Iaşi – Historical and Cultural Capital

The ancient Iasi-Illustration

Historians have divided opinions regarding the origin of the population in this area, but it  is generally accepted that,  in ancient times, the city of Iasi  was founded by either the Alani (or Iashy) or by the Iazyges  which Roman antiquity has recorded it under the name of    Jassiorum municipium.  Both, the Alani and the Iazyges were  Sarmatians, and according to ancient and medieval sources, they were industrious and fierce warriors. At sometime in the early Middle Ages, the christian Alani retreated largely from these lands and settled in the Byzantine Empire.

Then, considering  that in Sanskrit and Hindi languages, which have a common origin with the  Sarmatian language, “yash” means “fame” the defining characteristics of our forefathers have already been established. Forum filistinorum is another name recorded by the Romans.  With time, the name  of “Alani” or Iashy” has become “Targul Ieşilor” (“The Market Town of Iaşi”) as we are used to call it today.

Forum, fair, or market town as it is named in some documents, Iaşi city is currently present in toponyms on the entire  Romanian territory: Muntenia (Greater Wallachia), Oltenia and Transylvania, which does nothing but reinforce an irrefutable truth, namely that fame recognition is not born from nothing and not born on barren land. The city was and remains successful and fruitful as far as people and facts are concerned and that it deserves the admiration and respect of  today’s generation and, certainly, of tomorrow’s.

The Romanian historian, Nicolae Iorga (witness to the times which he influenced through his profound reflection on history), referring to the Romanian chronicler and scholar Miron Costin, commented  that  he left us what we consider an irrevocable sentence: “People are born in Moldova, as well” . The few words that follow try to assert this truth.

For over six hundred years of existence, confirmed by documents, Iasi has created a material and spiritual culture, sealed in a history of facts, worthy of any other great city of Europe, to which it belongs.

Located at a crossroads of intellectual and trade interests, Iaşi city was and is the true cultural capital of the Romanian territory , the centre of great ideas that have marked our destiny as a nation. Iasi is inseparably bound to the great ideal of all Romanians: The Unification. Thus, in 1600, Michael the Brave, legalised in Iasi the Unification of Moldavia, Transylvania and Wallachia. Between 1859 and 1862 the city of  Iaşi was one of the two capitals of the United Principalities. Previously, between 1564-1859, Iasi was the capital of the Medieval State of Moldova and also between 1916 and 1918 was the capital of the Kingdom of Romania.

Iasi is the city in which the prestigious Romanian Literary Society “Junimea” was founded in 1863, a society which promoted advanced European ideas which contributed to the modernization of Romanian society and institutions of the mid- nineteenth century.

Palace of Culture – an emblem of the city of Iasi

Iasi city has always been a cradle of learning. With few exceptions there is practically is no field of science, culture or spirituality in which, through its people, Iaşi has not excelled. For example we recall the brilliant George Emil Palade, holder of the 1974 Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine and Emil Racovita, biospeleology pioneer and one of the illustrious spirits of science, European by vocation, their work and activity places Iaşi amongst the foremost countries of Europe.


Dosoftei House – the first printing press in Moldova

Dimitrie Cantemir, the encyclopaedist, the spirit of the Enlightenment, wrote his first philosophical work in the Romanian language, and in “The Book of Music” presented the first musical notation system for Turkish music, in 1714 he became the first Romanian member of an academy, the Berlin Academy. In his publication “Hronicul a vechimei Romano-Moldo-Vlahilor”  (“Chronicle of the age of the Romano-Moldo-Walachians”), Dimitrie Cantemir was the first to advocate the Latin origin of the Romanian language, and of the  nation  developed on the territory of ancient Dacia, thereby providing fundamental references to the cultural movement from Transylvania “Scoala Ardeleneasca” (Transylvanian School). Dimitrie Cantemir ennobles our city and demonstrates once again the quality of this cultural capital over its entire history of science which is truly laudable.

Romanian literature seems to have found the perfect place in the city of Iasi. Here, generations of writers have created their works headed by Mihai Eminescu and Ion Creangă.

In 1835, the Mihaileanu Academy was founded in Iasi, this being the first modern institution of higher education in Moldova.

Iasi, also, holds “a first” for higher education in Romania, as in 1860, Iasi University was established, today bearing the name of the ruler “Alexandru Ioan Cuza”. In the same year, the School of Music and Speech was founded. These Academic institutions were not inferior to those in Europe where most of their teachers were trained.  Currently, in Iasi there are five public universities and seven private ones.

Iasi city had a theatre since 1840 and this is another proof of its European vision.  terms of beauty of architecture, a BBC survey places the current Iasi theatre building amongst the top eight in Europe, being ranked second after the famous  “Bristol Hippodrome” from Great Britain, Teatro “La Fenice” from Venice, and “Palais Garnier”  from Paris.   The theatre was built after a design by the Austrian architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer, who, amongst others, are designers of works in Vienna, Zurich, Odessa, Zagreb and Cluj, Over time, the theatre brought together an invaluable gallery of actors, directors, animators of cultural life, the top representative being Matei Millo.

The world’s first professional Hebrew theatre, the “Green Tree”, was founded in Iaşi in the summer garden in 1876 by Abraham Goldfaden.

The poet Mihai Eminescu himself attended the first performance and rated it as “very good”.

Always ahead of  the times, whether we refer to major projects, particularly European, but also global, or to society lifestyle and fashion Iasi has some precedence:

  • in 1638, the city of Iasi installed the first clock in Romania to be placed in a tower that of the ” Holy Three Hierarchs ” church founded by the ruler Vasile Lupu
  • in 1646, the first law book titled “Romanian Book of Teaching Imperial and other Judges Laws.” was published in Iasi.
  • in 1671, Iasi saw the establishment of the Great Synagogue, the oldest in Romania;
  • in 1834, the Natural History Museum was opened in Iasi, the first of its kind on the Romanian territory.
  • in 1848, a performance of the first Romanian operetta took place in Iasi. This was “Baba Hârca ” by Alexander Flehtenmacher, who was to compose the music for “Hora Unirii” with lyrics by Vasile Alecsandri;
  • in 1856, the first Botanic Garden was founded in Iasi;
  • in 1886, the first medical publication in Romania entitled: “Medical-Surgical Journal” appeared in Iaşi;
  • in 1832, in Iaşi the first society of doctors and naturalists was founded.

The number of “firsts” is impressive however they only demonstrate fully that Iasi is a special city. Iasi has a spiritus loci, a genius loci which animates, protects, inspires and protects the creativity of its inhabitants, of the “City’s People”.

“Holy Three Hierarchs” Orthodox Monastery Church – architectural monument, UNESCO heritage