History of freemasonry in Moldova

The freemasonry in Moldova has a long history, a bit complicated and insufficiently explored. Moldavian historians didn’t pay due attention to this topic neither in soviet times neither in post-soviet time. Nevertheless the members of Moldavian freemasonry played an important role in development of the economy and culture of our country. A good example could be ConstantinMavrocordat, who abolished the serfdom in 1749, Mihai Sutu (1793 – 1795) the deputies of the “Sfatul Tarii” and the ministers - Pantelimon Halippa, Sergiu Niţă, Nicolae Alexandri. In our opinion, has come the time to determine this “white spot” of our history.

The history of Moldavian freemasonry can be divided in three main phases:

I.   1733 - 1734; 1812 - 1822 - the time when on the territory of the Moldavian Principality appear the first masonic lodges.

II.   1822 - 1920 - on the territory of the Eastern Moldova, which was called by Russian authorities – “Basarabia”, the freemasonry was forbidden. Due to that fact at that time worked only few masonic lodges.

III.   1920 - 1940 - when in our country, which was at that time part of Romania, were created several masonic lodges.

The founder of the Moldavian freemasonry is presumed to be the Italian Anton Maria delChiaro (the real name is David Thalia), who came in Moldova in 1733. In 1733 – 1735 he created in Galati (Loggia di Galazzi) and in Iasi the first masonic lodges in the history of Moldova. The first mention about the head of the masonic lodge in Moldova is referring to the year 1735, when the governor at that time the Constantin Mavrocordat was named the Worshipful Master of the one lodge from Iasi. During his governance (1733-1735, 1741-1743, 1748-1749, 1769) this governor made a lot of reforms in justice, army and established the salary for civil servants. In newspaper Mercure de FranceJuly 1742), his reforms are called the Constitution of the Mavrocordat. In order to improve the management system of the country and to centralize it, he reorganized the education system and developed the typography. According to the documents dated with the year 1740, the head of the Iasi lodge was named the captain Vasile Bals, and his followers become the great warden Iordache Dulgheru (1741), kaymakams (temporary governors) Iordache Cantacuzino (1742) and Sandu Sturdza (1743). In the same time we have to say that the names of these lodges and the dates of their creation were never known. The first lodge which detailed information was found in archives was Augustina, founded in 1742 in Iasi. In the year 1750 the French Louis Lavin has created two lodges in Iasi and Bucuresti, under the obedience of the Great Orient of the France. Between well-known masons of this period we can mention Scarlat Ghica (the governor of Moldova in 1757 – 1758), who also was the Worshipful Master of the lodge Loggia di Galazzi; the LascaracheGhemet who became in 1756 the Worshipful Master, and a little later the Great Inquisitor of one lodge from Iasi; Stavarache – the Great Treasurer (mentioned in documents – 1760), etc.

According to the inscription on the medal, issued by Mint of Sadagura (Poland), dated as of 29 April 1772, in Moldova in that day was founded the military lodge March. The members of this lodge were the officers of the Russian army that participated in Russo-Turkish war (1768-1774) on the territory of the Principality. The Worshipful Master of this lodge was the baron Peter von Gartenberg-Sadogurski. According to some information, his nephew general Peter Mellozino was the founder of the mint. In 1774, when the Russo-Turkish war was finished the Russian army left the Moldova and along left the members of this lodge. Further P. Mellozino was an excellent organizer and a little later he become the rector of the State University of Moscow and founded several lodges in Sankt-Petersburg.

In 1774 four Moldavian noblemen Iordache Bals, Constantin Varnav, Ianache Canta and Iordache Canano have vowed to help each other. It’s known that at least one of them – Iordache Bals was a mason. In the same year 1774 the new governor of Moldova becomes the Grigore Ghica III (1774-1777). Between the members of his palace was another French J. L. Karra, who for very long time was considered as founder of freemasonry of Moldova and also he was historical researcher. Due to his merits were attracted in masonry many Moldavian nobles, as in particular Alexandru Moruzi (1776), who in 1792, 1802-1806, 1806-1807 was the governor of the Moldova. In 1776 J. L. Karra came back to France and published in Paris in 1777 the book “The history of Moldova and Muntenia”. Further he participated at Great French Revolution in 1793 along with Talleirand, Mirabeau, Lafayett and also being a member of the lodge Les Amis Reunis. Besides Moruzi and I. Bals the freemasonry of Moldova in the period of governance of Grigore Ghica III was supplemented with a lot of nobles of the country. Such as Neculai Bals (the brother of the Iordache), cupbearer, and later chancellor; Manolache Bogdan(the great magistrate), Matei Cantacuzino, Ilie Catarji, Ion Ghenea, Gheorghe Jora, Manolache Romano, etc. All these people were mentioned in documents in 1776 as members of the lodge Moldova, which was created a little early (the exact day is unknown).

