Of all the provinces that had joined with Romania after the First World War, Bukovina was the only one that did not have a majority Romanian population. The area was the political and cultural centre of medieval Moldavia, but almost 150 years of Austrian rule transformed the province from a region predominantly inhabited by Romanians into a multi-ethnic mosaic.
Habsburg rule in Bukovina had disputable results in regards to the Romanian portion of the population. On one hand, the territory that was formerly under Ottoman influence experienced a long period of peace, even during the Napoleonic Wars, when it was protected from Turkish and Russian invasions. Furthermore, as it was integrated into the Habsburg Empire, Bukovina was directly and more rapidly influenced by modern European ideas. The Habsburgs modernized the institutions, introduced the separation of justice from the administration, stimulated the development of the economy, encouraging agriculture, crafts and trade.
On the other hand, Orthodox Romanians had been a frequent target of administrative abuses, which generated migrations, massive in certain periods, to Moldavia. During this period, political, cultural and economic life, as well as administration and justice were under the complete control of the Austrians who encouraged colonization and immigration.
Habsburg rule in Bukovina can be divided into three major stages. During the military administration (1774-1786), the province was led by a general, who also had the duties of an imperial counsellor. He resided in Cernăuți and was supported by an officer. During the Galician civilian administration (between 1786-1848 and 1850-1861), the province of Bukovina was abolished, being annexed to Galicia and headed by a “district captain”. Between 1861 and 1918, the province of Bukovina was re-established, receiving the status of an autonomous duchy with its own diet, coat of arms and representatives elected to the Vienna Parliament.
After the annexation, Bukovina was under military administration (1774-1786), this being the best period experienced by the Romanians under Habsburg rule. General Karl von Enzenberg (leader of Bukovina between the years 1778-1786) knew the Romanian language and made significant efforts to maintain good relations with the Moldavian boyars and clerics. The first province’s census, conducted during this period, showed the predominantly Romanian character of the population. In Bukovina, the Romanians numbered 11.100 families, Ruthenians 1.261, Jews 526, Gypsies 294, and Armenians 58. In total, the province had about 70.000 inhabitants, which meant a very low density of about seven inhabitants per km².
During the military administration, the population of Bukovina doubled, mainly due to immigration from the neighbouring provinces, mainly Galicia. Towards the end of this period, the growth rate of the population decreased, mainly due to the large number of inhabitants who emigrated to Moldavia between the years of 1785-1786.
Demographic changes during the Galician administration
Emigration to Moldavia increased after the dissolution of the province of Bukovina and its incorporation into Galicia (1786). After this date, the percentage of the Romanian population decreased. In addition to emigration to Moldavia, this process was favoured by the establishment of German colonies, but especially by the settlement of Ruthenians in the area. Limited during the military administration, the emigration of the Ruthenians in Bukovina was encouraged by the Galician administration. The Slavic population mainly settled between the Prut and Nistru rivers, gradually assimilating the Romanian population.
This population growth in Bukovina at the end of the eighteenth century, which continued, but at a much more moderate pace, in the first part of the next century, as a significant number of Romanians left the region to emigrate in Moldavia, explains the present-day Ukrainianization of the northern part of the province, the area between the Prut and the Dniester. The pro-Slavic policy of the Austrian authorities did not necessarily mean an anti-Romanian policy. On the contrary, in the early part of the nineteenth century, the administration tried to avoid the depopulation of the province, promising amnesty to returning emigrants, as well as help in recovering their households. However, these measures did not stop the Romanians’ voluntary relocation, especially from the centre and north of Bukovina.
The Galician administration of Bukovina brought to the area officials, miners and German craftsmen; woodcutters and Slovak glass craftsmen; estate tenants, shops, mills or taverns, merchants and Jewish loan sharks; Hungarian farmers and animal breeders; skilled saline workers, small clerks and Polish farmers; Armenian merchants; shepherds and forest workers; peasants and Lipovan day workers, and especially Ruthenians and Ukrainians.
The autonomous Duchy of Bukovina
Following the revolution of 1848, Bukovina was separated from Galicia and became an autonomous duchy, with his own diet and representatives in the Vienna Parliament. However, this status, enshrined in the constitution adopted in 1849, proved ephemeral. Following the failure of the revolution, the neo-absolutist regime returned to its previous form of organization, Bukovina being reunited again with Galicia. The province regained its status as an autonomous duchy in 1861. The duchy was led by a governor named by the emperor and gained provincial autonomy and a local diet. The first diet consisted of 30 deputies, out of which 17 were Romanians.
After 1848, the population growth accelerated from 377.000 to 511.000 in 1869. This increase was further supported by immigration, while the number of Romanians continued to fall during this period. If in 1848 Bukovina was inhabited by 209.000 Romanians (over 55% of the total population), by 1869 their number dropped by 2.600 people, representing only 40.5% of the total population. Instead, the number of Ruthenians increased from 109.000 to 186.000, representing 36.4% of the total population. The peasantry was made up of Romanians and Ruthenians, while the clerks, tenants, industrialists, merchants and skilled workers were from the other ethnic groups- Austrians, Germans, Jews, Armenians, Poles, Slovaks, etc.
The percentage of the Romanian population in Bukovina continued its decline at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. If in 1786 the Romanians accounted for 68% of the total population of the province, their percentage dropped in 1910 to 34.4% of the 800.000 inhabitants of Bukovina. Among immigrants, the largest share was held by Ruthenians (Ukrainians), Jews and Germans. It should be noted that the number of Germans registered a significant decrease between 1890 and 1913, due to emigrations in the United States and Canada.
Translated by Laurențiu Dumitru Dologa