The city of Iaşi lies on the Bahlui river, a tributary of the Prut river.
The surrounding country is one of uplands and woods, among which rise the monasteries of Cetăţuia, Frumoasa, and Galata with its mineral springs, and the dendrologic park of Repedea. Iaşi itself stands pleasantly amid vineyards and gardens, partly on two hills, partly in the hollow between.
Table of contents
- 1900: 78,000
- 1992: 344,425
- 2002: 320,888
Population density as of 2002: 3417/km²
The inscription by which the existence of a Jassiorum municipium in the time of the Roman Empire is sought to be proved, lies open to grave suspicion; but the city is mentioned in a 1408 document by Prince (Voivode) Alexandru cel Bun (Alexander the Kind).
It was often visited by the Moldavian court. About 1564, Prince Alexandru Lăpuşneanu, after whom one of the chief streets is named, chose Jassy for the Moldavian capital, instead of Suceava. It was already famous as a centre of culture.
Between 1561 and 1563 an excellent school and a Lutheran church were founded by the Greek adventurer, Jacob Basilicus. In 1643 the first printed book published in Moldavia was issued from a press established by Vasile Lupu. He also founded a school, the first in which the mother-tongue took the place of Greek. Jassy was burned by the Tatars in 1513, by the Turks in 1538, and by the Russians in 1686.
By the Peace of Jassy the second Russo-Turkish War was brought to a close in 1792. A Greek insurrection under Alexander Ypsilanti in 1821 led to the storming of the city by the Turks in 1822. In 1844 there was a severe conflagration.
For the loss caused to the city in 1861 by the removal of the seat of government to Bucharest the constituent assembly voted 148,150 lei to be paid in ten annual instalments, but no payment was ever made.
Its primitive houses of timber and plaster were mostly swept away after 1860, when brick or stone came into general use, and good streets were cut among the network of narrow, insanitary lanes.
Iaşi and Jewish history
Iaşi also figures prominently in Jewish history. In the mid-19th century, the city was at least one third Jewish. In 1855 it was the home of the first-ever Yiddish-language newspaper, Korot Haitim; in 1876 it was the site of what was arguably the first-ever professional Yiddish theater performance (See Abraham Goldfaden); during World War II it was the site of the Iaşi pogrom (June 29–July 6, 1941), in which several thousand Jews were killed; toward the end of the war, it played a prominent part in the revival of Yiddish culture in Romania: from 1949 to 1964, it was home to a second company of the State Jewish Theater.
Iaşi is the seat of the metropolitan of Moldavia, and of a Roman Catholic archbishopry. There are more than 40 churches. The two oldest churches date from the reign of Stephen the Great (1458–1504); perhaps the finest, however, are the 17th century metropolitan, St Spiridion and Trei Ierarhi, the last a curious example of Byzantine art, erected in 1639 or 1640 by Vasile Lupu, and adorned with countless gilded carvings on its outer walls and twin towers.
Iaşi is home to the oldest Romanian university, opened by Prince Alexander John Cuza in 1860. Nowadays the city hosts five universities. Iaşi is widely regarded as the cultural "heart" of the "Old Kingdom" (that is Moldavia and Wallachia, the basis of the first Romanian state).