Romania, republic in southeastern Europe, bounded on the north by Ukraine; on the east by Moldova; on the southeast by the Black Sea; on the south by Bulgaria; on the southwest by Serbia (part of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro); and on the west by Hungary. The total area of Romania is about 237,500 sq km (about 91,699 sq mi). Bucharest is Romania's capital and largest city.
Land and Resources
Romania is roughly oval in shape, with a maximum extent east to west of about 740 km (about 460 mi) and north to south about 475 km (about 295 mi). The topography is varied. The Transylvanian Basin, or Plateau, which occupies central Romania, is very hilly for the most part, but also has wide valleys and extensive arable slopes. The Transylvania region is almost completely surrounded by mountains. To the north and east are the Carpathian Mountains, and along the south are the Transylvanian Alps, which continue south to the Danube gorge as the Banat Mountains. Moldoveanul (2544 m/8395 ft), the highest peak in the country, is in these Alps. A smaller group of ranges, the Bihor Mountains, is west of Transylvania. The remaining areas of Romania are predominantly lowlands. In the west are the lowlands of the Tisza Plain, which are usually referred to as the Banat, adjacent to the Serbian border, and Crisana-Maramures, adjacent to Hungary. The most extensive plains are the lowlands of Walachia, located between the Transylvanian Alps and Bulgaria, and of the region of Moldavia, east of the Carpathian Mountains. Bordering the Black Sea in the extreme east and forming part of Dobruja, or Dobrogea, is a low plateau, which continues south into Bulgaria.
The most important river of Romania is the Danube. It demarcates the eastern part of the boundary with Serbia, and most of the boundary with Bulgaria. The valley of the lower course of the Danube (east of the Iron Gate gorge near Turnu Severin) and the Danube delta are very swampy. Other important rivers, all part of the Danube system, are the Mures, Prut, Olt, and Siret. Romania has many small, freshwater mountain lakes, but the largest lakes are saline lagoons on the coast of the Black Sea; the largest of these is Lake Razelm.
The Transylvanian Basin, the Carpathian Mountains, and the western lowlands have warm summers and cold winters with recorded temperature extremes ranging between 38° C (100° F) and -32° C (-25° F). The Walachian, Moldavian, and Dobrujan lowlands have hotter summers and occasionally experience periods of severe cold in winter; recorded extremes in Bucharest and the lowlands are 39° C (102° F) and -24° C (-11° F). The change from winter to summer is abrupt in much of the country. Rainfall averages 500 mm (about 20 in) on the plains and from 500 mm to 1020 mm (about 20 in to 40 in) on the mountains and is concentrated in the warmer half of the year.
The principal resources of Romania are agricultural, but the country also has significant mineral deposits, particularly petroleum, natural gas, salt, coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, bauxite, chromium, manganese, lead, and zinc.
Plants and Animals
Wooded steppe, now largely cleared for agriculture, dominate the plains of Walachia and Moldavia. Fruit trees are common in the foothills of the mountains. The lower slopes have forests with such deciduous trees as birch, beech, and oak. The forests of the higher altitudes are coniferous, consisting largely of pine and spruce trees. Above the timberline (approximately 1750 m/5740 ft), the flora is alpine.
Wild animal life is abundant in most parts of Romania. The larger animals, found chiefly in the Carpathian Mountains, include the wild boar, wolf, lynx, fox, bear, chamois, roe deer, and goat. In the plains, typical animals are the squirrel, hare, badger, and polecat. Many species of birds are abundant; the Danube delta region, now partly a nature preserve, is a stopover point for migratory birds. Among species of fish found in the rivers and offshore are pike, sturgeon, carp, flounder, herring, salmon, perch, and eel.
The soils in most parts of the country of Romania are fertile. In western Romania, the soil consists largely of the decomposition products of limestone. Chernozem, or black earth, highly suited for growing grain, predominates in the eastern part of the country.
Romanians, who constitute about 78 percent of the total population, are descendants of the peoples inhabiting Dacia (modern Romania) at the time of its conquest (about AD 106) and absorption by the Romans. Important minorities are the Hungarians, who comprise about 11 percent of the population and are chiefly settled in Transylvania; Gypsies, who constitute about 10 percent of the population; and Germans, who make up less than 1 percent of the population and live chiefly in the Banat. Romania also has small numbers of Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, Serbs, Croats, Turks, Bulgarians, Tatars, and Slovaks.