Osman government, which was considering the freemasonry as a revolutionary movement that is against any monarchy, had a very negative attitude and was against the spreading of the freemasonry supported by Grigore Ghica. According to the order of the sultan Abdul-Hamid I (1774-1789) as of 1 October 1777 G.Ghica was dismissed and killed in the same day. The next governor Constantin Moruzi (1777-1782) on the demand of the Sublime Porte has launched against masons a campaign of repressions. On 3 October 1777 the worshipful master of the lodge from Iasi - J. Le Dux, baron Saint-Croi, was deported from Moldova and the lodge temporary was suspended. Some members of this lodge were convicted and killed by Turks (Ionita Cuza, Manolache Bogdan, M. Romalo, Ruset-Balanescu, etc), being accused for a complot against the governor C. Moruzi. This complot was never proved. The masons from Moldova continued their work as a secret organization. It is known that the lodge from Iasi in short time was reactivated and in 1782 the Worshipful Master of this lodge became Neculai Roznovanu. His well-known followers were the great magistrate IordacheRuset – Roznovanu (mentioned in 1800 as a member of one lodge from Iasi) and Dimitrie Moruzi (mentioned in documents in 1812). Passing this campaign of repressions, the masons initiated some tentative to popularize their ideas. As evidence, can serve the book written by French Abate Prau “The secret of the freemasons”, and translated by archimandrite Gherasim of the Moldavian Metropolis. This book was issued on the money of the great cupbearer Iordache Darmanescu, which was considered by Turkish authorities as the leader of the complot against Constantin Moruzi. This book helped a lot in spreading of the ideas of the freemasons in the principality.

When Eastern Moldova was attached to Russia in 1812, began a new phase of the Moldavian freemasonry history. In spring of the year 1821 under the obedience of the Great Lodge Astreea, founded in 1815 in Petersburg, in Chisinau began the preparation of the opening of new masonic lodge. This lodge received the number – 25 and the name – Ovidiu - in the name of roman poet Ovidiuwho atoned his exile on shores of the Black Sea. The lodge from Chisinau was opened solemn on 7 July 1821 in the building with address Kaţikovskaia 2 Later this street was renamed in Oleg Kasevoi and today’s name is B. P. Hasdeu. The Worshipful Master of this lodge became the general P. Puskin. Some members of this lodge became in future Decembrists, such as V. Raevschi and the great Russian poet A. Puskin. But some members of the lodge Astreea, inclusive the general E. Kiseliov, had a very skeptic attitude about the creation of the lodge in Eastern Moldova. Only when this conflict was finished, on 7 October 1821 the lodge Ovidiu received the patent from Astreea On 10 October 1821 the Great Secretary of the Astreei, T. Wewell gave to Ovidiu the number – 25.

The Lodge from Chisinau activated for very short time. The Tsar Alexander I, who some time ago was a mason and supported openly the freemasonry, after the military offensive to West (1813 – 1815), he changed his opinion and started the preparation of the repressive measures against them. In November 1821 the head of General Staff of the Russian army the Principe P. Volconskigave an order to army governor of the region – general I. Inzovto check if in Chisinau or in Ismail is activating any masonic lodges. In Chisinau he suspected in collaboration with masonic lodges the Principe Sutu and in Ismail he suspected the General Tucicov. Being a mason, Inzov sent an answer convenient for brothers. But Petersburg didn’t believe him. At the end of the year 1821 to Chisinau was sent the head of General Staff – General P. Kisiliov. Understanding that situation became more complicated, the Worshipful Master of the lodge Ovidiu-25, P.Puşkin, has moved the lodge stuff from house of the Katika to his house. When he left this region, he moved the lodge stuff to village Mihailovskoie where he lived.

