About Romania

History of Romanians


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

The 20-th Century

After staying neutral in the first Balkan war (1912-1913) Romania joined Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey against Bulgaria in the second Balkan war. The peace treaty of Bucharest (1913) marked the end of that conflict and under its provisions Southern Dobrudja - the Quadrilateral (the Durostor and Caliacra counties) became part of Romania.

The World War I

In August 1914, when World War I broke out, Romania declared neutrality. Two years later on August 14/27, 1916 it joined the Allies, which promised support for the accomplishment of national unity; the government led by Ion I.C. Bratianu declared war on Austria-Hungary.

After the first success, the Romanian army was forced to abandon part of the country, Bucharest included and to withdraw to Moldavia, owing to the joint offensive of the armies in Transylvania, commanded by General von Falkenhayn and those of Bulgaria, commanded by Marshal von Mackensen. In the summer of 1917, in the great battles of Marasti, Marasesti and Oituz, the Romanians aborted the attempt made by the Central Powers to defeat and get Romania out of the war by occupying the rest of her territory.

But the situation changed completely following the outbreak of the revolution in Russia (1917) and the separate peace concluded by the Soviets at Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918); this triggered the end of the military operations on the eastern front. Romania was compelled to follow in the steps of her Russian ally, because on the Moldavian front the Romanian troops were interspersed with the Russian ones and it was impossible for combat to continue on one area of the front and for peace to settle on another front area, and so on. Cut off from its western allies, Romania was forced to sign the peace treaty of Bucharest with the Central Powers (April 24/May 7, 1918). The ratification procedure was never carried through, so from the legal standpoint the treaty was never operative; in fact, in late October 1918, Romania denounced the treaty and re-entered the war.

The right of the peoples to self-rule triumphed in the final stage of World War I and this served the cause of the Romanians who lived in the Czarist and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The collapse of the czarist system and the recognition by the Soviet government of the right of the exploited peoples to self-rule allowed the Romanians in Bessarabia to express through the vote of the national representative body - the Country Council which convened in Chisinau - their will to be united with Romania (March 27/April 9, 1918). The fall of the Hapsburg monarchy in the autumn of 1918 made it possible for the nations that had been under Austrian-Hungarian oppression to emancipate themselves. On November 15/28, 1918, the National Council of Bukovina voted in Cernauti to unite that province to Romania.

In Transylvania the National Assembly called at Alba Iulia on November 18/December 1, 1918 voted, within the presence of over 100,000 delegates, to unite Transylvania and Banat with Romania. So, in January 1919, when the peace conference was inaugurated in Paris, the union of all Romanians into one single state was an accomplished fact.

The international peace treaties of 1919-1920 signed at Neuilly, Saint-Germain, Trianon and Paris, established the new European realities and also sanctioned the union of the provinces that were inhabited by Romanians into one single state (295,042 square kilometres, with a population of 15.5 million).

The universal suffrage was introduced (1918), a radical reform was applied (1921), a new Constitution was adopted - one of the most democratic on the continent (1923) - and all this created a general-democratic framework and paved the way for a fast economic development (the industrial output doubled between 1923 and 1938). With its 7.2 million metric tons of produced oil in 1937, Romania was the second largest European producer and number seven in the world. The per capita national income reached $94 in 1938 as compared to Greece - $76, Portugal - $81, Czechoslovakia - $141, and France - $246.

In politics many parties competed with one another, so the government was controlled over the years by several of them: the People's Party (Alexandru Averescu), the National Liberal Party (Ion I.C. Bratianu, I.G. Duca, Gheorghe Tatarescu) and the National Peasant Party (Iuliu Maniu). The Romanian Communist Party, established in 1921, and which had an insignificant number of members, was banned in 1924. The Iron Guard, an extremist right-wing nationalist movement, established by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu in 1927, was equally banned. In 1930 Carol II changed his mind about his earlier decision to give up the throne, he dethroned his minor son, Michael (who had become king in 1927) and he took the throne. Eight years later he established his personal dictatorship (1938-1940).

The goals of the foreign policy in the inter-war period, when Nicolae Titulescu played a major role, sought to maintain the territorial status quo by creating regional alliances, supporting the League of Nations and the collective security policy, as well as by promoting close co-operation with the Western democracies - France and Great Britain.

With Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, Romania lay the foundation in 1920-1921 for the Little Entente and in 1934 Romania created with Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey a new organisation of regional security - the Balkan Entente.

Nazi Germany was rising and, together with Italy it supported the revisionist states neighbouring Romania; the force policy was successful on the continent and this was marked by the Anschluss, the Munich Pact (1938), the break-up of Czechoslovakia (1939); there was rapprochement between the Soviet Union and the Third Reich; all this led to Romania's international isolation.

