Masonry in Moldova has a long, complicated and little-studied history. Moldovan historians didn’t pay attention to this issue either during the Soviet period or in the post-Soviet era. Despite this fact, it is certain that Moldovan masonry representatives have played an important role in the development of our country’s economy and culture. As an example, the rulers Constantin Mavrocordat, who canceled the serfdom in 1749, Mihai Sutu (1793-1795), deputies of the “Country Counsel” and ministers – Pantelimon Halippa, Sergiu Niţă, Nicolae Alexandri. We think it is time to wipe out this “white spot” in our history.


In the history of Moldovan masonry, are outlined three basic stages:

I. 1733-1734; 1812 – 1822 – when on the territory of the Moldavian Principality the first Masonic lodges were develop.

II. 1822 – 1920 – on the territory of Eastern Moldova, which was named by the Russian authorities “Basarabia”, masonry was forbidden. So there were only a few Masonic lodges here.

III. 1920 – 1940 – a few Masonic lodges were created on the territory of our country, then in Romania.


The founder of masonry in Moldova is the Italian Anton Maria Chiaro (the real name David Thalia), who came to Moldova in 1733. In 1734-1735 he created the first Masonic lodges in the history of Moldova in Galati (Loggia di Galazzi) and Iasi.

The first mention of the leader of the Masonic Lodge in Moldova dates back to 1735, when the then ruler, Constantin Mavrocordat, was named Venerable Master of one of the Iasi lodges.

During his reign (1733-1735, 1741-1743, 1748-1749, 1769) this ruler made a series of reforms in the field of justice, armed and introduced the salary for state officials.

In the Mercure de France newspaper (July 1742) his reforms are called the Constitution of Mavrocordat). In order to improve the state management system and centralize it, it reorganized the sphere of education and contributed to the development of typographical activity. In the documents of the year 1740 Captain Vasile Bals, whose descendants became the great vormic Iordache Dulgheru (1741), caimacams (temporary rulers) Iordache Cantacuzino (1742) and Sandu Sturdza (1743), were appointed as leaders of the Iasi bastion. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the names of these lodges and the moment of their creation have remained unknown until today. The first lodge, about which detailed information was kept in archives, was Augustine, founded in 1742 in Iasi. In 1750 the French Louis Lavin created, under the protection of the Grand Orient of France in Iasi and Bucharest, two more lodges. Among the famous Masons of this period we can mention: Scarlat Ghica (ruler of Moldavia in 1757-1758), who was also the Venerable Master of Loggia di Galazzi; Lascarache Ghemet, who became the Venerable Master in 1756, and later – the Grand Protester of an Iasi Lodge; Leința, the great sulger of the Principality (among the Masons is mentioned in 1757), the great Stavarache (referred to in 1760) and others.


According to the inscription on the medal issued at the Sadagura Monetary Court (Poland) dated April 29, 1772, the military lodge, called Martie was founded in Moldova. It was composed of the Russian Army officers who participated in the Russian-Turkish war (1768-1774) on the territory of the Principality. The Venerable Master of the Lodge was the inaugural Baron Peter von Gartenberg-Sadogurski (according to other sources, his nephew, General Peter Mellozino, who was also the founder of this monetary court). In 1774, after the end of the Russian-Turkish war, the Russian army left Moldova. Along with it, the members of this lodge also left. P. Mellozino, who proved to be an excellent organizer, becoming a curator, and later rector of the Moscow State University, founded several lodges in Petersburg.


In June 1774, four Moldovan boyars – Iordache Balş, Constantin Vârnav, Ianache Canta and Iordache Canano made a mutual oath. It is known that at least one of these, Iordache Balș – was a Mason. In the same year, the new ruler of Moldova was named Grigore Ghica III (1774-1777). Among the representatives of his court was another Frenchman, J.L.Karra, who has long considered himself the founder of masonry in Moldova and is engaged in historical research. To him belongs the merit of the attraction in masonry of many representatives of the Moldovan nobility, especially the prince Alexandru Moruzi (1776), who in 1792, 1802-1806, 1806-1807 was the ruler of Moldova. In 1776 J.L.Karra returned to France, where in 1777 he published in Paris “The History of Moldavia and Wallachia”. Then he participated in the Great French Revolution, being in 1793, together with Talleirand, Mirabeau, Lafayett and others, member of Les Amis Reunis lodge. Besides Moruzi and I.Balş, during the reign of Grigore Ghica III, masonry from Moldova was completed with a series of representatives of the nobility of the country. These were: Neculai Balş (Iordache’s brother), Manolache Bogdan, Matei Cantacuzino, Ilie Catarji, Ion Ghenea, Gheorghe Jora, Manolache Romano and others. All of them are mentioned in the documents of the year 1776 as part of the Moldavian lodge, which was created a few years before (exact date today is unknown).


