A Brief History Of Suceava, Bukovina, Romania During The Modern Period

Suceava (also known as ‘Sutschawa’ or ‘Suczawa’ in German) is a middle-sized town located in present-day Suceava County (German: Kreis Suczawa), northeastern Romania. It is the largest urban settlement of the southern half of Bukovina, a historical land situated at the crossroads of Central and Eastern Europe, nowadays divided between Romania and Ukraine, with a total population of approximately 124,161 inhabitants (according to an official census estimate from 2018).

The administrative palace (German: Verwltungspalast)/former town hall in Suceava (late 19th century/early 20th century).

Throughout the Middle Ages, Suceava was one of the historical capitals of the Principality of Moldavia, one of the three Romanian principalities (along with Wallachia and Transylvania) that emerged to fight the Ottoman Empire both during the Middle Ages and afterwards throughout much of the Modern Age.

The administrative palace in Suceava, Crownland of Bukovina, Austria-Hungary (late 19th century)

In the past, the town was also strategically situated at the crossroads of a large trade route linking the Kingdom of Poland and the Kingdom of Hungary with the rest of Eastern Europe, making Suceava a thriving commercial hub of the entire region.

Skyline of Suceava (late 19th century)

Given its status of former capital, the town of Suceava was also fortified against foreign military threats back in the Middle Ages. Nonetheless, most of the fortifications of that era lay nowadays in ruins, apart from the seat fortress which has seen various series of rehabilitation projects, some of them dating as far back to the 19th century.

Suceava County prefecture building, when the town was part of the Kingdom of Romania (early 20th century)

During the late 18th century, along with the rest of northern Moldavia, Suceava was annexed by the Austrian Empire. The northern highlands of Moldavia were renamed ‘Bukovina’ (or ‘Buchenland’ in German) by the Austrian Empire, a name evoking the flora of the region. The translation of the region’s name from German to English can be best put as the ‘land of the beech trees’.

Kaiser Franz Josef street in downtown Suceava (late 19th century/early 20th century)

Along with the Austrian annexation, Suceava was modernized at the standards of other Austrian-ruled cities, with delegated Austrian or ethnic German mayors focusing on its infrastructure, culture, education, and overall quality of life over the next centuries.

Hauptstraße in downtown Suceava (Suczawa), Austria-Hungary (photograph dating to the late 19th century)

The Austrian rule also brought an influx of German-speaking settlers in both the city proper as well as in the neighbouring Ițcani village (German: Itzkany), as it was also the case of the entire region of Bukovina in a wider process that was known as the Josephine Colonization (German: Josephinische Kolonization). However, in the particular case of Suceava and Ițcani, most of these German-speaking settlers came from present-day Rhineland-Pfalz land in Germany and spoke both standard German (i.e. Hochdeutsch) and Palatine German (or Pfälzisch).

Stephen the Great national college in Suceava, Crownland of Bukovina, Austria-Hungary (late 19th century)

The Austrians also built two of the most impressive railway stations in present-day Romania in the town of Suceava: the one at Ițcani and the other at Burdujeni. Both are still operational to this day.

Ițcani railway station in Ițcani, Suceava (late 19th century/early 20th century)

Other noteworthy landmarks that were constructed in the city during the Austrian/Habsburg period were the Administrative Palace (Verwaltungspalast), the Justice Palace (Justizpalast), the Stephen the Great National College, the History Museum (formerly County Prefecture after the unification with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918), and the water plant (Waserleitungswerke).

The Courthouse of Suceava (late 19th century/early 20th century)

Between 1891 to 1914, Swiss-French mayor Franz Ritter von des Loges modernized the city of Suceava by paving the streets, supplying the urban settlement with water, as well introducing electricity and public lighting.

The water plant in Suceava (late 19th century)

At the same time, between the late 19th century up until the early 20th century, Austrian architect Karl Adolf Romstorfer helped rebuild the seat fortress of Suceava, after conducting a series of rehabilitation works.

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