History of Romanians
by Ion Calafeteanu

Romania is situated in Central Europe, in the northern part of the Balkan peninsula and its territory is marked by the Carpathian Mountains, the Danube and the Black Sea. With its temperate climate and varied natural environment, which is favourable to life, the Romanian territory has been inhabited since time immemorial. The research done by Romanian archaeologists at Bugiulesti, Valcea County, has led to the discovery of traces of human presence dating back as early as the Lower Palaeolithic (approximately two million years BCE). These vestiges are among the oldest in Europe, revealing a period when "man," a humanoid in fact, went physically and spiritually through the stages of his coming out of the animal status. A denser human population, ("the Neanderthal man") can be proved to have lived about 100,000 years ago; a relatively stable population can only be found beginning with the Neolithic (6-5,000 years BCE).

At the time, the population on the territory of present-day Romania created a remarkable culture, whose proof is the polychrome pottery of the "Cucuteni" culture (comparable to the pottery of other important European cultures of the time in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East) and the statuettes of the "Hamangia" culture (the Thinker of Hamangia is known today to the whole world).

At the turn of the second millennium, when the Palaeolithic age made way for the Bronze age, the Thracian tribes of Indo-European origin settled alongside the population that already lived in the Carpathian-Balkan region. From the time of the Thracians on, the uninterrupted phenomenon of the Romanian people’s birth can be traced. In the former half of the first millennium BCE, in the Carpathian-Danube-Pontic area --which was the northern part of the large surface inhabited by the Thracian tribes --a northern Thracian group became individualised: it was made up of a mosaic of Getae and Dacian tribes. Strabo, a famous geographer and historian in the age of emperor Augustus, informs that "the Dacians have the same language as the Getae." Basically, it was the same people, the only difference between the Dacians and the Getae being the area they inhabited: the Dacians --mostly in the mountains and the plateau of Transylvania; the Getae --in the Danube Plains. In the Antiquity, the Greeks, who first got to encounter the Getae used this name for the whole population north of the Danube, while the Romans, who first got to encounter the Dacians extended this name to cover all the other tribes on the present-day territory of Romania; after the conquest of this territory, the Romans created here the Dacia province. This is why the whole territory of present-day Romania is called Dacia in all ancient Latin and Early Middle Ages sources.

The contact of the Geto-Dacians with the Greek world was made easy by the Greek colonies created on the present-day Romanian Black Sea shore: Istros (Histria), founded in the 7th century BCE, Callatis (today: Mangalia) and Tomi (today: Constanta); the latter two were founded a century later. In the recorded history, the population north of the Danube (the Getae) was first mentioned by Herodotus, "the father of history" (the 5th century BCE). He told the story of the campaign of Persian king Darius I against the Scythians in the northern Pontic steppes (513 BCE). He wrote that the Getae were "the most valiant and just of the Thracians". They had been the only ones to resist the Persian king on the way from the Bosporus to the Danube.

Burebista (82 -- around 44 BCE), who succeeded to unite the Geto-Dacian tribes for the first time, founded a powerful kingdom that stretched, when the Dacian sovereign offered to support Pompey against Caesar (48 BCE), from the Beskids (north), the Middle Danube (west), the Tyras river (the Dniester), and the Black Sea shore (east) to the Balkan Mountains (south).

In the 1st century BCE, as the Roman empire was expanding and Roman provinces were being created in Pannonia, Dalmatia, Moesia and Thracia, the Danube became, along 1,500 km, the border between the Roman Empire and the Dacian world. In Dobrudja, which was under Roman rule for seven centuries beginning with the reign of Augustus, poet Publius Ovidius Naso spent the last years of his life, "among Greeks and Getae," as he was exiled there, to Tomi (8 -- 17, CE) by order of the same Caesar.

Dacia was at the peak of its power under King Decebal (87 -- 106 CE). After a first confrontation during the reign of Domitian (87 -- 89), two extremely tough wars were necessary (101 -- 102 and 105 -- 106) to the Roman empire, at the peak of its power under Emperor Trajan (98 -- 117) to defeat Decebal and turn most of his kingdom into the Roman province called Dacia.

Trajan’s Column erected in Rome and the Triumphal Monument at Adamclisi (Dobrudja) tell the story of this military effort, which was followed by a systematic and massive colonisation of the new territories that were integrated into the empire.