The Osman government, which considered the Masons to be a revolutionary movement against any monarchy, had an extremely negative attitude towards the widening of their work under the protection of Grigore Ghica. On 1 October 1777 at the order of sultan Abdul-Hamid I (1774-1789) G.Ghica was dismissed and on the same day he was killed. During the reign of his successor Constantin Moruzi (1777-1782), at the request of the Porte, a campaign of repression was unleashed against the Masons. On October 3, 1777, the venerable of the Iaşi Lodge, J. Le Dux, the Baron Saint-Croi, was deported from Moldova, and the lodge temporarily ceased to exist. Some members of this lodge were sentenced to capital punishment and murdered in 1778 by the Turks (Ioniţă Cuza, Manolache Bogdan, M.Romalo, Ruset-Bălănescu, etc.), being accused of plot against the prince C.Moruzi, but this fact has never been proven. Moldovan Masons continued to work as a subversive organization. It is known that the lodge in Iasi was restored shortly, and by 1782, the Venerable Master was the Neculai Roznovanu. His famous descendants were the great Iordache Ruset-Roznovanu (referred to in 1800 as a member of a lodge in Iaşi), Dimitrie Moruzi (mentioned in the documents of 1812). Following this wave of repression, the Masons have attempted to popularize their ideas. As a testimony, the archimandrite of the Moldovan Metropolitan Church Gherasim can use the book of the French abbot Prau «The Mystery of the Freemasons» (on the money of the great ruler Iordache Dărmănescu, who was considered by the Turkish authorities as the leader of the plot against C.Moruzi). This book has helped spread the ideas of freemasonry in the Principality.


In 1812, after the annexation of Eastern Moldavia by Tsarist Russia, a new phase of the history of Moldovan masonry began. In the spring of 1821, under the protection of the Grand Lodge Astreea, founded in 1815 in Petersburg, Chisinau began its preparation for the opening of the new masonic lodge. It earned the 25th number and the name – Ovidiu – in honor of the Romanian poet Ovidiu, who had served the exile on the Black Sea shores. The lodge in Chişinău was solemnly opened on 7 July 1821 in the building on Katikovskaia Street 2 (later Oleg Kosevoi, today – B.P.Haşdeu). Venerable Master of the Lodge became General P.Pushkin. In its composition came a group of future decembrists, like V.Raevski, the great Russian poet A.Pushkin. But some leaders of the “Astreea”, headed by General E.Kiseliov Deputy Worshipful Master, had a very skeptical attitude towards creating lodge in Eastern Moldova. Only after a conflict with them, on October 7, 1821, the lodge Ovidiu obtained a patent from Astreea regarding its creation. On Oct. 10, 1821, the great secretary of Astreea, T.Wewell, granted the Ovidiu Lodge No. 25.


The Chişinău lodge existed a very short period. Following the offensive of the Russian army to the West (1813-1815), Tsar Alexandr I, who was once part of Masonry and gave it open support, gradually changed his mind and began preparing repressive measures against it. In November 1821, the Chief of Staff of the Russian Army, Prince P. Volkonski, commanded to General I.Inzov, the military governor of the region, to check whether Chisinau and Ismail are still operating the Masonic lodges. In Chisinau, the General Staff suspected the collaboration with the Masons on prince Suţu, at Ismail – General Tucicov. Being a Mason, Inzov sent the answer, which was convenient to the Brotherhood. But Petersburg did not believe him. At the end of 1821, General P. Kiseliov, Chief of Staff of the Russian Army, in Tulcin, was sent to Chişinău for the new control. Aware of the situation, the Venerable Master of Ovidiu-25, P. Pushkin, carried the assets of Katika’s lodge in his own home. After his departure from the region, Pushkin brought his assets to the lodge in village Mihailovskoie, where he lived.


