About Romania

History of Romanians


The ancient times
Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania
National Revival
Union and Independence
The 20-th Century

Union and Independence

The winds of 1848 also blew over the Romanian principalities. They brought to the centre-stage of politics several brilliant intellectuals such as Ion Heliade Radulescu, Nicolae Balcescu, Mihail Kogalniceanu, Simion Barnutiu, Avram Iancu and others.

In Moldavia the unrest was quickly cracked down on, but in Wallachia the revolutionaries actually governed the country in June-September 1848. In Transylvania the revolution was prolonged until as late as 1849. There, the Hungarian leaders refused to take into account the claims of the Romanians and they resolved to annex Transylvania to Hungary; this led to a split of the revolutionary forces between the Hungarians and the Romanians. The Hungarian government of Kossuth Lajos attempted to crack down on the fight of the Romanians, but he encountered the resolute armed resistance of the Romanians in the Apuseni Mountains, under the leadership of Avram Iancu.

Although the brutal intervention of the Ottoman, Czarist and Hapsburg armies was successful in 1848-1849, the renewal tide favouring democratic ideas spread everywhere in the next decade.

Russia was defeated in the Crimean War (1853-1856) and this called into question again the fragile European balance. Owing to their strategic position at the mouth of the Danube, as this waterway was becoming increasingly important to European communications, the status of the Danube principalities became a European issue at the peace Congress in Paris (February-March 1856). Wallachia and Moldavia were still under Ottoman suzerainty, but now they were placed under the collective guarantee of the seven powers that signed the Paris peace treaty; these powers decided then that local assemblies be convened to decide on the future organisation of the two principalities. The Treaty of Paris also stipulated: the retrocession to Moldavia of Southern Bessarabia, which had been annexed in 1812 by Russia (the Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail counties); freedom of sailing on the Danube; the establishment of the European Commission of the Danube; the neutral status of the Black Sea.

In 1857 the "Ad-hoc assemblies" convened in Bucharest and Iasi under the provisions of the Paris Peace Congress of 1856; all social categories participated and these assemblies unanimously decided to unite the two principalities into one single state. French emperor Napoleon III supported this, the Ottoman Empire and Austria were against, so a new conference of the seven protector powers was called in Paris (May-August 1858); there, only a few of the Romanians' claims were approved. But the Romanians elected on January 5/17, 1859 in Moldavia and on January 24/February 5, 1859 in Wallachia Colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza as their unique prince, achieving de facto the union of the two principalities.

The Romanian nation state took on January 24/February 5, 1862 the name of Romania and settled its capital in Bucharest. Assisted by Mihail Kogalniceanu, his closest adviser, Alexandru Ioan Cuza initiated a reform programme, which contributed to the modernisation of the Romanian society and state structures: the law to secularise monastery assets (1863), the land reform, providing for the liberation of the peasants from the burden of feudal duties and the granting of land to them (1864), the Penal Code law, the Civilian Code law (1864), the education law, under which primary school became tuitionfree and compulsory (1864), the establishment of universities in Iasi (1860) and Bucharest (1864), a.o.

After the abdication of Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1866), Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a relative of the royal family of Prussia, who was supported by Napoleon III and Bismark, was proclaimed on May 10, 1866, following a plebiscite, ruling prince of Romania, with the name of Carol I.

The new Constitution (inspired from the Belgian one of 1831), which was promulgated in 1866 and was in use until 1923, proclaimed Romania a constitutional monarchy. In the next decade the struggle of the Romanians to achieve full state independence was part of the movements that took place with other peoples in the south-east of Europe - Serbs, Hungarians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, Albanians - to cut off their last ties to the Ottoman Empire. Within a favourable international framework - in 1875 the Oriental crisis broke out again and the Russo-Turkish war started in April 1877 - Romania declared its full state independence on May 9/21, 1877. The government led by Ion C. Bratianu, in which Mihail Kogalniceanu served as Foreign Minister, decided, upon the Russian request for assistance, to join the Russian forces that were operative in Bulgaria. A Romanian army, under the personal command of Prince Carol I, crossed the Danube and participated in the siege of Pleven; the result was the surrender of the Ottoman army led by Osman Pasha (December 10, 1877).

The independence of Romania, similarly to that Serbia and Montenegro, as well as the union of Dobrudja with Romania were recognised in the Russian-Turkish peace treaty of San Stefano (March 3, 1878). Upon the insistence of the great powers, an international peace Congress was held in Berlin (June-July 1878), which acknowledged and maintained the status that Romania had proclaimed by herself more than a year before; it also re-established, after a long period of Ottoman rule, Romania's rights over Dobrudja, which was re-united to Romania. But at the same time Russia violated the convention signed on April 4, 1877 and forced Romania to cede the Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail counties of Southern Bassarabia.

On March 14/26, 1881, Romania proclaimed itself a kingdom and Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was crowned King of Romania.

After gaining its independence, the Romania state was the place to which the hopeful eyes of all Romanians who lived on the lands still under foreign occupation turned. The Romanians in Bukovina and in Bessarabia were facing a systematic policy of assimilation into the German and Russian worlds, respectively.

Immigration of foreign peoples was directed to their territory. The Romanian enclaves in the Balkan Peninsula had increasing difficulties in opposing the denationalisation tendencies. At the turn of the 20th century, the Romanians were a people with over 12 million inhabitants, of whom almost half lived under foreign occupation.

At the same time in Transylvania, the Romanians suffered the serious consequences of the accord by which the Hungarian state was re-established more than three centuries after its collapse and the dual Austria-Hungary state was created (1867). Transylvania lost the autonomous status it had under Austrian rule and it was incorporated into Hungary. The legislation passed by the government in Budapest, which proclaimed the existence of only one nationality in Hungary - the Magyar one - sought to destroy from the ethno-cultural point of view the other populations, by forcing them to become Hungarian. This subjected the Romanian population, along with other ethnic groups, to heavy ordeals. At that time the National Romanian Party in Transylvania played an important role in asserting the Romanian national identity; the party was reorganised in 1881 and it became the standard bearer in the struggle to achieve recognition of equal rights of the Romanian nation and it the resistance against the denationalisation projects.

In 1892 the national struggle of the Romanians reached a climax through the Memorandum Movement. The memorandum was drafted by the leaders of the Romanians in Transylvania, Ion Ratiu, Gheorghe Pop of Basesti, Eugen Brote, Vasile Lucaciu, a.o. and it was sent to Vienna to be submitted to emperor Franz Joseph I; it advised the European public opinion of the Romanians' claims and of the intolerance shown by the government in Budapest regarding the national issue.

The 1878-1914 period was one of stability and progress for Romania. Politics got polarised around two huge parties - the conservative one (Lascar Catargiu, P.P. Carp, Gh. Grigore Cantacuzino, Titu Maiorescu, a.o.) and the liberal one (Ion C. Bratianu, Dimitrie A. Sturdza, Ion I.C. Bratianu, a.o.). They alternatively came to power and this became the characteristic trait of the epoch's politics. The expansionist policy of Russia determined Romania to sign in 1883 a secret alliance treaty with Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy; the treaty was renewed periodically until World War I.

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