Romania


Romania is a country in Europe. It is bordered by Ukraine and Moldova in the northeast; Hungary in the west; Serbia and Bulgaria to the south along the Danube River. Romania has a stretch of sea coast on the Black Sea and the eastern and southern Carpathian mountains run through its centre. Since the mid-20th century, Romania has become the dominant regional influence in economic, political, military, scientific, technological and cultural affairs. Romania has been a member of NATO since 2004, and is also an acceding country to the European Union. The EU Accesion Treaty was signed in early 2005, and Romania is due to join the Union on January 1, 2007.

History

In 513 BC, south of the Danube, the tribal confederation of the Getae were defeated by Darius during his campaign against the Scythians (Herodotus IV.93). Over half a millennium later, the Getae (also named Daci by Romans) were defeated by the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan in two campaigns stretching from 101 to 106, and the core of their kingdom was turned into the Roman province of Dacia. The Gothic and Carpic campaigns in the Balkans during 238–256 forced the Roman Empire to reorganize a new Roman province of Dacia south of Danube, inside former Moesia Superior.

In 271 the ancient Dacia became the Kingdom of the Goths until the end of the fourth century, when it was included in the Hunnic Empire. The Gepids and the Avars ruled Transylvania until the 8th century, after which the Bulgars included Romania in their Empire until 1000. The Pechenegs, the Cumans and Uzes were also mentioned by historic chronicles on the territory of Romania until the founding of the Vlachian principalities of Wallachia by Basarab I, and Moldavia by Dragoş during the 13th and 14th centuries respectively. In the Middle Ages, Romanians lived in three distinct principalities: Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania.

Wallachia and Moldavia came under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries respectively, with internal autonomy under the millet system, and brief periods of independence. Moldavia lost its eastern side Bessarabia to the Russian Empire in 1812 (though partially regained it with the Treaty of Paris in 1856), its northern part Bukovina to the Austrian Empire in 1775 and its south-eastern part Bugeac to the Ottoman Empire.

Transylvania came under control of the Kingdom of Hungary by the 11th century (since 1301 Hungary and Transylvania became possessions of the Houses of Anjou, Habsburg, and of the Holy Roman Empire). One of its great rulers -- Matthias Corvinus, ruled between 1458 and 1490 -- is claimed by both Romanians and Hungarians. Later, in 1526, it became a Principality under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, following the Battle of Mohács. At the end of the 18th century, the Austrian Empire (since 1867 Austria-Hungary) incorporated Transylvania until 1918 at the end of World War I. During the time of Austria-Hungary (1867–1918), Romanians in Transylvania experienced one of the worst periods of oppression in their history in the form of Hungarianisation (Magyarisation and antiromanian policy) promoted by the government.

The modern state of Romania was formed by the merging of the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia in 1859 under the Moldavian domnitor Alexandru Ioan Cuza. He was replaced by a Hohenzollern dynasty in 1866, and independence and status as a kingdom were recognised by the Great Powers in 1878, following the Russo-Turkish War, in which Romania fought on the Russian side (with the kingdom's status confirmed in 1881). At that time, Russia once again seized the two southern districts of Bessarabia that had been regained by Moldova after the Crimean War 1852, as a swap with Dobruja.

In spite of its previous alliance with Germany and Austria, Romania entered World War I on the Entente's side, in a move aimed at acquiring Transylvania. At the end of the World War I, which brought the disintegration of the empires of Russia and Austria-Hungary, Bessarabia and Transylvania united with the Romanian Kingdom in 1918. Union of Transylvania with Romania was ratified in the Treaty of Trianon in 1920.

In 1940, at the beginning of World War II, Northern Bukovina and Bessarabia, Northern Transylvania, and southern Dobrudja were occupied by the Soviet Union by the Soviet Union invasion, Hungary and Bulgaria respectively, Romania being under the dictatorship of Carol II. In 1940 Carol II abdicated and Romania entered the war joining Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria, thus recovering Bessarabia and northern Bukovina from the Soviet Union and taking part in the ensuing invasion, under the lead of general Ion Antonescu. In August 1944 the Antonescu regime was toppled, Romania joined the Red Army against Nazi Germany, but its role in the defeat of Germany was not recognised by the 1946 Treaty of Paris.

Controlling Romania through the Red Army stationed in the country, communists orchestrated the biggest election fraud of 1946, climbing to power after Western democracies left Romania in the hands of the Soviet Union. In 1947, King Michael I was forced by the communists to abdicate and leave the country. Romania was proclaimed a communist state, under direct military and economic control of the USSR until 1958. During this period, Romania's scarce resources left after WWII were drained by the "SovRom" agreements: mixed Soviet-Romanian companies established in the aftermath of World War II to mask the looting of Romania by the Soviet Union, in addition to excessive war reparations paid to the USSR. During this dark period, hundreds of thousands of people were imprisoned for political reasons, there were thousands of abuses, deaths and incidents of torture against political opponents, bringing gloom over Romania.