The population of Romania (1995 estimate) is 23,505,000. Population density is about 99 persons per sq km (about 256 per sq mi). The population is about 56 percent urban.
Political Divisions and Principal Cities
For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 40 counties and the municipality of Bucharest. Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania, with a population (1992) of 2,064,474, and it is also the prime industrial and commercial center of the country. Other major cities are Constanta (350,476), the only Romanian port on the Black Sea; Iasi (342,994), a commercial center; Timisoara (334,278), an industrial center; Cluj-Napoca (328,008), a commercial and industrial center; Galati (325,788), a naval and metallurgical center; Brasov (323,835), noted for the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, and metal products; Craiova (303,520), a textile, electrical, and chemical center; and Ploiesti (252,073), hub of the oil industry.
Religion and Language
The largest religious organization of Romania is the Romanian Orthodox Church, to which 70 percent of Romanians adhere. In addition, the country has substantial numbers of Roman Catholics, predominantly the Hungarian and Swabian German minorities of Transylvania and the Banat; Protestants of various denominations; Jews, primarily in Bucharest; and Muslims, mainly among the Tatar and Turkish minorities in the Dobruja region.
The official language is Romanian (see Romanian Language), one of the Romance languages, spoken by nearly all of the population. Other languages spoken include Hungarian, German, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian, and Yiddish.
Primary education in Romania is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15, and most students choose to continue their education beyond the age of 16. Illiteracy has been virtually eliminated. The educational system heavily emphasizes practical and technical studies.
Elementary and Secondary Schools
In the early 1990s some 2.6 million children were enrolled in Romania's 14,000 primary schools, and some 778,000 students attended 1200 secondary schools. In addition, the country had 717 vocational secondary schools with about 375,000 students.
Universities and Colleges
Some 270,000 students annually attended institutions of higher learning in the early 1990s. Romania has eight general universities, including the University of Bucharest (1864), the University of Cluj-Napoca (1919), and the University of Alexandru Ioan Cuza of Iasi (1860). In addition, Romania has eight technological universities.
Romanian culture is largely derived from the Roman, with strains of Slavic, Magyar (Hungarian), Greek, and Turkish influence. Poems, folktales, and folk music have always held a central place in Romanian culture. Romanian literature, art, and music attained maturity in the 19th century. Although Romania has been influenced by divergent Western trends, the culture remains fundamentally indigenous.
Romanian literature is rich and varied and may be roughly divided into five periods. The literature from the 15th to 18th centuries was primarily religious. The dominant literary form in the late 18th century was history, and a number of major works promoted the idea of the Latinity of the origins and language of the Romanian people. In the century before World War I (1914-1918), Romanian literature reached maturity and reflected national unity. A major figure of the period was Vasile Alecsandri, a narrative poet and dramatist. Others whose work had a profound influence on later writers included the romantic poet Mihail Eminescu and Ion Luca Caragiale, a dramatist whose plays satirized the bourgeois life of the late 19th century. During the inter-war period (1918-1939), Romanian literature largely dealt with national themes, and the novel first came into the foreground. The most outstanding novelist was Mihail Sadoveanu. From the late 1940s through the 1980s, while Romania was under Communist control, the literature was characterized by Soviet realism except for a brief period in the late 1960s when cultural controls were relaxed. The Romanian-born playwright Eugène Ionesco became famous after World War II while living in France.
Art and Music
Romanian art, like Romanian literature, reached its peak during the 19th century. Among the leading painters were Theodor Aman, a portraitist, and the landscape painter Nicolae Grigorescu. Romanian art during the period from 1945 to 1990 was dominated by Soviet realism. A notable contribution to modern concepts of 20th century art was the work of the Romanian-born French sculptor Constantin Brancusi.
A number of Romanian musicians achieved international recognition in the 20th century. Most notable among them were Georges Enesco, violinist and composer, who is perhaps best known for his Romanian rhapsodies, and pianist Dinu Lipatti.
Libraries and Museums
The principal libraries are the National Library (1955) and the Library of the Academy of Romania (1867), both in Bucharest. The Art Museum of Romania (1951), in Bucharest, contains fine collections of national, Western, and Oriental art. Many other museums of art are located throughout the country.
