History of Romania in Brief

History of Romania in Brief – Guide 2024

The history of Romania is important to understand with a brief summary the Romanian past and its present. A land on the border of the fascinating Balkan peninsula , with a rich history full of contamination thanks to the peoples who have followed one another. The Romanian people were born around the millennium AD, uniting people from various lands and following Romanization . A country with deeply rooted traditions and united, culturally and socially. So let’s discover its history together in brief in our summary, better understanding the country during your trip to Romania!

The History of Romania

To understand the present it is important to know the past thanks to a summary of Romanian history in brief. From the 2nd millennium BC the territory of Romania was inhabited by Dacians, Thracians and Getae. Then the Romans conquered Dacia, retreating in 271 AD, giving way to the invasions of the barbarians . In the 9th century the Hungarians arrived and founded the principality of Moldavia and Wallachia . Between the 14th and 15th centuries the principalities were subjected to the Ottoman Empire , developing culturally and economically. Mihai Viteazul, trying to unite the principalities, is defeated by the Ottomans. With the arrival of Western influence in the 16th century, the bourgeoisie and the Enlightenment principles asserted themselves. Seeking a revolution against the Ottomans, which is however brutally repressed. Alexandru Ioan Cuza , in 1859, unites Moldavia and Wallachia.

With the support of Russia , in 1878 Romania won the War of Independence , becoming a kingdom in 1881 under King Carol I. During the First World War it allied itself with the Entente and, during the Second, with the Axis, later changing deployment in 1944. In 1947 the socialist People’s Republic was established which remained until 1989 with the Romanian revolution and the execution of Nicolae Ceaușescu . In 2007 Romania joined NATO and subsequently the European Union. Romania, during its history which we will also see in our summary, has faced numerous adversities and challenges, building its economy and democracy . So let’s discover Romanian history in our summary!

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The phases of Romanian history

PeriodEpoche Storiche
Prehistoric age5.000 a.C. – 200 a.C
Dacia200 a.C – 476
Romanian Middle Ages270 – 1504
Ottoman sovereignty1530 – 1594
Modern Age1529 – 1530
Communist period1947 – 1989
Towards democracy1989 – 1990
The presidency of Ion Iliescu1990 – 1996
Emil Constantinescu1996 – 2000
Second presidency of Iliescu2000 – 2004
Traian Basescu2004 – 2014
Klaus Iohannis2014 – …

Romanian prehistory

Our summary of Romanian history begins in the Paleolithic , when its territory was inhabited. The oldest traces of cultural manifestations, however, date back as far as 5,000 years ago BC. Here at the time there were eastern Mediterranean or continental tribes, who arrived in today’s Romanian territory in the 5th millennium. Of the first cultures we find traces of ceramic manufacturing among the highest in European prehistory, highlighting that of the Cucuteni culture .

Then comes the Tripolye culture and the female statuettes symbolizing fertility or zoomorphic. In the Transylvania area there are the first copper and gold mines, later exploited by the Thracians and Dacians.

Sarmizegetusa Regia

The Sarmizegetusa Regia website

At Dacia

During the history of Romania briefly in our summary, in 200 BC the territory was inhabited by the Dacians , a Thracian lineage. During the 1st century BC , under King Burebista , the Dacian state was created. Thanks to its sovereign it became a powerful political entity, feared and even threatening the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar , before his assassination in 44 BC, had decided to annex it to the Empire, but was stopped. The same year, Burebista was also killed by the local nobles for money. He was succeeded on the Dacian throne in 95 by Decebalus , elected by the people. Domitian also attempted, unsuccessfully, to annex the Dacian kingdom to the Roman Empire. Only Trajan , clashing with the resistance of Decebalus, managed to occupy most of the territory.

Decebalus died in 106 and the Dacians were absorbed into the Empire, becoming Roman citizens a century later in 212 . Thanks to the Constitutio antoniniana promulgated by Caracalla . In 274, during the history of Romania in brief, Aurelian failed to protect the province from the barbarians, abandoning Dacia and retreating after the Danube. The only area retained by the Roman Empire was Dobrogea and subsequently became part of the Eastern Roman Empire . Civilization and the Latin language spread in Dacia, among a people who had joined the Roman colonists for a long time, a union that has survived to the present day and is imprinted on Romanian culture.Face of Decebalus carved in rock

Romanian Middle Ages

The history of Romania’s Middle Ages in brief, as we will see in our summary, does not last in the historical period usually between 476 and 1492. In fact it begins with the withdrawal of the Roman troops from Dacia, ending in 1504 with the death of Stephen III of Moldova . In this period of time numerous peoples followed one another, who today form Romania. Society is also undergoing profound changes. The population moved to the large estates, to the fortified cities under the protection of the local lords. From the east came the Goths and Gepids .

