the long road to integration

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The history of Romanians is one of the most tormented ones in European History. The origin of this people can be traced back to the Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC), when the Carpathian-Balkan. The region was settled by the Thracians in the same geographical area Romanians still live in today, a region devastated for more than a millennium by all migratory waves that subsequently swept through Europe.

From the Middle Ages until the XIX century, Romania was divided into three independent Principalities: Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania which, despite being located at crossroads of mighty empires (Mongols, Ottoman, Hungarian, Polish, Russian), managed to preserve its civilization.

The Roman Dacia.

The first information ever recorded about Romania in ancient times name it Dacia. The first contacts the Dacians had with great civilizations was through the Greek colonies established on the Black Sea coast. In the I century BC Dacia became a Roman province under Emperor Augustus. It remained so for seven centuries and, after the fall of the Roman Empire, it passed under the rule of the Roman-Byzantine Empire.

Old map of Romania

The Middle Ages

After a period of darkness, Romania started to be mentioned again in international records but as 3 separate and independent principalities: Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania. The breach from Byzantium was caused by the settlement of Slavs South of the Danube in 602 and the development of the Bulgarian Czarate in the IX century.

Between 896 and 900 Hungarian tribes coming from the Volga region expanded westward, finally conquering Transylvania. This region was incorporated into the Hungarian Kingdom as an autonomous voivodate. It remained so until the early XVI century. Between the XII and XIII centuries, the Hungarian Crown colonized the region with groups of Szecklerls and Saxons (Germans). This was done to strengthen its authority in Transylvania and to defend the Southern and Eastern borders of the voivodate. The XIV century witnesses the creation, South and East of the Carphatians of independent feudal states.

Romanians preserved their Byzantine Orthodox faith under a lot of pressure from the neighboring Catholic Kingdoms of Hungary and Poland. These two created in time the principalities of Wallachia and Moldova.

The Ottoman Empire

In 1354, the Ottoman Empire started its sweeping expansion into the Balkan Peninsula. Finally, in 1396, the pendant of Islam is hoisted up on the north shore of the Danube. Thus, Romanians suddenly find themselves having to face a threatening Empire that was not only endangering their existence, but their religion and their civilization as well. To avoid the danger, an alliance was formed among the rulers of the neighboring countries, the princes of Wallachia - Mircea the Old and Vlad the Impaler -, the prince of Moldova -Stephen the Great- and the Voivode of Transylvania. They set up to fight defensive battles against the Ottoman Empire, thus delaying their advance towards Central Europe.

However, despite their efforts the whole of the Balkan Peninsula fell into Turkish hands. Mohammed II occupied Constantinople, Suleiman the Magnificent took Belgrade in 1521 and the Hungarian Kingdom fell after the battle of Mohacs (1526). Wallachia and Moldova, virtually encircled, were forced to recognize the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire for over three centuries. Transylvania, detaching itself from Hungary proclaimed itself an independent principality (1541) although recognized the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire. However, the Romanian countries managed to preserve their own political, military and administrative structures, as well as their faith. The price for their domestic autonomy was the payment of tributes to the Turks.

Caught between Austria and Turkey

After Michael the Brave ascended to the throne of Wallachia in 1593, he adhered to the Holy League managing to obtain independence for his principality.

The Turks defeat at the Siege of Vienna (1683) marked the start of the expansion of the Austrian Empire towards South-East Europe. This expansion continued between the XVII and XVIII centuries, culminating with the Treaty of Karlowitz between the Austrian and Ottoman Empires through the transfer of Transylvania to Austria, that from then on was going to be ruled by a governor.

The Ottoman Empire, desperately attempting to defend its old possessions, introduced the "phanariot system" in Moldova and Wallachia. Despite the introduction of modern administrative and social reforms the Ottoman political control and economic exploitation worsened greatly. Thus, located at the junction of these two great empires and coveted by both, Wallachia and Moldova were for more than 150 years the theatre where those imperial armies incessantly came into conflict.

Nationalistic movements and Unification

The XVIII and XIX centuries witnessed the disintegration of feudal structures and the emergence of capitalism. For the first time in modern times Romanian goods were exported into European markets.

The 1829 Peace Treaty of Adrianople put an end to the 1828-1829 Russo-Turkish conflict, thus substantially diminishing the power of the Ottomans but increasing that of Russia.
In the first half of the XIX century the Romanian countries start breaking up with the Oriental Greek-Ottoman world, switching to the cultural space of Central and Western Europe under the strong influence of France. Western ideas find a fertile ground in Romania. For the first time Romanians from all territories become increasingly aware of belonging to one sole nation. Nationalistic ideals enflamed the hearts of Romanians forming the foundations of the future political map.

Events in the form of small revolutions started to take place all over the Romanian territory starting in 1848 and stirring nationalistic ideas in Moldova, Wallachia and Transylvania. The Transilvanian revolution was only quenched by a coalition of Ottoman, Russian and Austrian armies who bruttally repressed the independist movement.