Primarily agricultural before World War II, the Romanian economy was subsequently transformed through a series of five-year plans and is now dominated by manufacturing; among the consequences of an emphasis on heavy industry were chronic shortages of consumer goods and severe degradation of the environment. In the late 1980s the gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $151.3 billion, or about $6570 per capita, and was decreasing at about 5.5 percent annually. By 1994 the country's GDP had fallen to $21 billion, or about $893 per capita.
After the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime in December 1989, the domestic economy virtually collapsed, and exports plummeted. Economic reform programs introduced in 1990 called for devaluation of the currency, removal of subsidies on most consumer goods, and privatization of state-owned companies in order to move Romania toward a free-market system. In May 1994 the International Monetary Fund granted a $700 million loan to Romania on the pledge that the country would decrease its inflation rate, at 256 percent in May 1994, to below 100 percent. By early 1995 the inflation rate had been reduced to 60 percent. The privatization process is also important to the country's economic recovery. Since 1992, 863 companies have been privatized.
About 43 percent of the total area of Romania is used for pasturage and cultivation, which in the early 1990s employed about 28 percent of the labor force. Almost 90 percent of the land was worked as collective farms in the mid-1980s. Because of government emphasis on industrial development, agricultural improvements and investments were neglected, and food shortages developed in the 1980s. A new government decollectivization program had returned 46 percent of the agricultural land to original owners or their heirs by 1994.
In the early 1990s the principal crops included corn, with an annual yield of 6.9 million metric tons; wheat and rye, 3.2 million tons; sugar beets, 2.9 million tons; potatoes, 2.6 million tons; grapes, 906,000 tons; and a wide range of other fruits. A drought during this time caused production levels to fall off. Its extensive vineyards make Romania a major wine producer. In the early 1990s Romanian livestock included some 4.4 million cattle, 11 million hogs, 13.9 million sheep, and 106 million poultry.
Forestry and Fishing
Forests, covering approximately 28 percent of the total land area, are state property. Production totaled about 14.8 million cu m (about 522 million cu ft) annually in the early 1990s. The Black Sea and the Danube delta regions are known for their sturgeon catch, and the country undertakes considerable fishing operations in the Atlantic Ocean. In the early 1990s the yearly catch totaled about 124,900 metric tons.
The principal mineral resource of Romania is petroleum. In the early 1990s annual crude-oil production was about 59 million barrels and that of natural gas, about 28.3 billion cu m (about 997 billion cu ft). The leading petroleum center is Ploiesti, and important new deposits were found under the Black Sea in the early 1980s. However, petroleum reserves are being depleted and are expected to be exhausted by the year 2000. The western part of the Transylvanian Alps has deposits of bituminous coal and iron ore, and the country also has scattered lignite deposits. Annual coal production in the early 1990s was about 36.3 million metric tons. Iron-ore production totaled some 1.5 million tons. Large salt deposits in the Carpathians yielded more than 3.3 million tons annually.
Romania pursued a policy of rapid industrialization after World War II, with an emphasis on heavy industry (especially machinery and chemicals) and, to a much lesser extent, on consumer goods. Crude steel production reached about 13.9 million metric tons in the late 1980s, but had declined to 7.1 million tons by the early 1990s, hampered by shortages of electricity and raw materials. Other major manufactures were chemical fertilizers (about 1.1 million metric tons annually); cement (7.4 million tons); radios and televisions; automobiles; processed food; rubber goods; cotton, woolen, and silk fabrics; clothing; footwear; and refrigerators.
In the early 1990s Romania annually produced about 59 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, down from 73.1 billion kilowatt-hours in the late 1980s. Most was generated by hydroelectric facilities, of which the largest is the Iron Gates project (owned jointly with Serbia and Montenegro) on the Danube. Persistent energy shortages in the mid-1980s led to the rationing of electricity. Rationing was also imposed on fossil fuels, which Romania was exporting in order to earn badly needed foreign exchange revenues.
Currency and Banking
The basic monetary unit of Romania is the leu (plural, lei), divided into 100 bani; the leu was devalued in October 1990 to an official rate of 35 equal U.S.$1. Since 1991 its value has been allowed to be set by the open market. In 1995, 1780 lei equaled U.S.$1. The National Bank (1880) is the bank of issue and supervises the financial activities of all state enterprises. Romania also has an agricultural bank, an investment bank, and savings and deposit banks.
