Some of Romania’s earliest civilizations were the Getae tribe, of Thracian origins, who lived in the Dacian Kingdom, which included modern-day Romania and neighboring nations. Dacia rose to power in the region beginning in about 82 BCE. Under Trajan’s rule, the Roman Empire conquered Dacia by 106 AD, plundering its gold and silver and ruling it until 275 AD. Around that time, the Goths took control of Dacia, until the Huns came along in the 4th century.
The Middle Ages brought the division of the region into the principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. While Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of Hungary, Wallachia came under Ottoman rule as an autonomous region, with Vlad III the Impaler (Dracula) as its prince in the mid 1400’s. Around that same time, Moldavia was ruled by Stephen the Great, who was in power for 47 years and had a serious impact on the region. When he died in 1504, Moldavia too became part of the Ottoman Empire, but the three regions of Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania were under Ottoman suzerainty as autonomous regions.
Though uprisings in 1848 by the oppressed Romanians failed to achieve independence, they led to the election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza as the Prince of Moldavia and Wallachia, but not Transylvania, which had stronger associations with Austria-Hungary. With the 1866 coup, Prince Carol came to power in Romania, and after the Russo-Turkish War ended in 1878, Romania declared its independence, becoming a full-fledged kingdom in 1881.
Romania remained neutral for the first two years of the World War I. Following the secret “Treaty of Bucharest”, according to which Romania would acquire territories with a majority of Romanian population from Austria-Hungary, it joined the Entente Powers and declared war on 27 August 1916.
The Romanian military campaign began disastrously for Romania as the Central Powers occupied two-thirds of the country within months, before reaching a stalemate in 1917. Total military and civilian losses from 1916 to 1918, within contemporary borders, were estimated at 748,000. After the war, the transfer of Bucovina from Austria was acknowledged by the 1919 “Treaty of Saint Germain”, of Banat and Transylvania from Hungary by the 1920 “Treaty of Trianon” and of Basarabia from Russian rule by the 1920 “Treaty of Paris”.
During World War II, Romania tried again to remain neutral, but on 28 June 1940, it received a Soviet ultimatum with an implied threat of invasion in the event of non-compliance. Again foreign powers created heavy pressure on Romania, by means of the Soviet-Nazi Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of non-aggression from 23 August 1939. As a result of it the Romanian government and the army were forced to retreat from Basarabia as well as from northern Bucovina in order to avoid war with the Soviet Union.The king was compelled to abdicate and appointed general Ion Antonescu as the new Prime-Minister with full powers in ruling the state by royal decree.
Romania was prompted to join the Axis military campaign. Thereafter, southern Dobrogea was ceded to Bulgaria, while Hungary received Northern Transylvania as result of an Axis powers’ arbitration. Romanian contribution to Operation Barbarossa was enormous, with the Romanian Army of over 1.2 million men in the summer of 1944, fighting in numbers second only to Nazi Germany. Romania was the main source of oil for the Third Reich and thus became the target of intense bombing by the Allies. Growing discontent among the population, eventually peaked in August 1944 with King Michael’s Coup and the country switched sides, joining the Allies. It is estimated that the coup shortened the war by as much as six months.Even though the Romanian Army had suffered 170,000 casualties after switching sides, Romania’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany was not recognized by the Paris Peace Conference of 1947, as the Soviet Union annexed Basarabia and other territories corresponding roughly to present-day Republic of Moldova.
Jewish Holocaust victims in Romania totaled more than 280,000, plus another 11,000 Gypsies (“Roma”). The Romanian government has recognized that a Holocaust took place on its territory and held its first Holocaust Day in 2004.
During the Soviet occupation of Romania, the Communist-dominated government called for new elections in 1946, which were fraudulently won, with a fabricated 70% majority of the vote. Thus they rapidly established themselves as the dominant political force and in 1947, forced King Michael I to abdicate and leave the country, and proclaimed Romania a people’s republic. Romania remained under the direct military occupation and economic control of the USSR until the late 1950’s.
In 1965, Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power and started to conduct the foreign policy more independently from the Soviet Union. Thus, communist Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country who refused to participate at the Soviet-led 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia; it was also the only communist state to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War; and established diplomatic relations with West Germany the same year. At the same time, close ties with the Arab countries allowed Romania to play a key role in the Israel–Egypt and Israel–PLO peace talks. As Romania’s foreign debt sharply increased between 1977 and 1981 (from US$3 billion to $10 billion), the influence of international financial organizations (such as the IMF and the World Bank) grew, gradually conflicting with Ceaușescu’s autocratic rule. The latter eventually initiated a policy of total reimbursement of the foreign debt by imposing austerity steps that impoverished the population and exhausted the economy. At the same time, Ceaușescu greatly extended the authority of the secret police and imposed a severe cult of personality, which led to a dramatic decrease in the dictator’s popularity and culminated in his overthrow and eventual execution, together with his wife, in the violent Romanian Revolution of December 1989.