The Dacians, although they had suffered heavy casualties, remained, even after the new rule was established, the main ethnic element in Dacia; the province was subjected to a complex Romanization process, its basic element being the staged but definitive adoption of the Latin language.

The Romanians are today the only descendants of the Eastern Roman stock; the Romanian language is one of the major heirs of the Latin language, together with French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan; Romania is an oasis of Latinity in this part of Europe.

The natives, be they of Roman or Daco-Roman descent, continued their uninterrupted existence as farmers and shepherds even after the withdrawal, under emperor Aurelian (270 -- 275) of the Roman army and administration, which were moved south of the Danube. But the ancestors of the Romanians remained for several centuries in the political, economic, religious and cultural sphere of influence of the Roman Empire; after the empire split in 395 CE, they stayed in the sphere of the Byzantine Empire. They lived mostly in the old Roman hearts that had now decayed and survived in difficult circumstances under successive waves of migratory tribes.

At the time when the Daco-Roman ethno-cultural symbiosis was achieved and finalised in the 6-7th centuries by the formation of the Romanian people, in the 2 -- 4th centuries, the Daco-Romans adopted Christianity in a Latin garb. Therefore, in the 6 -- 7th centuries, when the formation process of the Romanian people was done, this nation emerged in history as a Christian one. This is why, unlike the neighbouring nations, which have established dates of Christianization (the Bulgarians --865, the Serbs --874, the Poles --966, the eastern Slavs --988, the Hungarians --the year 1000), the Romanians do not have a fixed date of Christianization, as they were the first Christian nation in the region.

In the 4 -- 13th centuries the Romanian people had to face the waves of migrating peoples --the Getae, the Huns, the Gepidae, the Avars, the Slavs, the Petchenegs, the Cumanians, the Tartars --who crossed the Romanian territory. The migratory tribes controlled this space from the military and political points of view, delaying the economic and social development of the natives and the formation of local statehood entities.

The Slavs, who massively settled since the 7th century south of the Danube, split the compact mass of Romanians in the Carpathian-Danubian area: the ones to the north (the Daco-Romanians) were separated from the ones to the south, who were moved towards the west and Southeast of the Balkan Peninsula (Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians). The Slavs that settled north of the Danube were assimilated little by little by the Romanian people and their language left traces in the vocabulary and phonetics of the Romanian language. To the Romanian language, the Slavic language (similarly to the Germanic idiom of the Franks with the French people) was the so-called super-imposed layer. The Romanians belonged to the Orthodox religion so they adopted the Old Church Slavic as a cult language, and, beginning with the 14 -- 16th centuries, as a chancery and culture language. The Slavic language was never a living language, spoken by the people, on the territory of Romania; it played for Romanians, at a certain time during the Middle Ages, the same role that Latin played in the West; in the early modern age it was replaced forever, in church, chancery and culture included, by the Romanian language. Owing to their position, the Romanians south of the Danube were the first to be mentioned in historical sources (the 10th century), under the name of vlahi or blahi (Wallachians); this name shows they were speakers of a Romance language and that the non-Roman peoples around them recognised this fact. After the year 602, the Slavs massively settled south of the Danube and they established a powerful Bulgarian czardom in the 9th century; this cut the tie between the Romanian world north of the Danube and the one south of the Danube. As they were subjected to all sorts of pressures and isolated from the powerful Romanian trunk north of the Danube, the number of Romanians south of the Danube continuously decreased, while their brothers north of the Danube, although living in extremely difficult circumstances, continued their historical evolution as a separate nation, the farthest one to the east among the descendants of Imperial Rome.

In fact the Romanians are the only ones who, through their very name - roman - (coming from the Latin word "Roman") - have preserved to this day in this part of Europe the seal of the ancestors, of their descent, that they have always been aware of. This will show later in the name of the nation state --Romania.

Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania

Beginning with the 10th century, the Byzantine, Slav and Hungarian sources, and later on the western sources mention the existence of statehood entities of the Romanian population --kniezates and voivodates --first in Transylvania and Dobrudja, then in the 12 -- 13th centuries, also in the lands east and south of the Carpathians. A specific trait of the Romanian’s history from the Middle Ages until the modern times is that they lived in three Principalities that were neighbours, but autonomous --Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania.

