Corneliu Zelea Codreanu

(b. 1899)

Quick Reference

(b. Huşi, 1899; d. en route from Rimnicu Sarat to Bucharest, 1 Dec. 1938)

Romanian; leader of the Legion of the Archangel Michael 1927–38 Codreanu was born in Moldavia into a peasant family, the son of a German father and a mother of Ukrainian or Polish extraction. He was a member of the anti-Semitic National Christian Defence League. In 1924 he murdered the police chief of Iaşi, which made him a hero, and went unpunished. In 1927 he formed the Legion of the Archangel Michael, an Orthodox, nationalist, anti-Communist, and anti-Semitic organization, through which he intended to bring about the moral regeneration of Romania. It had Fascist style trappings, though Codreanu rejected the ideas of the corporate state, and acquired considerable support among the peasantry and among Romania's numerous unemployed intelligentsia. In 1930 the Legion acquired a youth movement, the Iron Guard (Garda de Fier) by which the organization as a whole was generally known. In the 1930s the Iron Guard committed numerous terrorist acts against leftists and Jews. Romanian government officially dissolved the Legion in 1933, but it continued to operate. In 1937 it gained 17 per cent of the vote. In 1938 King Carol II disbanded the Iron Guard and imprisoned Codreanu and its other leaders, to surprisingly little protest.

Subjects: Politics.

Reference entries