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Emergence of the Nation.

 The first known inhabitants of present-day Romania


were called Dacians. They were conquered by the Roman Empire in
106 C.E. Roman domination of the region lasted only until 271 but had a
formative and long-lasting influence. Many Romans stayed and intermarried with
the Dacians, helping to shape the customs and language of the region.

From the 200s through the 1100s, there was a series of invasions by various
tribes from the north, including the Magyars and the Saxons. The northern region
developed into a principality called Transylvania, the south into a principality
called Walachia, and the east into Moldavia. Throughout the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, Walachia and Moldavia battled repeated invasions by the
Ottoman Empire. They eventually succumbed around 1500 and spent more than
three hundred years under Turkish rule. In 1601, the principalities of Moldavia,
Walachia, and Transylvania were united for the first time under Prince Michael
the Brave. During Michael's reign, Romania maintained a degree of sovereignty,
but after his death, the Turks again dominated the region. They ruled through
Greek officials who abused their power to exploit the peasants.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Ottoman Empire was weakened by a series
of defeats to the Russians. In 1821, an uprising in Walachia against the Greek
rulers ended in the execution of the Romanian leader Tudor Vladimirescu, which
further fanned desires for independence. The 1829 Treaty of Adrianpolie
replaced Greek rule with Russian. In 1834, the Russians withdrew. In 1859,
Prince Alexander Cuza was elected ruler of a united Moldavia and Walachia;
three years later, the country was renamed Romania (then spelled Rumania).
Cuza attempted to redistribute land and improve the living conditions of the poor,
but those policies were unpopular with the upper class; in 1866, Cuza was forced
to resign and was replaced by Prince Carol. In 1877, Carol led a successful joint
revolt of Romanian and Russian troops against the Turks. The Congress of Berlin
of 1879 marked the end of Turkish domination. Romania became a kingdom in
1881, and Prince Carol was crowned king.

Despite the nation's independence, the situation of the majority of the people
remained unchanged. In 1907, increasing discontentment gave rise to a peasant
revolt, in which the country estates of the nobility were burned. The army
suppressed the uprising, killing ten thousand people.

In 1914, King Carol died and Ferdinand I took his place. Two years later,
Romania entered World War I, joining the Allies in their fight against the Axis
powers (Austria-Hungary and Germany in particular). After the war, the Trianon
Treaty doubled the size of the country, uniting Moldavia and Walachia with
Transylvania, Banat, Bessarabia (present-day Moldova), and Bucovina (today in
southern Ukraine). In the years after World War I, a fascist movement called the
Iron Guard won a large following in response to threats from the communist
Soviet Union and rising unemployment.

Ferdinand died in 1927 and was succeeded by his son, Carol II, in 1930. Carol II
resorted to military suppression of the opposition. In 1938 he outlawed political
parties, and the head of the Iron Guard was executed.

At the outbreak of World War II, Carol II was forced to give up significant
portions of the country to Russia and Hungary. His son Michael took the throne
in 1940, but the real power fell to Marshal Ion Antonescu. In an effort to recoup
Soviet-occupied territories, the country aligned itself with the German forces,
participating in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

In August 1944, King Michael took power back from Antonescu. Romania
joined the Allied forces but was soon occupied by Russia. After the war ended in
1945, most of the occupied territories were returned, but the Russian communists
retained control. They abolished the monarchy in 1947, replacing King Michael
with a puppet government under the leadership of Petru Groza. Business and
industry were nationalized, and farmland was taken from the peasants and
reorganized into government-run collectives. The communist leadership also
imposed harsh penalties for expressing opposition to the government,
imprisoning dissidents or putting them to work in extremely dangerous labor
projects. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej served as chief of state throughout the 1950s
and was responsible for many of the Stalinist policies. In the early 1960s, he
worked to distance Romania more from Soviet influence.

In 1965, Nicolae Ceausescu assumed the presidency and presented a new


constitution. He initiated large-scale development projects, mainly with money
borrowed from other countries. Many of those projects failed, sinking the country
into debt that Ceaucescu attempted to pay off by exporting virtually everything
the country produced, leading to severe shortages of food and fuel. The secret
police kept the people in line through terror while Ceaucescu and his family, who
controlled most of the government, continued to plunder the country for personal
gain.

In the 1980s, worsening food shortages, along with the toppling of other
communist regimes in Eastern Europe, stirred unrest. Protests in 1987 were put
down with a combination of military force and extra food distribution. In
December 1989, protests in the city of Timisoara were met with gunfire, and
hundreds of citizens died. Other protests broke out across the country, and the
situation escalated until troops refused to follow orders and joined the protesters.
Ceaucescu and his wife attempted to flee the country but were halted by the army
and brought to trial. Both were found guilty of murder and put to death by firing
squad on Christmas Day 1989.

A party called the National Salvation Front assumed power, and in 1990 free
elections were held. Ion Iliescu, the leader of the National Salvation Front and a
former Communist Party member, won the presidency, and a new constitution
was adopted in 1991. Iliescu put down student protests against the government
by calling in twenty thousand coal miners to create a counter demonstration and
later used the same tactic to force Petre Roman, a liberal prime minister, from
office. Despite widespread dissatisfaction with Iliescu's leadership, he won
reelection in October 1992. Four years later, voters replaced him with the reform-
touting Emil Constantinescu of the Democratic Convention of Romania. Despite
positive changes during his term, the December 2000 elections were a contest
between Iliescu and Corneliu Vadim Tudor of the right-wing Greater Romania
Party, who espoused a hard-line fascist ideology. Iliescu won the vote of a
disillusioned, bitter, and frightened populace.

National Identity. The majority of residents share a common culture and history


dating back to the Dacians. National identity is informed by pride in the country's
resilience and ability to withstand attacks from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and
the Turks and later from the Soviet Union. Many Hungarians living in
Transylvania consider themselves more Hungarian than Romanian, and some
consider the region a part of Hungary.

Ethnic Relations. Transylvania was once under Hungarian control, and parts of


the region still have an ethnic Hungarian majority. Relations between Hungarians
and Romanians are tense and have resulted in political conflict and occasional
violence. In 1976, the communist government outlawed the use of the Hungarian
language in education and the media in what it claimed was an effort to
assimilate minorities into the national culture. Since 1989, the government has
softened its stance, but discrimination still exists.

Romania has one of the world's largest populations of Roma. The Roma have a
long history of persecution throughout Europe and still face discrimination. They
have high rates of poverty, unemployment, and malnutrition, and many have left
in an attempt to better their conditions.

During World War II, Jews were persecuted by both the government and the
German military, and many were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Most of
those remaining emigrated to Israel after World War II. Today, most of the
country's Jews are concentrated in northern Moldavia and Bucharest.