Dumitru Moruzi was part of the boyar Mourousis family, which originated in the Empire of Trebizond and settled in Istanbul in the 17th century. He was a direct descendant of Phanariote royalty, his great-grandfather, Constantine Mourousis, having served as Prince of Moldavia in 1777–1782. Dumitru's father, Constantin Moruzi (1816–1886), or Costache Moruz Pecheanu, had a son by his first wife, Pulheria Cantacuzino: Russian diplomat Alexandru C. Moruzi (1842–1900). Constantin had inherited estates in both Moldavia and Wallachia, including Făurei, Vrancea County. Attracted to liberal ideas, he had reportedly tried to manumit his Romani slaves, but was forced to rescind when they rebelled. Later, he participated in the Moldavian Revolution of 1848, before being expelled to Russia. A colorful character, he once appeared in Spanish costume on the balcony of an Odessa hotel, proclaiming himself the last descendant of Trebizond's emperors. He declared that a man as handsome as he only appeared once a century.
Returning home in the 1850s, Constantin married a second time, to Ecaterina Sturza. This granddaughter of Prince Ioan Sturdza was reportedly very ugly but also highly intelligent and energetic; she was Dumitru's mother. Born in Iași, Dumitru spent his first four years at Făurei, which he later declared to be his favorite place in the world. During that interval, his father became rivals with Prince Grigore Alexandru Ghica. In 1854, at the height of the Crimean War, Constantin and his family crossed from Moldavia-proper into Bessarabia (a Russian governorate, formerly part of Moldavia). This was done upon orders from the Austrian occupation authorities, on a request from the Ottoman army, or, alternatively, from Prince Ghica himself. Constantin was naturalized Russian and was possibly a Russian agent of influence in Moldavia. In the 1860s, he was directly involved in Russian censorship of Moldavian liberal newspapers and magazines.
The Moruzis returned to Moldavia later in the decade, during the period when Moldavia merged with Wallachia into the United Principalities—although they still commuted to Bessarabia, where they now owned the estate of Dănuțeni. Constantin supported the unionist party and was friends with its candidate for princely office, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, but, when Cuza lost his throne, switched his allegiance to Moldavian separatism. Most controversially, he and his brother Alexandru "Alecu" Moruzi (ca. 1815–1878), instigated, with Calinic Miclescu, the Moldavian separatist riots of 1866. Unwelcome in Romania, from 1869 Constantin was recognized as a Knyaz and received into Russian nobility, serving terms as deputy in the Zemstvo of Bălți County, where he supported autonomism. His brother, who owned an estate at Pechea, abandoned separatism and remained in the United Principalities, which became Romania. Noted as an economist, he had four children who married into Russian and European aristocracy, including Maria, who married Cuza's son, the pretender Alexandru "Sașa" Cuza. She was later married for just one day with the Romanian politico Ion I. C. Brătianu, birthing his son, the historian Gheorghe I. Brătianu.
The Bessarabian Moruzis sponsored literary gatherings, musical parties, and charities, and, in the 1870s, played host to the novelist Olga Nacu. Dumitru spent the remainder of his childhood in Kishinev (Chișinău) and on his father's estates of Cosăuți and Ciripcău, both in the vicinity of Soroca. His mother taught him elementary notions of mathematics, literature and French grammar, awakening an appreciation for Molière, Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine. He learned Russian followed by French, with his formal education beginning at Iași. As a youth, he traveled and got to know major cities of the Empire, including Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev. He was charmed by Odessa, where he arrived upon the invitation of his aunt, Profirița Moruzi-Keșco. Some of his first literary attempts are verses written in honor of that city. Profirița died soon after, leaving her daughter Natalia Keșco to be raised by Constantin and Ecaterina, as Dumitru and Alexandru's stepsister.
In 1863, Moruzi was sent to the Lycée Saint-Louis in Paris. He probably attended a military academy or the Sorbonne afterwards, returning to Bessarabia in 1869 as a Francophile. In 1873, encouraged by his father, he entered service with the marshal of nobility for the Soroca district. In 1875, he and his family became in-laws of the Obrenović dynasty which ruled upon the Principality of Serbia: Natalia married Milan I, from 1882 the King of Serbia.
Public servant and published author
From 1877, Dumitru became an interpreter for the diplomatic service of the Russian Empire. In this capacity, he accompanied Russian troops onto various battlefields in Rumelia during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. He was also sent to undertake diplomatic work in the Romanian capital Bucharest. There, in April 1878, he entered a joint commission for analyzing protests by Romanian civilians against Russian troops transiting the country, sitting for over a year until the group was dissolved. In December, Domnitor Carol I awarded him the Order of the Star of Romania. In addition, he received the Order of the Cross of Takovo from Milan I and the Order of Saint Alexander from Alexander I of Bulgaria.
