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History of Romania

History of Romania: An Overview of the Events That Shaped the Nation

Romania is a land of ancient heritage, and the Romanian civilization is one of the oldest in the world. The history of this country is marked by many tumultuous events. This Historyplex article gives you just a brief outline about the events that shaped Romania as a nation.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: Sep 25, 2017
Romania is located in southeastern Europe, and it shares its boundary with Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the northwest, Moldavia to the east, Bulgaria to the south, Yugoslavia to the southwest, and the Black sea to the southeast.
The Romanian civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in Europe, as human fossils dating back to around 42,000 years were discovered in this country. This points to the fact that the country has been inhabited by people since the prehistoric age.
The Getae Dacian
The oldest written record of people living in the geographical area of the present-day Romania is found in Herodotus's book, where he mentioned the Getae tribes. In Greek writings, the Dacians were referred to as Getae, while the Romans used the names 'Daci' and 'Getae' for them. The Dacians were a part of Thracians, the inhabitants of the area between Northern Carpathian chain and the Balkan mountains.
The Dacian kingdom prospered during the reign of king Burebista. He was a contemporary of Julius Caesar of Rome. Burebista was a powerful king, who conquered many Greek cities like Histria, Tomis, and Callatis, and became the ruler of the entire Thracian-Getae-Dacian world. He challenged the Roman empire by extending his support to Pompey, in the dispute between the latter and Julius Caesar. Pompey was an important military and political figure of the ancient Roman empire.
In the civil war between Pompey and Caesar, Caesar emerged victorious. Caesar planned to attack the Dacian kingdom for supporting his enemy. But the plan could not materialize due to his assassination. A few months after Caesar's death, King Burebista was also assassinated, and the Dacian kingdom lost its former glory and power.
In the 1st century BC, the Roman empire expanded its border, and consequently, Danube became the border between the Roman and the Getae-Dacian kingdom. The Romans waged a war against the Dacians, and after two hard-fought battles (between 101 AD and 106 AD), they succeeded in defeating the Getae-Dacians. Thereafter, the Dacian kingdom became a province of the Roman empire, and was renamed as the Roman Dacia.
The Roman Dacia
The conversion of the Dacian kingdom into a province of the Roman empire brought about a lot of changes in the lives of the native population, mainly in the political, social, and economic field. Due to the influence of the Romans, their culture and language got changed.
During the 3rd century, the Roman troops and administrative bodies left Roman Dacia in the face of possible attacks by the Carpian and the Goth tribes. When the Romans retreated, Dacia was captured by the Goths, and they lived there till the fourth century BC. Later, the Dacian province was seized by the Huns, Gepids, Avars, and Slavs. They ruled Dacia until 8th century. But later, the entire Roman Dacia became a part of the Bulgarian kingdom after it was invaded by the Bulgarians.
Middle Age
In the middle ages, Romanians mainly inhabited Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. During the 10th and 11th centuries, Transylvania became an autonomous part of the Hungarian kingdom. Wallachia and Moldavia came under the control of the Ottoman Empire, and so, they had to make an annual contribution to the Ottomans. In 1526, the Ottomans defeated the Hungarians, and consequently Transylvania became a part of the Ottoman Empire.
An important figure of Romania in the middle ages was Michael, the brave. He was the Prince of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. His main intention was to unite the lands inhabited by the Romanians, and thus create a single country. For this purpose, Michael joined the Christian League, comprising Spain, Austria, Ferrara, and Montua, and won battles against the Turks. For a while, he even succeeded in his mission, i.e., the unification of the Romania.
Stephen, the great was another important king and a superb military leader. He ruled Moldavia between 1457 to 1504, and achieved victory over the Ottomans. He built many churches and monasteries, which are famous for their excellent architecture and painting style. After his death, Moldavia again became a part of the Ottoman Empire.
Early Modern Age
Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia were able to maintain their internal autonomy, and some degree of independence under the Ottoman suzerainty until eighteenth century. In the eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire witnessed a gradual decline, and lost its former power and glory. The rise of the Russian and Austrian empires affected the political scenario of Romania. Transylvania was captured by the Austrians, and later, Bukovina (a part of Moldavia) and Bessarabia also came under the rule of Austria.
