Category Archives: democracy

Confederate Elections of 1863

From Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War, by David Williams (New Press, 2010), Kindle pp. 87-88:

As early as November 1861, a committee assigned to consider revising Virginia’s state constitution called for more restricted suffrage and fewer popularly elected offices. In May 1863, the Reverend H.W. Hilliard, a former member of Congress from Georgia, spoke out publicly for a more restricted suffrage. When word of Hilliard’s remarks reached Athens, a local paper wrote that “the most unfeeling, unjust and cruel wrong we have ever witnessed, is this effort of designing politicians and juggling priests who are lying about home doing nothing, and worse than nothing, to disfranchise the brave and noble poor men who are fighting the battles of the country.”

Such efforts on the part of elites served only to inflame common folk and further undermine Confederate support. By 1863, many were openly demanding peace. In North Carolina, there were peace rallies throughout the mountain regions. In Georgia, the editor of Griffin’s Southern Union called for an end to the war, and reunification with the North. Several candidates for Georgia’s General Assembly from Gilmer and surrounding counties ran on the Union ticket. So did candidates in northern Alabama. In parts of Mississippi, so numerous were Union men that cavalry units were posted to keep them away from the polls. Still, armed bands of deserters showed up at Mississippi polling places defying arrest and demanding their right to vote. In Floyd County, Virginia, Confederates guarded every precinct to prevent deserters from voting. Nevertheless, so many local deserters’ relatives went to the polls that they elected a pro-Union sheriff, Ferdinand Winston, and several other Unionist county officials. In Mississippi’s Tishomingo County, Confederate officials were so worried about a Union victory at the polls that they suspended elections entirely.

Fear, intimidation, and despondency kept many alienated voters away from the polls. And because the Confederate Constitution gave the president a six-year term, Jefferson Davis was in no danger of losing his office. Even so, the election returns brought discouraging news for the Davis Administration. In North Carolina, candidates for the Conservative Party, composed mainly of longtime secession opponents, won nine of ten congressional seats—and eight of them were “reported to be in favor of peace.” George Logan of the Tenth District was nominated at a peace rally. Both of the state’s gubernatorial candidates were Conservative Party men.

In Texas, half the incumbent congressmen lost their seats. Of Georgia’s ten congressional representatives, only one was reelected. The state’s 90 percent freshman rate was the highest in the Confederacy. Eight of Georgia’s new representatives ran on an anti-Davis platform. Alabama voted out its staunchly pro-Davis governor. Four of the state’s new congressmen were suspected of being outright Unionists. The new legislature was made up mostly of men inclined to sue for peace. One Alabamian wrote that the election results showed a “decided wish amongst the people for peace.” In all, nearly half the old Congress was turned out. Two-thirds of the newly elected members had long opposed secession. The congressional freshman rate would likely have been much greater had it not been for the large bloc of returning members representing districts under federal occupation who were “elected” by refugees, by soldiers, or by general ticket in a given state’s districts still held by the Confederacy.

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Southern Reactions to Lincoln’s Election

From Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War, by David Williams (New Press, 2010), Kindle pp. 9-10:

A few weeks after Abraham Lincoln’s election, in the Confederacy’s future capital city, Virginia Unionists organized a mass meeting of the “working men of Richmond” to oppose secession. At a second such meeting, they upheld the federal government’s right to suppress secession by force if necessary. Anti-secession mechanics in Frederick County, Virginia, met to denounce the “folly and sinister selfishness of the demagogues of the South.” Workers in Portsmouth were equally stirred: “We look upon any attempt to break up this Government or dissolve this Union as an attack upon the rights of the people of the whole country.”

From western Virginia came word of Union meetings in Harrison, Monongalia, Wood, Tyler, Marion, and Mason counties. Preston County residents drew up a resolution declaring that “any attempt upon the part of the state to secede will meet with the unqualified disapprobation of the people of this county.” A resolution from Wheeling insisted that “it is the sacred duty of all men in public offices and all citizens in private life to support and defend the Constitution … the election of Abraham Lincoln … does not, in our judgment, justify secession, or a dissolution of our blessed and glorious Union.”

