Cuza, Alexander John [key], or Alexander John I, 1820–73, first prince of Romania (1859–66), b. Moldavia. An officer who participated in the 1848 revolution and in the political struggle for the union of the principalities, he was elected prince of both Moldavia and Walachia in 1859, and in 1862 he was recognized by the Ottoman Empire as sovereign of the united principalities, thenceforth known as Romania. In 1864 he emancipated the serfs and allowed peasants to acquire land, thereby alienating the powerful landlords. His educational and legal reforms included the founding of the universities of Bucharest and of Iaşi and the promulgation of penal and civil codes. In 1866, conspirators, taking advantage of the country's financial difficulties, discontent over the agrarian policy, and Cuza's scandalous personal life, forced him to abdicate. He went into exile, first to Paris, later to Vienna, Florence, and Heidelberg.
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