In order to suppress the growing desire for freedom in the Romanian principalities, the Ottoman rulers appointed Phanariot princes, (princes from the Phanar district) in Moldavia and Wallachia. This was done with the intention of maintaining Ottoman dominance in those regions, and also to fight battles against the Russians and Austrians. During the reign of the Phanariot princes, many socioeconomic reforms were introduced in Moldavia and Wallachia. These included abolition of serfdom, and other administrative and legal reforms.
Foundation of Modern Romania
The desire of the Romanians to form an independent nation gave birth to many revolutions in the three principalities. Wallachian uprising took place in 1821, but did not succeed. In 1848, the revolution for complete independence took place in the regions of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. On January 24, 1859, Wallachia and Moldavia were united under the rule of Alexandru loan Cuza.
In 1866, Alexandru Cuza was removed from the throne, and Prince Karl of Hohenzollern (Prince Carol of Romania) was appointed in his place. In 1877, during Russian-Turkish war, the Romanian principalities rendered their support to Russia, and fought against the Turks. After the war, Romania declared independence from the Ottoman Empire, and got recognition as an independent state in the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. But in return, Romania had to give up a large portion of Bessebaria to Russia.
Romania during World War I
In 1916, Romania joined World War I as an ally of France, Russia, and United Kingdom on the condition that after the war it would regain its authority over Transylvania. In May 1918, Romania discontinued the war, and signed a treaty with Germany, and again joined the war in October, 1918. By then, the Austrian and Russian empires had collapsed, and hence, Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transylvania were united to the Romanian kingdom. This finally led to the formation of Greater Romania.
Romania during World War II
Initially, Romania did not join World War II. During the war, it lost many regions to other countries, mainly due to the political pressure or influence of Germany and the Soviet Union. The country lost southern Dobruja to Bulgaria, northern Transylvania to Hungary, and Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union.
Romania also witnessed internal disturbances during this period. Since Carol II, the King of Romania lost many territories as a result of unsuccessful diplomacy, the army decided to overthrow his regime. For that purpose, they supported general Ion Antonescu. In fact, they succeeded in bringing down the regime of Carol II. Initially, Antonescu shared power with the Iron Guards, but within a few days he destroyed them and gained control over Romania.
Initially, Romania joined World War II as an ally of Germany. The country played an important role in the war as a source of oil for Germany. The Antonescu regime also took part in the holocaust. In 1944, King Michael I overthrew the Antonescu regime, and Romania changed its side in the war and rejoined as an ally of United Kingdom, America, and the Soviet Union. After the war, Romania reclaimed its control over northern Transylvania.
Communist Period
In 1947, Romania came under the direct control of the Soviet Union, and as a result, communism was established in the country. The Russians controlled Romania till 1958. During this period, a huge amount of resources were pulled out of the country, and used in the interest of the Soviet Union. In 1958, the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Romania, and with that, Nicolae Ceausescu became the new leader of Romania to led a communist regime in the country.
Establishment of Democracy
Between 1977 and 1981, Romania's economic condition started to deteriorate, and its foreign debt increased to a large extent. In order to repay such a huge amount of debt, Nicolae Ceausescu introduced many policies, which further worsened the condition of the economy. Gradually, the regime became harsh and rigid, and started harassing the citizens for political and economic reasons.
As a result, the Romanian revolution took place in 1989, which brought an end to the communist regime. Ion Iliescu became the leader of the ruling coalition, know as the 'National Salvation Front', and thus democracy was established in the country. With the end the communist rule, many democratic and free market policies were introduced in the country. Romania became the associated member of the European union in 1995, and finally became a member on January 1, 2007.
No doubt that Romania witnessed many unrest and revolutions. In fact, its history is one the most turbulent, yet captivating histories of the world. Despite going through many upheavals, the Romanians have finally succeeded in restoring democracy, stability, and peace and order in their country. Today, the country's economy is growing rapidly. In fact, Romania is presently one of the fastest growing economies of the European Union.
Statue of Saint Stephen in Budapest
Michael the Brave statue
Antique map
Old romanian stamp
Beautiful Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania