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Romania, country in southeastern Europe, occupying the northeastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. Romania is a land of historic villages and castles, fertile plains, and majestic mountains. For much of its history, foreign powers, including the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary, have controlled Romania or parts of it. Bucharest is Romania’s capital and largest city.
Roughly oval in shape, Romania is nearly as large as the state of Oregon. Romania shares borders with Bulgaria to the south, Serbia to the southwest, Hungary to the northwest, Ukraine to the north, and Moldova to the northeast. In the southeast, sandy beaches and seaside resorts line Romania’s short coastline along the Black Sea. The Danube River, which connects central Europe with the Black and Mediterranean seas, forms much of Romania’s southern and southwestern borders with Bulgaria and Serbia.
Romania’s landscape is dominated by the Carpathian Mountains, a great mountain system that cuts through the country in a circular arc and covers about one-third of Romania’s total area. The thickly forested mountains boast large populations of bears, wolves, lynx, deer, and wild boar. The broad, swampy Danube delta, the largest in Europe, is an important wildlife refuge and paradise for birdwatchers.
Agriculture has always been an important part of Romanian life and, despite extensive industrialization since World War II, farming remains a cornerstone of Romania’s economy. Today, nearly half of all Romanians still live in rural areas, where people graze livestock, especially sheep, and grow cereal grains, potatoes, fruits, and many other crops.
Romanian culture reflects the blending of various cultural traditions over many centuries. When the Roman Empire conquered Romania in 106 AD to form the province of Dacia, the native Thracian peoples adopted the Latin language and many other basic features of Roman life. Romanians are the only people of Eastern Europe who trace their language and ancestry back to the ancient Romans. Early Roman influence was later challenged by Slav, Greek, Turkish, and Hungarian influences. During the Middle Ages, Byzantine influence was profound (Byzantine Empire), and it remains visible today in the country’s picturesque castles and churches and in the predominance of the Orthodox Church. The famous painted monasteries of Bukovina, with their brilliant exterior frescoes, are among Europe’s greatest medieval monuments.
The modern country of Romania was created in 1859. It became fully independent in 1878. Romania was a kingdom from 1881 to 1947. In 1948 communists took control of Romania and modeled the government and economy after those of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Union). In the 1960s Romania’s communist leaders began to distance themselves from the Soviet Union and develop independent domestic and foreign policies. Romania’s economy grew rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s. However, by the 1980s economic growth had given way to stagnation, food shortages and other economic hardships, and severe political repression.
In 1989 Romanians revolted against the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s president and leader of the Romanian Communist Party. Ceausescu and his wife were executed in December 1989, and a noncommunist government was installed. The first free multiparty elections took place in Romania in 1990. Since that time, Romania’s government has taken steps toward economic and democratic reforms, although the pace of reform has been slow and uneven. In March 2004 Romania formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Romania opened membership negotiations with the European Union (EU) in 1999 and formally became a member at the beginning of 2007.
For younger readers
Romania … in Pictures. Lerner, 1993. For readers in grades 5 to 8.
Sheehan, Sean. Romania. Marshall Cavendish, 1994. For readers in grades 6 to 8.
Willis, Terri. Romania. Scholastic, 2001. For readers in grades 5 to 9.
Behr, Edward. Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite. Villard, 1991. The horrors of the Ceausescu regime.
Hitchins, Keith. Rumania, 1866-1947. Clarendon Press, 1994. Part of the Oxford History of Modern Europe, this book will be of interest to specialists as well as the general reader.
Livezeanu, Irina. Cultural Politics in Greater Romania. Regionalism, Nation Building and Ethnic Struggle, 1918-1930. Cornell University Press, 1995. Cultural histories of the regions that made up Romania.
Murphy, Dervla. Transylvania and Beyond. Viking, 1993. A travel memoir.
Pop, Ioan Aurel. Romanians and Romania. Columbia University Press, 1999. A brief yet thorough analysis of Romanian history from the 1st century BC to the present.
Stratilesco, Tereza. From Carpathian to Pindus: Pictures of Romanian Country Life. AMS Press, 1991. Rare photographs of rural life in old Romania; reprint of 1906 edition.
Treptow, Kurt W. A History of Romania. 3rd ed. Center for Romanian Studies, 1997. A history of the land and people from ancient times to the fall of communism.
Treptow, Kurt W., and Marcel Popa. Historical Dictionary of Romania. Scarecrow, 1996. A reference on present and past regimes.
Nelson, Daniel M, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of International Studies, Old Dominion University. President of Global Concepts, Inc. Author of AfterAuthoritan'anism and other books.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.
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