Titelbild der EENS

Ευρωπαϊκή Εταιρεία Νεοελληνικών Σπουδών

Γ΄ συνέδριο της Ευρωπαϊκής Εταιρείας Νεοελληνικών Σπουδών

Dinu Poştarencu

The Brothers Teodor and Anastasie Ciufli from Bessarabia

The Hetairia-led uprising of 1821 has been dealt with quite extensively in a number of studies. There is, however, one particular issue which, to my knowledge at least, has been largely ignored by historiography, namely the exodus of Greeks to the Russian Empire, especially to Bessarabia, and to Odessa in particular. Greeks, both from Greece itself and from the Romanian Principalities and Constantinople, started fleeing these areas as a result of the Ottoman repression of the Greek movement for independence which intensified during the events of 1821. This aspect has been partly covered in the writings of the Bessarabian historian Ioan Halippa[1], which ostensibly inspired Gheorghe Bezviconi.[2]

Regrettably, until now a whole range of archival material related to this topic has remained unexplored. I have in mind, in the first place, the large amount of documents from the repositories of the National Archives of the Republic of Moldova, such as the registers of passengers travelling from Bessarabia to Russia [3] and the files for Greek immigrants. There must surely be valuable documentary sources on these themes in the historical archives of St. Petersburg and Odessa.

A huge number of people received refugee status in the Eastern Orthodox empire. The scale of this social phenomenon can be judged from the eyewitness account of the town of Kishinev around 1821 by the Russian writer Aleksander Veltman:

‘It was crowded. Instead of just 12 thousand inhabitants, there were now 50 thousand, on a surface of 4 square verst [approx. 4,4 km²]. It looked more like the crowd during a local holiday, with people in random accommodation and entire families living in one room.
But it was not just Kishinev which filled with residents from Moldavia and Wallachia; the entire population of Bessarabia doubled at least. At that time Kishinev was full of princes and dignitaries from Constantinople and both Principalitiees.’ [4].

The Tsarist authorities offered the refugees not only accommodation, but also financial assistance. A Commission for the support of the Greek refugees was set up in Odessa to distribute the funds allocated by the Tsarist government to those who had fled Ottoman oppression. A similar commission was subsequently created in Kishinev in January 1824.[5]

At the same time, the local authorities in the city by the Neva circulated fliers with appeals to the population for subscriptions in support of this initiative. The text of one such flier, printed in Romanian at the Printing Press of the Archbishopric of Kishinev and dated 24 July 1821, was first published by I. Halippa. We are reproducing it here, as the figures it contains suggest the mass character of the migration:

‘The events in Constantinople are well-known in the whole of Russia. A multitude of Christians like us, to escape death, fled to the borders of Russia. Thousands of unfortunate victims of oppression, as early as the month of March of this year, 1821, sought their freedom in Odessa. They were received like guests in the capital of Bessarabia, and they now sing the praises of the Monarch’s compassionate heart and of the commiseration that the locals have shown them. But the funds allocated to them are not enough for such a great number of families, which keeps growing every day. Only in Odessa in the month of June there were four thousand such people. They saved their own lives and the honour of their wives and children, but lost all their possessions. Such an unfortunate fate amongst our brethren cries out aloud to the heavens, requiring our help. The good Christians will undoubtedly heed this cry and will proffer their help with faith and love; they will surely not turn away from participating in the collection now being made to support the Moldavian and Greek refugees in Odessa and Bessarabia; they know that he who gives to the poor, gives to God.’[6]

This is the only historical source available so far with information about the waves of refugees which reached Russia shortly after the start of the Greek uprising in the spring of 1821. Further research is, therefore, imperative.

Among the Greeks seeking refuge in Bessarabia were the two brothers, Teodor (1796-1854) and Anastasie (1801-1870), sons of Constantin Ciufli, born in the small market town Ţepelovo in historic Epirus. They settled permanently in the Romanian province annexed by the Russian Empire. They chose Kishinev as their place of residence: it was Bessarabia’s capital city as well as a major trade centre, and they joined the merchant class there. In 1844 they were members of the 2nd guild in Kishinev.[7] Through a sustained commercial activity and land-farming, the Ciufli brothers accumulated a considerable capital, which they invested in real estate. They gradually became the owners of a few shops and inns in Kishinev. In addition, they also acquired lands: on 25 October 1844 they bought from Constantin Balş 4,360 hectares of land from his estate of Acui[8], in the district of Bender (Tighina), in the vicinity of the villages Batâr, Căinari and Sahaidac. This land was recorded in the documents under two names: Acui and Ciufleşti. At present, the former estate of the brothers Ciufli is the site of the village Ciufleşti[9], a name which commemorates the two men.

On 18 January 1865, when his brother was no longer alive, Anastasie Ciufli became the owner of another estate in Northern Bessarabia, in the district of Iaşi (the district of Bălţi from 1887), a land which he bought from Alexandru Balş[10]. The land was called Catranâc or Alexăndreni.

On 14 October 1854 Teodor Ciufli died after a serious illness. On his deathbed he asked his brother to build in the village Acui (Ciufleşti) a church with the Holy Martyr Teodor Tiron as patron[11], a wish which Anastasie Ciufli proceeded to fulfil immediately. But there was a change from the start. According to Ioan Butuc, the first priest of the St. Tiron Church in Kishinev, after consulting with Irinarch, the Archbisop of Kishinev and Hotin, Anastasie Ciufli decided to build the church in the area of Kishinev rather than in the village Acui.[12] When Luca Zaushkevici, the chief architect of the city of Kishinev, was ready with his plans, A. Ciufli applied to the authorities for permission to build. On 10 March 1855, he appealed to Archbishop Irinarch[13], writing that, as he was building at his own expense, he was asking in exchange for permission to erect a memorial and tomb in the church and transfer there the remains of his brother Teodor over from the municipal cemetery in Kishinev. He also asked to be buried there himself in due course.[14]

The building of the church was authorised by the Department of Public Works in St. Petersburg and, on 30 April 1856, by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.[15] The building and endowment of the church lasted until 1858. On 6 July of that year, the new church was blessed by Antonie, the new Archbishop of Kishinev and Hotin.[16]

As the Synod’s decree of 30 April 1856 had granted A. Ciufli the permission to re-inter the body of his elder brother, the ceremony was held in the church on 4 April 1859.[17]

For his role in the building of the church and for other charitable activities, A. Ciufli was awarded top Russian governmental honours, which allowed him to move upwards from the merchant class and into the ranks of honorary city notables. The honorary city notables were a privileged class, exempt from taxes, labour duties, and corporal punishment. Their residence could not be requisitioned by the army.

Anastasie Ciufli died on 18 September 1870, and was buried in the church he had built, alongside his brother.[18]

In 1872 the executors of the estate of A. Ciufli had a marble monument erected in the church courtyard with a bust of the church founder and two, slightly differing, inscriptions in Greek and Russian which extolled the merits of the Greek benefactor A. Ciufli.

A. Ciufli’s charitable acts did not end with his death. He left two testaments with detailed instructions for the management of revenues from his estates and properties. These were lands of Ciufleşti (Acui) and Alexăndreni (Catranâc), with a total surface of over 7,000 hectares (6,878 desetinas), and buildings (a residential home[19], shops, a hotel, an inn) located on Bulgarian (Bulgară) street (which still has the same name today), Gostinnaia street (currently Metropolitan Varlaam street) and Nikoaevskaia street (currently Columna street) in Kishinev.

In his first testament[20], drawn up on 17 April 1870, Anastasie Ciufli stated that he was a Greek from the small town Tepelovo, in the province of Epirus, and that, having reached a ripe old age, he had no relatives or offspring who could have inherited. He annulled the testament of 10 April 1868, and gave alternative instructions for the management of his wealth, which resulted from what he had accumulated in his lifetime and from what he had inherited from his brother, Teodor.

Anastasie stipulated that, after his death, his wealth was to be disposed of by the two executors he had designated: Dimitrie A. Ciolacu, nobleman, the Xth-class civil servant Dimitrie R. Ratco, the boyar (căminar) Nicolae Nicopulo, the VIIIth-class civil servant Constantin I. Dunca, the brothers Victor and Ioan Sinadino, the XIIth-class civil servant Dimitrie I. Camboli and Anastasie Ciufli’s own nephew, Ioan Teodor Ciufli. These men were to manage the estate for the rest of their lives until at least two of them were left alive. Subsequently, the estate was to be transferred under the management of the archpriest of Kishinev and Hotin, the director of the Kishinev Lyceum [high school], the mayor of Kishinev and of persons nominated by the Greek government, who thus legally were to become executors of Anastasie Ciufli’s estate.

