The city of Buzău is the county seat of Buzău County, Romania, in the historical region of Wallachia. It lies near the right bank of the Buzău River, between the south-eastern curvature of the Carpathian Mountains and the lowlands of Bărăgan Plain.
The city's name dates back to 376 AD when the name appeared on a letter that spoke about the martyrdom of Sabbas the Goth. During the Middle Ages, Buzău was as an important Wallachian market town and Eastern Orthodox episcopal see. It faced a period of repeated destruction during the 17th and 18th century, nowadays symbolized on the city seal by the Phoenix bird. Those destructions are the main reason for which no building older than the 18th century exists in the city. After that, Buzău slowly recovered to become nowadays an important modern city in south-eastern Romania.
The city's landmark building is the Communal Palace, located in the central Dacia Square. The Nicolae Bălcescu Boulevard links it to the Crâng park, Buzău's main recreational area.
Buzău is a railway hub in south-estern Romania, where railways that link Bucharest to Moldavia and Transylvania to the Black Sea coast meet. DN2, a segment of European route E85 crosses the city. Buzău's proximity to trade routes helped it develop its role as a commerce hub in older days, and as an industrial center during the 20th century. Most of the city's industry was developed during Romania's communist period, and was refactored through the 1990s to a capitalist economical framework.
The city's most important landmark is the Communal Palace, built between 1899 and 1903, now serving as City Hall. Along with the Courthouse, the Communal Palace was designed by architects commissioned by mayor Nicu Constantinescu, at the end of the 19th century.
Crâng Park, carved in the corner of a larger forest, lies in the western outskirts of the town and is a remnant of the old Codrii Vlăsiei. Crâng was designed in the late 19th century. It has an obelisk, erected in 1976 to celebrate 1600 years since the town's first recorded historical attestation.
The oldest building in Buzău is the Vergu-Mănăilă house, erected in the 17th or 18th century as a boyars' mansion. Renovated between 1971–1974, it now hosts the local Museum of ethnography and folk art.
The church of Banului, erected in the 16th century as a monastery, underwent renovation several times. In 1884, it was repainted by a team of painters including Gheorghe Tattarescu and his uncle Nicolae Teodorescu.
An old tradition of the city is the Drăgaica fair, a midsummer fair traced back to traditional shepherd's fairs in the Buzău mountains, that moved to Buzău sometimes before the 18th century.
Buzău is located between the Buzău river valley, that forms its northern bounds, the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains' curvature and the Danube Plain. It has an oblong shape, as it is larger along the Buzău river and shorter across. The altitude of Buzău ranges from 101 meters in the North-West, near the hills to 88 meters close to the river, with a 95 meter average (as is also the altitude in the Dacia square, in the center). Therefore, Buzău is located on a flat relief, with a 10 meters altitude difference along a 4 km line.
The earliest mention on the river Buzău and the polis (named Mousaios (Μουσαίος) in Greek) on its bank is a letter from Ioannis Soranus, governor of Scytia Minor, to the archbishop of Caesarea Mazaca (about 400 A.D.). The document, kept in copies at the Vatican Library and San Marco Library in Venice, tells about the martyrdom of a Christian missionary by the name of Sabbas, drowned by the Goths in the river Buzău. He is the spiritual patron of the city of Buzău as well as of several local villages.
Several graves (3rd to 5th century AD) were found in Buzău, as well as coins that prove the continuance of the settlement.
Buzău evolved during the Middle Ages as a commercial and cultural center.
Gustav Treiber, in his work Siebenburgische Viertel Jahresschrit states that prior to the 12th century, the city was surrounded by a wall with four gates towards the four main directions.
The earliest mention of Buzău as a market town (târg) and customs station is found in a document, dated January 31, 1431, and issued by Dan II, voivod of Wallachia. The document stated that salesmen from Braşov were free to trade in several Wallachian towns (Buzău, among them) just as they were during the reign of Mircea cel Bătrân. These privileges have been later reinforced by Vlad III the Impaler, who stated that the roads to be taken by the salesmen were to be: via Rucăr, Prahova, Teleajen or Buzău.
