Romania’s history is characterized by the fact that throughout history the country has had varying boundaries and been subject to different powers.
The historic landscape of Dacia, which is largely similar to today’s Romania, was a Roman province. The first state formation in present-day Romania occurred in the Middle Ages. It consisted of three different principalities; Valakia, Moldova and Transilvania. The latter was subjugated to the Madjarians (Hungarians), while Valakia and Moldova became vassal states during the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. In 1541, Transilvania was also subject to the Ottomans, but in 1688 came under the Austrian emperor.
Modern Romania originated in 1859, when Valakia and Moldova entered into a union, from 1862 named Romania. Full independence from the Ottomans was achieved in 1878. After World War II, Romania became part of the Eastern bloc with communist dictatorship. This regime was overthrown in 1989. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Romania.
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The Dacians and the Romans
The first inhabitants of known ethnic origin in Romania were the goats, also called the roofers. They were slower and spoke an Indo-European language by the so-called satem group.
In the 600s and 500s before our time, Greek colonists built cities such as Istros (Histria), Tomis (Constanţa) and Kallatis (Mangalia) on the Black Sea coast (Dobrudja). The Greek historian Herodot called in the 4th century BCE. the trachic people there for getae (getters). The Romans later called them and related groups in Transilvania and the mountains for dacii (roofers).
The Persian king Dareios had an expedition against the goats in Dobrudaja in 514 BCE, and Alexander the Great attack in 335 BCE. ethical chieftains.
From the 20th century BCE. the roofers (goats) were organized in a kingdom which, during Burebista (82–44 BCE), began its heyday. The Daks created a thriving culture and eventually came into conflict with the expanding Roman Empire, and under King Decebal (86–106), Emperor Trajan conquered in two campaigns in 101–102 and 105–106 large parts of present-day Romania: Valakia, Transilvania and Southern Moldova. East Valakia and southern Moldova were soon abandoned again, while the rest of the conquered area was first, in 106, organized as the province of Dacia, and later divided into three provinces. Dobrudja was conquered in 46, and belonged to the province of Moesia. The reliefs on the Trajan column in Rome and the sculptures of Adamclisi show the dakian population in clothes reminiscent of Romanian peasant suits of later times.
The Roman province of Dacia was colonized by immigrants from various parts of the Roman Empire. They brought with them Roman culture and Latin language and merged with the original Dakian population. The modern Romanian language is a testament to Latin’s strong influence. A number of cities were built, and Dacia benefited the Romans well, including wheat, gold, silver, copper and lead.
The increasing border pressure during the migrations led Emperor Aurelian in the years 271-275 to withdraw the Roman army and administration to an area of Moesia Superior, south of the Danube. This area took on the name Dacia. The higher social strata and many city dwellers followed the evacuation, while the majority of the population probably remained. Contact to the Roman province south of the Danube continued to the 500s, and during these centuries Christianity became more widespread even in ancient Dacia.
Some scholars, especially Hungarians, claim that the entire Romanized population followed the south of the Danube during the evacuation, and that the later Romanian population migrated many centuries later. In this way, the Hungarians become a more indigenous population of Transilvania than the Romanians, an assessment that has been used in nationalist battles over modern state borders.
For a period of nearly a thousand years after the Roman retreat, present-day Romania was subject to a series of invasions and migrations, and much is unknown about this time. Slavic immigration was of the greatest importance, which happened after the Avars overcame the cheetahs in 567. The dominions of the Avarians lasted a few hundred years.
The slaves probably came to Moldova and Valakia in the 500s and to Transilvania in the 600s. When the slaves, together with the Avars, crossed about the Danube (the northern border of the Byzantine Empire) and eventually surrendered large parts of the Balkans, for the first time since the Roman conquest was cut off from direct contact with the Roman (Byzantine) world. While the majority of the Romanized population south of the Danube was assimilated to the slaves, the slaves north of the Danube went up into the Romanized population there. With the Slavic influence, the formation of a Romanian language and a Romanian people was essentially completed in the 900 or 1000 century.