There were similar sentiments in the Deep South. In the heart of Georgia’s cotton belt, a large crowd of local citizens gathered at Crawfordville to declare: “We do not consider the election of Lincoln and Hamlin as sufficient cause for Disunion or Secession.” A mass meeting in Walker County expressed the same sentiment: “We are not of the opinion that the election of any man in accordance with the prescribed forms of the Constitution is sufficient cause to disrupt the ties which bind us to the Union.” In Harris County, the newspaper editor stated firmly that “we are a Union loving people here, and will never forsake the old ‘Star Spangled Banner.’” To stress the point, he printed the names of 175 local men, all pledged to “preserve the honor and rights of the South in the Union.

At Lake Jackson Church near Tallahassee, Florida, there assembled a crowd of 400 “whose heart beat time to the music of the Union.” A convention of laborers in Nashville, Tennessee, declared their “undying love for the Union” and called secessionist efforts “treason … by designing and mad politicians.” All across the South, thousands of worried southerners did their best to head off secession. While most had opposed Lincoln’s candidacy, a similar majority saw no reason to destroy the country over his election. Three-fourths of southern whites held no slaves and tended to believe that, as one Georgia man wrote, “this fuss was all for the benefit of the wealthy.”

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Effects of Cotton Gin and Indian Removal on Slavery

From Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War, by David Williams (New Press, 2010), Kindle pp. 18-19:

Aside from the moral issues involved, most Americans of that era [c. 1800] saw slavery as an economic dead end. The institution thrived only in the tobacco fields of the Chesapeake region and the rice country of coastal Carolina and Georgia. As the nation expanded, slavery would become proportionally less important to the nation’s economy and would eventually die a natural death. But the development of an efficient cotton engine, or “gin,” in the eighteenth century’s last decade changed all that. The cotton gin became the vehicle by which slavery was carried across the Deep South. Not surprisingly, attitudes toward slavery changed with the institution’s growing economic importance.

That change did not occur overnight. Antislavery sentiment in the South remained open and active through the early 1830s. As of 1827, 106 of the country’s 130 abolitionist societies were in the South. To discourage the use of slave labor, some of those societies paid above-market prices for cotton produced without slave labor. North Carolina Quakers and Methodists repeatedly petitioned their state legislature for emancipation. In 1821, a leading Georgia newspaper insisted: “There is not a single editor in these States who dares advocate slavery as a principle.” Far from advocating slavery, Alabama editor James G. Birney started an abolitionist newspaper. In 1827, the Alabama legislature passed a law prohibiting the importation of slaves from other states, and at every session throughout the decade, members proposed legislation favoring gradual emancipation. As late as 1831, a proposal to end slavery was introduced in the Virginia state assembly.

But the early nineteenth century was also the era of Indian removal. In 1827, Georgia forced out its few remaining Creeks. Nine years later, Alabama did the same. The 1830s saw the Choctaws and Chickasaws driven out of Mississippi. And Georgia annexed Cherokee land following the 1829 discovery of gold there. In an effort that carried the hopes of all Indian nations with it, the Cherokees fought to keep their land through the court system. The United States Supreme Court finally responded in 1832 with its Worcester v. Georgia decision: by treaty obligation, by prior act of Congress, and by the Constitution itself, the Indians held legal title to their land. But President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the ruling, and Congress declined to intervene. Georgia ignored the court order, and the Cherokees were driven westward on the Trail of Tears. A quarter of them died on that brutal forced march. In 1842, Florida’s Seminoles became the last of the southern nations to be violently relocated to land that they were promised would be theirs for “as long as grass grows or water runs.” At the time it was called Indian Territory. Today it is called Oklahoma.

