The World War I Romanian Treasure

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Metal Detecting Book Shop Home > Nazi Gold > The World War 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.

Historical background

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 $1.25 billion.

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.

Recent negotiations

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.

See also * 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

References Jurnalul Naţional: Tezaur - Se reiau negocierile (22 July 2005)] Tezaurul Romaniei la Moscova] by Andreea Tutunaru


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