Moruzi alienated his parents when he refused to become a diplomat like his half-brother, turning to Romanian nationalism and campaigning for Bessarabia's incorporation into the new Kingdom of Romania. He also married, against Constantin's will, to a French governess he met in Bessarabia. She gave birth to a son. The three left Russia for good and settled in Bucharest, obtaining Romanian citizenship in 1882 or 1883. By then, Alexander II of Russia had ordered him stripped of his Russian citizenship and, technically, of his right to inherit. Moruzi, who bragged about having thus "spurned a fortune worth more than two million", was soon after named administrator of Constanța County, in newly acquired Northern Dobruja. He helped build roads, schools and churches, also organizing a notary service and naming Romanian mayors. According to his own statement, he also helped with the Romanianization of "assimilable" Bulgarians and Greeks, and unofficially colonized the area with Wallachians. This work was covered in 1886 by the daily România Liberă, which called him a "good administrator", but, as Moruzi complained, it was eventually overturned by his successor Vasile Kogălniceanu. In June 1887, he was named administrator and deputy prefect at the Port of Sulina, in the Danube Delta, taking anti-flood measures and organizing a volunteer fire brigade on the Austrian model. He devoted special attention to a high school for musicians, helped build a theater and repair the local church, while also taking steps to "assimilate all that is assimilable."
Constantin Moruzi died at Odessa while playing cards, and was buried at Dănuțeni, while Ecaterina is buried in Sulina. By 1895, Dumitru's work was threatened by the intrigues of a National Liberal Party politico, Eugeniu Stătescu, who wanted him demoted. When a change in government portended a demotion and transfer to Măcin, Dumitru resigned from the civil service. A difficult period followed, particularly as he had spent much of the 250,000 gold lei left by his mother. He had by then married and divorced Teresa z Giżyckich (or Gizyka), who wrote a biography of Moruzi where she describes his affair with another woman. She eventually joined the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Wadowice. Moruzi himself withdrew to a one-room, unfurnished, apartment on Dealul Spirii, trying his hand at becoming a composer. Moruzi's comic opera in three acts, Pescarii din Sulina ("Fishermen of Sulina"), was performed at the National Theater Bucharest in February 1902.
By 1903, his last hope of being hired lay in Natalia's son, King Alexander of Serbia, but the latter was assassinated that year. Natalia bought him a house in the Tătărași quarter of Iași, located just outside Eternitatea cemetery. At that point, he was obliged to earn a living by writing, a practice he took up not just out of obligation, but also out of a sense of duty to keep alive a vanished world. According to the journalist Corneliu Carp, although an "infirm", his early years in Tătărași, "one of [Iași's] more pleasant" suburbs, were serene and "almost monastic". Yet, "nobody knows the goings-on of his life, not even his well-off relatives with their rightful princely splendor; only now and then do young students visit him, keen on learning from his sweet elderly voice the stories of his parents' Bessarabia."
As Moruzi aged, diseases that appeared during his Delta days worsened, and he gradually lost hearing, being also beset by money troubles. He began an intense work in journalism with Basarabia și viitorul ei 1812–1905 ("Bessarabia and Her Future 1812–1905"), first published in Cronica newspaper from February 1905, and in book form later that year. Prompted by the Russian Revolution of January, Moruzi speculated that Russia would crumble, leading to the emancipation of Poland-Lithuania or to an independent "Little Russia", but stated that "it is certainly not my intention to promote Romanian irredentism". Nonetheless, he urged Bessarabian Romanians to take up "productive labor" and "rekindle the Bessarabian genius". He also castigated the Romanian state for not having distributed propaganda in the region, noting that Bessarabia and Romania were separated by a "great wall". This text was followed the same year by a series of articles titled Rușii ("Russians"). The collection Rușii și românii ("Russians and Romanians", 1906) was prefaced by the influential historian Nicolae Iorga, and circulated clandestinely among Bessarabian intellectuals.
Iorga, who expressed fascination for Moruzi's "sharp intelligence", maintained his association with the Bessarabian into the next decade. On Iorga's encouragement, Moruzi began writing memoirs and literary fragments for the newspaper Unirea, and for its literary supplement. According to the writer's own account, Iorga's patronage made his Moruzi relatives aware that he was not "a nincompoop and an embarrassment", and prompted them to provide him with a pension. He joined Iorga's Democratic Nationalist Party (PND) upon its creation in 1910, but refused to read the statutes, simply believing them consonant with his own brand of nationalism. He remained critical of the party's anti-elitist factions within the PND; seen by historian Florin Marinescu as a "staunch antisemite", Moruzi declared that "the job of playing off classes against each other should be left to kikes and socialists". He also proposed the creation of a "Christian Masonry" to counter the influence of actual Freemasons.
