The oldest archaeological finds in Romania can be dated to older Paleolithic. During the 5000–3000 languages BC the early agricultural cultures replaced each other (compare Starčevo, band ceramic culture and Cucuteni). Transylvania with its metallurgical centers came to play an important role in cultural development in Central Europe during the Middle and Middle Bronze Age.
A strong influence from the steppe areas is evident in older Hallstatt culture, and from about 500 BC. parts of Dobrogea are part of the Scythian cultural area. Hallstattiden’s find material is rich, although it cannot compete with it south of the Danube.
Since the Greeks built a number of colonies on the Black Sea coast, the Greek cultural influence becomes very strong. Latin times (from about 500 BC) are characterized by a rich culture, attributed to the Thracian goats, also characterized by a high level metallurgy. Monumental architecture and coinage show significant social and economic complexity. Concerning Romanian history during Roman times, see Dacia. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Romania.
From the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 19th century
The Romans settled in the 270s AD. back from most of present Romania but stayed in Dobrogea. Subsequently, parts of the area were dominated by a number of immigrant peoples: Goths (to the 370s), females (to 454), cheetahs (to 567), Avars (to the 700s) and then Bulgarians and slaves. However, the Dako-Roman population seems to have retained its language, which under Slavic influence developed into Romanian, although the Latin identity cannot be plotted in preserved sources (compare Romanian). When the group shows up in medieval sources, its members are called vlacher. They were Orthodox Christians, and their main industry was sheep farming with elements of agriculture. According to some scholars, they would have left present Romania in the early Middle Ages to return during the High Middle Ages, but most now accept the view that the people lived in Romania under the sovereignty of foreign rulers.
Today Romania was not a unit in the Middle Ages, but several people shared the area between them. From the east came nomads (Petjeneger in the 900s and 1000s, Kumans in the 1100s and 1200s, Mongols in the 13th century), from the west expanded Hungary, which already around 1000 had subjugated Transylvania (Siebenbürgen). In the 1100s and 1200s, large parts of Transylvania were colonized by Hungarians and Germans, and the Romanian peasants were dominated by a foreign nobility. On the other hand, the Carpathians arose a Romanian landowner class. During the first half of the 1300s, two principalities were developed here, Valakiet and Moldova, who were forced to fight Hungary’s progress. In addition, Valakia was threatened by the Ottoman Turks, and in the north Moldova was threatened by Poland. During the 15th century, Turkish influence increased, and the first half of the 16th century were both rich Turkish sound states. After Hungary’s defeat to the Ottomans in 1526, Transylvania became independent, but by 1541 the Turks had established their supremacy there as well.
The Turks ruled current Romania only indirectly. The three principalities retained their native rulers (so-called vojvoids or hospodars), who were chosen by the Turks from among the princes. The old nobility retained its power over the peasants. Transylvania had the greatest autonomy, which in the 1600s served as a buffer state against Austria. The Germans and Hungarians were Protestants, while the Romanians remained Orthodox. During the second half of the 17th century, Transylvania was weakened, and in the wars of the 1680s and 1990s the area moved to Austria. Even in Moldova and Valakiet, the local rulers weakened in the 1710s by the Ottomans transferring power to so-called fanatics, that is, Greeks (or Greek people) with great political and economic influence. During the 18th century, Russia’s influence also increased, and in 1774 Russia achieved major Turkish concessions. In 1775, Turkey left northwest Moldova (Bukovina) to Austria, and in 1812 a large part of eastern and northern Moldova (Bessarabia) left Russia.
End of the fanatic empire
In 1821, the fanatic invaded Alexander Ypsilantis Moldova, inviting all Christians to revolt against the Turks. The call did not receive any response from the Romanians, who instead, under the leadership of the anti-fanatical Tudor Vladimirescu (c. 1780-1821) started their own rebellion against the Turks because of their demands for grain deliveries. After Ypsilanti had Vladimirescu executed, the latter’s rebellion was defeated by the Turks. By an agreement with the Turks, the Greeks were now excluded from all ecclesiastical and civil offices, including the hospoders.
