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wingsofwrath's avatar

Happy Easter 2018

As usual, this is this year's greeting card for my reenactment group, Traditia Militara.

2018 marks the Centenary of the Union of Bessarabia with Romania, which happened on March 27 (according to the Julian calendar in use at that time, the modern date would be April 9th).

Bessarabia represents about half of the historical Princedom of Moldova (Moldavia) which had been annexed by the Russian Empire in 1812 following the Russo-Turkish war of 1806 which resulted in the 1812 Treaty of Bucharest (one of the many such treaties signed over the years) on the grounds that Moldavia was an Ottoman vassal state at the time, thus "legitimate bounty"- the locals of, course, were not consulted on wherever they approved of the change...

In 1856, following the Russian defeat in the Crimean War, the Congress of Paris gave the southern part of Bessarabia back to Romania, but the Russian Empire continued to exercise control of the north.

Fast forward to 1917 - following the October Revolution the Russian Empire is in tatters and parts of it are seceding left, right and centre. As Ukraine declares independence (the Kiev Uprising, November 1917), so does Bessarabia (from both Petrograd and Kiev), forming the Moldavian Democratic Republic on December 15th. A de facto government is formed under the name "Sfatul Țării" ("National Council"). Following Russia's withdrawal from the War, the Central Powers imposed armistice terms on Romania, in order to withdraw the troops to the Western Front in preparation for their planned spring offensive, "Operation Michael" (kicks off 21 March 1918). 
In this context, Sfatul Țării assembled on March 26th (April 8th) and voted the Union of Bessarabia with the Kingdom of Romania, with the condition of local autonomy and the continuation of Bessarabian legislative and executive bodies. The motion was passed with 86 votes in favour, 3 against and 36 abstentions (the latter mainly representatives for minorities, such as the Gagauz people or the Lipovans), so the Union was declared the following day and a celebratory feast was held in both Iași (at that time de facto capital of Romania, considering the fact most of Romanian territory, including Bucharest was under occupation by the Central Powers) and Chișinău (Capital of Bessarabia) on March the 30th.

I'll refrain for going too much into the latter history of Bessarabia (annexed by the Soviets in 1940, reclaimed by Romania in 1941, re-annexed by the Soviets in 1945, declared independence in 1991 and now an independent country while its southern part belongs to Ukraine) as well as the ongoing debate of wherever they should reunite with Romania, because it's beside the point - this is a historical drawing, not an allusion to current politics.

My drawing represents a Bessarabian soldier, still dressed in Russian uniform but with a tricolour armband in the colours of Romania and a Romanian soldier engaged in the Easter tradition of "egg tapping", cracking coloured eggs between two people with the ritualistic words "Hristos a înviat" (Christ has risen) spoken by the person doing the striking and the response "Adevărat a înviat" (He has truly risen) by the other person...

The scene takes place at Ungheni, on the old border between Bessarabia and Romania (and now on the border between Romania and the Republic of Moldova), and the church behind the two soldiers is "Sf. Ierarh Nicolae", built in 1882 by local boyar (aristocrat) and adventurer Constantin D. Moruzzi, of a well known phanariote Greek family who gave two 18th century princes of Wallachia and Moldova as well as prime ministers, diplomats, etc. Constantin died in 1886 and is buried in the church he built, while dis son, Dumitru C. Moruzzi was a diplomat and celebrated writer whose work was later forbidden by the communist authorities.

In terms of equipment and weaponry, the Bessarabian has a pretty standard Imperial Russian getup  including Mosin M.1891 rifle, while the Romanian belongs to a rear-line echelon and thus is armed with an Italian   M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali in 10.4×47mmR, a former single shot black powder rifle converted for smokeless magazine use. Needless to say, it is a thoroughly antiquated firearm, which is why it was only used by second line infantry, artillery, and other non-combatants.

The Romanian also has Italian Carcano cartridge pouches and represents a somewhat "idealised" image of the Romanian infantryman of the time,  because, comparing him to period photographs, he is utterly over-equipped. By 1918, Romania was in desperate straits and all kinds of stuff were lacking and the chances of a rear echelon infantryman having a full set of two double cartridge pouches were... remote. Most had to do with either only one cartridge pouch (and more often a single rather than a double one), or all kind of ersatz solutions.

Another thing to note is that both soldiers are still wearing their greatcoats, because all sources (meteorological data and photographs) agree that the spring of 1918 was especially wet and cold. In fact, the average temperature for April is given as 7°C (44°F), with the temperature recorded for April the 20th old style (Orthodox Easter that year was on April the 22nd old style, new style May the 5th) being only 4°C (39°F). Interestingly, by contrast, March had been pretty warm, with an average of 20°C (68°F).
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PavelKirilovich's avatar
This is pretty excellent: the style is not in keeping with period propaganda posters but the composition and design absolutely are, I think it's a great piece. If it became a large format poster and was put up on a wall at a Traditia Militara event, it'd look spectacular. Additionally, good job on the historical write up!
distractthemonster's avatar
Wow love the picture and it's background.