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History

The city of Bârlad, as an ancient area of Romanian culture, was considered as being one of the first settlements in Moldova. According to some information from the Russian chronicles, the town dates from the XIIth century, this point of view being agreed by some Romanian and foreign historians. After the weakening of the Golden Horde’s domination at the end of XIIIth century and in the first half of XIVth century, a settlement certainly developed along the valley of Bârlad river, as an important commercial and customs center, as evidenced by the archaeological excavations and especially the internal documents issued in the first decades of the XVth century, during the reign of Alexander the Good (June 28, 1401 – October 6, 1408) and the diplomatic documents (Treaty of Lubowla of 1412 and the list of delegates to the Ecumenical Council of Constance/Baden, due to Ulrich van Richental, in 1415). This city prospered under the reign of Alexander the Good, Stephen the Great and Petru Rareş and this fact led to the designation of Bârlad as a customs center (in 1408) and as the residence of the High Governorate of South Moldova (first half of the XVIth century), this status being maintained until the XVIIIth century.

Some of these governors became rulers, such as Ieremia Movilă, Vasile Lupu and Gheorghe Ghica or great writers such as Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin, and Nicolae Costin. Among the famous foreign travelers who have left valuable information about the demography, social structure, ecclesiastical spirituality and urban appearance of the medieval Bârlad, we can mention the bishop Bandini (1646), the deacon Paul of Aleppo (1652), Evilia Celebi (1657), Vito Pilutio Vignanelo and others. The members of Sturdza, Miclescu, Palade and Costachi families had large estates in the area of Bârlad and high state official positions. The population increased from 5,000 people early in the XIXth century to 25,218 people at the end of the same century.

The inhabitants of Bârlad have made a valuable contribution to the great political events materialized in the formation of the national state of Romania (1859), the gaining of full independence (1877) and the Great Union (1918). The modern era has had positive consequences for the city of Bârlad, too, regarding the economic, social, political and especially cultural and infrastructural aspects. In the XIXth century, two major political personalities born in Bârlad contributed to the formation and consolidation of the new Romanian state: Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1820-1873), the first ruler of the modern state of Romania and Manolache Costache Epureanu (1820-1880), former prime minister, minister, diplomat and organizer of the Conservative Party. A community of intellectuals was gradually developing and it contributed to the establishment of the first educational and cultural institutions, hospitals and military, political and juridical structures. The first educational institutions were established in that period of time: primary and secondary schools, as well as high schools such as: the High-School “Gh. Rosca Codreanu” resulted from the Latin Class Codreanu (1846), converted into Gymnasium (1858) and High School (1864); the Teacher-Training School (1870), founded by the initiative of the professors Ioan Popescu, Stefan Neagoe and others.

The health care system was organized after 1832 and the new building of the “Hospital Bârlad and Elena Beldiman” came into operation on April 26, 1881 thanks to a group of intellectuals from Bârlad led by the physician Constantin Codrescu; the first printing shops were established (“Unirea”, N. Catzafany’s Printing shop, Sigismund Munteanu’s Printing shop, the Commercial Printing shop etc.); there were newspapers such as ” The Sower” (1870-1876), “Bârlad”, “Paloda”, “Tutova’s Voice” etc. as well as magazines such as “George Lazăr ” (1887), at the initiative of the professor Solomon Haliţă, “The Pedagogical Tribune” and “Pedagogical Guidance”, “The Annals of Bârlad and Elena Beldiman Hospital” (1891-1911), “Paloda’s Almanac”, “The Literary Paloda” under the direction of the poet D. Nanu; “Prince Charming” (1904), the magazine of the five writers (George Tutoveanu, Dimitrie Nanu, Athanasie Mândru, Corneliu Moldovanu and Emil Gârleanu), “Ion Creangă” (1908), a magazine founded by the well-known folklorists Tudor Pamfile and Mihail Lupescu and supported by Ioan Antonovici and George Tutoveanu; “Miron Costin”, the first history magazine in the area (1913) etc.

 

The first scientific and cultural groups, societies and literary circles were founded, such as the literary, scientific and social society “The East”, founded by a group of students of the “Gh. Rosca Codreanu” high school, headed by Raicu Ionescu Rion and Garabet Ibrăileanu (1887); the scientific and literary society “Stroe Belloescu” connected to the Codreanu High School (1903); the cultural society “Academia Bârlădeană” (1915), founded by the poet George Tutoveanu, the folklorist Tudor Pamfile and the priest Toma Chiricuţă, which will mark the cultural life of Bârlad for over five decades. Subsidiaries of some societies activating at national level appeared also in Bârlad: “The society for the education of the Romanian people” (1867), “The Romanian Athenaeum” (1885), “The League for the cultural union of the Romanians” (1890); the first cultural institutions are founded: the Public Library (1906), as the initiative of some intellectuals headed by George Tutoveanu, which was housed in the new building raised by the great philanthropist and professor Stroe Belloescu, the National House (1909), the Museum (1914), which operated in the same building until 1948, the picture gallery etc.

