Post-Imperial Biographies in the Russian–Romanian Borderlands. The Case of the Bessarabian Pantelimon V. Sinadino 

Svetlana Suveica, University of Regensburg 

The profound political changes which occurred in Eastern Europe during World War I and immediately thereafter had a profound impact on local society. By the end of 1917, the region of Bessarabia, after a short period of independence, had separated from the Russian Empire to merge with Romania in April 1918. The examination of the biographical path of Pantelimon V. Sinadino, the former mayor of Chișinău and a large landowner, provides valuable insights into how the representatives of the former imperial elite perceived the complex transformations, adapted to new political realities, and coped with various social and economic challenges. Sinadino’s letters and personal notes reveal his simultaneous mourning the dissolution of the Russian Empire, the fear of the coming of the Bolsheviks, the hesitation when Bessarabia united with Romania and the search for a role within the new political entity. Moreover, during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, Sinadino became very active in supporting the Bessarabian émigrés who worked with the Russian Whites for the restoration of a “Greater Russia” and the return of his native Bessarabia to Russian protection. In this article, I reconstruct the path of Sinadino’s biography to reveal how he reacted both as an individual and as a prominent representative of the regional elite in Bessarabia to the political changes in a time of great distress. 

Writing a Post-imperial Biography: The Methodological Challenges 

As Tim Buchen and Malte Rolf put it, writing an imperial biography of a member of the elite means showing how the empire was entangled with their life and career.1 Putting together pieces concerning their public activity, reconstructing the social milieu in which an individual acquired their education and practised their profession, and depicting social interactions that show connections and joint activities are indispensable parts of the process. As successfully demonstrated by other scholars, biographies – be they of a public employee, an academic, a military or a political figure, an expert or an entrepreneur – allow, on the one hand, the presentation of the subject’s path within the empire and after its dissolution, while on the other hand they enable us to see the empire through the eyes of an individual, as an amalgamate of opportunities and restraints.23

Writing a post-imperial biography means facing additional challenges, since reconstructing the trajectory of someone’s life during the aftermath of empire often means collecting pieces of information about the life of an émigré across borders or even across continents.4 Such is the case of former representatives of the imperial elite, nobles and landowners, as well as other inhabitants of Bessarabia who emigrated from the region for the political, economic or security reasons related to the war, the Revolution of 1917, or Bessarabia’s change in status as a Romanian province in the spring of 1918. Regardless of their decision to stay in Bessarabia or leave, the inhabitants had to face the changes and adapt to challenges, and often had to fight for their security and even their daily bread. 

 When the Russian Empire collapsed in the spring of 1917, the borders shifted, and Petersburg (from 1914 on, Petrograd) disappeared as a centre of power. On the former western periphery of Bessarabia, the new revolutionary elite took over the levers of power from the imperial elite. The situation was challenging due to the spread of anarchy following the dispersal of the Russian army on the Romanian front.5 To establish control over the region and secure the lives and wealth of its inhabitants, on 23–27 October 1917 (O.S.),6 at the initiative of Moldovan militaries on the Russian front, the regional diet of Sfatul Țării was created. Following the declaration of Ukrainian autonomy, and then Ukraine’s separation from the Russian Federative Republic, the Moldavian Democratic Republic was created on 2 December 1917 (O.S.). After the entrance of the Romanian troops in Bessarabia, the independence of the Moldavian Republic was declared on 24 January 1918 (O.S.). This corresponded to the military-strategic and economic interests of both the Entente and the Central Powers. The latter pushed for separate peace negotiations with Romania and approved the union of Bessarabia under the condition that Romania would cede control of the Dobruja region to Bulgaria.7 The negotiations between the Romanian Government and the Bessarabian regional diet, the Sfatul Țării, were finalised with a compromise decision: on April 9, 1918, Bessarabia united with Romania on the condition that its autonomous status would be preserved.8 Six months later, the union’s conditions were abolished.9

Undoubtedly, biographies overlap with the social and cultural histories of the society in which they evolve.10 For the Bessarabians who had lived in the region for decades, it was a liminal state, a state of in-betweenness dominated by feelings of loss, insecurity, and uncertainty.11 The Russian “motherland” had vanished, and Romania had yet to become a point of political and economic reference; it would take time for the change to rules and regularities, social norms, and categories to be acknowledged. At the same time, in the new social and political context they questioned their own identity and formulated visions of belonging. The biography of Pantelimon V. Sinadino is one of many life paths that reveal segments of larger regional and international (hi)stories after World War One. How Sinadino perceived profound political and social changes in his native region Bessarabia, in which ways he was affected by them, how he envisaged the future of his region, and what he did to fulfil his visions will be discussed in the following pages.  

Pantelimon V. Sinadino: A Short Biography  

Pantelimon V. Sinadino was born in 1875 in the city of Kishinev (Chișinău) in the Russian gubernia of Bessarabia. Sinadino’s family was well known in the city: his grandfather, Pantelimon I. Sinadino, of Greek origin, served as mayor of Chișinău for two terms (1837–1839 and 1840–1842), and his father, the merchant Victor Sinadino, was the founder of several banks and enterprises in Bessarabia and Odessa.12 The Sinadinos were active supporters of the Bessarabian Greek community’s cultural and religious life in the region.13 In 1905, Sinadino married Kseniia Il’inichna Kobieva, from a family of hereditary nobles from Tiflis gubernia,14 with whom he had two children. The family possessed around 3,535 desiatines of land, located in the centre of Bessarabia.15

Pantelimon acquired a university degree in medicine and studied economy and finance at Taras Shevchenko University in Kyiv. He remained loyal to the latter domain, embarking upon a career in public administration and publishing on the economy and credit system in Bessarabia.16 He began his rise as an administrator as a member of the Orhei Council of the local zemstvo. In 1902, he was appointed vice-mayor of Chișinău, and in 1903 he became a member of the Chișinău executive body (uprava). He was appointed mayor of Chișinău on 25 April 1903, immediately after the Jewish pogrom that gained the city notoriety throughout the world.17 After a short break (20 January 1904–11 November 1905), Sinadino was re-elected as mayor for a four-year term. This was after the Russian Revolution of 1905, the events of which also played out in the region on a moderate scale.18 Sinadino’s political affiliation with the conservative monarchists (he was a member of the Bessarabian Centre Party) opened the door to the State Duma, a duty he honoured, with interruptions, between February 1907 and February 1917.19 As a member of the Duma, Sinadino initiated a series of legislative acts.20 Between 22 October 1909 and 15 February 1910, he served a third term as mayor of Chișinău. 

The last days of the empire found Pantelimon V. Sinadino in his native city. After the creation of the regional diet, the Sfatul Țării, on 21 November 1917, he joined the legislative body on behalf of the national organisation of the Bessarabian Greek community. In the inaugural session of the Sfatul Țării, he greeted the assembly “in the name of the Greek minority,” expressing the hope that it would “install in our native land order, legality and peace, to protect the life, liberty and wealth of all those who will have the highest honour to live under the freed Bessarabia. […] Long live the free autonomous state of Bessarabia!”21

In early 1918, at the invitation of the president of the Sfatul Țării, Ion Inculeț, Sinadino agreed to act as an economic expert within a Bessarabian delegation that was supposed to meet with Gen. August von Mackensen,22 but the initiative was cancelled. Sinadino also advised the Directorate of Finances – a ministry of the Moldovan Autonomous Democratic Republic – on the possibility of the republic issuing its own currency. He honoured his mandate as a Sfatul Țării deputy with interruptions; in December 1917 he was excluded from the legislative body due to the precarious condition of his health.23 According to another version, his exclusion followed after the events described below.  