A short-lived period of relative economic well-being and openness followed in late 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, still regarded by some as a "golden era". This period gradually ended, first politically, and then economically. Some party leaders (such as Ion Iliescu, Corneliu Manescu, or Gheorghe Apostol) who questioned the achievements of the regime during the latter portion of this era, were sent to lower positions, which, in 1989, justified their "dissident" position. From an economic point of view, Romania's foreign debt sharply increased between 1977 and 1981 (from 3 to 10 billion US dollars). Thus, the influence of international financial organisms such as the IMF or the World Bank grew, conflicting with Ceauşescu's autarchic policies. Ceauşescu eventually initiated a project of total reimbursement of the foreign debt (completed in 1989, shortly before his overthrow). To achieve this goal, he imposed policies that impoverished Romanians and exhausted the Romanian economy. He transformed Romania into a police state (see Securitate) and imposed a cult of personality.

One positive achievement of the Communist period was the spread of near-universal literacy and the development of a very efficient education system. However, this educational transformation was not coupled with appropriate industrial development and urbanization policies, so that almost half of Romania's population is still rural (47.3%; see Demography of Romania), and mostly poor. Another achievement is the negotiated retreat of Soviet troops from Romania, in 1958. This allowed the country to pursue independent policies, including the condemnation by the Communist Party of Romania of the Soviet-led 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia (Romania was the only country of the Warsaw pact not to take part into the invasion), the continuation of Romanian-Israeli diplomatic relations after the Six-Day War of 1967 (Romania was the only country in the Warsaw pact to do so), the establishment of economic (1963) and diplomatic (1967) relations with the Federal Republic of Germany, and so forth. Close ties between Romania and both Israel and the Arab countries (and the PLO) allowed Romania to play an essential role in the Israel-Egypt and Israel-PLO peace processes.

The Communist dictatorship ended 22 December 1989 (see Romanian Revolution of 1989). During the 1989 revolution (the term "revolution" is contested by many), power was taken by an ad hoc group called the National Salvation Front (FSN), which grouped a number of dissidents with other personalities and (then-unknown) persons that participated in the uprising. The FSN assumed the missions of restoring civil order, taking immediate democratic measures, and organizing elections for a new legislative body. Given the slow pace of reconstruction of the social and democratic system after 45 years of Communism (as emphasized by events such as the Ethnic clashes of Târgu Mureş in March 1990), the largest part of the FSN also constituted itself as a political party that participated in (and won by a large majority) the elections of summer 1990. The move was highly contested by the other emerging political parties, because the FSN controlled most media and therefore the election process was biased. The subsequent disintegration of the FSN, which did not have a clear political platform, produced several political parties including the Democratic Party (PD), which for a time retained the FSN name), the Social Democratic Party (PSD, formerly known as the Romanian Party for Social Democracy (PDSR) or the Democratic National Salvation Front-FDSN), and the Alliance for Romania (APR). Throughout several elections, coalitions, and governments, parties that emerged from the FSN governed or participated in the government of Romania from 1990 to 1996, and then from 2000 until today.

In 1996, the CDR entered power on a "Contract with Romania" platform which would have required the CDR to resign en masse after 200 days from a mixed coalition government. Some members had signed on to the contract programme, while others had not; once in power, the "Contract" was repudiated. The major CDR parties were electorally eviscerated in 2000, and the Social Democrats returned to power, with Ion Iliescu once again president of Romania and Adrian Năstase, the president of the Social-Democratic Party (PSD), as prime minister.

On December 12, 2004, Traian Băsescu was elected president of Romania. He was supported during elections by a coalition, called Justice and Truth Alliance (DA), formed of his Democratic Party and of the National-Liberal Party. The government was formed by a larger coalition which also included the Romanian Humanist Party (now called Conservative Party) and the ethnic Hungarian party UDMR.

Following the end of the Cold War in 1989, Romania developed closer ties with Western Europe, joined NATO in 2004 and became an acceding country to the European Union, being at an advanced stage to join on January 1, 2007. The Treaty of Accession of Romania has been signed by EU member states' representatives in Luxembourg, Abbaye de Neumünster, on April 25, 2005. Ratification of the Romanian and Bulgarian Accession Treaty is ongoing in the parliaments of all member states.

Geography of Romania

Because many of Romania's borders are defined by natural, sometimes shifting rivers, and because the Danube Delta is constantly expanding towards the sea, about 2-5 linear metres yearly, Romania's surface area has changed over the past few decades, generally increasing. The number has increased from about 237,500 km² in 1969 to 238,319 km² in 2005.

Romania has a fairly distributed landscape, having 34% mountains, 33% hills and 33% lowlands.

The Carpathian Mountains dominate the centre of Romania surrounding the Transylvanian Plateau, 14 peaks reaching above the altitude of 2,000 m, the highest being Moldoveanu Peak at 2,544 m. In the south, the Carpathians sweeten into hills, towards the Bărăgan Plains.

National Holidays

The Christian holidays of Christmas and (Orthodox) Easter are celebrated (they are official, non-working, holidays). Unlike some other Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Romanian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 25 December; however, they follow the usual Eastern Orthodox practice for the date of Easter. Other official holidays (non-working) are New Year's Day (January 1), Labour Day (May 1), and the National Day of Romania (December 1, the Union Day). For Christmas and for Labour Day, it is common for businesses to shut down more than a single day.

Minor, but widely observed, holidays include Mărţişor (March 1), marking the start of spring, and International Women's Day (March 8). Many businesses give women employees the day off for International Women's Day. Some holidays celebrated in the United States or in other parts of Europe have recently been gaining some currency in Romania, for example Valentine's Day (February 14).

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