On 1 August 1822 Alexander I issued a special Decree that declared the freemasonry in Russia forbidden and the masons were repressed. Later Pushkin explaining these events said that cause of forbidding the masonry in Russia was the creation of the lodge in Chisinau under the obedience of the lodge Astreea. One of the members of the lodge Ovidiu, ggeneral S. Tucicov a little later was suspected by tsarist authorities that he together with the owner of the club Helias Defoy have opened a new lodge in Ismail.

ÎNew tentative to revive the activity of the masons from Eastern Moldova was undertaken by Great Orient of the France. On 1 May 1868 in Ismail was created the lodge Renaissance. The founders of this lodge were masons of the lodge from Galati The disciples of Pythagoras, masons from lodge Constantinople – Deurscher Bund, masons from lodge Progress – Anton Alexandridi, Isidor Epstein and Filostrat Petriades.The first Worshipful Master was named Constantin Raftopulo. At the end of the year 1860 in other southern towns of the Eastern Moldova, which at that time was part of Romania, were created other new lodges. But the lodge from Ismail and many other lodges existed in that region temporary suspended their activity when this region moved under control of Russia in 1878.

The revival of the masonic movement in the region has started in 1920 in Chisinau and in 1922 in Orhei when were created two new lodges with the same name – Fraternities. The Worshipful Master of the lodge Fraternities from Orhei became S. Goldberg (1922) and the Worshipful Master of the lodge Fraternities from Chisinau became N. Alexandri (1924 – 1926). In the year 1922, under the obedience of the Great National Lodge of Romania (created by C. Moroiu in 1880 in Bucuresti) in Chisinau was created the lodge Liberty. In the period 1924 – 1926 this lodge was headed by N. Alexandri. All these lodges were under the obedience of the Great National Lodge of Romania. In 1928 in Cernauti was created the lodge Fraternities, which became part of the Great Orient of the Romania. This lodge had a “geographic” character and had gathered all masons from North of Moldova. In Chisinau at that time were created two more lodges. The first lodge is Costache Negruzzi, and its founders were the first Worshipful Master – S. Nita, lawyer and writer T. Pavelescu, well-known philologist and a professor of theology Teofil Simensky, lawyer and writer Constantin Teodorescu, Constantin Vargolici. The second lodge was Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeuwhich was created on 21 June 1930. The Worshipful Master of this lodge became S. Gheorghidi who in 1929 got the 18 degree in masonry.

Moldavian lodges participated very active in Romanian masonic life and sent often their member to masonic congresses. On 29 April 1923 the lodges Liberty (Chişinău) and Fraternities participated at creation of the Great National Lodge of Romania. Lodge Fraternities (Cernăuţi) became a part of Great Orient of France which was created on 12 September 1923 and functioned till 1938.

The masons from Moldova had even international relations. P. Halippa who obtained the 33 degree even in 1923 and in 1925 he became a member of Supreme Council of those 33 from Santo-Domingo from Romania. In 1929 he became a member of Supreme Council of Romania and in 1948 he became the honorable member of this Council and was included in list of masons mentioned in information for Worldwide Supreme Masonry. S. Nita was selected as representative of the Great Lodge of Norway in Romania (1935).

It is important to mention that the attitude of the Romanian authorities for Moldavian masons in the period 1918 – 1940 was quite changing and depending on the government or political situation. Taking into account this fact we can identify several contradictory phases:

- The I-st phase, which is the longest one (1918-1930) and can be characterized as a passive one. In these years the intelligence service was collecting and analyzing the information about masons from tsarist period and persons that become masons after 1918, but didn’t interfere in their activity.

- The II-nd phase (november 1930 - february 1931) – the intelligence service was very active in collecting the information about existed lodges;

- The III-rd phase (february 1931 – september 1934) – the period of disasters;

- The IV-th phase (september - november 1934) – new tentative to discover masons in the region;

- The V-th phase (november 1934 - may 1937) – period of relative disasters;

- The VI-th phase (may - september 1937) – period of repressions against masons;

- The VII-th phase (september 1937 - november 1939) – the end of repressions;

- The VIII-th phase (november 1939) – generalization of the anti-masonry in the region.

