Alexander Ypsilanti (Romanian: Alexandru Ipsilanti, Greek: Αλέξανδρος Υψηλάντης - Alexandros Ypsilantis; 1725-1805) was Voivode (Prince) of Wallachia from 1775 to 1782, and again from 1796 to 1797, and also Voivode (Prince) of Moldavia from 1786 to 1788. He bears the same name as, but should not be confused with, his grandson, the Greek independence hero of the early 1800s. The Ypsilantis were a prominent family of Phanariotes.
In 1774, as a diplomat in service to the Porte, Ypsilanti took part in the the signing of the Kuchuk-Kainarji peace treaty with Russia; a year later, he was rewarded for this and other services by being appointed dragoman. Still in 1775, he was awarded the throne of Wallachia. This could only happen as the Russian troops were ending their occupation of Bucharest, begun in 1771. The throne had been vacant throughout this period, a hiatus provoked by Emanuel Giani Ruset's agreement with Catherine II at the start of the war.
As principal acts of his reign in Wallachia, Ypsilanti enforced a series of reforms. Several laws are grouped in the Pravilniceasca condică, called "Syntagmation nomikon" in its Greek version (roughly: "The Code of Byzantine customary laws"). Issued in 1780, the Code seeked to amend fiscal, administrative, judicial and political flaws. What was in fact a radical redefinition of legal boundaries had to make occasional reference to Byzantine norms (the traditional laws in the two Principalities), due to resistance from conservative boyars in the Assembly (the Sfat). Most notably, the new laws tried to impose salaries for public offices, a measure intended to reduce fiscal burdens on the taxed social categories (that had been supposed to provide revenues for the fiscal agents, usally boyars, in an economy in which land ownership had become less of an asset than holding office) and ensure a more professional administrative structure.
Ypsilanti's reigns coincide with a critical moment in Ottoman history. In August 1787, Russia resumed hostilities (see Russo-Turkish War, 1787-1792), and the Porte faced a large-scale invasion of its Danubian territories as the Habsburg Empire joined the fighting (9 February 1788). A secondary effect of this event was the granting of military command over Turkish troops in the region to Ypsilanti: the gesture is also significant as a temporary re-shaping of status in the relations between Prince and Sultan for the context of Phanariote rule.
Sources suggest that Ypsilanti was considering an alliance with Austria, and had been negotiating with emissaries of Emperor Joseph II. However, as the Austrians occupied Iaşi in April, all contacts ceased and the Prince was kept in custody in Brno up to the signing of the peace treaty at Sistowa (autumn of 1791).
Vlad Georgescu, Istoria ideilor politice româneşti (1369-1878), Munich, 1987 (in Romanian)
Mustafa A. Mehmet, Documente turceşti privind istoria României, vol. III, Bucharest, 1983 (in Romanian)
Preceded by: Emanuel Giani Ruset
Prince of Wallachia 1774 -1782
Succeeded by: Nicolae Caragea
Preceded by: Alexandru Moruzi
Prince of Wallachia 1796 - 1797
Succeeded by: Constantin Hangerli
Preceded by: Alexandru Mavrocordat
Prince/Voivode of Moldavia 1786 - 1788
Succeeded by: Austrian occupation
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