Romania is a republic in southeastern Europe and although rich in culture
and natural resources, it has long been one of Europe’s poorest and least
developed nations. Foreign powers, including the Ottoman and Austro-
Hungarian empires, controlled the country for much of its history.
From historical point of view, the territory that is now Romania first
appeared in history as Dacia. Most of its inhabitants were originally from
the region of Thrace, in Greece; they were called Getae by the Greeks, and
later, by the Romans, they were known as Dacians. Later on, the territory
was dominated by different empires, starting with the Roman Empire and
ending with the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Romania has gained
its independence in 1877, after a painful war. At the beginning of the
century, Europe found Romania as a kingdom, but, as the World Wars emerged,
its governmental status changed to a republic.
In 1948 Communists took control of Romania and modeled the government and
economy after those of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. However, in
the 1960s Romania’s Communist leaders began to distance themselves from the
USSR and develop their own domestic and foreign policies. Romania’s economy
grew during the 1960s and 1970s, but by the 1980s most Romanians were
suffering from food shortages and other economic hardships. In 1989
Romanians revolted against the repressive dictatorship of Nicolae
Ceausescu, the country’s president and Communist Party leader. Ceausescu
was executed, and a non-Communist government was installed. The first free
multiparty elections took place in Romania in 1990.
The political and economic changes that have taken place in Romania since
the 1980s have made daily life difficult for many ordinary citizens. Food
prices are high relative to the country’s low minimum wage, and few
Romanians can afford luxuries. One-family houses are common in Romania’s
villages, while most city dwellers live in one-family apartments. Most
apartment buildings were built during the Communist period and are cramped
with minimal facilities.. Popular Romanian foods include mititei (seasoned
grilled meatballs) and mmlig (a cornmeal porridge that can be served in
many different ways). Wine and a plum brandy called tuica are popular
beverages among Romanians, and plcint (turnovers) are a typical dessert.
Soccer is the favorite national sport.
The most serious social problem in Romania is the high rate of unemployment
and low standard of living resulting from the country’s transition from a
state-run to a market economy. Other social problems surround the rights
and treatment of Romania’s minority populations. Since the end of
Communism, the Roma minority has been a target of harassment and hostility.
In the early 1990s a large number of Roma left Romania for Germany, but the
German government sent many of them back the following year. Conflicts have
also occurred between ethnic Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania, as
Hungarians’ demands for greater autonomy and linguistic rights have
provoked responses from nationalist Romanian groups.
At the moment, Romania is facing a time of transition, a time when concepts
and ideas have to change, and the economy has to improve.