Iaşi (pronunciation in Romanian: /jaʃʲ/), or Jassy, is a city and municipality in north-eastern Romania. The city was the capital of Moldavia from the 16th century until 1861 and of Romania (Romanian Kingdom) between 1916–1918 during World War I.
The second largest Romanian city, Iaşi is the economic, cultural and academic centre of the Romanian region of Moldavia. The city has the oldest Romanian university and accommodates an annual count of over 60,000 students in 5 public and 3 private universities. It is home to more than 50 churches and hosts 5 cultural centres: British, French, German, Latin American & Caribbean and Hellenic. 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), an array of museums and memorial houses, an independent theater and several student organizations.
Another explanation is that the name originated from the Iranian Alanic tribe of Jassi. The Hungarian name of the city (Jászvásár) literally means "Jassic Market"; the antiquated Romanian name, Târgul Ieşilor (and the once-favoured Iaşii), may indicate the same meaning.
The city is first mentioned in a 1408 document by Moldavian Prince (Voivode) Alexandru cel Bun. However, as buildings older than 1408 existed and still exist (for example the Armenian Church originally believed to be built in 1395; the present building is from the modern era), 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.
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 1565 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 (the Danubian Principalities). 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.
Iaşi's primitive houses of timber and plaster were mostly swept away after 1860, when brick or stone came into general use, and better streets were cut through the network of narrow, unsanitary lanes.
During World War I, Iaşi was the capital of a severely reduced Romania for two years, following the Central Powers' occupation of Bucharest on December 6 1916. The capital was returned to Bucharest after the defeat of Imperial Germany and its allies in November 1918.
In May 1944, Iaşi became the scene of ferocious fighting between Romanian-German forces and the advancing Soviet Red Army and the city was partially destroyed. The elite German Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland won an impressive defensive victory at the Battle of Târgul Frumos, a location near Iaşi. The battle was the object of several NATO studies during the Cold War. By July, Iaşi had been taken by Soviet forces.
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 (See Abraham Goldfaden).
By 1930 there were over 30,000 Jews and over 127 synagogues. After World War II, it played a prominent part in the revival of Yiddish culture in Romania: from 1949 to 1964, Iaşi 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.
The pogrom began as a diversionary tactic. Due to its proximity to the Soviet border, the Romanian government accused the city's Jewish population of aiding the "Bolsheviks," and promoted rumors 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 June 26, 1941, two days after Romanian and Nazi forces invaded 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," which meant the Jewish population. In a telegram, Staverscu wrote that the Russian aviators "had accomplices among the Judeo-communist suspects of Iaşi.
The pogrom lasted from June 29 to July 6, 1941, and approximately 14,000 people, or half the Jewish population, was massacred either in the pogrom itself (around 2,000 Jews), or in its aftermath (around 12,000 Jews), and the rest were deported. 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; the remaining Jewish population was 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 (see Righteous Among the Nations), but, according to the official Romanian report on the subject, the vast majority of the population of the city did nothing to intervene, and a certain portion joined in the killing.
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 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, la città dei sette colli (The city of the seven hills). The city is about to become a metropolitan area, expanding its territory with 10 other communities surrounding the city.
Iaşi is an outstanding educational center, and preserves some beautiful pieces of architecture, such as the Trei Ierarhi Church and the neo-Gothic Palace of Culture (the site of four museums - of History, of Technology, of Ethnography, and of Art). Many buildings in the old city center were demolished during the Communist regime, with a few Soviet-style blocks of flats built instead.
Iaşi (specifically the Metropolitan Cathedral) is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan of Moldavia, 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 or not the Catholics are originally of Romanian or Hungarian descent. The city houses more than 40 churches. The oldest one is Saint Nicholas, dating from the reign of Stephen the Great (1457–1504); perhaps the finest, however, are the 17th century older metropolitan church, Saint Spiridion and Trei Ierarhi, the last a curious 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 beautiful churches, some surrounded by big walls, are: Galata (1581), Golia, St. Sava, Barnovschi, Bărboi (17th century), Cetăţuia (the end of the 17th century) and Frumoasa (18th century).
One of the most important cultural center, Iaşi has many theaters, museums, and the like.
The "Vasile Alecsandri" National Theater, 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 National Romanian Opera Iaşi
Iasi is home to
Four museums are located in the Palace of Culture, one of the largest buildings of Romania. Construction was carried out between the years 1906–1925 on the old ruins of the Royal Court of Moldavia and it is designed in flamboyant neo-Gothic style. The palace counts 298 rooms and has a total room surface of about 36 000 m².
Foreign culture centres
A society of physicians and natural historians has existed in Iaşi since the early part of the 19th century, and a number of periodicals are published. One of the oldest medical universities in Romania, founded in 1879, is in Iaşi. It is now known as the "Grigore T. Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy.
The first Technical High Education structure in Romanian language was established in the autumn of 1813, when engineer Gheorghe Asachi laid the foundations of a class of engineers, its activities taking place within the Greek Academy of Iaşi.
After 1813, other moments marked the development of higher education in Romanian, regarding both humanities and the technical science. In 1835, Academia Mihăileană was founded in Iaşi by Prince Mihail Sturdza.
Iaşi is home to the oldest Romanian university (University of Iaşi), opened by (and nowadays named after) Domnitor Alexandru Ioan Cuza in 1860. The city is host to five universities, and is widely regarded as the cultural "heart" of the Old Kingdom (that is Moldavia, Wallachia, and Dobruja - the three regions comprising Romania until 1918).
In 1937, the two applied science sections of the university of Iaşi became departments of the newly created Gheorghe Asachi Polytechnic School; In the period before and after World War II, the later (renamed Polytechnic Institute in 1948) extended its domain of activity, especially in the field of engineering, and became adopted a Technical University in 1993.
Besides the universities, there are schools of art and music. The University's Central Library, where the chief records of Romanian history are preserved, is the oldest and the second largest in Romania.