From the mid-1940s through the 1980s, foreign trade in Romania was a state monopoly. A program of trade liberalization was instituted among other reforms in 1993 in an attempt to boost a declining economy. Exports were about $11.4 billion per year in the late 1980s; the principal items included fuels, machinery, furniture, textile products, and chemicals. Imports, valued at about $12.5 billion annually, included crude petroleum and industrial equipment. Romania's leading trade partners include the countries of the former Soviet Union, the countries of the European Union (EU), the United States, and Japan. Romania is an associate member of the EU.
Romania has about 11,348 km (about 7052 mi) of railroad track and about 72,816 km (about 45,248 mi) of roads. The principal seaports are Constanta, on the Black Sea, and Galati and Bràila, neighbors on the lower Danube; Giurgiu, which has pipeline connections to the Ploiesti oil fields, is an important river port. A canal, opened in 1984, links Constanta with Cernavodà, a Danube River port. Another canal, completed in 1992, connects the Main and Danube rivers and allows transport from the Black Sea to the North Sea via the Rhine River. The merchant fleet has a total displacement of about 5.8 million deadweight tons. The state airline TAROM and the independent airline LAR link Bucharest with other Romanian and foreign cities.
Postal, telegraph, and telephone services in Romania are state owned. In the early 1990s the country had some 2.4 million telephone subscribers. In addition, about 4.6 million radios and 4.6 million televisions were in use. The Romanian press is highly regionalized, with newspapers and periodicals appearing in all administrative districts. Many are published in the languages of the various nationalities living in the country. Following the fall of the Ceausescu regime in 1989, the number of daily newspapers increased from 36 to 65.
In the early 1990s the Romanian work force numbered about 10.8 million people. About 22 percent of them were members of seven principal workers' organizations.
Romania is governed according to a constitution approved by popular referendum in December 1991. The constitution declares Romania to be a parliamentary republic and guarantees human rights, a free-market economy, and a multiparty system.
Executive and Legislature
Under the 1991 constitution, Romania's president is head of state. The president is elected by the voters to a four-year term and is assisted by a prime minister, whom he or she appoints. The bicameral National Assembly is the country's legislature. The lower house, or Chamber of Deputies, has 341 seats, including 13 guaranteed to ethnic minorities; the upper house, or Senate, has 143 seats. All members are elected to four-year terms.
The Supreme Court is Romania's highest judicial authority, and its members supervise the lower courts. Lesser courts include the Court of Appeals, and the county and local courts. A Constitutional Court handles all issues pertaining to the constitution. A Procurer-General, the most senior legal figure in Romania, is appointed by parliament.
Between 1948 and 1989, the only legal political organization in Romania was the Communist party. Led by Nicolae Ceausescu beginning in 1965, it controlled all aspects of government.
After Ceausescu's fall and the dissolution of the Communist party, a great number of new parties were formed. In the early 1990s about 200 parties were registered, only a small number of which play a significant national role. Following the elections of 1992, the Romanian Party of Social Democracy (PDSR) governed in a coalition with the Romanian National Unity Party (PUNR). The main opposition grouping, known collectively as the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), includes the Civic Alliance party (PAC), the National Peasant's Christian and Democratic party (PNTCD), the Democratic party (PD-FSN), the National Liberal party (PNL), and the Romanian Democratic Agrarian party (PDAR). The Hungarian minority is represented by the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). The smallest of Romania's important parties are the Greater Romania Party (PRM), a nationalist party, and the Labor Socialist party (PSM).
A reorganization of local government in 1968 divided Romania into 39 (now 40) districts plus the city of Bucharest.
Health and Welfare
The Romanian government oversees a social insurance system that includes medical care, vacations at health resorts, family allowances, and retirement pensions. Although official statistics credited Romania with 41,813 physicians (about 1 per 555 people) and 215,800 hospital beds (about 1 per 108 people) in 1990, conditions in hospitals, orphanages, and mental institutions were often unsanitary and inadequate. Contraception and abortion, which were outlawed by the Ceausescu regime in an effort to increase the birth rate, were made legal after the December 1989 uprising.
