Romania (/roʊˈmeɪniə/ (listen) ro-MAY-nee-ə; Romanian: România [romɨˈni.a] (listen)) is a country in Central and Eastern Europe which borders Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the west, Serbia to the southwest, Moldova to the east and the Black Sea to the southeast. It has a predominantly temperate–continental climate, and an area of 238,397 km2 (92,046 sq mi), with a population of around 19 million. Romania is the twelfth-largest country in Europe, and the sixth-most populous member state of the European Union. Its capital and largest city is Bucharest; other major urban areas include Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Iași, Constanța, Craiova, Brașov, and Galați.
The Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, rises in Germany’s Black Forest and flows in a southeasterly direction for 2,857 km (1,775 mi), before emptying into Romania’s Danube Delta. The Carpathian Mountains, which cross Romania from the north to the southwest, include Moldoveanu Peak, at an altitude of 2,544 m (8,346 ft).
Romania was formed in 1859 through a personal union of the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The new state, officially named Romania since 1866, gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. During World War I, after declaring its neutrality in 1914, Romania fought together with the Allied Powers from 1916. In the aftermath of the war, Bukovina, Bessarabia, Transylvania and parts of Banat, Crișana, and Maramureș became part of the Kingdom of Romania. In June–August 1940, as a consequence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and Second Vienna Award, Romania was compelled to cede Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union, and Northern Transylvania to Hungary. In November 1940, Romania signed the Tripartite Pact and, consequently, in June 1941 entered World War II on the Axis side, fighting against the Soviet Union until August 1944, when it joined the Allies and recovered Northern Transylvania. Following the war and occupation by the Red Army, Romania became a socialist republic and a member of the Warsaw Pact. After the 1989 Revolution, Romania began a transition towards democracy and a market economy.
Romania is a developing country, with a high-income economy, ranking 49th in the Human Development Index. It has the world’s 45th largest economy by nominal GDP, and following rapid economic growth in the early 2000s, the country has an economy based predominantly on services and is a producer and net exporter of machines and electric energy through companies like Automobile Dacia and OMV Petrom. Romania has been a member of the United Nations since 1955, NATO since 2004, and the European Union since 2007. The majority of Romania’s population are ethnic Romanian and Eastern Orthodox Christians, speaking Romanian, a Romance language.
After the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, Iuliu Maniu, a leader of the opposition to Antonescu, entered into secret negotiations with British diplomats who made it clear that Romania had to seek reconciliation with the Soviet Union. To facilitate the coordination of their activities against Antonescu’s regime, the National Liberal and National Peasants’ parties established the National Democratic Bloc, which also included the Social Democratic and Communist parties. After a successful Soviet offensive, the young King Michael I ordered Antonescu’s arrest and appointed politicians from the National Democratic Bloc to form a new government on 23 August 1944. Romania switched sides during the war, and nearly 250,000 Romanian troops joined the Red Army’s military campaign against Hungary and Germany, but Joseph Stalin regarded the country as an occupied territory within the Soviet sphere of influence. Stalin’s deputy instructed the King to make the Communists’ candidate, Petru Groza, the prime minister in March 1945. The Romanian administration in Northern Transylvania was soon restored, and Groza’s government carried out an agrarian reform. In February 1947, the Paris Peace Treaties confirmed the return of Northern Transylvania to Romania, but they also legalised the presence of units of the Red Army in the country.
Main article: Socialist Republic of Romania
During the Soviet occupation of Romania, the Communist-dominated government called for new elections in 1946, which they fraudulently won, with a fabricated 70% majority of the vote. Thus, they rapidly established themselves as the dominant political force. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, a Communist party leader imprisoned in 1933, escaped in 1944 to become Romania’s first Communist leader. In February 1947, he and others forced King Michael I to abdicate and leave the country and proclaimed Romania a people’s republic. Romania remained under the direct military occupation and economic control of the USSR until the late 1950s. During this period, Romania’s vast natural resources were drained continuously by mixed Soviet-Romanian companies (SovRoms) set up for unilateral exploitative purposes.
In 1948, the state began to nationalise private firms and to collectivise agriculture. Until the early 1960s, the government severely curtailed political liberties and vigorously suppressed any dissent with the help of the Securitate—the Romanian secret police. During this period the regime launched several campaigns of purges during which numerous “enemies of the state” and “parasite elements” were targeted for different forms of punishment including: deportation, internal exile, internment in forced labour camps and prisons—sometimes for life—as well as extrajudicial killing. Nevertheless, anti-Communist resistance was one of the most long-lasting in the Eastern Bloc. A 2006 Commission estimated the number of direct victims of the Communist repression at two million people.
Nicolae Ceaușescu ruled Romania as its communist leader from 1965 until 1989
In 1965, Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power and started to conduct the country’s foreign policy more independently from the Soviet Union. Thus, Communist Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country which refused to participate in the Soviet-led 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Ceaușescu even publicly condemned the action as “a big mistake, [and] a serious danger to peace in Europe and to the fate of Communism in the world”.) It was the only Communist state to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel after 1967’s Six-Day War and established diplomatic relations with West Germany the same year. At the same time, close ties with the Arab countries and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) allowed Romania to play a key role in the Israel–Egypt and Israel–PLO peace talks.
As Romania’s foreign debt increased sharply between 1977 and 1981 (from US$3 billion to $10 billion), the influence of international financial organisations—such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank—grew, gradually conflicting with Ceaușescu’s autocratic rule. He eventually initiated a policy of total reimbursement of the foreign debt by imposing austerity steps that impoverished the population and exhausted the economy. The process succeeded in repaying all of Romania’s foreign government debt in 1989. At the same time, Ceaușescu greatly extended the authority of the Securitate secret police and imposed a severe cult of personality, which led to a dramatic decrease in the dictator’s popularity and culminated in his overthrow and eventual execution, together with his wife, in the violent Romanian Revolution of December 1989 in which thousands were killed or injured. The charges for which they were executed were, among others, genocide by starvation.