, a German princess, better known by her pen name of Carmen Sylva. She, too, was spared the sorrows of Roumania's hour of decision, having died a few months ago. They had one child, but it died in infancy, and Carmen Sylva turned her interest to the poor of the country and to letters and music. It is said that she was perhaps the most talented queen of her generation. She could converse in six languages; she wrote some thirty books; she composed an opera that was staged and praised on the continent, and her symphonies and songs have won a place in the world of music. Likewise she was no mean wielder of the brush, and was an expert needlewoman. Her pride was her work for the blind, for whom she founded an institution in Bucharest.

The present king is a nephew of King Carol. His wife is a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and therefore a first cousin of most of the reigning heads of Europe.

Under the new era initiated and carried down to the present by the Hohenzollern dynasty, Roumania has gone far ahead of her neighbors of the Balkan region, and the visitor to Bucharest early finds that its people resent the idea of being classed with the Balkan States. They feel that they are the superiors of the Serbs, the Bulgars, the Montenegrins, and the modern Greeks, and that their country is superior, just as the people of A, B, C South America feel that their nations are not to be confounded with the remainder of Latin America.


Let us now turn to Roumanian history and note some of the outstanding events that have been the crossroads on her highway from the past to the present. The early inhabitants were Dacians. Pliny and Herodotus agree that they were the bravest and most honorable of all the barbarian tribes that Rome encountered in her days of expansion. Thucydides praises them as wonderful fighters on horseback.

The Trajan Column in Rome bears the author's story of the great emperor's conquest of this territory. Across the Danube are the ruined piers which once supported a bridge built by Trajan, and some sections of the great military road he constructed still are in use as a part of the national highway system.

Also there are many customs which still proclaim the ancient rule and influence of Rome that have persisted through the centuries since the departure of her glory. For instance, there is the old Phyrric dance, the robes with bells on sleeves and girdles. The Roumanians still shout in unison to prevent Saturn from hearing the voice of the infant Jupiter; and even their oxen proclaim the "glory that was Rome" in their names, for here you may see Caesar and Brutus as yoke-fellows, and there Cassius and Augustus.

But when Rome withdrew, what is now Roumania became the Belgium of a series of racial struggles between the East and the West, first this horde and then that overrunning the fertile valleys. Invasion became the normal condition of Roumanian territory, and the sturdy descendants of the early Romans and Romanized Dacians learned how to survive even such conditions. When the waves of invasion swept over their valleys they simply retired to the mountains and waited for them to recede; nor did they wait in vain. The water of invading humanity in very deed did pass, and the stones of persisting Roumanian life did remain; and, although for many a weary generation their problem was to save themselves from extinction, they survived.

Today Roumanians are proudest of their Latin descent; so proud, in deed, that although their religion is Greek, and although there are more than 6,000 centers of Eastern influence, in the shape of Orthodox churches with Orthodox priests, they are drawn toward ancient Rome and not toward historic Greece.


There is perhaps no music in the world more passionately weird, touching deeper chords of pathos, or reaching higher pitches of joy than that of the Tsigany folk of southeastern Europe. It has made them famous wherever the lovers of the weird and the exhilarating foregather. International Press Photo Company


The Roumanian peasant woman has a keen appreciation of the color values and combinations. She embroiders her dresses with thread she has grown from the seed—so to speak—for she plants the flax, gathers the fiber, and carries it through all its processes, from breaking and cording to spinning. Photograph by Frederick Moore


For a thousand years the country was the shuttlecock in the game of political battledore and shuttlecock staged by the rival sovereigns of Europe—Russia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Turkey, etc. Once Peter the Great established a protectorate over the Roumanians. Then came Catherine the Great with a plan to annex them to Russia. Austria, afraid that such a course meant Russian territorial expansion in a direction that threatened her, objected so vehemently that Catherine reconsidered, and Moldavia and Wallachia were placed, in 1774, under the suzerainty of Turkey.

In 1861 the two principalities decided to unite under the name of Roumania, in accordance with an agreement reached by the Powers, following the Crimean War. Their autonomy guaranteed, the Roumanians selected an army officer, Col. Alexander Cuza, as their prince, who thereupon came into power under the title of Alexander John I, Prince of Roumania.

In 1866 the ruling element in Bucharest decided that they wanted a change, so they politely invaded the prince's bedroom one night, gave him a certificate of abdication to sign, and announced that there was a carriage waiting which would convey him to the station, where he was to take the night express to Paris. He obeyed and disappeared forever from public gaze.

