Iaşi is a city and municipality in Moldavia region, in north-eastern Romania. The city was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859, the United Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia between 1859–1862 and Romania between 1916–1918.
Called "The city on seven hills" and "The city of great loves", Iaşi represents a symbol of Romanian history about which the greatest Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga said "There should be no Romanian who does not know it".
Nowadays, one of the largest Romanian cities, Iaşi is the social, economic, cultural and academic centre of the Romanian region of Moldavia.
The second largest university centre in Romania, Iaşi is home to the oldest Romanian university and accommodates over 75,000 students in 5 public and 7 private universities. The social and cultural life gravitates around the National Theater (the oldest in Romania), the Opera House, the Iaşi State Philarmonic, the Tătăraşi Atheneum, a famous Botanical Garden (the oldest and largest in Romania), the Central University Library (the oldest in Romania), the high quality cultural centres and festivals, an array of museums, memorial houses and historical monuments.
Archaeological investigations attest the presence of human communities on the present territory of the city and around it as far back as the prehistoric age. Later settlements included those of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, a late Neolithic archaeological culture.
The name of the city is first officially mentioned in a document about commercial privilege granted by the Moldavian Prince (Voivode) Alexandru cel Bun to the Polish merchants of Lvov in 1408. However, as buildings older than 1408 existed and still exist (for example the Armenian Church originally believed to be built in 1395), it is believed that the city existed long before its first mentioning.
Around 1564, Prince Alexandru Lăpuşneanu moved the Moldavian capital from Suceava to Iaşi. Between 1561 and 1563, a school and a Lutheran church were founded by the Greek adventurer Prince, Ioan Iacob Heraclid. In 1640, Vasile Lupu established the first school in which the mother-tongue replaced Greek, and set up a printing press in the Byzantine Trei Ierarhi Church (Church of the Three Hierarchs; built 1635–39). In 1643, the first volume ever printed in Moldavia was issued in Iaşi.
The city was burned down by the Tatars in 1513, by the Ottomans in 1538, by the Imperial Russian troops in 1686. In 1734, it was hit by the plague.
Through the Peace of Iaşi, the sixth Russo-Turkish War was brought to a close in 1792. A Greek revolutionary maneuver and occupation under Alexander Ypsilanti and the Filiki Eteria (1821, at the beginning of the Greek War of Independence) led to the storming of the city by the Turks in 1822. In 1844 there was a severe conflagration.
Between 1564 and 1859, the city was the capital of Moldavia; then, between 1859 and 1862, both Iaşi and Bucharest were de-facto capitals of the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1862, when the union of the two principalities was recognized under the name of Romania, the national capital was established in Bucharest. For the loss caused to the city in 1861 by the removal of the seat of government to Bucharest the constituent assembly voted 148,150 lei to be paid in ten annual instalments, but no payment was ever made.
During World War I, Iaşi was the capital of a severely reduced Romania for two years, following the Central Powers' occupation of Bucharest on 6 December 1916. The capital was returned to Bucharest after the defeat of Imperial Germany and its allies in November 1918.
Iaşi also figures prominently in Jewish history. Records of Jews exist from the 16th century, and by mid-19th century, owing to widespread Russian Jewish and Galician Jewish immigration into Moldavia, the city was at least one-third Jewish. In 1855, it was the home of the first-ever Yiddish-language newspaper, Korot Haitim, and, in 1876, the site of what was arguably the first-ever professional Yiddish theater performance.
The words of HaTikvah, the national anthem of Israel, were written in Iasi by Naphtali Herz Imber.
According to the 1930 census, with a population of 34,662 (some 34%) out of the total of 102,872, Jews were the second largest ethnic group in Iaşi. There were over 127 synagogues.
After World War II, Iaşi played a prominent part in the revival of Yiddish culture in Romania, from 1949 to 1964, it was home to a second company of the State Jewish Theater.
Today, Iaşi has a dwindling Jewish population of ca. 300 to 600 members, and one working synagogue which dates from the 1600s. There is also a Jewish community center serving kosher meals from a small cantina.
Outside of the city on top of a hill there is a large Jewish Cemetery which has graves dating from the late 1800s; burial records date from 1915 to the present day and are kept in the community center.
During the war, while the full scale of the Holocaust remained generally unknown to the Allied Powers, the Iaşi pogrom stood as one of the known examples of Axis brutality toward the Jews.
The pogrom lasted from 29 June to 6 July 1941, and over 13,266 people, or one third of the Jewish population, was massacred in the pogrom itself or in its aftermath, and many were deported. The pogrom began as a diversionary tactic. Due to its proximity to the Soviet border, the city's Jewish population was accused of aiding the Bolsheviks, and rumors were promoted among the general population that the Jews were anti-Romanian. The pretext for the pogrom included a minor Soviet air attack on the city on 26 June 1941, two days after Romanian and German forces attacked the Soviet Union.
