Republic, in south-eastern Europe, bordered on the north by Ukraine; on the east by Moldova; on the south-east by the Black Sea; on the south by Bulgaria; on the south-west by Serbia (part of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro); and on the west by Hungary. The total area of Romania is about 237,500 sq km (91,700 sq mi). Bucharest is Romania’s capital and largest city.
Land and Resources
Romania is roughly oval in shape, with a maximum extent east to west of about 740 km (460 mi) and north to south about 475 km (295 mi). The topography is varied. The Transylvanian Basin, or Plateau, which occupies central Romania, is very hilly for the most part, but also has wide valleys and extensive arable slopes. The Transylvania region is almost completely surrounded by mountains. To the north and east are the Carpathian Mountains, and along the south are the Transylvanian Alps, which continue south to the Danube gorge at the Banat Mountains. Moldoveanul (2,544 m/8,395 ft), the highest peak in the country, is in these Alps. A smaller group of ranges, the Bihor Mountains, is west of Transylvania. The remaining areas of Romania are predominantly lowlands. In the west are the lowlands of the Tisza Plain, which are usually referred to as the Banat, adjacent to the Serbian border, and Crisana-Maramures, adjacent to Hungary. The most extensive plains are the lowlands of Walachia, located between the Transylvanian Alps and Bulgaria, and the region of Moldova (Moldavia), east of the Carpathian Mountains. Bordering the Black Sea in the extreme east and forming part of Dobruja, or Dobrogea, is a low plateau, which continues south into Bulgaria.
The most important river of Romania is the Danube. It demarcates the eastern part of the boundary with Serbia, and most of the boundary with Bulgaria. The valley of the lower course of the Danube (east of the Iron Gate gorge near Turnu Severin) and the Danube delta are very swampy. Other important rivers, all part of the Danube system, are the Mures, Prut, Olt, and Siret. Romania has many small, freshwater mountain lakes, but the largest lakes are saline lagoons on the coast of the Black Sea; the largest of these is Lake Razelm.
The Transylvanian Basin, the Carpathian Mountains, and the western lowlands have warm summers and cold winters with recorded temperature extremes ranging between 37.8° C (100° F) and -31.7° C (-25° F). The Walachian, Moldavian, and Dobrujan lowlands have hotter summers and occasionally experience periods of severe cold in winter; recorded extremes in Bucharest and the lowlands are 38.9° C (102° F) and -23.9° C (-11° F). Rainfall averages 508 mm (20 in) on the plains and from 508 mm to 1,016 mm (20 in to 40 in) on the mountains and is concentrated in the warmer half of the year.
The principal resources of Romania are agricultural, but the country also has significant mineral deposits, particularly oil, natural gas, salt, coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, bauxite, chromium, manganese, lead, and zinc.
Plants and Animals
Wooded steppe, now largely cleared for agriculture, predominates in the plains of Walachia and Moldova. Fruit trees are common in the foothills of the mountains. On the lower slopes are found forests of such deciduous trees as birch, beech, and oak. The forests of the higher altitudes are coniferous, consisting largely of pine and spruce trees. Above the timberline (approximately 1,750 m/5,740 ft), the flora is alpine.
Wild animal life is abundant in most parts of Romania. The larger animals, found chiefly in the Carpathian Mountains, include the wild boar, wolf, lynx, fox, bear, chamois, roe deer, and goat. In the plains, typical animals are the squirrel, hare, badger, and polecat. Many species of birds are abundant; the Danube delta region, now partly a nature preserve, is a stopover point for migratory birds. Among species of fish found in the rivers and offshore are pike, sturgeon, carp, flounder, salmon, perch, and eel.
Romanians, who constitute 89 per cent of the total population, are descendants of the peoples inhabiting Dacia (modern Romania) at the time of its conquest (about AD 106) and absorption by the Romans. Important minorities are the Hungarians, who comprise about 11 per cent of the population and are chiefly settled in Transylvania; and Germans, who make up less than 1 per cent of the population and live chiefly in the Banat. Romania also has small numbers of Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, Serbs, Croats, Turks, Bulgarians, Tatars, and Slovaks. Ethnic unrest has troubled Romania since the overthrow of the communist regime. In 1991 organized attacks on Romany communities caused a large number to flee to Germany and Austria, but most of these were forcibly returned to Romania in 1992. Unrest in Transylvania forced the ethnic Hungarians there to flee in 1990, after Romanian tanks had been deployed to quell the uprising. Anti-Semitism has also been rising.