Thereafter a provisional government elected the Count of Flanders, brother to the late King Leopold of Belgium. But Austria and other powers protested so vigorously that the act was reconsidered and Prince Charles called, as previously stated.


When Carol assumed the throne, it became one of his principal aims to free his country from the suzerainty of Turkey. When the conflict between Russia and Turkey was impending in 1875, he first attempted to have the Powers guarantee the neutrality of Roumania during the war; but they were too busy with their own affairs and his efforts failed.

Then Roumania decided to enter an agreement with Russia. This agreement, which is illuminating, in the light of present-day history, granted free passage of Russian troops over Roumanian soil, Russia undertaking to respect the political rights and to defend the integrity of Roumania.

One of the first acts of Roumania after hostilities began was to declare her independence of Turkey. As the war proceeded, Russia found herself in sore need of help. Repeated appeals finally brought Roumanian participation, and Prince Carol was given the supreme command of the allied forces before Plevna, where he gained a great but costly victory.

When the war ended and Turkey and Russia entered into the Treaty of San Stefano, it did recognize Roumanian independence, although Roumania was not admitted to the peace conference. But it also provided that Roumania should get the swampy country between the Danube, where it flows north, and the Black Sea. On the other hand, Russia was to have Bessarabia, territory which Roumania claimed and a part of which she had occupied.

Roumania stood firm against the idea of giving up the beautiful Bessarabia in exchange for the unattractive Dobrudja. Russia thereupon threatened to disarm the Roumanian army, to which Prince Carol responded that Russia might destroy his army, but that it could not be disarmed.

The Congress of Berlin, which overturned the Russo-Turkish treaty of San Stefano, did not interfere with Russia's determination to force Roumania to accept Dobrudja in exchange for Bessarabia, and Roumania came out with less than she had when she went in. All she could do was to console herself with Lord Beaconsfield's remark to her, that "in politics the best services are often rewarded with ingratitude."

In 1881 the Roumanians decided that they were entitled to the rank of a full-fledged kingdom, and proclaimed their country the Kingdom of Roumania, crowning their sovereign king with a crown of steel made from cannon captured by their ruler himself in the bloody battle of Plevna.

Although any one who comes to study Roumania, her people, and their brave history will be almost certain to sympathize with the wrongs she has endured in years gone by, at the same time he will not escape the feeling that she, too, has contributed something to the injustices of history. Always bitterly resentful of ill-treatment toward any of her race by other countries, she has forgotten to show that charity toward others under her power that she asks for her people from other nations. Her treatment of the Jew has been almost as harsh as that patient race has experienced at the hand of any oppressor.


The day of "tap water" in every house in Roumanian cities is still a long time in the future, and such water-carriers as these are a common sight. Photograph by E. M. Newman


It is hard to conceive in our own great land of liberty and equality how any nation could make such proscriptions against a race as Roumania has made against the Jew. No one is allowed to employ a Jew who does not also employ two Roumanians, and that means non-employment for the sons of Israel. Jews are not allowed to be bankers, druggists, tobacconists; they have no standing in court, no right to employ counsel, no right to send their children to school except they pay for the privilege, which is free to all others. They cannot own farm land, are denied the right of holding government positions, and are prohibited from organizing or controlling stock companies or corporations. Furthermore, although some of them for forty generations have lived in Roumania, they are aliens still, under Roumanian law.


When the Powers assented to the creation of Roumania, one of the terms of the agreement was that all of her subjects should stand equal before the law. But later Roumania decided that she would consider the Jew an alien, and so the agreement was nullified, with no hand raised in an effective protest.

The persecution, however, is economic rather than religious, for the experience of all eastern Europe has been that the Jew, under a free competition, manages to prosper where others barely exist, and so the attempt is made to handicap him as an equalizing process. Yet in spite of all his tribulations, in spite of governmental processes which would seem to leave nothing to the Jew but to emigrate, he manages to keep the noose from strangling him and to survive the fierce struggle.

While Roumania thus makes the Jew an alien, she does not regard him so when she needs men for her army. Then he is Roumanian from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, although even in the army he cannot become an officer or escape the menial jobs that military operations always involve.

Having thus far considered the Roumania of today, let us now turn to the Roumanian lands of a possible tomorrow—Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bu-kowina (see also pages 185 and 186).