The governance of kings Ferdinand I (1914 – 1927) and Mihai (1927 – 1930), who generally had a neutral attitude for masons, become for them a period relatively calm. In these periods in the region appear more new lodges and number of brothers was growing up. The intelligence service was dealing only with reports about the history and previous activities of the masons. But the intelligence service wasn’t dealing at that time with serious research of the masons’ activities and this fact played an important role in next years.

The situations changed dramatically after the state coup, which took place on 7-8 June 1930. The king Mihai I, who was at that time a child, was demoted till the prince - heir and new king became his uncle Carol, who just came from abroad, and was named Carol II (1930 – 1940). New king had visions pro-German and had a hostile attitude for masons because he considered them as “the army of Jewish worldwide complot”. For a small period time he decide to hide his real feelings. Before to take any repressive measures against masons, he gave an order to intelligence service, to find out how many lodges in Romania are and what their activities are. Therefore on 27 November 1930 the regional inspector of intelligence service Cristea asked the police department Chisinau to undertake all needed measures to protect all masonic lodges and to counteract all anti-Semite activities. Under this pretext was covered the real intentions to get the important details about existed masonic lodges in Romania. But on 1 December 1930 the police department Chisinau received from police sections from towns and districts that they do not have any information about masonic lodges.

On 9 December 1930 Cristeaundertook the second tentative to find some tracks of the masons. He proposed to the police department to give some information about local branch of the lodge Bnai Brith which was created with the support of regional Zionist organization. But on 10 January 1931 police department Chisinau has informed Mr. Cristea that even this lodge in Chisinau doesn’t exist. Cristea took the answer of the police department as irresponsible one and sent a new letter on 27 January 1931 and again asked to undertake serious measures to find any tracks of activity of the lodge Bnai Brith in Chisinau. At this time Cresteaindicated to policemen even the address of the lodge in Chisinau – in the building of the Zionist organization on the street Haralambie (todays name is the street Alexandrulcel Bun).

The Chisinau understood that is not possible to hide the masonic activities any more. Therefore on 14 February police department informed that in the city there is one masonic lodge on the street Regina Maria 30 (today – Vlaicu Parcalab) headed by the lawyer Konigschaz, and its members are the lawyers Apostolidi and C. Teodorescu. For unknown reasons, Cristea was satisfied with this answer, but at that time in Chisinau activated three masonic lodges. After that research of the masonic activities was an interruption which took place three years.

The coming to power of the Adolf Hitler (30 January 1933) seriously influenced the political situation in Romania. In country begun searches of the Masonic-Jewish complot. Become active the extremist organization “The iron guard” which changed its name and became “Everything for country”. These events and the pro-German attitude of the Carol II, has make more active the searches of the masons. On 3 September 1934 the police department Chisinau received new orders related to masons. The intelligence service wanted to know the exact number of the existed lodges, their legal status, on the basis of what legal documents they activate, who signed these documents, what are the names of the worshipful masters, members of the councils, and who are simple members of the lodges, etc. But followed the silence. Only when this order was repeated twice – on 11 and 23 October 1934 the police department informed that in Chisinau is activating just one lodge under the obedience of Great National Lodge of Romania and their members are the pharmacist D. Diaconescu, the lawyers Gheorghiadi and S. Nita, M. Cogan, and other unknown people. After this answer the search of the “masonic danger” failed again.

In these years the atmosphere around masonry was becoming more and more intense. The extremist like Iron Guard, Orthodox league and other organizations was considering masonry as an anti-state power and asked to ban it. This opinion was expressed in particular by A. Cuza on behalf of the Orthodox League on 5 April 1934. This opinion also has the Orthodox Romanian Church. On 12 March 1937 Orthodox Synod of Romanian Church accused the masonry in “propaganda of the atheism”, “pantheist-naturalist concept”, “intention to replace the Christianity”, “undermining the public order”, etc. But the masonry activated even in this difficult situation.