Military service is compulsory for all men for a period of 12 months in the army or air force or 18 months in the navy. In the early 1990s the armed forces numbered 203,100, of whom 161,000 were in the army, about 19,000 in the navy, and 23,100 in the air force. The Securitate, a well-armed secret police force loyal to Ceausescu, was subordinated to the army after the 1989 uprising. In 1994 Romania joined the Partnership for Peace program as a precursor to joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The territory that is modern Romania first appeared in history as the greater part of the Roman province of Dacia, conquered by Emperor Trajan in about AD 106. Most of its inhabitants, known as the Daci, had originally emigrated from Thrace in northern Greece. Roman colonists were sent into the province, and Rome developed the area considerably, building roads, bridges, and a great wall, the ruins of which are still visible from the present Black Sea port of Constanta across the Dobruja (Dobrogea) region to the Danube River. During the 3rd century AD, raids by the Goths became so grave a menace that the Roman legions were withdrawn across the Danube. While successive waves of invaders, including Goths, Huns, Slavs, and Bulgars, made Dacia a battleground, the Romanized population preserved a Latin speech and identity. Gradually, through intermarriage and assimilation with Slavonic tribes, these people developed into a distinct ethnic group, called Walachians or, in Slavonic, Vlachs, whose nomadic and warlike customs became a constant threat to the neighboring Byzantine Empire. Under Bulgarian rule, in the 9th century, the Orthodox form of Christianity was introduced.
About the end of the 13th century Hungarian expansion by Magyars drove many of the people from the western provinces to settle south and east of the Carpathians. Here they established the principalities of Walachia and later that of Moldavia, each ruled by native princes, or voivodes (Russian voevoda, "leader of an army"), many of whom acknowledged the suzerainty of the kings of Hungary or Poland. With the defeat of the Hungarians by the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Moldavia and Walachia came under Turkish rule, which lasted for three centuries. At the close of the 16th century Moldavia, Transylvania, and Walachia were temporarily united by Prince Michael of Walachia, who made continual war on the Turkish sultan in an attempt to gain and maintain independence. For a time Michael successfully opposed the Ottomans; he conquered Transylvania in 1599 and Moldavia in 1600, but he was assassinated the following year, and the spirit of independence waned.
The Ottomans restored their control of the principalities after Michael's death, imposing severe political restrictions. Finally the Romanians turned to Russia, which announced its intent to protect fellow Orthodox Christians, for help. In an attempt to fend off the growing influence of Russia in the early 18th century, the Ottoman government established the Phanariot system. Moldavia and Walachia were ruled through Turkish-appointed hospodars (Old Slav gospodî, "lord"), usually members of Greek families from the Phanar district of Constantinople. Many Romanian boyars, or nobles, allied themselves with ruling Greek families, and Greek became the official language.
Russian influence became preeminent after 1750 and remained so for a century. In 1774 Russia defeated Turkey, which was then forced to promise lenient treatment of Moldavia and Walachia. In 1802 Russia obtained a voice in the appointment of hospodars, and in 1812, having again defeated Turkey in the Russo-Turkish War of 1806 to 1812, obtained Bessarabia, which had previously been part of the principality of Moldavia. The weakening of Turkish influence became more evident after the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. By the Treaty of Adrianople, which ended the Greek war in 1829, Moldavia and Walachia, although remaining nominally under Turkish control, became more autonomous. The Phanariot system was ended, and Russia became the unacknowledged suzerain of the two states, a situation disapproved of by the great European powers, which had begun to intervene in Balkan affairs during the Greek war.
Unification and Independence
After the Russian defeat in the Crimean War (1853-1856), the powers ended the Russian protectorate and returned part of Bessarabia to Moldavia. Under the joint control of France, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Turkey, the question of union became a major concern. It was resolved by Walachia and Moldavia themselves when, in 1859, Colonel Alexandru Ion Cuza was elected as the common prince. In 1861 the two states were united and recognized by the Turkish sultan as the autonomous principality of Romania. A single ministry and legislature were established at Bucharest.
Prince Alexandru Ion I was deposed by a conspiracy in 1866. A provisional government then elected Prince Karl Eitel Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who took office as Carol I and was invested as hereditary prince by the sultan. A constitution based on the Belgian charter of 1831 was adopted on his arrival. Carol entered the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 and 1878 as a Russian ally and proclaimed the complete independence of Romania. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 recognized Romanian independence, but Romania was forced to restore its part of Bessarabia to Russia.
In 1881 Carol was crowned king and Romania proclaimed itself a kingdom. Neutral during the First Balkan War against Turkey in 1912, Romania joined Serbia and Greece in the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria in 1913. By the Treaty of Bucharest on August 10, 1913, Romania obtained the southern Dobruja region, which its army had occupied, and thus became the largest Balkan power.
