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Romania - HISTORY
Man first appeared in the lands that now constitute Romania during the Pleistocene Epoch, a period of advancing and receding glacial ice that began about 600,000 years ago. Once the glaciers had withdrawn completely, a humid climate prevailed in the area and thick forests covered the terrain. During the Neolithic Age, beginning about 5500 B.C., Indo-European people lived in the region. The Indo-Europeans gave way to Thracian tribes, who in later centuries inhabited the lands extending from the Carpathian Mountains southward to the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. Today's Romanians are in part descended from the Getae, a Thracian tribe that lived north of the Danube River.
During the Bronze Age (roughly 2200 to 1200 B.C.), ThracoGetian tribesmen engaged in agriculture and stock raising and traded with peoples who lived along the Aegean Seacoast. Early in the Iron Age, about 1200 B.C., pastoral activities began to dominate their economic life. Thraco-Getian villages, which consisted of up to 100 small, rectangular dwellings constructed from wood or reeds and earthen mortar with straw roofs, multiplied and became more crowded. Before the seventh century B.C., Greeks founded trading colonies on the coast of the Black Sea at Istria, near the mouth of the Danube at Callatis (present-day Mangalia), and at Tomi (present-day Constanta). Greek culture also made a deep impression on the seacoast and riverbank Thraco-Getian villages, where the way of life developed more rapidly than in less accessible areas. Toward the end of the seventh century B.C., wheel-formed pottery began replacing crude hand-modeled ware in the coastal region. The use of Greek and Macedonian coins spread through the area, and the Thraco-Getae exchanged grain, cattle, fish, honey, and slaves with the Greeks for oils, wines, precious materials, jewelry, and high-quality pottery. By the sixth century B.C., this trade was affording the Thraco-Getian ruling class many luxuries.
Originally polytheistic nature-worshippers, the Thraco-Getae developed a sun cult and decorated their artwork with sun symbols. Herodotus, a Greek historian, reports that the Getae worshipped a god named Zalmoxis, a healing thunder god who was master of the cloudy sky; however they did not depict Zalmoxis in any plastic form. The people offered agricultural products and animals as sacrifices and also cremated their dead, sealed the ashes in urns, and buried them.
The Getae had commercial contact as well as military conflicts with many peoples besides the Greeks. The Roman poet, Ovid, who was exiled to Tomi, writes that for many years Getian tribesmen would steer their plows with one hand and hold a sword in the other to protect themselves against attacks by Scythian horsemen from the broad steppe lands east of the Dniester River. In 513 B.C. Darius the Great marched his Persian army through Getian territory before invading Scythia. Legend holds that when Philip of Macedonia attacked the Getae in the fourth century B.C., they sent out against him priests robed in white and playing lyres. Philip's son, Alexander the Great, led an expedition northward across the Danube in 335 B.C., and from about 300 B.C. Hellenic culture heavily influenced the Getae, especially the ruling class. Bands of Celtic warriors penetrated Transylvania after 300 B.C., and a cultural symbiosis arose where the Celts and Getae lived in close proximity.
By about 300 B.C., the Lower Danube Getae had forged a state under the leadership of Basileus Dromichaites, who repulsed an attack by Lysimachus, one of Alexander the Great's successors. Thereafter, native Getian leaders protected the coastal urban centers, which had developed from Greek colonies. From 112 to 109 B.C. the Getae joined the Celts to invade Roman possessions in the western Balkans. Then in 72 B.C., the Romans launched a retaliatory strike across the Danube but withdrew because, one account reports, the soldiers were "frightened by the darkness of the forests." During the third and second centuries B.C., the Getae began mining local iron-ore deposits and iron metallurgy spread throughout the region. The ensuing development of iron plowshares and other implements led to expanded crop cultivation.
As decades passed, Rome exercised stronger influence on the Getae. Roman merchants arrived to exchange goods, and the Getae began counterfeiting Roman coins. In the middle of the first century B.C., the Romans allied with the Getae to defend Moesia, an imperial province roughly corresponding to present-day northern Bulgaria, against the Sarmatians, a group of nomadic Central Asian tribes. Roman engineers and architects helped the Getae construct fortresses until the Romans discovered that the Getae were preparing to turn against them. Burebista, a Getian king who amassed formidable military power, routed the Celts, forced them westward into Pannonia, and led large armies to raid Roman lands south of the Danube, including Thrace, Macedonia, and Illyria. Burebista offered the Roman general, Pompey, support in his struggle against Julius Caesar. Caesar apparently planned to invade Getian territory before his assassination in 44 B.C.; in the same year Getian conspirators murdered Burebista and divided up his kingdom. For a time Getian power waned, and Emperor Octavius expelled the Getae from the lands south of the Danube. The Getae continued, however, to interfere in Roman affairs, and the Romans in turn periodically launched punitive campaigns against them.
By 87 A.D. Decebalus had established a new Getian state, constructed a system of fortresses, and outfitted an army. When Trajan became Roman emperor in 98 A.D., he was determined to stamp out the Getian menace and take over the Getae's gold and silver mines. The Romans laid down a road along the Danube and bridged the river near today's Drobeta-Turnu Severin. In 101 A.D. Trajan launched his first campaign and forced Decebalus to sue for peace. Within a few years, however, Decebalus broke the treaty, and in 105 A.D. Trajan began a second campaign. This time, the Roman legions penetrated to the heart of Transylvania and stormed the Getian capital, Sarmizegetusa (present-day Gradistea Muncelului); Decebalus and his officers committed suicide by drinking hemlock before the Romans could capture them. Rome memorialized the victory by raising Trajan's Column, whose bas-reliefs show scenes of the triumph.
From the newly conquered land, Trajan organized the Roman province of Dacia, whose capital, Ulpia Trajana, stood on the site of Sarmizegetusa. Many Getae resisted Roman authority and some fled northward, away from the centers of Roman rule. Trajan countered local insurrection and foreign threat by stationing two legions and a number of auxiliary troops in Dacia and by colonizing the province with legionnaires, peasants, merchants, artisans, and officials from lands as far off as Gaul, Spain, and Syria. Agriculture and commerce flourished, and the Romans built cities, fortresses, and roads that stretched eastward into Scythia.
In the next 200 years, a Dacian ethnic group arose as Roman colonists commingled with the Getae and the coastal Greeks. Literacy spread, and Getae who enlisted in the Roman army learned Latin. Gradually a Vulgar Latin tongue superseded the Thracian language in commerce and administration and became the foundation of modern Romanian. A religious fusion also occurred. Even before the Roman invasion, some Getae worshiped Mithras, the ancient Persian god of light popular in the Roman legions. As Roman colonization progressed, worshipers faithful to Jupiter, Diana, Venus, and other gods and goddesses of the Roman pantheon multiplied. The Dacians, however, retained the Getian custom of cremation, though now, amid the ashes they sometimes left a coin for Charon, the mythological ferryman of the dead.
During the two centuries of Roman rule, Getian insurgents, Goths, and Sarmatians harassed Dacia, and by the middle of the third century A.D. major migrations of barbarian tribes had begun. In 271 A.D. Emperor Aurelian concluded that Dacia was overexposed to invasion and ordered his army and colonists to withdraw across the Danube. Virtually all the soldiers, imperial officials, and merchants departed; scholars, however, presume that many peasants remained. Those Dacians who departed spread over the Balkans as far as the Peloponnese, where their descendants, the Kutzovlachs, still live.