The inter-war period represented a qualitative leap for the reunited Romania as regards the economic, social, political, urban, cultural and diplomatic aspects. The city of Bârlad took advantage of the new conditions created by the Great Union, by perfecting the previous evolution and opening up new possibilities for affirmation in the national context. The educational system (preschool, primary, secondary education) was developed in Bârlad; besides the older prestigious schools, such as the High School “Gh. Rosca Codreanu” and the Teacher-Training School “King Ferdinand”, new ones appear depending on the new economic priorities: vocational schools, industrial and commercial high schools for boys and girls, theoretical high school for girls etc.

The journalism in Bârlad gained a surplus of political maturity, the old political newspapers didn’t have been published anymore and new publications, with more diversified themes, but serving the national cause, the defence of democracy and freedom, were founded. Some political publications (“Tutova’s Tribune”, “Tutova’s Star”, “Moldova”, “The Sickle” etc.), pedagogical publications (“The Pedagogical Tribune”, “Pedagogical Notes”, “New Spirit”), historical publications (“Freeholders’ Documents”, 1932, edited by Virgil Caraivan), medical publications (“Medical Notes”, 1932-1937), literary publications (“White flowers”, 1919, “Our Language”, 1925-1927, “The Freeholder”, 1926, directed by Virgil Caraivan, “Our writing”, 1929-1931 and “Cultural enthusiasm”) gained more influence to the local community.

The activity of the “Academy of Bârlad” continued under the leadership of George Tutoveanu; also, the subsidiaries of the “Athenaeum” of Bârlad and the “Cultural League”, the scientific and literary society “Stroe Belloescu” and other newer cultural institutions continued to operate: the Tutova Students’ Association “Al. Vlahuţă”, the National Reading House Association, the “Mathematics Society” of Bârlad, the “Codreanu High School Alumni Association”; some cultural institutions, such as the National House “Stroe Belloescu” and the Museum have been revived; choir assemblies, instrumental, theater or dance teams, sports associations have been established. The establishment of the totalitarian communist regime for a period of almost five decades has had severe consequences on the evolution of the administrative and political life in this part of the country, too.

The dissolution of the Tutova county and the integration in several administrative structures imposed by the new authorities (Bârlad region, 1953-1956, Iaşi Region, 1956-1968, Vaslui county, from 1968 to the current date), with moments of balance and dysfunctions, as well, have influenced both the economic, political and social life and the spirituality of these places. There were also some elements of progress (the demographic growth up to over 77,000 inhabitants, the changes in the socio-economic structure, the transformation of the locality into an industrial and commercial center, through the establishment of some large economic enterprises: the Bearings Factory (I.R.B.), the Pneumatic Elements and Measuring Devices Factory (I.E.P.A.M.), the Abrasive Products Factory, the Textiles Factory Vigonia etc.; the establishment of new neighborhoods, the implementation of a systematization plan, which contributed to the modernization of the city through the construction of some new social and cultural objectives: kindergartens, schools, hospitals, clinics, railway station, post office, House of Culture etc.), but, at the same time, the major deficiencies caused by a totalitarian, demagogic, dogmatic, authoritarian and centralized regime, with a false democracy as regards the respect for the human rights and the capitalization of the human potential cannot be overlooked.

The failure to take into consideration the old urban dowry of the city of Bârlad led to the phenomenon of standardization of buildings and loss of personality that gave the bohemian charm of Bârlad. The culture of Bârlad crossed a difficult time because of the limited horizon and the lack of contact with the vitality of the Western culture and the values of the real democracy. After the revolutionary events of December 1989 that led to the collapse of the communist regime, new opportunities have opened for Romania on the path of democracy and progress. These transformations have gradually become visible for the spirituality of this southern area of Moldova and the city of Bârlad placed itself again among the localities which added the achievements of the present days to the rich cultural heritage.

There were established the Cultural Foundation “Dr. C. Teodorescu”, the Cultural Society “Al .I. Cuza”, the Cultural Society “Tutova’s Renaissance”, the Foundation for re-establishment of the county of Tutova, the Association of the fighters in the 1989 revolution, the Orthodox Christian Foundation “St. Nicholas”, the Art Foundation “St. Luca”, the National Association “Heroes’ Cult” – Bârlad branch, the Cultural and Humanitarian Foundation “Dr. Clara Constantinescu” etc. The cultural institutions of Bârlad, such as the Library “Stroe Belloescu”, the Museum “Vasile Parvan”, the Theatre “Victor Ion Popa”, the House of Culture “George Tutoveanu” have intensified their presence; the number of printing shops, publishing houses and bookstores has increased; some private radio and television stations have been established.