Indian removal completed the transition in slaveholder attitudes begun a generation earlier. Slaveholders no longer viewed slavery as a temporary necessity but held it to be a positive good, divinely ordained, for the slaveholder, the slave, the nation, and the world. Though religion, racism, pride, and fear were all used to bolster slavery at home and justify it abroad, the driving force behind planters’ proslavery campaign was the same that caused their change of attitude in the first place—economic self-interest. Some planters, like Georgia’s Benjamin Harvey Hill, were candid enough to admit it: “In our early history the Southern statesmen were antislavery in feeling. So were Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Randolph, and many of that day who never studied the argument of the cotton gin, nor heard the eloquent productions of the great Mississippi Valley. Now our people not only see the justice of slavery, but its providence too.”31 It was cotton, along with tobacco, rice, and sugar, all cultivated by slave labor, that gave planters their economic power. And it was this power that gave planters the political strength with which to control the South’s lower classes and silence or exile slavery’s opponents.

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Lakota Elites, c. 1850s

From Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, by Pekka Hämäläinen (The Lamar Series in Western History; Yale U. Press, 2019), Kindle pp. 184-185:

In the early nineteenth century Lakota men were born into an increasingly competitive world with an uneven playing field. Boys were raised to be brave and ambitious in war, hunting, horsemanship, and courtship, and aspiring young men had to participate in several raiding expeditions to accumulate enough horses for a dowry. Many accomplished this in their late twenties after which they could settle down to family life, gradually give up raiding, and assume the role of an elder. As their families grew, they could marry off their daughters to other prominent men, receive handsome bride prices, and embed their families into expansive kinship networks that brought prestige, prosperity, and security. The most successful men—those who had become wiča, complete men—could sponsor extravagant feasts and giveaways in their sons’ name, paving their way within the fiercely competitive male sphere. Many celebrated Lakota leaders were born into this kind of privilege and were in turn able to bestow their sons with similar benefits. If competent, their sons could succeed them as hereditary chiefs and assume their names. They Fear Even His Horses the Younger and American Horse the Younger belonged to old and highly esteemed lineages, their names both a privilege and an obligation.

If not quite aristocracy, such men nonetheless possessed decisive advantages over others. Sitting Bull was born into a long line of chiefs and raised by two powerful uncles—Four Horns, a prominent band leader, and Looks-For-Him-in-A-Tent, a renowned war leader—whose eminence reflected on him, propelling his rise among aspiring Hunkpapa men. Camp heralds publicized his exploits as a hunter and a warrior—he earned his first military honors at fourteen, chasing a fleeing Crow on horseback and bringing him down with a hatchet-blow to the head—a position of advantage that blended with his innate spiritual prowess, physical courage, and quiet charisma to elevate him above rivals. He had a powerful dream in a vision quest at a young age and became the leader of the prestigious Strong Hearts warrior society in his mid-twenties.

Curly Hair was the son of Crazy Horse, who was the headman of the leading Hunkpatila band of the Oglalas, which traced a proud lineage of elders and holy men. At the time of Curly Hair’s birth in 1840, his father’s band included over ten tipis of blood relatives and in-laws, all of whom looked to Crazy Horse for spiritual and political leadership. Curly Hair was a child of privilege who grew up having his first steps and words celebrated with public feasts and gifts to the poor. Through his Minneconjou mother Curly Hair found another set of supportive kin relations and a further source of esteem: his family was the key proponent of an Oglala-Minneconjou alliance that shaped Lakota politics for a generation. His family promoted solidarity in both oyátes through giveaways, accruing admiration and followers; High Backbone, an ambitious Minneconjou headman, adopted Curly Hair as his protégé, engaging him in two-way character-hardening play fights and equestrian feats. When Curly Hair became a man and assumed his father’s name, he was primed for success. Young women wanted him for a husband, fathers wanted their daughters to marry him, young men wanted to be his kȟolá, and warriors were willing to follow him into war.