Without Rome's protection, Dacia became a conduit for invading tribes who, targeting richer lands further west and south, plundered Dacian settlements in passing. Dacian towns were abandoned, highwaymen menaced travelers along crumbling Roman roads, and rural life decayed. The Visigoths, Huns, Ostrogoths, Gepids, and Lombards swept over the land from the third to the fifth centuries, and the Avars arrived in the sixth, along with a steady inflow of Slavic peasants. Unlike other tribes, the Slavs settled the land and intermarried with the Dacians. In 676 the Bulgar Empire absorbed a large portion of ancient Dacia.
The migration period brought Dacia linguistic and religious change. The Dacians assimilated many Slavic words into their lexicon and, although modern Romanian is a Romance language, some linguists estimate that half of its words have Slavic roots. Baptism of the Dacians began around 350 A.D. when Bishop Ulfilas preached the Arian heresy north of the Danube. Soon after saints Cyril and Methodius converted the Bulgars to Christianity in 864, Dacia's Christians adopted the Slavonic rite and became subject to the Bulgarian metropolitan at Ohrid. The Slavonic rite would be maintained until the seventeenth century, when Romanian became the liturgical language.
No written or architectural evidence bears witness to the presence of "proto-Romanians" the lands north of the Danube during the millennium after Rome's withdrawal from Dacia. This fact has fueled a centuries-long feud between Romanian and Hungarian historians over Transylvania. The Romanians assert that they are the descendants of Latin-speaking Dacian peasants who remained in Transylvania after the Roman exodus, and of Slavs who lived in Transylvania's secluded valleys, forests, and mountains, and survived there during the tumult of the Dark Ages. Romanian historians explain the absence of hard evidence for their claims by pointing out that the region lacked organized administration until the twelfth century and by positing that the Mongols destroyed any existing records when they plundered the area in 1241. Hungarians assert, among other things, that the Roman population quit Dacia completely in 271, that the Romans could not have made a lasting impression on Transylvania's aboriginal population in only two centuries, and that Transylvania's Romanians descended from Balkan nomads who crossed northward over the Danube in the thirteenth century and flowed into Transylvania in any significant numbers only after Hungary opened its borders to foreigners.
In 896 the Magyars, the last of the migrating tribes to establish a state in Europe, settled in the Carpathian Basin. A century later their king, Stephen I, integrated Transylvania into his Hungarian kingdom. The Hungarians constructed fortresses, founded a Roman Catholic bishopric, and began proselytizing Transylvania's indigenous people. There is little doubt that these included some Romanians who remained faithful to the Eastern Orthodox Church after the East-West Schism. Stephen and his successors recruited foreigners to join the Magyars in settling the region. The foreign settlers included people from as far off as Flanders; Szeklers, a Magyar ethnic group; and even Teutonic Knights returned from Palestine, who founded the town of Brasov before a conflict with the king prompted their departure for the Baltic region in 1225. Hungary's kings reinforced the foreigners' loyalty by granting them land, commercial privileges, and considerable autonomy. Nobility was restricted to Roman Catholics and, while some Romanian noblemen converted to the Roman rite to preserve their privileges, most of the Orthodox Romanians became serfs.
In 1241 the Mongols invaded Transylvania from the north and east over the Carpathians. They routed King Béla IV's forces, laid waste Transylvania and central Hungary, and slew much of the populace. When the Mongols withdrew suddenly in 1242, Béla launched a vigorous reconstruction program. He invited more foreigners to settle Transylvania and other devastated regions of the kingdom, granted loyal noblemen lands, and ordered them to build stone fortresses. Béla's reconstruction effort and the fall of the Árpád Dynasty in 1301 shifted the locus of power in Hungary significantly. The royal fortunes declined, and rival magnates carved out petty kingdoms, expropriated peasant land, and stiffened feudal obligations. Transylvania became virtually autonomous. As early as 1288 Transylvania's noblemen convoked their own assembly, or Diet. Under increasing economic pressure from unrestrained feudal lords and religious pressure from zealous Catholics, many Romanians emigrated from Transylvania eastward and southward over the Carpathians.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Transylvanian émigrés founded two principalities, Walachia and Moldavia. Legend says that in 1290 Negru-Voda, a leading Romanian nobleman ( voivode), left Fagaras in southern Transylvania with a group of nobles and founded "tara Româneasca" on the lands between the southern Carpathians and the Danube. (The name "tara Româneasca" means "Romanian land," here, actually "Walachia"; the word "Walachia" is derived from the Slavic word vlach, which is related to the Germanic walh, meaning "foreigner.") A second legend holds that a Romanian voivode named Dragos crossed the Carpathians and settled with other Romanians on the plain between the mountains and the Black Sea. They were joined in 1349 by a Transylvanian voivode named Bogdan, who revolted against his feudal overlord and settled on the Moldova River, from which Moldavia derives its name. Bogdan declared Moldavia's independence from Hungary a decade later. The remaining Romanian nobles in Transylvania eventually adopted the Hungarian language and culture; Transylvania's Romanian serfs continued to speak Romanian and clung to Orthodoxy but were powerless to resist Hungarian domination.
Walachia and Moldavia steadily gained strength in the fourteenth century, a peaceful and prosperous time throughout southeastern Europe. Prince Basarab I of Walachia (ca. 1330-52), despite defeating King Charles Robert in 1330, had to acknowledge Hungary's sovereignty. The Eastern Orthodox patriarch in Constantinople, however, established an ecclesiastical seat in Walachia and appointed a metropolitan. The church's recognition confirmed Walachia's status as a principality, and Walachia freed itself from Hungarian sovereignty in 1380.
The princes of both Walachia and Moldavia held almost absolute power; only the prince had the power to grant land and confer noble rank. Assemblies of nobles, or boyars, and higher clergy elected princes for life, and the absence of a succession law created a fertile environment for intrigue. From the fourteenth century to the seventeenth century, the principalities' histories are replete with overthrows of princes by rival factions often supported by foreigners. The boyars were exempt from taxation except for levies on the main sources of agricultural wealth. Although the peasants had to pay a portion of their output in kind to the local nobles, they were never, despite their inferior position, deprived of the right to own property or resettle.
Walachia and Moldavia remained isolated and primitive for many years after their founding. Education, for example, was nonexistent, and religion was poorly organized. Except for a rare market center, there were no significant towns and little circulation of money. In time, however, commerce developed between the lands of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region. Merchants from Genoa and Venice founded trading centers along the coast of the Black Sea where Tatars, Germans, Greeks, Jews, Poles, Ragusans, and Armenians exchanged goods. Walachians and Moldavians, however, remained mainly agricultural people.
