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I Romanian Treasure
The World War I Romanian Treasure
The Romanian Treasure is a collection of valuable
objects the Romanian government sent to Russia for
safekeeping during World War I. It was never returned.
During World War I, as Bucharest was occupied by Germany,
the Romanian administration moved to Iaşi, and with them,
the most valuable objects which belonged to the Romanian
state. Fearing an eventual German victory, the Romanian
government decided to send the Treasure abroad.
Among the ideas considered was to send it for safekeeping to
the vaults of the Bank of England or even to send it to the
United States, but there was the problem of transporting it
there, since Germany and its allies controlled most of
Central Europe and sending it via Northern Europe was
dangerous, as the Germans could have intercepted it.
The decision had to be taken by the Romanian Prime Minister
Ion I. C. Brătianu. Although the great banker Mauriciu Blank
advised him to send it to London or to a neutral country,
such as Denmark, Brătianu feared the German submarines of
the North Sea and had chosen another ally of Romania in
World War I, Russia, using the argument that 'Russia would
feel offended if we sent it to England'.
During World War II, the valuables of the National Bank of
Romania were not taken outside of Romania, but hidden inside
a cave near Tismana, Gorj County and from there, they were
safely recovered after the war.
Sending the Treasure
The Romanian government signed a deal with the Russian
government which stated that Russia would safe keep the
Romanian Treasure in the Kremlin until the end of the war.
At 3:00 AM during the night of 14-15 December 1916, a train
with 17 carriages, full of gold bars and gold coins (around
97 tonnes), departed the Iaşi train station eastward. In
four other carriages, two hundred gendarems guarded the
train. The gold load of this train has as of 2005 a value of
Seven months later, in the summer of 1917, as the war
situation was getting worse for Romania, another transport
was sent to Moscow, containing the most precious objects of
the Romanian state, including the archives of the Romanian
Academy, many antique valuables, such as 3,500 years-old
gold jewels found in Romania, ancient Dacian jewels, the
jewels of the voivodes of Wallachia and Moldavia, as well as
the jewels of the Romanian royalty, thousands of paintings,
as well as precious cult objects owned by Romanian
monasteries, such as 14th century icons and old Romanian
manuscripts. It also contained various deposits of the
Romanian people at the National Banks. The value of this
train is hard to estimate, especially because most of its
contents are art objects, but most likely nowadays it could
even surpass the value of the other train.
The Communist Revolution in Russia
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the new Communist
government of Russia refused to respect any treaty signed by
the previous government. The Romanian government tried to
recover the Treasure in 1922, but with little success. In
1935, the USSR did return a small part of the archives and
in 1956 a part of the paintings and ancient objects. The
most important and valuable part (about 40 of the 42
carriages), however, was never returned.
All the governments of Romania since World War I, regardless
of their political colour, have tried unsuccessfully to
negotiate a return of the gold and of the culturally
valuable objects, but at the same time, all Soviet and
Russian governments have refused.
The Treasure since 1917
Very little is known about the Treasure after the October
Revolution, but it appears that during World War II all the
valuables held by the Soviet state (and presumably of the
Romanian state) were taken out from Moscow and sent toward
the regions which were 'not endangered'. However, it is
clear that they were not kept sealed, as the agreement with
the Romanian government said, as the chests of the archives
which were returned in 1935 had obviously been rummaged
through and many objects and documents were missing.
After the fall of the USSR, the Russian governments'
position toward the Romanian Treasure remained the same and
various negotiations failed. The Romanian-Russian treaty of
2003 did not mention the Treasure, but presidents Ion
Iliescu and Vladimir Putin decided to create a commission to
analyze this issue, but no advances were made.
* The 'Moscow gold', the treasure of the Bank of Spain that
was sent to the Soviet Union by the Second Spanish Republic
during the Spanish Civil War
Jurnalul Naţional: Tezaur - Se reiau negocierile (22 July
Romaniei la Moscova] by Andreea Tutunaru