also spelled RUMANIA, Romanian ROMĀNIA, country in southeastern Europe. Romania is about 300 miles (480 km) from south to north and about 420 miles (680 km) at its widest extent from west to east. It is bordered by Ukraine (north), Moldova (northeast), the Black Sea (east), Bulgaria (south), Yugoslavia (southwest), and Hungary (west). The capital is Bucharest. Area 91,699 square miles (237,500 square km). Pop. (1993 est.) 22,789,000.

  The land.

Romania's topography is dominated by the great arc of the Carpathian Mountains, which enter northern Romania via Ukraine and take a curving course, first southeastward and then westward across the central part of the country. The Carpathians then turn south again and cross the Danube River, which forms Romania's southern boundary with Bulgaria. The southern and eastern portions of Romania consist of fertile plains that are drained by the Danube and its tributaries. The Carpathians in Romania may be divided into the Eastern Carpathians, the Southern Carpathians (or the Transylvanian Alps), and the Western Carpathians; they occupy about 30 percent of the country's total area. The highest point in Romania is the peak of Moldoveanu (8,346 feet [2,544 m]) in the Southern Carpathians.


The three ranges, with an average elevation of 2,620 feet (800 m), form a semicircle, open to the west through structural depressions ("gates"), that shelters the tableland of the Transylvanian Basin in the central part of the country. On the outer fringe of the Carpathians' great arc are the Subcarpathians, reaching elevations between 1,300 and 3,300 feet (400 and 1,000 m). The eastern and southern plains occupy one-third of the country's total area and formed the populated cores of historic Moldavia and Walachia, respectively.

Romania's climate is intermediate between the temperate and continental types. Average annual temperatures range from 52° F (11° C) in the south to 45° F (7° C) in the north; average annual rainfall ranges from 16 inches (400 mm) in the southeast to 55 inches (1,400 mm) in the Carpathian Mountains. Oak, beech, and coniferous forests cover about one-fourth of the land.


The people.

Romanians represent almost 90 percent of the populace. The largest minorities are the Hungarians (7 percent), who live mostly in Transylvania, Gypsies (2 percent), and Germans (0.5 percent). Romanian is the official language, although Hungarian and German are preserved by their communities and may be used as languages of instruction in schools.

Some 86 percent of Romanians profess affiliation to the Romanian Orthodox church. A small number of Romanians (mostly living in Transylvania) adhere to the Eastern-rite Roman Catholic Church of Romania, while Hungarians and Germans are mostly Roman Catholic, Calvinist, or Lutheran.

Birth and death rates are moderate, but infant mortality is still relatively high. One-fourth of the population is younger than 15 years. Life expectancy at birth is 66 years for males and 72 years for females. About half of the population lives in urban areas.


The economy.

Under communist rule from 1948 to 1989, Romania had a centrally planned economy. During that period its mostly agricultural economy was transformed into one based largely on heavy industries and services. From 1991, the post-communist government began taking steps to return industrial and commercial enterprises to the private sector. The gross national product (GNP) per capita is lower than that of most other eastern European countries.

Agriculture accounts for about one-sixth of the national income and employs more than one-fourth of the labour force. More than two-fifths of the land is arable. The agricultural output of the collective farms under communist rule was low, however, and the government has undertaken to distribute some collective farmlands to private citizens. Major grain crops include corn (maize), wheat, rye, and barley, and potatoes and sugar beets are important root crops. The Subcarpathians are a well-known viticultural region. Sheep and pigs are the main livestock reared. Most of the timber removed annually from the forests is used in industry.

Romania's mineral resources are inadequate, although bauxite, iron ore, and lead are mined. Fuels, minerals, and metals account for approximately one-half of the country's imports.

Manufacturing and mining account for more than two-thirds of the national income, are dominated by heavy industries, and employ almost two-fifths of the labour force. The country's major manufactures include steel and aluminum, machinery, motor vehicles, chemicals, and cement. Romania's light industries, which centre on the production of textiles and processed foods, were neglected under the communist regime. Electricity is largely generated by coal- and oil-fired plants. Hydroelectric power provides only about one-sixth of Romania's electricity. Machinery and transport equipment, fuels, and chemicals are major exports.

Romania's railways provide the main method of transportation for both freight and passengers. About half of the road network is paved. The Danube River and the Danube-Black Sea Canal continue to be major shipping routes. Bucharest and several other cities have international airports.


Government and social conditions.

From its formal independence in 1878 until World War II, Romania was a constitutional monarchy, ruled by a hereditary king whose personal powers often conflicted with the demands of political groups representing large landowners, the urban middle class, and peasants. From 1948 to 1989 the country was ruled by the Communist Party of Romania (Partidul Comunist Romān), under a political system basically modeled on that of the Soviet Union.

In December 1989 a revolution toppled the country's communist leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, and since the adoption of the 1991 constitution, Romania has been a multiparty republic. The president is elected directly every four years, and the bicameral legislature is elected by proportional vote. National minorities are guaranteed seats in the legislature. Political parties are divided roughly between former communists who prefer a cautious restructuring of the socialist economy, democrats who advocate a more radical reform of the system, and minority parties that seek to ensure a voice for ethnic groups.

Romania's standard of living remains below that of most European countries owing to economic mismanagement and the neglect of social services under the communist regime. Both urban and rural housing have been in short supply since World War II, and medical care is inadequate in many areas.

