Suceava

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Suceava, located in the Bucovina region, is steeped in history and culture. Its stunning landmarks, such as Saint George’s Church, showcase the region’s vibrant and colourful architectural heritage. Suceava is also known for its painted monasteries, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By the 2021 Romanian census, postponed by a year and conducted in 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Romania, this locality stands as the most extensive urban settlement in Suceava County, boasting a population of 84,308 residents.

ID
96488
Name
Suceava
State ID
4720
State Code
SV
State Name
Suceava County
Country ID
181
Country Code
RO
Country Name
Romania
Latitude
47.63333000
Longitude
26.25000000
WikiData ID
Q723087

Suceava (Romanian: [suˈtʃe̯ava] ) is a municipality and the namesake county seat town of Suceava County, situated in the historical regions of Bukovina and Moldavia, northeastern Romania and at the crossroads of Central and Eastern Europe respectively. It is the largest urban settlement of Suceava County, with a population of 84,308 inhabitants according to the 2021 Romanian census (postponed one year and conducted in 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic in Romania).

During the late Middle Ages, namely between 1388 and 1564 (or from the late 14th century to the late 16th century), this middle-sized town was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia. Later on, it became an important, strategically-located commercial town of the Habsburg monarchy, Austrian Empire, and Austria-Hungary (formerly belonging to Cisleithania or the Austrian part of the dual monarchy) on the border with the Romanian Old Kingdom.

Nowadays, the town is known for its reconstructed medieval seat fortress (further rebuilt through the EU-funded Regio programme) and its UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Site Saint John the New Monastery (part of the Churches of Moldavia), both local and national tourist attractions. In addition, the Administrative Palace, a historic and civic building dating to imperial Austrian times and designed by Viennese architect Peter Paul Brang, is located in the historic town centre along with the Roman Catholic Saint John of Nepomuk church (one building faces the other).

Suceava is the 22nd largest Romanian city, according to the 2021 census. The city's population has increased exponentially during the second half of the 20th century, from just over 10,000 people in the late 1940s to over 100,000 in the early 1990s.

Historical overview

During the late Middle Ages, the town of Suceava was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia, being strategically located at the crossroads of several trade routes linking Central Europe with Eastern Europe, and, more specifically for that period of time, the former Principality of Moldavia with the Kingdom of Poland and the Kingdom of Hungary respectively. The town of Suceava had also operated under the Magdeburg law back in the Middle Ages (German: Das Magdeburger Recht).

From 1775 to 1918, Suceava was under the administration of the Habsburg Empire, initially part of its Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, then gradually becoming the third most populous urban settlement of the Duchy of Bukovina, a constituent land of the Austrian Empire and subsequently a crown land within the Austrian part of Austria-Hungary. During this time, Suceava was an important, strategically-located commercial border town with the then Romanian Old Kingdom to the south-east (Romanian: Vechiul Regat, German: Altreich).

Throughout the Austrian-ruled period of Bukovina, Suceava was also regarded as a 'miniature Austria' by native intellectual Rudolf Gassauer given its significant ethnic diversity (which, up until the early 20th century, included an overwhelming majority of ethnic Germans, more specifically Bukovina Germans, as well). An even older ethnic German presence in the town (as well as in the entire region of Bukovina) can be traced back to the end of the 14th century, more specifically during the Late Middle Ages (represented by a relatively small group of Transylvanian Saxons).

In the wake of World War I, after 1918, along with the rest of Bukovina, Suceava became part of the then newly enlarged Kingdom of Romania. After the end of World War II, the town slowly underwent a process of communist systematization which increased its population approximately tenfold throughout the decades prior to the 1989 Romanian Revolution. It became a municipality in 1968. Suceava is also crossed by the namesake river, a tributary of Siret, to the northwest, in the neighbourhood of Ițcani (German: Itzkany).

An important market town at the crossroads of several Central and Eastern European commercial routes since the Middle Ages (toward the Kingdom of Hungary to the west and the Kingdom of Poland to the north), Suceava is still an important commercial town nowadays. Furthermore, The CFR 500 highway crosses it, which is a railway junction and thus from here the railway line then branches off to Transylvania to the west.

Names and etymology

Moldavian chronicler Grigore Ureche presumed the name of the town came from the Hungarian Szűcsvár, which is combined of the words szűcs (i.e. furrier, skinner) and vár (i.e. castle). This was taken over by Dimitrie Cantemir, who, in his work Descriptio Moldaviae, gave the very same explanation of the origin of the town's name; however, there is neither historical nor vernacular evidence for this. According to another theory, the town bears the name of the river with the same name and that, in turn, is supposed to be of Ukrainian origin.

In Old German, the town was known as Sedschopff, in both contemporary German (i.e. Standard German/Hochdeutsch) and Old German sources it can be found under such variations as Sotschen, Sutschawa, or Suczawa (most commonly), in Hungarian as Szucsáva ([ˈsut͡ʃaːvɒ]) or Szőcsvásár (most likely according to his work Letopisețul Țării Moldovei până la Aron Vodă written in Romanian), in Polish as Suczawa, in Ukrainian as Сучава (Sučava), while in Yiddish as שאָץ ([ʃɔts]).

