Romania History

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History of Romania

The Kingdom of Dacia flourished in the territory that is now Romania from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. By 106 A.D. Dacia was conquered by the Roman armies and integrated into the Roman Empire. Roman colonists joined the Thracian-Greek inhabitants and Rome developed the region, building roads and bridges. Latin, the language of the Romans served as the linguistic base for modern Romanian. Under barbarian pressure, the Roman legions retreated from Dacia (modern Romania) in 271-275. The exception was the area known as Dobrogea, which is south of the Danube River.  Dobrogea remained in the Byzantine Empire until the 13th century, when it was incorporated into Wallachia.

After Rome lost control of the area, the Daco-Roman people were subjected to successive invasions for a millenium by the Goths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, Magyars, Cumans, Pechenegs, and finally, Mongols. The Mongol invasion occured in the middle of the 13th century. Through intermarriage and assimilation, the inhabitants of Romania developed into a distinct ethnic group, known as the Vlachs, a name designating Latin-speakers of the Balkan Peninsula.  

The first of the Romanian principalities was Transylvania, formed as a duchy of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1111.  The principality most associated with early Romania, Wallachia (Land of the Vlachs), was formed around 1250 as part of the kingdom of Hungary, gaining its independence in 1330 under Prince Basarab I.  The third is  legend of Dracula, based on his biography as written in the chronicles of the Saxons of Transylvania.

After the Turks conquered Hungary in 1526, Transylvania enjoyed a brief period of autonomy, becoming a Turkish vassal in 1541.  In 1551 the Banat also fell under Ottoman rule. Although these principalities paid annual tribute to the Ottoman sultan, Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia retained their autonomous status under Turkish sovereignty.  They were briefly united under Prince Mihai Viteazu in 1600, but the union disintegrated when he was assinated by the Habsburgs.  Each of his three sons took one of the principalities as his own.

The Austro-Hungarians drove the Turks from Transylvania in 1606, from the Banat in 1701.   They received the Bukovina area of Moldavia in 1775 for assistance in a war against Russia. Hungarian and German Catholic and Protestant church records began to be kept after that in those areas. In Wallachia and Moldavia Turkish influence also began to decline as Russia asserted influence there beginning in 1774. During the Russian occupation of 1806, records of births, marriages and deaths began to be kept. By 1812 Russia gained control of Bessarabia (eastern Moldavia), and by 1829 the Turkish forces had completely withdrawn from all of the area now in Romania.  Transylvania and the Banat were annexed to Hungary in 1867.

Romanian nationalism began to rise in the mid-1800s. Insurrections arose in Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania but were suppressed by the Ottomans and the Russians. Following the Crimean War (1853-1856) Wallachia and Moldavia became independent principalities once again, and in 1861 both elected a single prince to rule them, creating the state of Romania with its capital at Bucharest. Romania was recognized as an independent state in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin that followed the Russo-Turkish War. The Congress also awarded the coastal area of Dobruja to Romania. Romania was raised to the rank of a Kingdom in 1881 with a Hohenzollern monarchy. 


Romania entered World War I with the Allies, but the Germans soon occupied Bucharest and most of the country. After the war and with the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Transylvania, Bukovina, part of Banat, and the Russian province of Bessarabia were added to the Kingdom of Romania, bringing it to its largest extent. This area is still referred to as "Greater Romania".

In 1923 a new constitution granted citizenship to Jewish residents. In the 1930s a fascist political movement similar to those in Germany and Italy appeared in Romania and Romania entered into an alliance with Germany. By 1941 500,000 German soldiers were occupying Romania, and the Romanian army was pitted against the Soviet Union. By 1944 Soviet troops controlled the country.

A coup led by King Michael and opposition politicians, with the support of the army, deposed the Antonescu dictatorship on August 23, 1944 (Romania’s national holiday). Thereafter, Romanian forces fought on the side of the Allies against the Germans in Transylvania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.

Occupied by the Soviets after the war, Romania’s economy and political life were coordinated with the Soviet Union, as was the rest of Eastern Europe. The Soviet occupation forces in Romania supported Communist organizers and non-Communist political leaders were purged from positions of authority. In March 1945, King Michael was forced to appoint a Communist-front government.

A peace treaty signed at Paris on February 10, 1947 confirmed the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (occupied since 1940) and ceded the largely Bulgar-populated southern part of Dobruja to Bulgaria. It also reincorporated into Romania the portion of northern Transylvania that had been granted to Hungary in 1940 under a German arbitration between Romania and Hungary.  Most of Bessarabia become the Moldovan SSR, now the republic of Moldova.  Northern Bukovina and parts of southern Bassarabia were annexed to the Ukraine.

In December 1947, Romania's king abdicated under pressure and the Romanian People’s Republic was declared. Once in power, the Communists, led by Gheorghiu-Dej, effectively subordinated Romania's national interests to those of the Soviet Union. After the death of Gheorghiu-Dej in 1965, Nicolae Ceauşescu emerged as the new Communist leader and a new constitution was adopted, changing the name of the country to the Socialist Republic of Romania.

In 1989 the Ceauşescu government was overthrown by Ion Iliescu and a new non-Communist constitution was adopted in 1991.  In 2007, Romania became a member state in the European Union.

Religious History

Christianity in Romania dates back almost to the time of Christ.  According to Romanian tradition, the Apostle Andrew first taught the gospel in Romania.  Archeologists have found Christian churches and artifacts dating to the second century in Apuseni and Carpathians mountains, as well as in Dobrogea and other areas of Romania.  In the third century, slaves brought in from Asia Minor by the Goths included Christians who then taught the Daco-Roman people.  In the sixth century, a metropolitan was established in Tomis, a city in Dobrogea.  The metropolitan was under the bishop and later Patriarch of Constantinople.  Thus, when the schism occured between Catholic Rome and Orthodox Constantinople, the Romanian parishes became orthodox.  The Tomis Metropolitanate is the foundation of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which became an independent church in 1878.

Roman Catholicism was introduced into Transylvania and Banat when the Hungarians took over those area in the 10th century. The number of Romanians who chose to remain Orthodox in this area led to a number of conflicts. For example, the Edict of Turda in 1389 deprived all Orthodox Romanians of their civil rights.

The Protestant Reformation introduced  Calivinism and other sects among Hungarians and Germans in Transylvania and Banat in the 16th century. After Austro-Hungary reestablished its control in 1698, the orthodox metropolitan of Transylvania, under political pressure, asked the Pope to enter communion with the Catholic church, on the condition that they could continue mass in the Byzantine rite.  The pope agreed, and that is the foundation of the Greek Catholic Church in Romania.  In the 17th century, Jesuit priests came to Transylvania as part of the counter-reformation.  Transylvania and the Banat became a cosmopolitan mix of Calvinist Reformed, Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic and Jewish religions was common here. 

Since 1991, Romania has enjoyed full religious freedom.

Religious Affiliation in Romania

Religion 1875 1912 1992
Romanian Orthodox 44.5% 68.4% 86.8%
Greek Catholic 30.4% 17.1% 3.2%
Roman Catholic 11.3% 5.6% 5.1%
Calvinist-Reformed 7.2% 3.2% 2.7%
Muslim 1.6% 2.0% 0.2%
Unitarian 0.6% 0.4% 0.3%
Pentecostal 1.0%
Seventh-Day Adventist 0.3%

History of Society and Culture

History of Romanian Society
Culture of Romania