On 24 January 1918, the Sfatul Țării declared the independence of the Moldovan Democratic Republic. This was facilitated by the Romanian troops’ having already entered Bessarabia. The destruction to property and other acts of anarchy in the region by the Russian soldiers passing through on their way home had done little to make the wealthy of Bessarabia feel secure.  On 18 March 1918, Sinadino led a delegation of the Union of Bessarabian Large Landowners to King Ferdinand in Iași. The delegation requested the union of Bessarabia with Romania as a solution for saving the region from the Bolsheviks. The request was made a couple of weeks before the Sfatul Țării voted for the union of Bessarabia with Romania. During the summer of 1918, Sinadino could be found leading the Bessarabian Progressive Party. In this function, in an interview for a Romanian regional newspaper, Sinadino expressed “feelings of admiration and gratitude” towards the Romanian Army that had “saved” the region from Bolshevism. He argued that the union was a “general desire and should not be attributed to isolated persons,” or solely to the decision of the Sfatul Țării of 9 April.24 After their return from Iași, the Sfatul Țării deputies had threatened landowners from the counties25 of Bălți, Soroca, Orhei, and Bender with prosecution for the “betrayal of the Moldavian Republic.” A memorandum addressed by the Union of Bessarabian Large Landowners to the Romanian parliament in September 1918 indicates that Sinadino lost his mandate as a deputy after making the trip to Iași and requesting the union of Bessarabia with Romania.26

Between 1924 and 1940, Sinadino was the head of the insurance division and a member of the board of the People’s Bank of Bessarabia.  As for his political preferences, in 1933, at the proposal of the Liberal leader Ion Gheorghe Duca, Sinadino became a member of the National Liberal Party (Partidul Național Liberal, PNL) and actively engaged in the electoral campaign for the district of Chișinău, which he represented as a senator in the Romanian Parliament (1933–1937). In 1937, he joined the National Peasants Party (Partidul Național Țărănesc, PNȚ). A year later, when King Carol II banned political parties, all public employees were automatically included in the sole party, the National Renaissance Front (Frontul Renașterii Naționale, FRN).27

The occupation of Bessarabia by the Soviet army in June 1940 proved fatal for Sinadino. On 9 July 1940, he was arrested and charged with “counter-revolutionary activity, directed against the revolutionary working class of Bessarabia and its defender – the Communist Party.”28 The last piece of information about Sinadino indicates that he was put in the Penza prison, where he presumably died.29 His family managed to escape to Bucharest. Such was the dramatic end to Sinadino’s tumultuous life. 

This rather brief version of Sinadino’s biographical path indicates the fact that after 1918 he successfully adapted to the new life and continued his career within Greater Romania. At the same time, new archival sources from various countries and in various languages30 reveal hitherto unknown details about the period from 1917–1919, in which the dramatic shifts in Sinadino’s life occurred.  

A Landowner Fights for his Property 

In July 1940, when Pantelimon V. Sinadino was arrested and questioned by the Soviet secret police (NKVD), he testified that the actions he took in 1918 in support of the union of Bessarabia with Romania were solely motivated by the urgent need to preserve his private property. The situation in Bessarabia and the circumstances which facilitated the landowners’ decision to go to Iași and seek the protection of the Romanian king will be examined more closely in this section. 

In the summer of 1917, in Bessarabia, similar to other Russian gubernias, peasants began to take over the landowners’ estates. The anarchic expropriation of the land gained in intensity by the autumn, the regional bodies being unable to control the situation.31 After the Romanian troops entered the region, Sinadino initiated the creation of the Union of Bessarabian Large Landowners, intending to represent the landowners’ interests to the Romanian authorities. On February 21, 1918, the Sfatul Țării issued a decree according to which the land was “socialised.”32 Following the advice of the Military Commissioner of Bessarabia, Duiliu Zamfirescu,33 the large landowners’ representatives went to meet the Romanian King Ferdinand in Iași. The memorandum addressed to the king described the “revolutionary attempts” in the region and requested that it merge with Romania.34 In another memorandum issued several days later, the landowners requested the instalment of the Romanian military administration in Bessarabia, which was gripped by anarchy. The document emphasised the impotence and institutional arbitrariness of the Sfatul Țării.35 Fearing the Sfatul Țării’s promises of radical expropriation of land, which found significant support among the peasants, many of whom were war veterans, the landowners hoped that the change in political status would help avoid the region’s and their own economic ruin. At the same time, while engaging in negotiations with the Romanian authorities for the protection of property, the landowners received assurances from Alexandru Marghiloman, Romanian prime minister and head of the Conservative Party, of future participation in political, economic and social life in the region.36

After April 9, 1918, the Sfatul Țării deputies continued to exercise their duty, contrary to Marghiloman’s statement on the existing plans for its immediate dissolution. The elaboration of the agrarian legislation for Bessarabia by the Sfatul Țării was one of the conditions of the union. In such a situation, the Romanian government looked for ways to reconcile the two sides – the Sfatul Țării and the large landowners – which had contradicting solutions to the agrarian issue. This difficult task was handed over to the government representative in the region, Constantin Stere, who earlier had played a crucial role in persuading the Bessarabian deputies to vote in favour of the union. From March to June 1918, Stere met privately several times with Sinadino, discussing the situation in the region and possible solutions to the social and economic crisis. Stere assured Sinadino that the Romanian government would insist before the Sfatul Țării that the expropriation of land would take place “with redemption and within the limits of necessity.” While emphasising that in Bessarabia, the agrarian reform was “revolutionary, bottom-up, and not evolutionary, from top to bottom, as in Romania,” Stere proposed that the landowners work together with the Romanian government and the Sfatul Țării to “finally give Bessarabia what it has wanted for so long: progress, knowledge, order and statehood.”37

Stere’s proposal that landowners participate in the works of the Agrarian commission of the Sfatul Țării, which elaborated the agrarian draft law for Bessarabia, was first rejected by the large landowners.38 Sinadino then assumed the role of a mediator, inviting Stere to explain the proposal’s advantages before his counterparts. As a result, seven landowners, including Sinadino, took part in two sessions of the commission, albeit without success. According to a memorandum drafted by the Union of Bessarabian Large Landowners, the commission’s reaction to the landowners’ proposals, namely the extension in Bessarabia of the agrarian legislation of the Old Kingdom and the legalisation of free sale of land, was “unfriendly” to say the least: while some claimed that proposals would delay the work of the Agrarian commission, others referred to the 1917 “peasants’ movement,” threatening the landowners with a “new night of St. Bartholomew.”39

During other private meetings between the two, Stere explicitly told Sinadino that the Romanian government was interested in solving the “agrarian question” in the region “primarily in terms of solving the national question here,” that is, when it came to both expropriation and endowment, it was the Romanians who had priority. For Bessarabia to become “definitively Romanian,” there were plans to re-populate the land with the Romanians in areas where they were in the minority. For that purpose, around 600,000 desiatines were to be expropriated; Stere claimed:  

The land will be taken from the landowners who are not Moldovans or, more precisely, who do not like the idea of the union of Bessarabia with Romania. For example, all land must be taken in exchange for retribution from Count Sviatopolk Mirskii, Krupenskii, Ermolinskii and others, but others whom we need will keep their lands. We need sympathisers, we need to keep the large landowners who will be later entrusted with the administration of this land.40

According to Stere, those large landowners who merged with Romanians would receive the state’s support, while the others, in contrast, would have to “liquidate their corners and leave.”41

The differentiated attitude towards the landowners based on their expression of loyalty to the Romanian state did not come as a surprise for Sinadino. One of the disloyal landowners was Alexander N. Krupenskii, who left Bessarabia for Odessa in April 1918, but the status of his estates remained unclarified.42 In his letters to Krupenskii, written between September 1918 and January 1920,43 Sinadino expressed his profound disappointment with the fact that the Romanian government had left the agrarian reform to the regional diet, which opted for the radical expropriation of land.44 These letters also reveal that the passive position of the Romanians towards the agrarian issue was the essential motive for the landowners’ critical attitude towards the union of Bessarabia with Romania. Moreover, many would prefer the region’s return to Russia’s protection. At the beginning of 1919, when the regional autonomy of Bessarabia inside Romania was cancelled, Sinadino wrote to Krupenskii, who was in Paris, that “the best thing would be for the Great Powers to consider Bessarabia what it was before, that is, Russian, for the decisions of self-proclaimed Bolshevik institutions [Sfatul Țării] cannot be taken seriously.”45