Published by the literary press of the PND's Neamul Românesc, Moruzi's main works are Înstrăinații. Studiu social în formă de roman ("Those Who Are Alienated. A Social Study in the Shape of a Novel", 1910) and Pribegi în țară răpită. Roman social basarabean ("Outcasts in the Stolen Land. A Bessarabian Social Novel", 1912). As Moruzi himself explained, the writings were not to be read as novels, but as documents; to his supporters, he was a "thinker and sociologist". Iorga himself recommended Moruzi, alongside Henri Stahl, Romulus Cioflec and Ion Agârbiceanu, as a canon of traditionalist writing in prose at Neamul Românesc. As noted in 2015 by critic Răzvan Voncu, such standards make Moruzi a latecomer to Iorga's Sămănătorist movement. Nevertheless, Moruzi complained privately that Neamul Românesc was censoring his calls for class collaboration, and also his outbursts against the socialists at Facla.
The protagonists of Înstrăinații are his father Constantin, appearing as boyar Agapie Varlaam, and Dimitrie himself—here named Artur. The story covers the events of 1848 and 1854, but is mainly noted for its glimpses of high-society life in Bessarabia and Moldavia at large. In its opening manifesto, the book described the dangers of Russification and Francization, particularly among the upper classes—the peasants, Moruzi noted, were still Romanian in language and customs, whereas Bessarabian boyars are shown disregarding their mother tongues for prestige languages. Other parts of the book, showing debates between the Varlaams and Prince Ghica or Alexandru Ioan Cuza, take a more conservative stance, insisting upon class collaboration; the narrator praises Carol and Lascăr Catargiu for having found and preserved a moderate course.
Pribegi în țară răpită was written with noted documentary contributions by Ion Pelivan, the Bessarabian activist. It is, in part, an answer to Pavel Krushevan's own novel, Millions, and a homage to Bessarabia on the centennial of her incorporation into Russia. The Moruzis, including Dumitru's brother Alexandru, appear as the Mavrocosta clan, and the novel delves into their political convictions and intimate affairs. The book also fictionalizes events relating to the Keșcos and to Bessarabian anarchist Zamfir Arbore; Constantin Moruzi appears both as himself and as the Mavrocosta patriarch (the two are brothers-in-law). Here, Russification is depicted in more serious tones, having led to the wholesale import of customs and created new pidgin dialects. Mavrocosta finds himself torn between his loyalty to Russia and his Moldavian patriotism. The author's conservatism is again on display, targeting revolutionary ideologies. For instance, Moruzi praises the rationality and ethos of social democracy, opposing them to Russian nihilism.
In addition to Iorga, Moruzi's writings also drew notice from A. D. Xenopol and Gheorghe Cardaș, who welcomed his affection for Bessarabia and its past, as well as for nature. Radu Rosetti, Iorga's rival at Viața Romînească, also acknowledged Moruzi as a "writer of talent", his technique "clear and beautiful". According to Eugen Lovinescu, Moruzi and Rosetti alike were in a line of great Moldavian raconteurs, alongside Gheorghe Sion. Critic Mariana Conta-Kernbach praises Moruzi's "flowing and somber style", listing him as one of the neo-classicists in succession to his father's revolutionary-and-optimistic generation. George Călinescu only wrote a brief note about him, setting down an incorrect birth year; Petre V. Haneș, in his 1942 study of Bessarabian writers, devotes much more ample space to analyzing the works of Moruzi. Other commentators note that his novels in particular have a certain Russian influence, probably from the author's reading of Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy. Ideology seeps into Pribegi în țară răpită and, prompting literary historian Gheorghe Bezviconi to suggest that its "useless, entirely valueless, dialogues" be stripped from future editions. According to Bezviconi, the more descriptive parts are "exquisite". Contrarily, Lovinescu assess that, in Moruzi's work, fiction was "kept to a minimum, and it is actually the only aspect that annoys the reader." Voncu also argues that "although not a great literary talent, [Moruzi] was a cultural and political consciousness."