In 1932 in Chisinau was created new lodge Basarabia. Its Worshipful Master was Nicolae Profir, the president of Association of Engineers, academician and minister of telecommunications (1946 – 1952). In July 1932 he was replaced by Gheorghe Stere. The brothers Gheorghe and Roman Stere participated on the solemn meeting of the United Romanian Franc masonry and in 1937 the both got the 18 degree, but after 1944 they stopped their masonic activity.

On 20 May 1937 police department Chisinau received new order signed by chief of Romanian intelligence service – general Moruzov that the minister of internal affairs decided to close all masonic lodges and they have to undertake all needed measures to do that. Despite to this order, some chiefs of the local section of the intelligence service didn’t want to execute it. The reason why they didn’t want to execute was explained by chief of local section of intelligence service in the letter as of 12 June 1937 addressed to general Moruzov. He asked the information if the closing of the lodge Bnai Brith can be done with a court decision. On 17 June 1937 he received a positive answer. But at this time also nothing was done.

A very important day for masonry fate in this region was the 1 July 1937, when the chief of the Chisinau police department informed the vice-prosecutor of Romania, that on the basis of the order no. 1707/937 he decided to close all masonic lodges and also he asked for sanction to make searches in houses of the lodges and to confiscate the archives and the ritual stuff. He mentioned the lodges that accorded to police information existed at that time in the city:

1) Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu (they worked in the house of the school principal S. Gheorghiadi);

2) Unirea, headed by C. Teodorescu (they worked in the house on the street Alexandru cel Bun 101 (today the street is Stefan cel Mare);

3) Basarabia – headed by G. Stere and the engineer N. Profir (they worked on the street General Berthelo (now street Sciusev 90).

At this time the officers of the intelligence service were very active. On 1-2 July 1937 they visited all three addresses and made searches. But the archives weren’t found. Were interrogated all supposed heads of all three found lodges. Toderescu told them that he is not the head of the lodge and do not keep the archive because he is a fighter for national cause. Gheorghiadisaid that lodge existed and worked but later was closed due to negative attitude of the society for masons. N. Profir confessed that the lodge he headed worked in the house of the lawyer Apostol (street M. Viteazul, today – M. Eminescu) and he personally destroyed the archive. He also told them that in lodges from Chisinau never were Jewish.

On 18 August 1937 officers of the intelligence service closed the lodge Bnai Brith, situated on the street M. Viteazul 62 (now – M. Eminescu) and intelligence was thinking that the lodge was headed by lawyer E. Malamudman. At the interrogation E. Malamudman declared that in his house never worked any lodge and he never headed. All the actions of the intelligence service were made illegally. The information about these factsreached the press. The newspaper from Bucuresti “Buna Vestire” on the 8 July 1937 mentioned that in Chisinau were 5 lodges which were closed by intelligence service without participation of a prosecutor that was forbidden by law at that time and the commissar of the intelligence service Iager even impeded the closing of the lodge Basarabia.

In two years the chiefs of the intelligence service reminded about masons. On 14 November 1939 the regional inspector C. Maimuca through telephone asked thechief of Chisinau police department Berezovskito provide on 15 November at 10.00 the all information about lodges – their names, addresses, do they have legal status, do they have real estates, who is their owner, etc. On 15 November 1939 Berezovski informed that all five lodges didn’t have any real estates and they were close by themselves.

So, in the entire period 1918 – 1940 the people with high political influence in Romania have different opinions about masonry. Consistency didn’t appear even when came to power the enemy of the masonry – Carol II. The Romanian intelligence service knew quite bad the masonry and even didn’t want to know more. Therefore the intelligence service undertook actions only they were receiving the direct orders from chiefs and sometime even sabotaged them.

The years 1940 became tragic for Moldavian masonry. When the Eastern Moldova was occupied by Soviet army the local masons were repressed. Some masons were arrested even after 1940. P. Halippa was arrested in 1944 and was in detention until 1956. In 1948 all buildings owned by masons, inclusive masonic archives, where possibly were some documents related to Moldova, were transmitted to Ministry of Agriculture of Romania and what happened to them nobody knows.

Ruslan SEVCENCO, Ph.D. in history.



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