A Mediator between the Chișinău Mayoralty and the Romanian Government 

After Bessarabia merged with Romania, the process of Romanianisation began. Regional officials and local employees expressed dissatisfaction with the intention of the new authorities to eliminate the Russian language from the administration and educational and cultural institutions. Teachers and lawyers refused to take the oath to the king to enter Romanian public service. There was little prospect of the government’s cooperation with the former local elite. During one of the meetings with Pantelimon V. Sinadino, the governmental representative Constantin Stere complained that the effort of the Romanian government was met by the former elite representatives with reluctance. Sinadino himself turned down the position of minister of finance. Due to the “plot” concocted by the locals, claimed Stere, the government was left with no option but to take a radical step: “To establish effective governance in the country, the public officials from the [Old] Kingdom will be invited.”46

The new government attempted to persuade the local public employees to comply with the legal and administrative changes. One such attempt was to change the social and political composition of the Chișinău executive council (uprava). Led by mayor Alexander K. Schmidt, the son of a former Chisinau mayor of German origin, Karol Schmidt, the uprava did not want to accept the region’s new political status. Elected in the autumn of 1917 under the pressure of local revolutionary organisations, the uprava rejected the cooperation proposals coming from the Sfatul Țării and the regional Board of General Directors (ministers).47 At Stere’ insistence, Sinadino took on the role of a mediator between the uprava and the government, taking into account the new political circumstances. On 29 April 1918, he insisted before the city executive on changing the composition of the uprava to preserve regional autonomy and to avoid discrediting the idea of local administration. Sinadino’s effort remained in vain: “You can imagine what impression my words have made,” he later shared told Stere.48 On September 18, 1918, King Ferdinand issued the decree on the dissolution of Chișinău’s legislative and executive councils.49

For the “Holy and Just Cause:” In Support of the Return to Bessarabia under Russia’s Protection 

Sinadino and other representatives of Bessarabia’s former elite hoped that under the new regime, they would regain economic and social privileges and participate in the administration of the region’s economic and social affairs. The abolishment of Bessarabia’s autonomous status on 12 December 1918, was the “last stroke.” Therefore, when the Peace Conference was launched in the French capital, he urged Alexander N. Krupenskii to go there,  “where a new world map is redesigned,” and represent Bessarabia’s interests to the victorious Allied Powers.50

In the spring of 1918, a group of Bessarabian émigrés led by Alexander N. Krupenskii had founded the Committee for the Liberation of Bessarabia in Odessa. The committee contacted the Russian political émigrés in Paris, who advised them to send a “Bessarabian delegation” to the peace conference.51 On 10 April 1919, a “Bessarabian delegation” was created in Odessa, to obtain from the international conference the “liberation” of Bessarabia from Romania and a free expression of the “will” of the Bessarabian inhabitants through a plebiscite.52 Another aim of the “delegation” was to counterbalance the activity of the Romanian delegation at the conference, which argued for the recognition of Bessarabia as a Romanian territory. The activity of the “delegation” was part of the “Russian cause” (Russkoe delo) – the campaign led by the Russian political émigrés and ambassadors, mandated by the Kolchak government to negotiate with the Allied Powers anti-Bolshevik military support and possible restoration of Russia’s pre-war western borders. Members of the “Bessarabian delegation”, besides Alexander N. Krupenskii, who acted as its president, were the former mayor of Chișinău, Alexander K. Schmidt, the former director of imperial theatres in St. Petersburg, Alexander D. Krupenskii, a relative of A.N. Krupenkii, and a former Sfatul Țării deputy, Vladimir V. Tsyganko.53 Sinadino’s name also figured among the potential “delegates” on behalf of Bessarabia; others – from left-wing organisations and the Jewish minority – were expected to join. According to Sinadino’s notes, he never left for Paris and never intended to do so. In his letters to Krupenskii, Sinadino complained about his poor physical state, emphasising that his presence in Chișinău was much more helpful than his eventual stay in the French capital. Sinadino considered that having “a set of mandates and working together, being aware that you act for a unique holy and just cause!” was crucial for the success of the latter.54

In contrast to Alexander N. Krupenskii, Sinadino, remained anonymous outside the country, although he was well-known in Bessarabia, proving very useful inside the region as Krupenskii’s main informant on the Bessarabian affairs. Sinadino wrote detailed letters, sometimes five times a day55 – informing Krupenskii in Paris about the political, economic and social state of affairs inside the region. Due to strict censorship, to send a letter to Paris, Sinadino travelled to Bucharest in search of opportunities to send letters or a parcel with documents which contained “everything that can be of interest to the larger public on the Bessarabian question,” so that one would have “a clear picture of our life, our rights and our situation!”56 Krupenskii used the detailed information to draft memoranda and protests, as well as to publish newspaper articles in various newspapers in which he criticized the Romanian regime and expressed the “will” of the inhabitants of Bessarabia to merge with Russia. 

In his letters, Sinadino wrote that the Bessarabians followed the political debate in Romania; nevertheless, “this fight leaves everyone with indifference, for these parties are disgusting to us, but it’s still good that these gentlemen are fighting and in [illegible word] polemic they say little truth about each other!”57 He criticised Romanian propaganda for its excessive emphasis on saving the region from the Bolsheviks, but at the same time, he described the dangerous and destructive facets of Bolshevism. The landowner acknowledged that with the region’s union with Romania, the Bolshevik danger was eliminated. At the same time, he characterized the agrarian politics of the Sfatul Țării as “revolutionary” and “leftist.” For instance, the so-called “agrarian commissions” (comisiile celor trei – Ro.), endowed by Sfatul Țării with first expropriation activities, were qualified as a “troika of former Bolsheviks – villagers of reprehensible repute, prisoners of war and other bastards.”58 The occupation of Odessa by the Bolsheviks in April 1919 also gave severe cause for concern.59

Sinadino also criticised the administrative changes the Romanians initiated inside Bessarabia. He claimed that the dissolution of the gubernia’s zemstvo and the Chișinău executive council were “pushed through” by the Romanians without reaching a compromise with the locals; Sinadino himself attempted to mediate between the Chisinau city council and the Romanian government, but to no avail. He wrote that the Romanians ignored regional peculiarities familiar only to the former elite, and that the cooperation and support of the latter were not sought.  

In his letters, Sinadino praised those Bessarabians who, one way or another, expressed criticism of the Romanian regime. He reported that a group numbering thirteen former Sfatul Țării deputies doubted the rightfulness of the union and expressed their readiness to withdraw their signatures from the declaration of 9 April.60 The refusal of certain groups of teachers and lawyers to take the oath to the king was qualified as resistance to the “temptation” to serve the new regime, despite the daily struggle with the lack of resources; nevertheless, he admitted that the resistance was not for free, and asked the Bessarabian émigrés for money to support the former public employees: 

It is getting harder, and the ranks are beginning to thin out! We need a living word, we need moral support, to keep us alive and to support us, after all, temptations are incredible, and heroes are few! The Romanians [illegible word] caught, all their henchmen are bought with money, but our faithful people are hungry and are selling the last pieces of furniture and their white linen! If possible, send money for the former employees, thousands of them are starving. And yet we stand, we still live.61

The documents and testimonies he collected in this regard were valued in Paris, being used by Bessarabian “delegates” as proof of the “abusive instalment” of the Romanian regime contrary to the “people’s will.”  