Anastasie gave instructions for his lands and buildings in Kishinev to be leased. From their revenue, 4,000 silver roubles were to be deposited in the National Bank of Greece and remain there, accumulating interest, for as long as the bank existed. Percentages from this capital were to be donated to the director of the Polytechnic School in Athens, who was requested to use it for the endowment of the school and to inscribe the donor’s name among the school’s founders and benefactors.

Ioan and Constantin Ciufli, the sons of Teodor Cristofor Ciufli, Anastasie’s cousin, were to receive 1,500 roubles each in the first 6 years after his death, and subsequently 3,000 roubles annually for the rest of their lives. Elena Caramanjoglo and Ecaterina Voria, the daughters of his cousin Teodor Cristofor Ciufli, as well as Tarşiţa Cacor and Niţa Chendro, daughters of Anastasie’s cousin Irina Mamciu, née Dimitriev, were to receive 3,000 roubles annually for 6 years. The third daughter of Irina Mamciu, Paraschiva Cozma, was to receive 600 roubles annually for the rest of her life.

600 roubles from the estate were to be allocated annually to make 4 beds available at the Kishinev City Hospital for the free treatment of impoverished patients. The Director of the Kishinev Lyceum was to receive 530 roubles annually indefinitely for bursaries to be granted to able, hard-working, impoverished orphans. These grants were to cover both their high-school studies, and their studies at higher education institutions. The grantees were to be called ‘recipients of grants from the estate of the honorary city notable Anastasie Ciufli’.

The St. Tiron Church in Kishinev, which he had founded, was to receive indefinitely 200 roubles annually. His housekeeper, Mrs. Dashkevich, was to be given a life pension of 200 roubles annually for her long-standing, faithful service. Anastasie Ciufli’s god-daughter, Alexandra, daughter of the merchant Ioan Milenco, was to receive 500 roubles upon her marriage or upon coming of age.

The local notables in the small market town Tepelovo were to be sent the sum of 300 roubles to be distributed among A. Ciufli’s remote relatives, if they were still living in the village of Kokuli or nearby, and if they were not to be found, the money was to be given to the poor.

All taxes owed by the peasants who had settled on the lands of Ciufleşti and Alexăndreni and outstanding for one year were to be settled with sums from the estate.

A committee was to be formed comprising the Metropolitan of Athens, the foreign and the home minister and the rector of Athens University, who would each receive indefinitely 3,050 roubles annually, to be used as follows: 50 roubles for the St. Nichoas church in Tepelovo; 1,000 roubles each to be used by the rector of the Hellenic University in Athens and by the rector of the higher education institute in Ioannina (Epirus) to subsidise poor orphans and children from poor families from Tepelovo, as the university board and the Metropolitan of Ioannina thought fit; the notables of Tepelovo were to receive 1,000 to be distributed to poor widows and orphans, and for the permanent pay of a doctor who was to treat poorer patients without charge.

Because A. Ciufli had pledged himself to contribute 1,000 roubles annually over 10 years to the organisation of the Hellenic National Fleet starting with 1 October 1867, he instructed his executors to continue sending this sum to the Athens-based Committee for the creation of the fleet until 1 October 1877.

If, after the payments specified above and other expenses, there should be a surplus from the revenues, one third of this was to be used to increase the number of grants for high-school students and the number of hospital beds, as well as for increasing donations to Kishinev schools. The remaining two thirds were to be sent to the Athens Committee for adding to the funds destined to the Academy of Sciences in Athens and the growing numbers of Greek high schools.

In his second testament, drawn up on 31 July 1870, A. Ciufli specified that he left the provisions of his previous testament of 17 April 1870 unchanged, but he made a few additions, namely: his properties were to be leased through a majority decision of the trustees of his estate; in the 6 years after his death, his nephew Ioan Ciufli was to receive 3,000 roubles, rather than 1,500, as previously decided. There were a few other minor additions.

As they fulfilled their obligations as executors of A. Ciufli’s estate, the trustees also published annual financial summaries in the official administrative bulletin of Bessarabia, The Monitor of the Region (later gubernia) Bessarabia.[21]

The summaries for 1872-1874 show that the executors gave the architect Alexandru Bernardazzi a substantial sum for the reconstruction of A. Ciufli’s house.

