What kind of a man was Iancu Flondor? What has he left behind? What do we owe him? His contribution to the Union of Bukovina with Romania is obvious and it was recognized by both historians and contemporaries, who observed that “so closely linked is Flondor’s name to the historical act of 1918 that it almost identified with him.” The historian Nicolae Iorga felt the need, after the Union, to pay homage to Flondor, exclaiming that: “With deep gratitude we thank the man as a whole, but also to a fearless Romanian.” The following is about this “man as a whole”.
Iancu Flondor was born at Storojineț on August 16, 1865, the son of Gheorge, knight of Flondor and of Isabela Dobrowolski of Buchenthal. He had six brothers: Tudor, Iancu, Nicu, Elena (married name Mavrocordat), Constantin, Ecaterina and Aglaia (the last three dying at a young age).
The children of the Flondor family grew up in an environment where musical culture was important. Their father, but especially their mother, had musical inclinations, which they passed it on to their children. Gheorghe Flondor was known as a “good flute player”, an admirer of Beethoven’s work and a collector of musical instruments, while his wife, Isabela, was considered a “renowned pianist”, gifted with “a strong and sonorous voice, suitable to all dynamic tones, a straight forward and remarkable diction and a deep understanding of singing. […] There was no cultural or philanthropic initiative in which Isabela’s Flondor talent wouldn’t assure her moral and material success.” The word quickly spread that “at the court of Gheorghe Flondor, lady Isabela, the young masters and misses sing all together at the piano, violin and other instruments.” Other relatives of their parents also had musical inclinations, like Victor Stârcea, Eugenia Zotta or Constantin de Buchental.
Thus, Elena and Nicu Flondor became pianists and Iancu was “an outstanding cellist and violinist”, who also composed many musical scores. However, while Iancu and Nicu focused on their political careers, Tudor Flondor dedicated his life to music, becoming a well-known composer because of his remarkable talent: “If lady Isabela’s singing made the boyars excoriate their palms applauding her, if madam Helen and the young masters Constantin, Iancu and Nicu excelled at different chords, Tudor would beat everyone, the child with ember eyes.” While passing through Cernăuți, Titu Maiorescu was pleasantly surprised by a representation that had at its forefront the two brothers, Tudor and Iancu Flondor, marking down in his notes that: “Last night, a dilettante theatre was held by the Romanian society here, in a hall of the Moldavia hotel at the first floor. The orchestra was led by the young lawyer Flondor (a nice, slim young man), a younger brother of his was playing the tambour (who was really amusing), while other schoolboys and students were on the other instruments […] while a small and enchanting boy by the name of Isopescu was at the violin and so on”.
Life at the Flondor family manor
Iancu Flondor first went to the German high school (Obergymnasium) in Cernăuți and then at the Faculty of Law at the “Franz Joseph” University in the same town. In 1894 he obtained the doctorate degree in law from the University of Vienna.
In 1899 he married Elena, the daughter of Ioan, knight of Zotta, “a highly distinguished lady of high culture”, as Valeriu Braniște described her. Together they had three children: Șerban (1900-1971) married with Nadeia Știrbey, Neagoe (1901-1971) married with Elena Grigorcea and Mircea (1908-1927). But Iancu Flondor also had a daughter, Maria, from his wife’s previous marriage: Maria will eventually marry professor Gheorghe Cuza.
Valeriu Braniște also vividly depicts the life at the family’s manor, where Iancu Flondor dedicated himself “to domestic happiness and to the administration of the estate”. In Braniște’s own words the estate was large as it was situated “on an arable complex with a large forest”. He also says that “Flondor intensively cultivated the estate. He had a boiler (for producing spirits) and fattened cattle with swills from the boiler and transporting them directly to Vienna. He had large barns where he kept cows to be fattened. In the forest he had deer’s. On the estate he had about 70 armed servants as keepers at various points. All around the mansion (modern with one storey) and its large terrace, there was a well-tended park, with a lake in which there were swans. In the mansion their rooms were separated by an arch, followed by different halls and a dining room, a billiard hall and the guest rooms for the lady’s guests and eventually for families. For gentlemen guests there was a different construction not far from the mansion which we called it a monastery”. The same Braniște remembers that Iancu Flondor regularly did sports and that there were men’s and women’s steam baths. In these baths, men gathered in the summer and had political discussions with the host. Braniște spent some time at the Storojineț mansion, in 1899-1900, Flondor letting him in his large library to do his work. His presence in Storojineț was “a great secret” saying, when asked, that he was a relative of the “boyar”. About his stay at the Flondor family mansion, Braniște pleasantly remembers that: “The atmosphere was distinguished, but very intimate. They all cared for me. I was feeling like I was in my own home at the estate. In the evening there was music. The lady was an excellent pianist, but she didn’t always play when you asked her, but only when she was in the disposition”.