Sinadino repeatedly expressed worries about the situation on the anti-Bolshevik front and the way it could influence the situation inside the region, as well as about the solving of the Bessarabian “question” in Paris. Despite the fact that the news of such events as the advancement of the Volunteer Army in Southern Ukraine or the advancement of the Romanian Army towards Budapest always reached Bessarabia late, these were commented on by Sinadino as developments that required a swift adjustment of agenda by the Bessarabian “delegation” in Paris. Sinadino formulated concrete suggestions on the main directions of activity of the “Bessarabian delegation” before it was even officially set up. For instance, in a letter to Krupenskii of 12 January 1919, Sinadino suggested that the “delegation” request from the peace conference that an international commission be sent to Bessarabia, “to whom everything will be said if immunity is guaranteed; therefore, the presence of the representatives of France, America, England – of their consuls – is necessary.”62 Another suggestion was to invite the Greek troops to establish order in the region with the approval of the Allied Powers: “If the Romanians have to leave here, we would not be upset, so we need to regulate this and order the Greek troops to be sent to Chișinău.”63

Sinadino disagreed categorically with the abolishment of Bessarabia’s autonomy inside Romania, sealed on 9 April, considering that the Sfatul Țării had reneged six months later under pressured circumstances.64 Since the conference did not give its verdict about the fate of Bessarabia, the Romanian parliamentary elections and the implementation of the agrarian reform were to be stopped, he wrote.65 He supported the idea, fiercely advocated by the “Bessarabian delegation” in Paris and other European capitals, that only a plebiscite could clarify the region’s status, and that the local inhabitants would express their will to leave Romania and return to Russia. Since the Great Powers expected that a democratic regime would be installed in the Russian Federative Republic, the “delegation” preferred to avoid indicating what kind of regime was preferred in Russia.  

Other topics of correspondence were the activity of the Romanian delegation in Paris, the Great Powers’ stance on various territorial questions, questions such as where to find the money for propaganda, and how to intensify anti-Romanian propaganda at home. Another topic of discussion was the situation inside Ukraine: “The riots in Ukraine have greatly cheered up the Romanians here and have a depressing effect on us; when these stupid people will realize that they are pushing Russia into the abyss!”66

Sinadino described the economic disaster in the region in detail, complaining that the Romanians were doing little to stop the deterioration of infrastructure, regulate inflation, and control the rising prices for grain and everyday products. The lack of these and the high prices were a new dramatic experience; comparing the situation with the enjoyable everyday life in the Russian Empire added even more drama. Another aspect that deeply concerned Sinadino was the institution of censorship in the region: 

Now, in fact, we have a total terror, everything is closed and all nailed down [underl. in text]; newspapers are silent, because of the censorship that never existed before – even the speeches of the highest French authorities, like that of Clemenceau on Russia, are banned, the newspapers publish only what is permitted, or what and how they have been ordered to write; there were cases of the rulers ordering placing an article and information about their activities, then these articles and newspapers are placed where necessary, as a confirmation of their useful care. Nobody can say anything directly because the army of agents and spies will transmit further; they spare no expense, buying as much as they can, and whom they can. No public meetings, or even plays or charitable events, are allowed; today, the Assembly of the Nobility is closed – our club and all other clubs because they consider them the source of all the false rumours about Romania.67

Those who initially saw the union as only a rational decision then became unhappy with the political, social and economic changes that did not correspond to the promises made by the Romanian government to landowners. On the other hand, the perspectives imagined by the former elite did not coincide with the reality that the Romanian state was able to construct. They hoped that one day life would return to “normality.” From Sinadino’s reflections, one can conclude that it was precisely Krupenskii’s letters from Paris68 with details on the “Bessarabian cause” that lit the flame of hope for Sinadino and others who believed that the restoration of “Greater Russia” was possible. Nevertheless, “normality” belonged to the future, but one needed to live in the present. The entrepreneurial attempts of Sinadino during the transition shows that he was in search of ways to adapt to the new life and benefit from new economic conditions. 

An Entrepreneur: Founding a Sugar Factory Society in Northern Bessarabia 

Sinadino’s critical positioning towards the Romanian regime did not impede him from planning to found a business enterprise inside Bessarabia. Among his business partners were none other than Alexander N. Krupenskii and his uncle, Pavel N. Krupenskii. On 29 August 1918, Sinadino wrote to Alexander N. Krupenskii, who was then in Odessa, proposing that they set up their joint company, the Sugar Factory Society (Obschestvo Sakharnogo Zavoda). That was precisely the reason why Krupenskii left with Sinadino a consistent sum of money, which the latter administered in the following manner: of a total of 160,000 lei exchanged from roubles, 5,000 lei were deposited in the account of the society on behalf of A. N. Krupenskii. Apparently, the latter agreed to initially contribute to the statutory capital of the society with 50,000 lei.69

Sinadino planned to request from the Romanian authorities the approval of the Sugar Factory Society with a statutory capital of 10 million lei. The publication of the company’s statute by the District Court in Romania needed to be speeded up. He wrote to Krupenskii that to start the business, a sum of around 15–16 million lei was necessary. By the end of August, the joint capital was “about three million lei,” which made securing the opening of the first plant near Târnova train station in northern Bessarabia a difficult one. “There are frantic rates, this is a beet region,” wrote Sinadino.70 Two more plants outside Bessarabia were also planned. Meanwhile, he considered the state of affairs inside Bessarabia being unfavourable to the development of a business, since there was 

no order, there is no goal and no system of control, and all streets are one-sided: there is need for [road] construction in this Romanian region. I just cannot understand what has actually been achieved by this system? It is very difficult to get used to this situation! Whether all this will come to an end – I do not know! In fact, I do not even want to know, since all of this is just extremely annoying and disgusting.71

In the spring of 1918, after the region merged with Romania, the planning of the joint enterprise continued. In the early January of 1919, the sum of 2,000 lei was paid into the account of the future sugar factory by Alexander D. Krupenskii on behalf of A. N. Krupenskii.72 By the time of Krupenskii’s modest investment, 30 percent of the sum (six million lei) had been deposited into the account of the National Bank, which was supposed to lend another six million lei. Sinadino’s letters to Krupenskii were full of worries about due rates; he also enquired about Krupenskii’s next payment.73 In February 1919, Alexander N. Krupenskii decided to sell his share and leave the business.74 The fate of the sugar enterprise remains unknown. 

A Post-imperial Subject in Search of (New) Self-identification 

According to Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, “self- and other-identification are fundamentally situational and contextual.”75 Sinadino’s letters to Krupenskii prove this statement by showing the author’s embracing a relational mode of identification in which kinship, friendship and other forms of relationships played an important role. Sinadino shared his profound and moving solidarity with those who after the collapse of the Russian Empire were frustrated and disappointed with the deprivation of their prosperous life and the loss of a leading social and economic role in the region:  

Costs are hyperbolic; prices are rising every week, and you cannot see the end of this misfortune! We become poorer every day, and it is a terrible feeling when you think that not so long ago we were people with a certain income.76

Despite the daily difficulties and restraints and his poor health, Sinadino rather lamented the situation faced by those formerly employed in Russian public service than his own. “Everything has been redesigned as in Romania, which, however, only exists on paper.” The postal service was still dysfunctional, and while the courts were in place, “nobody undertook legal action since justice could not be expected.”77

To motivate former public officials to reject job offers from the Romanian state, Krupenskii was asked to mediate some funds from Admiral Kolchak as a temporary solution for those in need. 

Sinadino blamed the new regional elite who brought the revolution to the Russian periphery and who later agreed to collaborate with the Romanians for destroying the region and making it alien. Although Sinadino remained in the region, unlike Krupenskii, who emigrated, it was another Bessarabia he identified with – the region in which he was born and lived before the Russian Revolution of 1917. Sinadino’s letters point out his loss of the place of his family roots, and the loss of Bessarabia as part of “Greater Russia.” 

During the spring of 1918, the representatives of the former elite hoped to gain the full support of the Romanian authorities for the preservation of their estates and to play a role in the administrative life of the region. The primary sources indicate the readiness of the “old” elite to transfer their loyalty to the Romanian king. During the summer and autumn of 1918, when the disappointment from the implemented agrarian reforms grew, their readiness, although fragile, was replaced by indignation, repulsion, and even hatred concerning the Romanian authorities. The once acclaimed “liberation” from the Bolsheviks was forgotten; every measure of the Romanians in the region was criticised, and they were blamed for the disastrous economic and social situation. In such a confused state of mind, references to the past were often made and a sense of belonging to the Russian space was awakened.  

