Short Romanian History



Romania is a country with 22 million inhabitants, located in South-eastern Europe.

The Romanian nation was formed after the conquest of the Dacian tribes[1]  by the Roman Empire during Emperor Trajan (101-106 AD)[2] .

The ruling of Rome in the North of the Danube, a territory that is part of present Romania, lasted until 271 AD, when Emperor Aurelian ordered the retreat of the Roman army. A small part of the present Romanian territory, Dobrogea (Dobruja), which lies in the South of the Danube, remained part of the Roman Empire for a longer time.

During the Roman domination, colonists from all over the Empire came to (present) Romania. Latin was assimilated also by the Dacians.


An alternate theory states that the Dacians were already speaking a language that was very similar to Latin, and the Romanian language of today is the direct descendant of the old Dacian (Thracian) language. However, as no written document in Dacian was found, there are no sufficient proofs to support this theory. What is sure is that Romanian is part of the Romance languages and that the Roman Empire ruled part of the present Romanian territory.


Saint Apostle Andrew brought Christianity to Romania. Romania remained outside the borders of the Byzantine Empire, but was in close contact with it. Today Orthodox Christianity is the religion of 95% of the ethnic Romanians.

Slavic and Hungarian invasions came over Romanian territory. In the 14th century, in the battle at Posada, the Romanian prince Basarab defeated the Hungarian king Charles Robert of Anjou and won the independence for Walachia[3] , the Southern part of actual Romania. Another state was formed in Eastern Romania, Moldavia, while the West of the country (Transylvania) was an autonomous principality ruled by kings of Hungarian origin. Hungarian and German colonists were brought to Transylvania.

In the 15th century, after the end of the Byzantine Empire, Moldavia and Walachia became vassal states of the Turkish Empire. However, they maintained a degree of autonomy.

Princes like Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) in Walachia and Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) in Moldavia fought against the Turkish rule. They won several battles but they never obtained complete independence. In 1600, Prince Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave) unified Walachia, Moldavia and Transylvania, but this union lasted only one year.

While Transylvania was conquered by Austria, Moldavia and Walachia remained under Turkish domination. In the 18th century, the Turks imposed foreigners of Greek origin as rulers of Moldavia and Walachia. In 1812, after the Russian-Turkish war, half of Moldavia’s territory (Bessarabia) was annexed to Russia.

In 1821, Tudor Vladimirescu led an uprising against the Turks, at the same time with the Greek rebellion. This made the Ottoman Empire to allow rulers of Romanian origin in Moldavia and Walachia. In 1859, as Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected ruler of both Moldavia and Walachia, the two principalities were united under the name of Romania (the formal recognition of the union took place in 1862).

Meanwhile, in 1784, the Romanian peasants in Transylvania rose up against their landowners, who were often of Hungarian or German origin. The rebellion was put down and its leaders killed. In 1848, the Romanian Revolutionary Army of Transylvania, led by Avram Iancu, fought against the Hungarian Revolutionary Army, in order to avoid the annexation of Transylvania to Hungary.

In 1867, after the constitutional change in Austria (that became Austria-Hungary), Transylvania was part of Hungary. The Romanians from Transylvania, who were the majority of the population, never accepted this change.

In 1877, Romania claimed independence from Turkey, an ideal that was fulfilled after the 1877-1878 Independence War.

In World War I Romania joined the Allies. After the war, Transylvania, Banat, Bukovina and Bessarabia, territories where ethnic Romanians represented the majority of the population, united with Romania, based on the principle of self-determination expressed by the American president Woodrow Wilson.

Land reform and general right of vote for males were the main democratic changes introduced after World War I.

In 1940, following the Hitler-Stalin pact, Russia occupied Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. In the same year Hitler forced Romania to cede Hungary half of Transylvania.

In 1941, the Romanian troops started the war against Russia in order to recover Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. In 1944 the Russian Army entered Romania and imposed a communist regime. At the end of World War II, Romania was forced to give up its territorial claims against the Soviet Union, but was given Transylvania back from Hungary.

In 1946, through rigged elections, the communists won full control of the country. Soon they would ban all opposition parties. King Michael was forced to abdicate in 1947 and the country was transformed into a Soviet satellite.

The Russian Army left Romania only in 1958, when the reparations for World War II were completed.

In 1965, after the death of party leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, power was passed to Nicolae Ceausescu.

[1] As the ancient Greek historian Herodot says, the Dacians were "the most brave and courageous of all Thracians".

[2] To celebrate the victory in the Dacians wars, Emperor Trajan ordered a column to be built in Rome. This column has lasted until today.

[3] Until the 19th century, "walachs" or "vlachs" was the name the foreigners used to designate the Romanians. In some countries these names are used as alternatives for Romanian even today.