The Goths took Wallachia and Moldavia, as well as parts of Transylvania between 290 and 330, collapsing to the Huns in 376. In 454 dominion west of the Carpathians and over Oltenia passed to the Gepids. In about 100 years, the areas east of the mountains became important centers for the Sclaveni and the Anti . In 568 the Gepids were defeated by the Avars and in the meantime, by 670, the Bulgarians had already created an empire along the Lower Danube . The conflicts of their First Empire lead the Hungarian nomads to conquer the Carpathians in 895, as narrated in the Gesta Hungarorum , in the lands of Duke Gelou .

The Kingdom of Hungary

From the 11th century, Transylvania, Crişana and Banat , merged into the kingdom of Hungary, were plundered by Cumans and Pechenegs. In this period of history, the immigration of settlers from Western Europe to Transylvania has been encouraged since 1150. From 1200 we see the group of Transylvanian Saxons, however threatened from the 13th century by the Mongols coming from the Eurasian steppes. In fact, they defeated the Cumans, destroying numerous settlements of the Kingdom of Hungary until 1242 .

The birth of Wallachia and Moldavia

Following this moment, Wallachia was born between the lower Danube and the Carpathians , the first independent state born under Basarab I. This ends the sovereignty of the Hungarian kingdom, following the victory in 1330 at the Battle of Posada. Bogdan I , a nobleman from Maramureș who leads a revolt against the previous ruler, obtains Moldavia’s independence instead. To preserve the independence of these principalities, a vassalage structure develops in dacha politics. In 1417 Wallachia and in 1456 Moldavia, however, had paid homage to the Ottomans with Mircea the Elder and Ștefan III cel Mare. This did not prevent the sovereign from conducting military operations against the Turks , ending with many victories.

At the end of the Middle Ages, the Hungarian crown underwent many changes. From the religious fragmentation between Orthodox and Catholics, a pro-Catholic outlook on the part of the sovereigns from the 14th century and the loss of power of the aristocrats. In 1437 the Unio Trium Nationum was born , an alliance between Saxon, Sicilian and Hungarian nobles. The aim was to repress the Transylvanian revolt of Bobâlna. Stephen III of Moldavia, the Great, brought great wealth to the area until his death in 1504, which brought the Middle Ages of the country’s history to an end. Between 1529 and 1530, the Ottomans put an end to the semi-independence of the lands.

Bran Castle
Bran Castle

The Modern Age

In the summary of the history of Romania, the modern age, from the Ottoman conquest in Romanian history to the birth of the territory of today’s Romania, arriving at the awakening of the Nation in the 19th century. From 1500 to 1530 the national history was characterized by upheavals in power and commercial declines in Wallachia and Moldavia, replaced in the 16th century by the Ottoman Empire. Michael the Brave , at the end of the 16th century, opposed the Ottomans, managing to govern Transylvania, Moldiaa and Wallachia in 1600 . This brief unity was then the basis for building the unification of Dacia, excluding however Banat and Dobruja , which were completely subjected to Istanbul.

The Phanariot period

In the first half of the 17th century of Romania’s history summarized in brief, the Orthodox princes of Moldavia and Wallachia ruled these lands harshly. Then administrative control, until 1670, passed to the boyars . The territory during this period was influenced by the Greeks, known as the Phanariot period. State revenues were managed by the Hellenics, like lands , creating many conflicts with the principalities. Due to the heavy imposition of taxes , the peasants soon rebelled against the lords.

In 1560 , the kingdoms of Vasile Lupu in Moldavia and Matei Basarab in Wallachia contributed to the development of the territory, always paying homage to the princes of Transylvania, who collaborated with the Diet . A representation of the nobility of Transylvanian Saxons, Hungarians and Hungarian Sikels. The Romanian people, at this stage of history, were not represented in the Diet and the Orthodox religion was only superficially tolerated . Stephen Bocskai, Gabriele Bethlen and George I Rákóczi, three important princes , adhered to Calvinism, extending dominions and defending autonomy in the 17th century against the Habsburgs .

Towards Independence

During modern Romanian history, we also see Russian expansionism . From the 18th century, Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania, until the 19th century, found themselves between the clashes of the Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian empires. After approximately two centuries under Ottoman rule, in the 18th century Transylvania and Hungary came under the rule of the Austrian Empire . In turn, the Austrians were beginning a rapid expansion, also incorporating Oltenia , part of Wallachia, in 1718, returning to Turkey in 1739. Russia, in 1815 after the Congress of Vienna , was master of the eastern part of Romania, while Western Austria. The south, however, was still in the hands of the Ottoman Empire, albeit in its decline. Russian in 1836 became the official language in Bessarabia , starting Russification in the 19th century , starting a repression towards Romanian intellectuals.