For Sinadino, who was of Greek origin, it was the Russian imperial identity he related to. Longing for Russia and “Russianness” was synonymous with preserving the connection with the lost Motherland and resisting the Romanian regime and Romanianisation:  

You cannot imagine how hard life is here for these little but honest Russian people who have remained faithful to their homeland but are deprived of all means of livelihood and even of shelter! When will the torments of these people end?! […] Repressions multiply and grow, all that is Russian is godlessly persecuted and eradicated, so that nothing resembles this hateful word “Russia,” of which they are all afraid, like of a fire.78

He described how under the new regime “everything that was Russian, even a hint towards what is Russian, is punished cruelly and shamelessly,” and those who identified with Russia suffered. He thus called for “immediate [underl. in text] measures to protect “Russian people by name and in the soul” from the arbitrariness of the Romanian authorities. “In such a situation, it is simply incomprehensible how the Russian spirit still survives and how people do not give up, and still believe in the coming of justice and law.”79

Pantelimon V. Sinadino’s multiple facets of self-identification were revealed in different settings and under different circumstances. In a time of great distress, one needed to be flexible, adjust quickly to various political settings, and negotiate new roles. When the agrarian issue was at stake, Sinadino identified as a “landowner.” When it came to discussing the situation of minorities within Greater Romania, he associated himself with the many “Russians” who felt marginalised under the new regime. His pleas to stop economic disaster were formulated on behalf of the “wealthy.” Sinadino’s situational identification as being of Greek origin was emphasised when he asked the Greek diplomatic representative in Iaşi to intervene with the Romanian government to secure the status of estates belonging to St. Mount Athos and other Greek monasteries and the private estates belonging to the Greek landowners.80

Against the Bessarabian “Workers”?!: the 1940 Soviet Police Interrogation 

Sinadino’s case proves a rare opportunity to cross-check the information on his political alignment and activity after World War I with his NKVD interrogation file of August 1940.81 During interrogation, he admitted that  

as an active member of the Sfatul Țării on behalf of the Greek minority, as president of the Union of Large Landowners, I have indeed directed my activity towards the fight against the revolutionaries, the Bolsheviks, and towards escape from the revolution. With this aim, I insisted on the separation of Bessarabia from Soviet Russia and on its forceful union with Romania, I therefore plead guilty before the workers of Bessarabia and Soviet power.82

At the same time, he stated that the regional diet, the Sfatul Țării, composed of former deserters from the Russian army on the Romanian front,83 was an “adventurous” and “anarchist” body. The Sfatul Țării was to be considered solely responsible for the “forceful union,” which was contrary to the “people’s will.” The landowners’ “considerable role” in the process was dictated by the specific circumstances instead: in Romania “it was accepted to recognise that we were also not against.”84

Sinadino stated that from 1917 to 1918 he had not joined any political party or movement, but nevertheless, as a landowner, he exposed his political opinion in the March 1918 address to the king, and thus “contributed to the shameful transfer of Bessarabia into the hands of the Romanian occupiers.”85 In the landowners’ memoranda addressed to the king and the prime minister, the Statul Țării was indeed described as “revolutionary,”86 with the aim of persuading the Romanian authorities to “suppress” the Bolsheviks’ attempt to seize power in Bessarabia and push for the union of the region with Romania. In such a way, the redistribution of land among the peasants, launched by the Statul Țării, was to be stopped. Sinadino admitted that, at a later stage, he became a member of the National Liberal Party, which supported the position of the “bourgeoisie” and would guarantee the status of the “prosperous class.” It was obvious for Sinadino, but not for the Soviet regime, that “living in a bourgeois state, being a representative of the bourgeoisie, [he] had to fight against any attempt to change the existing regime.”87

Sinadino was accused of “counter-revolutionary activity” against the Bessarabian “workers” and the Communist Party. He did not deny the accusations but pleaded guilty instead. He had probably sensed that his fate had already been decided, the NKVD interrogation being a formality. According to the Moldovan historian Iurie Colesnic, it was Sinadino’s naivety that moved him to give sincere answers to formal questions. The annihilation of the Romanian politicians, public employees, and cultural activists involved in the “national construction” of interwar Romania and the establishment of the “bourgeois-inheriting Romanian regime” in Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina occurred immediately after the two regions were occupied by the Red Army in June 1940. The NKVD identified the presence in Bessarabia of  

a significant number of anti-Soviet elements among the landowners, merchants, policemen, gendarmes, white guards, mayors, and refugees from the USSR, and other foreign social elements that were carrying out counter-revolutionary activity in collaboration with the Romanian secret service.88 

After their arrests, the “anti-Soviet elements” were subjected to interrogation, conducted by the State Political Directorate (GPU),89 and then “sent to places where nothing is known of their fate.”90 Sinadino was one of many former members of the “bourgeoisie,” landowners and political leaders who fell victim to the Soviet machinery of repression.  


The biography of the Bessarabian Pantelimon V. Sinadino falls into the category of individual stories, which are extremely important for challenging the official accounts of national (in this case Romanian and Moldovan) histories. Sinadino was a representative of the Bessarabian imperial elite, which experienced radical social change within the region during World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917. In his post-imperial biography, one encounters both continuity and change, comprised of both destructive and formative elements. In contrast with Romanian historiography, which has rather ignored the existence of the Russian “old” elite in the newly-acquired Bessarabia, and Moldovan historiography, which has concentrated on the representatives of the new regional elite who contributed to the union of Bessarabia with Romania  (făuritorii Marii Uniri – Ro.), the findings of the present study point to an elite which did not “disappear” but continued to live and act while having ambiguous feelings of distress, fear, and insecurity and was in search of new benchmarks in  life. 

The dissolution of the Russian Empire meant the separation of Bessarabia from a well-established imperial political and geographical frame that offered security and protection, detachment from a power centre and the dismantling of institutional structures. The former elite was dispossessed, lost its political, administrative and social status, and was detached from the imperial customs. Living under major threat to their person and family in the summer and autumn of 1917 placed such individuals under extreme pressure. Almost overnight, they were disempowered by the new revolutionary elite. Under unique, often unpredictable circumstances, the former elite underwent psychological transformations characterised by feelings of uncertainty, vulnerability, fear, and loss. They mourned the loss of the empire while simultaneously searching for solutions for guaranteeing individual and group security. Romania was not yet present on the Bessarabians’ mental map; nevertheless, due to growing Bolshevik danger, they had to acknowledge that in these complex circumstances, it was only with the support of neighbouring Romania that the anarchy inside Bessarabia could be stopped. 

Between a vanishing past and a very uncertain future, Sinadino self-identified in multiple ways. He was, simultaneously, an “imperial subject,” a “landowner,” “wealthy,” an “entrepreneur,” and a “politician,” and then a Greek. During the transition from the empire to the nation-state, ethnic origin did not seem very important; other types of self-identification facilitated the adaptation to the new social and political reality. Previously acquired social capital was used to build further contacts and relations. 

Due to his political vision that transcended the regional boundaries and the intense contact which extended to Rome, Paris and other European cities, Sinadino’s life path bore the characteristics of transnational life. In his correspondence to Krupenskii, it is nearly “impossible to segregate the public from the intimate, the economic from the cultural or the political from the personal.”91 His letters contained an abundance of diverse topics, from strategies for persuading policy-makers in Paris to arguments on the Russian character of Bessarabia, from the prices at the local market to a business plan to open a sugar factory, from observations on the depressed mood of the Bessarabians who served the Russian Empire to reflections on what Clemenceau and Wilson were up to in Paris. Sinadino’s reflections, profound or sporadic, alternated with strategic thoughts, occasionally rational and calculated or, at times, idealistic, and grand business plans, which remained mostly on paper, show the entire complexity of the transition, with its ambiguity, contradictions, and questioning.  

