Author: ARDELEANU KONSTANTIN
The legal organisation of the ethnic–religious communities in Romania was possible after 1860, when Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza accepted their right to gather in juridical communities, with clear statutes and responsibilities settled according to Romanian law. Before this moment (and even after it, until 1880, when Romanian independence was recognised by all European powers), foreigners gathered in de facto ethnic and religious associations made up for the preservation of that community’s religious and / or national identity.
As Christian provinces of the Porte endowed with a large autonomy, Moldavia and Wallachia had never obeyed the Muslim law, which stood at the basis of the capitulatory regime in the Ottoman Empire. However, when European powers appointed consuls in Bucharest and Jassy, since the last two decades of the 18th century, they managed to impose the validity of the capitulations in the Danubian Principalities as a means of protecting their own subjects. Thus, the “sudits” were foreign citizens who enjoyed the protection of a consulate on Moldo–Wallachian territory. There were two types of “protégés:” “sudits” proper, i.e. foreign nationals under the jurisdiction of their own consuls, and protégées, foreigners of other nationalities who posed themselves under the protection of a consul or even local inhabitants (Armenians, Jews, Greeks, Bulgarians, Moldavians, Wallachians) who usually bought foreign protection in order to secure their economic investments. They all enjoyed special privileges, which, according to the capitulatory regime, fall into three categories – economic, juridical and personal.
Under the protection of their own consuls or of the consuls of the great powers in the case of foreigners without the backing of a nation–state (Jews, Armenians, Bulgarians), these communities centred their activity on providing religious and educational assistance to their members.
In the second half of the 19th century, as Romania struggled to eliminate this foreign jurisdiction, communities began to organise themselves as legal entities, with well defined statutes and with representatives who served as relays between those associations and the Romanian institutions. In terms of religious services, this was extremely important after the secularisation of church properties and the compulsory use of Romanian in state churches (1863), when the foreign communities, backed by consuls, settled with the Romanian authorities the organisation and subordination of the “foreign” churches. The same impositions were valid in relation to the existence of the communities’ schools, which had to obey Romanian educational law. Not least of all these arrangements were extremely important for the community’s patrimony and fiscal obligations in relation to the Romanian state.
Some of the largest communities were the Greek community, the Jewish community, the Bulgarian community, the Catholic community, the Protestant community, the Muslim community, the Italian community, the Lipovan community etc.
 More on this in Constantin Ardeleanu, International Trade and Diplomacy at the Lower Danube. The Sulina Question and the Economic Premises of the Crimean War (1829–1853) (Brăila: Istros Publishing House, 2014), 73–77.