The oldest modern human remains in Europe were discovered in the "Cave With Bones" in present day Romania. The remains are approximately 42,000 years old and as Europe’s oldest remains of Homo sapiens, they may represent the first such people to have entered the continent. The remains are especially interesting because they present a mixture of archaic, early modern human and Neanderthal morphological features.
The earliest written evidence of people living in the territory of the present-day Romania comes from Herodotus in book IV of his Histories (Herodotus) written 440 BCE. Herein he writes that the tribal confederation of the Getae were defeated by the Persian Emperor Darius the Great during his campaign against the Scythians. Dacians, widely accepted as part of the Getae described earlier by the Greeks, were a branch of Thracians that inhabited Dacia (corresponding to modern Romania, Moldova and northern Bulgaria). The Dacian kingdom reached its maximum expansion during King Burebista, around 82 BC. Under his leadership the Dacians became a powerful state which threatened even the regional interests of the Romans. Julius Caesar intended to start a campaign against the Dacians, but was assassinated in 44 BC. A few months later, Burebista shared the same fate, assassinated by his own noblemen. His powerful state was divided in four and did not become unified again until 95, under the reign of the Dacian king Decebalus.
The region came under the scrutiny of Rome when the Roman province, bordering along the Danube, Moesia, was attacked by the Dacians in 87 AD during Emperor Domitian's reign. The Dacians were eventually defeated by the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan in two campaigns stretching from 101 AD to 106 AD, and the core of their kingdom was turned into the province of Roman Dacia.
Rich ore deposits were found in the province. Gold and silver were especially plentiful, and were found in great quantities in the Western Carpathians. After Trajan's conquest, he brought back to Rome over 165 tons of gold and 330 tons of silver. The Romans heavily colonized the province, brought with them Vulgar Latin and started a period of intense romanization (giving birth to proto-Romanian). But in the 3rd century AD, with the invasions of migratory populations such as Goths, the Roman Empire was forced to pull out of Dacia around 271 AD, thus making it the first province to be abandoned.
Roman conquest of Dacia stands at the base of the origin of Romanians. Several competing theories have been generated to explain the origin of modern Romanians. Linguistic and geo-historical analyses tend to indicate that Romanians have coalesced as a major ethnic group both South and North of the Danube. For further discussion, see Origin of Romanians.
Different people from other kingdoms (or empires) lived with the Romanians, such as the Gothic Empire (Oium) from 271 until 378, the Hunnish Empire until 435, the Avar Empire and Slavs during the 6th century. Much of Romania fell under the First Bulgarian Empire during the 9th through 11th centuries. Subsequently Magyars, Pechenegs, Cumans and Tatars also raided and settled in the lands to various extents.
By the 11th century, the area of today's Transylvania became a largely autonomous part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Kings of Hungary invited the Saxons to settle in Transylvania. Also living in Transylvania were the Székely (székely magyar). They were an ancient Magyar tribe which had arrived after the Avars (they had the same language). Transylvania was part of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 10-11th century until the 16th century, when it became the independent Principality of Transylvania until 1711. Many small local states with varying degrees of independence developed, but only in the 14th century the larger principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia emerged to fight a threat in the form of the Ottoman Turks, who conquered Constantinople in 1453.
Independent Wallachia has been on the border of the Ottoman Empire since the 14th century and slowly fell under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. One famous ruler in this period was Vlad III the Impaler (also known as Vlad Dracula or Vlad Ţepeş, 'tsepeʃ), Prince of Wallachia in 1448, 1456–62, and 1476. In the English-speaking world, Vlad is best known for the legends of the exceedingly cruel punishments he imposed during his reign and for serving as the primary inspiration for the vampire main character in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. As king, he maintained an independent policy in relation to the Ottoman Empire, and in Romania he is viewed by many as a prince with a deep sense of justice, and a defender of both Wallachia and European Christianity against Ottoman expansionism.