History

Antiquity

The present-day territory of the town of Suceava and the adjacent surroundings were already inhabited since the Paleolithic period. Stemming from the late Antiquity, there are also traces of Dacian oppidum of the 2nd century. In stark contrast to several other historical regions of Romania (most notably Transylvania and Oltenia), Suceava (along with the entire region of Bukovina for that matter) was not conquered by the legions of the Roman Empire and consequently was one of the lands of the Free Dacian tribes during ancient times. Nonetheless, according to ancient Roman scholar Ptolemy, at that time in the region also dwelled two likely Celtic-speaking tribes, more specifically the Anartes and the Taurisci, as well as the Germanic Bastarnae, who have also been attested there. The presence of Celtic-speaking tribes in Bukovina is further attested during the late La Tène culture period through archaeological studies.

Middle Ages

After the fall of Rome and during the Migration Period, the predominantly Carpiani population was successively invaded by East Germanic peoples (such as the Goths or the Gepids), Huns, Slavs, Magyars (i.e. Hungarians), Pechenegs, and ultimately Cumans.

When the town was established and very shortly afterwards, its trade was also facilitated with other Central European towns and markets by a local community of German potters and merchants (quite probably Transylvanian Saxons from Bistrița/Bistritz area) who migrated here during the Ostsiedlung. At the same time, the town had operated under the Magdeburg law (a type of medieval German town law applied mostly in Eastern Europe, but also in several parts of Central Europe), as was the case of Câmpulung Moldovenesc (German: Kimpolung), Siret (German: Sereth), Baia (German: Baja, Stadt Molde, or Moldenmarkt), or Târgu Neamț (German: Niamtz), all which were also situated on the territory of the Principality of Moldavia (more specifically on its northern area or the highlands).

As it was the case of other medieval towns in which the Magdeburg law held sway, this particular German town law came hand in hand with the medieval municipal law (discernible with the foundation of Freiburg im Breisgau in the early 12th century) and the Sachsenspiegel (an important law book during the time of the Holy Roman Empire). The town of Suceava is referred to as Sotschen (an Old High German name) in one of the works of Abraham Ortelius on European geography for the 15th and 16th centuries.

During the late Middle Ages, the town of Suceava was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia and the main residence of the Moldavian princes for nearly two centuries (namely between 1388 and 1564). The town was the capital of the lands of Stephen the Great, one of the pivotal royal figures in Romanian history, who died in Suceava in 1504. During the rule of Alexandru Lăpușneanu, the seat was moved to Iași in 1565 and Suceava failed to become the capital again. Michael the Brave captured the town in 1600 during the Moldavian Magnate Wars as he became the ruler of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania, but he was defeated during the same year. In 1653, Suceava was sieged.

Habsburg rule and unification with the Kingdom of Romania

Together with the rest of Bukovina, Suceava was under the rule of the Habsburg monarchy (and, subsequently, the Austrian Empire as well as Austria-Hungary) from 1775 to 1918 (with the border of the Habsburg domains passing just south-east of the town).

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, the town was the third largest in the Duchy of Bukovina, after Cernăuți (German: Czernowitz or Tschernowitz) and Rădăuți (German: Radautz). Throughout this period of time, in the process of the Josephine colonization (German: Josephinisches siedlung), the Habsburgs and, later on, the Austrians, attracted many German-speaking settlers from abroad to settle down in Bukovina and, implicitly, in contemporary Suceava, then just a small market town. Over the passing of time, these newly arrived German settlers and their descendants became collectively known as Bukovina Germans. This community has since dwindled to a very small number.

Nonetheless, despite their current numbers, the Germans from Suceava are still culturally, socially, and politically active. Given its diverse ethnic background during the late Modern Age, Austrian architect Rudolf Gassauer stated that the town of Suceava could have well been perceived back then as a 'miniature Austria'. Additionally, at that time, on an administrative level, the town of Suceava was part of a namesake bezirk (i.e. district) with a total population of 66,826 inhabitants.

In 1918, the town of Suceava (as well as the entire region of Bukovina) became part of the enlarged and unified Kingdom of Romania (and what is known in Romanian historiography as Greater Romania), after an overwhelming vote of the German, Romanian, and Polish representatives of the General Congress of Bukovina. All 7 political representatives of the Bukovina Germans led by Alois Lebouton voted for the union of Bukovina with the Kingdom of Romania.

Kingdom of Romania, communist period, and 21st century history

Throughout the interwar period, Suceava underwent further infrastructural development within the then enlarged Kingdom of Romania (Romanian: Regatul României). Moreover, from an administrative point of view, it had also briefly belonged to Ținutul Suceava (between 1938 and 1940), one of the 10 lands established during King Carol II's reign.

In addition, the town had previously had sizeable German, Jewish, and Polish ethnic communities which gradually dramatically dwindled throughout both the late 20th century and early 21st century. However, they are still present in smaller numbers nowadays and are socially, culturally, and politically active and mostly well integrated through their representative institutions.

