The Proclamation of Romania’s Independence (May 9, 1877) - History Key

The Proclamation of Romania’s Independence (May 9, 1877)

The War of Independence of Romania is the named used for the participation of the United Principalities in the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. This war gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and the attention of European states.

Russian crossing of the Danube 1877
Russian crossing of the Danube 1877 © Painting by Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgsky / Image Source: Wikipedia

Russia decided to attack the Ottoman Empire

In the spring of 1877 Russia urged Romania to sign a document which allowed the Russian troops to pass across Romania on their way to the Balkans. After many negotiations, in April 1877 the Convention was signed in Bucharest and regulated the transit of Russian troops. By this document, Russia has compelled to respect and maintain the integrity of Romania’s political rights of the state. The Convention was an important moment for Romania’s “stand-alone” affirmation.

On April 24, Russia declared war against the Ottoman Empire and the troops entered Romania. Until the arrival of the Tsarist forces on the Danube river, the line was defended by the Romanian army. The Ottomans attacked the Romanian towns of Calafat, Bechet, Islaz, Corabia and Giurgiu. This action led to a new state of war between Romania and the Ottoman Empire.

Capturing of the Grivitsa redoubt during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878
Capturing of the Grivitsa redoubt during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 © Image Source: Wikipedia

Proclamation of Independence in the Parliamet

Mihail Kogalniceanu
Mihail Kogalniceanu Portret © Image Source:

Meantime, the idea of independence started to spread among the Romanian politicians and population. This idea increased very fast because all Romanians wanted to break all the ties with the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, on May 9, 1877 Mihail Kogalniceanu responded in the name of the government with a memorable speech. He firmly stated that the country wanted to break any connection with the Turks. A motion was adopted by the Parliament which proclaimed the independence. At the same time, it was decided that the tribute due to the Turks should be redirected to the Romanian army.

The proclamation of state independence was the culmination of a well prepared policy in all its details. It was a new expression of the Romanian policy to put Europe in front of the accomplished fact. Enjoying a huge popular adherence, the proclamation was an expression of the entire Romanians which was enthusiastically welcomed.

Proclamation of the Independence in the Battlefield

In the European capitals the gesture of Romania was interpreted differently depending on the particular interests of the states. For instance, Russia accepted the independence as a fulfilled fact while the Ottomans accused Romania of “rebellion”. Italy showed sympathy given the fact that they struggled for national unity. Prussia, England and Austro-Hungary announced that they will pronounce at the end of the war.

The independence had to be consecrated in the battlefield and imposed on Europe’s recognition. Therefore, Romania tried to co-operate with Russia, but they rejected any help. Probably if Russian army could defeat the Ottomans, they didn’t want to share with others the victory. Also the Russians didn’t want to see Romania at the table of peace talks. However, the Russian army was surprised in the war and they requested help from Carol I, the king of Romania. Although there was no military convention between the states, Romania decided to grant Russia with military support.

Romanian troops returning to Bucharest after the war,1878
Romanian troops returning to Bucharest after the war,1878 © Franz Mandy/Image Source: Wikipedia

By participating in the war (1877-1878), Romania established its independence on the battlefield. The spirit of sacrifice, the courage and the heroism of Romanian soldiers was widely appreciated by the international public opinions.

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