After Turkey and Russia again went to war, Russia introduced military rule in both Moldova and Valakia in 1828–29. Through the Edirne Treaty of 1829, Turkey was forced to surrender the border areas of Brăila, Turnu and Giurgiu to Valakiet. Free trade and shipping as well as continued autonomy would apply to the areas. During the Russian occupation, identical constitutions were developed for the two principalities, which reflected modern principles of division of power. Ownership of the land was regulated, and large goods focused on grain exports were formed through the acquisition of land and new cultivation. An attempt to unify the Principality in 1848 was defeated by Turkey, after Russia refused its support.
At the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853, Moldova was invaded by Russian troops. They were expelled in 1854, after which the great powers approved the statutes of the United Principals of Moldova and Valakiet. The two newly elected parliaments elected in 1859 in contravention of the statutes of the same prince, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, and the union was thus de facto implemented, from 1861 also de jure, when the name Romania was adopted.
The United Principals (1861–81)
Cuza introduced a modern legal system and free education. Under opposition from the church and landlords, Cuza began extensive land reforms. He was overthrown, for example, in 1866, and the German prince Karl of the Hohenzollern – Sigmaringen was elected Romanian prince by the name of Carol I. The French-friendly bourgeoisie attempted during the French-German war of 1870-71 to carry out a coup against the German-born prince, but it was interrupted by the Conservative leader Lascăr Catargiu. An expansion of the railway system was begun, at the same time as the Principality signed its own trade agreements with the great powers despite protests from Turkey, whose vassal state of Romania was still. During the Russian-Turkish War of 1877–78, Romania, with Liberal Ion Brătianu, stood as Prime Minister of Russia. After the Berlin Congress (1878), Romania was recognized as an independent kingdom in 1880, and Carol I was crowned in 1881.
The Kingdom (1881–1947)
Now an administrative and military modernization followed the German pattern. Although political life on the surface resembled Western Europe, there were the typical Balkan features of client systems and nepotism both in the conservatives, supported by the church and landowners, and by the liberals, supported by businessmen and officials. The Liberals sought to carry out a protectionist policy towards Austria-Hungary, which led to a trade war in 1886-93. At the same time, foreign capital stimulated the growth of the petroleum industry in the Cîmpina-Ploiești area. Otherwise, the industry was poorly developed, which was reflected in the poor political significance of the Social Democratic Party formed in 1893. The great social problem constituted the landless population. Just as the graded voting system gave 0, 2 percent of the voting 41 percent of the seats in Parliament, 6,500 landowners and large farmers owned half of all land. While these were oriented towards a global market for cereals, food shortages were occurring in Romania. The contradictions exploded in a peasant uprising in 1907, which also had anti-Semitic elements. In the uprising, 10,000 to 12,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives. It was brutally defeated after the Conservative government was replaced by a liberal, while Parliament felt compelled to implement some reforms. However, the galloping population growth led to a continued famine. which also had anti-Semitic features. In the uprising, 10,000 to 12,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives. It was brutally defeated after the Conservative government was replaced by a liberal, while Parliament felt compelled to implement some reforms. However, the galloping population growth led to a continued famine. which also had anti-Semitic features. In the uprising, 10,000 to 12,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives. It was brutally defeated after the Conservative government was replaced by a Liberal, while Parliament felt compelled to implement some reforms. However, the galloping population growth led to a continued famine.
Foreign policy Romania initially sought the triple alliance through a secret agreement in 1883, but because of Austria-Hungary’s Bulgaria-friendly policy and the contradictions with Hungary on Transylvania, in 1916 Romania under King Ferdinand I was brought into the war on the entente side. Despite military defeats, Romania suffered post-war Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina. Romania’s acquisition of southern Dobrogea during the Balkan War was also acknowledged.
