Revista Studii Teologice


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"Biserica şi regimul fanariot. Politica reformatoare a lui Constantin Mavrocordat în Ţările Române "

The Church and the Phanariote regime. The reform policy of Constantin Mavrocordat

Autor(i): Raul-Constantin TĂNASE

Summary: The Church and the Phanariote regime. The reform policy of Constantin Mavrocordat
The 18th century, dubbed „the Enlightenment century,” stands out in universal historiography due to its political, social, cultural reforms as well as the national freedom movements, laying the grounds for the development of new mindsets. The situation was not, however, homogenous throughout Europe, since in its south-east still prevailed „medieval customs with multiple Oriental influences” (Neagu Djuvara). In the Romanian Principalities, this period known as the „Phanariote century”, is marked by the Greek elements entering administration and the strengthening of Ottoman Empire’s domination. The attempts made by the Romanian princes Dimitrie Cantemir and Constantin Brâncoveanu to create a network of alliances aiming to remove Ottoman suzerainty, determined the Porte to restrict the autonomy of the two provinces and replace native princes with Phanariot rulers. The Phanariote formula was a compromise between the autonomy granted to the Principalities, and the exertion of direct administration. In order to counter native rulers’ attempts to ally with the Christian powers comprising the Holy League, aiming to free Europe from the Ottoman domination, the Porte decided to appoint obedient rulers, faithful to the sultan, mainly selected from the Greek residents of the Phanar neighbourhood. Another goal of this change in regime, beside restricting boyards’ authority, was to exploit the resources necessary to support the army and administration, in a time when Turkish conquests had ceased.
Regarding the date when the Phanariote regime was established in the two Romainan Principalities, researchers have put forth several hypotheses. Beside the generally accepted opinion placing the beginning of this period in the year 1711 for Moldavia, respectively 1716 for Wallachia, new opinions claim that there existed „Phanariote rulers before the Phanariote age”. In the specialized literature, especially the mid-19th century one – when the fight for national emancipation had intensified in both Principalities, due to the young educated abroad who imported Enlightenment ideas – the remains of Phanariote reigns represented an essential issue. Under these circumstances appeared the stereotype acording to which the era was seen from the standpoint of its negative consequences on society. The „critical school” founded by Nicolae Iorga, Ioan Bogdan and Dimitrie Onciul, opposes this view, emphasizing the positive dimension of the Phanariote regime, whose social-political and administrative reforms opened the way to modernity.
The Church played a key role in directing the Romanian Principalities towards modern policies, through its various actions intended to generalize the use of Romanian language in education, to develop the cultural and ecclesiastical realms. In order to be successful as a mediator between state and society and an institution collaborating with the prince and other central bodies, the Church had to folow a rigorous program for hierarchical organization in the two provinces. An example is its notable intervention before the prince, concerning the abolishing of serfdom in Wallachia and Moldavia, as well as limiting the exploitation of the rural population. The clergy members participated in the General Assembly, and their ideas often influenced the prince’s decisions. The manner of hierarchs’ election demonstrates the close collaboration between lay and ecclesiastical authorities, as well as their mutual control. Administration-wise, the ecclesiastial institution retained its autocephaly, however without any formal statement to this effect, in synodal or patriarchal documents.
Constantin Mavrocordat (1711-1769), a highly cultured Phanariote prince, stands out due to the wide-ranging reforms he undertook during his twenty years of reign in either Wallachia or Moldavia. The governing practices established by the new prince included his sharing authority with local boyards with aristocratic tendencies, who supported his accession to the throne. The political program promoted by the Greek prince intended to substantiate the „governing formula associating the boyards to the decisions made by the prince”. The custom of gift offering, that catered to the boyards’ interests, was a direct consequence of the pressure of Tukish exploitation.
The reforms initiated by Constantin Mavrocordat concerned several realms: fiscal, juridical, military, ecclesiastical, cultural. The 1741 decree abolished the many taxes paid by boyards, monasteries and priests, and re-established the fixed tax collected quarterly. Taxes such as the ones on cattle and cultivated land plots (1741) were suppressed, and censuses were conducted with the names of all tax payers in order to limit the possibilities of tax evasion. The payment system of officials and the institution of prefects who cumulated fiscal and juridical attributions, aimed to create a competent administrative apparatus, able to apply the new measures. The fiscal reform demonstrated that prince Constantin Mavrocordat had a centralizing vision, substantiated in enhanced control over local administration, through his delegates, as well as the suppression of certain social categories’ privileges. In the juridical field, modernization was aimed at procedures. The prince’s decisions were drafted in two copies, registered at the chancellery and sealed in order to prevent frauds, and with a view to their correct application specialized clerks were provided. The generalization of written procedures and the restriction of concurrent instances, as well as the lobbying for the use of Romanian language, were elements of the prince’s policy in the juridical realm. These measures aimed to extend state’s authority and abolish obsolete institutions, while also restricting the privileges of the great boyards. Through the military reform, the army of court officials and servants were exempt from service, but obliged to pay the due tax. In each administrative unit was established an army corps in order to maintain public order. To prevent the spread of peasant movements, generated by systematic and abusive exploitation by the noblemen, Constantin Mavrocordat decided to abolish serfdom in Wallachia (1746) respectively Moldavia (1749). The gist of this reform consisted in regulating the relationship with dependant serf peasants, who were now freed but deprived of land, with or without the right to move to another estate, and obliged to a few days of unpaid work a year. The Greek prince supported the Church with material aids, lobbied for the education of the clergy, of whatever rank. This stopped the clergymen’s migration from town to town, and defined the criteria for their appointment. A result of the Church-prince collaboration was greater access to education for poor population, by establishing rural schools.
The reforms initiated by Constantin Mavrocordat, continuing his father’s pro-gram, were highly important and their effects were manifold. Even though they failed to achieve their goals completely, because of heavy taxation and too short, unstable terms of office, they represent „progressive measures laying the grounds for national revival in the following century” as well as landmarks on the Principalities’ advancement towards modernity.

Pagini: 125-143