This phenomenon --which is by no means unique in Mediaeval Europe --is extremely complex. The underlying causes pertain to the essence of the feudal society, but there are also specific factors. Among the latter, we wish to mention the existence of powerful neighbouring empires, which opposed the unification of the Romanian state entities and even occupied --for shorter or longer periods of time --Romanian territories. For instance, to the west the Romanians had to face the policy of conquests conducted by the Hungarian kingdom. In 895, the Hungarian tribes, who came from the Volga lands, led by Arpad, settled in Pannonia. They were stopped in their progress towards the west by emperor Otto I (995) so the Hungarians settled down and turned their eyes to the south-east and east. There they encountered the Romanians.

A Hungarian chronicle describes the meeting between the messengers sent by Arpad, the Hungarian king, and voivode Menumorut of the Biharea city in western Transylvania. The Hungarian ambassadors demanded that the territory be handed over to them. The chronicle has preserved for us the dignified answer given by Menumorut: "Tell Arpad, the Duke of Hungary, your ruler. Verily we owe him, as a friend to a friend, to give him all that is necessary because he is a foreigner and a stranger and lacks many. But the land that he has demanded from our good will we shall never give to him, as long as we are alive".

Despite the resistance of the Romanian kniezates and voivodates, the Hungarians succeeded in the 10 -- 13th centuries to occupy Transylvania and make it part of the Hungarian kingdom (until the beginning of the 16th century as an autonomous voivodate.) In order to consolidate their power in Transylvania, where the Romanians continued to be, over the centuries, the great majority ethnic element, as well as to defend the southern and eastern borders of the voivodate, the Hungarian crown resorted to the colonisation of Szecklers and Germans (Saxons) in the 12 -- 13th centuries in the frontier areas.

In the 14th century, with the decline of the neighbouring imperial powers (the Poles, the Hungarians, the Tartars), south and east of the Carpathian Mountains range the autonomous feudal states were formed: Wallachia, under Basarab I (around 1310) and Moldavia, under Bogdan I (around 1359). The Polish and Hungarian kingdoms attempted in the 14 -- 15th centuries to annex or subordinate the two principalities, but they did not succeed.

In the second half of the 14th century a new threat against the Romanian lands emerged: the Ottoman Empire. After first setting foot on European soil in 1354, the Ottoman Turks began their rapid expansion on the continent, so the green banner of the Islam already flew south of the Danube in 1396.

Alone or in alliance with the neighbouring Christian countries, more often in alliance with the neighbouring voivodes of the other two Romanian principalities, the voivodes of Wallachia Mircea the Old (1386 -- 1418) and Vlad the Impaler (Dracula of the Mediaeval legends, 1456 -- 1462), with Stephen the Great and Holy (1457 -- 1504), the voivode of Moldavia and Iancu of Hunedoara, the voivode of Transylvania (1441 -- 1456) fought heavy defence battles against the Ottoman Turks, delaying their expansion to Central Europe.

The whole Balkan Peninsula became a Turkish-ruled territory, Constantinople was captured by Mohammed II (1453), Suleiman the Magnificent captured the city of Belgrade (1521), and the Hungarian kingdom disappeared following the battle of Mohacs (1526). Therefore, Wallachia and Moldavia were surrounded and they had to recognise for over three centuries the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire. After Buda was captured and Hungary became a pashalik, Transylvania became a self-ruling principality (1541) and it, too, recognised the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, as the other two Romanian lands. Unlike all the other peoples of south-east Europe, unlike the Hungarians and the Poles, the Romanians were the only ones who maintained their state entity during the Middle Ages, along with their own political, military and administrative structures. The tribute paid to the sultan was the guarantee for the preservation of domestic autonomy, but also for the protection against more powerful enemies. Wallachia and Moldavia, owing to their autonomy status, continued after the fall of the Byzantine Empire to foster their Byzantine cultural traditions, taking at the same time upon themselves to protect the Eastern Orthodox religion; on their territory, scholars from all over the Balkan Peninsula, chased away by the intolerant Islam, were able to continue their work without any obstacles; they prepared the cultural revival of their nations.

The end of the 16th century was dominated by the personality of Michael the Brave. He became voivode of Wallachia in 1593, joined the Christian League --an anti-Ottoman coalition initiated by the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire --and he succeeded, following heavy battles (Calugareni, Giurgiu) to actually regain the independence of his country. In 1599 -- 1600 he united for the first time in history all the territories inhabited by Romanians, proclaiming himself "Prince of Wallachia, Transylvania and the whole of Moldavia." The domestic situation was very complex, the neighbouring great-powers --the Ottoman Empire, Poland, the Hapsburg Empire --were hostile and joined forces to overthrow him; so this union was short-lived as Michael the Brave was assassinated in 1601. The union achieved by the valiant voivode became, however, a symbol to the posterity. In the 17th century, in various forms and with evanescent success, other princes attempted to restart the ambitious political program of Michael the Brave, by trying to form a united anti-Ottoman front, made up of the three principalities and to restore the unity of ancient Dacia.

