Yesterday, the 2nd of July, Saint Stephen the Great [en, wiki] was commemorated in Romania.
There is a large amount of information, mainly in Romanian, about Stephen the Great (we call him Ștefan cel Mare), but I am sure you all know how to use the “translate” function of Google Chrome.
It is rare in the history of a country to find a character who has defended an entire continent. Half of millennium ago, Stephen the Great has fought with the Ottoman Empire, which was to date the greatest threat for Europe. You can understand the effects of the Ottoman danger in Europe if you notice what happened on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. A lot of small countries and peoples divided among them by criteria of religion, always fighting, always having an issue for war. It is something characteristic of the inner essence of the people. The whole Europe might have been the same if the geostrategic point of the Romanian countries, back then, Moldova (which incorporated what is now 3 other countries: Bucovina [en, wiki] region from Ukraine and Bessarabia region where there is now the Republic of Moldova [en, wiki] and Transnistria [en, wiki] a.k.a. The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), Transylvania and Muntenia (which also had the Cadrilater [en, wiki] region now appertaining to Bulgaria) would not have stood in the way of the Ottoman empire.
The main reason for the fight of Stephen the Great against the Turks was the religion. The greatest part of Western Europe (Romania is in the center of the continent if you consider the actual dimensions of the continent, which geographically speaking spreads from Gibraltar to Kazakhstan [en, wiki]) was Christian. The Ottoman Empire brought the Muslim religion wherever it reigned (see former Yugoslavia). There were a lot of historical alliances between Moldova and Poland, Moldova and Hungary and Moldova and Vatican, in order to ensure the safety of the Christian nations inside the continent. In those times, Poland was neighboring Moldova, being a power in Central Europe.
Stephen the Great has raised tens of churches and monasteries, in all three Romanian countries, and was cousin with Vlad Ţepeş, the legendary ruler of Muntenia.
The many storytellers which have written about Stephen the Great have neglected the history facts and invented a lot of relationships that Stephen the Great allegedly had, out of which only one can be established for sure: his son, Petru Rareş [en, wiki], conceived outside matrimony was also the one who succeeded him in leading the country. Besides this officially historically recognized fact, Stephen the Great was a family man. Two of his wives and five of his children died. A tragic history, a heavy personal cross to bear for such a leader.
Stephen the Great lived for 40 years with a wound at one of his legs, which provoked him great trouble. Even in those circumstances, he had won impressive battles against the Ottoman Empire, proving the advantage of tactical strategy and using the ground for his benefit, even though the foreign armies were 2 or 3 times bigger than his.
Stephen the Great has been declared a saint in 1992 [ro, htm] for the following things:
he defended the religion and his people to death
he fought with grave difficulties and dangers to ensure a greater freedom of faith
he has lived according to moral and religious principles
he has heroically defended and served the Church
he has won the appreciation of people without any pressure
Stephen the Great has been voted in 2006 as the greatest Romanian who ever lived in the history, by the vote of a people, after a national ranking and research being done for more than a year by the Romanian National Television.
The fact that you are free to do what you do right now, is due to this historical figure.
When I went to Chişinău [en, wiki], I was totally impressed when I saw that in front of the statue of Stephen the Great (see picture in this article), in the Stephen the Great central park (the one where they have wireless AND sockets for laptops near the benches) there were always flowers, and each morning, people came and bent in front of the statue, as a sign of respect. It was one of the most touching things I have ever assisted as a Romanian. I have never seen such respect for history and Romanian tradition as I have seen in the Republic of Moldova. If you want to study the values of Romanian, go there. It is a land of respect, much more than Romania is today, for its own values.
After Stephen the Great, streets have been named in all Romania, but I haven’t seen one called “Ștefan cel Mare şi Sfânt” (Stephen the Great and the Saint). But the most important street in Chişinău mentions the quality of saint that Stephen the Great has earned almost 20 years ago.
I sadly found there were only a few dozens of people at the Church when I went yesterday. Where were the rest of Romanians which now enjoy the fact they can live in a free world?
Alas, a people forgetting his heroes is a people with no history.
Yesterday, as usual, only three people wished me “happy anniversary”. My birth (baptism) name is also Ştefan. And I have three main onomastic days: the 2nd of July (Saint Stephen the Great), the 27th of December (Saint Stephen) and 28th of November (Saint Stephen the New Martyr).
(keep reading ↓)
Ștefan cel Mare – the film by Mircea Drăgan [full version]
Read more about Stephen the Great (in Romanian):
Sinaxar (The Orthodox Church’s entry for the day of July 2nd)
Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, 2011-present