In Transylvania economic life rebounded quickly after the Mongol invasion. New farming methods boosted crop yields. Craftsmen formed guilds as artisanry flourished; gold, silver, and salt mining expanded; and money-based transactions replaced barter. Though townspeople were exempt from feudal obligations, feudalism expanded and the nobles stiffened the serfs' obligations. The serfs resented the higher payments; some fled the country, while others became outlaws. In 1437 Romanian and Hungarian peasants rebelled against their feudal masters. The uprising gathered momentum before the Magyar, German, and Szekler nobles in Transylvania united forces and, with great effort, successfully quelled the revolt. Afterwards, the nobles formed the Union of Three Nations, jointly pledging to defend their privileges against any power except that of Hungary's king. The document declared the Magyars, Germans, and Szeklers the only recognized nationalities in Transylvania; henceforth, all other nationalities there, including the Romanians, were merely "tolerated." The nobles gradually imposed even tougher terms on their serfs. In 1437, for example, each serf had to work for his lord one day per year at harvest time without compensation; by 1514 serfs had to work for their lord one day per week using their own animals and tools.
In the fourteenth century, the Ottoman Turks expanded their empire from Anatolia to the Balkans. They crossed the Bosporus in 1352 and crushed the Serbs at Kosovo Polje, in the south of modern- day Yugoslavia, in 1389. Tradition holds that Walachia's Prince Mircea the Old (1386-1418) sent his forces to Kosovo to fight beside the Serbs; soon after the battle Sultan Bayezid marched on Walachia and imprisoned Mircea until he pledged to pay tribute. After a failed attempt to break the sultan's grip, Mircea fled to Transylvania and enlisted his forces in a crusade called by Hungary's King Sigismund. The campaign ended miserably: the Turks routed Sigismund's forces in 1396 at Nicopolis in present-day Bulgaria, and Mircea and his men were lucky to escape across the Danube. In 1402 Walachia gained a respite from Ottoman pressure as the Mongol leader Tamerlane attacked the Ottomans from the east, killed the sultan, and sparked a civil war. When peace returned, the Ottomans renewed their assault on the Balkans. In 1417 Mircea capitulated to Sultan Mehmed I and agreed to pay an annual tribute and surrender territory; in return the sultan allowed Walachia to remain a principality and to retain the Eastern Orthodox faith.
After Mircea's death in 1418, Walachia and Moldavia slid into decline. Succession struggles, Polish and Hungarian intrigues, and corruption produced a parade of eleven princes in twenty-five years and weakened the principalities as the Ottoman threat waxed. In 1444 the Ottomans routed European forces at Varna in contemporary Bulgaria. When Constantinople succumbed in 1453, the Ottomans cut off Genoese and Venetian galleys from Black Sea ports, trade ceased, and the Romanian principalities' isolation deepened. At this time of near desperation, a Magyarized Romanian from Transylvania, János Hunyadi, became regent of Hungary. Hunyadi, a hero of the Ottoman wars, mobilized Hungary against the Turks, equipping a mercenary army funded by the first tax ever levied on Hungary's nobles. He scored a resounding victory over the Turks before Belgrade in 1456, but died of plague soon after the battle.
In one of his final acts, Hunyadi installed Vlad Tepes (1456-62) on Walachia's throne. Vlad took abnormal pleasure in inflicting torture and watching his victims writhe in agony. He also hated the Turks and defied the sultan by refusing to pay tribute. In 1461 Hamsa Pasha tried to lure Vlad into a trap, but the Walachian prince discovered the deception, captured Hamsa and his men, impaled them on wooden stakes, and abandoned them. Sultan Mohammed later invaded Walachia and drove Vlad into exile in Hungary. Although Vlad eventually returned to Walachia, he died shortly thereafter, and Walachia's resistance to the Ottomans softened.
Moldavia and its prince, Stephen the Great (1457-1504), were the principalities' last hope of repelling the Ottoman threat. Stephen drew on Moldavia's peasantry to raise a 55,000-man army and repelled the invading forces of Hungary's King Mátyás Corvinus in a daring night attack. Stephen's army invaded Walachia in 1471 and defeated the Turks when they retaliated in 1473 and 1474. After these victories, Stephen implored Pope Sixtus IV to forge a Christian alliance against the Turks. The pope replied with a letter naming Stephen an "Athlete of Christ," but he did not heed Stephen's calls for Christian unity. During the last decades of Stephen's reign, the Turks increased the pressure on Moldavia. They captured key Black Sea ports in 1484 and burned Moldavia's capital, Suceava, in 1485. Stephen rebounded with a victory in 1486 but thereafter confined his efforts to secure Moldavia's independence to the diplomatic arena. Frustrated by vain attempts to unite the West against the Turks, Stephen, on his deathbed, reportedly told his son to submit to the Turks if they offered an honorable suzerainty. Succession struggles weakened Moldavia after his death.
In 1514 greedy nobles and an ill-planned crusade sparked a widespread peasant revolt in Hungary and Transylvania. Well-armed peasants under György Dózsa sacked estates across the country. Despite strength of numbers, however, the peasants were disorganized and suffered a decisive defeat at Timisoara. Dózsa and the other rebel leaders were tortured and executed. After the revolt, the Hungarian nobles enacted laws that condemned the serfs to eternal bondage and increased their work obligations. With the serfs and nobles deeply alienated from each other and jealous magnates challenging the king's power, Hungary was vulnerable to outside aggression. The Ottomans stormed Belgrade in 1521, routed a feeble Hungarian army at Mohács in 1526, and conquered Buda in 1541. They installed a pasha to rule over central Hungary; Transylvania became an autonomous principality under Ottoman suzerainty; and the Habsburgs assumed control over fragments of northern and western Hungary.
After Buda's fall, Transylvania, though a vassal state of the Sublime Porte (as the Ottoman government was called), entered a period of broad autonomy. As a vassal, Transylvania paid the Porte an annual tribute and provided military assistance; in return, the Ottomans pledged to protect Transylvania from external threat. Native princes governed Transylvania from 1540 to 1690. Transylvania's powerful, mostly Hungarian, ruling families, whose position ironically strengthened with Hungary's fall, normally chose the prince, subject to the Porte's confirmation; in some cases, however, the Turks appointed the prince outright. The Transylvanian Diet became a parliament, and the nobles revived the Union of Three Nations, which still excluded the Romanians from political power. Princes took pains to separate Transylvania's Romanians from those in Walachia and Moldavia and forbade Eastern Orthodox priests to enter Transylvania from Walachia.
The Protestant Reformation spread rapidly in Transylvania after Hungary's collapse, and the region became one of Europe's Protestant strongholds. Transylvania's Germans adopted Lutheranism, and many Hungarians converted to Calvinism. However, the Protestants, who printed and distributed catechisms in the Romanian language, failed to lure many Romanians from Orthodoxy. In 1571 the Transylvanian Diet approved a law guaranteeing freedom of worship and equal rights for Transylvania's four "received" religions: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Unitarian. The law was one of the first of its kind in Europe, but the religious equality it proclaimed was limited. Orthodox Romanians, for example, were free to worship, but their church was not recognized as a received religion.
Once the Ottomans conquered Buda, Walachia and Moldavia lost all but the veneer of independence and the Porte exacted heavy tribute. The Turks chose Walachian and Moldavian princes from among the sons of noble hostages or refugees at Constantinople. Few princes died a natural death, but they lived enthroned amid great luxury. Although the Porte forbade Turks to own land or build mosques in the principalities, the princes allowed Greek and Turkish merchants and usurers to exploit the principalities' riches. The Greeks, jealously protecting their privileges, smothered the developing Romanian middle class.