Moruzi's other writings covered various genres, including samples of Sămănătorist poetry. A three-act comedy, its title unknown, was published in 1911, around the same time as a satirical novella, Pe viscol ("During Blizzard"). The latter showed the prevarications of a boyar who switches from liberalism to conservatism at his own convenience. A "moral study" with a prologue and three acts, Sărutarea lui Iuda sau Iuda în casă de boier, Iuda la sat, Iuda în Capitală și Iuda parvenit ("Judas' Kiss or Judas in a Boyar Dwelling, Judas in the Villages, Judas in the Capital and Judas as Parvenu") appeared in 1912. The same year he published a book called Basarabia noastră and a collection of folk songs, Cântece basarabene. He was also involved in a dialogue with Russian historian Nikolai Nikolayevich Durnovo, father of the linguist. Durnovo had written favorably of Romanian nationalism, trying to obtain Romania's support for a looming war between Russia and the Triple Alliance; he was also proposing the partition of Bessarabia and Bukovina between the two allied nations. Moruzi who believed that Durnovo spoke for the Russian Government, welcomed the change of policy. He acknowledged that a liberal Russia was a comfortable ally for Romania, but asked for guarantees that Russian imperialism would be curbed. He also accused Durnovo of hypocrisy, noting that Bessarabia was not traditionally Russian, but had been colonized with "Khokhols". He therefore rejected partition on principle.
As Iorga recalled, both of Moruzi's novels were accomplished and "vibrated youthful, brave, nationalism", but were also "hardly ever picked up and read". According to critic Radu Dragnea, Moruzi did not fit the stylistic mold of the 1910s, "as if there is no literature out there for him to acknowledge"; also, according to Carp, the Knyaz detested the work of Romanian Symbolists, showing similarities with traditionalists such as Ion Gorun, George Panu, and Mihail Sadoveanu. Dragnea therefore concluded that Moruzi "does not write for us, his contemporaries, who aren't satisfied with anything [...]. His entire work will stand as a precious document in days to come". While repeatedly refusing to write an actual autobiography, Moruzi had begun work on Moartea lui Cain ("Death of Cain"), which was only published posthumously. In some ways a sequel to Înstrăinații, it details the peasants' revolt of 1907.
In March 1914, Moruzi returned to antisemitic themes, contributing to the polemic on Jewish emancipation with the article Problema jidovească și poporul român ("The Jewish Question and the Romanian People"). Defining himself as a "humble autodidact", Moruzi argued that Romanian Jews were less qualified for citizenship than ethnic Romanians from outside the Kingdom. He called naturalization on such grounds "false, unnatural and alien". That summer, Unirea published his column on the styling of Romanian nobility, in which Moruzi protested against boyars who took up "foreign titles".
Living in near-total isolation after going deaf ("the cruelest of all infirmities", as he defined it), Moruzi was also succumbing to asthma. He died in poverty at Iași, in October 1914, but had a sumptuous funeral at Eternitatea, where Unirea's A. C. Cuza delivered a eulogy. Cuza referred to Moruzi as a "man of generous vision [and] honestly nationalist ideas", arguing that his worldview was shaped by "the truth of Christian teachings" and by a commitment to the Romanian Orthodox Church. In his obituary piece, Iorga also noted that Moruzi was an example to follow, but also a remainder of his age, the age "when youth could only be found among the sexagenarians and when those working for the nation, unrewarded, were those beset by fatal illness and the poorest among the poor". Dumitru was survived by his son, who lived in Paris as "Prince Mourousi" and, Iorga notes, maintained an extravagant lifestyle.
The Russian Revolution of February 1917 brought about Bessarabian autonomy, consecrated as the "Moldavian Democratic Republic". During the October Revolution, which made possible the union of Bessarabia with Romania, Pelivan, by then a leader of the National Moldavian Party, paid public homage to Moruzi. In his speech before Sfatul Țării, he referred to Pribegi în țară răpită as "something of a Moldavian gospel." In June 1925, a delegation of Bessarabian cultural societies tended to Moruzi's grave and deposed wreaths. In 1936, however, Pelivan's former colleague, Emanoil Catelli, suggested that Moruzi had betrayed the Bessarabian unionist cause with his departure for Romania, having "capitulated before his fight had even begun".
The Soviet occupation of Bessarabia, then the impact of World War II, returned him to near-complete anonymity: Moruzi was indexed and censored in both Communist Romania and the Moldovan SSR. As noted by Voncu: "Romanian communists cast a prohibition on Dumitru C. Moruzi's writings because these obsessed about the Bessarabian question and Russia's shameless behavior. For the 'Moldovenists' of Chișinău, Dumitru C. Moruzi was twice the adversary: on one hand, he was 'the boyar', a hobbyhorse of communist propaganda, and, on the other, one who supported the notion that Bessarabia was eminently Romanian." Reassessment followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union, particularly so in independent Moldova. In 2001, Iurie Colesnic put out a new edition of Rușii și românii, the first of several such books issued in a "Testament Collection" at Museum publishing house. As early as 1993, philologists Vasile Ciocanu and Andrei Hropotinschi prepared a collected works edition; it only saw print in 2014, by which time both scholars were dead.