History - a short overview

Romania??? Vlad Ţepeş aka Vlad the Impaler, Ceauşescu, maybe Iliescu? Most people cannot associate more names with Romania, and few people know about the history. Ancient Greeks called the Thracian tribes living in present-day Romania Getae, the Romans called them Dacians. The Roman province here was called Dacia (and 2000 years later, it was the name of an infamous car made in Romania). During the early Middle Ages, other tribes, namely Hungarians, Slavs, Huns, Goths etc settled in the area. Hungary controlled wide parts of the region. In the 13th century, the Hungarians invited Saxonian farmers to settle in Romania.

During the 14th and 15th century, local rulers successfully fought back the Ottoman approach to advance northwards. Among those rulers, there was the Prince of Wallachia, known as Vlad Ţepeş. "Ţepeş" was his nickname, which means 'The Impaler'. Vlad had a bad habit regarding the execution of Turk captives. A sharp stake was carefully driven into their backbone, and after that the stake was put upright. The injury wasn't fatal - at least not during the first two days! Chronicles say that the poor devils were fully conscious until they died (historical drawings depicting the impaling can be seen in the fortress Rasnov near → Brasov). Bram Stoker heard about the stories and created the famous novel on Dracula based upon Vlad Ţepeş.

Ţepeş Street
Vlad Ţepeş-Street in Braşov

In the 16th century, the rulers could not withstand any longer the Ottoman attacks and were occupied. However, the region was granted wider autonomy. After the defeat of the Ottomans at the gates of Vienna in 1683, Transylvania was 'liberated' by Habsburg's Austria. The rest of the region remained under Ottoman control until 1881.

In World War I, Romanians fought against Austria-Hungary, and so it was one of the winners of the war. As a result, Banat and the Bukovina were added to the Kingdom of Romania, which only consisted of Moldavia (incl present-day Moldova) and Transylvania before. The country played a tragic role in the Second World War. A pro-fascist dictatorship was established, making Romania an important partner of Nazi Germany. Countless Jews and Roma fell victim to the fascist regime. In 1944, the country suddenly made a u-turn and supported the Red Army in their attempt to fight Hungary and Germany.

Ever since, Romania belonged to the Soviet sphere of influence, with the left gradually getting the upper hand. In 1947, the monarchy was abolished and so Romania became a socialist country. However, the leaders of the country kept their distance from the big brother in the east. In 1965, Nicolae Ceauşescu took over and eventually got the title of the President of Romania in 1974. Despotism as well as mismanagement, combined with chronic megalomania, weakened the country substantially. Ridiculous projects sucked the country dry, leading to famine and eventually to bloody unrests in the 1980ies. Even in other socialist countries of Eastern Europe, Romania was an infamous place better to be avoided.

Uprisings reached their climax in 1989. Party leaders 'understood' and arrested Ceauşescu and his unpopular wife. A few days later, they were spontaneously executed after a short and secret trial. I wonder why they've been in such a hurry... The next years were rather chaotic. Until 1996, it remained under the rule of the socialist party. Today, the country is trying hard to get closer to the rest of Europe. Some of the reforms were very painful, but there's great progress. The inflation has been stopped, but poverty is still a common problem. Anyway, it's great to see how the country is flourishing at the moment. In 2007 - and faster then many people expected - Romania gained full EU membership.




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