Men like the young Crazy Horse inevitably overshadowed less privileged men who lacked their kin connections, family wealth, and fame. For them the path for social recognition was paved with toil, anxiety, and violence—relentless raiding that gradually, often after several years, yielded enough clout to court women and enough horses and robes to pay bride prices. Lakotas raided and fought several neighboring groups in the mid-nineteenth century, but they did not do so as a monolith. Elite men raided horses to augment their possessions, but, backed with wealthy relatives, they could also afford to focus on collecting coups—war honors earned through audacious exploits like touching the enemy with a hand or a coupstick in the midst of hot battle—which further solidified their credentials as leaders. For other men raiding was an economic necessity that could consume their lives into early middle age. Some of them succeeded in turning themselves into warrior-traders with several wives, but many died trying. Their raw, anguished ambition to become men of substance was a latent impetus behind the expansion that made Lakotas the masters of the northern plains. Red Cloud, who lacked the pedigree of some of his rivals, spent nearly twenty years raiding before he dared to make a formal bid for chieftainship.

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Greek Travails, 1949-2009

From Adriatic: A Concert of Civilizations at the End of the Modern Age, by Robert D. Kaplan (Random House, 2022), Kindle pp. 272-274:

The end of World War II brought not peace but a civil war lasting until 1949, between the Communists and the ultimately victorious right-wing loyalists, which resulted in 80,000 dead and 700,000 internal refugees. Because of the brutality on both sides, particularly against civilians, Greek politics would remain polarized for decades, divided between parties of the hard Left and the hard Right, so that a modern liberalism and a modern conservatism would find little room to emerge. Thus did Greece, abetted by its geography—as close to Moscow as to Brussels—become an ideological battleground of the Cold War.

Greece’s Cold War years were marked by weak governments as well as deep, internecine political divisions, which were further aggravated by the independence struggle on Cyprus, with its consequent calls for Enosis (or union) of the island with Greece. (Of course, this itself was an echo of the Great Idea.) In 1967, junior officers staged a coup, toppling the Greek government in Athens. This led to a particularly brutal seven-year military dictatorship in which the Athens “Regime of the Colonels” bore greater similarities to those of the Third World than to any government in Western Europe. The Colonels’ regime dissolved in 1974 after their failed political intervention in Cyprus led to a Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island.

It was only with the reestablishment of democracy in July 1974 under the conservative politician Constantine Karamanlis (who had returned to Greece from exile in France) that Greek politics began slowly—for the first time in history—to stabilize and achieve a modern, Western character. Greece, the birthplace of the West, finally reentered the West. This process was helped by the country’s admission to the European Economic Community (later the EU) in 1981.

Like membership in NATO, membership in the EU and Greece’s subsequent admission to the Eurozone represented purely political decisions on the part of the Western alliance. In fact, neither Greece’s bureaucratic institutions nor its economy was ever up to the standards of core-Europe and the West. Yet, it was felt (if never publicly admitted) that leaving Greece outside European institutions, given the country’s vulnerable geographical position and its long history of instability, would pose a greater threat to the West than bringing Greece inside them. As it turned out, the Greek variant of the Great Depression, in which the country was brought to its knees beginning in 2009 by widespread poverty, a dramatically declining GDP, and mass unemployment—leading to a far-left-wing government initially close to Moscow—was directly related to the country’s abject lack of preparedness for the rigors of the Eurozone. The Byzantine and Ottoman legacies of underdevelopment, while not determinative and always able to be overcome, still counted for something in Greece in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

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Albania and Montenegro: Tough Transitions

From Adriatic: A Concert of Civilizations at the End of the Modern Age, by Robert D. Kaplan (Random House, 2022), Kindle pp. 247-248:

Because the decades of Communist autarky only further decimated the already weak polity, the 1990s saw massive corruption and bouts of anarchy undermine an embryonic democratic system that was buffeted by social upheaval, as masses of people deserted the countryside and rushed into the cities. But near the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century, a more nuanced picture began to emerge amid dramatically higher living standards among part of the population, and a commercial transformation and revitalization of the cities. Albania had joined NATO in 2009 and was possibly on a path toward membership in the European Union. It had avoided ethnic and religious conflict and had proper, peaceful relations with its Balkan neighbors—no mean feat considering the epic and bloody past.