The Romanians' final hero before the Turks and Greeks closed their stranglehold on the principalities was Walachia's Michael the Brave (1593-1601). Michael bribed his way at the Porte to become prince. Once enthroned, however, he rounded up extortionist Turkish lenders, locked them in a building, and burned it to the ground. His forces then overran several key Turkish fortresses. Michael's ultimate goal was complete independence, but in 1598 he pledged fealty to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. A year later, Michael captured Transylvania, and his victory incited Transylvania's Romanian peasants to rebel. Michael, however, more interested in endearing himself to Transylvania's nobles than in supporting defiant serfs, suppressed the rebels and swore to uphold the Union of Three Nations. Despite the prince's pledge, the nobles still distrusted him. Then in 1600 Michael conquered Moldavia. For the first time a single Romanian prince ruled over all Romanians, and the Romanian people sensed the first stirring of a national identity. Michael's success startled Rudolf. The emperor incited Transylvania's nobles to revolt against the prince, and Poland simultaneously overran Moldavia. Michael consolidated his forces in Walachia, apologized to Rudolf, and agreed to join Rudolf's general, Giörgio Basta, in a campaign to regain Transylvania from recalcitrant Hungarian nobles. After their victory, however, Basta executed Michael for alleged treachery. Michael the Brave grew more impressive in legend than in life, and his short-lived unification of the Romanian lands later inspired the Romanians to struggle for cultural and political unity.
In Transylvania Basta's army persecuted Protestants and illegally expropriated their estates until Stephen Bocskay (1605-07), a former Habsburg supporter, mustered an army that expelled the imperial forces. In 1606 Bocskay concluded treaties with the Habsburgs and the Turks that secured his position as prince of Transylvania, guaranteed religious freedom, and broadened Transylvania's independence. After Bocskay's death and the reign of the tyrant Gabriel Báthory (1607-13), the Porte compelled the Transylvanians to accept Gábor Bethlen (1613-29) as prince. Transylvania experienced a golden age under Bethlen's enlightened despotism. He promoted agriculture, trade, and industry, sank new mines, sent students abroad to Protestant universities, and prohibited landlords from denying an education to children of serfs. After Bethlen died, however, the Transylvanian Diet abolished most of his reforms. Soon György Rákóczi I (1630-40) became prince. Rákóczi, like Bethlen, sent Transylvanian forces to fight with the Protestants in the Thirty Years' War; and Transylvania gained mention as a sovereign state in the Peace of Westphalia. Transylvania's golden age ended after György Rákóczi II (1648-60) launched an ill-fated attack on Poland without the prior approval of the Porte or Transylvania's Diet. A Turkish and Tatar army routed Rákóczi's forces and seized Transylvania. For the remainder of its independence, Transylvania suffered a series of feckless and distracted leaders, and throughout the seventeenth century Transylvania's Romanian peasants lingered in poverty and ignorance.
During Michael the Brave's brief tenure and the early years of Turkish suzerainty, the distribution of land in Walachia and Moldavia changed dramatically. Over the years, Walachian and Moldavian princes made land grants to loyal boyars in exchange for military service so that by the seventeenth century hardly any land was left. Boyars in search of wealth began encroaching on peasant land and their military allegiance to the prince weakened. As a result, serfdom spread, successful boyars became more courtiers than warriors, and an intermediary class of impoverished lesser nobles developed. Would-be princes were forced to raise enormous sums to bribe their way to power, and peasant life grew more miserable as taxes and exactions increased. Any prince wishing to improve the peasants' lot risked a financial shortfall that could enable rivals to out-bribe him at the Porte and usurp his position.
In 1632 Matei Basarab (1632-54) became the last of Walachia's predominant family to take the throne; two years later, Vasile Lupu (1634-53), a man of Albanian descent, became prince of Moldavia. The jealousies and ambitions of Matei and Vasile sapped the strength of both principalities at a time when the Porte's power began to wane. Coveting the richer Walachian throne, Vasile attacked Matei, but the latter's forces routed the Moldavians, and a group of Moldavian boyars ousted Vasile. Both Matei and Vasile were enlightened rulers, who provided liberal endowments to religion and the arts, established printing presses, and published religious books and legal codes.
In 1683 Jan Sobieski's Polish army crushed an Ottoman army besieging Vienna, and Christian forces soon began the slow process of driving the Turks from Europe. In 1688 the Transylvanian Diet renounced Ottoman suzerainty and accepted Austrian protection. Eleven years later, the Porte officially recognized Austria's sovereignty over the region. Although an imperial decree reaffirmed the privileges of Transylvania's nobles and the status of its four "recognized" religions, Vienna assumed direct control of the region and the emperor planned annexation. The Romanian majority remained segregated from Transylvania's political life and almost totally enserfed; Romanians were forbidden to marry, relocate, or practice a trade without the permission of their landlords. Besides oppressive feudal exactions, the Orthodox Romanians had to pay tithes to the Roman Catholic or Protestant church, depending on their landlords' faith. Barred from collecting tithes, Orthodox priests lived in penury, and many labored as peasants to survive.
Under Habsburg rule, Roman Catholics dominated Transylvania's more numerous Protestants, and Vienna mounted a campaign to convert the region to Catholicism. The imperial army delivered many Protestant churches to Catholic hands, and anyone who broke from the Catholic church was liable to receive a public flogging. The Habsburgs also attempted to persuade Orthodox clergymen to join the Uniate Church, which retained Orthodox rituals and customs but accepted four key points of Catholic doctrine and acknowledged papal authority. Jesuits dispatched to Transylvania promised Orthodox clergymen heightened social status, exemption from serfdom, and material benefits. In 1699 and 1701, Emperor Leopold I decreed Transylvania's Orthodox Church to be one with the Roman Catholic Church; the Habsburgs, however, never intended to make the Uniate Church a "received" religion and did not enforce portions of Leopold's decrees that gave Uniate clergymen the same rights as Catholic priests. Despite an Orthodox synod's acceptance of union, many Orthodox clergy and faithful rejected it.
In 1711, having suppressed an eight-year rebellion of Hungarian nobles and serfs, the empire consolidated its hold on Transylvania, and within several decades the Uniate Church proved a seminal force in the rise of Romanian nationalism. Uniate clergymen had influence in Vienna; and Uniate priests schooled in Rome and Vienna acquainted the Romanians with Western ideas, wrote histories tracing their Daco-Roman origins, adapted the Latin alphabet to the Romanian language, and published Romanian grammars and prayer books. The Uniate Church's seat at Blaj, in southern Transylvania, became a center of Romanian culture.