In the new Greater Romania, the population consisted of about 30 percent of minorities, whose rights were formally guaranteed in the Constitution in 1923. The critical situation during the First World War had forced the government to introduce universal suffrage for men. Together with land reform, it contributed to a significant reduction in the political power of the Conservatives. The liberals of the Brătianu clan sought to stimulate industrial and financial development while combating the labor movement and separatist movements. In 1918 Romania received a peasant party under the leadership of Ion Mihalache (1882–1963). As Minister of Agriculture, he prepared a comprehensive program of further expropriations of land and formation of peasant cooperatives and agricultural funds, but was dismissed by King Ferdinand I. The party merged with the Romanian National Party in Transylvania in 1926 and formed the National Peasant Party under Iuliu Maniu. Instead, the agrarian reforms were implemented by General Alexandru Averescu. Several different fascist organizations were formed. The so-called Järngardet under Corneliu Codreanu (1899-1938) carried out anti-Semitic campaigns in, among others, Bessarabia, where Codreanu was elected deputy. When the movement was banned in 1933, Prime Minister Ion G. Duca (1879-1933) was assassinated. In the 1937 election, Järngardet became the third largest party under the name Everything for the motherland. King Carol II took power in 1938 and dissolved all parties.
At the same time as land reforms had a limited effect (in 1930, 6,700 landowners owned 24 percent of the land, while 2.5 million farmers split 28 percent), export-oriented agriculture accounted for 38 percent of national income. Although industrial production doubled between 1923 and 1938, its share was only 30 percent of national income. By nationalizing the German proportions after the First World War, the state owned 60 percent of the oil industry and, through extensive military upgrading, was the metal industry’s largest investor and customer.
Foreign policy and economics sought Romania to approach Germany with the maintenance of its old relations with the Western powers. In 1940, the country was forced to start supplying oil to the German armed forces, while the Soviet Union occupied Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. As a result, and through further land extensions to Hungary (much of Transylvania) and Bulgaria (southern Dobrogea), Romania lost a total of 40 percent of its territory. Carol II was forced to abdicate in favor of son Mikael, while General Ion Antonescubecame the country’s true leader and in 1941 Romania entered the war against the Soviet Union. Romania returned to Bukovina and Bessarabia and conquered Transnistria. An extensive persecution of Jews began, and concentration camps were set up in the newly conquered areas. After Allied bombings, Russian troops entered the country in early 1944. In August of that year, Antonescu was overthrown in a coup d’état, and Romania declared war on Germany. Bessarabia became Soviet again.
Folk Democracy (1947–90)
In December 1947, the king was forced to abdicate, and the conversion to popular democracy began with the Secretary-General of the Romanian Workers’ Party (from 1965 called the Communist Party) Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (1901-1965). During his time as head of state from 1961, the orientation towards an independent foreign policy in relation to the Soviet Union began, which resulted in large loans from the West. Domestic politics tightened the regime’s grip since the post of Secretary-General in 1965 was taken over by Nicolae Ceaușescu, from 1974 also Romania’s president. In connection with an increasingly distinct personal worship, where, like earlier Antonescu, he allowed himself to be called conducător, the president carried out various monumental projects. Despite strikes in protest against the lack of energy and food, the regime was able to survive with the help of the security police, Securitate. The control of the population was extended to prescribe that women should give birth to at least five children, before there could be any form of prevention or right to abortion.
The criticism against Ceaușescu became clear in early 1989, when prominent members of the party in an open letter pointed to the lack of constitutional rights and Romania’s gradually deteriorating international reputation due to human rights violations, persecution of dissenting and ethnic minorities and the destruction of the country’s economy. In 1985, the government had begun a so-called systemization, that is, a large relocation and concentration of the rural population and the construction of new residential areas. The devastation of older buildings was perceived by the Hungarian minority as specifically aimed at this, as half of their villages, churches and cemeteries would be put under the plow. The unrest intensified in December 1989, when the authorities sought to silence the Hungarian priest and regime critic László Tökés opened fire to a demonstrating crowd in Timișoara. Since Ceaușescu tried in vain to speak to the people of Bucharest, he was forced to flee, and the so-called National Rescue Front took over power. When Ceaușescu and his wife were captured, they were executed after a summary trial in December 1989. Ion Iliescu, a former party leader but in 1987, was elected president, and the National Rescue Front won the May 1990 parliamentary elections. The following year, a constitution was adopted following a Western model.