World War I
When World War I began in 1914, Carol declared Romania neutral, despite his friendship with Austria. The king's death, in October 1914, placed his nephew Ferdinand I on the throne. The kingdom was officially neutral until 1916, when Romanian forces invaded Hungarian Transylvania, but Austro-German and Bulgarian armies shattered Romanian power in less than six months and by the end of January 1917 controlled most of the country. With the triumph of the Allies in November 1918, however, Romania reentered the war on November 10 and reoccupied Transylvania and other territories. By the Treaty of Saint Germain (with Austria) and the Treaty of Trianon (with Hungary), Romania was awarded sovereignty over most of Bukovina, all of Transylvania, a strip of the Hungarian plain west of the Transylvanian uplands (Crisana-Maramures), and the eastern portion of the Banat, a total of 133,765 sq km (51,647 sq mi). Romania also occupied Bessarabia and was confirmed in its position there by the Allies, although Russia refused to acknowledge Romanian sovereignty of the area. As a result of the postwar settlements, Romania more than doubled its area.
After World War I the Romanian government struggled with domestic problems of constitutional reform, agrarian reform, and lagging economic reconstruction. The Liberal party was in power, led by Ion Bràtianu, who from 1922 to 1926, and again in 1927, was virtually dictator. A new constitution was adopted in 1923; one of its provisions was the political emancipation of the Jews. Peasant opposition to the Liberal government and the regime's dictatorial policies caused almost constant political discord, however. In foreign relations, dissension continued with the USSR concerning the ownership of Bessarabia. In 1925 the crown prince renounced his right to the throne, preferring to live in exile with his mistress, Magda Lupescu; his son Michael was declared heir-apparent and succeeded to the throne in 1927, with his uncle as regent.
In 1928 opposition to the policies of Bràtianu resulted in the rise to power of the National Peasants' party, under the leadership of Iuliu Maniu. Maniu became premier in 1928 and supported the exiled crown prince, who returned to Bucharest in 1930 as King Carol II, despite bitter opposition by the Liberals. Economic conditions within Romania became increasingly grave. Political dissension was heightened by the growth of a native Romanian Fascist party, the so-called Iron Guard, under Corneliu Zelea-Codreanu. A growing tendency toward fascism in government was evidenced by severe anti-Jewish laws, rigid censorship, and attempts by King Carol to make himself dictator, in which he ultimately succeeded (1938).
World War II
Although Romania was initially neutral in World War II (1939-1945), its internal policies aligned it with the Axis powers and led to a policy of friendship toward Germany. In June 1940, without opposition from Germany, with which it had signed a nonaggression pact in August 1939, the Soviet Union occupied Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. On August 20, at the demand of Germany and Italy, Romania ceded 44,988 sq km (17,370 sq mi) of northern Transylvania to Hungary, and on September 7, southern Dobruja was ceded to Bulgaria. The German army occupied Romania under the pretext of protecting the oil fields from British attack. In the ensuing unrest Carol named General Ion Antonescu, a sympathizer with the Iron Guard, as dictator. The king was forced to abdicate on September 6, 1940, and he left the country. Carol's successor, Michael, was king only in name, the real power being held by General Antonescu and the Iron Guard. Popular riots were met with massacres.
Romania, led by Antonescu, entered World War II in June 1941 by attacking the Soviet Union at the same time as Germany did. Romanian troops reoccupied Bessarabia and Bukovina and by October 1941 had penetrated as far as Odesa, now in Ukraine. In December the kingdom declared war on the United States. Opposition to Antonescu and political unrest continued, led on one hand by the anti-German Iron Guard and on the other by the National Peasants' party. The swift Soviet advance in the spring of 1944 brought their army back to Bessarabia and Bukovina and deep into Romanian territory. Aided by the imminent arrival of Soviet troops, King Michael and several loyal generals led a coup on the night of August 23, arrested Antonescu and his cabinet, and announced the surrender of Romania. On September 12, the Soviet Union signed an armistice with Romania in Moscow.
The Democratic Front party, approved by the USSR, took over Romanian administration as a coalition of Communist, Liberal, and National Peasants' parties. Gradually the Communist party acquired supreme control. In March 1945 a coalition cabinet was formed under Petru Groza, leader of the Plowmen's party (a splinter group of the National Peasants), with the key positions held by Communists. In January 1946, at the request of the Council of Foreign Ministers (Great Britain, United States, USSR), two opposition members were added, but they had little voice. On official pledges by the Romanian government that free elections would be held, the United States and Great Britain recognized the government on February 5.