After the defeat of Russia in the Crimean War (1856) Wallachia and Moldova (although still under Turkish sovereignty) freed from Russia's oppressive protectorate and were placed under the guarantee of the seven signatories to the Paris Treaty. In 1859 citizens of Moldova and Wallachia elected Alexandru Ioan Cuza as the sole ruling prince for both principalities, thus finally achieving their union. This new Romanian nation adopted in 1862 the name of Romania, establishing its capital in Bucharest. The new Constitution promulgated in 1866, proclaimed Romania a constitutional monarchy.

Romania proclaimed its independence in 1877 while taking advantage of the favorable international circumstances: the reopening in 1875 of the Oriental crisis and the start of the Russian-Turkish war in 1877. The Ottomans were defeated in the Siege of Pleven (where Romania participated with an army) and in1881 Romania was proclaimed a kingdom, crowning Carol I as King of Romania.

The Kingdom of Romania

1878-1914 was an interval of stability and progress. Russia's expansionistic policy and the fear of isolation made Romania sign in 1883 a secret alliance with Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy until the outbreak of World War I. Romania remained neutral in the first Balkan War (1912-1913) but it joined Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey against Bulgaria in the second Balkan War. The Bucharest Peace Treaty (1913) put an end to this war and annexed the Southern part of Dobrogea to Romania.

King Ferdinand I inherited the Romanian throne in 1914. During his reign, at the end of World War I, the total reunification Romania took place. King Ferdinand I died in 1927. Having his son, Carol II, abdicated the throne in 1926, the country went into regency for 4 years under his grandson Mihai I. Taking advantage of the unstable political situation, Carol II regained the throne in 1930 establishing his own dictatorship from 1938 to1940.


Although Romania proclaimed neutrality upon the outbreak of World War II, it backed Poland. During the war, the Soviet government compelled Romania to yield Basarabia, and Northern Bukovina and the country of Herta (which had never belonged to Russia). Under the Vienna Dictate (1940), Germany and Italy gave to Hungary the North-Western part of Transylvania, while the Treaty of Craiova, provided for the cession of Southern Dobrogea to Bulgaria.

In 1940, King Carol II abdicated in favor of his son Mihai I. Then Marshal Ion Antonescu took over power. Wishing to regain the lost territories Ion Antonescu formed an alliance with Hitler's Germany joining in the war against the Soviet Union (1941-1944). The defeats suffered by the Axis powers compelled Antonescu to break away from the alliance with Germany.

In 1944 King Mihai I ordered the arrest of Marshal Antonescu. A new military government declared war on Germany (August 1944) and Romania joined the Allies up to the end of the war in Europe (May 9, 1945). However, the Paris Treaty (1947) did not accept Romania's cooperation with the nazis, stipulating the return of Basarabia and Northern Bukovina to the USSR and Southern Dobrogea to Bulgaria. However the Treaty granted the reintegration of North West Transylvania into Romania.

Under Communism

The Churchill-Stalin agreement signed in Moscow (1955) left 90% of Romania under Soviet control. Soviet troops were stationed in its territory, and it was abandoned by Western powers. Consequently Romania became another satellite of the USSR.

Power was seized by the communists, political parties were dissolved and King Mihai I was forced to abdicate. That same day, December 30, 1947, the people's republic was proclaimed. Then a single party dictatorship followed. Soviet models were introduced at all levels of the society. In 1948 enterprises, banks and transports were nationalized. Agriculture was collectivized between 1949-1962 and the whole economy was run on five year plans. Romania became a member of COMECOM and the Warsaw Pact.

After the death of the communist leader of the postwar period, Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, the rains of the party were seized by Nicolae Ceausescu. The new dictator managed to occupy all positions of authority and power in the state apparatus while successfully helped by his wife, Elena. During this period of brutal dictatorship the economy slackened and the country entered a period of isolation from the international community. Many resources were wasted in colossal projects used to boost the ego of the megalomaniac dictator, contributing to a sharp decline in the standards of living of the population.

The 1989 Revolution

Following the fall of Berlin Wall and the disappearance of Communism in most Eastern and Central European countries, the dictator and his regime were toppled in December 1989. It all started in the city of Timisoara, where Father Tokes publicly denounced Ceausescu. Despite repressive measures, within hours, the revolution had extended to the whole country. In Bucharest, students and workers concentrated before the Central Committee Building booed Ceaucescu while he was delivering a speech. Security forces tried to repress the rebels, but nothing could stop them anymore. The Ceausescus had to flee. While trying to escape, they were captured and an anonymous court judged and summarily executed Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu on Christmas eve1989.

After that bloody revolt a multi-party system was set up within the framework of a free market economy. Elections were held and Democracy was established, although a fumbling one. The next years did not see the fast changes that were expected and Romanians became disillusioned with their government. In 1996 the 3rd elections took place (after 1990 and 1992), establishing Emil Constantinescu as President of Romania, ruling over a coalition government. It is only from that period that true changes have started to happen, setting Romania in the road of progress it has yearned for so long.

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© World INvestment NEws, 2000.
This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Romania published in Forbes Global.
July 24th 2000 Issue.
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