The end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century brought about changes in the politics of Central and Eastern Europe. The Ottoman Empire failed to capture Vienna in 1683 and following that, the Hapsburg Empire began its expansion to the south-east of Europe. The Austrian-Turkish peace treaty of Karlowitz (1699) sanctioned the annexation of Transylvania and its organisation as an autonomous principality to Hapsburg Austria (since 1765 great principality), ruled by a governor. Poland was divided and Russia, by successive conquests, reached under Peter the Great (1696 -- 1725) the Dniester river, thus becoming Moldavia’s eastern neighbour. The ambitious dream of the czars to dominate the Bosporus strait and Constantinople placed the Romanian Principalities in the way of Russian expansionism. The Ottoman Empire, in an attempt to defend its old position, introduced in Moldavia (1711) and Wallachia (1716) the "Phanariot regime," (until 1821), under which the Sublime Porte appointed in the two principalities Greek voivodes recruited from the Phanar district of Istanbul and considered faithful to the Turks. That was a time when the Ottoman political control and economic exploitation increased and corruption spread; but some social reforms were also introduced --such as the abolition of serfdom --as well as administrative and modernising reforms, modelled on the European ones in the age of the Enlightenment. The domestic autonomy, although limited, was basically preserved and the two principalities continued to be distinct entities from the Ottoman Empire; this situation was recognised in several international treaties (for instance that of Kuchuk-Kainargi, 1774). Lying at the borders of three great empires and wanted by all three of them, Wallachia and Moldavia became for over 150 years not only territories of contention but also a battlefield on which the armies of the empires fought each other.

Many wars were fought by Austria and Russia against the Ottoman Empire (1710 -- 1711, 1716 -- 1718, 1735 -- 1739, 1768 -- 1774, 1787 -- 1792, 1806 -- 1812, 1828 -- 1829, 1853 -- 1856): those battles took place on Romanian soil, always accompanied by a foreign military occupation, which was often maintained long after the war proper was over, so the Romanian lands endured not only through devastation and irrecoverable losses but also through population displacements and painful territory amputations. So, Austria temporarily annexed Oltenia (1718 -- 1793) and Northern Moldavia that they called Bukovina (1775 -- 1918). Following the Russian-Turkish war of 1806 -- 1812, Russia annexed the eastern part of Moldavia, the land between the Prut and Dniester rivers, later called Bessarabia (1812 -- 1918).


National Revival

In the 18th and early 19th centuries huge economic and social changes took place, the feudal structures were deeply eroded, the first capitalist enterprises emerged and at the same time Romanian goods were attracted step by step into the European circuit. The national idea, as everywhere else in Europe, was becoming the soaring dream of intellectuals and the underlying element in the plans for the future made by the politicians. The union of part of the clergy in Transylvania with the Catholic Church (the Greek- Catholics), achieved by the House of Hapsburg in 1699 -- 1701, played an important part in the emancipation of Transylvanian Romanians. Their fight for equal rights with the other ethnic groups (although the Romanians accounted for over 60% of the principate’s population, they were still considered "tolerated" in their own country) was begun by Bishop Inocentiu Micu-Klein and continued by the intellectuals grouped in the "Transylvanian School" movement: Gheorghe Sincai, Petru Maior, Samuil Micu, Ion Budai-Deleanu, et al. These scholars proved the Latinity of the Romanian language and people and, even more, the fact that they had uninterruptedly been the autochthonous population here. By virtue of this ancientness, they demanded equal rights with the other "nations" in Transylvania --Hungarians, Szecklers and Saxons. The claims of the Romanians in Transylvania were submitted to the Court of Vienna in the long petition called Supplex Libellus Valachorum (1791), which did not receive any answer.

The quest for renewal in Wallachia was expressed in the revolution led by Tudor Vladimirescu (1821), which broke out at the same time with the Greek’s movement for liberation.