The results of the election on November 19, 1946, were declared fraudulent by the various opposition parties, who received a total of 66 out of 414 seats. On December 30, 1947, King Michael abdicated under Communist pressure, and the government at once proclaimed Romania a people's republic and vested supreme authority in a five-member state council. A new constitution was adopted on April 13, 1948, based on that of the USSR.
By the peace treaty signed in Paris on February 10, 1947, between Romania and the Allies, northern Transylvania was returned to Romania, and the other land transfers of 1940 were validated. Reparations to the Soviet Union of $300 million in raw materials, machinery, sea and river craft, and other commodities were designed to be paid within eight years but were reduced by half in 1948. The peace treaty also limited the strength of the Romanian armed forces and stipulated that the Romanian people should enjoy all personal liberties.
The reorganization of Romanian cultural institutions to conform with Soviet models was the chief domestic development during 1948 and 1949. The process of Sovietization included frequent purges of dissidents, and twice in 1949 the United States and Great Britain accused Romania of systematic violation of human rights guarantees in the peace treaty. In November 1950 the charge was upheld by the United Nations General Assembly.
New constitutions were adopted in 1952 and 1965, but the Soviet pattern of government was followed in each change. Throughout the postwar period Romanian leadership remained stable. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, secretary of the Communist party since 1945, became premier in 1952. He turned the latter office over to Chivu Stoica in 1955. Petru Groza, who had assumed the largely ceremonial office of president in 1952, died in 1958 and was succeeded by Ion Gheorghe Maurer, who in turn became premier in 1961, Gheorghiu-Dej assuming the presidency. At the latter's death in 1965, Stoica assumed the presidency, and Nicolae Ceausescu became party secretary. Ceausescu, Maurer, and Stoica functioned as a collective leadership, but Ceausescu was the dominant figure, becoming president in 1967.
Throughout the 1950s the government emphasized the nationalization and development of industry. This effort proved highly successful, and in the 1960s the official estimates of the national industrial growth rate averaged about 12 percent annuallyamong the highest in Eastern Europe. Agricultural collectivization was begun in July 1949, and in 1962 the government announced that all arable land had been absorbed into the socialized sector. Farmers were permitted, however, to retain half-acre plots for private use.
In the early postwar years, under Soviet domination, Romania cooperated fully in such Communist organizations as Cominform, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, known as COMECON, or CMEA, and, after 1955, the Warsaw Pact. From the early 1960s on, however, Romania began to exercise a considerable degree of independence. In 1963 the government rejected COMECON plans for the integration of the economies of the Communist states, chiefly because the plans restricted Romania to a role as supplier of oil, grains, and primary materials. Romanians thought these plans would hinder their rate of industrial growth, which had been higher in the past several years than that of any other satellite country. Romanian protests gained some concessions in the form of Soviet aid for the development of a major steel plant at Galati. The government nevertheless issued a so-called declaration of independence from COMECON proposals in 1964.
While the USSR and the Eastern European states were the primary Romanian trade partners in the 1960s, trade and diplomatic relations with the non-Communist world improved steadily. In January 1967 Romania became the only Communist nation other than the USSR to establish full diplomatic relations with West Germany (which united with East Germany in 1990 to form the Federal Republic of Germany), and at about the same time the first Communist nation to open consular relations with Spain. Trade with the Soviet Union, which had accounted for more than 50 percent of Romanian foreign trade in the late 1950s, was reduced to an estimated 30 percent in 1967.
In 1964 Premier Maurer visited Beijing and Moscow in an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the two Communist powers. Thereafter, Romanian foreign policy indicated continuing independence. Ceausescu urged the withdrawal of Soviet troops from East Germany, Poland, and Hungary. Also, in the face of Soviet attempts to strengthen the Warsaw Pact, Ceausescu suggested the abolition of the Warsaw Pact and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He refused to participate in the pact maneuvers. In mid-1967 Romania boycotted a conference of Communist countries called by the USSR, chiefly to criticize United States activity in Vietnam. When the Warsaw Pact nations, led by the Soviet Union, invaded Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia) in August 1968, Romania took a strongly anti-Soviet stand.