The first of his four withdrawals from the political life
In the 1880’s, Iancu Flondor starts to get involved in political life, joining the youth wing that was in conflict with the much older Romanian political leaders from Bukovina. In 1892, the two groups merge around the “Concordia” society which is then turned in a political party. The same year, Iancu’s father, Gheorghe Flondor, a founding member of the aforementioned society, dies.
Between 1895-1904, the young Iancu Flondor is elected as a deputy in the Bukovina Diet, promising that he will “always work so as our language will not only dominate the Chamber but to also be used in official acts”. The collaboration with the “old” Romanians from Bukovina did not last long and in 1897 the “young men” led by George Popovici and Iancu Flondor leave the Romanian National Party. They establish a newspaper “Patria” which replaces “Gazeta Bucovinei”. The editorial will be led by Valeriu Braniște, the main financier being Iancu Flondor (who also contributed to the establishment of the “Dreptatea” newspaper). The political elite of the Romanians in Bukovina was going through a troubled period marked by interminable conflicts between different factions.
Because he was struggling with the infighting between his Romanian brethren, Iancu Flondor withdraws his sponsorship of the “Patria” newspaper which thus ceases to appear and decides to step away from political life after he writes the program for the new National People’s Party. It was the first of the four times in which he decides to quit politics, a characteristic of Flondor’s political activity. But every time he could not stay away from the struggles of Romanians in Bukovina and returned to the forefront of the Romanian elite when it needed him most.
“Be our captain and lead us to victory”
In 1902 he returns to political life in the moment in which the “populist” and the “conservative” faction unite under his leadership. During this period a new group appears, the Liberal Alliance, led by Aurel Onciul, who starts targeting the Romanian National Party and especially its leader, Iancu Flondor. The fragmentation of the Romanian political elite was fuelled by Onciul’s attacks and eventually the “conservatives” left Flondor, who then felt the obligation to resign. “Divergent political views snuck in the ranks of the National People’s Party and the apathy of the party’s members in the current electoral campaign towards the peril of the international agents that threatens us (Freisinnige Vereinigung) forces me to step down from party’s leadership and withdraw” was the way Flondor motivated his decision.
The party dissolved after his resignation but the next year a new unification of political groups took place as the Romanian National Party re-established, but Flondor refused any invitation to return in the political limelight. In 1908 Aurel Onciul sent a letter to Iancu Flondor asking him to lead the group that was about to comprise the united factions: “In a time of great hardship, we, the messengers for all ages, for all social strata and for all Romanian aspirations in the country, we come to you to ask you in one voice to leave your seclusion and to come back in the political frontlines. […] With a clean and sincere heart our whole people ask of you: to be our captain and to lead us to victory”. Likewise, the Executive Committee of the National Party brought to his knowledge “the desire of the Romanian people from Bukovina to inaugurate a solid peace and to establish a well-organized party under the leadership of Mr. Iancu, knight of Flondor”. Thus, all these political groups united in a single party, the constituent assembly voting for Iancu Flondor to be the president of the new party. But he only accepted the leadership of the party under certain conditions, taking over the function only after they were fulfilled.
The struggle between brothers – and its meaning
Iancu Flondor took over the presidency of the Romanian Party in February 1909 but in less than two years, in November 1910 he resigns explaining that “the discord and the struggle between Brethren in the last decade which have caused our people in Bukovina many and painful drawbacks, entirely consuming Romanian strength in their war against denationalisation, begin anew to incubate in our ranks. In these sad circumstances it is over my power to answer for the future of the Romanian people in Bukovina and with a heavy heart I must step down from the leadership of the national party”. In spite of numerous pleas to remain, Flondor refused. “The struggle between Brethren” which Flondor emphasizes had for him, beside the general signification (of Romanian brothers), a literal sense as his brothers Nicu, but especially Tudor (who had died two years prior) were important members of the conservative faction.
This new resignation from Flondor was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War, seen by the Romanians in Bukovina as a reason to hope for an eventual unification with Romania. Iancu Flondor receives the news in 1915 that Romania will enter the war against Austro-Hungary, and also the invitation to escape to Romania, to avoid possible problems with Austrian authorities. Flondor refuses and remains in Bukovina and tries to intervene in order to ease the conditions of the population here, which attracted, as expected, many problems with the authorities in 1917.