Subsequently, from the 1950s onwards (concomitantly with the rise of communism in Romania), Suceava was heavily industrialized and a significant series of historical buildings from its historical centre (including the entire Franz Josef Straße) were demolished in order for Plattenbau-like blocks of flats to be constructed at the orders of the former communist officials.

After the 1989 Romanian Revolution, the town had increasingly lost both a significant amount of its population and its former industry which was forged mainly during communism. Therefore, its local economy entered a period of decline for many years. However, during the early 21st century, Suceava's population raised, also in part due to the incorporation of several nearby communes in the main town as well as to sparse local economic development which occurred during the late 2010s and early 2020s which attracted new inhabitants from the neighbouring rural areas of Suceava County.

During spring 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic in Romania began, Suceava was placed under lockdown due to its high rate of infection. The following year, the roof of the Administrative Palace (local landmark) was severely damaged by fire. In March 2022, the government of Romania approved a restoration/rehabilitation plan for the entire building.

The 2022 Romanian census (which could have normally occurred in 2021 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic) remains to report the total current population living in Suceava as of early 2022. The data for this census will be later on reported by the Romanian authorities at the end of 2023.

Geography

Suceava is situated in the south-western part of the Suceava County, in a moderately hilly area, and is an important commercial town and regional transport hub with Ukraine to the north, on the one hand, and with Transylvania to the west on the other hand.

The town of Suceava covers two types of geographical areas, the hills (of which the highest is Zamca Hill) and the meadows of the Suceava river valley. The unique setting of the urban settlement includes two groves, Zamca and Șipote, which are both located within the town's limits.

Burdujeni, one of the town's neighbourhoods, is connected to the rest of the town by a prominent avenue, which makes the neighbourhood appear as a separate satellite town.

Suceava is also crossed by Mitocu and Dragomirna rivers in Ițcani.

Climate

The town of Suceava has a temperate continental climate which is typical to Central and Eastern Europe. In addition, the yearly weather can be described with short springs, usually moderately warm summers as well as prolonged autumns and winters.

Demographics

Historical data for the town proper

The Austrian census of 1869, which recorded only population in absolute numbers (bereft of ethnicity or religion), indicated that then small town of Suceava had a total population of 7,450 permanent inhabitants. The Austrian census of 1880 indicated that the town of Suceava had a total population of 10,104, of which 5,862 were Germans (i.e. Bukovina Germans), 2,652 Romanians, 441 Ruthenians, and 784 inhabitants belonging to other ethnic groups.

The Austrian census of 1890 indicated that the town of Suceava had a total population of 10,221, of which 5,965 were Germans (i.e. Bukovina Germans), 2,417 Romanians, 644 Ruthenians, and 905 inhabitants belonging to other ethnic groups.

In 1900, when the town was still under Imperial Austrian administration, its total population amounted to 10,955 inhabitants. Of those, 61.5% declared their native language to be German (i.e. Hochdeutsch), followed by Romanian with 25.38%, and Ruthenian (or Ukrainian) with 5.46%. 20 years later, when the town had already switched to the Kingdom of Romania, the 1930 Romanian census recorded a population that amounted to c. 17,000 inhabitants with the following ethno-linguistic composition:

  • Romanians: 61.5%
  • Jews: 18.7%
  • Germans (i.e. Bukovina Germans): 13.9%
  • Poles: 2.6%
  • Other ethnic groups (most notably Lipovans, Ukrainians, Hungarians, and Armenians): 3.3%

Another census was conducted in the Kingdom of Romania during World War II, namely in 1941, which recorded a total population of 13,744 inhabitants for the town of Suceava. The ethnic composition of the town at that time was the following one:

  • Romanians: 8,823 (or 64.19%)
  • Germans (i.e. Bukovina Germans): 709 (5.15%)
  • Hungarians: 28 (or 0.20%)
  • Other ethnic groups or undeclared: 4,184 (or 30.44%)

Therefore, the then remaining German community of the town became the second-largest declared ethnic group even after the vast majority of the Bukovina Germans were forcefully resettled by the Nazi German authorities to former Nazi-occupied Poland (or the former General Governorate for the Occupied Polish Region) one year earlier in 1940, as part of the Heim ins Reich population transfer plan.

Shortly after the end of World War II, the ethnic minorities (mainly Germans and Jews but also Poles) considerably and gradually dwindled in the town of Suceava. However, as during communism, the overall population of the town raised (as it was the general case of other cities and towns in Romania as well as the country's total population given the pro-natalist policies of the Ceaușescu regime). After the 1989 Romanian Revolution (as it was the general case of the total population of the country), the population of Suceava dwindled once more given constant emigration both abroad or to other more developed towns and cities across Romania.

According to the 2002 Romanian census, the ethnic structure of the town of Suceava can be divided into distinct groups as follows:

  • Romanians: 98.17%
  • Roma (Gypsies): 0.48%
  • Germans (i.e. Bukovina Germans): 0.35%
  • Ukrainians: 0.27%
  • Poles: 0.23%
  • Lipovans: 0.20%
  • Other ethnic groups (most notably Hungarians, Jews, and Armenians): 0.30%

References


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