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

Suceava (known as ‘Sutschawa’ or ‘Suczawa’ in German) is a middle-sized city located in present-day Suceava County, northeastern Romania. It is the largest urban settlement of the southern part of Bukovina, a historical region situated at the crossroads of Central and Eastern Europe (and, currently, divided between Romania and Ukraine), with a total population of approximately 116,000 inhabitants (according to an official census estimate dating to mid 2016).

The palace of the town hall in Suceava (late 19th century/early 20th century).

Throughout the Middle Ages, Suceava was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia, one of the three Romanian principalities that emerged to fight the Ottoman Empire both during medieval times and afterwards during the Modern period. The city was also strategically located at the crossroads of a trade route linking the Kingdom of Poland and the Kingdom of Hungary with the rest of Eastern Europe.

Skyline of Suceava (late 19th century)

Given its status of capital city, Suceava was also fortified against foreign military threats back in the Middle Ages. Most of the fortifications of that era lay in nowadays in ruin though, apart from the seat fortress which has seen many reconstructions as early as the 19th century.

Suceava County Prefecture building, Kingdom of Romania (early 20th century)

In 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 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 cities, with delegated German or Austrian mayors focusing on its infrastructure, culture, and education over the next centuries.

Hauptstrasse in downtown Suceava, Austria-Hungary (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). Most of these settlers came from present-day Rhineland-Pfalz land in Germany during the Josephine colonization.

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

Ițcani railway station, 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, the Stephen the Great National College, the History Museum (formerly County Prefecture after the Union with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918), and the water plant.

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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