Romania’s history has not been as idyllically peaceful as its geography. Over the centuries, various migrating people invaded Romania. Romania’s historical provinces Wallachia and Moldova offered furious resistance to the invading Ottoman Turks. Transylvania was successively under Habsburg, Ottoman, Hungarian or Wallachian rule, while remaining an (semi) autonomous province.
Romania’s post WWII history as a communist-block nation is more widely known, primarily due to the excesses of the former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. In December 1989 a national uprising led to his overthrow. The 1991 Constitution established Romania as a republic with a multiparty system, market economy and individual rights of free speech, religion and private ownership.
Some of the history that has shaped Romania
What is now Romania has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Age as evidenced by carved stone tools unearthed there.
10,000 B.C. — approximate date of the first known art in present day Romania: cave paintings in northwest Transylvania.
4,000 B.C. — approximate date of pottery (dated to the Neolithic Age) that is found in all regions of Romania.
3,000 B.C. — Thracian tribes of Indo-European origin, who migrated from Asia, occupied the actual territory of Romania.
2,000 B.C. — a distinctive Thracian sub-group emerged in what is now Romania. The Greeks called these people Getae, but to the Romans they were Dacians. Herodotus called them “the fairest and most courageous of men” because they believed in the immortality of the soul and were not afraid to die.
700 B.C. — Greeks arrived and settled near the Black Sea. The cities of Histria, Tomis (now Constanta) and Callatis (now Mangalia) were established. Western-style civilization developed significantly.
70-44 B.C. — Dacian king Burebista controlled the territory of modern-day Romania. Burebista created a powerful Dacian kingdom.
100 A.D. — Dacian civilization reaches its peak.
101-106 A.D. — Romans conquer and colonize Dacia (today’s Romania). Dacia becomes a Roman province and Dacians adopt the conquerors’ language.
106-274 A.D. — Dacia is a province of the Roman Empire.
271 A.D. — after fighting off the barbarian Goths, Roman troops abandon Dacia.
4th Century — Christianity is adopted by the Daco-Roman, Latin-speaking people.
4th-9th Centuries — nomadic tribes from Asia and Europe (Goths, Visigoths, Huns, Slavs) invade Dacia.
896 — Magyars (Hungarians) invade regions in western and central Romania (Transylvania).
11th Century — Romanians were the only Latin people in the eastern part of the former Roman Empire and the only Latin people to belong to the Orthodox faith. Hungarian (Magyar) forces invade northwestern and central Romania (Transylvania).
12th Century — Saxon (German) settlers begin to establish several towns in Transylvania. (Germans were invited to settle in Transylvania by the king of Hungary who wanted to consolidate his position in the newly occupied territory).
13th Century — The first formal division of the formerly unified Romanian population. The principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania are established. Transylvania becomes an autonomous principality under Magyar rule, until 1526. Magyar forces tried unsuccessfully to capture Wallachia and Moldavia.
14th-15th Centuries — Wallachia and Moldavia offered strong resistance to the Ottoman Empire expansion.
1526 — Transylvania (a semi-autonomous principality) becomes subject to Turkish authority.
16th-17th Century — Threatened by the Turks who conquered Hungary, the three Romanian provinces of Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania are able to retain their autonomy by paying tribute to the Turks. The principality of ransylvania prospered as a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.
1600 — Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania are briefly united under Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave), prince of Wallachia. Unity lasted only one year after which, Michael the Brave was defeated by the Turks and Hapsburg forces. Transylvania came under Hapsburg rule while Turkish suzerainty continued in Wallachia and Moldavia.
1699 — Transylvania and Bucovina (smaller region north of Moldavia) are incorporated in the Habsburg Empire.
1765 — Transylvania was declared a Grand Principality of Transylvania, further consolidating its special separate status within the Habsburg Empire.
1821 — Moldavia looses its eastern territory east of river Prut (also called Bessarabia) to Russia.
1856 — The principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia — for centuries under the suzerainty of the Turkish Ottoman Empire – secure their autonomy.
1859 — Alexandru Ioan Cuza is elected to the thrones of Moldavia and Wallachia.
1862 — Wallachia and Moldavia unite to form a national state: Romania.
1866 — Carol I (German born) succeeds Alexandru Ioan Cuza, as prince of Romania.
1867 — Transylvania falls under the direct rule of Hungary and a strong push for Magyarisation (of names and official language), from Budapest, follows.
1877 — On May 9 the Romanian parliament declared the independence of Romania from the Ottoman Empire. A day later, the act was signed by Prince Carol I.
1881 — Kingdom of Romania officially proclaimed.
1892 — the leaders of the Romanians of Transylvania sent a Memorandum to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor-King Franz Joseph demanding an end to persecutions and Magyarization attempts.
1914 — King Carol I dies. He is succeeded by his nephew King Ferdinand I (1914-1927). Romania enters WWI on the side of the Triple Entente aiming to regain its lost territories (part of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina).
1918 — During large public assemblies representatives of most towns, villages and local communities in Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bucovina declare union with Romania.
1930 — Carol II, Ferdinand’s I son, becomes king of Romania and establishes royal dictatorship.
1939 — Germany demands a monopoly on Romanian exports (mainly oil, lumber and agricultural products) in exchange for the guarantee of its borders.
1940 — The Soviet Union annexes Bessarabia and Northern Bucovina. Germany and Italy force Romania to cede Northern Transylvania to Hungary and Southern Dobrogea to Bulgaria. Widespread demonstrations against King Carol II. Marshall Ion Antonescu forces him to abdicate in favor of his 19-year-old son Michael. Carol II flees Romania.
1941 — Marshall Ion Antonescu imposes a military dictatorship. In order to regain Bessarabia, Romania enters WWII against the Soviet Union.
1944 — King Michael engineers a royal coup and arrests Marshall Ion Antonescu. Romania surrenders, reenters war on Allied side. .
1945 — The Yalta Agreement makes Romania part of the Soviet system. Communist-dominated government installed.
1947 — With Soviet troops on its territory, Romania enters the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union. The communists, who gradually took power, force King Michael to abdicate and proclaim Romania a People’s Republic.
1950s — After Stalin’s death, Romania begins to distance itself from Moscow.
1964 — Declaration of autonomy within Communist Bloc.
1967 — Nicolae Ceausescu becomes President of the Council of State merging leadership of state and party.
1968 — Condemnation of Soviet-led Warsaw Pacy invasion of in Czechoslovakia by Romania’s communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu, earns him praise and economic aid from the West.
1974 — Romania was the first country of the Soviet Bloc to have official relations with the European Community. (a treaty included Romania in the Community’s Generalized System of Preferences).
1980s — Obsessed with repaying the national debt and megalomaniac building projects Ceausescu orders a ban on importation of any consumer products and commands exportation of all goods produced in Romania except minimum food supplies. Severe restrictions of civil rights are imposed.
1982 — Romania calls on Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan.
1987 — Ceausescu indicates Romania will not follow Soviet reform trends.
1989 — Romanians unite in protests against the communist leadership and local demonstrations sparked a national uprising that finally ousted communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu and his cabinet.
1990 — Multiparty elections held; National Salvation Front obtains a landslide victory.
1991 — Romanians vote for a new Constitution.
2004 — Romania joins NATO.
2007 — Romania becomes a member of the European Union.