On 1 August 1822, by a special decree of Alexander I, masonry was prohibited in Russia, its members being subjected to repressions. Later, commenting on these events, Pushkin said that the reason for the ban on Masonry in Russia was the unassuming attitude of Astreea towards the creation of the lodge in Chisinau, which by unknown ways came to be known by the Tsarist authorities. Then one of the members of the Ovidiu lodge, General S.Tucicov, was suspected by the Tsarist authorities that, together with the concessionaire of the Ismail nobility club, Helias Defoy was trying to create the new lodge at Ismail.


Attempts to revive the work of the Masons of Eastern Moldavia have undertaken the Grand Orient of France. On May 1, 1868, the Renaissance lodge was created at Ismail. Its founders were Masons of the Galati Lodge The Pythagorean Disciples, the Deurscher Bund and of the Progress Lodge – Anton Alexandridi, Isidor Epistein, Filostrat Petriades, Constantin Raftopulo, who became the First Venerable Master of the Lodge and others. At the end of 1860, other lodges were created in other southern Eastern Moldovan cities, which then joined Romania. But with the return of the region under the control of Russia in 1878, both the Ismail lodge and other lodges in the region ceased temporarily.


The revival of the Masonic movement in the region began in 1920, when in Chişinău, then in Orhei in 1922, two lodges were created under one and the same name – Fraternity. The Venerable Master of the Fraternity Lodge in Orhei became the clockworker  S. Goldberg (1922). The Fraternity Lodge in Chişinău was conducted in 1924-1926 by N.Alexandri. Also in 1922 under the protection of the Great National Lodge of Romania (created by C.Moroiu in 1880 in Bucharest) in Chişinău was created the Libertatea Lodge. In 1924-1926 it was led by N. Alexandri. All these lodges were subject to the Great National Lodge of Romania. In 1928 in Chernivtsi was created the Fraternity lodge, which entered the Great East of Romania. This lodge had a “geographic” character and included all Masons in the North of Moldova. In Chisinau there were created two more lodges – Costache Negruzzi, the founders being: the first Venerable Master of this one – S. Niţă, the lawyer and writer Ţ.Pavelescu, the famous philologist and theology professor Teofil Simensky, the lawyer and writer Constantin Teodorescu, Constantin Vârgolici . The second lodge, opened on June 21, 1930, was the lodge Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu. Venerable Master of this became Ş.Gheorghidi, who in 1929 obtained the 18th degree in Masonry.


Moldovan lodges actively participated in the life of the Romanian masonry, sending their representatives to Masonic congresses. On April 29, 1923 Libertatea (Chişinău) and Fraternity lodges participated in the creation of the MLNR. The Lodge Fraternity(Chernauti) entered the composition of the Grand Orient of France, founded on September 12, 1923, which existed and functioned until 1938, when it joined the Sadoveanu faction of the MLNR. K.Grafe, V.Neumann and V.Sterea represented the Fraternite Lodge at the meeting dedicated to the creation of the Federation Regime of Romania (March 15, 1923), and E.Luttingher and V.Neumann represented this lodge in 1928-1929 at the IV-V Conventions of The Great East of Romania.


Masons in Moldova also had international relations. In 1925, P. Halippa, who obtained the 33rd grade in 1923, became the representative of the Supreme Council of the 33 from Santo Domingo in Romania. In 1929 he was appointed member of the Supreme Council for Romania, and in 1948 he became a honorary member of this Council and was included in the list of Masons. His activity was mentioned in the information about Supreme World Masonry. S. Nita was elected representative of the Grand Lodge of Norway in Romania (1935).


It should be noted that the attitude of the Romanian authorities towards the Masons of Moldavia during the years 1918 – 1940 was changed according to the power that was at the time as leadership or the political conjuncture. Based on this, we can establish some contradictory stages:


– The I stage, which is the longest (1918-1930), can be characterized as passive. In these years, the intelligence service handled the gathering and analysis of information about the Masons of the Tsarist period and the people who entered masonry after 1918 but did not take action to limit their activity.