After the Cold War Romania developed closer ties with Western Europe and the United States, eventually joining NATO in 2004, and hosting the 2008 summit in Bucharest.
The country applied in June 1993 for membership in the European Union and became an Associated State of the EU in 1995, an Acceding Country in 2004, and a full member on 1 January 2007.
With an area of 238,391 square kilometres (92,043 sq mi), Romania is the largest country in Southeastern Europe and the twelfth-largest in Europe.
Romania’s natural landscape is almost evenly distributed between mountains (31%), hills (33%), and plains (36%). These varied landforms spread rather symmetrically from the Carpathian Mountains, reaching over 2,400 m altitude (maximum altitude – the Moldoveanu Peak of 2,544 m), to the Danube Delta, which is just a few meters above sea level.
The Carpathian Mountains are surrounded by the Moldavian and Transylvanian plateaus and Pannonian and Wallachian plains.
The Transylvanian Plateau, at elevations averaging 365 meters (1,200 feet) lies in the center of Romania, ringed by the three branches of the Carpathian Mountains.
Its terrain includes valleys and rounded hills, and it is bordered on the west by an area of the eroded limestone known as karst.
The Moldavian Plateau is marked by hills and narrow valleys and extends across the eastern region of Moldavia between the Subcarpathians and the Prut River, rising to between 488 and 610 meters (1,600 and 2,000 feet). Farther south, in the northern inland part of the Dobrogea region, is a plateau that rises to a maximum height of 467 meters (1,532 feet).
Almost all of the country’s rivers are tributaries of the Danube, either directly or indirectly and by the time the Danube’s course ends in the Black Sea, they account for nearly 40% of the total inflow.
The most important of these rivers are the Mureş, the Olt, the Pruth, the Siret, the Ialomiţa, the Someş and the Argeş. Fed by rainfall and melting snow, there is considerable fluctuation in inflow and occasionally catastrophic flooding. In the East, the Siret and the Prut collect the other rivers’ waters. In the South, the rivers flow directly into the Danube , and in the West, waters are collected by the Tisa on Hungarian territory.
Situated half way between the Equator and the North Pole, on the South-Eastern part of the European continent, Romania enjoys a temperate-continental climate with four distinct seasons and also with hot summers and fairly mild winters. Climatic conditions are modified by the country’s varied landscape.The Carpathians serve as a barrier to Atlantic air masses, restricting their oceanic influences to the West and centre of the country, where they cause milder winters and heavier rainfall. The mountains also block the continental influences of the Russian Plain, which bring frosty winters and less rain to the South and South-East.
The average annual temperature is 11 °C (52 °F) in the south and 8 °C (46 °F) in the north.In summer, average maximum temperatures in Bucharest rise to 28 °C (82 °F), and temperatures over 35 °C (95 °F) fairly common in the lower-lying areas of the country. In winter, the average maximum temperature are below 2 °C (36 °F). Precipitation is average, with over 750 mm (30 in) per year only on the highest western mountains, while around Bucharest it drops to around 600 mm (24 in).
If you wish to explore unique ecosystems, you’ll find yourself accommodated by Romania’s 13 national parks: Semenic – Caraş Gorges, Nera Gorges – Beuşniţa, Domogled – Cerna Valley, Retezat, Călimani, Bicaz Gorges – Hăşmaşului, Ceahlău, Rodna Mountains, Piatra Craiului, Cozia, Buila-Vânturariţa, Jiul Gorge and Măcin Mountains.
Romania is very rich in spectacular landscapes and biological diversity and has 14 nature parks: Bucegi, Apuseni Mountains, Portile de Fier (‘Iron Gates’), Comana, Defileul Mureşului Superior (‘Upper Mureş Gorge’), Balta Mică a Brăilei (‘Small Moor of Brăila’), Lunca Mureşului Inferior (‘Lower Mureş Meadow’), Lunca Joasă a Prutului Inferior (‘Lower Meadow of Lower Prut’), Grădiştea Muncelului – Cioclovina, Maramureşului Mountains, Vânători-Neamţ, Putna – Vrancea, Geoparcul Dinozaurilor Ţara Haţegului and Geoparcul Platoul Mehedinţi.
Danube Delta Biosphere Reservation
The Danube Delta is the third-richest biosphere reservation in the world in terms of biodiversity, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. It is home to more than 7,000 known species of plants and animals known and, scientists believe, still more as yet unknown.