The migrations continued until the 13th century, and several conquerors broke into the areas that are today Romania. The Hungarians (Madjars) were of the greatest importance, and in the 1000s Transilvania was conquered by Hungarian kings. In order to consolidate their rule, successors in the 12th and 13th centuries invited German settlers (later called Saxons) to settle down and gave them privileges. Also the Teutonic Order was a short time (1211-1225) was invited to Transylvania.
Romanian State Formations
To the south of the Carpathians (in Valakia), smaller principalities emerged under Hungarian supremacy in the 13th century. In the 1300s, they were gathered under the Basarab (c. 1310-1352). He also stood for a time under the Hungarian king (Karl 1 Robert), but when the Hungarians were defeated in 1330, Valakia became the first independent Romanian state. From 1359, the Principality of Moldova also emerged as a continuation of earlier smaller political entities. This was done on the initiative of the Hungarian King Ludvig (Lajos) 1 to form a buffer zone against the Mongols. After a few years under Hungarian supremacy, the Principality became independent under Bogdan 1 (1359–1365). The original core area was located northwest of the Siret River.
The Romanian language originated in Latin, but the role model for the new states’ political and religious culture was drawn from the Orthodox Byzantine Empire (Constantinople). In principle, Valakia and Moldova were unanimously ruled by the prince. The church did not become an independent power factor since the Byzantine model did not distinguish between church and state. Nor did the nobles (Bojans) develop representative bodies that could systematically assert themselves in relation to the prince. In practice, however, both the Boers and the higher clergy had influence on the government. The Boers had influence in the election of a new prince, but the election was to take place within the ruling family. Sometimes conflicts in the first elections led to prolonged civil wars, in the 15th century in both Valakia and Moldova.
The Turkish (Ottoman) period
When the Ottoman Empire (the Turks) undermined the Balkan Peninsula in the 1300s and 1400s, Ottoman pressure also began against the Romanian principalities. Valakia first had to pay tribute to the Sultan in 1417, Moldova in 1456. From 1462 (Valakia) and 1538 (Moldova) the territories were under Ottoman rule. Valakia’s borders were largely retained, but in 1484 and 1538 Moldova had to relinquish important areas in the southeast.
As vassal states, Valakia and Moldova held a freer position than those countries that were subject to direct Ottoman rule. They maintained their own management system, had internal self-government, and there was no significant Muslim immigration. However, the Sultan was given the decisive say in the first choice, and various forms of taxation constituted a great burden for hundreds of years. Foreign trade was directed to Ottoman needs and gradually cut off the principalities from their connections north and west across Europe. Some of the princes became known for their opposition to the Ottomans, especially Stefan the Great of Moldova (1447–1503) and Michael (Mihai) the bold of Valakia (1593–1601), who in 1600 briefly united Valakia, Moldova and Transilvania.
In Moldova, Iaşi took over as the principal residence (capital) after Suceava in the 1560s, and in Valakia Bucureşti for Târgovişte took over ca. 100 years later. Both principalities were distinct agricultural lands; most cities were small. As in other parts of Eastern Europe, the peasant population was gradually made alive around 1600. Formally, peasants regained their personal freedom in the 1740s.
In the 18th century, the weakening of the Ottoman Empire tempted both Austria and Russia to expand their influence. For Valakia and Moldova, it led to tighter Ottoman political control and increased economic exploitation. The native princes were replaced by the so-called fanariats. Some of them came from sultan-loyal, wealthy Greek families from the Fanar district of Constantinople, hence the name. The Fanario era was reflected in a stronger Greek influence on church life and culture and increasing cultural isolation from the Enlightenment Europe.
The major power conflicts between the Ottoman Empire, Russia and Austria up to 1829 led to a number of wars on Romanian soil, which contributed to economic stagnation in the principalities and some land disputes. Oltenia (the western part of Valakia) belonged to Austria in 1719–1739, Northern Moldova was Austrian in 1775–1918 under the name of Bukovina, while about half of the remaining Moldova (Bessarabia, with Prut as a border river) was taken over by Russia in 1812 (peace in Bucharest) and remained Russian until 1918.