In 1500, Radu cel Mare created The Bishopric of Buzău, making the town a spiritual center of Eastern Wallachia. In 1507, Buzău appears (under the name of Boza) for the first time on a map, made by Nicolaus Germanus. At the time, the city was the 4th largest city of Wallachia, and an important trade partner of Braşov. Between 1503 and 1515, the salesmen from Buzău traded merchandise worth 2,245,835 aspres (an Ottoman currency). A document dated 1536 shows that the town was administered by one judeţ (mayor) and 12 elected pârgari (city councillors). Underground tunnels dating back to the 16th century connect the bishopric's complex, the city center and the Crâng Park (at the time, only a large forest at the town's outskirts). Their role was to store supply and evacuate people in case of danger
In 1571, the Banu monastery was erected. The monastery's name, "Banu", indicates the nobility title of its builder, ban Andronic Cantacuzino. The monastery church was rebuilt by Andreiana, wife of Şerban Cantacuzino, in 1722. After the monastic assets secularizing act of 1863, the monastery was dismantled; its church, however, was sparred.
A 1575 document mentions the Bazaar (permanent market with shops, stores, cellars, storage rooms). The Bazaar of Buzău was the second oldest in Wallachia. At the end of the 16th century, Buzău was divided in four parts: the Bishopric with its servants, the Banu monastery and its servants, the old market and the city (located between the bishopric and the monastery).
During the last decade of the 16th century, around 18,000 Serbs settled in Wallachia. Several families made Buzău their home, by founding a neighbourhood known to this day by the name Serbs and located on the bank of the Buzău River. Later, in 1792-1838, many Bulgarian refugees settled in the same neighbourhood. Due to similarities of the mother tongues spoken by the two ethnic groups, the locals called the new refugees also Serbs. The Bulgarians were given land by the river where they created vegetable gardens.
The late Middle Ages brought a wave of destruction to the town, Buzău being completely or partially destroyed by multiple wars and foreign military invasions, as well as natural disasters.
In April 1616, many houses in Buzău were burnt down during a Polish invasion, during one of the Moldavian Magnate Wars. The inhabitants took refuge in the nearby mountains and forests. All existing land deeds were lost at the event. One year later, in July 1617, the city was once again occupied by the Ottoman army.
Buzău was pillaged by Tatars again in 1623, as pointed out by Matei Basarab in a 1633 letter: [The Bishopric of Buzău] is entirely deserted, enslaved and burnt by the heathen Tatars during all these years.
A Turkish invasion in 1659 again led to the city being burnt down and destroyed, and the locals being taken captive. In 1679, Buzău was pillaged again by the Ottomans. The city was rebuilt every time, thus appearing on a 1700 map of Wallachia, printed in Padova by stolnic Constantin Cantacuzino. The map shows 22 other cities and market towns of the country.
After a period of relative peace, during which the bishopric was subsidized by the domn to open a school in Greek and another in Slavonic, in 1739, during a Russo-Turkish War, Russian troops as well as Frilow's Cossacks ravaged through Buzău, taking the bishop with them as they went.
During another Russo-Turkish War, Ottoman soldiers burnt all the stores and houses, burning the city to the ground. The Bishopric church was also destroyed, and the bishop moved temporarily to Bucharest. The Banu monastery church escaped destruction, only to be destroyed in 1774 by an earthquake. Also, during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787 - 1792, the city was once again destroyed. The long string of war-caused damage went on in 1806 and 1807, when the Ottoman army burnt down the city to ruins leaving 230 people dead. The locals fled to the Nişcov river valley, from where they returned only in 1812.
The cholera and bubonic plague epidemics at the beginning of the 19th century also decimated the city's population.
The last time the city was devastated by war was in 1821 at the Greek War of Independence. After that, in light of the establishment of the Organic Regulations, a period of reconstruction and modernisation began. Also, Wallachia stopped being a theatre of operations in the wars between the Ottoman Empire and Russia, the conflincts moving further away, in Crimea, the Southern and Western Balkans and the Caucasus.
