Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


Capital : Bucharest (Bucaresti)

Size: 9200 sq m Popn: 23 185 000


The earliest known inhabitants merged with invaders from Thrace. The people called the Dacii were probably of Celtic origin. They were conquered by Rome in 106 and their lands became the province of Dacia which covers much the same area as modern Romania. In the later Empire, it was divided into three parts, Porolissensis, Dacia Superior and Dacia Inferior. The Romans withdrew in AD 275 and the area was occupied by the Goths. In the C5th, it was over-run by the Huns under Attila who made their base in the region in AD 434-53. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the eastern part remained as the Byzantine Empire but Dacia was not reconquered. It was part of the Bulgarian Empire under Krum (802-14) and remained outside Christian Europe although Transylvania became part of Hungary.

Eventually the whole area came under Hungarian control but as the Turkish Ottoman Empire spread, it took over most of the territories around the Black Sea. Under Ottoman rule, Romania was covered by the Turkish vassal states of Eflak (Wallachia) and Bogdan (Moldavia), added to the Empire in 1396 and 1455. They remained under Ottoman rule until being occupied by Russia in 1806-12 and were semi-independent under Russian protection from 1829-56. Wallachia and Moldavia elected Prince Alexander Cuza as their ruler in 1859 and united to form Romania in 1861. The Prince was deposed in 1866 and Prince Charles of Hohenzollen-Sigmaringen was elected. Romania sided with Russia in the Russo-Turkish wars of 1877-8 and was afterwards recognised as independent by the great powers. It became a kingdom with Prince Charles as King Carol I in 1881.

In the Second Balkan War of 1813, Romania fought against Bulgaria and annexed southern Dobruja. It entered the First World War on the side of the allies in 1916 but was occupied by Germany in 1917-18. After the war, many ethnic Hungarians and Turks left the country to move to their own countries, but territorially Romania was greatly enlarged, becoming the largest Balkan state and taking Transylvania from Hungary, Bukovina from Austria, Bessarabia from Russia and southern Dobruja from Bulgaria.

In the 1920s it allied itself with Poland (against Russia) and France and made a Treaty of Friendship with Italy. The Balkan Pact of 1934 between Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey was made to fend off Russian and German expansion although Carol II tolerated and financed the fascist 'Iron Guard' from 1930-8. To counter its growing popularity, he abolished the democratic constitution of 1923 and established his own dictatorship. In 1940, he was forced to give up Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to the USSR, northern Transylvania to Hungary and south Dobruja to Bulgaria and abdicated when Germany occupied Romania in August. The Axis Pact was signed by Ion Antonescu, ruling in the name of Carol II's son Michael and war was declared with the USSR in June 1941. With the Red Army on his borders in August 1944, King Michael supported the ousting of Antonescu by a coalition of left and centre parties, including the communists and Romania joined the war against Germany. In the Paris peace treaties of 1947, it regained Transylvania but the USSR kept Bessarabia and northern Bukovina as parts of Moldavia and the Ukraine and Bulgaria retained southern Dobruja.

The Communist -led coalition gained an election majority in 1946 and King Michael was forced to abdicate. The Romanian People's Republic was proclaimed in December and dominated by the Romanian Workers' Party, or Romanian Communist Party. In 1948 and 1952, Soviet-style constitutions were adopted and Romania joined Comecon in 1949 and co-signed the Warsaw Pact in 1955. A programme of nationalization and collectivization of agriculture began and there was a rapid purge of opposition leaders. The RWP became firmly enough established for the Soviet occupation forces to leave in 1958. From 1945-65, the RWP leader and state president, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, dominated politics.

His successor as RWP leader, Nicolae Ceauê escu, put greater emphasis on national autonomy and proclaimed Romania a socialist republic. He adopted a foreign policy independent of the USSR, condemned the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and refused to directly participate in Warsaw Pact manoeuvres or let Russian troops into the country. He called for nuclear disarmament and the formation of a Balkan nuclear-weapon-free zone and maintained close relations with China. In 1974, he became president and a strict Stalinist regime was followed with the secret police or Securitate keeping a tight control on dissident activity. Nearly 40 members of Ceauêescu family, including his wife, Elena and son, Nicu, occupied senior party and state positions.

As economic difficulties worsened as Ceauêescu promised to repay Romania's foreign debts and began an austerity programme which led to food shortages and widespread power cuts in the winters after 1985. The army occupied power plants and brutally put down workers' demonstrations in Braêov in 1987. Ceauêescu refused to follow Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's programme of reform and in 1989, called for the Warsaw Pact nations to intervene against the Solidarity movement in Poland. Relations with Hungary reached crisis point in 1988-89 when Ceauêescu's 'systemization plan' to demolish 7000 villages and replace them with 500 agro-industrial complexes led to the forced resettlement and assimilation of Transylvanian ethnic Hungarians.

In December 1989, government plans to exile the dissident Protestant pastor, L«szlÙ TØkes, to a remote village led to Romanians and ethnic Hungarians joining to form an anti-Ceauêescu protest movement in Timiê oara. The state crackdown killed hundreds and an officially sponsored rally in Bucharest went wrong when the crowd chanted anti-Ceauêescu slogans. Divisions between the army and the Securitate grew and the army chief of staff, General Stefan Gusa, called on his troops to defend the uprising. Ceauêescu tried to escape but was captured and summarily tried and executed on Christmas Day. In Bucharest, several thousand people were killed in fighting between the Securitate, loyal to Ceauêescu, and the army, which gained the upper hand.

A National Salvation Front was formed from former dissident intellectuals, reform communists and military leaders. Its head, Ion Iliescu, was a Moscow-trained communist and its prime minister, Petre Roman, was an engineer with no political experience. Political parties were legalized and a new constitution drafted. Trying to combat serious economic problems, the Front banned food exports, abandoned the 'systemization plan' and dissolved the Securitate, replacing it with a new intelligence service accountable to the government. The RCP's leading political rÛle was abolished, small plot farming, the Eastern Catholic Church and contraception were relegalized. The west intervened with humanitarian aid sparked off by reports about the numerous orphanages and the bad conditions in them.

Iliescu won the first free elections since the war in May 1990 and the government moved towards a free-market economy but had to postpone its price-liberalization programme after exports slumped, increasing strikes and protests. Living costs and unemployment rose and there were trade union protests when the second stage of price liberalization began in April 1991. The leu was devalued by 72% to meet conditions set by the IMF and was later made internally convertible. President Iliescu made a law allowing for the privatization of all state industries except utilities in August 1991. Refugees continued to leave Romania and there were many anti-government demonstrations, especially in Bucharest and Timiêoara. In September, after three days of riots in Bucharest by striking miners, Prime Minister Roman resigned and was replaced by Theodor Stolojan, former finance minister and advocate of accelerated price liberalization. He formed a new, cross-party coalition government in October. A new treaty on co-operation and good neighbourliness was signed with the USSR, obliging the two states 'not to take part in any alliance directed against either of them'. In December, a national referendum emphatically endorsed a new constitution guaranteeing pluralism, human rights and a free market, clearing the way for the general election of 1992 which Iliescu won although over 3 million votes were declared invalid.


Name Reign Family Spouse
Prince Alexander Cuss (Cuza) 1859-86 dep    
Carol I 1886-1914 elected Charles of Hohenzollen-Sigmaringen Elizabeth (Carmen Sylva)
Ferdinand 1914-1927 nephew of Carol I  
Carol II (abd 1925) 1930-40 son of Carol I 1 Zizi Lambrini
2 Helen of Greece
Michael 1927-30 1940-7 son of Carol II + 2  
Margarita   daughter of Michael  

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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