Alexandru Baltagă (born April 14, 1861, Lozova, Lăpuşna County, Bessarabia (when Russian Empire) – d. August 7, 1941, Kazan, USSR) was a Bessarabian Romanian Orthodox priest, a founder of the Bessarabian religious press in the Romanian language, a member of Sfatul Ţării (1917–1918), a Soviet political prisoner, and, according to the Orthodox Church, a martyr for the faith.
Son of Ştefan Baltagă, a priest, Alexandru followed the primary school in his home village of Lozova, Lăpuşna County, Bessarabia, then under the Russian rule. On June 15, 1883, he graduated with distinctions from the Teological Seminary in Chişinău, the capital of Bessarabia, after which he worked for two years in the same city as a teacher at the Teological School for Boys. He was ordained on January 26, 1886 as a deacon, and on February 2, 1886 as priest, being given the parish in the village of Călăraşi-Sat, Lăpuşna County. In 1922, the village had 429 households. It was there that Fr. Baltagă adopted and raised two children, Vsevolod and Margareta.
In 1890-1905, he was inspector bisericesc in circumscripţia protopopială Orhei, in 1905-1926 he was protopop of the 5th cerc in the Orhei County, in 1928-1935 protopop of the 3rd cerc in Lăpuşna County. In 1931, he became protoiereu and president of the cercul preoţesc Lăpuşna. Since 1925 till his death, he was member of the Adunarea Eparhială of the Archbishopric of Chişinău, and from 1932, he was eparhial representative in the National Church (bisericesc) Congress of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
In 1904-1922, Fr. Baltagă was the president of a revisory commeettee, and in 1922-1935, president of the Administrative Council of the “Union of Orthodox Clerics of Bessarabia”. On July 1, 1935, he was retired, but the Metropolis of Bessarabia and the Romanian Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, through a special decree, offered him the exceptional right of serving until death in the Călăraşi-Sat parish. He had the rank of iconom-mitrofor.
In 1893-1895, 1898, 1902, 1919–1925, he was president of the School Congresses of Bessarabia. From 1903 till 1918 he was elected each year as president of the Annual Eparhial Congresses of Bessarabia. From 1908 on, he was one of the key aides of Gurie Grosu in the editing and printing of the Romanian language Bessarabian religious journal Luminătorul. In the first period, this journal served also as the eparhial bulletin of Bessarabia. Baltagă made crucial contributions to the establishment and functioning of the diocesan printing press in 1906-1917. Also in 1906-1917, he was a member of the Council of the Birth of Christ Brotherhood, and in 1911-1918, director of the 6-year school for church singers in Călăraşi-Târg.
On the background of the dissolution of the Russian Empire, the Diocesan Congress in Chişinău (November 21–27, 1917 / December 4–10, 1917), elected him as a representative of the Bessarabian priesthood in Sfatul Ţării. He also co-represented the Social Democratic Party-the Mensheviks. As an MP, on March 27, 1918 (OS April 9, 1918), he voted in favor of the Union of Bessarabia with Romania.
Baltagă was held in high esteem, loved, and regarded as a spiritual father by his enoriaşi. It is being reported that he repeated many times “I would not allow my flock to be swallowed by the red wolves” (an allusion to the Bolshevik danger). When the Kazan Mother of God Icon was being shown around Bessarabia, his church was among those that displayed it. With the onslaught of the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia, Alexandru Baltagă remained to serve in his church, despite the fact that it was well-known that the former Sfatul Ţării members were prime targets of the Soviets.