Nevertheless, organized crime and endemic corruption had become major elements of daily life. Albania, as I write, is still a deeply divided and weak democracy. An opposition leader has accused the government of promoting “narcotraffickers, pimps, even killers as Members of Parliament.” The U.S. State Department and Europol have declared Albania the largest producer of cannabis and the key gateway for heroin into Europe. In 2016 Albanians “came second only to Syrians as asylum seekers in Germany and France. More than 42 per cent of the population live on less than $5 a day,” reports Besart Kadia, executive director of the Tirana-based Foundation for Economic Freedom. While the long, historical ages of extreme isolation have receded, Albania remains a world removed from Italy, less than fifty miles to the west across the narrowest point of the Adriatic.

Albania and Montenegro both are, in developmental terms, places where Europe ends and also begins. Geographically they are unquestionably part of Europe, even as their mountainous topographies have tempered the influence of the Mediterranean. Moreover, historically and culturally they have been mightily shaped by the long centuries of often weak rule by the Ottomans, whose imperial footprint was planted mainly in the Near East. These are in many respects Europe’s borderlands, which Europe cannot disown. If Europe makes any claim to universal values, it has no choice but to find a way to spiritually incorporate these two far-flung outposts of imperial Venice.

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From Ethnic to Criminal Networks

From Adriatic: A Concert of Civilizations at the End of the Modern Age, by Robert D. Kaplan (Random House, 2022), Kindle pp. 229-230:

A middle-aged writer, who comes to Montenegro often from an adjacent country, informs me soon after I arrive:

“The real issue here is the security problem on account of the cocaine wars between gangs located in the suburbs of Kotor. This is a function of the corruption, the nepotism, and the weak government institutions. Whoever runs the casinos runs Montenegro, so you don’t ask who runs the casinos. Criminal networks flourish at the same time as the building of resorts near the Adriatic. There is money here, I mean. Without the clans there is no mafia, but without the clans there is also no tradition. If you don’t hire your relatives, you’re a bad guy. Everyone privately cries for Tito. They want him back. Under Tito, there were almost no gangs, no rapes, much less drugs, more safety, more security, dignity to life. You didn’t have to worry about what could happen to your kids like you do now. People were not so rich and not so poor as today. And so what if you couldn’t vote every few years.”

With the exception of Slovenia, safely tucked inside Central Europe, this is the refrain that I have heard throughout the former Yugoslavia where the rule of law has sunk shallow roots and thus atavistic allegiances thrive. Of course, this is all a legacy of Communism, which Tito himself inflicted upon everyone. Except that in Montenegro I have reached a geographical juncture in my travels—far to the south and deep in the mountains—where the ethnic politics I observed in a place like Croatia has deteriorated into (and been replaced by) outright criminality.

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Republic of Venice, 726-1797

From Adriatic: A Concert of Civilizations at the End of the Modern Age, by Robert D. Kaplan (Random House, 2022), Kindle pp. 74-76:

Norwich writes: “Venice, alone of all the still-great cities of Italy, was born and brought up Greek…. Long after she shed her dependence on Constantinople, she continued to turn her back on Italy and to look resolutely eastward; the nightmare tangle of medieval Italian politics, of Guelf and Ghibelline, Emperor and Pope…none of this was for her.” Doges used Byzantine honorifics. The Venetian ruler’s dress was modeled on that of the Byzantine exarch. Byzantine girls were sent to Venice to marry; Venetians sent their sons to finish their education in Constantinople. Venice’s political links with Byzantium helped shield it from the quarrels among the other city-states of Italy, with their rapidly shifting tactical alliances that were the epitome of amorality. Because a rival commercial system, run by Arabs, stretched across North Africa and the Middle East, Venice became crucial to Constantinople as a Byzantine outlet to Europe. The Venetian model of beauty, as exemplified by the low domes and small windows of Saint Mark’s, recalling Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, was mainly Eastern.

