Was Romania a part of Germany
An independent Romania emerges
In 1859 the principalities of Wallachia and Moldova chose Alexandru Ioan Cuza as their common prince, and in 1862 he united the two principalities under the name of Romania. The dependence on the Ottoman Empire remains. Cuza wants to reform the country, but he exaggerates his efforts. When he tried to push through an agrarian reform, he encountered fierce resistance from the aristocracy. They depose the prince without further ado.
Now the time of Carol I begins. Behind this is Karl Anton von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Romania achieved independence under him in 1877. In 1881 Carol I was crowned King of Romania. During his reign, Carol I promoted the country economically. He improves the infrastructure, builds railway lines and bridges. The finance and school systems are reformed and the army modernized according to the Prussian model.
The upswing is bypassing the farmers entirely. Many farmers have no land of their own and so they remain dependent on the aristocratic landowners. The land rents are hardly to be paid. The discontent and the protests became more violent and culminated in the peasant uprising of 1907, which was bloodily suppressed. Nothing changes in the conditions for the peasants.
With a clever move to Greater Romania
Romania is in a difficult position in terms of foreign policy. In the vicinity of the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia, the Romanians seek proximity to the West, but they want to stay out of military conflicts. In 1883 Romania joined the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), after all Carol I came from the House of Hohenzollern.
During the First World War, Romania changed camps in 1916 and entered into an alliance with the Entente powers France, Great Britain and Russia. A clever move, because in the end the Romanians are the winners of the First World War. Transylvania, the Maramures, the eastern Banat, the Bukovina and Bessarabia now belong to Romania. Greater Romania emerges, which is suddenly twice as large as it was before the war.
Romania between the wars
The period between the wars is marked by many changes of government. Economic, social and ethnic problems are increasing. The multi-ethnic state has grown too quickly. The urgency of agrarian reform is increasing and there is a need to invest in industry. In this situation, right-wing extremists, the so-called Iron Guard, try to take advantage of the state's weaknesses. King Carol II prevents the takeover of power with a "royal dictatorship". He enacts a new constitution and parties are banned.
In World War II
Romania tries to remain neutral during World War II. The desired neutrality between the power blocs Germany and the Soviet Union can only be maintained until 1940. The Soviet Union gives Romania an ultimatum, Romania must evacuate Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. King Carol II has no choice, Romania also loses Northern Transylvania to Hungary and Southern Dobruja to Bulgaria, so that Greater Romania shrinks to two thirds of the area.
After Carol II loses all support, General Ion Antonescu takes over the government, supported by the Iron Guard. He is pursuing a pro-Germany course with the hope of returning the lost territories. There are pogroms against the Jews in Bucharest, hundreds of thousands of Romanian soldiers take part in the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
But in 1944 Romania had to surrender, King Mihai deposed Antonescu, and the Red Army marched into Bucharest. Romania is now fighting on the side of the Allies against Germany. This means that the Hungarians allied with Germany have to return Transylvania, but Romania loses Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union.
Romania becomes communist
After 1945 the Romanians got hammered and sickled. In 1947 the People's Republic of Romania is proclaimed. As party leader and head of government, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej is a loyal vassal of Moscow. Under his leadership, the Securitate security service is set up, which acts brutally against those who think differently.
Romania is becoming more and more economically dependent. Raw materials and agricultural products go to the Soviet Union, in return Romania is supplied with third-class Soviet consumer goods. The Soviets also exert great influence in the cultural field, with Russian being introduced as a foreign language in schools.
The Ceauşescu era
When Nicolae Ceauşescu took over office in 1965, the course changed towards the Soviet Union. He pursued national independence and became the Romanians' beacon of hope. Initially also rightly so. In 1968, Ceauşescu openly speaks out against the invasion of the Soviet army in Prague and opens his country to the west. With loans from the west, Romania is experiencing an economic upswing and modernization of the country.
Then comes the U-turn that nobody can really explain. During visits to North Korea and China, Ceauşescu learns to appreciate the virtues of the personality cult. He fell into a megalomania and gave himself the title "Conducator". He appears with sash and scepter and has a huge palace built for himself. He can be celebrated as the "Titan among the Titans" and the people have to pay for the pomp.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the economy went downhill, and in order to be able to repay the loans, all income from agriculture was sold abroad. People are starving. Heating, electricity and water are becoming scarce, Romania is degenerating into a desperately poor country, and political opposition is nipped in the bud. This is ensured by the Securitate secret service, which uses brutal methods.
In December 1989 a Hungarian pastor from Timisoara defends himself against the regime and thus sets off a wildfire. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators force the end of the dictatorship. Elena and Nicolae Ceauşescu are arrested and sentenced to death and executed on December 25 in an express trial.
The time after 1989
More than 30 years have passed since the Romanian Revolution. Romania has been a member of the transatlantic defense alliance since 2004 as part of NATO's eastward expansion and since the beginning of 2007 has also been a member of the European Union (EU). But the country is still considered to be an "incomplete democracy", ranking just 63rd out of 167 countries on the 2019 Democracy Index. Many politicians and even entire parties are repeatedly involved in scandals and corruption cases. The ropes from the communist era are still active.
The everyday life of the population is characterized by a large gap. While the big cities, especially Bucharest, no longer differ from other European cities, life in the country is still like a journey back in time to bygone times. A poorly developed infrastructure, a lack of medical care, unemployment or low income dominate everyday life here and make Romania the poor house of the EU.
Together with the ubiquitous corruption and nepotism, it drives so many young job seekers abroad. Young and well-educated Romanians in particular hope for better work abroad. Since 1990 Romania has seen the largest increase in emigrants in the whole of the EU. According to a report by the World Bank, around three to five million Romanians left the country permanently in 2019.
Author: Horst Basting
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