The 1970s and 1980s
Romania continued to pursue a nonaligned foreign policy, despite the disapproval of the Soviet bloc. It actively increased its contacts with the West. After a visit from United States President Richard Nixon in 1969, it sent President Ceausescu several times to the United States; his missions resulted in the United States granting Romania "most-favored-nation" status in 1975 and a ten-year economic pact in 1976. Romania joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1972 and in 1976 signed the first formal pact (on textiles) between the European Economic Community and an East European state. As head of the only East European nation to recognize both Israel and Egypt, Ceausescu helped arrange Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat's historic peacemaking visit to Israel in 1977.
Romania signed a friendship treaty with the USSR in 1970, received Soviet Communist party chief Leonid I. Brezhnev in 1976, and sent Ceausescu to the Soviet Union and East Germany. Romania also made a treaty of friendship with Hungary in 1972 and agreements on hydroelectricity with Yugoslavia in 1976 and Bulgaria in 1977. It joined the Communist International Investment Bank in 1971. Taking an unprecedented step outside the Soviet bloc, Ceausescu visited the People's Republic of China in 1971, subsequently signing economic and air transport agreements. In 1980 he refused to endorse the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Accommodating in foreign policy, Ceausescu strictly enforced Communist orthodoxy in domestic affairs. In 1971 he cracked down on all deviation in party, government, and cultural leadership. He was reelected head of state in 1975, and the party and government were reorganized in 1977. Despite enormous damage caused by severe floods in 1970 and 1975 and an earthquake in 1977, the economy grew, especially heavy industry and foreign trade. Real wages rose slowly, and Romania was beset with shortages of food, fuel, and electricity in the 1980s, as Ceausescu used virtually all of Romania's hard currency reserves to pay off the nation's $11-billion foreign debt. Popular resentment of the Communist leadership was aggravated by a forced resettlement program, announced in 1988, that called for the destruction of up to 8000 villages.
The Regime Changes
In 1989, Ceausescu's brutal suppression of antigovernment demonstrations in Timisoara turned the army against him. He was forced to flee Bucharest with his wife, Elena, on December 22, 1989; captured and tried secretly, they were executed on December 25. An interim ruling body, the Council of National Salvation, led by Ion Iliescu, revoked many of Ceausescu's repressive policies and imprisoned some of the leaders of his regime. In May 1990 the National Salvation Front, consisting mostly of former Communists, won multiparty elections for parliament and the presidency, and Iliescu became Romania's president. In June thousands of miners were brought to Bucharest to suppress antigovernment demonstrations. An economic austerity program was introduced in October and a new constitution took effect at the end of 1991. President Iliescu won reelection in October 1992, and in November a new government was formed by independents and members of the Democratic National Salvation Front (DNSF), one of two parties formed by the split of the NSF. In February 1993 thousands of people demonstrated in Bucharest against inflation, unemployment, and low wages. Labor unrest continued throughout the spring after the government removed subsidies for goods and services, and public sector and steel workers demanded higher wages. In February 1994 as many as 2 million workers staged a general strike protesting the lack of economic reform. A motion to impeach President Iliescu was rejected in July 1994.
Romania experienced significant ethnic turmoil in the early 1990s. Anti-Gypsy attacks in 1991 resulted in an exodus of Gypsies to Germany, which in September 1992 returned 43,000 refugees to Romania, more than half of them Gypsies. Relations with Hungary were strained because of clashes in Transylvania between ethnic Hungarians and Romanian nationalists, and during the summer of 1993 Romania granted increased educational and linguistic rights to ethnic Germans and Hungarians within its borders. However, the rights of ethnic minorities in Romania continued to be a problem.
In foreign affairs, Romania signed a treaty of cooperation with Germany
in 1992; strengthened relations with France, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Moldova,
and the Holy See; signed a cooperative defense agreement with Bulgaria;
and signed an association agreement with the European Community (now the
European Union). In June 1993 Romania received a formal invitation for European
Union membership, although full membership was not expected before the year
2000. Post-independence Romania has suffered from interethnic tensions,
particularly with ethnic Hungarians living in the Transylvania region. Some
of these ethnic groups have asked for greater autonomy, provoking responses
from nationalist Romanian groups. In 1995 Romania hosted an international
conference on the status of ethnic minorities in Europe. In 1994 Romania
joined the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO), and in September of that year Romania participated in NATO exercises