Of course, the underpinning of Venice’s fortuitous separation from the rest of Italy was at root geographical. That great lagoon, the few miles of shallow water that protected Venice from the mainland in all its aspects, allowed it to focus eastward toward Byzantium, and, in addition, was the savior against Saracens, Magyars, and other invaders in the early centuries of Venetian independence. The lagoon, by confining Venetians to so restricted a space, also fostered internal cohesion. “Among Venice’s rich merchant aristocracy,” Norwich explains, “everyone knew everyone else, and close acquaintance led to mutual trust of a kind that in other cities seldom extended far outside the family circle.” The result was efficient administration by which risky trading ventures, involving vast outlays of capital, “could be arranged on the Rialto in a matter of hours.” Neither utopian nor egalitarian, Venice represented the triumph of a closed elite. Optimism was banned, unless it could be grounded in facts and percentages. (It was from such a tightly woven merchant aristocracy that Marco Polo, the late-thirteenth-century Venetian explorer of China and Central Asia, originated—of whom more later.)

Without the lagoon and the canals—without the presence of water, that is—Venice simply would not have had the beauty that endowed its population with such love of their city-state: it was a love of the polity, rather than that of one man or king. This, and the internal peace they enjoyed, fostered a “humaneness of feeling” that, as Berenson suggests, made Venetians “the first really modern people in Europe.”

What ensues, with its succession of eighty-four doges from 726 to 1797, is a thousand-year history as long, intricate, dense, intoxicating, and overwhelming as that of Byzantium itself, mind-numbing in its constant intrigues and periodic insurrections. It is a comparatively dim and opaque canvas that produced few giants and larger-than-life heroes (Pietro II Orseolo, who governed toward the end of the tenth century, being one exception to this rule), for trade and commerce, dull as these things are, reduce the long-term impact of bloodshed and its accomplice, glory. Because it is so thematically uninspiring, Venetian history is generally hard to remember, and for the literate, non-expert public is known best through the works of Shakespeare—who uses Venice as a somewhat shameless and cynical backdrop to reveal vulnerability and passion contained in everyone, Moor and Jew alike, people otherwise depicted as one-dimensional and therefore uninteresting in his day.

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Fate of Romania’s Cantacuzenes, 1965

From Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, by Artemis Cooper (New York Review Books, 2013), Kindle locs. 5580ff & 6120ff.

Rumania in 1965 was just beginning to open up to the non-Communist world, although a meeting with the Cantacuzene sisters would involve considerable risks. As Paddy put it, ‘Mixing with foreigners incurred severe punishment, but harbouring them indoors was much worse . . .’ But it was too good an opportunity to miss, and Balasha and her family felt it was a risk worth taking.

By early June he was in Bucharest, now stripped of its pre-war gaiety, and made contact with Pomme’s daughter Ina who was then working as a draughtswoman in an architect’s office. She met him after work on a borrowed motorbike, and with Paddy riding pillion, they began the eighty-mile journey to the town of Pucioasa in the foothills of the Carpathians. It was a long ride over rutted roads, and by the time Ina let him into the house it was well after dark. They climbed upstairs as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the neighbours, but it was hard to stifle the cries of welcome that greeted his arrival at the top of the house.

Pomme, Constantin and Balasha had been sharing an attic studio since their eviction from Băleni on the night of 2–3 March 1949. On that evening, a small posse of Communist apparatchiks and police had arrived in a truck. Pomme and Constantin were forced to sign a document surrendering ownership of the house, and the family was told to pack a small suitcase each. They were advised to take warm clothes, and told they would be leaving in fifteen minutes. They were taken to Bucharest, where they lived until orders came through that they were to be transferred to Pucioasa.

