Archaeological founds reveal that the territory of Romania was inhabited from the ancient times of the early Paleolithic. The earliest written record of the people who lived North of the Danube comes from Herodotus, who, in the middle of the first millennium B.C., notes that this area was populated by related Thracian tribes. The most important of their descendents, the Geto-Dacians, formed in the first century B.C. the first centralized Dacian state by the unification of the various tribes under king Burebista.
In the 1st century B.C., with the expansion of the Roman Empire the Danube became the border line between the Roman and the Dacian civilizations.
Dacia knew a remarkable flourishing under Decebal.
After two wars since 101-102 and 105-106, the Roman Empire, ruled then by emperor Traian, conquered Dacia and turned it into a Roman province. Traians Column, raised in Rome, and the Triumphal Monument of Adamclisi (Dobrogea) evoke this military effort, continued by a massive and systematic colonization of the territories newly integrated in the Roman Empire.
The ancestors of the Romanians remained for a few centuries, under the political, economic, religious and cultural umbrella of the Roman Empire. Concomitantly with the ethno-cultural Daco-Roman symbiosis, resulting in the 6th and 7th centuries in the making of the Romanian people, in the 1st-4th centuries the Daco-Romans adopted Christianity in its Latin "garb". Thus at the end of its ethnogenesis, in the 6th and 7th centuries, the Romanian people emerged on the historical scene as a Christian people.
Between the 4th and 13th centuries, the Romanian people had to face the waves of migratory peoples the Huns, the Slaves, the Tatars etc. crossing the Romanian territory. The only mark of their passing through are a few linguistically elements in the language, which kept its dominant Latin character.
The native people established their first larger organized forms of state in 13th century (Valahia) and in 14th century (Moldova). The region of Transilvania came little by little under the rule of Hungarian Crown, after a series of battles with Romanian voivodes.
Many documents describe the Romanian Lands as states. For instance, Rafael painted at the Vatican a picture that presents Valahia, Moldova and Transilvania as stateshoods, well-delineated borders. The important aspect for the controversy over the Romanian history is the fact that Transilvania was clearly separated from Hungary.
In the late 14th century, the three Romanian States were to turn, for several centuries, into the bastion defending the Christian world from the onrush of the Ottoman Empire. Princes like Mircea cel Batrān, Vlad Tepes, Iancu of Hunedoara, Stefan cel Mare vanquished the armies of mighty sultans like Bajazet I Ildyrym (The Thunder), Mahommet II (the conqueror of Constantinopole) and Soleyman the Magnificent.
In the 16th century, after the entire Balkan Peninsula had fallen to the Turks, those three Romanian States were compelled to acknowledge the Ottoman Empires suzerainty.
The end of the 16th century was dominated by Mihai Viteazuls personality. After hard battles he succeeded in regaling Valahias independence and he united, for the first time in history, all the territories inhabited by Romanians, proclaiming himself Prince of Valahia, Transilvania and Moldova.
The late 17th century and early 18th century brought radical changes in the Central and East-European political life. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Empire began its expansion to the Southern-East of Europe and annexed Transilvania (1699). The ambitious dream of the Russian Tsars to dominate Constantinopole, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles straits placed the Romanian Principalities in the way of the Russian expansionism. Lying at a crossroads between three great empires and claimed by all of them, Valahia, Moldova and Transilvania were, for more than 150 years, both an object of dispute and a battlefield where the armies of the three empires confronted each other. Thus, Austria temporary annexed Bucovina (1775-1918) and after the Russian-Turkish war of 1806-1812, Russia annexed the Eastern part of Moldova, Basarabia (1812-1918).
The union of a part of the Orthodox clergy in Transilvania with the Catholic Church (Greek-Catholics), achieved between 1699 and 1701, played an important part in the process of emancipation of the Romanians in Transilvania. Their struggle for rights with the three other nationalities (Romanians represented over 70 per cent of the Principalities population, they were considered as tolerated in their own country) was initiated by Bishop Inochentiu Micu-Klein, and continued by the intellectuals grouped in the Transilvanian School movement.
The hopes for a change in Valahia found their expression in the revolution led by Tudor Vladimirescu (1821). Despite the fact that the Ottoman and Tsarist troops put down the movement, revolution led, nevertheless, to the abolition of the Phanariote regime and the appointing of native princes to the thrones of Moldova and Valahia.
The Peace Treaty signed in Adrianopole in 1829, putting an end to the Russian-Turkish conflict of 1828-1829, considerably diminished the Ottoman suzerainty in the Romanian principalities, enhancing, on the other hand, Russias "protectorate".
In 1848, the revolutionary movements extended to the Romanian principalities as well, bringing remarkable names to the forefront of the political scene: Ion Heliade-Radulescu, Nicolae Balcescu, Mihail Kogalniceanu, Simion Barnutiu, Avram Iancu a.o. These movements were stifled first in Moldova and Valahia, and then in Transilvania (1849).
With the support of the big European powers, France and Prussia, on January 24th, 1859 the union of Moldova and Valahia was achieved under the rule of Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1859-1866). The young state was granted international acknowledgement under the name of Romania, with Bucharest as the capital.
After the abdication of Alexandru Ioan Cuza in 1866, Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was appointed ruling prince of Romania on May 10th, 1866, as a result of a plebiscite. The New Constitution passed in 1866 (and remaining in force until 1923) proclaimed Romania a constitutional monarchy.
