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~Alexandru Stanciulescu-Barda: The Image of Stefan the Great, the Ruler of Moldavia, (1457-1504, in Ethno-historical Documents)

If we wanted display the history of the Romanian people in the form of a map drawn in relief withmountains, hills, plains, valley, precipes and waters, with rovers and seas, them, Stefan (Stephen) the Great and the Holy and his reign would be the Everest Peak. His entire reign bere the mark of his personality and his activity either political, strategical, cultural, human, moral or religious deserved only superlatives. Never had there been any ruler before this coronation the equak his grandeur, no matter how blessed by God he might have been.
Stephen the Great appeared on the political stage as a result of painful efforts of the Romanian people in order to survive in a very confused and confunsing period: Constantinopoles, the fortress of Christianity had been taken down and the Christians all over Europe and serious resons to werry. The Turks had reached Europe and Kept entering deeply the territories within the continent year by year. The Balkans, plundered by the turkish yataghansm was layng helpess at the feet of its conquerers. The Daniâube could hardly remain the berder which had stopped the expansion of the Turkish Empire. The Tartars from Bugeac were ready to fight. They were waithing for a sign from the Sultan which would be the beginning of the attack on Moldavia and Oltenia. The Hungarians, the Polish, the Ucrainians and the Russians were also lying in wait for the right moment to attack.

The powerful nations of Western Europe didn’t understand (or dindn’t want to) the gravity of the matters confronting the „Gate of Christianity”. So they didn’t bother. Thus very existence of the Romanian people was at stake.

This was the moment when Stefan’s Moldavia rese. He was a miracle not only in the history of Romanian but also in the history of the whole Christian Europe. He was the Man, the Providential Hero by means of who God worked his Wish on Earth in that period. It was unconceivable for the Turkish army, so well equipped and trained, having the cooperation of the Tartars, an army had been plundering and subjugating empires and people, to „stumble” over a small country as Moldavia. A very rich country, no doubt, but inferior to the Turks in points of number and strategy. That was the time of direct Turcks in point of number and strategy. That was the time of direct fight, face to face. It was not the case of nowadays fights when sophisticated weapons usually replace the number of soldiers. They had only a few primitive war „machineries”, the cannon was the most important and efficient. But the real power of an army was the power of its soldiers: their number, their training and also the skills of their leaders.

There is no evidence that Stefan had a permanent army at his disposal. He had the guards from his court and from his fortresses. The real army was constitued of his people whenever threats appeared. The majority of the soldiers was made up of untrained peasants having no or only a little military practice. What mattered to those prasants was the fact that their country needed them, that they had the honour and sacred duty to protect their lands, houses, churches and cemeteries, parents and children, that wives and their lives, in fact, their own reason of living. They gathered around their ruler as chickens do around the hatching-hen and tried to resist the attacks of the sparrow-hawk.

Stefan became the Man of God sent to save Moldavia from its invaders. His goal in fight was not only the defense of his country but also the defense of the Christian religion. Being modest, he claimed that his victories were not reasons for his personal pride because he couldn’t have won without God’s help. He himself fought in the middle of the most dangerous conflicts. But people said that there were angels of God where Stefan was fighting: the archangel Mihail (Michael), Saint Gheorghe (George) or Saint Dimitrie. The fights Stefan fought were the fights God requested. More than thal, Stefan considered himself not a ruler nor a price, but the humble servont of God, the one who fulfilled His Will. His defeats were regarded as divine punishments for sinning. Stefan’s outlook was profoundly Christian, that of a human being confronted with life’s hardships, temperations and sins, a man who had been given a special mission, chosen by God to rule his people and led them to liberty and independence. His passage through lige was marked by many graves which showed the batle fields sprinkled with Romanian blood, but it was also marked by churches, fortresses and other foundations. Still, the most important marks remain the people’s deeply carved memories about him: he was loved, help respect and honour, workshipped.

A lot has been written about Stefan. But there are still many things to be discovered and afterwards wrutten about him. He remains an enigma, continues to be a mystery and miracle in history; but in same time a milestone, a turning point in our history as well as an example of patriotic behaviour and human abnegation for our people, a joy for all Romanians.

Stefan ambodies the very symbol of our existance, courage and unity of all Romanians from all regions and all times. There is no Romanian who denies him or who doesn’t love him; there is no Romanian who doesn+t held him in honour or who doesn’t feel his heart bump with emotion in front of his grave in Putna; there is no Romanian who is not proud to say: „I come from Stefan’s country”. He died almost 500 years ago but his memory is still alive, his life continous to represent a challonge for all the Romanians living here or abroad. His spirit his shadow has been watching our people in happy moments or sad ones. The eyes of the old master of Moldova have filled with tears under the cold gloomy voult of his grave in times of suffering. His ghost fought when his people fought defending the holy cause of their nation.