Russia received Napoleon’s consent in 1808 for both Valakia and Moldova to become Russian, but in 1812 had to reduce its demands as a result of French and Ottoman resistance.
Nationalism and independence
Valakia and Moldova remained subject to the Ottoman Empire until 1878, but the 19th century was primarily characterized by strong Russian influence. Foreign consulates in Bucharest and Iasi from the 1780s created a new, cautious opening to Europe.
As in much of Europe, nationalism emerged as a political force throughout the 19th century. The goal was independence and unification of the principalities. Ethnic awareness of the fact that Valakians and Moldovans were one people became more evident and was expressed by historians such as Grigore Ureche and Dimitrie Cantemir. Ethnic awareness also included the Romanians in Transilvania.
Two wars in the 1820s opened up for national political development: the Greek War of Independence led to the replacement of the Greek fanatical rulers with natives, and a new Russian-Turkish war shifted the balance of power in the area in the Turks’ disfavour.
At the peace of Adrianople (now Edirne) in 1829, the Ottoman Empire had to accept Russian occupation of Valakia and Moldova until a war damage compensation was paid to Russia. The occupation lasted until 1834, and then the principalities of 1856 were Russian protectorates with internal autonomy. Formally, Ottoman supremacy still prevailed, but the real political influence of the Russians was greater.
Under Russian rule, work was written on a written constitution, the “Organic Statutes”, which introduced constitutional monarchy in Valakia (1831) and Moldova (1832). A legislative assembly dominated by the Boers, the big-landowners, was to operate alongside the princes. The position of the Bojars was also strengthened after the principalities in 1829 were opened to international grain trade. With their new political power, they subjugated larger parts of the earth and demanded higher benefits from the peasants.
For the many Romanians in Transilvania, the national and social situation was different. Hungarian nobility and German citizens dominated. After the Ottomans defeated Hungary in 1526, Transilvania (Siebenbürgen) in 1541 also became a vassal state under Ottoman rule, but with a freer position than Valakia and Moldova. Only the upper ranks of Hungarians, Hungarian-speaking Sikhs and Saxons (Germans) had political rights (Unio Trium Nationum, 1437). The Romanians were as a group without such rights, and while the Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran and Unitarian churches were officially recognized from the 1500s, the Romanian Orthodox Church was only tolerated.
Transilvania came in 1688 under the Austrian emperor. He offered the orthodox priests the same legal and financial status as the Catholics against accepting the Pope and some of the dogma. Parts of the priesthood accepted this, so that in 1697/1701 a Greek-Catholic (unert) Romanian church emerged. It provided greater educational opportunities and gained importance for Romanian national consciousness. In the 18th century, the unmarried priests became the foremost advocates of the national requirements of the Transilvanian Romanians, although Orthodox priests also became involved. From the 1840s, the initiative gradually shifted to intellectuals outside the priesthood.
When the Hungarians revolted against the imperial power in Vienna during the February Revolution of 1848, they rejected the Romanian national requirements. The Romanians then supported the emperor, also militarily, except in the final phase of the rebellion, when Hungarian and Romanian leaders started a cooperation. When the revolutionaries had suffered defeat, Transilvania came under direct control from Vienna. By the internal division of the imperial kingdom (Austria-Hungary) in 1867, the area became part of Hungary, and the Romanians were subjected to a powerful Madjarisation policy. Also in Valakia and Moldova, there were minor revolution attempts in 1848, but they were defeated by Russian and Ottoman forces. The rebels were intellectuals with nationalist and liberal ideas.
In the 1850s, the demand for union between Valakia and Moldova was reinforced and regarded as important for achieving independence. The political conditions for this improved when Russia lost the Crimean War. During this war, the principalities were first occupied by Russia (1853-1854), and then by Austria (1854-1856).