By the early 20th century only 3 of the 8 estate trustees nominated by A. Ciufli were still alive: Constantin Dunca and the brothers Victor and Ioan Sinadino. In December 1904 Victor Sinadino died in his turn, and on 8 April 1905 his brother Ioan. After their death, a new Committee of trustees for the estate of the late Anastasie Ciufli was created, comprising: the archpriest of the Eparchy of Kishinev and Hotin as chairman, the director of the Kishinev Lycaeum, the mayor of the city of Kishinev, a representative of the Greek government, and Constantin Dunca.[22]


Anastasie Ciufli, a Greek from Epirus, donated the wealth he accumulated in his lifetime in Bessarabia for the benefit of the community in this Romanian province, and for that of Greek society. This life of dedication is summed up in the Russian-language inscription on the monument to A. Ciufli erected in the courtyard of the church he built in Kishinev: ‘The name of the deceased will survive in eternity in the memory of the people of today and of the future generations of Bessarabia and Greece.’

Translated from the Romanian by Dr. Angela Jianu



[1] Труды Бессарабской Губернской Ученой Архивной Комиссии, Кишинев, 1900, vol. 1, рp. 28-64, 135-141.

[2] Gh. Bezviconi, Eteria [The Hetairia] in “Din trecutul nostru”, 1935, no. 25-27, pp. 1-60.

[3] Arhiva Naţională a Republicii Moldova (ANRM), F. 17, inv. 1, dossiers 151, 152a, 155-157, 159, 161 etc.

[4] Л. Майков, Пушкин. Биографические материалы и историко-литературные очерки, С–Петербург, 1899, р. 117; D. Poştarencu, O istorie a Basarabiei în date şi documente. 1812-1940, [A History of Bessarabia in Dates and Documents, 1812-1940], Chişinău , 1998, p. 104.

[5] ANRM, F.450, inv. 1, d. 2, f. 1.

[6] Trudî, pp. 29-31.

[7] ANRM, F. 302, inv. 2, d. 523, f. 1.

[8] Ibidem, f. 2.

[9] The village already had this name in 1850 (ANRM, F. 134, inv. 2, d. 207, f. 39. In this document only Teodor Ciufli is recorded as the land’s owner).

[10] ANRM, F. 8, inv. 1, d. 1549, f. 1.

[11] Иоан Бутук, Кишиневская Теодoро-Тироновская церковь, în «Кишиневские епархиальные ведомости», 1875, no. 4, p. 164.

[12] Ibidem.

[13] T. Petrovici, Monografia bisericii Sf. Teodor Tiron “Ciufli” din Chişinău [A Monograph Study of the Church of St. Teodor Tiron in Kishinev], Chişinău, 1933, p. 4.

[14] ANRM, F. 2, inv. 1, d. 6502, f. 18.

[15] Ibidem, f. 19.

[16] I. Butuc, op. cit., p. 165; T. Petrovici, op. cit., p. 6.

[17] Ibidem.

[18] Некролог, in «Кишиневские епархиальные ведомости», 1870, no. 19, pp. 539-543; I. Butuc, op. cit., p. 165.

[19] Gh. Bezviconi mentions that the Ciufli brothers built houses in Kishinev on Carol Schmidt street, on the corner with Tighina street. (Din trecutul nostru, 1934, no. 5, p. 2).

[20] ANRM, F. 65, inv. 1, d. 1325, f. 5-7, 35-37 (two copies of the testament in Russian).

[21] Here is a selective list of this publication: Бессарабские областные (of 1873, губернские) ведомости, 1872, no. 33; 1873, no. 73; 1875, no. 33; 1877, no. 39; 1878, no. 44; 1884, nos. 121, 122, 123; 1884, no. 127; 1885, no. 71; 1902, no. 3 (a general summary by the executors of the estate of the late A. Ciufli for 1870-1899); 1903, no. 31, 44; 1904, no. 51, no. 60 (general summary for 1870-1904). ANRM, F. 65, inv. 1, d. 45 (includes the summaries for 1870-1904; this file also contains issues of newspapers which published the summaries).

[22] ANRM, F. 65, inv. 1, d. 1325, f. 303.