Although the Ottoman and Czarist troops occupied the Danube principalities that same year, the sacrifices made by the Romanians brought about the abolition of the Phanariot regime and native voivodes were again appointed on the thrones of Moldavia and Wallachia. The peace treaty of 1829 signed at Adrianople (today Edirne) ended the Russian-Turkish conflict of 1828 -- 1829, which had broken out in the final stage of the war for national liberation fought by the Greeks; this treaty greatly weakened the Ottoman suzerainty, but it increased Russia’s "protectorate." Now that trade was freed, Romanian cereals began to penetrate European markets. Under Pavel Kiseleff, the commander of the Russian troops that occupied the two Romanian principalities (1828 -- 1834), quasi-identical Organic Regulations were introduced in Wallachia (1831) and Moldavia (1832); until 1859 these Regulations served as fundamental laws (constitutions) and they contributed to the modernisation and homogenisation of the social, economic, administrative and political structures that had started in the preceding decades. Therefore, in the first half of the 19th century, the Romanian principalities began to distance themselves from the Oriental Ottoman world and tune into the spiritual space of Western Europe. Ideas, currents, attitudes from the West were more than welcome in the Romanian world, which was undergoing an irreversible process of modernisation. Now the awareness that all Romanians belong to the same nation was generalised and the union into one single independent state became the ideal of all Romanians.


Union and Independence

The winds of 1848 also blew over the Romanian principalities. They brought to the centre-stage of politics several brilliant intellectuals such as Ion Heliade Radulescu, Nicolae Balcescu, Mihail Kogalniceanu, Simion Barnutiu, Avram Iancu and others.

In Moldavia the unrest was quickly cracked down on, but in Wallachia the revolutionaries actually governed the country in June -- September 1848. In Transylvania the revolution was prolonged until as late as 1849. There, the Hungarian leaders refused to take into account the claims of the Romanians and they resolved to annex Transylvania to Hungary; this led to a split of the revolutionary forces between the Hungarians and the Romanians. The Hungarian government of Kossuth Lajos attempted to crack down on the fight of the Romanians, but he encountered the resolute armed resistance of the Romanians in the Apuseni Mountains, under the leadership of Avram Iancu.

Although the brutal intervention of the Ottoman, Czarist and Hapsburg armies was successful in 1848 -- 1849, the renewed tide favouring democratic ideas spread everywhere in the next decade.

Russia was defeated in the Crimean War (1853 -- 1856) and this called into question again the fragile European balance. Owing to their strategic position at the mouth of the Danube, as this waterway was becoming increasingly important to European communications, the status of the Danube principalities became a European issue at the peace Congress in Paris (February -- March 1856). Wallachia and Moldavia were still under Ottoman suzerainty, but now they were placed under the collective guarantee of the seven powers that signed the Paris peace treaty; these powers decided then that local assemblies be convened to decide on the future organisation of the two principalities. The Treaty of Paris also stipulated: the retrocession to Moldavia of Southern Bessarabia, which had been annexed in 1812 by Russia (the Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail counties); freedom of sailing on the Danube; the establishment of the European Commission of the Danube; the neutral status of the Black Sea. In 1857 the "Ad-hoc Assemblies" convened in Bucharest and Iasi under the provisions of the Paris Peace Congress of 1856; all social categories participated and these assemblies unanimously decided to unite the two principalities into one single state. French emperor Napoleon III supported this, the Ottoman Empire and Austria were against, so a new conference of the seven protector powers was called in Paris (May -- August 1858); there, only a few of the Romanians’ claims were approved. But the Romanians elected on January 5 / 17, 1859 in Moldavia and on January 24 / February 5, 1859 in Wallachia Colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza as their unique prince, achieving de facto the union of the two principalities.

The Romanian nation state took on January 24 / February 5, 1862 the name of Romania and settled its capital in Bucharest. Assisted by Mihail Kogalniceanu, his closest adviser, Alexandru Ioan Cuza initiated a reform programme, which contributed to the modernisation of the Romanian society and state structures: the law to secularise monastery assets (1863), the land reform, providing for the liberation of the peasants from the burden of feudal duties and the granting of land to them (1864), the Penal Code law, the Civilian Code law (1864), the education law, under which primary school became tuition-free and compulsory (1864), the establishment of universities in Iasi (1860) and Bucharest (1864), et al.

After the abdication of Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1866), Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a relative of the royal family of Prussia, who was supported by Napoleon III and Bismark, was proclaimed on May 10, 1866, following a plebiscite, ruling prince of Romania, with the name of Carol I.