The principality of Moldavia reached its most glorious period under the rule of Stephen the Great between 1457 and 1504. His rule of 47 years was unusually long, especially at that time - only 13 rulers were recorded to have ruled for at least 50 years until the end of 15th century. He was a very successful military leader (winning 47 battles and losing only 2),) and after each victory, he raised a church, managing to build 48 churches or monasteries, some of them with unique and very interesting painting styles. For more information see Painted churches of northern Moldavia listed in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. Stephen's most prestigious victory was over the Ottoman Empire in 1475 at the Battle of Vaslui for which he raised the Voroneţ Monastery. For this victory, Pope Sixtus IV deemed him verus christianae fidei athleta (true Champion of Christian Faith). However, after his death, Moldavia would also come under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.
By 1541, the entire Balkan peninsula and most of Hungary became Ottoman provinces. In contrast, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania, came under Ottoman suzerainty, but conserved fully internal autonomy and, until the 18th century, some external independence. During this period the Romanian lands were characterised by the slow disappearance of the feudal system, the distinguishment of some rulers like Vasile Lupu and Dimitrie Cantemir in Moldavia, Matei Basarab and Constantin Brâncoveanu in Wallachia, Gabriel Bethlen in Transylvania, the Phanariot Epoch, and the appearance of the Russian Empire as a political and military influence.
John II, the last non-Habsburg king of Hungary, moved his royal court to Alba Iulia in Transylvania, and after his abdication as king of Hungary, became the first Prince of Transylvania. His Edict of Turda was the first decree of religious freedom in the modern history of Europe (1568). In the subsequent period, Transylvania was ruled by mostly Calvinist Hungarian princes (until the end of the 17th century), and Protestantism flourished in the region.
Michael the Brave (Romanian: Mihai Viteazul) was the Prince of Wallachia (1593-1601), of Transylvania (1599-1600), and of Moldavia (1600). Briefly, during his reign the three principalities largely inhabited by Romanians were for the first time united under a single rule. After his death, as vassal tributary states, Moldova and Wallachia had complete internal autonomy and an external independence, which was finally lost in the 18th century. In 1600, the principalities of Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania were simultaneously headed by the Wallachian prince Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul), Ban of Oltenia, but the chance for a unity dissolved after Mihai was killed, only one year later, by the soldiers of an Austrian army general Giorgio Basta. Mihai Viteazul, who was prince of Transylvania for less than one year, intended for the first time to unite the three principalities and to lay down foundations of a single state in a territory comparable to today's Romania. The Principality of Transylvania experienced a golden age under the absolutist rule of Gabriel Bethlen (1613-1629).
In 1699, Transylvania became a territory of the Habsburgs' Austrian empire, following the Austrian victory over the Turks. The Austrians, in their turn, rapidly expanded their empire: in 1718 an important part of Wallachia, called Oltenia, was incorporated to the Austrian monarchy and was only returned in 1739. In 1775, the Austrian empire occupied the north-western part of Moldavia, later called Bukovina, while the eastern half of the principality (called Bessarabia) was occupied in 1812 by Russia.
During the period of Austro-Hungarian rule in Transylvania, and Ottoman suzerainty over Wallachia and Moldavia, most Romanians were in the situation of being second-class citizens (or even non-citizens) in a territory where they formed the majority of the population. In some Transylvanian cities, such as Braşov (at that time the Transylvanian Saxon citadel of Kronstadt), Romanians were not even allowed to reside within the city walls.
As in most European countries, 1848 brought revolution to Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania, announced by Tudor Vladimirescu and his Pandurs in the Wallachian uprising of 1821. The goals of the revolutionaries - complete independence for Moldavia and Wallachia, and national emancipation in Transylvania - remained unfulfilled, but were the basis of the subsequent evolutions. Also, the uprising helped the population of the three principalities recognise their unity of language and interests.
