Voivodes & Romanian: Cneaz, Slavic: Knez or Knyaz

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Vlach and Romanian political organisation is based on small groups of the peasants and shepherds under the leadership of the cneaz (Romanian spelling), also referred to as knez or kenézes. The knezats would be under the regional voivode. These are known throughout Vlachs and Romanian areas in the southern Slavic lands, Ottoman times, Hungarian ruled Transylvania and the migration of Vlachs to Slovakian Carpahians.

The both the terms knez and voivode are borrowed from Slavic for Princes and Dukes. Slavic Knez are recorded in most Slavic regions (Moravia, Russia, Serbia etc.) from the 10th century. The Romanian knez, however, are social organizations with the knez elected from the well to do peasantry and are in this specific to the Romanians, differing from the Slavic Knez or Prince.

Documents with references to Vlach Knez start in the 13th century with the "Carmen miserabile" (written by Rogerios, archbishop of Split and issued at the order of Johannes, bishop of Pest) and in a charter of 1247 be King Baela IV of Hungary. The knez are widely recorded from the 14th century onwards.

There are several views on the historical basis of the knez.

The pro-Romanian view: Following the Hungarian invasion of Transylvania the political organisation was based on the voivode and knez rather than the Hungarian organisation based on comits, hence it seems likely that the a pre-Hungarian organisation persisted, especially as the imported populations of the Szeckers and Saxons were not organised in this way. The leader of Transylvania was known as the Voivode, under the authority of the King of Hungary. Whether Transylvania was under Slavic or Vlach rule before the Hungarian conquest, how the Vlachs came to dominate, and when the Vlachs adopted Slavic organisation is not clear.

The pro-Hungarian view: A kenéz was a locator who arranged the settlement of the Vlachs from Muntenia and Moldavia to the estates of the Hungarian noblemen in Transylvania. For this they received certain rights, may gain their own estates, and could join the nobility. This can be extended to state that there Vlachs were not in the Hungarian regions before Hungarian rule and were brought under these settlement processes, adopting the Slavic Knez via the Hungarians.

© Eliznik2005, Last updated Nov-05