Folklorical works have presented the figure of Stefan receiving valuable advice from God, talking to his saints, monks and hermits, entering churches, praying himself or asking priests, soldiers, people to pray and fast for victory over the pagans. Stefan was portayed as acting in the name of God, as being given blessing by the Almighty; he thanked God by building altars which also represented a sign of respect for the memory of the dead. He was Kind, generous and merciful. He helped the poor; he gave money and dowry to zoung people; he gave land to his warriors and he was aware of the fact time goes by and never turns back. Stefan was not portrayed only as a ruler or historical figure; he was the father of the Romanian people. These are the reasons for which the country has been mourning him sincerely for 500 years and people have been missing him for such a long time in moments of joy as well as in moments of sorrow.

Stefan the Great could’t have been considered else but Holy. For a lifetime dedicated to Moldavia in particular but also for his efforts in order to defend Christianity in general, he is worthy of being called „holy” too.

Some people may consider that weapons and ruling have nothing in common with holiness; they may have been more familiar with the image of a holy man closer to that of a recluse: living isolated from the world fasting and praying, poorty dressed and weak up to the limits of survival. But there were other types of holymen in history: the holy-ruler like Stefan the Great or Constantin Brâncoveanu. Stefan embodied the characteristics of the Leader as well as those of a true Hero. The cult people had for him, the adorationthey showed to him was spontaneous not imposed. I have been given the „opportunity” to live in a political regime in which the cult of personality represented a policy. But that cult was false and worthless; in fact it was only an imitation. The real cult, the real honour and veneration went to Stefan, one of those personalities who really deserved to be praised, who really had the charisma of a leader. Stefan was a providential character, the messager of Good who managed not to turn into a tyrant: he took into account the opinions and advice of his followers, friends, wisemen, boyars and warriors who, in return, respected and obeyed him. He spoke well and wisely. His wish and command had the power of law to his subjects. Thus he appeared as the ideal ruler. His life and ruling style should set examples for any possible candidate for the highest position in state. He has taught us an essential lessons over the years: the ideal ruler is born, not made.

And he was born to rule. His Christian belif and his autlook on life and humanity, his fear of God Kept him away from intemperance or any Kind of excess which might have led him to despotism. Whatever he did, he balanced and considered it very attentively and placed it under the sign of doulst. He was aware of the fact that only God had the right to judge and appreciate human actions and affairs. Such a philosophy of life embellished his figure and placed his image in eternity. Awere of the fact that he was ruler only by God’s will in order to protect and manage Moldavia’s affairs, hewas protected against any reckless passion or exaggerated personal interests. Such a man regarded reign as an act of sacrifice on the altar of holy aspirations and righful causes. He benaved as a Moldavian peasant: hardworking honest, a man who had been given in administration and care a bigger estate that his – the country. He brought light in the darkness of his age and reflected this light in the centuries which were to come.

The Romanian people was ruled by many imposing personalities who had their own characteristics; qualities or flaws, beauty and ugliness altopether; they have all earned a well deserved place in history. But Stefan the Great and the Holy was above all the rest: the ruler of his rulers; his pedestal has never been reached by anyone so far because it is unreachable – too high to be climbed on. Now he dwells somewhere between Farth and heaven, closer to Heaven than anyone else ever been. He is a semigod in the conscience of our people. We enjoy reading his history. And we enjoy it because we feel that he is a part of our national whole and therefore a part of ourselves. Represented by Stefan we have brought our contribution to humanity and Christianity. When he fought against paganism, we fought too. We are enlivened by his spirit and we are glad when we read about his deeds.

But when we come close to the chapter about his death, we feel sorrow we feel emptiness as if we had lost somebody close to us, a beloved one. It happened 500 years ago but we are still sheding tears because of his loss. He should-have became eternal for the sake of his people confronted with the evils of history. Each of us would have given him a few zears of our own lives so that he could live with us. He was too grand, too imposing and too generous to die. We got used to his presence so accepting his death is really difficult. But his death is a fact. So, we have created an aura of a saint for him; we have given him the eternity of his presence in the national and universal history; otherwise we would have felt deserted, like orphans in a big bad world.

Stefan is a symbol, a milestone, a moral suport, a guilding light; The guardian of our own national identity, he embodies the symbol of our immortality as a nation among other nations.

 

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Ethno-historical works bring back to life an epoch, people, facts and events. Stefan the Great is the best portayed character among other histoirical figures. Here are some relevant information taken frome books which will be surely corelated with the testimonies and the events narrated in the chapters of the book.
Stefan the Great and the Holy was not too tall, but rather short; but his mind was great, people said; his mind was great and his nature was balanced. His greatness was not to be found in his physical apperance but in his facts, in his wisdom; there had been no one like him nor it would ever be. We also know that he was quick to anger and rash somerimes. He would 30 people at once eithout fearning of a failure. He was born to be ruler and gained his fame duc to his good deeds as his nickname shows. He enjoyed the protection of the angels ever since he was a child. He was apprenticed to old recluses. When he was fighting an angel holding a fire sword used to join him, thus the enemies would die in front of Stefan without being shot or hurt. They would die of the sword. No one to rist against because Stefan would defeat and make him fear for such a long time because he was the Man of God; he was pious, tolerant, hinest and loving justice. Whenever he went to war he respected the tradition of wedding 24 lads and 24 maidens and giving thom fortunes. Another tradition before to war was that of choosing a place for a monastery to be biult after coming back in good health and victory.