The Romanians' struggle for equality in Transylvania found its first formidable advocate in a Uniate bishop, Inocentiu Micu Klein, who, with imperial backing, became a baron and a member of the Transylvanian Diet. From 1729 to 1744 Klein submitted petitions to Vienna on the Romanians' behalf and stubbornly took the floor of Transylvania's Diet to declare that Romanians were the inferiors of no other Transylvanian people, that they contributed more taxes and soldiers to the state than any of Transylvania's "nations," and that only enmity and outdated privileges caused their political exclusion and economic exploitation. Klein fought to gain Uniate clergymen the same rights as Catholic priests, reduce feudal obligations, restore expropriated land to Romanian peasants, and bar feudal lords from depriving Romanian children of an education. The bishop's words fell on deaf ears in Vienna; and Hungarian, German, and Szekler deputies, jealously clinging to their noble privileges, openly mocked the bishop and snarled that the Romanians were to the Transylvanian body politic what "moths are to clothing." Klein eventually fled to Rome where his appeals to the pope proved fruitless. He died in a Roman monastery in 1768. Klein's struggle, however, stirred both Uniate and Orthodox Romanians to demand equal standing. In 1762 an imperial decree established an organization for Transylvania's Orthodox community, but the empire still denied Orthodoxy equality even with the Uniate Church.
Emperor Joseph II (1780-90), before his accession, witnessed the serfs' wretched existence during three tours of Transylvania. As emperor he launched an energetic reform program. Steeped in the teachings of the French Enlightenment, he practiced "enlightened despotism," or reform from above designed to preempt revolution from below. He brought the empire under strict central control, launched an education program, and instituted religious tolerance, including full civil rights for Orthodox Christians. In 1784 Transylvanian serfs under Ion Ursu, convinced they had the emperor's support, rebelled against their feudal masters, sacked castles and manor houses, and murdered about 100 nobles. Joseph ordered the revolt repressed but granted amnesty to all participants except Ursu and other leaders, whom the nobles tortured and put to death before peasants brought to witness the execution. Joseph, aiming to strike at the rebellion's root causes, emancipated the serfs, annulled Transylvania's constitution, dissolved the Union of Three Nations, and decreed German the official language of the empire. Hungary's nobles and Catholic clergy resisted Joseph's reforms, and the peasants soon grew dissatisfied with taxes, conscription, and forced requisition of military supplies. Faced with broad discontent, Joseph rescinded many of his initiatives toward the end of his life.
Joseph II's Germanization decree triggered a chain reaction of national movements throughout the empire. Hungarians appealed for unification of Hungary and Transylvania and Magyarization of minority peoples. Threatened by both Germanization and Magyarization, the Romanians and other minority nations experienced a cultural awakening. In 1791 two Romanian bishops--one Orthodox, the other Uniate--petitioned Emperor Leopold II (1790-92) to grant Romanians political and civil rights, to place Orthodox and Uniate clergy on an equal footing, and to apportion a share of government posts for Romanian appointees; the bishops supported their petition by arguing that Romanians were descendants of the Romans and the aboriginal inhabitants of Transylvania. The emperor restored Transylvania as a territorial entity and ordered the Transylvanian Diet to consider the petition. The Diet, however, decided only to allow Orthodox believers to practice their faith; the deputies denied the Orthodox Church recognition and refused to give Romanians equal political standing beside the other Transylvanian nations.
Leopold's successor, Francis I (1792-1835), whose almost abnormal aversion to change and fear of revolution brought his empire four decades of political stagnation, virtually ignored Transylvania's constitution and refused to convoke the Transylvanian Diet for twenty-three years. When the Diet finally reconvened in 1834, the language issue reemerged as Hungarian deputies proposed making Magyar the official language of Transylvania. In 1843 the Hungarian Diet passed a law making Magyar Hungary's official language, and in 1847 the Transylvanian Diet enacted a law requiring the government to use Magyar. Transylvania's Romanians protested futilely.
In early 1848, revolution erupted in Europe, and by March it had ignited both Austria and Hungary. Hungary's Diet seized the opportunity to enact a comprehensive legislative program that, in effect, extricated the country from the Middle Ages. The Diet abolished serfdom and feudal privileges and proclaimed freedom of the press and religion. The Diet's reform legislation also provided for the union of Transylvania and Hungary. In April Emperor Ferdinand V (1835-48) swore to uphold the reforms, and on May 29, with a crowd in the street shouting "Union or Death!" the Transylvanian Diet voted for unification. Romanians had no voice in the decision.
Unification galvanized Romanian opposition. Thousands of peasants and miners gathered in Blaj to denounce union with Hungary and call for proportionate representation of Romanians in Transylvania's Diet and an end to ethnic oppression. Warfare began in September between Hungarian troops and imperial forces, and a month later Romanian troops under Austrian command battled the Hungarians in Transylvania. The Romanians sided with the Austrians, believing that the emperor would grant them equal rights in reward for their loyalty. Both sides committed atrocities, and for several months the Hungarians were victorious. In June 1849, however, the tsar heeded an appeal from Emperor Franz Joseph (1848-1916) and sent in Russian troops, who extinguished the revolution.
After quashing the revolution, Austria imposed a repressive regime on Hungary and ruled Transylvania directly through a military governor. German again became the official language, but the Austrians reinstated neither serfdom nor the nobles' monopoly on land ownership or tax-exempt status. Austria also abolished the Union of Three Nations and granted the Romanians citizenship. Former feudal lords hesitated to give up their land, however, and most of the newly freed serfs became sharecroppers on inferior land that barely yielded subsistence. These dismal conditions uprooted many Romanian families, who crossed into Walachia and Moldavia searching for better lives.
In 1863 Franz Joseph convened the Transylvanian Diet. Hungarian deputies boycotted the session because Franz Joseph had not convened it in accordance with the 1848 laws, and Romanian and German deputies held the majority. The rump Diet passed laws that underscored Transylvania's autonomy and equal status for the Romanian, Hungarian, and German languages. Transylvania's Romanians at last joined the Magyars, Szeklers, and Germans as the fourth Transylvanian "nation," and the Romanian Orthodox Church became a received religion. Franz Joseph later permitted Transylvania's Orthodox Church to separate from the Serbian Patriarchate. Romanian literary figures soon founded the Association for the Cultivation of Romanian Language and Literature, which became a focal point of Romanian cultural life in Transylvania.
Romanians enjoyed equal status in Transylvania for only a short time. The need to shore up the weakening empire pressed Vienna toward compromise with Budapest. In 1865 Franz Joseph convened a second Transylvanian Diet, this time with a Hungarian majority, which abrogated the 1863 legislation and endorsed unification of Hungary and Transylvania. Defeat at the hands of Prussia in 1866 further revealed Austria's weakness, and in 1867 Franz Joseph agreed to the Ausgleich, a compromise whereby Austria and Hungary joined to form the Dual Monarchy--two sovereign states with a unified foreign policy.
At the turn of the eighteenth century, Peter the Great's Russia supplanted Poland as the predominant power in Eastern Europe and began exerting its influence over Walachia and Moldavia. The Orthodox tsar announced a policy of support for his coreligionists within the Ottoman Empire, and Romanian princes in Walachia and Moldavia began looking to Russia to break the Turkish yoke. Peter's ill-fated attempt to seize Moldavia in 1711 had the support of both Romanian princes. After the Turks expelled the Russian forces, the sultan moved to strengthen his hold on the principalities by appointing Greeks from Constantinople's Phanar, or "Lighthouse," district as princes. These "Phanariot" princes, who purchased their positions and usually held them briefly until a higher bidder usurped them, were entirely dependent upon their Ottoman overlords. Within the principalities, however, their rule was absolute and the Porte expected them to leech out as much wealth from their territories as possible in the least time.