The road to democracy and EU integration
Formally democratic Romania was a poor and deeply indebted country because of the economic failures of the Céșescu regime, and the whole of the 1990s was marked by failed or half-hearted attempts at reform. A steadily falling standard of living has more than once contributed to violent strikes and demonstrations, especially among miners who objected to the closure of unprofitable coal mines.
The country’s new leaders were themselves former communists who took advantage of the political economy to enrich themselves. Corruption was extensive at all levels. The ruling National Rescue Front included a more liberal, reform-oriented group, but the front already split in 1992.
In the election four years later, the Reform Alliance Democratic Convention won, and Emil Constantinescu became president. While Iliescu’s party, which now called itself Social Democratic, was strongest in the countryside, the convention was supported mainly by younger voters and the middle class of the cities. The new coalition included the Hungarian minority party UMDR. A short time before the election, a solution was sought for the longstanding ethnic-national contradictions in Transylvania; Romania promised in an agreement to extend the rights of the Hungarian minority to Hungary waiving all territorial requirements in the area.
The government’s attempt to create a functioning market economy posed new severe pressures for the Romanians, and after a long period of strikes, violent protests and government crises, Ion Iliescu returned to the post-election presidency in late 2000, and Social Democrat Adrian Năstase (born 1950) became leader of a minority government supported by UMDR. A year earlier, Romania had been given the go-ahead for membership negotiations with the EU, which eventually led politicians to launch a vigorous reform program. At the same time, the economy grew thanks to a strong global economy.
Romania’s second foreign policy goal, membership of NATO, was realized in 2004, and the same year the EU declared that Romania now had a functioning market economy. Despite repeated EU criticism against, among other things, weaknesses in the justice system and widespread corruption, Romania became an EU member in 2007. After very smooth presidential and parliamentary elections in 2004, the bourgeois opposition returned to power, but the term of office was marked by a power struggle between the new president Traian Băsescu and Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu (born 1952), which greatly crippled government work. The government broke down in April 2007 and the Prime Minister then led a minority government until the 2008 parliamentary elections.
Only 39 percent of Romanians participated in the election, which led to a so-called large coalition between PD-L, which supports Băsescu, and the Social Democrats (PSD), which together received 225 of the 334 seats of the House of Deputies. Băsescu appointed PD-L’s leader Emil Boc (born 1966) as prime minister.
The 2008 parliamentary election coincided with the deep international financial crisis and Romania, whose economic growth was among the highest in the EU this year, was forced in early 2009 to request emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund of € 20 billion. However, with the loan came requirements for substantial cuts in the coming state budget, including sharply reduced salaries for civil servants and lower pensions. This led to major popular protests but also to the fact that the government first cracked down after the PSD left the coalition, and shortly thereafter to fall in a vote of confidence in Parliament.
It was only at the end of the year that the acute government crisis, which meant that no decisions could be made for several months, was averted since Emil Boc’s re-formed government, now between PD-L, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and independent members. At the same time, a new political crisis arose when President Băsescu’s opponents accused him of electoral fraud after winning by barely a possible margin in the second round of the presidential elections in December 2009. In some constituencies the votes were recalculated but this did not change the final result.
When the new government presented its savings package in the spring of 2010, this triggered a new wave of violent protests and attempts to disbelieve the government in parliament, and these continued in 2011 and well into 2012. In February of that year, the government resigned, but the subsequent government soon collapsed in a vote of no confidence since it presented a new savings package. In May, Social Democrat Victor Ponta (born 1972) then formed government consisting of his party PSD and the National Liberal Party, PNL, with the promise of trying to mitigate the consequences of the tough cuts.
Personal contradictions between Ponta and President Băsescu led to a political crisis again in the summer of 2012, after Ponta in Parliament produced a referendum on national law against the president for alleged abuse of power. Băsescu was temporarily forced out of his post but could re-enter after the referendum result of the Constitutional Court was declared invalid due to too low turnout. However, it appeared that both sides tried to exert pressure on the court before the ruling.
The political squabble has forced foreign investors to pull their ears and the Romanian currency, leu, to fall sharply, which raised the need for further cuts. The political contradictions did not decrease before the parliamentary elections announced until December 9, 2012.