The new Constitution (inspired from the Belgian one of 1831), which was promulgated in 1866 and was in use until 1923, proclaimed Romania a constitutional monarchy. In the next decade the struggle of the Romanians to achieve full state independence was part of the movements that took place with other peoples in the south-east of Europe --Serbs, Hungarians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, Albanians --to cut off their last ties to the Ottoman Empire. Within a favourable international framework --in 1875 the Oriental crisis broke out again and the Russo-Turkish war started in April 1877 --Romania declared its full state independence on May 9 / 21, 1877. The government led by Ion C. Bratianu, in which Mihail Kogalniceanu served as Foreign Minister, decided, upon the Russian request for assistance, to join the Russian forces that were operative in Bulgaria. A Romanian army, under the personal command of Prince Carol I, crossed the Danube and participated in the siege of Pleven; the result was the surrender of the Ottoman army led by Osman Pasha (December 10, 1877).

The independence of Romania, similarly to that of Serbia and Montenegro, as well as the union of Dobrudja with Romania were recognised in the Russian-Turkish peace treaty of San Stefano (March 3, 1878). Upon the insistence of the great powers, an International Peace Congress was held in Berlin (June -- July 1878), which acknowledged and maintained the status that Romania had proclaimed by herself more than a year before; it also re-established, after a long period of Ottoman rule, Romania’s rights over Dobrudja, which was re-united to Romania. But at the same time Russia violated the convention signed on April 4, 1877 and forced Romania to cede the Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail counties of Southern Bessarabia.

On March 14 / 26, 1881, Romania proclaimed itself a kingdom and Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was crowned King of Romania.

After gaining its independence, the Romanian state was the place to which the hopeful eyes of all Romanians who lived on the lands still under foreign occupation turned. The Romanians in Bukovina and in Bessarabia were facing a systematic policy of assimilation into the German and Russian worlds, respectively. Immigration of foreign peoples was directed to their territory. The Romanian enclaves in the Balkan Peninsula had increasing difficulties in opposing the denationalisation tendencies. At the turn of the 20th century, the Romanians were a people with over 12 million inhabitants, of whom almost half lived under foreign occupation.

At the same time in Transylvania, the Romanians suffered the serious consequences of the accord by which the Hungarian state was re-established more than three centuries after its collapse and the dual Austria-Hungary state was created (1867). Transylvania lost the autonomous status it had under Austrian rule and it was incorporated into Hungary. The legislation passed by the government in Budapest, which proclaimed the existence of only one nationality in Hungary --the Magyar one --sought to destroy from the ethno-cultural point of view the other populations, by forcing them to become Hungarian. This subjected the Romanian population, along with other ethnic groups, to heavy ordeals. At that time the National Romanian Party in Transylvania played an important role in asserting the Romanian national identity; the party was reorganised in 1881 and it became the standard bearer in the struggle to achieve recognition of equal rights of the Romanian nation and it the resistance against the denationalisation projects.

In 1892 the national struggle of the Romanians reached a climax through the Memorandum Movement. The memorandum was drafted by the leaders of the Romanians in Transylvania, Ion Ratiu, Gheorghe Pop of Basesti, Eugen Brote, Vasile Lucaciu, et al. and it was sent to Vienna to be submitted to emperor Franz Joseph I; it advised the European public opinion of the Romanians’ claims and of the intolerance shown by the government in Budapest regarding the national issue.

The 1878 -- 1914 period was one of stability and progress for Romania. Politics got polarised around two huge parties --the conservative one (Lascar Catargiu, P.P. Carp, Gh. Grigore Cantacuzino, Titu Maiorescu, et al.) and the liberal one (Ion C. Bratianu, Dimitrie A. Sturdza, Ion I.C. Bratianu, et al.). They alternately came to power and this became the characteristic trait of the epoch’s politics. The expansionist policy of Russia determined Romania to sign in 1883 a secret alliance treaty with Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy; the treaty was renewed periodically until World War I. After staying neutral in the first Balkan war (1912 -- 1913) Romania joined Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey against Bulgaria in the second Balkan war. The peace treaty of Bucharest (1913) marked the end of that conflict and under its provisions Southern Dobrudja --the Quadrilateral (the Durostor and Caliacra counties) became part of Romania.

In August 1914, when World War I broke out, Romania declared neutrality. Two years later on August 14 / 27, 1916 it joined the Allies, which promised support for the accomplishment of national unity; the government led by Ion I.C. Bratianu declared war on Austria-Hungary.