Exploitation, corruption, and the Porte's policy of rapidly replacing Phanariot princes wreaked havoc on the principalities' social and economic conditions. The boyars became sycophants; severe exactions and heavy labor obligations forced the peasantry to the brink of starvation; and foreigners monopolized trade. The only benevolent Phanariot prince was Constantine Mavrocordato, who ruled as prince of Walachia six times and of Moldavia four times between 1739 and 1768. Mavrocordato attempted drastic reforms to staunch peasant emigration. He abolished several taxes on the boyars and clergy, freed certain classes of serfs, and provided the peasants sufficient land, pasturage, and wood for fuel. Mavrocordato also published books, founded schools, and required priests to be literate. These reforms, however, proved ephemeral; discomfited boyars' undermined Mavrocordato's support at the Porte, and he was locked away in a Constantinople prison.
Russia's influence waxed in Walachia and Moldavia as Ottoman power waned. In 1739 and 1769 the Russians briefly occupied the principalities. Then in 1774, Catherine the Great agreed to return Moldavia, Walachia, and Bessarabia to the Turks, but she obtained the right to represent Orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire and oversee the principalities' internal affairs; Austria complained that the agreement rewarded Russia too favorably and annexed northern Bukovina, part of Moldavia. In 1787 the Russian army again marched into the principalities, but a stalemate gripped forces on all fronts and in 1792 the empress and sultan agreed to reaffirm existing treaties. In 1802 the Porte agreed to halt the rapid turnover of Phanariot princes; henceforth, the princes would reign for seven-year terms and could not be dethroned without Russian approval.
In 1806 forces of Tsar Alexander I reoccupied the principalities, and the Romanian peasants were subjected to forced requisitions, heavy labor obligations, and real threats of exile to Siberia. As a result, the Romanians, who once had looked to the tsar for liberation, developed an abiding mistrust of the Russians that would deepen in the next century. In 1812 Russia and the Porte signed the Peace of Bucharest, which returned the principalities to the Ottomans and secured Russia's southern flank during Napoleon's invasion; Russia, however, annexed Bessarabia and retained its right to interfere in the principalities' affairs. Despite Russia's concessions, the treaty so displeased the sultan that he had his negotiators beheaded.
In 1821 Greek nationalists headquartered in Odessa took control of Moldavia as the first step in a plan to extricate Greece from Ottoman domination. Phanariot rule in Walachia and Moldavia led the Greek nationalists to view the principalities as possible components of a renascent Byzantine Empire. The insurgency's leader, Alexander Ypsilanti, a general in the Russian army and son of a Phanariot prince, enjoyed the support of some Greek and Romanian boyars in the principalities; after more than a century of extortion, however, most Romanians resented the Phanariots and craved the end of Greek control. Tudor Vladimirescu, a peasant-born Romanian whose wits and military skill had elevated him to boyar rank, assumed power in Walachia in an anti-Phanariot national uprising directed at establishing a Romanian government under Ottoman suzerainty. Russia denounced both Ypsilanti and Vladimirescu. The two rebel leaders argued in Bucharest; afterwards, Greek officers shot the Romanian, mutilated his body, and dumped it into a pond, an act that also ended Romanian resistance, which evaporated after Vladimirescu's death. Then the Turks, with Russia's approval, attacked the principalities, scattered the Greek forces, and chased Ypsilanti into Transylvania. The Greek rebellion shocked the Porte, which no longer appointed Phanariot princes to the Walachian and Moldavian thrones and chose instead native Romanians.
Later, in 1826, an internal crisis forced the sultan to accede to Russia's demand for greater influence in the principalities. The Porte gave Russia the right of consultation regarding changes on the two thrones; this concession assured Russia predominant influence at Bucharest and Iasi. Russia again invaded the principalities during the Russo-Turkish War of 1828, which resulted in the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople. The treaty provided for Russian occupation of the principalities until the Ottomans had fully paid an indemnity, the election of native Romanian princes for life, and an independent national administration and freedom of worship and commerce under Russian protection. Despite the fact that the Porte remained the principalities' suzerain and could exact a fixed tribute and direct certain aspects of foreign policy, the sultan could neither reject nor remove a prince without Russian consent.
During Russia's occupation, a capable administrator, Count Pavel Kiselev, improved health conditions, organized a well-disciplined police force, built up grain reserves, and oversaw the drafting and ratification of the principalities' first fundamental laws, the Rčglement Organique. Russia used these charters to co-opt Romanian boyars by protecting their privileges, including their tax-exempt status and oligarchic control of the government. However flawed, the charters gave Romanians their first taste of government by law. The Rčglement provided for elected assemblies of boyars to choose each prince, reformed the principalities' judicial systems, and established public education. At the same time, the documents' economic provisions enabled the boyars to stiffen peasant obligations and reduced the peasants' freedom of mobility.
After Russia's withdrawal in 1834, Walachia and Moldavia entered a period of self-government during which Russia guaranteed the privileges that the Ottomans had granted. During this period, the principalities' economic condition was bleak. For example a traveler to Walachia in 1835 reported seeing no manor houses, bridges, windmills, or inns and no furniture or utensils in peasant huts. In the mid-nineteenth century, Jews from Galicia began dominating trade, crafts, and money lending in the principalities. A native-Romanian bourgeoisie was virtually nonexistent. The boyars grew rich through the Black Sea wheat trade, using Jews as middlemen, but the peasants reaped few benefits. Beginning in the 1840s, construction of the first major roadways linked the principalities, and in 1846 Gheorghe Bibescu (1842-48), the Paris-educated prince of Walachia, agreed with Moldavia's Prince Mihai Sturdza (1834-49) to dismantle customs barriers between the principalities, marking the first concrete move toward unification.
The uprising of Transylvania's Romanian peasants during the 1848 European revolutions ignited Romanian national movements in Walachia and Moldavia. In Moldavia, Sturdza quashed the revolution overnight by arresting its leaders. In Walachia, however, a majority of the younger generation was averse to Russian and boyar dominance. Revolutionary platforms called for universal suffrage, equal rights, unification of the two principalities, and freedom of speech, association, and assembly. Although he sympathized with the revolutionary movement, Bibescu lacked the courage to lead it. After naming a revolutionary cabinet and signing a new constitution, he fled into Transylvania. The new government of Walachia quickly affirmed its loyalty to the Porte and appealed to Austria, France, and Britain for support, hoping to avert a Russian invasion. The government also formed a committee composed equally of boyars and peasants to discuss land reform. Shocked by the revolution's success in Europe and fearful that it might spread into Russia, the tsar invaded Moldavia and pressured the Porte to crush the rebels in Bucharest. Dissatisfied with Turkey's weak resolve, Russia invaded Walachia and restored the Rčglement. After 1849 the two empires suppressed the boyar assemblies in Walachia and Moldavia and limited the tenure of their princes to seven years.
Russia withdrew from Walachia and Moldavia in 1851 but returned yet again in the summer of 1853, thus precipitating the Crimean War. In 1854 Franz Joseph and the sultan forced Tsar Nicholas I to withdraw his troops from the principalities, and imperial and Ottoman soldiers soon occupied them. Russia's defeat in the Crimea forced the tsar to seek peace, affirmed in 1856 by the Treaty of Paris. De jure Ottoman suzerainty over the principalities continued after the treaty, which abolished the Russian protectorate and replaced it with a joint European guarantee. The treaty also freed navigation on the Danube and forced Russia to cede part of southern Bessarabia, which included control of the river's mouth, to Moldavia.