Romania has a population of 22,835,000 (1995 official estimate). Population density is about 96 people per sq km (249 per sq mi). The population is about 56 per cent urban.
Political Divisions and Principal Cities
For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 40 counties and the municipality of Bucharest. Bucharest has a population of 2,080,363 (1994), and it is also the prime industrial and commercial centre of the country. Other major cities are Constanta (348,575), the only Romanian port on the Black Sea; Brasov (324,210), noted for the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, and metal products; Timisoara (327,830), an industrial centre; Iasi (339,889), a commercial centre; Cluj-Napoca (326,017), a commercial and industrial centre; Galati (326,728), a naval and metallurgical centre; Craiova (306,825), a textile, electrical, and chemical centre; and Ploiesti (254,408), hub of the oil industry.
Religion and Language
The largest religious organization of Romania is the Romanian Orthodox Church, to which about 85 per cent of Romanians adhere. In addition, the country has substantial numbers of Roman Catholics, predominantly the Hungarian, Swabian, and German minorities of Transylvania and Banat; Protestants of various denominations; Jews, primarily in Bucharest; and Muslims, mainly among the Tatar and Turkish minorities in the Dobruja region.
The official language is Romanian, one of the Romance languages, spoken by nearly all the population. Other languages spoken include Hungarian, German, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian, Romany, and Yiddish.
The territory that is modern Romania first appeared in history as the greater part of the Roman province of Dacia, conquered by Emperor Trajan in around AD 106. Most of its inhabitants, known as the Daci, had originally emigrated from Thrace in northern Greece. Roman colonists were sent into the province, and Rome developed the area considerably, building roads, bridges, and a great wall, its ruins still visible, from the present Black Sea port of Constanta across the Dobruja (Dobrogea) region to the River Danube. During the 3rd century AD, raids by the Goths became so grave a menace that the Roman legions were withdrawn across the Danube. While successive waves of invaders, including Goths, Huns, Slavs, and Bulgars, made Dacia a battleground, the Romanized population preserved a Latin speech and identity. Gradually, through intermarriage and assimilation with Slavonic tribes, these people developed into a distinct ethnic group, called Walachians or, in Slavonic, Vlachs, whose nomadic and warlike customs became a constant threat to the neighbouring Byzantine Empire. Under Bulgarian rule, in the 9th century, the Orthodox form of Christianity was introduced.
About the end of the 13th century Hungarian expansion by Magyars drove many of the people from the western provinces to settle south and east of the Carpathians. Here they established the principalities of Walachia and later that of Moldavia, each ruled by native princes, or voivodes (Russian, voevoda, “leader of an army”), many of whom acknowledged the suzerainty of the kings of Hungary or Poland. With the defeat of the Hungarians by the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Moldavia and Walachia came under Turkish rule, which lasted for three centuries. At the close of the 16th century Moldavia, Transylvania, and Walachia were temporarily united by Prince Michael of Walachia, who made continual war on the Turkish sultan in an attempt to gain and maintain independence. For a time Michael successfully opposed the Ottomans; he conquered Transylvania in 1599 and Moldavia in 1600, but he was assassinated the following year, and the spirit of independence waned.
The Ottomans restored their control of the principalities after Michael’s death, imposing severe political restrictions. Finally the Romanians turned to Russia, which had offered to protect fellow Orthodox Christians, for help. In an effort to fend off the growing influence of Russia in the early 18th century, the Ottoman government established the so-called Phanariot system. Moldavia and Walachia were ruled through Turkish-appointed hospodars (Old Slav gospodi, “lord”), usually members of Greek families from the Phanar district of Constantinople. Many Romanian boyars, or nobles, allied themselves with ruling Greek families, and Greek became the official language.
Russian influence became pre-eminent after 1750 and remained so for a century. In 1774 Russia defeated Turkey, which was then forced to promise lenient treatment of Moldavia and Walachia. In 1802 Russia obtained a voice in the appointment of hospodars, and in 1812, having again defeated Turkey in the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812, obtained Bessarabia, which had previously been part of the principality of Moldavia. The weakening of Turkish influence became more evident after the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. By the Treaty of Adrianople, which ended the Greek war in 1829, Moldavia and Walachia, although remaining nominally under Turkish control, became more autonomous. The Phanariot system was ended, and Russia became the unacknowledged suzerain of the two states, a situation disapproved of by the great European powers, which had begun to intervene in Balkan affairs during the Greek war.