Within the EU, people were deeply concerned about the situation in Romania and many people felt that the country was not really democratically mature enough to become a member of the Union. Romania’s hopes of joining the Schengen cooperation also had to be postponed in the future. In its annual report on the situation in Romania, the EU Commission in 2012 criticized, in particular, a continued lack of legal certainty and lack of measures against widespread corruption, although it acknowledged that some progress had been made.
Among other things, former Prime Minister Adrian Năstase had been sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of power and corruption (he only needed to sit for 1/3 of the time). In a noted trial, in the spring of 2013, a senator and former presidential adviser were also sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption. He had been like the spider in the net in an extensive and long-standing bout, where high-ranking people in the community had paid police and judges to be able to freely engage in various types of foam bargains without risking prosecution.
Before the end of 2012, Prime Minister Victor Pontas PSD had formed an alliance, the Social Liberal Union (USL), with the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Conservative Party (PC), not primarily because they wanted to cooperate but as a way to win over President Traian Băsescu and his PD-L (who in turn formed an alliance, the Romanian Right Alliance, ARD, along with a few small Christian Democratic parties). The USL won a landslide victory in both chambers of the National Assembly, which was possibly also a sign of Băsescu’s decline in popularity. However, voter turnout was low (42 percent), suggesting that the Romanians felt a great deal of open-mindedness to the prospect of the squabbling, and in their view, corrupt politicians could improve their living conditions.
USL’s big victory meant that President Băsescu was forced to ask Victor Ponta to re-form government. At the same time, cracks began to be felt within the USL alliance, especially between PSD and PNL. The USL was dissolved in early 2014 and PNL became a prominent opposition party.
Victor Ponta chose to run for office in the 2014 presidential election himself and was also a clear favorite for the election. His only realistic challenger was PNL’s new leader Klaus Iohannis, the mayor of the city of Sibiu in Transylvania. Ponta also took a clear victory in the first round, receiving 40 percent of the vote against Iohanni’s 30 percent.
In the second round, however, Iohannis surprisingly won, receiving 54 percent of the vote. The election result has been partly explained by the fact that a large proportion of Romanians living abroad voted against Ponta because of dissatisfaction with how he managed the Romanian economy and how he made it difficult for Romanians in exile to vote in the elections. The turnout, 62 percent, was relatively high.
Klaus Iohanni’s victory in the presidential election was noticeable in several ways. On the one hand he belongs to the small German-speaking minority in the country, and on the other hand he is a Protestant, which Ponta tried unsuccessfully to use against him in the elections. Iohanni’s election message was focused mainly on strengthening the rule of law in Romania, increasing efforts against corruption and pursuing an economic policy that increases the respect for Romania in EU cooperation.
Despite the election loss, Victor Ponta retained the Prime Minister’s post, which he clung to even after he was accused of corruption. In the end, he was forced to leave after a fire at a nightclub in Bucharest in November 2015 when about 60 people lost their lives. Until the elections held in December 2016, the country was ruled by a government made up of technocrats.
In the election, the PSD prevailed and the party formed government together with the Liberal Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (Alianța Liberalilor și Democraților, Alde), a breakaway from the PNL. After several changes to the Prime Minister’s post because of power struggles within the PSD, in January 2018, Viorica Dăncilă became the country’s first female head of government.
Romanian society underwent dramatic changes during the 2010 century. The income gaps have continued to widen between an increasingly poor population in the countryside as well as in the smaller cities and the well-paid, highly specialized citizens in the big cities and especially in the capital. At the same time, Romania has tried to rectify its widespread corruption, but despite this, the Ponta government has received harsh criticism both nationally and internationally for not doing enough to counteract the corruption.
The suspicions of corruption surrounding the PSD leader Liviu Dragnea (born 1962) and his attempt to change the laws of corruption led 2017–19 to massive street protests in the capital Bucharest and in the country’s major cities. The protests waned after Dragnea was sentenced to prison sentence for corruption.
Discussion of the extent of corruption in Romania has also been held within the European institutions where the EU Commission 2018 warned that Romania was weakening its legislation and the fight against corruption. Dăncilă, who was then prime minister, rebuffed the criticism and urged the EU not to treat Romania separately.