Thus, although Buzău is attested by documents as a polis since the 4th century AD, and as a market town since 1431, the oldest building in the city is the Vergu-Mănăilă house, erected as recently as the 18th century, around 1780. The Vergu-Mănăilă house was owned at the time by a high-ranking boyar named Vergu, who owned a pub and a bakery near the house.
During the 19th century, the city overcame the difficulties of repeated reconstruction, and started to develop as a modern city with solid businesses and a cultural life. The Crâng forest became a leisure place for the locals around 1829, and was eventually organized as a public garden by 1850.
Schools began to be set up, as in 1831 the Bishopric opened a school for muralists and icon painters, led by Nicolae Teodorescu and attended by Gheorghe Tattarescu. One year later, the National School (the first school in Buzău to teach in the Romanian language) was open, and in 1838 Şcoala Normală (a school for teachers) was inaugurated by Dionisie Romano. Şcoala normală trained teachers for the city schools and for 115 villages. The Buzău theological seminar was open in 1836. It was the first secondary school in Buzău and the second theological school in Wallachia, after the one in Bucharest.
The oldest known census in Buzău showed, in 1832, a total population of 2567, of which one was Austrian, one was English, 18 were Jewish and the rest Romanian.
Around 1837-1840, public lighting was introduced on the main street. The street lamps were using tallow candles. By 1861, the number of public street lamps grew from 38 to 50. In 1841 the streets were realigned "by urban rules".
By 1842, the city had a stable doctor, a drugstore, a fire squad and an officially authorized midwife.
During the Wallachian revolution of 1848, a "National Guard", supervised by Barbu and Nicolae Bălcescu was set up immediately after the government was organized in Bucharest in June. However, the revolution was crushed by Russian and Ottoman forces, and Buzău was occupied by the Russian army for three years. The Russian army briefly occupied Buzău again in 1853 during the Crimean War. After the occupation ended, the city's development was resumed.
At the Ad-hoc divans organized after the Congress of Paris in 1856, a large majority of representatives of Buzău voted for Wallachia's union with Moldova. Later on, after a personal union was completed on 5 February 1859, prince Alexander John Cuza was welcomed enthusiastically by the inhabitants of Buzău and was persuaded to spend the night in the city on his way from Iaşi to Bucharest. The newly-elected Domn of both Wallachia and Moldova left the city the next day via Strada Mare, a street known today by the name of Bulevardul Unirii (Union Boulevard).
The buildings on the Cuza Vodă Street (at the time known as Strada Târgului -- Market Street) were erected between 1850 and 1880 in the style of the 19th century South-Eastern European commercial houses—two-story buildings with shops on the ground floor, and residences on the top floor.
Cultural life blossomed, as in 1852, the first theater show in Buzău took place. In 1854, a printing press was imported by the Bishopric from Vienna, and was subsequently used to print the Buzău Bible, the fourth Romanian bible (the first three being the Bucharest Bible in 1688, one printed in Blaj in 1792 and another printed in Saint Petersburg in 1819).
Public lighting was enhanced in 1860 by introducing petrol lamps. In the same year, street numbers were assigned to houses, and streets were paved with stones. The Gârlaşi Hospital (nowadays, the Infectious Diseases Hospital) was open in 1865, being the first permanent city hospital.
The Moldavia theater was open in 1898 in a building in central Buzău. The 400 seats hall was the location where important Romanian artists that came to Buzău, such as Nicolae Leonard, Constantin Nottara and George Enescu performed.
During this period, Constantin Brâncuşi and Ion Luca Caragiale were briefly residents of Buzău. Caragiale leased a restaurant near the railway station in 1894 and lived there for a year. During this period, he also held a public conference, whose intended subject, Prose writing techniques was changed at the last moment into Causes of human stupidity. Brâncuşi lived in the city in the summer of 1914, after Eliza Seceleanu, a young local landowner's widow, had commissioned him to create two sculptures: Prayer and the bust of Petre Stănescu, her late husband. After creating the two sculptures in Paris, Brâncuşi brought them to Buzău and lived there for a few months while working to prepare the sculptures' stands. Both sculptures decorated Stănescu's tomb at the local Dumbrava cemetery for a while, but they were since moved to the National Museum of Art of Romania in Bucharest, being replaced by two copies. The copies have been stolen in 1999 and have not been replaced since.