In the Austrian area, Francis II , against the revolution, created stagnation, avoiding the constitution of Transylvania and refusing to convene the Diet for 23 years. Protests thus began in Transylvania , starting the road to independence and the revival of national feeling in 1821. Tudor Vladimirescu’s rebellion failed, but followed in 1848 by the revolution of Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania. Thus the independence of a part of the territory is achieved.

The National Awakening

During Romanian history, as in many other European countries, revolutionary feelings arose from 1848 , leading to rebellions in Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania . The aim was to complete independence, after the first two emancipations and the third unfinished one. These revolutions, however, allowed the people during the summary of Romania’s history to recognize themselves in a linguistic and cultural unity . At the suggestion of Napoleon III, the people of Wallachia and Moldavia elected Alexandru Ioan Cuza as sole prince , thus creating Romania.

A personal union that still excluded Transylvania, still linked to Hungarian nationalism. In 1861 the Transylvanian Association for the Literature and Culture of the Romanians was founded in Sibiu . An enlightened government composed mainly of Transivan Saxons.

Rupea Fortress
The Rupea Fortress, in Transylvania

Greater Romania

România Mare is the territory included during the interwar period, from 1918 to 1941, with the country’s entry into World War II. In 1920, after the Treaty of Trianon, Romania reached its maximum expansion, however also incorporating hostile minorities. The present fake democracy, led by a privileged class, soon resulted in dictatorship in the 1930s . In this period of Romanian history, King Ferdinand ‘s National Liberal Party dominates in the post-war period . The intermediate phase with the National Peasant Party and the phase led by King Charles II, arriving at the parliamentary crisis and the effective dictatorship.

Post World War I

After World War I, the country maintained relations with France , participating in the Little Entente . The attitudes of Nazi Germany and the passivity of France and the United Kingdom led Romania first to neutrality , then to fascist power. Probably due to the Romanian economic crisis, promoting rearmament. With the French defeat in 1940, Romania’s position towards Italy and Germany was total. In the 1930s, with the far-right formation hostile to the oligarchy, Charles II abdicated . Entering World War II, Greater Romania ends, allying itself with the Axis and starting Operation Barbarossa in 1941 .

Fascism in Romania

The history of the country in this summary during fascism is divided into two different regimes. The first, from 1937 to 1938 with the National Christian Party , and the second from 1940 to 41 with the Iron Guard , arriving at the dictatorship of Ion Antonescu , from 1940 to 44. The National Christian Party, with an anti-Semitic and fascist orientation, was founded in 1935. Romania violated international agreements in this period and damaged relations with neighboring countries, moving closer to Italy and Germany with the Goga government; close friend of Adolf Hitler .

The anti-Semitic measures adopted by his government led to the impoverishment of the country. He was overthrown by King Charles II, establishing the royal dictatorship. Over time, Octavian Goga ‘s name has been rehabilitated, as he too is one of the most well-known Romanian poets .

The Second World War

We continue the summary on the history of Romania in brief, arriving at the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact . With this, in 1940 the USSR forced the surrender of Bassarabia and Bukovina , with the entry of the Red Army into the territories, without respecting Romania’s wishes. A moment remembered as the Fântâna Albă massacre . The two territories thus entered the Soviet Union. This, however, awakens Hungarian revanchism, held back by Germany, even if it includes the demands of Budapest. Berlin then pushes for a solution, dividing Transylvania and calling a conference in Vienna. The king, considering the pressure on him, abdicates in favor of his son Michael . Romania, alongside the Axis, entered World War II in 1941 . He invades the USSR and recovers Bassarabia and Bukovina, but not for long. The Odessa massacre takes place in the occupied territories . But the fortunes of the war were reversed after the Italian surrender and the Stalingrad disaster .

The end of the war

The Red Army is unstoppable and Romania tries to join the Allies , feeling obliged to negotiate with Moscow. But the Soviets hated Antonescu , the Romanian dictator. King Michael, in 1944 , deposed Antonescu with a coup d’état , placing his army alongside the Soviets, advancing against Germany . In Romanian history, at the end of World War II, the northern area of ​​Transylvania returned to Romania, but the Territory of Herța, Bukovina and Bassarabia remained with the Soviet Union, like Dobruja in Bulgaria. Bucharest accepts the mutilation of its territory and the country is still occupied by the Red Army.

The Communist period

After World War II, a coup d’état occurred where King Michael I was forced by Prime Minister Petru Groza to abdicate. He was sent into exile in 1948 and, the same year, a new republican constitution was approved without a referendum . Since the 1960s of Romanian history, the communist government has shown itself to be more independent towards the Soviet Union. In 1965 Nicolae Ceaușescu became head of the communist party and in 1967 of state. The consensus towards him came mainly following the denunciation of him in 1968, when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia . His “seductive” independent politics fascinated Western heads of state, who therefore desisted from going against his regime.