After the failed 1848 Revolution, the Great Powers did not support the Romanians' expressed desire to officially unite in a single state, forcing Romania to proceed alone against the Turks. Heavily taxed and badly administered under the Ottoman Empire, in 1859, people in both Moldavia and Wallachia elected the same "Domnitor" (ruler) - Alexandru Ioan Cuza - as prince. (Domnitor in Romanian). Thus, Romania was created as a personal union, albeit a Romania that did not include Transylvania, where the upper class and the aristocracy remained mainly Hungarian, although Romanian nationalism inevitably ran up against Hungarian nationalism at the end of the 19th century. As in the previous 900 years, Austria-Hungary, especially under the Dual Monarchy of 1867, kept the Hungarians firmly in control, even in parts of Transylvania where Romanians constituted a local majority.
In 1866, the German prince Carol I (Charles or Karl) of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was appointed as Domnitor—Prince—of the Principality of Romania. In 1877, Romania declared independence from the Ottoman Empire and, following a Russian-Romanian-Turkish war, its independence was recognized by the Treaty of Berlin, 1878, making it the first independent national state in the eastern half of Europe. Following the war Romania acquired Dobruja in its southeast, but it was forced by Russia to cede the Southern Bessarabian territory to Russia "in exchange" for the access to the ports at the Black Sea. Prince Carol I was proclaimed the first King of Romania on March 26, 1881.
The 1878-1914 period was one of stability and progress for Romania. During the Second Balkan War, Romania joined Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey against Bulgaria. In the peace Treaty of Bucharest (1913) Romania gained Southern Dobrudja - the Quadrilateral (the Durostor and Caliacra counties).
In August 1914, when World War I broke out, Romania declared neutrality. Two years later, under the pressure of Allies (especially France desperate to open a new front), on August 14/27 1916 it joined the Allies, for which they were promised support for the accomplishment of national unity, Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary.
The Romanian military campaign ended in disaster for Romania as the Central Powers conquered two-thirds of the country and captured or killed the majority of its army within four months. Nevertheless, Moldova remained in Romanian hands after the invading forces were stopped in 1917. In May 1918, Romania was in no position to continue the war, and negotiated a peace treaty with Germany (see Treaty of Bucharest, 1918). In October 1918, Romania joined the war again and by the end of the war, the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires had disintegrated; governing bodies created by the Romanians of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina chose union with the Kingdom of Romania, resulting in Greater Romania. and since by the war's end, Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire had collapsed, Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania were allowed to unite with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918. By the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, Hungary renounced in favour of Romania all the claims of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy over Transylvania. The union of Romania with Bukovina was ratified in 1919 in the Treaty of Saint Germain, and with Bessarabia in 1920 by the Treaty of Paris.
The Romanian expression România Mare (literal translation "Great Romania", but more commonly rendered "Greater Romania") generally refers to the Romanian state in the interwar period, and by extension, to the territory Romania covered at the time (see map). Romania achieved at that time its greatest territorial extent (almost ), managing to unite all the historic Romanian lands. Historically, Greater Romania—România Mare—represented one of the ideals of Romanian nationalism. Greater Romania is still seen by many as a "paradise lost", often by comparison with the "stunted" Communist Romania. To exploit the nationalistic connotation of the term, a nationalist political party uses it as its name.
In 1918, at the end of World War I, Transylvania and Bessarabia united with the Romanian Old Kingdom. The Deputies of the Romanians from Transylvania voted to unite their region by the Proclamation of Union of Alba Iulia. Bessarabia, having declared its independence from Russia in 1917 by the Conference of the Country (Sfatul Ţării), called in Romanian troops to protect the province from the Bolsheviks who were spreading the Russian Revolution. The union of the regions of Transylvania, Maramureş, Crişana and Banat with the Old Kingdom of Romania was ratified in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon, which recognised the sovereignty of Romania over these regions and settled the border between the independent Republic of Hungary and the Kingdom of Romania. The union of Bucovina and Bessarabia with Romania was ratified in 1920 by the Treaty of Versailles. Romania had also recently acquired the Southern Dobruja territory called "The Quadrilateral" from Bulgaria as a result of its participation in the Second Balkan War in 1913.