The Paris Peace in 1856 ended the Russian Protectorate. Instead, European powers provided a collective guarantee for the principality’s inner self-government, though still formally under Turkish supremacy. Russia also had to relinquish the southern part of Bessarabia (Bugeac) to Moldova.
The motive of the great powers was to keep Russia away from the Danube Delta, and in 1858 Valakia and Moldova were united. It was not the intention of the superpowers that the union should be completely real: the name should not be Romania, but the United Principals of Moldova and Valakia, and the countries should each have their own prince, government and legislative assembly. In addition, the right to vote should be very limited. When both countries’ electoral assemblies elected Alexandru Ioan Cuza as prince in January 1859, the great powers nevertheless accepted the result. In 1862, the first government in the new state joined Romania; the staff union had become a real union with Bucharest as its capital.
Under Cuza’s rule, several liberal reforms were initiated and implemented, including in the areas of administration, the judiciary, school and army. The monastery, which made up a fourth of all the earth, was secularized. A land reform to give farmers the right to the land they cultivated, as well as a new election law, was halted by the landowner-dominated parliament. Cuza then dissolved (in May 1864) the parliament and conducted a coup.
A strengthening of the executive power at the expense of the legislative power (the National Assembly), and a certain extension of the right to vote, gained the support of the majority in a referendum, and was approved by the major powers. After the coup, the land reform was implemented by decree. Nevertheless, the living conditions of the peasants deteriorated in many cases in the following years, and the peasant question remained the most difficult social problem in Romania.
Cuza’s opponents responded with a counter-coup in 1866. He was forced to abdicate and went into exile. German Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was elected new prince. Under the name of Carol 1, he became Romanian head of state until his death in 1914.
A new constitution according to the Belgian pattern was drawn up, giving Romania a two-chamber system and absolute veto for the prince in lawsuits. However, the actual exercise of power in the country remained characterized by the strong position of landlord interests, and was in contrast to the many liberal principles of the Constitution.
A policy was taken to develop a modern Romania through the organization of the banking system, education and construction of railways, roads and ports. A cautious industrialization also started, during periods protected by customs policy. One of the promising industries was the oil industry, which was strongly characterized by foreign capital.
Political life from the 1870s was marked by the opposition between conservatives, with support in the landowner community, and the liberals, who wanted industrialization. The National Liberal Party was formed in 1875 and the Conservative in 1880, and the governments switched between the two parties.
Romania achieved full independence as a result of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, in Romania called the “Great War of Independence”, in which Romania was allied with Russia. The independence was proclaimed in May 1877 and accepted by the Berlin Congress in 1878. There, too, the part of southern Bessarabia that Russia had surrendered to Moldova in 1856 was returned to Russia. In compensation, Romania received the northern part of Dobruda (with the port city of Constanţa), which had been under Ottoman rule.
The formal recognition of Romanian independence extended until 1880, because the Romanian government hesitated to grant the Jews the civil rights provided for in the Berlin Agreement. From the 18th century there had been considerable Jewish immigration from Poland and Russia. In 1881, the great powers approved a Romanian parliamentary decision that the country should be a kingdom. In 1885, the patriarch of Constantinople recognized the Orthodox Church in Romania as independent.
Kingdom of Romania
Relations with Russia became more difficult after the Berlin Congress allowed Russia to take over southern Bessarabia. Romania therefore aligned itself with Germany and entered into an agreement on affiliation with the Triple Alliance in 1883. But the situation of the Romanians in Transilvania made it difficult to defend the alliance, which also included Austria-Hungary. The agreement was therefore kept secret, known only to the king and a few ministers.
World war one
While Romania remained neutral in the First Balkan War (1912), the country in the Second Balkan War (1913) supported Serbia and Greece in the fight against Bulgaria, and by the peace in Bucharest on August 1913 Bulgaria had to relinquish South Dobrudja to Romania. When World War I broke out in 1914, King Carol 1 wanted to participate on the German and Austro-Hungarian sides in accordance with the 1883 agreement. But a large majority in the “Crown Council” (the government and the leading opposition politicians) advocated for neutrality.
