Bucharest (Romanian Bucuresti), capital and largest city of Romania, located in the southeastern part of the country. The city is situated about 65 km (about 40 mi) north of the Danube River, near Ploiesti, on the banks of the Dâmbovita River (a tributary of the Danube). Bucharest lies on a generally level plain and, including suburban districts, occupies an area of about 300 sq km (about 117 sq mi).
In 1930 the population of Bucharest was 631,288. By the 1950s, as a result of industrialization and urbanization policies, the population doubled, and it has continued to increase steadily. The population was 2,064,474 in 1992.
The rise in population caused severe housing shortages, and by the mid-1990s housing was still in short supply. Romania's lack of financial resources has prohibited the construction of new apartment buildings; many structures begun before the 1990s are still unfinished.
Bucharest is a major industrial center and the main financial and trade center of Romania. The city accounts for about 20 percent of the country's industrial production. Industries include heavy machinery, aviation, precision machinery, agricultural tools, furniture, electronics, chemicals, textiles, leather goods, wire, soap, cosmetics, and food processing.
The Urban Landscape
The city is divided into two sections by the Dâmbovita River and is crossed by two wide boulevards. Bucharest contains six administrative districts; the adjacent rural area forms a seventh district. Most industrial areas are located in the suburbs, while the city is primarily residential. Bucharest, known as the "Paris of the Balkans" in the early 20th century, was a cosmopolitan city before 1944 when its architecture, city planning, and culture were French-inspired. After a Communist government came to power following World War II (1939-1945), French cultural qualities were ended, although the architecture remains. During the 1980s, under the orders of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, a vast area on the banks of the Dâmbovita was razed, including houses and historical monuments. Buildings of North Korean architectural style were then erected, although many of these structures are still unfinished.
Points of Interest
Noteworthy secular structures include the Palace of Justice (1864), the Stirbey Palace (1835), the National Bank (1885), the Presidential Palace (previously Cotroceni Palace; 17th century with later additions), and the buildings of the Central Library of the University (1893). In the 20th century, the Cantacuzino Palace (1900), the Central Post Palace (1900), the Central Savings Bank (1900), the Royal Palace (1935), the Central Army House (1913), and the Arch of Triumph (1920) were built. Among Bucharest's outstanding religious structures are the Antim Monastery (1715) and the Patriarchate Church (1665). Bucharest has many parks and wooded areas, including Herestrau, a large park with lakes.
Educational and Cultural Institutions
Educational institutions in Bucharest include the University of Bucharest (1869) and the Polytechnic University (1819). The city is also the site of the academies of economics, agriculture, architecture, medicine, and music.
The city has several libraries, including the National Library (1955) and the Library of the Academy of Romania (1867). Other cultural institutions include the Romanian National Museum of Art (1950); the National History Museum of Romania (1968); and the Romanian Athenaeum (1888), the concert hall of the Romanian Philharmonic.
The history of Bucharest is traced to the 15th century. Following the revolt of the vassal principalities of Walachia and Moldavia against their Ottoman conquerors, the Ottomans burned the city in 1595. In 1698 the Ottoman sultan Mustafa II made Bucharest the seat of the Walachian government. Wars routinely erupted among the Ottoman Empire, Austria, and Russia between 1711 and 1829, and Bucharest, geographically in the middle of the conflicts, was periodically occupied and destroyed.
In 1859 Bucharest became the administrative center of the united principalities of Walachia and Moldavia, under Ottoman suzerainty. By the decisions of the Congress of Berlin, which provided for a general settlement of the Balkan situation after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 and 1878 (see Russo-Turkish Wars), Romania was recognized as an independent country with Bucharest as its capital. German troops occupied Bucharest from December 1916 until mid-1918 during World War I. During World War II Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu admitted German troops into Romania in October 1940, and the Germans occupied Bucharest until 1944. Weakened by Romanian insurrection and Allied bombings, the Germans surrendered when Soviet forces entered the city in August. Soviet military occupation lasted until 1958.
In addition to the ravages of several wars, Bucharest has endured epidemics of bubonic plague, fires, and earthquakes. In 1977 an earthquake resulted in the death of more than 1500 people and extensive property damage. Another earthquake occurred in 1990, but caused only minor damage.