– The II period (November 1930 – February 1931) – the intelligence service quickly gathers information on the activity of existing lodges;

– The III period (February 1931 – September 1934) – is the period of calm;

– The IV period (September – November 1934) – new attempts are being made to find Masons in the region;

– The V period (November 1934 – May 1937) – relative non-calm period;

– The VI period (May – September 1937) – the period of repressions against the Masons;

– The VII period (September 1937 – November 1939) – the termination of repressions;

– The VIII period (November 1939) – the anti masonic activity is generalizing in the region.


The rule of kings Ferdinand I (1914-1927) and Mihai I (1927-1930), who generally had a neutral attitude towards the Masons, became a relatively calm period. Now there are a number of lodges in the region, and the number of brothers in them is growing. The intelligence service is limited to producing reports on the history and previous activity of masonry with the indication of some brotherhood members. So the intelligence service does not deal with the serious research of Masons’ work these years, which has played an important role for the coming years.


The situation suddenly changed after the coup on June 7-8, 1930. As a result, King Michael I, who was a child, was demoted to the heir-prince, and the new king became his uncle Carol, who had just returned from abroad and who was named Carol II (1930-1940). The new king had pro-German visions and a hostile attitude towards the Masons, because he considered them the “weapon of the Jewish world plot”. But for a while he decided to hide his dislike. Prior to taking repressive measures against the Masons, Carol asked the intelligence service to determine how many lodges exist in Romania and what they do. That is why on November 27, 1930, the regional intelligence officer, Cristea, asked the Chisinau police department to take measures for the protection of the Masonic lodges and the counteraction of the anti-Semitic actions. Under this pretext, the intent to obtain details about the activity of the lodges in Romania was hidden. But on December 1, 1930, the police department in Chisinau received information from the city police stations that they did not have any data on the activity of Masonic lodges.


On December 9, 1930, Cristea took the second attempt to find the Masons footsteps. He proposed to the Police to provide information on the work of the local branch of the Bnai Brith Lodge, which, according to the information he held, was created alongside the Zionist organization. But on January 10, 1931, Cristea was informed that this lodge does not exist in Chisinau. Then Cristea described the activity of the Chisinau police as irresponsible and in the following letter, dated January 27, 1931, again asked for a thorough investigation of the work of the Bnai Brith. This time Cristea also indicated the address of the chateau in Chisinau – in the building of the Zionist organization on Haralambie Street (today Alexandru cel Bun Street).


Chisinau understood that it was impossible to conceal Masonic activity. That is why on February 14, 1931 the police informed that there is a Masonic lodge in the city on Regina Maria Street 30 (now Vlaicu Pârcălab) headed by the Konigschaz attorney, and the members of the lodge are the lawyers Apostolidi and C. Teodorescu. Cristea was devastated by this answer, although he did not receive information about other Masonic lodges that existed in the city (there were 3 Masonic lodges in Chisinau). After that, the research of the Masonic activity by the intelligence service was interrupted for a period of three years.


The coming to power in Germany of the Adolf Hitler (January 30, 1933) seriously influenced the political situation in Romania. The search of the “Jewish-Masonic plot” begins in the country. The “Iron Guard” extremist organization has been activated, which has changed its name and became “Everything for the Country”. These events, as well as the pro-Christian orientation of Carol II, which became increasingly evident, contributed to the resumption of actions against the Masons. On 3 September 1934 the Chisinau police department received new indications. It was requested that the intelligence service find out the total number of existing lodges, what legal status they have, the basis of which legal document works, who signed these documents, who are the Venerable Masters, the members of the committees, the main members of the masonry in the region, etc. But there was a long silence. Only after reiterating this indication – on 11 and 23 October 1934 the police department informed that there is a single lodge in Chisinau under the jurisdiction of the MLNR and its members are the pharmacist D.Diaconescu, the lawyers Gheorghiadi, S.Nita, some M. Cogan “and other unidentified persons”. After this answer, the study of “Masonic danger” is once again in a deadlock.


In these years the atmosphere around the masonry is becoming more and more tense. Extremists – the Iron Guard, the Christian League, and other organizations that considered Masons to be an anti-state force called for their ban. This opinion, in particular, was exposed by A.Cuza on behalf of the “Christian League” on 5 April 1934. He was also supported by the Romanian Orthodox Church. Thus, on March 12, 1937, the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church condemned masonry for “propaganda of atheism”, “pantheistic-naturalistic conception”, “intention to replace Christianity”, “undermining public order” and so on. But even in these difficult conditions, Masonry continued its activity.


