You hold in your hands unique documents: the evidence of a bright past, and a difficult present. Photography is like a frozen history – without embellishment, exaggerations or omissions. What would have happened, if ? … Life is as it was: a simple, modest life of artisans joined with wealthy merchants, bankers and industrialists. People erected temples, built houses and hospitals. A lot of historical and architectural monuments are still preserved.
As a Christian, I am happy by the fact that spirituality is so close to our population that the city continues to build religious houses, where the youth is educated in the good Christian traditions. I am glad to fulfill their dreams – to bring a gift to dioceses of Moldova: the face and power of St. Blessed Matron of Moscow, that the people could worship; thus, becoming kinder and cleaner…
As a mayor, I’m sure that together we can overcome the difficult situation, to return the city its famous name as the “northern capital”, to make citizens happier and more confident in the day to come.
Our people are open-minded, kind, and hardworking. They work hard and rest joyfully together with families, partners and friends from different cities and countries.
Happy birthday, our city!
The Mayor of Bălţi Renato Usatii
It has been a long time ago or maybe recently. What is the history of a city in the long path of six centuries? Timeline is so conventional, despite what and how a person measures it.
A person gets a name at his/her birth. This can be a name, a symbol, or hope. A nation gets its name after years of life. The name of a nation, the name of a city means a result, a story. It has been long and firmly established the history of origin of the name Bălţi – the plural from “baltă” (swamps, puddles). The name is a little poetic, but the reality is appropriate. It can be taken as a hypothesis; why not the root of “бель” – from the Italian “beautiful, wonderful”? After all, Basarabia was once called the country where rivers of milk and honey flow. And how dear is the declaration of love of the Frenchman Bugnion: “I have seen great cities, full of charm, but wherever I have walked or travelled, I have not seen such a light grass like a meadow on the banks of the Raut river, where it shines like gold on the surface of the water.»
Home chronology of the city began 595 years ago in 1421 (according to some historians, the first dates go back to October, 1620), among the marshes and reeds on the banks of the river Răut at the confluence of the river Răuţel. The local ethnographers enjoy the legend of the city foundation, associated with the name of Princess Mazowiecka Ringalla, the wife of the ruler of Moldova Alexandru cel Bun, who gave his wife the bargain of Siret and Voloveţ land with all its inheritance. The life on the bank of the river Răut began to emerge, a wooden church was erected, houses were built; thus, Bălţi city was born. Yes, the legend is beautiful itself, but we still do not know how it was born. Nevertheless, if it is, let it remain with our city Princess Mazowiecka,too.
At the end of the 15th century Bugeac Tatars of Mengli I Giray khan burnt the place. In those times, there was weeping and wailing in Moldova. The land was exhausted, and “squeezed from all its dignities.” Until the early 18th century, information about the ruined settlement is not found.
It is known that in 1711, during the famous Prut campaign, Peter I made Bălţi the main supply base of Russian troops. As soon as the main forces of the Russian troops withdrew to the Nistru river, the Crimean Tatars again attacked the village, looted and burnt it. Only half a century later, Tatar hordes were driven away.
On August 20, 1766 the prince of Moldova Alexandru Ghică gave the land on the banks of the river Răut to Iasi monastery of St. Spiridon and the Greek merchants – Alexandru, Constantin and Iordache Panaite Brothers, who have developed a settlement to the level of a fair- a shopping village. At the invitation of Panay in 1779 in Bălţi, the first Jews were recorded – merchants, who arrived for the development of commercial activities. Iordache Panaite also invited three hundred Armenian merchants from Galicia, who put forward the main condition – the construction of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1791, there was laid the foundation stone of the church (architect – Weissman, Austria). In 1795 the building was finished, but the foreign merchants have not arrived yet. In those timers the temple was consecrated by the Orthodox rite on the day of the Holy Hierarch Nicholas. Today it is one of the oldest surviving religious buildings of our city, which gave to our Balti inhabitants the Christian holiday – the Day of the city.
On April 18, 1818 the Russian Emperor Alexander I arrived in Bălţi. Here, he expected good news about the birth of his brother Nicholas ‘first child – a son. On April 20, 1818 at 7 am the liturgy and prayer were performed. And “blessed by people, the giver of freedom in Europe” here, in the poor church, he prayed for the first time about his nephew, the future Tsar. Leaving the city, Alexander I commanded Bălţi people to be called a “city”, and its coat of arms – the head of a horse should be the symbol of the trading settlement, which was approved on April 2, 1826. In 1845, the Russian Tsar approved the first known master plans of the city on the basis of radial-ring scheme development.
In the first decade of the 19th century, Bălţi became a district center of Iasi district of Bassarabia province, part of the Russian Empire, the center of the grain export and cattle fairs. There were brought great herds of horses from all over Bassarabia to trade with merchants coming from abroad. Thus, making Bălţi a fair center in the north of the province of Bassarabia became possible, thanks to its geographical location at the intersection of roads linking Odessa, Chişinău, Bender and Ismail with Soroca,Hotin and Mogilev-Podolsky. Having two or three fairs a day, the traders bought up to 20 thousand heads of livestock: horses, cows, and sheep.