The king died in October 1914 after 48 years in power, and his nephew and successor, Ferdinand 1, was more entente friendly. Following negotiations with the triple tent, in August 1916, Romania received promises of land divisions (Transilvania, Banat, Bukovina) and military support if the country joined the war on the side of the entente. In the same month, Romania attacked Austria-Hungary in Transilvania. But Romania did not receive the promised military support, and a German counter-offensive forced the Romanians to withdraw.
Bucharest was captured by German troops in December 1916. The king and the government had then evacuated to Iasi. The collapse of Tsar-Russia and the peace in Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, while much of Romania was under German occupation, forced the government to a separate peace with Germany and its allies (the Central Powers) in Bucharest in May 1918. The military collapse of the Central Powers in the fall of 1918 nevertheless did so. allowed Romania to re-engage in the war in time to be counted among the victors at the peace talks.
Romania had suffered military defeat in the war, but thanks to the collapse of the surrounding states with large Romanian peoples groups, the country managed to double its area and population by peace. The Romanians in Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transilvania declared union with Romania in April, November and December 1918 respectively. This was confirmed in the peace agreements with Austria in St. Germain in 1919, where Bukovina fell to Romania, and with Hungary in Trianon in 1920, where Romania took over Transilvania and Maramureş, Crişana and part of Banat with Timişoara.
The peace agreement with Bulgaria (Neuilly in 1919) allowed Romania to retain South Dobruda (won in the Second Balkan War). Bessarabia was approved as part of Romania at a meeting of the Allies in London in 1920. But the Soviet Union did not approve of the loss of Bessarabia.
Voting rights and political parties
In the spring of 1917, King Ferdinand had promised that the peasants would be given land and voting rights at the end of the war. The promise was to motivate war efforts, but also solve the peasant question that had been at the forefront when 10,000 peasants were killed by the authorities in connection with a peasant revolt in 1907. General voting rights for men were introduced after the war, and a land reform that distributed some land to needy peasants, was adopted in 1921. Many small farmers still had difficulty coping.
The expansion of voting rights and the weakened position of landlords led to the emergence of several new political parties, often linked to a leading politician, such as the People’s Party, which was Alexandru Averescu’s party. He was a general and a war hero and reigned several times.
The dominant party in the 1920s, however, was the National Liberal Party (PNL), in which the Brătianu family held a leading position, often in symbiosis with management positions in banking and industrial enterprises. The party continued its efforts for Romanian industrialization, but with skepticism about foreign capital. The interests of agriculture were set differently.
The party’s foremost opponent was the National Peasant Party (PNŢ), formed in 1926. PNŢ demanded greater respect for democratic rules of play, wanted to modernize agriculture and said no to supporting industry that could only survive behind high tariff walls. The party was also positive to foreign capital. Iuliu Maniu of PNŢ became prime minister in 1928, and in the election that year, his party received 78 percent of the vote.
The economic world crisis around 1930 hit Romania hard. The export prices of agricultural products fell more than the import prices of industrial goods. It became difficult for the government to meet expectations of reforms, new parties were formed, and confidence in the parliamentary system of government deteriorated. King Ferdinand’s son, Prince Carol, would normally have taken over the throne when his father died in 1927, but he was deprived of inheritance and sent into exile, partly because of his privacy (mistress Magda Lupescu) and partly because the liberals feared he would be too uncooperative. Instead, a regency council was created for Carol’s six-year-old son Mikael (Mihai). However, Prince Carol returned to the country as King Carol 2 in 1930. Gradually he marked himself as an intrigue center in Romanian politics. In competition with a growing fascism, in February 1938 he carried out a coup and introduced a king-dictatorial regime.