“I am very sorry that I have such terrible handwriting and that it is deteriorating further. I ask you to store my manuscripts, as all this will ever be useful for the history of Bessarabia,” Pantelimon V. Sinadino wrote to Alexander N. Krupenskii on 9 October 1918. Sinadino considered that his account could enrich future generations’ understanding of the complex times in which he was living. Indeed, his letters and notes present a unique perspective of an active participant in transition, as well as revealing the transformative power of the dramatic events on his personality, beliefs, and dreams. 

Svetlana Suveica is a historian of Eastern and Southeastern Europe who lectures at the University of Regensburg (venia legendi) and an associate researcher at the Leibniz-Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS) in Regensburg.  She graduated from the Moldova State University in Chisinau, obtained her doctorate from the “A.I. Cuza” University in Iași, Romania, and habilitated at the University of Regensburg. She has extensively published on World War I and the post-war transition, the interwar state-building in Eastern Europe, the World War II and the Holocaust and the post-Soviet social and political transformations with the focus on Bessarabia, Transnistria, and Moldova. Her latest monograph is entitled: Post-imperial Encounters. Transnational Designs of Bessarabia in Paris and Elsewhere, 1917–1922 (De Gruyter 2022). 

  1. Tim Buchen, Malte Rolf (eds.): Eliten im Vielvölkerreich. Imperiale Biographien in Russland und Österreich-Ungarn (1850–1918). Berlin, Boston 2015; Stephen M. Norris, Willard Sunderland (eds.): Russia’s People of Empire. Life Stories from Eurasia, 1500 to the Present. Bloomington 2012. On biographical approach as revealing experiences of mobility in imperial and colonial settings see also Achim von OppenSilke StrickrodtIntroduction. Biographies Between Spheres of Empire. In: The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 44 (2016), pp. 717–729.  ↩︎
  2.  See Martin Aust, Benjamin Schenk (eds.): Imperial Subjects. Autobiographische Praxis in den Vielvölkerreichen der Romanovs, Habsburger und Osmanen im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert. Cologne 2015. ↩︎
  3. Ian W. Campbell: Writing Imperial Lives. Biography, Autobiography, and Microhistory. In: Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 18 (2017) 1, pp. 151–165. ↩︎
  4. See Willard Sunderland: The Baron’s Cloak. A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution. Ithaca (NY) 2014; Barbara Henning: Narratives of the History of the Ottoman-Kurdish Bedirhani Family in Imperial and Post-Imperial Contexts. Continuities and Changes. Bamberg 2018.  ↩︎
  5. On the worsening situation in Chișinău city due to the chaotic return of Russian soldiers through Bessarabia, see, Svetlana Suveica, Virgil Pîslariuc, Gorod Kishinev: Ot zapadnoi okrainy Rossiiskoi imperii k vostochnoi okraine Velikoi Rumynii [Chișinău: From the Western Borders of the Russian Empire to the Eastern Borders of Greater Romania]. In: Alexei Miller, Dmitrii Chernyi (eds.): Goroda imperii v gody Velikoi Voiny i revoliutsii. Sbornik statei [Cities of the Empire during the Great War and the Revolution. Collection of Studies]. Saint Petersburg 2017, pp. 370/409.  ↩︎
  6. Dates in Old Style (O.S.) are indicated accordingly, otherwise, New Style. ↩︎
  7. See Claudiu Topor, “Auf nach Rumänien!” Beligeranța germano-română 1916–1918 [“Auf nach Rumänien!” German-Romanian Belligerency 1916–1918]. Iași 2020. ↩︎
  8.  Sfatul Țării continued to act as a regional legislative diet in charge of solving the “agrarian question”, while the local “zemstvo” and city councils remained as local administrative bodies. Two representatives of the region entered the Romanian government, inhabitants elected their deputies to the Romanian parliament on the basis of a direct, equal, secret and universal ballot proportionate to the population, and civil liberties and minority rights were guaranteed. ↩︎
  9. See, at large, Ion Țurcanu: Unirea Basarabiei cu România 1918. Preludii, premise, realizări [The Union of Bessarabia with Romania 1918. Preludes, Premises, Achievements]. Chișinău 1998, pp. 165–187. ↩︎
  10. Lois Banner: Biography as History. In: American Historical Review 114 (2009) 3, pp. 580–581. ↩︎
  11. On liminality as a concept, see Arnold van Gennep: The Rise of Passage. Chicago, London 1960; Victor W. Turner: The Ritual Process. Structure and Anti-Structure. Harmondworth 1969; Agnes Horvath, Bjorn Thomassen, Harald Wydra (eds.): Breaking Boundaries. Varieties of Liminality. New York 2015; Arpad Szacolczai: Liminality and Experience. Structuring Transitory Situations and Transformative Events. In: International Political Anthropology 2 (2009) 1, pp. 141–172. ↩︎
  12. The Kishinevskii Kommercheskii Bank [Chișinău Comercial Bank] and the Bessarabskii Tavricheskii Zemelinyi Bank [Bessarabian Tavricheskii Zemelinyi Bank] in Chișinău, the Black Sea-Danube Shipping Company and the wine production and trading company Brati’a I. i V. Sinadino i Ko in Odessa. On commercial activity of the Sinadino family in the 19th century, see Valentin Tomuleț, Victoria Bivol: Reprezentanți ai elitei burgheze din Basarabia. Negustorul grec Pantelei Sinadino (anii ’30–’50 ai sec. al XIX-lea) [Representatives of the Bourgeois Elite in Bessarabia. The Greek Merchant Pantelei Sinadino (1830s–1850s)]. In: Tyragetia 7 (2013) 2, pp. 157–167.  ↩︎
  13. Together with his brother Ivan, Victor built the Greek Church of St. Pantelimon in Chișinău. See Vladimir Tarnakin, Tatiana Solovieva: Bessarabskie istorii [The Bessarabian Stories]. Chișinău 2011, pp. 26–30. ↩︎
  14. Svidetel’stvo, g. Tiflis, 13.10.1898, Agenția Națională a Arhivelor – Direcția Generală a Arhivei Naționale a Republicii Moldova [National Archive Agency – General Directorate of the National Archives of the Republic of Moldova], hereafter ANA–DGAN), fonds 88, inv. 2, d. 215, p. 5. ↩︎
  15. 1 desiatina (Ru.) = 1,097 hectares. The land was located as follows: 316.12 desiatines in the village of Izbiște, 2,184 in Mihalașa, 130 in Susleni, 550 in Oniţcani in Orhei county, and 355,0786 deseatines in Hârjești, Chișinău county. See: Formuliarnyi spisok o sluzhbe Kishinevskogo Golovy, Kolezhskogo assessora Panteleimona Viktorovicha Sinadino [Record of service of the Mayor of Chișinău, counselor Panteleimon Victor Sinadino]. ANA-DGAN, fond 9 Bessarabskogo gubernskogo po zhemskim i gorodskim delam prisutstviia [Bessarabian city and town prosecutor’s office], inv. 2, d. 626.  ↩︎