By the end of the 19th century the city value increased thanks to the railway; the completion of construction dates back to 1894. Railway lines connected Bălţi with Ungheni and Chişinău and Rîbniţa with Ocniţa. By the early twentieth century, Bălţi became an industrial center with well-developed trade, lots of plants and factories. On February 4, 1910 the governor of Bassarabia appeals to the Ministry of the Interior to obtain permission for the construction of an Armenian – Gregorian Church.
In 1915, there began the construction of the church of St. Peter and Paul. After the annexation of Moldova to Romania in 1918, the construction of the city was associated with the name of Bishop Vissarion Puiu, who was elected as a Bishop of Hotin bishop’s residence in Bălţi in March 1929. It was also renewed the building work of the church of St. Peter and Paul, the church of St. Mihail and Gabriel, the church of Nativity of Virgin Mary and St. Paraskovia; the residence of the bishop was being built,too.
In September 1924 it was laid the foundation stone of the most beautiful religious building – the Cathedral of St. Constantin and Helen. The construction of the cathedral has continued for eleven years, and on 2 June, 1935 the King of Romania Carol II and his son Mihail came at the consecration of the building. Unfortunately, not all the plans of the bishop could come true, but the people of Bălţi are truly proud that it was created with a lively mind, energy, and faith.
Bălţi several times changed its administrative status: it was the center of Bălţi district in November 1940, in December 1962 – a single administrative unit, in 1994 – a municipality; thus, a county center in 1999 to the administrative-territorial unit in 2014.
Today it is difficult to imagine our city without waving white – blue flag with an archer in the middle and without the coat of arms with the motto ribbon “Let arms give way to the toga.” Ten years ago, in April 2006, the municipal councilors at the 3rd Board meeting approved the current coat of arms and flag of the municipality. The heated debate provoked discussion of the emblem and flag of the projects developed by a member of the State Commission on Heraldry Silviu Tabac. They argued until they were hoarse, sometimes frustrated to scream, but the laws of heraldry cannot be argued. Heraldry retained the ancestral image of the emblem of 1826 (the brod of the horse), borrowed the image of the archer from the coat of arms in 1930, reminding the old military guard and fighting in this region of Moldova, and then acted according to all canons of heraldic science. The main element of the coat of arms is a shield, where twelve alternating horizontal bands of silver and blue are marked. Silver color symbolizes silver sparkles on the water, and the blue symbolizes the sky which is reflected in the water. The combination of these colors symbolizes the Moldovan city, «a lowland, swampy place with specific aquatic flora and fauna.” The shield depicts an archer in Moldovan armor times of Ştefan the Great (red clothes, and golden military equipment). Above the shield is seen a silver crown in the form of a fortification with seven towers (tower wall or crown). This element indicates that Bălţi has had the status of city for a long time. The number of towers symbolizes the importance of the settlement. In Moldova, besides Bălţi, the right to use the coat of arms in the seven-headed crown have two more cities: Chişinău and Tiraspol. The logos of other cities can have only three or five towers. The shield is supported by two silver horse reared up. Under the shield it can be seen the motto ribbon with an inscription in Latin: «CEDANT ARMA TOGAE» (Let arms give way to the toga). The flag is a web of two horizontal bands: white and blue. In the center of the canvas, it is seen the main element of the coat of arms – a shield with the image of the archer. Another important date for the people of the city is 7 April, 2006, which represents the birth of the modern coat of arms and flag of the municipality of Bălţi.
P.S. When the materials were already assembled to the photo album, and it seemed to us that we can take it to press, a miracle happened. There was found in the “Vault of the Moldovan monuments of national culture” the description of the oldest church of the city, built in the 15th century, dismantled on logs in 1791 (before the construction of a new, stone church for Armenians from Galicia), carefully transported to the village of Heciul Vechi and gathered again by villagers. This timbered religious building is like a hymn of the power of the Orthodox Church and the Christian faith. The service did not stop for a single day there. No matter what historical events happened; no matter how hard to bury the faith and no matter how much fire blazed – the church remained untouched, carefully guarded by St. Nicholas. Here, we can smell a special air. It is a saint place. Priests have been dreaming for a long time about the return of the Church of St. Nicholas to its native land. We hope Christians’ dream will be realized.
It was a long time ago. Maybe it was recently. What is the history of the path length in the six centuries? Years of prosperity and oppression, destruction and restoration – the years full of life, of struggle, of great events, defeats and victories. They all have the shades of people’s love, pride and sadness. And the days go on as usual. New generations are born, where the memory of previous years still exists. They have to multiply the wealth of their native city, to build new houses, and to keep up the traditions.
To view the photo album dedicated to the 595 anniversary of Bălţi click on the pictures