The von Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact (August 23, 1939) stipulated in a secret protocol the Soviet "interest" in the Baltic states, eastern Poland and the Soviet similar "interest" in Bessarabia.

The World War II

When World War II broke out, Romania declared neutrality (September 6,1939) but she supported Poland (by facilitating the transit of the National Bank treasure and granting asylum to the Polish president and government). The defeats suffered by France and Great Britain in 1940 created a dramatic situation for Romania.

The Soviet government applied Plank 3 of the secret protocol of August 23, 1939 and forced Romania by the ultimatum notes of June 26 and 28, 1940 to cede not only Bessarabia, but also Northern Bukovina and the Hertza land (the latter two had never belonged to Russia). Under the Vienna "Award" - actually a dictate - (August 30, 1940) Germany and Italy gave to Hungary the north-eastern part of Transylvania, where the majority population was Romanian. Following the Romanian-Bulgarian talks in Craiova, a treaty was signed on September 7, 1940, under which the south of Dobrudja (the Quadrilateral) went to Bulgaria.

The serious crisis in the summer of 1940 led to the abdication of King Carol II in favour of his son Michael I (September 6, 1940); equally, it led to General Ion Antonescu's take-over of the government (he became a Marshal in October 1941). In an effort to win support from Germany and Italy, Ion Antonescu joined forces in government with the Iron Guard Movement. The Movement attempted by way of the rebellion of January 21-23, 1941 to take over the entire government and, as a result, it was eliminated from politics.

Wishing to get back the territories lost in 1940, Ion Antonescu participated, side by side with Germany, in the war against the Soviet Union (1941-1944). The defeats suffered by the Axis powers led after 1942 to enhanced attempts made by Antonescu's regime, as well as by the democratic opposition (Iuliu Maniu, C.I.C. Bratianu) to take Romania out of the alliance with Germany. On August 23, 1944, Marshal Ion Antonescu was arrested under the order of King Michael I. The new government, made up of military men and technocrats, declared war on Germany (August 24, 1944) and so, Romania brought her whole economic and military potential into the alliance of the United Nations, until the end of World War II in Europe. Despite the human and economic efforts Romania had made for the cause of the United Nations for nine months, the Peace Treaty of Paris (February 10, 1947) denied Romania the co-belligerent status and forced her to pay huge war reparation. payments; but the Treaty recognised the come-back of north-eastern Transylvania to Romania while Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina stayed annexed to the USSR.

On the territory of Romania Soviet troops were stationed and the country was abandoned by the Western powers, so the next stage brought a similar evolution to that of the other satellites of the Soviet Empire. The whole government was forcibly taken over by the communists, the political parties were banned and their members were persecuted and arrested; King Michael I was forced to abdicate and the same day the people's republic was proclaimed (December 30, 1947). The single-party dictatorship was established, based on an omnipotent and omnipresent surveillance and repression force. The industrial enterprises, the banks and the transportation means were nationalised (1948), agriculture was forcibly collectivised (1949-1962), the whole economy was developed according to five-year plans, the main goal being a Stalinisttype industrialisation. Romania became a founding member of COMECON (1949) and of the Warsaw Treaty (1955).

At the death of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (1965), the communist leader of the after-war epoch, the party leadership, which was later identified with that of the state as well, was monopolised by Nicolae Ceausescu. In a short period of time he managed to concentrate into his own hands (and those of a clan headed by his wife, Elena Ceausescu) all the power levers of the communist party and of the state system. Romania distanced herself from the USSR (this publicy inaugurated in the "Statement" of April 1964); the domestic policy was less rigid and there was some opening in the foreign policy (Romania was the only Warsaw Treaty member-state that did not intervene in Czechoslovakia in 1968); all this, as well as the political capital built on such a less Orthodox line were used to consolidate Ceausescu's own position, to take over the whole power within the party and the state.

The dictatorship of the Ceausescu family, one of the most absurd forms of totalitarian government in the 20th century Europe, with a personality cult that actually bordered on mental illness, had as a result, among other things, distortions in the economy, the degradation of the social and moral life, the country's isolation from the international community. The country's resources were abusively used to build absurdly giant projects devised by the dictator's megalomania; this also contributed to a dramatic decline of the population's living standard and the deepening of the regime's crisis.

Under these circumstances, the spark of the revolt that was stirred in Timisoara on December 16, 1989 rapidly spread all over the country and in December 22 the dictatorship was overthrown owing to the sacrifice of over one thousand lives.

The Romanian Revolution of December 22, 1989

The victory of the revolution opened the way for a re-establishment of democracy, of the pluralist political system, for the return to a market economy and the re-integration of the country in the European economic, political and cultural space.
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