Romanian fascism was based on strong domestic anti-Semitic traditions and was expressed most strongly in a movement most known by the name of Jerngarden. It was created in 1927 by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu as the Legion “Archangel Michael”. In 1930, Jerngarden then emerged as a fighting organization after military role models. Jerngarden quickly became the most used name for the entire movement. A special feature of other right-wing movements in Europe during the Second World War was the emphasis on mysticism and religion (Orthodox Christianity).
The authorities’ attitude to Jerngarden changed. It was partly seen as a valuable ally in the fight against communism, partly fought as a danger of peace and order or from a deeper democratic mindset. The royal dictatorship’s fear of Codreanu caused him and other iron-conductors to be shot “during an escape attempt” in November 1938.
The Communist Party (founded in 1921) was widely regarded as a voice of the interests of the Soviet Union, including the issue of Bessarabia. The party was banned in 1924 and then worked partly illegally, partly legally through tire organizations.
Romania needed to protect its borders. The country became involved in the League of Nations and also sought security through the ” little entente ” with Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (1921), an agreement with France (1926) and the Balkan entente with Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey (1934). The system prevented border demands from Hungary and Bulgaria, but not against the Soviet Union, with which Romania did not have diplomatic relations until 1934.
When Germany under Adolf Hitler became a stronger power factor in the second half of the 1930s, Romania attempted a balance between Western and German influence, but still could not avoid being drawn into World War II. In a secret protocol to the German-Soviet Non-Attack Agreement of August 1939, the Soviet Union gained free hands in Bessarabia. A Franco-British guarantee of Romanian territorial integrity (from April 1939) was of little value after the collapse of France in June 1940. Romania had to surrender Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (which had never been Russian) to the Soviet Union, and in August – following German pressure – they had to relinquish Northern Transilvania to Hungary and in September South Dobrudja to Bulgaria. In a short time, a third of the country was lost.
King Carol 2 abdicated in September 1940. General Ion Antonescu (from 1941 marshal) took over as head of state with German support, while Carol’s son Mihai formally took over as king.
Antonescu first ruled with Jerngarden. During the autumn of 1940, German troops were stationed in Romania. In January 1941, Jerngarden attempted to seize power through a revolt. With the consent of Germany, Antonescu struck it down with the help of the army, and then ruled dictatorially until 1944.
When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, Romania joined Germany to win back Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. But the Romanian troops continued to the east far beyond what had been Romanian areas and suffered heavy losses, including at the Battle of Stalingrad.
When Germany came on the defensive, both Antonescu and the democratic opposition were concerned with avoiding Soviet occupation. As the Soviet forces were on their way into the country, King Mihai, in collaboration with the opposition parties and some senior officers on August 23, 1944, conducted a coup in which Antonescu was arrested. Romania took sides in the war and participated with great strengths and losses in the liberation of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
With Roman’s strong anti-Semitic traditions, the Jews were hit by the alliance with Hitler Germany. After World War I, Romania had accepted the Allies’ demands for citizenship and full civil rights for the Jews, but the fascist progress made life difficult for many. In the 1930s, anti-Semitic attitudes also appeared in non-fascist parties, and even before the alliance with Nazi Germany, legislation appeared to target Jews. During the war years, Romanian soldiers participated in Jewish exterminations, most notably in Bessarabia and Bukovina in connection with the German-Romanian attack on the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, but also on a smaller scale in 1940.
In the summer of 1942, Antonescu promised that all Romanian Jews would be deported to the death camps in Poland, but following pressure from the Jewish and ecclesiastical teams, Antonescu reversed his decision and most surviving Jews saved his life.
Of the Jewish population under Romanian rule during the war, approx. 265,000, ie 43 percent, eradicated. In Northern Transilvania (under Hungarian rule in 1940–1944), almost all of the ca. 150,000 Jews deported to death camps in Poland. Only a few survived. The extinctions there occurred from the summer of 1944, after Hungary had come under German occupation in March.
After the war, in February 1947, Romania was allowed to retain all of Transilvania by the former borders by the Paris peace treaty. Bessarabia again became the Soviet Republic, such as in 1940–1941. Northern Bukovina became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, and South Dobrudja remained Bulgarian.