Harsh and merciless at war he turned into a kind and soft man, generous and calm at peace. He wpuld give money to the poor and also lands to those who had proved to be courageous and loyal in the battle; therefore wealth and satisfaction ruled in his country. He liked to wed, to act as godfather for common people’s children, he also like to party with common fellows and peasants. He proved to be a good manager of his own estates which were flourishingand richer than all the other estates.

People belived that Stefan hadn’t really died. They said Stefan had risen to Heaven, body and soul in order to be judged for his good Christian deeds. When he died a candle burnt continuously for 3 days and 3 night and nobody could put in out. After his death, ehenever his people was having a fight, he would know and start to weep beyound his grave. Them the batlles would stop and peace would come.

During the batles his spirit was wandering on Earth. People belived that he would resurrect some day and rice his horse with his sword in his right hand and thus Bucovina would be again united with Moldavia when his sword appered ont of the grave. When Stefan resurrected he would come and see how his people took care of the rich and proud land inherited from him for which he had benn fighting for 40 years courageosly and lovingly. Then again, other people used to say that Stefan would have been very sad and disappointed if he had seen how things were in Moldavia.

T everybody, Stefan was the soul and the heart of iur nation. After his death he would be the guarding angel and spirit warching the future of our people. He was wise, smart, good-hearted and courageous as no one else had ever been no matter how one may try to find such a person. He was the best in all respects as people had acknowledged from generation to generation. When anger filled him it was the anger of God that he spread and then he would behave like an irritated lion: he would beat his enemies ont of their boots without sparing any body, not even his own brother.

The young people would grals their hatchets, scythes, knives and pitchforks or whatever was at hand the minute they heard that The Turks, Tatars, Hungarians or other pagans were coming. Then they would run and face the enemy because they were ready to endanger their lives in order to protect their country. You see, thimgs were different in those days! The Romanian in those days would not let anybody tread on him, no hungry or bloody foreigner or pagan would dare to come. If they had dared they would have been warned not to mess with the Romanian peasant he wanted to find his death there. Stefan gathered around him only a few people but what people! Young, strong, smart and full of joy, agile and courageous harsh and quick-tempered imposing like green oaks. That was why they never knew defent.

 

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The study of ethno-historical has just begun in the Romanian culture. But it can bring up many surprises by means of the information and messages these documents contain. This book can be succesfully labelled as an ethno-historical document. It is based on the theme of the life and activity of Stefan the Great and the Holy. These documents thus organized, can be casily analysed and put together with the historical documents proper. Except the texts selected from Ion Neculce’s „Letopiseţul Ţării Moldovei” („The Cronicle of Moldavia”) these documents are pure ethohistorical works. They pass on to us important messages which should be here emphasiyed:
1. Stefan the Great and the Holy anjoyed the love and loyality of his people, both in his lifetime and after his death; these feelings were duc to this qualities of an ideal leader, good manager of the big „estate” called country, defender of independence, founder of churches and monastreries, highly moral and spiritual standards.

2. He was held in great respect and honour, worchpped and crowned with the aura of a saint duc to his endless endeaveur to protect the values of humanity and Christianity, duc his love of God and inclination to holiness.

Therefore, the Act of Canonization of Stefan the Great, performed by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church was an official sigh of recognition and appreciation of that the people had already acknowledge a long time before.

3. The deeply patriotic message sent by this ethno-historical document is an unchallonged proof of the value this type of document achieves within the proces of education. One should take into consideration that this type of document has been passed en from one generation to another, from man to man orally and thus, it has modelled and formed consciences, political conceptions mentalities and attitudes. This type of document constitued the basis of our unwritten history: no syllabus, no theories or didactic standards but a lot of love of the country, its people and history instead. These legends have always enchanted the listener but they have also convinced him that the fight for defense of the country and its traditions is a sacred duty. Having this fight the sons of this nation have become heroes. These legends have animated the ypung generation and made them belive that victory was possible. If the fight is rightful, hinest and defending the country, then God will make the impossible – possible. These legends have convinced the Romanian people that country is taken care of by God and that this will be done. Common people have become aware of the fact that they are nothing else but little pieces of the great mechanism of humanity. Little but nevertheless important pieces. Everybody has a well estaldished path in life and destiny; everybody has been assigned a role in life and the performance of this tole is watched from above. The defeats have been regarded as punishments or tests sent to people by God. The victories – acts of His Divine Will. Thus Man and People have fitted not only in the universal history but also in the cosmic order.
ALEXANDRU STANCIULESCU-BARDA

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