The first electric light bulb in the city was installed in 1899, in front of the public garden in the center of Buzău. The first cinema show in Buzău took place in 1904, in a beer pub on the Park Boulevard, by a local named Nicolae Mihăilescu.
During World War I, the city was occupied, from 14 December 1916 to 14 November 1918, by German forces, and many of the inhabitants took refuge in Moldavia or in the country side. Buzău returned to Romanian administration at the end of the war.
After 1918, Buzău continued to develop, slowly becoming an industrial center. Also, a football team, named Vârtejul was created in 1921, and the first boxing match in Buzău took place in 1931, when a sports newspaper was first printed.
The most important mayor of Buzău between the two world wars was Stan Săraru, who erected in 1935 a modern food market, which nowadays is the most important market in the city and is named the Stan Săraru market. He also started the construction of the Crâng Stadium, and a public bathhouse and paved the main streets with cobblestone.
An eagle, nicknamed Ilie by the locals and raised by a salesman who lived nearby was the railway station's mascot between 1930 and 1943. Ilie came to the train station often, and ate out of people's hands. The eagle died during World War II, shot by Nazi soldiers. A beer brewed in Buzău was named Vulturul (The eagle), and a street in Buzău was named Strada Vulturului (Eagle street) in his memory
After the war, when Romanian government was taken over by a communist regime, Buzău lost its county seat status in 1952, being included in the Ploieşti Region. Then Buzău county was later reinstated in 1968.
All the factories in Buzău were nationalized and the central government in Bucharest ran a policy of building monotonous and drab blocks of flats. Consequently, some old neighborhoods in Buzău were demolished to make way for the new buildings. Before 1953, the residential areas were exclusively made up of houses, but many of them were razed to build blocks of flats. The process was slow at first, but between 1980 and 1988, all the houses on the main street of the city were demolished and blocks of flats were built. During that time, many historic buildings were destroyed, such as the Moldavia theater. Of the historic city center, only the Cuza Vodă street buildings escaped demolition. Also, in 1969, a residential area was built into the Crâng Park, reducing its size. This development was sometimes chaotic, as it happened in 1985, when the new Unirii Boulevard was rerouted by mayor Dochia who ordered that the foundations of some blocks that were being built be buried during one night and the street to run over the covered foundations.
Forced industrialization took place during the communist regime, as the Buzău-South industrial platform was inaugurated in 1963. The location was chosen as to use some barren land and to have the local winds move the pollution away from the city.
However, some city improvements have also been made during this period. The Tineretului Park was built in the Eastern side of the city, with a sports hall and a swimming pool. In 1981, a movie theater with 650 seats was open, and a major hospital was built in 1971-1973. In 1976, the city celebrated 1,600 years since its oldest historical attestation. To mark the event, an obelisk was erected in Crâng Park. In the same year, the Dacia square, the city's main square located in front of the Communal Palace, was repaved, with white, red and grey Măgura marble, with patterns similar to those on traditional folk costumes from the Bisoca area.
The process of demolition of homes was stopped after the fall of Communism in Romania, in late December 1989. The city's economy stagnated for some years, but Buzău slowly started to develop, as state-owned factories were privatized and some new industries emerged.
Construction work for an Orthodox cathedral, called the St. Sava Cathedral, was started in 1991. In 1995, a theater was opened once again in Buzău, and called the George Ciprian Theater.
During the Middle Ages, Buzău's economy was centered on trade, as this market town was a customs point, taking advantage of its position at the Carpathians' curvature, at a point where roads that linked Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania met.