The Communist takeover of power
The communist takeover took place in several stages from August 1944 to December 1947. The first phase was characterized by political breadth and almost democratic conditions. The government was led by General Constantin Sănătescu and was initially dominated by military, with the most important party leaders as ministers without a portfolio. The communists were also represented.
In November 1944, after the Soviet pressure, a mainly civilian government was formed, still under Sănătescu’s leadership. In December, however, he was replaced by General Nicolae Rădescu. The numerically weak Communists sought to extend their support to the population through the formation of the National Democratic Front.
Street demonstrations and the placement of communists in strategic positions in police and other power agencies created an unclear political situation, and in March 1945, the Soviet Union came up with an ultimatum for a more Soviet-friendly government. Romania’s most influential politician, Iuliu Maniu, advised the young king to say no. But without Western support, King Mihai found it impossible to oppose the claim, and on March 6, he appointed Soviet-friendly Petru Groza, leader of a small peasant party, to the prime minister in a government that was in form a coalition, but where the communists decided who should represent the other parties. Heavy rains in the administration in the spring and summer of 1945 made the communist grip stronger.
In November 1946 elections were finally arranged. The communists were then able to arrange a desired election result and together with their allies officially got 80% of the vote. However, there are many indications that the National Peasant Party was the real winner of the election.
In the summer of 1947 all opposition became impossible. Several leading opposition politicians were arrested, including Iuliu Maniu, and his party was banned. Maniu and several others were sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy against the state. He himself died in prison in 1953, 80 years old. The foremost advocate for an independent social democracy, Constantin Title Petrescu, was jailed in May 1948. He died in 1957 without being tried.
Socialist People’s Republic
In December 1947, the king was pressured to abdicate, and Romania was proclaimed a people’s republic. The king settled abroad. New constitutions were passed in 1948, 1952 and 1965, when Romania was declared a “socialist republic”.
After the fall of the Kingdom, the transformation of the rest of the social structure took another few years, through nationalization of industry and other industries, transition to the Central Plan economy (1st Five-Year Plan 1951–1955), agricultural collectivization (1949–1962), reform of the educational system, increased control and reduced activity in the church field, besides sustained political repression and rectification, including in mass media and historical writing. The unearned church (also called Greek Catholic), in union with Rome, was forcibly merged with the Orthodox Church in 1948.
The Communist Party was the real powerhouse in society. The National Assembly and the ministries had the task of carrying out the will of the party. The secret police, Securitate, monitored the inhabitants. Tens of thousands of political prisoners were imprisoned in overcrowded prisons and forced labor camps. Thousands died, not least during the work on a channel between the Danube and the Black Sea in 1949–1953. For several years opposition groups ran armed resistance in the mountains, but without results.
Within the Communist Party there were soon contradictions and power struggles. The victor of the battle was Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the party’s first secretary of 1945. His rival, Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu, was imprisoned in 1948 and executed in 1954. After several exterminations, much of the power was gathered at Gheorghiu-Dej from 1952.
The number of members of the Communist Party rose from less than 1,000 in 1944 to approx. 800,000 in December 1947. Many were opportunists, while others were attracted to the promise of a modern society without major class distinctions. Small investments were made in collectivized agriculture, but the focus on industry was all the greater and cities grew rapidly. As in other communist countries, great resources were also invested in health care and education; As late as 1930, over 40% of the population over 7 years had been illiterate.
Independence from the Soviet Union
Foreign policy has long followed the Soviet course for Romania. The country was among the founders of Kominform (1947) and Comecon (1949), and joined the Warsaw Pact in 1955. In the same year, Romania joined the UN. The Soviet occupation forces were withdrawn from Romania in 1958.
From the 1960s, a careful dissolution of the tight ties of the Soviet Union began. Oppositions arose when the Soviet leaders around 1960 advocated for stronger regional specialization and economic integration in Eastern Europe, a policy that broke with the Stalinist modernization model, in which all countries should focus on heavy industry. In the new thinking, Romania would be more reliant on agricultural and commodity production.