The unpopularity of Ceaușescu

In the 1970s, however, Ceaușescu became increasingly temperamental and harsh, increasing his unpopularity in the 1980s. With the fall of communism in Hungary, the first popular protests broke out in Romania in 1989, growing throughout the country. Furthermore, part of the regime also wanted to eliminate Ceaușescu: becoming too cumbersome after the Cold War.

He was replaced by Ion Iliescu and Ceaușescu was arrested . The National Salvation Front is established , proclaiming liberalism. The Communist Party is outlawed and Ceaușescu’s unpopular measures, such as the ban on contraception and abortion, are withdrawn.

After 1989

The fall of Ceaușescu

To follow the dream of industrial autarky, Ceaușescu introduced the rationing of energy resources and food throughout Romanian history . This led the country to contract debt with Western banks, dramatically increasing its debt. To repay the costs and finance the industries, the economic and social hardship thus increases, being paid in 1989. Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu are executed on 25 December .

The path to democracy

The actor Ion Caramitru and the poet Mircea Dinescu declared on TV the fall of the communist regime on December 22 of the same year and the Council of the National Salvation Front was born: a provisional government body . The single party is abolished and Petre Roman is appointed prime minister . In 1990 the CFSN was transformed into a political party . This leads to numerous protests in Bucharest. Ion Iliescu, worried about the escalation, appeals to workers to intervene to defend the country against destabilization.

The supporters were mainly the miners of the Jiu valley , led by the trade unionist Miron Cozma . It was above all they who participated in violence and repression alongside the authorities during the first mineriada. In this climate of disorder during the summary of Romania’s history, the inter-ethnic conflict of Târgu Mureș occurs , between Romanians and Hungarians in this Transylvanian city.

The presidency of Ion Iliescu

Ion Iliescu wins the first presidential elections. The FSN obtained an absolute majority in 1990 and thus began a shock therapy to move the country towards liberalization . Privatization, however, reduces the State’s intervention in the economic field, raising unemployment and increasing popular discontent . In 1991 the new democratic constitution was published and, in 1992, the FSN separated into two parties. One of socialist origin led by Iliescu, on the other the reformists . Iliescu is reconfirmed for 4 years, seeing the preference of the Democratic Front of National Salvation. Nicolae Văcăroiu becomes new prime minister, paving the way for entry into NATO and supporting membership in the European Union , presented in 1995.

Parliament Building Casa Poporului bucharest - romania romanian history in brief summary
Il Palazzo del Parlamento, Casa Poporulu, in Bucarest

Emil Constantinescu’s presidency is Iliescu’s second

In 1996 during the summary of the history of Romania, Emil Constantinescu surpasses Iliescu, becoming the second president in the history of Romanians. Negotiations for the EU continue , with liberal reforms. In 1999 the quinta mineriada took place , due to the wage conditions of the miners. The country’s development was slow and, at the end of his mandate, Iliescu was elected again as President of the Republic in 2000 , with Adrian Năstase as Prime Minister. A sadly popular legislature due to corruption and scandals, but the reforms implemented allow Romania to join the EU in 2007 .

The presidency of Traian Băsescu and Klaus Iohannis 

In 2004, entry into NATO with Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia became official, and in 2007 into the EU with Bulgaria. Thanks to the liberalization of the markets and the structural policies implemented, the living conditions of the population improve, but there is also a massive emigration of the workforce abroad, with a negative demographic trend. Klaus Iohannis was elected in 2014 and, after the tragedy at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest , new protests began leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Especially in light of the numerous judicial scandals . In 2015, with Dacian Cioloș, Romania during its history, in our summary, saw the first democratic technical government .

The Arch of Triumph in Bucharest - romanian history history of romania in brief summary
The Arc de Triomphe in Bucharest

Romania Today

During Romanian history, after the elections in 2017 the Social Democratic Party returns to power with Sorin Grindeanu as Prime Minister. Today, Romania is still a country full of contradictions and many Romanians are estimated to live outside their homeland. Thanks to its historical and scenic wonders , tourism is an increasingly important sector for the country.

From its capital, Bucharest , to the Black Sea beaches of Constanta , arriving in Sibiu , the Danube Delta and the Carpathian Mountains . In fact, there are truly many reasons to visit Romania, a place that can please travelers of all kinds thanks to its main attractions, such as Transylvania . Romania is a wonderful land, a place of legends , folklore , history and culture , thanks to its rich past and its deep-rooted traditions .

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