After a second air attack two days later, the 14th Infantry Division, led by General Stavrescu declared its mission of eradicating "those who are aiding the enemy". In a telegram, Stavrescu wrote that the Russian aviators "had accomplices among the Judeo-communist suspects of Iaşi." Under express orders from military dictator and German ally Ion Antonescu, the city was to be "cleansed" of its Jewish population. Orders also specified that Section Two of the General Headquarters of the Romanian Army and the Special Intelligence Service (SIS) of Romania were to spread rumors of Jewish treachery in the press, including ones that Jews were guiding Soviet military aircraft by placing lights in their houses' chimneys.
A systematic massacre by the Iaşi police, Romanian and German soldiers, and a portion of the citizens of Iaşi followed and at least 8,000 Jews were killed; more than 5,000 Jews were loaded onto overcrowded, sealed "death trains" that drove slowly back and forth across the country in the hot summer weather until most of their passengers were killed by hyperthermia, thirst, or infection and bleeding.
Six Romanians of Iaşi are credited with saving around one hundred Jews.
The city of Iaşi lies on the Bahlui River, a tributary of the Jijia (tributary of the Prut). The surrounding country is one of uplands and woods, featuring the monasteries of Cetăţuia, Frumoasa, Galata (with nearby Nicolina mineral springs), and the dendrologic park of Repedea. Iaşi itself stands amid vineyards and gardens, partly on two hills, partly in the in-between valley. It is a common belief that Iaşi is built on seven hills (coline in Romanian): Cetăţuia, Galata, Copou-Aurora, Bucium-Păun, Şorogari, Repedea and Breazu, thus triggering comparisons with Rome.
With historical monuments, 500-year-old churches and monasteries, contemporary architecture, many of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Iaşi is an outstanding educational center, and preserves some beautiful pieces of architecture, such as the Trei Ierarhi Monastery and the neo-Gothic Palace of Culture.
During World War II and the Communist regime some historical buildings in the old city center (around Union Square area) were destroyed or demolished, and replaced by International style buildings and also a new mainly Mid-Century modern style Civic Centre was built around the Old Market Square (The Central Market).
Other notable buildings:
- Alexandru Ioan Cuza University main building, 1897, a mixture of the Neoclassical and Baroque styles, houses the famous Hall of the Lost Footsteps where one can admire the works of the painter Sabin Bălaşa;
- "Vasile Alecsandri" National Theatre, built between 1894-1896 in Neoclassic style with Baroque and Rococo inspired painted and sculpted ornaments;
- Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church in Romania, a late Renaissance style, with Baroque elements and Gheorghe Tattarescu paintings;
- Dosoftei House, a building from the second half of the 17th century in which in 1679, the metropolitan bishop Dosoftei settled the second typography in Moldavia. With three facades, arched and right-angled windows, the edifice was restored between 1966-1969. It houses the department of old literature of the Romanian Literature Museum;
- Golia Monastery, 1564, rebuilt in 1650 in late-Renaissance style with Byzantine frescoes and intricately carved doorways, is a monumental construction, a monastery in the middle of the city, surrounded by tall walls, with corner turrets, and a 30 m (98.43 ft) height bell tower;
- Roznovanu Palace (The City Hall), second half of the 18th century, rebuilt between 1830–1833, during World War I, it hosted the Romanian government;
- Union Museum, beginning of the 19th century, Empire style, the palace served as the royal residence of Prince Al.I.Cuza between 1859–1862 and in 1917-1918, during the World War I, as the royal residence of king Ferdinand;
- Great Sinagogue, built in 1670, is the oldest in Romania and second oldest in Europe;
- Pogor House, 1850, a meeting place for the city intellectuals, the headquarters of Literary Society Junimea (1863) and of the Convorbiri literare (Literary Interlocutions) magazine (1867), houses the Romanian Literature Museum;
- Armenian Church, built in 1395, testifies the existence of an important Armenian community in these parts of Romania;
- Luceafărul Theater, 1987, a unique modern building in Romania;
- Old Catholic Cathedral, 1782, in Baroque style, and New Catholic Cathedral, 2005;
- Central University Library, 1934, incorporates Greek Revival elements;
- Iaşi Central Rail Station, 1870, inspired by Venetian Doge's Palace.
Iaşi is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina, and of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Iaşi. There are currently almost 10,000 Roman Catholics living in Iaşi. There is a debate between historians as to whether the Catholics are originally of Romanian or Hungarian descent.
The city houses more than 100 historical churches. One of the oldest is Royal Saint Nicholas (1491), dating from the reign of Stephen the Great and the largest is the Metropolitan Cathedral; perhaps the finest, however, is the 17th century old metropolitan church, Trei Ierarhi, an example of Byzantine art, erected in 1635–1639 by Vasile Lupu, and adorned with countless gilded carvings on its outer walls and twin towers. Other examples of beautiful churches and monasteries, some surrounded by big walls, are: Galata (1582), Saint Sava (1583), Hlincea (1587), Bârnova (1603), Barnovschi (1627), Golia (1650), Cetăţuia (1668), Frumoasa (1726), Saint Spiridon (1747), Old Metropolitan Cathedral (1761), Bărboi (1843 with 18th century bell tower), Bucium (1853).