After the first success, the Romanian army was forced to abandon part of the country, Bucharest included and to withdraw to Moldavia, owing to the joint offensive of the armies in Transylvania, commanded by General von Falkenhayn and those of Bulgaria, commanded by Marshal von Mackensen. In the summer of 1917, in the great battles of Marasti, Marasesti and Oituz, the Romanians aborted the attempt made by the Central Powers to defeat and get Romania out of the war by occupying the rest of her territory.

But the situation changed completely following the outbreak of the revolution in Russia (1917) and the separate peace concluded by the Soviets at Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918); this triggered the end of the military operations on the eastern front. Romania was compelled to follow in the steps of her Russian ally, because on the Moldavian front the Romanian troops were interspersed with the Russian ones and it was impossible for combat to continue on one area of the front and for peace to settle on another front area, and so on. Cut off from its western allies, Romania was forced to sign the peace treaty of Bucharest with the Central Powers (April 24 / May 7, 1918). The ratification procedure was never carried through, so from the legal standpoint the treaty was never operative; in fact, in late October 1918, Romania denounced the treaty and re-entered the war.

The right of the peoples to self-rule triumphed in the final stage of World War I and this served the cause of the Romanians who lived in the Czarist and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The collapse of the czarist system and the recognition by the Soviet government of the right of the exploited peoples to self-rule allowed the Romanians in Bessarabia to express through the vote of the national representative body --the Country Council which convened in Chisinau --their will to be united with Romania (March 27 / April 9, 1918). The fall of the Hapsburg monarchy in the autumn of 1918 made it possible for the nations that had been under Austrian-Hungarian oppression to emancipate themselves. On November 15 / 28, 1918, the National Council of Bukovina voted in Cernauti to unite that province to Romania.

In Transylvania the National Assembly called at Alba Iulia on November 18 / December 1, 1918 voted, within the presence of over 100,000 delegates, to unite Transylvania and Banat with Romania. So, in January 1919, when the peace conference was inaugurated in Paris, the union of all Romanians into one single state was an accomplished fact.

The international peace treaties of 1919 -- 1920 signed at Neuilly, Saint-Germain, Trianon and Paris, established the new European realities and also sanctioned the union of the provinces that were inhabited by Romanians into one single state (295,042 square kilometres, with a population of 15.5 million).

The universal suffrage was introduced (1918), a radical reform was applied (1921), a new Constitution was adopted --one of the most democratic on the continent (1923) --and all this created a general-democratic framework and paved the way for a fast economic development (the industrial output doubled between 1923 and 1938). With its 7.2 million metric tons of produced oil in 1937, Romania was the second largest European producer and number seven in the world. The per capita national income reached $94 in 1938 as compared to Greece --$76, Portugal --$81, Czechoslovakia --$141, and France --$246.

In politics many parties competed with one another, so the government was controlled over the years by several of them: the People’s Party (Alexandru Averescu), the National Liberal Party (Ion I.C. Bratianu, I.G. Duca, Gheorghe Tatarescu) and the National Peasant Party (Iuliu Maniu). The Romanian Communist Party, established in 1921, and which had an insignificant number of members, was banned in 1924. The Iron Guard, an extremist right-wing nationalist movement, established by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu in 1927, was equally banned. In 1930 Carol II changed his mind about his earlier decision to give up the throne, he dethroned his minor son, Michael (who had become king in 1927) and he took the throne. Eight years later he established his personal dictatorship (1938 -- 1940).

The goals of the foreign policy in the inter-war period, when Nicolae Titulescu played a major role, sought to maintain the territorial status quo by creating regional alliances, supporting the League of Nations and the collective security policy, as well as by promoting close co-operation with the Western democracies --France and Great Britain.

With Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, Romania lay the foundation in 1920 -- 1921 for the Little Entente and in 1934 Romania created with Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey a new organisation of regional security --the Balkan Entente.

Nazi Germany was rising and together with Italy it supported the revisionist states neighbouring Romania; the force policy was successful on the continent and this was marked by the Anschluss, the Munich Pact (1938), the break-up of Czechoslovakia (1939); there was rapprochement between the Soviet Union and the Third Reich; all this led to Romania’s international isolation. The von Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact (August 23, 1939) stipulated in a secret protocol the Soviet "interest" in the Baltic states, eastern Poland and the Soviet similar "interest" in Bessarabia.