  16. P. Sinadino: Creditul în Basarabia [The Credit System in Bessarabia]. Chişinău 1929; P. Sinadino: Ce este necesar pentru însănătoșirea vieții economice în Basarabia [What Is Needed to Improve Economic Life in Bessarabia]. Chișinău 1930. Sinadino’s earlier publications were dedicated to city of Chișinău: P. Sinadino: Naş Kişinev [Our Chișinău] (1904–1906); P. Sinadino: Vospominaniia [Memoirs] (1911). A short bibliographical note of Sinadino’s publications can be found in: Colesnic: Generația unirii, p. 293.  ↩︎
  17. See: Steven J. Zipperstein: Pogrom. Kishinev and the Tilt of History. New York, London 2018. ↩︎
  18. On the political situation in the region around the 1905 revolution, see: Andrei Kusko, Viktor Taki (pri uchastii Olega Groma): Bessarabiia v sostave Rossiiskoi imperii [Bessarabia in the Russian Empire] (1812–1917). Moscow 2012, pp. 283–285; Rossiiskoe dvorianstvo v revoliutsii 1905 goda. “Besedy” gubernskikh predvoditelei [Russian nobility and the Revolution of 1905. „Talks“ of gubernatorial leaders], Sost. I. V. Lukianov, SpB 2017 (passim). ↩︎
  19. See: A. B. Nikolaev: Sinadino Panteleimon Viktorovich. In: Gossudarstvennaia Duma Rossiiskoi Imperii [The State Duma of the Russian Empire]. 1906–1917. Entsiklopediia v 2-kh tomakh [Encyclopaedia in two volumes]. Moscow 2008.  ↩︎
  20. For example, Sinadino was among the initiators of the 1910 bill “On the improvement of public sanitation in Russia” (Gosudarsvennaia duma [The State Duma]. Sozyv 3-i. i3-ia. Prilozheniia k stenograficheskim otchetam, Sankt-Peterburg 1910, tom 1, no. 17, pp. 143–145) and the 1912 bill “On the designation of towns as special zemstvo units,” which aimed to ease the towns’ taxes and facilitate commercial activities (Gosudarsvennaia duma. Sozyv 4ij. Sessiia 1-ia. Prilozheniia k stenograficheskim otchetam, St. Petersburg 1913, tom 1, no. 22, p. 55).  ↩︎
  21. Here, and elsewhere in the text, translated by the author. Protokol no. 1 zasedaniia Bessarabskogo Kraevogo Organa – Sfatul Țării, 21 noiabria 1917 g. [Countrz Council, 21st November 1917]. In: Ion Țurcanu (ed.): Sfatul Țării. Documente [Country Council. Documents], vol. 1, p. 109. ↩︎
  22. General August von Mackensen was the military governor of the part of Romania (mostly Wallachia) occupied by the Central Powers in December 1916. ↩︎
  23.  This detail was revealed by P. V. Sinadino after his arrest and his subsequent interrogation by the Soviet Secret Police on August 9th 1940. Arhiva Consiliului de Securitate a Republicii Moldova [Archive of the Security Council of the Republic of Moldova] (hereafter ASRM), d. 28653, Protokol doprosa obviniaemogo Sinadino Panteleimona Viktorovicha [Protocol of the prosecution of the accused Sinadino Panteleimon Viktorovich], 9.8.1940, pp. 113–114. Copies of the dossier were kindly offered by Dr. Igor Cașu. Excerpts from the interrogations were also published in: Iurie Colesnic: Basarabia necunoscută [Unknown Bessarabia]. Chișinău 2007, pp. 20–45.  ↩︎
  24. Based on an interview given by Sinadino to the newspaper Basarabia, Piatra Neamț, 29.6.1919. In: Iurie Colesnic, Generația Unirii [The Union’s Generation]. Chișinău, pp. 292–293. ↩︎
  25. After the union, the Russian “uezd” became the Romanian „județ”. ↩︎
  26. Rozdano chlenam Rumynskogo parlamenta v Kishineve 8–9 sentiabria 1918 goda ot imeni Soiuza Zemelʹnykh Sobstvennikov [Given to the members of the Romanian parliament in Chișinău on 8–9 September 1918 in the name of Soiuza Zemelʹnykh Sobstvennikov]. Hoover Institution Archives (hereafter HIA), Mikhail N. Girs papers, box 39, folder 39.8 Bessarabia, Conditions and Events, 1917–1918. ↩︎
  27. ASRM, d. 28653, Protokol doprosa obviniaemogo Sinadino Panteleimona Viktorovicha [Protocol of the prosecution of the accused Sinadino Panteleimon Viktorovich], 9 August 1940, pp. 127–127v, pp. 129–130.  ↩︎
  28. Ibid., 12 August 1940, p. 133. ↩︎
  29. Iurie Colesnic’s inquiry at the Penza prison did not produce any results. ↩︎
  30. In this article, primary sources in the US, Moldovan, Russian and Romanian archives are consulted. ↩︎
  31. After rejecting the help of the newly created Moldovan cohorts, who were also involved in anarchy, the landowners turned to the cavalry militia for help, but without success. HIA, Vasilii A. Maklakov Papers, Box 19 Subject file, Folder 19.1 Bessarabia Military telegram, February 4, 1918. Obshchestvo Bessarabtsev [Bessarabia District]. ↩︎
  32. Instrucția agrară către comitetele pământești [Agrarian instruction to land committees], ANA-DGAN, fond 1417, inv. 1, d. 6, p. 1–2.  ↩︎
  33. Duiliu Zamfirescu: În Basarabia [In Bassarabia], ed. by Ioan Adam. București 2012, pp. 63–64; here, a short biography of Sinadino, pp. 93–94. ↩︎
  34. Other members of the delegation were: N. Botezatul, Socrate Cavaliotti, Victor Scherer, Gheorghe Gonata and Alexandru Sinadino. See Memoriul cu cererea pentru unirea Uniunii proprietarilor agricoli din Basarabia. In: Ştefan Ciobanu, Unirea Basarabiei. Studiu şi documente cu privire la mişcarea naţională din Basarabia în anii 1917–1918 [Bessarabia’s Union. A Study with Documents on the National Movement in Bessarabia in the Years 1917–1918]. Chişinău 1993, pp. 253–254.  ↩︎
  35. Din memoriul asupra stării în Basarabia, înaintat guvernului român de către Uniunea marilor proprietari din Basarabia, 10 martie 1918 [From the Memorandum on the Situation in Bessarabia, Submitted to the Romanian Government by the Union of Large Owners of Bessarabia, March 10, 1918]. In: Țurcanu, Unirea Basarabiei cu România, pp. 247–249. ↩︎
  36.  Beseda P.V. Sinadino. Marghiloman IV, HIA, Vasilii A. Maklakov Papers, Box 18, Folder 18.10 Bessarabia. Soiuz Zemel’nykh Sobstvennikov, p. 4. See Svetlana Suveica: Post-imperial Encounters. Transnational Designs of Bessarabia in Paris and Elsewhere, 1917–1922. Berlin, Boston 2022, pp. 154–155. ↩︎
  37. Ibid. ↩︎
  38. Ibid., pp. 11–12. ↩︎
  39. HIA, Vasilii A. Maklakov Papers, Box 18 Subject file, Folder 18.11. Bessarabia, Motivirovannaia zapiska ob otkaze ot uchastiia v Agrarnoi Kommissii Sf[atul] Ts[ării] [Memorandum on the refusal to participate in the Agrarian Commission of the State Council], 5.6.1918. Soiuz Zemelinykh Sovstvennikov. During the interrogation by the Soviet secret police on August 9, 1940, Sinadino confirmed his participation in the two sessions, claiming that the “provocative interventions” of the Romanian representative had served as a motive for ending cooperation. ASRM, d. 28653, Protokol doprosa obviniaemogo Sinadino Panteleimona Viktorovicha, 9.8.1940, p. 112.   ↩︎
  40. Beseda P.V. Sinadino. Marghiloman IV, HIA, Vasilii A. Maklakov Papers, p. 15. ↩︎
  41. Ibid. ↩︎
  42. Alexander N. Krupenskii was a large landowner who belonged to an ancient Bessarabian family that was close to the tsar and held important regional and local duties. Krupenskii was a marshal of the Bessarabian nobility and a former president of the gubernial zemstvo.  ↩︎
  43. Between September 1918 and March 1920, P. V. Sinadino maintained intense correspondence with A. N. Krupenskii. Some twenty letters, written in Russian by Sinadino, form part of Alexander N. Krupenskii’s papers in the Hoover Institution Archives. ↩︎