The soviet persecution
On August 31, 1940, while he was saying mass in St. Alexander’s Church in Călăraşi, NKVD officers broke in and attempted to arrest him. Baltagă refused, saying he would follow them only after the mass. The political police had to retreat empty-handed. The following night, they snatched him from his bed, and without allowing him to dress, took him to Chişinău, where he was subjected to interrogation in the cellars of the NKVD building. His interrogator was NKVD lieutenant Cherepanov, a superior interrogator of the NKVD of the MSSR, who accused Alexandru Baltagă that “[…] in 1918, having an enemy attitude toward the Soviet Russia, he actively participated in the Sfatul Ţării, and voted for the estrangement of Bessarabia from the Soviet Russia and for its Union with Romania […] In the following year, as an active clerik, he fought against the revolutionary movement […]” There exist reports that during his interrogation, Baltagă was subjected to physical and psychological pressure. It is reported that to investigators’ questions “Show us your God!”, he was replying “When you show me your mind, then I [would] show you my God!” (literal translation). After Romanian Army crossed back into Bessarabia, the Soviets moved him to the interior of the USSR. He died what some Orthodox texts refer to as a martyr’s death in Kazan, on August 7, 1941.
Baltagă received numerous clerical and lay distinctions, including the Golden Cross of the Russian Holy Synod (April 18, 1903), St. Anna Order of third (May 6, 1907) and second class (May 6, 1912), St. Vladimir Order of the 4th degree, in gold (May 6, 1915), Star of Romania Order in the rank of officer (May 31, 1923), Order of the Romanian Crown in rank of commander (June 13, 1928), Order Ferdinand I in rank of knight (June 8, 1935). In reference to his authority among the clergy, and his work for the church, Gala Galaction considered him “patriarch of the Bessarabian priests”.
In October 1995, the Adunarea Eparhială of the Metropolis of Bessarabia proposed investigative research on Alexandru Baltagă’s life, with a view toward canonisation.
^ a b c d e “Formular de serviciu al Iconomului Mitrofor Alexandru Baltagă, an 1939″, 2-page holograph, arhiva doamnei Mariana Lungu, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ a b c d Vlad Cubreacov, Unul dintre martiri – Pr. Alexandru Baltagă, in Liminătorul, an III (1994), no 4 (13), p. 17-20, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ Anuarul Eparhiei Chişinăului şi Hotinului, Chişinău, 1922, p. 166, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ a b Anuarul Eparhiei Chişinăului-1930, Tipografia eparhială “Cartea Românească”, Chişinău, 1930, p. 56, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ a b Biserica Ortodoxă Română (periodică), an XLVII (1931), nr. 1, p. 64-68, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ a b Calendarul Arhiepiscopiei Bucureştilor, cu date statistice, pe anul mântuirii 1940, Tipografia Sfintei Mănăstiri Cernica, 1940, p. 38, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ a b c d Iurie Colesnic, Despre râurile mici şi râurile mari sau despre preoţii participanţi la Marea Unire din 1918, in Luminătorul, nr. 2 (67), martie-aprilie 2005, p. 33-34, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ Mărturia doamnei Mariana Lungu, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ Alfa şi Omega, an I, nr. 1, ianuarie 1995, 1-15 octombrie 1995; nr. 1 (23), 1-15 ianuarie 1996, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
^ Alexandru Usatiuc-Bulgăre, Preoţi martiri ai Mitropoliei Basarabiei, in Literatura şi Arta, nr. 11 (2391), 13 martie 1997, Chişinău, p. 7, cf. A. N. Petcu (see Bibliography)
Adrian Nicolae Petcu, Alexandru Baltagă, in Martiri pentru Hristos, din România, în perioada regimului communist, Editura Institutului Biblic şi de Misiune al Bisericii Ortodoxe Române, Bucureşti, 2007, pp. 68–71
Elena Postică, Maria Praporscic, Vera Stăvilă, coordinators, Cartea Memoriei: catalog al victimelor totalitarismului communist, Editura Ştiinţa, Chişinău, vol. 1, 1999, vol. 2, 2001, vol. 3, 2003
Iurie Colesnic, Basarabia Necunoscuta, 5+ volumes, Editura Museum, Chişinău, 1993-
Alexandru Chiriac, Mic dicţionar al membrilor Sfatului Ţării din Chişinău, in Patrimoniu, revistă de lectură istorică, 2 / 1991, Chişinău
Alexandru Baltagă, Situaţia catastrofală a băncii clerului ortodox din Basarabia, Chişinău, 1926
Luminătorul (periodical of the Metropolis of Bessarabia), 1908-