Under the reign of Stefan cel Mare (1457-1504), Moldova experienced perhaps it’s greatest time in history. Stefan was able to defeat Turks, Tartars, Hungarians, Poles and other enemies, though this was not a lasting victory for Moldova.
Stefan was born into the House of Bogdan – Mustat, a noble family which founded the Principality of Moldavia. This family was torn by internal power grabs and there existed a civil war in the years leading up to Stefan’s reign.
A child during the civil war, Stefan was placed in Transylvania under the protection of John Hunyadim a military general, and later with his cousin, Vlad III, also known as Vlad Tepisch, Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler, and who later served as the inspiration for Dracula.
Vlad III gave Stefan 6,000 horses and men to enter Moldavia and roust out Petru Aron, who had been victorious over Alexandru cel Bun in the civil war. Stefan defeated Petru Aron who fled into Poland, where Stefan pursued him, but was not able to apprehend him.
Out of 36 battles, Stefan was victorious in 34 of them, defeating Hungarian, Polish and Ottoman attempts at invasion, but by 1486, after continual attacks from neighbors, he had to sign a Tributary State treaty with the Turks which gave Moldavia the right of semi autonomous rule, but recognized the Ottomans as suzerain.
Stefan’s reign in Moldavia was hard won and was always under attack, but his piety allowed several churches to be built, establishing religious edifices after each major military victory. Stefan died in Sucaeva, a main residence of Moldavian princes, and was later canonized. He is buried in the monastery of Putna, which was built and dedicated to the Virgin Mary by Stefan in 1470.
After his reign, Moldova was constantly being threatened by war from its enemies, and together with Transylvania and Muntenia (now Romania) protection was attained through alliance and unification beginning in 1593.