The Union of 1918 united most regions with clear Romanian majorities into the boundaries of a single state. However, it also led to the inclusion of various sizable minorities, including Magyars (ethnic Hungarians), Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, etc., for a total of about 28% of the population (Magyars mostly in Transylvania; Germans in Transylvania, Bukovina, and Banat; Ukrainians in part of Bessarabia and Bukovina, Bulgarians in Dobrudja). Recognized by the Romanian Constitution of 1923 and supported by various laws (education, electoral, etc.), national minorities were represented in Parliament, and several of them created national parties (the Magyars in 1922, the Germans in 1929, the Jews in 1931), although a unique standing of minorities with autonomy on a wide basis, provided for at the assembly of Transylvanian Romanians on 1 December 1918 were not fulfilled.
Two periods can be identified in Romania between the two World Wars. From 1918 to 1938, Romania was a liberal constitutional monarchy, but one facing the rise of the nationalist, anti-semitic parties, particularly Iron Guard, which won about 15% of the votes in the general elections of 1937. From 1938 to 1944, Romania was a dictatorship. The first dictator was King Carol II, who abolished the parliamentary regime and ruled with his camarilla.
In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which stipulated, amongst other things, the Soviet "interest" in Bessarabia. Following the severe territorial losses of 1940 (see next section), Carol was forced to abdicate, replaced as king by his son Mihai, but the power was taken by the military dictator Ion Antonescu (initially in conjunction with the Iron Guard). In August 1944, Antonescu was arrested by Mihai.
In 1940, Romania lost territory in both east and west: In June 1940, after receiving an ultimatum from the Soviet Union, Romania ceded Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (see Soviet occupation of Bessarabia). Two thirds of Bessarabia were combined with a small part of the USSR to form the Moldavian SSR. Northern Bukovina and Budjak were apportioned to the Ukrainian SSR. In August 1940, Northern Transylvania was awarded to Hungary by Germany and Italy through the Second Vienna Award. Southern Dobruja was also lost to Bulgaria shortly after Carol's abdication.
Because Carol II lost so much territory through failed diplomacy, the army supported seizure of power by General Ion Antonescu. For four months (the period of the National Legionary State), he had to share power with the Iron Guard, but the latter overplayed their hand in January 1941 and were suppressed. Romania entered World War II under the command of the German Wehrmacht in June 1941, declaring war to the Soviet Union in order to recover Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. Romania was awarded the territory between Dniester and the Southern Bug by Germany to administer it under the name Transnistria.
The authoritarian King Carol II abdicated in 1940, succeeded by the National Legionary State, in which power was shared by Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard. Within months, Antonescu had crushed the Iron Guard, and the subsequent year Romania entered the war on the side of the Axis powers. During the war, Romania was the most important source of oil for Nazi Germany, which attracted multiple bombing raids by the Allies. By means of the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, Romania recovered Bessarabia and northern Bukovina from the Soviet Russia, under the leadership of general Ion Antonescu.
The Antonescu regime played a major role in the Holocaust, following to a lesser extent the Nazi policy of oppression and massacre of the Jews, and Romas, primarily in the Eastern territories Romania recovered or occupied from the Soviet Union (Transnistria) and in Moldavia. According to an international commission report released by the Romanian government in 2004, Antonescu's Fascist government of Romania is responsible for the murder in various forms (including deportations to concentration camps and executions by the Romanian Army and Gendarmerie and the German Einsatzgruppen), between 280,000 to 380,000 Jews in Romania and in the war zone of Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transnistria.
In August 1944, Antonescu was toppled and arrested by King Michael I of Romania. Romania changed sides and joined the Allies, but its role in the defeat of Nazi Germany was not recognized by the Paris Peace Conference of 1947. With the Red Army forces still stationed in the country and exerting de facto control, Communists and their allied parties claimed 80% of the vote, through a combination of vote manipulation, elimination, and forced mergers of competing parties, thus establishing themselves as the dominant force. Romania suffered additional heavy casualties fighting the Nazi Army in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. By the end of the war, the Romanian army had suffered about 300,000 casualties.