Transylvania has a geographical rather than a political existence. It is a part of Hungary, although it is almost as much separated from geographical Hungary as the great plateau west of the Rockies is separated from the Mississippi Valley. It is the great highland region which forms the western slope of the Transylvanian Alps and the southern slope of the southeastern Carpathians. "The mountains cradled and brought our race to the manhood of its existence," say the Roumanians, and this applies both to the gradual western slope of the eastern Alps as well as to the sharper eastern slope.

In this territory one may find every form of scenic beauty from the idyllic pastoral picture to the majestically rugged mountain and the frenzy-churned waters of torrential rivers. The region's popular customs, language, and costumes are preserved in all their primitive originality, amid sharply defined boundaries created by nature and a sternly cold climate born of the high Alps.


Those who travel through it look with bated breath upon the fabulous coloring of the bewitching pictures which water, rocks, forests, sheltered valleys, and white, glistening peaks, together with striking people, conspire to make. It is a veritable treasure-house of contrasting costumes: here those of the Wallachian, here those of the Moldavian, here those of the Saxon, here those of the Hungarian, and here all of them in a gay potpourri, with a sprinkling of Greek, Bulgar, and Serb, of Gypsy and of Slovak, thrown in. There are a million and a half Wallachians in Transylvania, 700,000 Hungarians, and 200,000 Saxons.

In the heart of Transylvania there is a district known as the Kalateszag, which has been strikingly described as a Hungarian island in the sea of Transylvanian Wallachia. Banffy-Hunyad is its center, and it is a place famed for its beautiful women. With their steely black hair, their rainbow-hued ribbons, their pearl fillets, and their tight-fitting, art-embroidered jackets, they present a picture that can never be forgotten.

There are many salt mines in Transylvania. The ones at Marosujvar produce a hundred million pounds of salt a year. In the one at Tordo there is a gallery known as the Joseph gallery, where one may hear his voice echoed and re-echoed sixteen times.

From the standpoint of material value, Bessarabia would be worth more to Roumania than Transylvania. It is one of the richest provinces of Russia, and, with the Pruth on the one side and the Dniester on the other, it is ideally watered, no place within its boundaries being more than forty miles from a navigable stream. With the exception of a few miles of its Bukowina boundary, it is entirely surrounded by water—the Dniester, the Pruth, the Danube, and the Black Sea. Kishinef, which is remembered with horror as the scene of the frightful Jewish massacre of a few years ago, is its capital.

The southeastern corner of Bessarabia lies only a dozen miles or so from the great Black Sea port of Odessa—the New York of southern Russia.


The climate is, on the whole, salubrious, and while the northern part is somewhat mountainous, through the presence of the outlying spurs of the southeastern Carpathians, the bulk of the territory lies in a rolling farming country that has produced marvelously, considering the poor farming methods practised, and is capable of great crop yields under modern conditions of cultivation. There is much of that rich black soil that has made Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas famous for their agriculture.

Bukowina is an Austrian crownland traversed by offshoots of the Carpathians, and famous for its horses and cattle. It has many fine forests, numerous rich mines, and its people have been thrifty and industrious. It has belonged to Austria for nearly a century and a half, having been ceded to that country by Turkey in 1777. It is populated by a veritable congress of races, with the Slav and the Roumanian well in the majority. Where once the effort was to Germanize the Roumanian, the encroachments of the Slav led Teuton and Roumanian to stand together against his powers of absorption.

Surrounded on every side by the Slavic Sea—the deep ocean of Russia, the bay of Serbia, and the gulf of Bulgaria—who can say whether in future centuries the attrition of the Slavic tide will wear away the Roumanian shore, or whether this present great war will fix political boundaries that will be as firm as the geographic boundaries themselves?

Remembering how she has been excluded from peace conferences in the past, how even her right to be heard in the Congress of Berlin was gainsaid, how she usually has lost in the field of diplomacy whatever she has won on the field of war, she probably has had an understanding this time that, in the event of an allied victory, will insure her the territorial expansion she craves and salvation from the strangulation she fears.

See also "Roumania, the Pivotal State," by James Howard Gore, October, 1915; "Roumania and Her Ambitions," by Frederick Moore, October, 1913; "The Changing Map in the Balkans," by Frederick Moore, February, 1913, in the National Geographic Magazine.