  44. The agrarian bill for Bessarabia, voted by the Sfatul Țării during its last meeting of December 10, 1918, allowed each landowner a maximum 100 hectares of land (Proiectul legii de reformă agrară pentru Basarabia din 27 noiembrie 1918. In: Sfatul Țării, 30 November 1918; Legea de reformă agrară pentru Basarabia: In: Monitorul Oficial [The Official Gazette], no. 258, 13.3.1920). By way of comparison, in the Old Kingdom the land was expropriated on the basis of a progressive scale, a maximum possession of 500 hectares being allowed.  ↩︎
  45. P. V. Sinadino – A. N. Krupenskii, Kishinev, 12.1.1919, HIA, Alexander N. Krupenskii Papers, Box I, Folder Sinadino.  ↩︎
  46. Beseda, f. 18. ↩︎
  47. Consiliul Directorilor Generali – Ro. The board, which was the executive of the Moldavian Democratic Republic, was dissolved on 12 December 1918, when the unconditional union of Bessarabia with Romania was approved by the Sfatul Țării. The directorates functioned, nevertheless, till 3 April 1920 (Decret-lege pentru desfiinţarea directoratelor din Basarabia, 3.4.1920.I In: Constantin Hamangiu, Codul general al României [General Code of Romania]. Vol. IX–X, 1919–1922, Legi uzuale. Bucureşti 1926, pp. 293–294.  ↩︎
  48. Beseda, f. 18–19. ↩︎
  49.  Monitorul Oficial, no. 133, 5.9.1918, p. 2185.  ↩︎
  50. P. V. Sinadino – A. N. Krupenskii, Kishinev, 12.1.1919.  ↩︎
  51. According to a certificate, A. N. Krupenskii and A. K. Schmidt were “dispatched to Paris as couriers carrying documents and letters to the representative of Russia to the Peace Congress – Minister Serge Sazonov.” HIA, A. N. Krupenskii papers, Box 2 Subject file, Folder Krupenskii, A.N., Certificat, Odessa, 27.1.1919.  ↩︎
  52. HIA, Alexander N. Krupenskii Papers, Box II Subject File, 1918–1934, Folder Bessarabian commission of the Paris Peace Conference, Declaratsiia, Odessa, 10.2.1919. ↩︎
  53. On Tsyganko’s activity, see, at large, Svetlana Suveica: The Bessarabians “between” the Russians and the Romanians. The Case of the Peasant Party Deputy Vladimir V. Țsyganko (1917–1919). In: Sorin Radu, Oliver Jens Schmitt (eds.): Politics and Peasants in Interwar Romania. Perceptions, Mentalities, Propaganda. Newcastle upon Tyne 2017, pp. 215–250. ↩︎
  54. P. V. Sinadino – A. N. Krupenskii, Kishinev, 12.8.1919.  ↩︎
  55. Ibid., 27.8.1919. “During the last period I wrote to you many times, I did not count previous letters, but on July 3 I wrote to you twice from Bucharest, then twice from Chișinău, and today I am writing for the fifth time, I do not know, what have you got? It is very difficult to keep correspondence.” ↩︎
  56. Ibid., 1.1.1920. ↩︎
  57. Ibid., 3.6.1919. ↩︎
  58. Ibid., Kishinev, 3.6.1919. ↩︎
  59.  Ibid., 22.4.1919. ↩︎
  60.  Ibid., 28.10.1918. In fact, the deputies signed a memorandum demanding the re-establishment of regional autonomy, which most likely remained unanswered by the Romanian government. ↩︎
  61. Apparently, money was requested numerous times from Kolchak with the mediation of Krupenskii; there is evidence that there was some financial support from Kolchak for the “Bessarabian delegation” in Paris, which, in turn, distributed some sources to Odessa and Chișinău. P. V. Sinadino – A. N. Krupenskii, Kishinev, 7.7.1919. ↩︎
  62. Ibid. ↩︎
  63.  Ibid., 5.6.1919. ↩︎
  64. Instead, the opponents of the union criticized the lack of transparency to the decision that “destroyed autonomy”, with the effect that the Romanian government “got rid of the Sfatul Țării. The Bessarabian “Parliament”. A. N. Krupenskii Papers 1918–1936, Box III Speeches and Writings, 1919, Folder The Bessarabian “Parliament” (Sfatul Tzerii).  ↩︎
  65. P. V. Sinadino – A. N. Krupenskii, 12.1.1918. ↩︎
  66.  Ibid., 23.11.1918. ↩︎
  67. P. V. Sinadino – A. N. Krupenskii, Kishinev, 12.1.1919. On the closure of the Assembly of the Nobility (Klub Blagorodnogo Sobraniia), see, Suveica, Pîslariuc, Gorod Kishinev: Ot zapadnoi okrainy Rossiiskoi imperii, pp. 395–398. ↩︎
  68. No letters authored by Krupenskii were available to us. ↩︎
  69. When it came for money issue, Sinadino was very precise: 150,000 were bought at the exchange rate of 54.5; the other 10,000 at 55.5. P.V. Sinadino – A.N. Krupenskii, Kishinev, 29.8.1918. ↩︎
  70. Ibid. ↩︎
  71. Ibid. ↩︎
  72. Alexander D. Krupenskii left for Paris as member of the “Bessarabian delegation” at a later stage. ↩︎
  73. P. V. Sinadino – A. N. Krupenskii, Kishinev, 19.12.1918. ↩︎
  74. Ibid., 26.2.1919. ↩︎
  75. See Rogers Brubaker / Frederick Cooper, Beyond “identity.” Theory and Society 29 (2000), no. 1, pp.  
    1–47, here 14.  ↩︎
  76. P.V. Sinadino – A.N. Krupenskii, Kishinev, 22.4.1919. ↩︎
  77. Ibid., 12.8.1919. ↩︎
  78. Ibid., 3.6.1919. ↩︎
  79.  Ibid. ↩︎
  80. Ibid., 26.2.1919. ↩︎
  81.  For a case study of Soviet repression of a former member of the Sfatul Țării, see: Igor Cașu: Dușmanul de clasă. Represiuni politice, violență și rezistență în R(A)SS Moldovenească, 1924–1956 [Class enemy. Political repression, violence and resistance in the Moldovan R(A)SS, 1924-1956]. Chișinău 2014, pp. 163–164. ↩︎
  82. ASRM, d. 28653, Protokol doprosa obviniaemogo Sinadino Panteleimona Viktorovicha, 9.8.1940, f. 113.  ↩︎
  83. The Sfatul Țării’s “Moldovan basis” consolidated after Romanian troops entered and Constantin Stere arrived in the region, claimed Sinadino. ↩︎
  84. Protokol doprosa, 9.8.1940, p. 111. ↩︎
  85. Ibid., p. 108.  ↩︎
  86. The Sfatul Țării became radicalised towards the end of 1917. See Katja Lasch, Der Landesrat in Bessarabien: Ethnische Zusammensetzung, politischen Orientierung, Sozialisation und Bildungsstand der Abgeordneten, Transylvanian Review, XXI, no. 2 (Summer 2012): pp. 19–37. ↩︎
  87.  Protokol doprosa, 12.8.1940, f. 133. ↩︎
  88. The deportation plan for Bessarabia included 980 bourgeois party leaders, 137 landowners, 285 White Army officers, 83 tsarist army officers involved in “anti-Soviet activity”, 1948 traders, and 411 large landowners. See: Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Sotsial’no-Politiceskoi Istorii [Russian State Archive o f Social and Political History] (further RGASPI), fond 573 Upolnomochennyi TsK VKP(b) i SNK SSSR po Moldavskoi SSR (1945–1950) [Commissioner of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (b) and the USSR Council of People’s Commissars for the Moldavian SSR (1945-1950)], inv. 1, d. 1, p. 77.  ↩︎
  89. Gosudarstvennoe Politicheskoe Upravlenie (Ru) [The State Political Directorate]. ↩︎
  90.  RGASPI, fond 573 Upolnomochennyi TsK VKP(b) i SNK SSSR po Moldavskoi SSR (1945–1950), inv. 1, d. 1, p. 76. ↩︎
  91. Desley Deacon, Penny Russel, Angela Woolacott (eds.): Transnational Lives. Biographies of Global Modernity, 1700–Present. Basingstoke 2010, p. 5.  ↩︎