Orders and decorations of Romania

orders and decorations of romania A short history of decorations in Romania

States, institutions and organizations in general are used to expressing their recognition for people's special service by awarding distinctions. Romania has always rewarded those who have distinguished themselves through special personal merit with orders and medals. Phaleristics is the auxiliary science of history and numismatics that studies medals, orders and other decorations. A quick overview will tell us more about their history in Romanian space. Thus, Romanian distinctions are broken down in national decorations, commemorative decorations, military decorations in times of peace, military decorations in times of war, civilian decorations for various fields of activities and honorifics.


The first Romanian decoration ever to be documented appears in the second half of the 19th century, after the unification of the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Under the reign of the first ruler of the Romanian United Principalities, Colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the Romanian State made its first attempts at establishing orders and decorations. In 1860, Cuza founded the Military Virtue Medal (Pro Virtute Militari) to reward the firefighters who had fought the Ottomans on Dealul Spirii battle of September 13, 1848. In 1864, Cuza wanted to establish the Order of the Union (Ordinul Unirii), which would mark 5 years since the Union of the Principalities, but eventually gave up the idea, fearing it might stir up tensions with the Ottoman Empire. Another two medals, the Military Virtue (Virtutea militară) and Devotion and Courage (Devotament și Curaj), were meant to reward acts of bravery in the field of battle, a battle that resulted in a great loss of lives during the War of Independence of 1877-1878. In 1864, two years before stepping down, Cuza created the "Romanian Star" (Steaua României) national order, which was to become the highest distinction of the Romanian state. Floricel Marinescu, an expert in phaleristics, talked more about the first decorations of Romania.


"As bestowing orders is a prerogative of sovereign states only, Romania did not have a national order before the proclamation of independence, in May, 1877. Cuza's previous attempts at creating a distinction were met with opposition by the Ottoman Empire and the Austrian Empire, which saw this undertaking as Romania earning some rights that only sovereign states were entitled to. Hence the decorations Cuza commissioned remained unbestowed at the royal palace".


Cuza's successor, Prince Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, helped build a full-fledged modern state. Romania's prerogatives as a sovereign state became transparent gradually during his rule, and were confirmed after the War of Independence. Although coerced by the Ottomans not to bestow any distinctions, Carol played a smart game, steering the country towards independence. He carried over his predecessor's attempts at establishing decorations and actually saw them through. One of these decorations with be the Military Virtue (Virtutea MIlitară). The proclamation of independence of May 10, 1877 marked the establishment of the first Romanian order, the "Romanian Star" (Steaua României), which had five ranks: knight, officer, commander, commanding officer and the Great Cross. The Romanian Star was an echo of the Order of the Union Cuza had failed to create as an official distinction of the Romanian modern state. New distinctions emerged after the independence: the "Crossing of the Danube" (Trecerea Dunării) Cross, the "Elizabeth" Commemorative Cross, named after Queen Elizabeth, also known as "the Mother of the Wounded", wife to King Carol I, the "Defenders of the Independence" (Apărătorii Independenţei) Medal and the "Faithful Service" (Serviciul Credincios) Medal. Also worth mentioning is that Russia, Romania's ally in the war against the Ottoman Empire, gave distinctions to Romanian soldiers, such as the "Russian Medal for the Turkish War of 1877-1878" and the Saint George Cross. Russian military were in turn decorated with the "Crossing of the Danube" Cross. Professional distinctions included the "Fruit of Labor in Education" Medal, awarded to teaching staff, while in 1906 the "Fruit of Labor for the Church" was created, offered to the clergy. The "Bravery and Faith" Medal was created in 1903, awarded to police officers. Over 1912-1913 new medals were introduced: the "Commercial and Industrial Merit" Medal, the "Military Service Reward" Medal, for reconscripted soldiers, the "Glory of the Country" medal for military who had taken part in the second Balkan war of 1913 and the "Health Merit" Cross. Floricel Marinescu says Romania developed a genuine system of distinctions after gaining the independence:


"Other orders come into being over the years: in 1991, the 'Romanian Crown', then in 1906 the "King Carol I' order. Like other orders in the world, their number was strictly limited to members in the country. During the First World War and under the rule of Carol I, a whole series of orders, medals and crosses was created, which made up a well-rounded system. You could be rewarded for any type of activity, with a wide range of ranks. All these decorations disappeared in 1948, with the abolishment of the monarchy".


After the Second World War, Romania switched to the Soviet system of distinctions, from their form and names to the fact that they could be bestowed infinitely. The value of medals was therefore lost, due to the large number of those actually wearing them, and to the ideology and propaganda circulated. The most prominent distinctions in communism were the "Star of the Socialist Republic of Romania" and the "Hero of Socialist Labor in the Socialist Republic of Romania" Award. These too vanished after the anti-communist revolution of 1989. Romania's current system of national orders was reintroduced in 1997 and, to a certain extent, restored the system used up until 1989.

(Translated by V. Palcu)



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Publicat: 2020-05-09 14:00:00
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