Iaşi has a diverse array of public spaces, from city squares to public parks.
Begun in 1833, at the time when Iaşi was the capital of Moldavia, by Prince Mihail Sturdza and under the plans of Gheorghe Asachi and Mihail Singurov, Copou Park was integrated into the city and marks one of the first Romanian coordinated public parks. The oldest monument in Romania stands in the middle of the park, the Obelisk of Lions (1834), a 13.5 m (44.29 ft) tall obelisk, dedicated to the Law of Organic Rules, the first law on political, administrative and juridical organization in Romanian Principalities.
Founded in 1856, the Botanical Garden of Iaşi, the first botanical garden in Romania, has an area of over 100 hectares, and more than 10,000 species of plants.
Iaşi Exhibition Park was opened in 1923 and built under the coordination of the architect N. Ghica Budeşti.
The Ciric Park, located in the north-eastern part of Iaşi is another complex which consists into the park and four lakes.
Major events in the political and cultural history of Moldavia are connected with the name of the city of Iaşi. The great scholars of the 17th century Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin and later Ion Neculce, wrote most of their works in the city or not far from it and the famous scholar Dimitrie Cantemir known throughout all Europe also linked his name to the capital of Moldavia.
The first newspaper in Romanian language was published in 1829 in Iaşi and it is in Iasi where, in 1867, appeared under literary society Junimea, the Convorbiri literare review in which Ion Creangă’s Childhood Memories and the best poems by Mihai Eminescu were published. The reviews Contemporanul and Viaţa Românească appeared in 1871, respectively in 1906 with great contributions to promoting Romanian national cultural values.
Many great personalities of Romanian culture are connected to Iasi: the chronicler Nicolae Milescu, the historians and politics men Mihail Kogălniceanu or Simion Bărnuţiu, the poets Vasile Alecsandri or George Topârceanu, the writers Mihail Sadoveanu, Alecu Russo, or Ionel Teodoreanu, the literary critic Titu Maiorescu, the historian A.D. Xenopol, the philosophers Vasile Conta or Petre Andrei, the sociologist Dimitrie Gusti, the geographer Emil Racoviţă, the painter Octav Băncilă, only to name a few.
The "Vasile Alecsandri" National Theatre, opened in 1837 is the oldest National Theatre in Romania. The building, designed according to the plans of the Viennese architects Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner was built between 1894–1896, and also hosts starting 1956 the Iaşi Romanian Opera National Romanian Opera Iaşi.
Iaşi is also home to
- "Moldova" State Philharmonic Orchestra
- "Luceafărul" Theater for children and youth
- Tătăraşi Atheneum
Iaşi is home to many museums, memorial houses, art galleries.
First Memorial House from Romania opened in Iaşi in 1918 asIon Creangă Memorial House, and today the Iaşi Romanian Literature Museum owns twelve memorial houses. The Mihai Eminescu Museum is situated in Copou Park and it is dedicated to the great poet’s life and creation.
The Theatre Museum, opened in 1976, at the celebration of 160 years since the first theatrical performance in Romanian, illustrates the development of the theatrical phenomenon since the beginning, important moments of the history of Iaşi National Theatre, the foundation, in 1840, of the Philharmonic-dramatic Conservatoire, prestigious figures that have contributed to the development of the Romanian theatre.
The Union Museum, includes original pieces and documents which belonged to prince Al. I. Cuza and his family.
The Natural History Museum, founded on 4 February 1834, is the first museum of this kind in Romania with over 300,000 items, the most valuable being the collections of insects, mollusk, amphibians, reptiles, birds, plants and minerals.
Four other museums are located in the Palace of Culture, The Art Museum has the largest art collection in Romania, with more than 8,000 paintings, out of which 1,000 belong to the national and universal patrimony, The Moldavia's History Museum, offers more than 35,000 objects from various fields, archaeology, numismatics, decorative art, ancient books, documents, The Ethnographic Museum of Moldavia owns more than 11,000 objects depicting the Romanian advance through the ages and The Science and Technology Museum with five distinct sections and one memorial house.
Iaşi is an important economic centre in Romania. The local and regional economy relies on public sector institutions and establishments.
The most important sectors are related to health care, education, research, culture, government, tourism and manufacturing. It is active in metallurgical production, pharmaceutical industry, textiles and clothing, constructions, banking, wine, preserved meat.
The city is an important IT sector centre, with software companies and two universities that provide high quality graduate engineers.
Iaşi is also a well developed commercial city with many shopping malls and commercial centres.