The year 1856 began the active campaign for union of Walachia and Moldavia. The movement had the support of France, because many Romanian revolutionaries took refuge there after 1848 and lobbied Napoleon III to press for unification; Austria, Britain, and the Ottomans, however, opposed the unification effort, while Russia opted to let the Romanians decide. In 1857 the Porte manipulated an election of delegates to special assemblies charged with discussing unification; the few voters casting ballots elected representatives opposing union. An international crisis followed, and Napoleon III, with Russian and British support, finally pressured the Ottomans to nullify the results and hold new, untainted elections, which returned a huge majority of delegates in favor of unification. These delegates immediately called for autonomy, a constitutional government, and a foreign prince to rule the unified principalities. Despite the election results, an international conference in Paris in 1858 reaffirmed separation of Walachia and Moldavia under Ottoman sovereignty, but it allowed for a common coinage and uniform laws and titled the two states the "United Principalities." The Romanians themselves overcame the imposed separation in 1859 when the separate assemblies at Bucharest and Iasi unanimously elected the same man, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, governor of both principalities. Distracted by war in Italy, the leading European nations yielded to a fait accompli and accepted unification, and Cuza (1859-66) became prince.
After discussions in Paris, the European powers and the Ottoman Empire ratified Cuza's election, and the United Principalities officially became Romania in 1861. Almost immediately Cuza initiated a reform program. Encountering resistance from oligarchic boyars, the prince appealed to the masses and held a referendum that approved constitutional provisions giving him broad powers to implement his program. The government improved roads, founded the universities of Bucharest and Iasi, banned the use of Greek in churches and monasteries, and secularized monastic property. Cuza also signed an agrarian law that eliminated serfdom, tithes, and forced labor and allowed peasants to acquire land. Unfortunately, the new holdings were often too expensive for the peasants and too small to provide self-sufficiency; consequently the peasantry's lot deteriorated.
Cuza's reforms alienated both the boyars and Romania's mostly Greek clergy, and government corruption and the prince's own moral turpitude soon eroded his popularity. In 1865 an uprising broke out in Bucharest. Afterward, animosity toward the prince united the leaders of Romania's two political parties, the pro-German Conservatives, backed by the boyars and clergy, and the pro-French Liberals, who found support in the growing middle class and favored agrarian reform. On February 23, 1866, army officers loyal to the country's leading boyars awoke Cuza and his mistress, forced the prince to abdicate, and escorted him from the capital. The next morning street placards in Bucharest announced the prince's departure and rule by a regency pending the election of a foreign prince.
With the tacit support of Napoleon III, Ion Bratianu, the leader of Romania's Liberals, nominated Prince Charles of southern Germany's Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family as the new prince. Over objections from the other European powers, the Romanians elected the twenty-seven-year-old prince, who, disguised as a salesman, traveled through Austria by second-class rail and steamboat to accept the throne.
Charles (1866-1914) worked to provide Romania with efficient administration. In July 1866, the principality gained a new constitution that established a bicameral legislature, gave the prince power to veto legislation, proclaimed equality before the law, and contained guarantees of freedom of religion, speech, and assembly. Most of the constitution's civil-rights provisions, however, were not enforced, and it extended voting rights only to the landed aristocracy and clergy. The document also limited naturalization to Christians, a measure aimed at denying civil rights to Jews living in or migrating to the principality. The Romanian Orthodox Church became the official state religion. Charles, a Roman Catholic, pledged to raise his successor in the Romanian Orthodox Church.
The Franco-Prussian War in 1870 precipitated a political crisis as Francophile Liberal Party members denounced Romania's German prince. In August, pro-French activists led an abortive revolt against Charles at Ploiesti. Although the government quickly suppressed the uprising, a jury acquitted the leaders. A scandal erupted when a Prussian-Jewish contractor bungled construction of key Romanian rail links and defaulted on interest payments to Prussian bondholders; the Liberals denounced Charles for pledging to back the bonds. In March 1871 the Bucharest police looked on as an angry crowd attacked a hall in which Germans had gathered to celebrate Prussian war victories. A day later, Charles handed his abdication to the regents who had installed him. They convinced the prince to remain on the throne, however, and mustered conservative forces to support him.
Charles backed Russia during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. He allowed Russian troops to transit Romania and personally led the Romanian army to aid Russian forces bogged down before Plevna, in the north of present-day Bulgaria. Finally, after the Ottomans' defeat, Charles proclaimed Romania's independence, ending five centuries of vassalage. Despite the Romanian army's heroism at Plevna, Russia refused to allow Romania to participate in peace negotiations or in the 1878 Congress of Berlin. At Berlin, Russia gained southern Bessarabia from Romania and as recompense offered northern Dobruja, a barren land between the Danube and the Black Sea south of the river's delta then inhabited mostly by Turks, Bulgars, and gypsies. The Congress agreed to recognize Romania's declared independence, but only if Romania acceded to Russia's annexation of Bessarabia and repealed laws that discriminated against Jews. Romania agreed, and, though its amendments to the discriminatory laws left many loopholes, the European powers in 1880 recognized Romania's independence. The tsar later denied Romania the fortress of Silistra, the strategic key to Dobruja on the south bank of the Danube, thereby deepening Romania's distrust of Russia.
In 1881 the parliament proclaimed Romania a kingdom, and Charles was crowned in Bucharest's cathedral with a crown fashioned from an Ottoman cannon seized at Plevna. Romania enjoyed relative peace and prosperity for the next three decades, and the policies of successive Conservative and Liberal governments varied little. Walachian wells began pumping oil; a bridge was built across the Danube at Cernavoda (in Dobruja); and new docks rose at Constanta. Foreign trade more than tripled between 1870 and 1898, and by 1900 the new kingdom had 14,000 kilometers of roadway and 3,100 kilometers of railroad. Charles equipped a respectable army, and peasant children filled newly constructed rural schoolrooms. Romania borrowed heavily to finance development, however, and most of the population continued to live in penury and ignorance.
Mistreatment of the Jewish minority and inequitable land distribution also were persistently troublesome issues. Jews had begun immigrating into Romania in numbers after the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople, crowding into northern Moldavia and making Iasi a predominantly Jewish city. In 1859 about 118,000 Jews lived in Moldavia and 9,200 in Walachia; by 1899 Moldavia's Jewish population had grown to 201,000 and Walachia's to 68,000. Economic rivalry precipitated riots and attacks on synagogues and Jews. The Liberal Party, supported by the increasing numbers of middle-class Romanians, strove to eliminate Jewish competition. Many rural Jews fled to the cities or abroad, and legal restrictions prevented all but a few Jews from gaining Romanian citizenship.