In April 1964, the Romanian Party adopted what has since been called the Romanian Declaration of Independence in relation to Moscow. Here, the Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev’s plans for supranational financial management through Comecon were taken openly. They violated the principle of national independence. At the same time, changes were made to cultural life. Institutions created after the war to Russify Romanian culture were closed, and many political prisoners were released.
Romania under Ceauşescu 1965–1989
When Gheorghiu-Dej unexpectedly died in the spring of 1965, he was followed by Nicolae Ceauşescu. He gave the impression of continuing the cautious reforms initiated under Gheorghiu-Dej. This applied to both the economy and cultural life. Dogmatic Marxism was pushed back in favor of a growing national orientation. The release from Russian influence continued, partly because Russian ceased to be compulsory school subject. And when Romania, the only country in the Warsaw Pact, refused to participate in the 1968 Czechoslovak invasion, Ceauşescu encountered a wave of sympathy in its own people.
Other foreign policy markings went in the same direction: establishing diplomatic relations with West Germany in 1967 (as the first Warsaw Pact country outside the Soviet Union), failure to break diplomatic relations with Israel after the Six Day War in 1967, and prestigious visits by Western Presidents Charles de Gaulle (1968) and Richard Nixon (1969). Romania was also neutral in the battle between the USSR and China.
But Ceauşescu was not satisfied with this. Within a few years, he filled the most important party organs with his chosen people. His domestic policy became tighter. Sometimes this was especially highlighted. In 1971, after a visit to China, the party leader published some “theses” that ushered in stronger party governance of the economy and culture, and a stronger emphasis on the national. Another time was at the turn of the year 1980-1981, when Ceauşescu called for a quick repayment of foreign debt to secure the country’s economic independence. This led to reduced imports and forced exports, which severely worsened living conditions for most people throughout the 1980s.
Rationing of many items was introduced, house heating in winter was minimal, the television only broadcast a few hours each day, and restaurants closed early. At the same time, some foreign policy markings continued: the country failed to support the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and Romania did not participate in the Soviet and Eastern European boycotts of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Although nationalism and relative independence in relation to the Soviet Union have long given Ceauşescu’s rule legitimacy among many Romanians, dissatisfaction increased severely in the 1980s. It was not only due to deteriorating living conditions, but also to the almost unreal forms taken by the person’s cult of the country’s “leader”, in addition to gathering many state and party sites on his hand and favoring his own family members, especially his wife Elena (who was among others Deputy Prime Minister of 1980), and son Nicu (intended as successor).
A number of prestigious construction projects were initiated, including demolition of an entire district of Bucharest to build the flashy and huge “Ceauşescus Palace”. Several thousand villages were planned to be demolished to bring together the population of “agro-industrial centers”, but this was only to a limited extent. Relations with the Hungarian minority deteriorated. Its rights were curtailed, and the population composition of many Hungarian areas was sought to be altered by Romanian immigration.
The settlement with Ceauşescu
Despite some powerful outbreaks of protest (such as miners in the Jiu Valley in 1977, labor uprising in Braşov in 1987), the regime remained seated until 1989. After countries after countries in Central and Eastern Europe got rid of communism, the trip to Romania came in December.
The Romanian settlement with the Ceauşescu regime appears to have been a coincidence of a spontaneous, popular uprising and a planned attempt by some communists outside the top circles to overthrow Ceauşescu.
It started with an outspoken Hungarian priest in Timişoara, Laszlo Tökés, refusing to be banished to a small village. People, both Hungarians and Romanians, gathered at his residence on December 16, and a general demonstration was soon made against Ceauşescu’s regime with vigorous clashes with police and security forces in the city center. The protests spread to Bucharest and other cities. Many were killed by police and security forces.
On December 22, Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu fled in a helicopter, but were later arrested and executed on December 25 after a summary trial.