As a consequence of the agricultural reform that took place during the reign of Alexander John Cuza in 1897 and 1898, the Bulgarian gardeners rented some land that the state had taken over from the bishopric. They developed a distribution network for their products in Buzău, as well as in the nearby cities Braşov, Ploieşti and Râmnicu Sărat. Their activity became more successful after some of them took over ownership of their land after a second land reform in 1921.
After the destruction period had ended, the economical development took on an industrial component. Towards the end of the 19th century, the development of the Romanian railway network, in which Buzău was an important hub, gave a strong momentum to the evolution from small workshops to full scale industrial plants. The first industrial facility was the Garoflid mill, open in 1883, which also functioned as a textile factory. In 1894, the Saturn society opened an oil refinery, which functioned for fifty years.
After a severe national-wide drop of the industrial production level, caused by World War I (the 1919 total production was merely a quarter of the 1913 production), industrial development accelerated again during the interbellum. The baking industry was an important part of the local economy. The first industrial mill in the city, Garoflid, renamed Zangopol after its new owned, managed to have a capital of 5 million lei in 1928, and 30 million lei in 1938, and the society that managed the mill had about 100 employees. Another important business that started at this time was the Metalurgica şi Turnătorie – S.A. (Metalurgica and Metal Casting) factory, founded in 1928 with a capital of over 9 million lei. Although it had to overcom several difficulties at the beginning, being closed during the Great Crisis, it reopened in 1933.
After World War II, the establishment of the Communist government, and the nationalization decision of 11 June 1948 all companies in Buzău became state property. Also, the Communist government began implementing forced industrialization, some of the industries that developed in Buzău during the Communist rule being unsuitable for the location. In 1965 the industrial platform Buzău South was inaugurated, on 318 ha of land, in the area where the Saturn refinery previously had existed, before being blown up during World War II. The most important factories in Buzău, created or enhanced at this time, are located in the Buzău South industrial zone: The Steel Wire and Steel Wire-by Products (renamed Ductil after 1990), The Railway Equipment Factory (after 1990, Apcarom), Metalurgica (founded in 1928), The Glass Factory(after 1991, Gerom S.A.[
Other industrial state enterprises opened in Buzău in other parts of the city. Thus, The Contactors Factory is located in the north-western part of the city and the plastic factory (after 1990, Romcarbon S.A.) is located in the north side.
In spite of the forced industrialization process, Buzău was not based on solely one leading industry, as it happened in other Romanian cities, and there was no single factory on which the entire city economy depended. According to a new law of commercial societies, adopted 1990, after the fall of the Communist regime, the factories in the city reorganized as joint stock companies. Only some of the companies failed to become competitive on a market economy and were closed during the transition process, many others, after reorganizing, became functional businesses.
The largest Buzău-based company is the Romet holding, with Romanian capital, made up of several companies that produce isolation material for water and gas pipes, water purifiers, fire-extinguishers and other such products. The company became successful during the 1990s, by selling its Aquator water purifier. In 1999, this group acquired Aromet S.A., company which managed the Metalurgica factory, founded in 1928.
Other companies in Buzău were privatized by programs supervised by the World Bank. Apcarom S.A., the only Romanian producer of railway equipment, was taken over by the Austrian company VAE, and had, as of 2008 a social capital of 7.38 milloan lei. Ductil S.A., one of the largest businesses in Buzău, was privatized in 1999 and subsequently diveded by the new majority shareholder, FRO Spa, which kept only the electrods and welding equipment section and sold the other departments. The section that produces steel wire and steel wire products, steel nets and concrete became Ductil Steel S.A. and is now part of the portfolio of the Italian company Sidersipe. The iron powder section was renamed Ductil Iron Powder. In 2007, FRO Spa sold their majority shares of Ductil S.A. to the Russian Mechel company, for 90 million euros.Zahărul S.A., the local sugar producer, was acquired by the Agrana România Austrian capital group, which owns other sugar factories in Roman and Ţăndărei.
The baking industry still plays an important role in the local economy. The largest producer on this market in Buzău is Boromir Prod, whose majority shareholder is the Boromir Ind group of Râmnicu Vâlcea.