History in Romania

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From about 200 B.C. when it was settled by the Dacians- a Thracian tribe, Romanian territory has been on the path of a series of migrations and conquests. Under the emperor Trajan, early in the second century A.D., Dacia was incorporated into the Roman empire- but was abandoned by a declining Rome less than two centuries later. Romanian territory disappeared from recorded history for hundreds of years to re-emerge in the medieval period as the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.

Heavily taxed and badly administered under the Ottoman empire, the two Principalities were unified under a single native prince in 1859 and had their full independence ratified in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin. A German prince- Carol of Hohenzollern, was crowned first King of Romania in 1881.

The new state, squeezed between the Ottoman Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, with Slav neighbors on three sides, looked to the West, particularly France for its cultural educational and administrative models. Romania was an ally of the Entente and the U.S.in World War I and was granted back substantial territories with Romanian populations (notably Transylvania Bessarabia and Bukovina) after the war.

Most of Romania's pre-World War II governments maintained the forms but not the substance of a liberal constitutional monarchy. The quasi-mystical fascist Iron Guard movement exploiting nationalism fear of communism and resentment of alleged foreign and Jewish domination of the economy was a key factor in the creation of a dictatorship in 1938. In 1940-41 the authoritarian General Antonescu took control. Romania entered World War II on the side of the Axis Powers in June 1941 invading the Soviet Union to recover Bessarabia and Bukovina which had been annexed in 1940.

In August 1944 a coup led by King Michael with support from opposition politicians and the army deposed the Antonescu dictatorship and put Romania's battered armies on the side of the Allies. Romania incurred additional heavy casualties fighting the Germans in Transylvania Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

The peace treaty signed at Paris on February 10 1947 confirmed the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina but restored the part of northern Transylvania granted to Hungary in 1940 by Hitler. The treaty required massive war reparations by Romania to the Soviet Union whose occupying forces left in 1958.

The Soviets pressed for inclusion of Romallnia's heretofore negligible Communist Party in the post-war government while non-communist political leaders were steadily eliminated from political life. King Michael abdicated under pressure in December 1947 when the Romanian People's Republic was declared and went into exile.

In the early 1960s Romania's communist government began to assert some independence from the Soviet Union. Nicolae Ceausescu became head of the Communist Party in 1965 and head of state in 1967. Ceausescu's denunciation of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and a brief relaxation in internal repression helped give him a positive image both at home and in the West. Seduced by Ceausescu's "independent" foreign policy Western leaders were slow to turn against a regime that by the late 1970s had become increasingly harsh arbitrary and capricious. Rapid economic growth fueled by foreign credits gradually gave way to wrenching austerity and severe political repression.

After the collapse of communism in the rest of Eastern Europe in the late summer and fall of 1989, a mid-December protest in Timisoara against the forced relocation of a Hungarian minister (Laszlo Tokes) grew into a country-wide protest against the Ceausescu regime sweeping the dictator from power. Ceausescu and his wife were executed on December 25 1989 after a cursory military trial. Approximately 1500 people were killed in confused street fighting. An impromptu governing coalition the National Salvation Front (NSF) installed itself and proclaimed the restoration of democracy and freedom. The Communist Party was outlawed and Ceausescu's most unpopular measures such as bans on abortion and contraception were repealed.

Ion Iliescu- a former Communist Party official demoted by Ceausescu in the 1970s- emerged as the leader of the NSF. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on May 20 1990. Running against representatives of the pre-war National Peasants' Party and National Liberal Party Iliescu won 85% of the vote. The NSF captured two-thirds of the seats in Parliament named a university professor Petre Roman as Prime Minister and began cautious free market reforms.

The new government made a crucial early misstep. Unhappy at the continued political and economic influence of members of the Ceausescu-era elite anti-communist protesters had camped in University Square in April 1990. When miners from the Jiu Valley descended on Bucharest two months later and brutally dispersed the remaining "hooligans " President Iliescu by expressing public thanks convinced many that the government had sponsored the miners. The miners also attacked the headquarters and houses of opposition leaders. The Roman Government fell in late September 1991 when the miners returned to Bucharest to demand higher salaries and better living conditions. A technocrat Theodor Stolojan was appointed to head an interim government until new elections could be held.

Parliament drafted a new democratic constitution approved by popular referendum in December 1991. National elections in September 1992 returned President Iliescu by a clear majority and gave his party the NSF a plurality. With parliamentary support from the nationalist PUNR and PRM parties and the ex-communist PSM party an NSF/technocratic government was formed in November 1992 under Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu an economist. The NSF became the Party of Social Democracy of Romania (PDSR) in July 1993. The Vacaroiu government ruled in coalition with three smaller parties all of which abandoned the coalition by the time of the November 1996 elections. Emil Constantinescu of the Democratic Convention electoral coalition defeated President Iliescu in the second round of voting by 6% and replaced him as chief of state. The PDSR won the largest number of seats in parliament but the constituent parties of the CDR joined the Democratic Party the National Liberal Party and the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania to form a centrist coalition government holding 60% of the seats in parliament. Victor Ciorbea a former labor lawyer and government prosecutor was named Prime Minister. The new government outlined as top priorities shock economic reform (including privatization/closure of state enterprises and monetary and fiscal reform) decentralization and a campaign against corruption.

Since then, the Social Democratic Party led by Ion Iliescu and Adrian Nastase had another turn in power, between 2000 and 2004. Although there was economical growth in the second part of this interval, Romania's record on coruption and poor justice worsened. 

In the 2004 elections, although a coalition led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) won the majority of seats, the marginal victory in the presidential elections of Traian Basescu, of the Justice and Truth Alliance (JTA), over Adrian Nastase, of SDP, turned around the results of the elections, as he nominated Calin Popescu Tariceanu, a liberal, as prime minister. As a result, a coalition was formed around JTA (formed initially by the liberals and the democrats), with the Democratic Union of Hungarians and the Romanian Humanist Party, the latter giving thus up its pre-election alliance with SDP.

 

Contributors
May 13, 2005 change by giorgio
July 24, 2008 change by psychoralu

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