‘In spite of the interval,’ wrote Paddy, ‘the good looks of my friends, the thoughtful clear glance and the humour were all intact; it was as though we had parted a few months ago, not twenty-six years.’ Hidden behind that carefully worded sentence was the shock of finding Balasha ‘a broken ruin’ of her former self. Though only in her early sixties, she was shrunken by hardship and anxiety; her black hair was grey, her face lined, and she was very deaf. She and Pomme managed to survive by teaching English and French. Constantin, already ill with the heart disease that would kill him two years later, was too frail to work.

‘Their horrible vicissitudes were narrated with detachment and speed,’ he continued. ‘Time was short and there were only brief pauses for sleep on a couple of chairs. The rest of our forty-eight hours – we dared risk no more – were filled with pre-war memories, the lives of all our friends, and a great deal of laughter.’ He had brought new watches for Pomme and Balasha, and later he set up an account for her at the Heywood Hill bookshop so she would never be short of books. He also knew that Balasha had a present for him. On her last night at Băleni, in the fifteen minutes she had been given to pack, she had seized a battered green notebook. It was Paddy’s last journal, the one he had begun in Bratislava in 1934; she now put it into his hands.

He was back home in December, elated and relieved, having been given the all-clear – and then he heard that Balasha was dying of breast cancer. Had she had it treated earlier, she might well have survived; but she had kept the symptoms to herself, refusing to see a doctor until it was too late to operate. It was a decade since Paddy had been to see her in Pucioasa and now he wanted to rush to her bedside, but Balasha forbade him to come: ‘nothing would upset me more,’ she told Pomme to write on her behalf. Her letters to Paddy, and Joan to whom she wrote separately, reveal that she had made a decision to live in books and her memories and expected nothing more from life. She died in March 1976. Seven months later her niece, Ina Catargi, who had taken him to Pucioasa on the back of a motorcycle, was also dead – of lung cancer. Of that generous family which had been such a part of his life only Pomme Donici remained, now bereft of husband, sister and daughter. She arranged for Balasha and Constantin’s remains to be buried in the Cantacuzene family crypt in the cemetery at Băleni, where she eventually joined them in 1983.

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Status of Jews in Moldavia, 1934

From The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos, by Patrick Leigh Fermor (Journey Across Europe Book 3, NYRB Classics, 2014), Kindle pp. 149-151:

These hostile feelings were much more deeply rooted in the north, where the Jewish population had increased from about two thousand families to close on a million in a hundred and thirty years, most of them in flight from the appalling conditions in Poland and the Russian Pale, until in several large Moldavian towns, including Yassy, the Moldavian capital, they now outnumbered the Rumanian inhabitants and monopolized the commerce of the province. Small wonder that this indigestible explosion of people caused dismay, resentment and hostility among the inhabitants; there was nothing comparable here to the harmonious and long established position of the polished and much less numerous Sephardim of the Ottoman world; small wonder, too, that the Jews, denied full citizenship and with nearly every route to advancement or honour denied to them, should expand and excel in the only field that was not barred by prejudice. The remote principality in which they suddenly began to proliferate had no middle class; rural society knew nothing between the mediaeval feudalism of landowners – the great and the lesser boyars, many of whom seldom set foot on their accumulations of acres – and a vast and callously exploited peasantry. There was no urban middle class, and, in Moldavia especially, as the country expanded, the Jewish population became a semi-alien bourgeoisie of middlemen and retailers.

Everyone reluctantly admitted that the Jews were honest in their dealings, however ruthless, and faithful to their agreements. I also noticed that nearly everyone, however ill-disposed in general, had one Jewish friend who ‘was not like the others’, an array of exemptions that must have added up to an imposing total. It was only on later travels in Moldavia and Bukovina that I got to know, talk to and even make friends with Jews not isolated in a Gentile majority. Lack of any need to conform to alien ways had left their way of life absolutely intact: the long black kaftans, broad-brimmed black velvet hats, skullcaps, black, red and blond beards, corkscrew side-whiskers (like those of my host and his son in the woods of the Banat), and a Yiddish largely unalloyed by Rumanian, but embedded with Polish and Russian words as well as the Hebrew studied by the rabbis and divinity students.

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