The Paris Peace Treaty at the end of World War II rendered the Vienna Awards void: Northern Transylvania returned to Romania—having, for several years, an autonomous status that was eventually abolished—but Bessarabia, northern Bukovina and southern Dobruja were not recovered. The Moldavian SSR became independent of the Soviet Union only with the latter's 1991 demise, becoming the Republic of Moldova.
Soviet occupation following World War II led to the formation of a communist People's Republic in 1947, and the abdication of King Michael, who went into exile. The leader of Romania from 1948 to his death in 1965 was Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the First Secretary of the Romanian Workers' Party.
After the negotiated retreat of Soviet troops in 1958, Romania, under the new leadership of Nicolae Ceauşescu, started to pursue independent policies. Such examples are the condemnation of the Soviet-led 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia (being the only Warsaw Pact country not to take part in the invasion), the continuation of diplomatic relations with Israel after the Six-Day War of 1967 (again, the only Warsaw Pact country to do so), the establishment of economic (1963) and diplomatic (1967) relations with the Federal Republic of Germany, and so forth. Also, close ties with the Arab countries (and the PLO) allowed Romania to play a key role in the Israel-Egypt and Israel-PLO peace processes by intermediating the visit of Sadat in Israel. A short-lived period of relative economic well-being and openness followed in the late 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. As Romania's foreign debt sharply increased between 1977 and 1981 (from 3 to 10 billion US dollars), the influence of international financial organisations such as the IMF or the World Bank grew, conflicting with Nicolae 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 greatly extended the authority police state and imposed a cult of personality. These led to a dramatic decrease in Ceauşescu-popularity and culminated in his overthrow and execution in the bloody Romanian Revolution of 1989.
Seduced by Ceauşescu's "independent" foreign policy, Western leaders were slow to turn against a regime that, by the late 1970s, had become increasingly harsh, arbitrary, and capricious. Rapid economic growth fueled by foreign credits gradually gave way to wrenching austerity and severe political repression, which became increasingly draconian through the 1980s. During the 1947–1962 period, many people were arbitrarily killed or imprisoned for political, economic or unknown reasons: detainees in prisons or camps, deported, persons under house arrest, and administrative detainees. There were hundreds of thousands of abuses, deaths and incidents of torture against a large range of people, from political opponents to ordinary citizens. Between 60,000 and 80,000 political prisoners were detained as psychiatric patients and treated in some of the most sadistic ways by doctors. Even though between 1962 and 1964 some political prisoners were freed in a series of amnesties it is estimated that, it total, two million people were direct victims of the communism repression.
Ion Iliescu, a former Communist Party official marginalized by Ceauşescu, attained national recognition as the leader of an impromptu governing coalition, the National Salvation Front (FSN) that proclaimed the restoration of democracy and civil liberties on December 22, 1989. The Communist Party was initially outlawed by Ion Iliescu, but he soon revoked that decision; as a consequence, Communism is not outlawed in Romania today. However, Ceauşescu's most unpopular measures, such as bans on abortion and contraception, were among the first laws to be changed after the Revolution, and their legality has not been questioned since then.
Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on May 20, 1990. Running against representatives of the re-established pre-war National Peasants' Party and National Liberal Party, and taking advantage of FSN's tight control of the national radio and television, Iliescu won 85% of the vote. The FSN secured two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. A university professor with strong family roots in the Communist Party, Petre Roman, was named prime minister of the new government, which consisted mainly of former communist officials. The government initiated modest free market reforms.
Because the majority of ministers in the Petre Roman government were ex-communists, anti-communist protesters initiated a round-the-clock anti-government demonstration in University Square, Bucharest in April 1990. Two months later, these protesters, whom the government referred to as "hooligans", were brutally dispersed by the miners from Jiu Valley, called in by President Iliescu; this event became known as the mineriad. The miners also attacked the headquarters and private residences of opposition leaders. Petre Roman's government fell in late September 1991, when the miners returned to Bucharest to demand higher salaries. A technocrat, Theodor Stolojan, was appointed to head an interim government until new elections could be held.