The members of the School Sports Club and the senior rugby and football teams of the Sport Association “The Bearing” participated in many sport competitions and got very good results. The main cultural events are sponsored by the City Hall of Bârlad and are developed during the “Days Al. I .Cuza” (18-20 of March), the “Cultural Days of Bârlad” (in May), the Summer Festival (in July), the Feast of Autumn (in September-October), the Communal Palace Day (21 October), the Christmas and Easter fairs and many other local cultural and sports events.

The city of Bârlad had, during those seven centuries of history, a rich and varied life, imposing itself, by its age, economic development and especially cultural development, as one of the most important spiritual centers of Moldova and a true “Weimar”, as the literature critic George Călinescu defined it. It must not be forgotten that the city of Bârlad contributed to a great extent to the formation or hosting of some talented literature writers who have enriched the heritage of the Romanian literature (N.D. Cocea, George Diamandi, Elena Farago, George Ivascu, Corneliu Moldovanu, George Pallady, Mircea Pavelescu, V.I. Popa, George Tutoveanu, G.G. Ursu, Al. Vlahuţă etc.).

Within over 140 years (1870-2012), approximately 180 local newspapers have been edited, with the collaboration of some great cultural personalities (V. Alecsandri, Dimitrie Anghel, George Bacovia, I.L. Caragiale, Nichifor Crainic, Ion Creangă, Gala Galaction, Emil Gârleanu, Nicolae Iorga, Mihail Kogălniceanu, Ion Minulescu, Vasile Pârvan, Mihail Sadoveanu, Alexandru Vlahuţă, Vasile Voiculescu, A.D. Xenopol etc.). The cultural heritage of the lands of Bârlad is quite impressive, if compared to the demographic and economic potential: 25 academicians, some scientists recognized at international level (Dumitru Bagdasar, Paul Bujor, Miltiade Filipescu, Gh. Ghibănescu, Gh. Ivănescu, Ion Juvara, Scarlat Longhin, Vasile Pârvan, Al. Philippide, Gh. Plăcinţeanu, Stefan Procopiu, Vasile Rascanu, Gh. Tasca, Al. Vlahuţă, Barbu Zaharescu etc.), 45 generals (Gh. Berdan, Henric Cihoski, Gh. Naumescu, Gh. Negrescu, C. Vasiliu Rascanu, Silvestru Palade, Costache Mandru, N. Mastacan, Eugen Bantea, C. Ucrain etc.), 160 academic professors and researchers, more than 60 writers, 40 plastic artists, some of them of national and European level (Petre Bulgaras, N.N. Tonitza, Ion Dimitriu Barlad, Stavru Tarasov, Marcel Guguianu, Cornel Vasilescu etc.), 4 composers (Gh. Cucu, Eugen Bulbuc, Paul Jelescu, Vasile Donose), 12 folklorists and ethnographers highly appreciated for their contribution in this area (Tudor Pamfile, Virgil Caraivan, Mihai Lupescu, Simion Teodorescu-Kirileanu, Iulius Al. Zanne etc.); some famous politicians and diplomats (Al. I. Cuza, Manolache Costache Epureanu, Constantin Diamandi, George Diamandy etc.), Church dignitaries of high rank (the bishop Iacov Antonovici), philanthropists (the brothers Gheorghe and Nicolae Rosca Codreanu, Stroe Belloescu, Ion Chiricuţă, Marcel Guguianu, C. Teodorescu etc.), actors, directors, opera singers (Nicolae Brăescu, Emilia Guţeanu Alexandrescu, C. Nastea-Cerchez, D. Popovici-Bayreut), musicians (Emil Baclea – bassoon player and Nicolae Cocea – cellist), athletes of international level (Alexandru Bizim, Smaranda Brăescu, Constantin Zahei, Nicolae Rainea, Titi Aur, Andreea Raducan etc.) were also born in Barlad area.

In Barlad, probably as a unique fact in the world, two heads of state of Romania – Alexandru Ioan Cuza and Gheorghiu-Dej – and a prime minister – Manolache Costache Epureanu were born. The cultural heritage of Barlad area should be thoroughly researched, in order to continue to discover the diamantine values covered sometimes by the undeserved veil of oblivion, but which help us to create our own identity in the national and European area. Today’s generation of researchers, starting from the impressive treasure left by our predecessors, has the important mission to create a future Romania in which all Romanians to feel at home!!!

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