When World War II broke out, Romania declared neutrality (September 6,1939) but she supported Poland (by facilitating the transit of the National Bank treasure and granting asylum to the Polish president and government). The defeats suffered by France and Great Britain in 1940 created a dramatic situation for Romania. The Soviet government applied Plank 3 of the secret protocol of August 23, 1939 and forced Romania by the ultimatum notes of June 26 and 28, 1940 to cede not only Bessarabia, but also Northern Bukovina and the Hertza land (the latter two had never belonged to Russia). Under the Vienna "Award" --actually a dictate --(August 30, 1940) Germany and Italy gave to Hungary the north-eastern part of Transylvania, where the majority population was Romanian. Following the Romanian-Bulgarian talks in Craiova, a treaty was signed on September 7, 1940, under which the south of Dobrudja (the Quadrilateral) went to Bulgaria.

The serious crisis in the summer of 1940 led to the abdication of King Carol II in favour of his son Michael I (September 6, 1940); equally, it led to General Ion Antonescu’s take-over of the government (he became a Marshal in October 1941). In an effort to win support from Germany and Italy, Ion Antonescu joined forces in government with the Iron Guard Movement. The Movement attempted by way of the rebellion of January 21 -- 23, 1941 to take over the entire government and, as a result, it was eliminated from politics.

Wishing to get back the territories lost in 1940, Ion Antonescu participated, side by side with Germany, in the war against the Soviet Union (1941 -- 1944). The defeats suffered by the Axis powers led after 1942 to enhanced attempts made by Antonescu’s regime, as well as by the democratic opposition (Iuliu Maniu, C.I.C. Bratianu) to take Romania out of the alliance with Germany. On August 23, 1944, Marshal Ion Antonescu was arrested under the order of King Michael I. The new government, made up of military men and technocrats, declared war on Germany (August 24, 1944) and so, Romania brought her whole economic and military potential into the alliance of the United Nations, until the end of World War II in Europe. Despite the human and economic efforts Romania had made for the cause of the United Nations for nine months, the Peace Treaty of Paris (February 10, 1947) denied Romania the co-belligerent status and forced her to pay huge war reparation payments; but the Treaty recognised the come-back of north-eastern Transylvania to Romania while Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina stayed annexed to the USSR.

On the territory of Romania Soviet troops were stationed and the country was abandoned by the Western powers, so the next stage brought a similar evolution to that of the other satellites of the Soviet Empire. The whole government was forcibly taken over by the communists, the political parties were banned and their members were persecuted and arrested; King Michael I was forced to abdicate and the same day the people’s republic was proclaimed (December 30, 1947). The single-party dictatorship was established, based on an omnipotent and omnipresent surveillance and repression force. The industrial enterprises, the banks and the transportation means were nationalised (1948), agriculture was forcibly collectivised (1949 -- 1962), the whole economy was developed according to five-year plans, the main goal being a Stalinist-type industrialisation. Romania became a founding member of COMECON (1949) and of the Warsaw Treaty (1955).

At the death of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (1965), the communist leader of the post-war epoch, the party leadership, which was later identified with that of the state as well, was monopolised by Nicolae Ceausescu. In a short period of time he managed to concentrate into his own hands (and those of a clan headed by his wife, Elena Ceausescu) all the power levers of the communist party and of the state system. Romania distanced herself from the USSR (this publicly inaugurated in the "Statement" of April 1964); the domestic policy was less rigid and there was some opening in the foreign policy (Romania was the only Warsaw Treaty member-state that did not intervene in Czechoslovakia in 1968); all this, as well as the political capital built on such a less orthodox line were used to consolidate Ceausescu’s own position, to take over the whole power within the party and the state. The dictatorship of the Ceausescu family, one of the most absurd forms of totalitarian government in 20th century Europe, with a personality cult that actually bordered on mental illness, had as a result, among other things, distortions in the economy, the degradation of the social and moral life, the country’s isolation from the international community. The country’s resources were abusively used to build absurdly giant projects devised by the dictator’s megalomania; this also contributed to a dramatic decline of the population’s living standard and the deepening of the regime’s crisis.

Under these circumstances, the spark of the revolt that was stirred in Timisoara on December 16, 1989 rapidly spread all over the country and in December 22 the dictatorship was overthrown owing to the sacrifice of over one thousand lives.

The victory of the revolution opened the way for a re-establishment of democracy, of the pluralist political system, for the return to a market economy and the re-integration of the country in the European economic, political and cultural space.

Source: Government of Romania

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