In December 1991, a new constitution was drafted and subsequently adopted, after a popular referendum, which, however, attracted criticism from international observers who accused the government of manipulating the population and even of outright fraud. (The constitution was most recently revised by a national referendum on October 18-19, 2003, again plagued by fraud accusations made by internal and international observers.) The new constitution, which took effect October 29, 2003, follows the structure of the Constitution of 1991, but makes significant revisions, among which the most significant are extension of the presidential mandate from four years to five, and the guaranteed protection of private property.
March 1992 marked the split of the FSN into two groups: the Democratic National Front (FDSN), led by Ion Iliescu and the Democratic Party (PD), led by Petre Roman. Iliescu won the presidential elections in September 1992 by a clear margin, and his FDSN won the general elections held at the same time. With parliamentary support from the nationalist PUNR (National Unity Party of Romanians), PRM (Great Romania Party), and the ex-communist PSM (Socialist Workers' Party), a new government was formed in November 1992 under Prime Minister Nicolae Văcăroiu, an economist and former Communist Party official. The FDSN changed its name to Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) in July 1993.
The subsequent disintegration of the FSN produced several political parties including the Romanian Democrat Social Party (PDSR, later Social Democratic Party, PSD), the Democratic Party (PD) and the ApR (Alliance for Romania). The PDSR party governed Romania from 1990 until 1996 through several coalitions and governments with Ion Iliescu as head of state. Since then there have been three democratic changes of government: in 1996, the democratic-liberal opposition and its leader Emil Constantinescu acceded to power; in 2000 the Social Democrats returned to power, with Iliescu once again president; and in 2004 Traian Băsescu was elected president, with an electoral coalition called Justice and Truth Alliance (DA). The government was formed by a larger coalition which also includes the Conservative Party and the ethnic Hungarian party.
Emil Constantinescu of the Democratic Convention (CDR) emerged as the winner of the second round of the 1996 presidential elections and replaced Iliescu as chief of state. The PDSR won the largest number of seats in Parliament, but was unable to form a viable coalition. Constituent parties of the CDR joined the Democratic Party (PD), the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) to form a centrist coalition government, holding 60% of the seats in Parliament. This coalition of sorts frequently struggled for survival, as decisions were often delayed by long periods of negotiations among the involved parties. Nevertheless, this coalition was able to implement several critical reforms. The new coalition government, under prime minister Victor Ciorbea remained in office until March 1998, when Radu Vasile (PNŢCD) took over as prime minister. The former governor of the National Bank, Mugur Isărescu, eventually replaced Radu Vasile as head of the government.
The 2000 elections, brought Iliescu's PDSR back to power. The party, now renamed the Social Democratic Party (PSD), was led largely by former Communist officials. Iliescu won a third term as the country's president. Adrian Năstase became the prime minister of the newly formed government. His rule was shaken by recurring allegations of corruption.
The PNL leader, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu was assigned the difficult task of building a coalition government without including the PSD. In December 2004, the new coalition government (PD, PNL, PUR Romanian Humanist Party - which eventually changed its name to Romanian Conservative Party and UDMR), was sworn in under Prime Minister Tăriceanu.
Post-Cold War Romania developed closer ties with Western Europe, eventually joining NATO in 2004. The country applied in June 1993 for membership in the European Union (EU). It became an Associated State of the EU in 1995, an Acceding Country in 2004, and a member on January 1, 2007.
Following the free travel agreement and politic of the post-Cold War period, as well as hardship of the life in the post 1990s economic depression, Romania has an increasingly large diaspora, estimated at over 2 million people. The main emigration targets are Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, UK, Canada and the USA.
In April 2008, Bucharest hosted the NATO summit.