The delta is a triangular swampy area of marshes, floating reed islands, and sandbanks, where the Danube ends its journey of almost 3,000 km. The Danube Delta provides a large part of the country’s fish production, and its reed is used in the production of cellulose. In August 1990, UNESCO declared the Danube Delta a reservation of the biosphere. It includes the delta, the Razim-Sinoe complex of lagoons and the Danube valley up to Cotul Pisicii, covering an area of 591.200 ha. This represents 2.5% of Romania ‘s territory.
It is also the only delta in the world stretching from west to east instead of north south. The Danube Delta is home to more than 300 migratory and permanent bird species, to 160 kinds of fish that include caviar-bearing sturgeon, and to 800 plant families. This wetland preserve covers more than 1,678,000 acres (2,622 sq. miles) with channels and canals widening into tree-fringed lakes, reed islands, numerous lakes and marshes, oak forests intertwined with lianas and creepers, dunes and traditional fishermen villages.
Romania retains a high proportion of natural ecosystems. Almost half of its land area covered with natural and semi-natural landscapes, including one of the largest remaining areas of undisturbed forest in Europe.
The quality of the Romanian forest ecosystems is demonstrated by the presence of the full range of European forest fauna. The country supports half of Europe’s brown bears and 30 per cent of Europe’s wolves.
Romania has an ample amount of wild animal life; its fauna consists of 33,792 animal species. Many species that are disappearing or have disappeared entirely in other parts of the world still flourish in Romania. One such species is the house sparrow which is currently considered to be endangered in Britain.
Larger animals such as wild boar, wolf, lynx, fox, bear, roe deer, chamois, and goat are primarily found in the Carpathian Mountains. Romania boasts the largest brown bearbrown bear population in Europe at 40%. The country is also home to 30% of Europe’s wolves. Typical animals in the plains are the hare, squirrel, polecat, and badger. In the Danube Delta region, now partly a nature preserve, many species of birds can be found as it is a resting point for migratory birds. About 3,600 feral horses live in the Danube Delta as well as 2,000 in the Letea nature reserve. Romania’s feral horses are one of the largest population of wild horses living freely on the European continent. Pike, Sturgeonsturgeon, Flounderflounder, carp, Salmonsalmon, herring, eel and perch are among the species of fish found offshore and in the rivers. With its abundant wildlife and diverse habitats, Romania is a popular destination for wildlife tours.
All of Romania’s rivers and streams drain to the Black Sea. All of the rivers also join the Danube River, except for the minor streams that rise on the eastern slopes of the hills near the coast and flow directly into the sea. Those flowing southward and southeastward from the Transylvanian Alps drain to the Danube directly. Those flowing northward and eastward from Moldova and Bucovina reach the Danube by way of the Prut River. Most of the Transylvanian streams draining to the north and west, including the Mureş and Someş Rivers, flow to the Tisza River, which joins the Danube in Serbia and Montenegro, north of Belgrade.
The Danube rises in the southwestern part of Germany and follows a winding, generally eastern course through Austria, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro, and Romania before finally emptying into the Black Sea, 2,850 kilometers (1,771 miles) from its source. It is the second-longest river in Europe and a vital commercial and transportation route.
As the Danube approaches its delta, it divides into a number of channels. It also forms several lakes, some of which are quite large. At the delta it divides into three major and several minor branches. The delta has an area of about 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) and grows steadily as the river deposits billions of cubic feet of sediment into the sea annually. Its main tributaries flowing through Romania include the Siret, Ialomiţa, Argeş, Olt, Jiu, and Timiş.
The Dobrogea region provides Romania’s access to the Black Sea and contains most of the Danube River delta. Much of the Danube River delta, as well as a belt of land up to 32 kilometers (20 miles) wide along most of the river’s length, is marshland. The majority of this land is not easily exploited for agricultural purposes, although some of the reeds and natural vegetation have limited commercial value. The delta is a natural wildlife preserve, particularly for waterfowl, and is large enough so that many species can be protected. Willows flourish in parts of the delta and there are a few deciduous forests in the north-central section.
Romania is said to have more than 3,500 lakes, but most of them are small and lakes occupy only about 1 percent of the country’s total surface area. The largest lakes are along the Danube River and the Black Sea coast. Some of those, including the largest, the 390-square kilometer (150-square mile) Lake Razelm, are saltwater lakes, or lagoons that are open to the sea. These and a few of the freshwater lakes are commercially important for their fish. The many smaller ones scattered throughout the mountains are usually glacial in origin and add much to the beauty of the resort areas.