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Alecu Russo

Alecu Russo (1819-1859) Moldovan national leader born in 1819 in that portion of Moldova which had been annexed by Russia in 1812. At the age of ten, he was sent to study in French Switzerland, where he particularly focused on languages and literature. He also studied in Germany and Austria, where he was expelled in 1836 for contacts with radical circles and for writing poetry condemning tyranny and national suppression.

Returning to home in 1836, he travelled widely in Moldova, collecting folklore and popular poetry (including the classic national ballad Miorita). He became a close friend of the poet Vasile Alecsandri and a part of the political and cultural circle that gathered around Alecsandri and Costache Negri at Negri's estate. Russo was, thus, part of the Moldovan wing of the Romanian generation of 1848, a wing characterized by moderation in politics, less seduced by ideology, more clear-headed on matters of tactics than its tempestuous Muntenian counterpart. In 1846, he made his debut as a playwright which led to exile at Soveja Monastery as a disturber of the peace. Released because of poor health, he kept a very low profile until the revolutionary year of 1848.

A major figure in the Romanian 1848, Russo was forced to flee Moldova to Bucovina in April of 1848 when Prince Mihail Sturdza cracked down on the nascent troublemakers. After carrying out a diplomatic mission to Vienna for the Moldovan revolutionaries, he arrived in Transilvania in time to participate in a series of formative events. He was an observer of both the great Transylvanian assembly at Blaj on 3-5 May, and the Banat assembly at Lugoj on 15 June. He took an active role among Moldovan refugees in Brasov that produced a "Declaration of Principles for the Reform of the Country" in May, and in June he helped compose the "Proclamation of the National Party in Moldova." After consulting briefly in Bucovina with other Moldovan refugees, he set out for Paris but was arrested in Hungary in connection his opposition to Magyar plans to annex Transilvania and imprisoned in Cluj for several months.

Subsequently he went into exile to Paris, along with other Romanian 1848ers. Here, in 1850, first appeared the celebrated revolutionary poem Cintarea Romaniei, whose final form probably owes jointly to Russo and Nicolae Balcescu. He returned to Moldova, worked for the court system, practiced law privately, and published a number of short but enormously influential essays (including a rapsodic account of the Assembly at Blaj). In the later half of the 1850s, when the Romanian national cause arose out of the disorder and opportunity created by the Crimean War, he became active in unionist politics and held various government posts. Unwise entrepreneurial activities and ill-health sidelined him from political life after 1857. He died less than two weeks after the accomplishment of union in 1859.
Paul E. Michelson


V. Hanes, Alexandru Russo, o pagina ignorata din literatura romana, 2d ed Bucuresti, 1930.

Al. Dima, Alecu Russo Bucuresti, 1957.

Teodor Virgolici, Alecu Russo Bucuresti, 1964.

Al. Dima, et al., Alecu Russo: Studii si articole Bucuresti, 1970.

Paul E. Michelson, "Alecu Russo and Historical Consciousness in 19th Century Revolutionary Romania," in: Al. Zub, ed., Temps et changements dans l'espace roumain (Iasi, 1991), 139-149.

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