Romania's literacy rate of 96 percent reflects its comprehensive educational system, which is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16 and free at all levels. In addition to general and secondary schools, a wide range of technical and professional schools is available.


Cultural life.

Romanians have made significant contributions in the arts and humanities. Among writers, the poet Mihail Eminescu created a school of poetry that influenced Romanian writers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The 20th-century composer and violinist Georges Enesco became a leader of Romanian composers. Modernist tendencies in the 20th-century visual arts are exemplified by the sculptor Constantin Brancusi.



The earliest inhabitants of Romania included the Thracians, whose descendants, known as the Getae, established contact with Greek colonies that appeared on the shore of the Black Sea in the 7th century BC. Together with the Dacians, a related people living in the Carpathian Mountains and in Transylvania, the Getae established a distinct society by the 4th century BC. The Romans subjugated the Geto-Dacians by AD 106. Roman rule, though brief, left an enduring legacy in the Romanian language, which is derived from Latin. Constant invasions by the Goths forced the Romans to abandon Dacia in the late 3rd century, and over the next eight centuries the land was swept by invasions of Visigoths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, and Magyars. According to some Hungarian scholars, during this period the Romanized Dacians withdrew south of the Danube River, only to return to the Romanian plains and to Transylvania during the Middle Ages. Romanian scholars argue that, while some Dacians did follow their Roman masters, most sought refuge in the Carpathian Mountains or continued to occupy the plains and tablelands of old Dacia. (see also Index: Roman Republic and Empire)

Subjection to the first Bulgarian empire (8th-10th century) brought Eastern Orthodox Christianity to the Romanians. In the 11th century Transylvania was absorbed into the Hungarian empire. The first Romanian state, Walachia, was established south of the Carpathians during the early 14th century, and a second, Moldavia, was founded in 1349 east of the Carpathians in the Prut River valley. However, in the late 14th century Walachia and, in 1455, Moldavia became vassal states of the Ottoman Empire. Both remained Turkish dependencies until the 19th century, while Romanians in Transylvania lived under Hungarian control. In 1812 Russia gained control of Bessarabia (southeastern Moldavia).

Romanian nationalism began to rise in the mid-19th century. Insurrections erupted in Walachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania but were suppressed by the Ottomans and Russians. Following the Crimean War (1853-56), Walachia and Moldavia became independent principalities once again, and in 1859 both elected a single prince to rule them, creating the de facto state of Romania with its capital at Bucharest. This state was united administratively in 1861 and won international recognition in the Treaty of Berlin (1878) following the Russo-Turkish War.

Romania entered World War I with the Allies, but the Central Powers soon occupied Bucharest and much of the country. With the defeat of the Central Powers in 1918, Romania's territory was doubled by the addition of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Bessarabia. Although it satisfied the aspirations of Romanian nationalists, this Greater Romania was troubled during the interwar years by the resentments of its newly incorporated minorities, by the worldwide economic depression of the 1930s, and by the rise of extremist political organizations such as the Iron Guard, a fascist movement similar to those that existed in Germany and Italy. In order to assure its independence Romania entered into an alliance with Nazi Germany in 1941. By then 500,000 German soldiers were occupying Romanian soil, and a joint German-Romanian army was formed to invade the Soviet Union; but by 1944 Soviet troops had overrun the country. Under their occupation, leaders of the conservative, liberal, and peasant parties were forced from office, and at the end of 1947 the Romanian king was forced to abdicate. Romanian communists acquired complete control of the Grand National Assembly in the March 1948 elections, adopted a Soviet-style constitution, and proclaimed the Romanian People's Republic.

After 1948 Romania entered the network of Soviet satellite countries, but in the 1960s, under the leadership of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and his successor, Nicolae Ceausescu, the Communist Party of Romania (CPR) began to implement a foreign policy independent of Soviet goals. Using the socialist tools of state ownership and central planning, the CPR fostered the rapid growth of heavy industry and transformed Romania from an agrarian to an urban society. During the 1970s Ceausescu attempted to modernize the Romanian economy further by investing huge sums borrowed from Western credit institutions. His grandiose development projects failed, however, and consequently the Romanian people were subjected to a rigorous austerity program in the 1980s in order to pay off the country's accumulated foreign debt. The standard of living plunged as Romania exported much of its food and fuel production. The populace was terrorized by the secret police, and the government, dominated by Ceausescu's family, squandered much of the nation's remaining wealth on public monuments and urbanization schemes.

When communist regimes across eastern Europe fell in 1989, Ceausescu resisted the trend and reasserted his unpopular policies. In mid-December of that year, however, antigovernment demonstrations erupted in the country's cities, and, when the Romanian army joined the uprising against him, Ceausescu fled. He was arrested by the new provisional government and was tried and executed. In the course of the revolution a group calling itself the Council of the National Salvation Front took over the reins of government. The council, which represented a broad coalition of former communists and noncommunists alike, held multiparty elections to the presidency and the national parliament in May 1990. These elections were won by the National Salvation Front, whose formerly communist leaders called for a gradual and controlled transition to a free-market economy in Romania. This party dominated the drafting of a new constitution in 1991, and, renamed the Democratic National Salvation Front, it retained control of the government following national elections in September and October 1992.

Related Internet Links:

Romanian Home Page

Discover Romania

Romanian Government

Virtual Romania

Romanian Development Agency

Romanian National Tourist Office