In 1932, the Basarabia lodge was created in Chisinau. The Venerable Master was named Nicolae Profir – President of the Romanian Engineers’ Associate, Academician and Minister of Telecommunications (1946-1952), who in July 1932 was replaced by Gheorghe Stere. The brothers Gheorghe and Roman Stere participated in the solemn meeting of United Romanian Freemasonry, obtaining in 1937 the 18th grade, but after 1944 they ceased their Masonic activity.


On 20th May 1937 the Chisinau police department received a new indication, signed by the head of the Romanian intelligence service, General Moruzov, saying that the interior minister had decided to close all the Masonic lodges, and in this regard all necessary measures must be taken. Despite this provision, some managers of the local intelligence services didn’t want to meet it. Their position was exposed by the head of the local department of the Chisinau intelligence service in a letter addressed to Moruzov on June 12, 1937. He asked whether the closure of the Bnai Brith deposit would be made on the basis of a court decision. On June 17, 1937, he received a positive response. However, no concrete measures have been taken yet.


A decisive day for the fate of Masonry in this region was July 1, 1937, when the head of the Chisinau police department informed the Romanian Deputy General Prosecutor that under Order No. 1707/937 he decided to close all Masonic lodges and demanded the right to make searches in the houses of the lodges, confiscate their archives and ritual wealth. He listed the lodges, which, according to police data, existed in town:


1) Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu (the meetings took place at the house of head of the school for boys Ş.Gheorghiadi);

2) Unirea, led by C.Teodorescu (the meetings were made at the house on Alexandru cel Bun 101, today, Stefan cel Mare și Sfânt);

3) Basarabia – headed by G.Stere and engineer N.Profir (the meetings took place on General Berthelo str., today Sciusev str. 90).


This time the intelligence service staff were extremely active. On July 1-2, 1937, they visited the three addresses, conducting searches. But the archives of the lodges were not found. All the supposed leaders of the three lodges were interrogated. Teodorescu said he does not lead the lodge or keep the Masonic archive because he is a fighter for the national idea. Gheorghiadi informed that the lodge existed, but was abolished because of the negative attitude shown by society to the Masons. N.Profir confessed that the lodge he had carried out was kept in the house of Apostol’s lawyer (M.Viteazul, today Eminescu), and he personally liquidated the archive of the lodge. According to him, there was no Jews in Chisinau lodges.


On August 18, 1937, the intelligence officers closed the lodge Bnai Brith, located at M. Viteazul 62 (now M.Eminescu), who, in their opinion, was led by E.Malamudman attorney. At interrogation, E. Malamudman said that there was no Masonic Lodge in his house and he never led it. All these actions of the intelligence service were in violation of applicable law. Information about what happened has penetrated the press. The Bucharest newspaper “Buna Vestire” mentioned in the July 8, 1937 issue, that in Chisinau there were 5 lodges that were closed by the intelligence staff without the prosecutor’s participation, which was forbidden by the law.


Over 2 years, the intelligence service has “recalled” again about the Masons. On November 14, 1939, the regional inspector, C.Maimuca, requested by telephone the head of Chisinau police Berezovsky to present on November 15, 10:00, all the information about the existing lodges – their name, the place of their stay, if they had or not a legal status, by whom they were headed and whether they owned real estate. On November 15, 1939, Berezovski informed that all 5 lodges had no real estate and that they were closed by their members.


So throughout the 1918-1940 period in Romania’s political circles there were different views on masonry. The consistency did not characterize the period after the coming into power of the adversary of Masonry Charles II. The Romanian intelligence service had little knowledge of masonry and did not want to study it, so it was taking action against the Masons only on the strict indications that came from the leadership, sometimes even sabotaging their execution.


The 1940s were tragic for Moldovan masonry. After the occupation of Eastern Moldova by the Soviet Army, local Masons were repressed. Some of them were arrested even after the 1940s. P. Halippa was arrested in 1944 and detained until 1956. In 1948 all the buildings belonging to the Masons, including a part of the Masonic archives, were transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture in Romania, and nothing about their fate is known.


Ruslan ŞEVCENCO, PhD in History.