“A century long national serfdom…is almost over”
Iancu Flondor is called again at the forefront in 1918. On October 14/27, 1918, a gathering of Romanians from Bukovina was convened, which voted for the unification of the province with the Kingdom of Romania. At the same time a National Council and a governmental body called the Council of State Secretaries, consisting of 14 state secretaries, is formed. The Provisional Government had an Executive Committee, whose chairman was Iancu Flondor. On November 15/28, the General Assembly of Bukovina is held in Cernăuţi, where Iancu Flondor tells the participants that “a century and a half long national serfdom as painful and shameful as it was, is about to end. The Romanian people in Bukovina is about to break and cast away the fetters that chained its soul”. The Congress decided the “unconditional unification for all time” of Bukovina with Romania.
After the Unification, Bukovina had two ministers in the government led by Ion I.C. Brătianu, one in Cernăuţi (Iancu Flondor) and one in Bucharest (Ion Nistor). Flondor was Minister for Bukovina between December 1918 and April 1919, resigning after a conflict with Nistor. He withdrew again from the political limelight, due to new disappointments, especially following the division of the Romanian elite in Bukovina and the conflict with Ion Nistor. This was, unfortunately, the last time.
It should also be mentioned that Iancu Flondor was the initiator of several laws, which he drafted and proposed to the Bucharest government. One is a draft law on the election of deputies and senators to represent Bukovina in the Romanian Parliament, a draft law on the administration of the Orthodox Religious Fund of Bukovina, as well as other projects, as evidenced by a letter sent by the Minister of Justice.
According to Sever Zotta, his brother-in-law, Iancu Flondor suffered from embolism, “as he was very self-aware of it, often saying that he would not live long”. Over time, several people who visited his estate noticed that Flondor was ill, having to stay in bed. Also, Nicolae Iorga noted in his memoirs that the Bukovinian leader had been greatly affected by the death of his wife in 1918: “Only fifty-three years old, but very much touched by his wife’s recent death; whiter hair; strained figure; extraordinary sparkling and lively eyes”.
On the day before his death, on the 18th of October, 1924, Flondor felt good and in the evening, he received the visit of his brother-in-law, Octavian Zotta, to whom he said: “I will sleep well tonight!”. The next day at 11:30, the servant noticing that he was not called by his master, went into the room and found him dead in bed, “with a quiet expression” on his face. He was buried in the crypt of the Flondor family in Storojineţ.
What do we owe him?
Iancu Flondor’s honesty and sincere patriotism may be incomprehensible today, when politics and corruption co-exist, being even interdependent. But Iancu Flondor did not pursue his own interest in his political actions, especially during the times when, being called to lead the national movement of the Romanians in Bukovina, he refused this, preferring to remain isolated in his estate in Storojineţ.
He also sacrificed part of his fortune in support of the Romanian cause in Bukovina: he often called for financial aid for various Romanian publications, associations or local communities. He also asked for support from Romanian students and teachers in Bukovina who were in difficulty.
His righteous spirit and repulsion to corruption are traits that can inspire us today. “The future of our country and our nation is closely related to law and legality,” Iancu Flondor wrote to Iuliu Maniu in 1923. That is why, whenever his name risked being associated with illicit business or doubtful people, he preferred to withdraw. Moreover, Iancu Flondor imposed respect through his mere presence, and his behaviour contrasts with that of many of his contemporaries. Alexandru Marghiloman noted in his notes, after a meeting with Iuliu Maniu, Alexandru Vaida-Voevod and Iancu Flondor, that the latter is “less talkative than the Transylvanians; has good appearance, European appearance”. Also, Constantin Argetoianu called him “the most venerable man of Bukovina”, adding that he was “a very good man, a patriot, a gentleman, an honest man, but the most formidable pestle of all I knew”.
These traits are visible in the aforementioned episode, in which Flondor refuses to go to Romania in the beginning of the Great War: “I also have other responsibilities not only for myself and my family. I stand in everyone’s sight. What I do has repercussions in many directions. That’s why I cannot do what I would like or would be in my immediate and personal interest. I have to think about others…and about the future”. Short, but as eloquent as possible.
National Historical Central Archives, Iancu Flondor Fund
National Historical Central Archives, Teodor Balan Fund
National Historical Central Archives, Sever Zotta Fund
The personal archive of Radu Alexandru and Maria Ioana Miclescu (born Flondor)
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*** “Journal dés debates”, year 136, no. 303, October 31, 1924
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*** Tudor cav. de Flondor, in: “Familia”, year XLI, no. 23, June 5, 1905