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The History of Romania in One Object: The Flag of Lupșa

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

The year 1918 saw one of the most important events in Romanian history: the unification of all historical provinces where Romanians formed a majority – that is, Transylvania, Banat, Crișana, Maramureș, Bessarabia, and Bukovina – with the Old Kingdom of Romania and the creation of a democratic and diverse state.

Photo 1: Map of Greater Romania in 1919

On March 27 March 1918, the deputies in Bessarabia’s Country Council (Bessarabia was the name of the eastern part of Moldavia, which had been occupied by the Tsarist Empire in 1812) decided to unite with Romania, after having declared the province’s autonomy and independence from Russia. This was followed on November 28 1918 by the union of Bukovina

(the northern part of Moldavia, which had been annexed by Austria at the end of the 18th century), which was decided by the General Council convened in Czernowitz, the capital of the province. The last province to join with Romania, and the biggest of them all, was Transylvania.

Photo 2 & 3: Deputies of the Country Council of Bessarabia who voted for the union of Bessarabia with Romania on March 27, 1918

Photo 4: The announcement of the decision of the General Congress of Bukovina regarding the union of this province with Romania at Czernowitz on November 28, 1918

Photo 5: The "Unirea" newspaper from Blaj addressing the call to the Great National Assembly in Alba Iulia

On 20 November 1918, the National Council representing the Transylvanian Romanians decided to call a National Assembly to decide the future of the province. Blaj, a symbolic place in the Romanians’ struggle for freedom, Sibiu, an important cultural center, and Alba Iulia, the site of the first Romanian unification under Prince Michael the Brave in the year 1600 were considered as possible site of this gathering. In the end it was decided for Alba Iulia.

100,000 people arrived in Alba Iulia from all the regions of Transylvania. On December 1st 1918, 1,228 delegates – intellectuals, officers, peasants, merchants, women, soldiers and the high clergy of several Christian denominations – voted for the unification of Transylvania with Romania. Numerous political, religious, women, cultural, and professional organizations sent delegates as representatives of respective towns or villages. One of them came from Lupşa, a commune in the Alba County, central Transylvania, proudly waving a flag in the three Romanian national colors: blue, yellow and red.

Photo 6: Lupșa commune delegation to the Great Assembly in Alba Iulia (reenactment from 1928)

Photo 7: Galțiu commune delegation to the Great National Assembly in Alba Iulia. In this picture we can see a tricolor flag similar to that of Lupșa.

Photo 8: The delegation of the Romanians in Banat to the Great Assembly in Alba Iulia

The flag has rectangular from and the colors are displayed horizontally, with the blue on top, the yellow in the middle and the red at the bottom. Each stripe ends with a tassel of the same color. The wooden painted flagpole had at its top a bunch of basil and a tricolor narrow scarf with tassels was tied around it. The flag was cut from wool woven by the women of Lupşa over the course of one day and one night. While the current Romanian flag has its colors arranged vertically this flag used a different pattern. It was a way to honor the ancestors who had fought in the Revolution of 1848-1849 and had flown similar standards at the National Assembly in Blaj and during the armed resistance in the Apuseni Mountains.

Photo 9: The current flag of Romania and the Flag of Lupșa

The tricolor flag proclaimed that the Transylvanian Romanians were part of the greater Romanian nation and as such wanted to be included in a Romanian state. Especially after 1867, when the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was established, the use of the tricolor flag was forbidden by the authorities as a crime against the state. Yet nothing however prevented Romanians from displaying their red, yellow and blue colors. Young men wrapped tricolor ribbons around their hats, girls wore tricolor cockades on their chest, students participated in school celebrations with flower bouquets in three colors. Many embroidered the beloved colors on the back of their clothes so that to keep them close to their heart at all time.

Until 1914, when the First World War broke out, the interdiction was strictly upheld. During the Great War however Romanians could wear their colors under strict conditions as a special concession granted to the thousands of them fighting in the Austro-Hungarian army.

After the Lupşa delegation returned home, the flag was kept in the house of Sebastian Ciapă, the village’s priest and elementary school teacher, who had been one of the participants at the Alba-Iulia assembly. It was later given to Pamfilie Albu, the founder of the Lupşa Ethnography Museum, and in 1971, it become a part of the collections of the National History Museum of Romania.

Photo 10: The Great Assembly in Alba Iulia, 1918

Photo 11: The delegation of the Romanians from Transylvania who brought to King Ferdinand I (1914-1927), in Bucharest, the documents of the union of Transylvania with Romania

Photo 12: The first government of Romania (led by Ion I.C. Brătianu) which included representatives of all the provinces united with the country in 1918

THE HISTORY OF ROMANIA IN ONE OBJECT, our new online program that evokes decisive epochs in the Romanian past starting from objects with powerful symbolic and representative value, is developed in partnership with The National History Museum of Romania. Presented by historians Cristina Păiușan Nuică and Cornel Ilie. Video by Cornel Ilie.

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