On May 9th, 1877, the Romanian State proclaimed its independence. The Government headed by Ion C. Bratianu, with Mihail Kogalniceanu as Foreign Minister, decided, on the Russians request, that the Romanian troops pointed the Russian ones operating on the anti-Ottoman front in Bulgaria. The Berlin International Peace Congress (June-July 1878) acknowledged Romanias independence, also re-establishing Romanias rights over Dobrogea, after a long Ottoman domination. At the same time, infringing on the Romanian-Russian Convention of April 4th, 1877, Russia forced Romania to give up the south of Basarabia.
The recreation of the Hungarian State as the separated state by Austria, had serious consequences for Romanian inhabiting this territory, Transilvania being incorporated by Hungary.
A period of stability and progress was registered in Romania between 1878 and 1914. The political life centered round two principal parties the Conservative one and the Liberal. Russias expansionist policy determined Romania to sign, in 1883, a secret alliance treaty with Austria, Hungary, Germany and Italy, renewed, on a regular basis, until the beginning of the first World War.
During the second Balkan war, Romania joined Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey against Bulgaria. By the peace treaty signed in Bucharest in 1913, ending this conflict, the South of Dobrogea was returned to Romania.
Romania participated in the First World War for only one reason: to perfect its national unity, the successor of Carol I, King Ferdinand I being one of its promoters.
The collapse of the two multinational empires Austro-Hungarian and Tsarist (in 1917 1918), created the possibility for the Romanians in Basarabia, Bucovina and Transilvania to mould their destiny in freedom, deciding the union with Romania. On April 9th, 1918, Basarabia, on November 28th, 1918 Bucovina, and on December 1st, 1918 Transilvania united with the motherland, Romania.
The international peace treaties of 1919 1920, acknowledging the new European realities, also confirmed the union of the provinces inhabited by Romanians into a unique state (with an area of 295,042 sq. km and a population of 15.5 million inhabitants).
The application of a radical agricultural reform, the passing of a new constitution, one of the most democratic on the Continent, created a general-democratic framework and allowed for a fast economic growth (the industrial production doubled between 1923-1938). With an oil production of 7.2 million tons in 1937, Romania placed second in Europe and the seventh in the world.
At the beginning of the Second World War, Romania proclaimed her neutrality (on September 5, 1939), but the defeats suffered by France and UK in 1940 brought the country to a dramatic situation. Applying the provisions of the secret Soviet-German protocol of August 23, 1939, the Soviet government forced Romania to give up Basarabia, the North of Bucovina and the Hertza land which had never belonged to Russia by the ultimatums of June 26th/28th, 1940. Italy and Germany helped Hungary take the Northern-West part of Transilvania with a Romanian majority population. After the Romanian-Bulgarian negotiations at Craiova, on September 7th, 1940, a treaty was signed according to which the South of Dobrogea went to Bulgaria.
Politic regime of Romania was changed and Romania took part in the war against USSR, alongside Germany. On August 23rd, 1944, Marshal Ion Antonescu was arrested by order of King Michael I. The new government, made of military and technicians, declared war against Germany (on August 24th, 1944). Romania joined the United Nations, with all her economic and military forces, until the end of the war in Europe. Despite the great human and economic efforts for the cause of the United Nations, the Peace Treaty of Paris (February 10th, 1947) did not acknowledge Romania her status of co-belligerent country and compelled her to pay huge war compensations. Nevertheless, the treaty acknowledged Northern-East Transilvania as rightfully belonging to Romania; Basarabia, Northern Bucovina and the Hertza land remained annexed to the USSR.
As the Soviet troops remained on her territory and the Western powers abandoned her, Romania knew, in the period to come, an evolution similar to the other satellite countries of the USSR. The communist regime in Romania that was established with the support of the Soviets, after King Michael I had been forced to abdicate at the end of 1947. In the same day, the Peoples Republic of Romania was proclaimed and the dictatorship of a unique party was introduced. The industrial, banking and transport units were nationalized (1948), and the forced collectivization of the agriculture was carried out between 1949 and 1962.
When the communist leader of the post-bellum epoch, Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, died in 1965, Nicolae Ceausescu monopolized the power. The dictatorship of the Ceausescu family, the most absurd of all the totalitarian governments of this century's Europe, featuring a personality cult of pathological dimensions, led to distortions in the economy, the degradation of the social and moral life, the isolation of the country from the international community.
Under those circumstances, the spark of the revolution, stirred up in the Timisoara on December 16, 1989, very soon spread all over the country and, on December 22, the dictatorship was ended by the sacrifice of over 1,000 people. The evolution opened prospects for democracy, a multi-political system, the return to the market economy and the re-integration of the country within the European economic, political and cultural space.
The National Salvation Front came to power, announcing the dismantlement of communist structures, the promotion of a market economy and free elections. In a relatively short period the historical political parties were brought back to life and new parties were created. Administrative, parliamentary and presidential elections were held five times (1990, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004).
The new Constitution of Romania was passed including democratic provisions in conformity with the European standards.
Lying between two areas of major crisis, ex-Yugoslavia to the West and the former USSR to the East, Romania has imposed herself as a balance and stability factor in this part of Europe.