Bloody confrontations over inequitable land distribution brought partial agrarian reform. In the late nineteenth century about 2,000 landowners controlled over half of Romania's land; peasants held only one-third of the acreage. Beside limited ownership, peasants also had little representation in government. Their discontent exploded in 1888 and prompted an ineffective land reform. In 1907 peasants revolted even more violently in Moldavia, where they attacked Jewish middlemen, pillaged large estates, battled the army, and attempted to march on Bucharest. The government called out the army to quell the disorder, in which at least 10,000 peasants died. After the revolt, the government dispersed some 4 million hectares of land to the peasants in parcels of 1 to 61 hectares; large landowners retained about 3 million hectares.
An almost obsessive distrust of Russia prompted Charles to sign a secret treaty of alliance with Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy in 1883. Thus Charles' kingdom became one of the Central Powers. Romania openly fortified military defenses along its Russian border and left unprotected the Transylvanian mountain passes into Hungary. However, Charles withheld knowledge of the pact even from successive premiers and foreign ministers until 1914. For years the king kept Romania's only copy of the treaty locked in his personal safe at the royal summer retreat.
Romania's alliance with Austria-Hungary did little to ease the strain in relations between the two countries that Hungary was creating with its efforts to Magyarize Transylvania's Romanian majority. Romanian nationalism smoldered in Transylvania during the period of the Dual Monarchy. The National Party advocated restoration of Transylvania's historic autonomy; Hungary, however, opposed both autonomy and any expanded voting rights that would give Romanians the region's dominant voice. By the turn of the century, Bucharest's calls for unification of Romanians in Transylvania, Bukovina, and Bessarabia grew stronger.
After the 1907 peasant uprising, foreign events shaped Romania's political agenda. In 1908 Austria annexed Bosnia, a clear indication that Vienna sought to destroy Serbia. A year later Ionel Bratianu, son of the former Liberal Party leader, became Romania's prime minister. Bratianu feared that Bulgarian expansion might upset the Balkan balance of power and sought compensation for any potential Bulgarian gains at the Ottomans' expense.
Then in October 1912, the First Balkan War erupted. Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece scored quick victories over Ottoman forces, and Bulgarian forces drove to within thirty-three kilometers of Constantinople. Romania called on Sofia to hand over the fortress of Silistra; Bulgaria's foreign minister, however, offered only minor border changes, which excluded Silistra, and assurances for the rights of the Kutzovlachs in Macedonia and northern Greece. After the war, Romania threatened to occupy Bulgarian territory, but a British proposal for arbitration prevented hostilities. The resulting May 1913 Protocol of St. Petersburg awarded Romania control of Silistra; the protocol did not satisfy Bucharest's appetite for territory, however, and Sofia considered the award excessive.
On June 28, 1913, the Second Balkan War broke out when Bulgaria launched an unsuccessful surprise attack on Serbia and Greece. The Ottomans joined in the fighting against Bulgaria, and Romania's army marched into southern Dobruja before turning toward Sofia. The warring states signed an armistice on July 30, 1913, and in the subsequent Treaty of Bucharest, Romania retained Silistra and other strategic areas of Dobruja. During the invasion of Bulgaria, large numbers of Romanian soldiers saw firsthand Bulgaria's abundant peasant holdings and more advanced farming methods and noted the absence of wealthy landowners and rapacious middlemen. Bratianu's Liberal Party tapped the resulting impatience of Romania's peasantry by making land and franchise reform the thrust of its new program; they proved an unstoppable combination against the Conservatives. In January 1914, the Liberals rose to power and convoked a constituent assembly to elaborate agrarian and electoral reform programs.
When Bratianu became premier, he learned that Charles had renewed the secret treaty with the other Central Powers in 1913 despite the fact that the king knew the treaty would enjoy no popular support because of Hungary's continuing efforts to Magyarize Transylvania's Romanians. On June 28, 1914, a Bosnian Serb assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne and the Dual Monarchy's most ardent supporter of the rights of Transylvania's Romanians. Within days Austria presented Serbia with an ultimatum that made war inevitable. At first, King Charles felt the secret treaty did not bind Romania to declare war on Serbia for a quarrel that Austria-Hungary had provoked with its ultimatum. The Central Powers, eager to have Charles mobilize Romania's forces against Russia, evoked the king's German ancestry and tempted him with a promise to restore Bessarabia; at the same time, Russia offered Transylvania to Romania if it would join the Triple Entente, the military alliance of Great Britain, France, and Russia set up to counter the Central Powers. At a meeting of government and opposition-party leaders deciding Romania's course of action, Charles advocated joining the Central Powers. But upon hearing about Charles' secret, unconstitutional treaty, virtually all the government leaders rejected the king's proposal and opted for a wait-and-see policy. Romanian public opinion adamantly backed the French, and Bucharest crowds cheered after the French checked the German advance at the Marne River.
King Charles, infirm and disconsolate that Romania did not honor his secret treaty, died in October 1914. If it had not been for the war, Romanians would have grieved for the end of a fortyeight -year reign that had brought them the most prosperous and peaceful period in their entire history. Charles's successor, Ferdinand (1914-27), and Bratianu chose to conserve Romania's resources and continue playing a waiting game until they could discern the outcome of the war. In November Hungary tried to dissipate Romania's animosity by announcing a number of reforms benefiting Transylvania's ethnic Romanians, but even Germany termed the measures inadequate. In October 1915, Romania's rival, Bulgaria, joined the Central Powers and, in unison with Germany, attacked Serbia. Russian victories in Galicia in 1916, Allied promises of territory, and fear of Germany finally convinced Romania to join the war on the side of Britain, Russia, France, and Italy. On August 27, 1916, Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary. Confident of victory, Romanian troops crossed into Transylvania. Their campaign stalled, however, and German and Austrian forces counterattacked, drove the Romanian army and thousands of refugees back over the Carpathian passes, and in December occupied Bucharest. Bulgarian forces also invaded from across the Danube, and Russian reinforcements sent to Romania's aid proved feckless. Meanwhile, Ferdinand and his ministers fled to Iasi, where the Romanian army regrouped under a French military mission, achieved several victories over Central Power forces, and held a line along the Siret River.
In February 1917, revolution erupted in Russia's capital, Petrograd. In an effort to preempt the appeal of Bolshevik propaganda, the Romanian government in July 1917 enacted a land reform program and an election law providing for universal suffrage, proportional representation, and obligatory participation in elections. By late summer, Russia's defenses had collapsed, and its soldiers were openly fraternizing with the enemy. In November the Bolsheviks staged a coup d'état that overthrew Russia's provisional government. Romania's leaders refused to participate in the subsequent German-Soviet armistice negotiations; once the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed, however, Romania had little choice but to agree to a preliminary armistice. In December Romanian nationalists in Bessarabia convened a representative national assembly that proclaimed the creation of the Democratic Federative Moldavian Republic and appealed to the Iasi government and Entente countries for help in repulsing Bolshevik forces. In April 1918, the Bessarabian assembly requested annexation to Romania, and Romanian troops entered the province.
A new Romanian premier, the pro-German Alexandru Marghiloman, signed the Treaty of Bucharest with the Central Powers on May 7, 1918. Under the treaty, Romania lost all of Dobruja to Bulgaria and a joint administration of the Central Powers; Hungary gained territory in the Carpathians; Romania had to compensate the Central Powers for debts and damages; and the Central Powers claimed a nine-year monopoly on Romania's agricultural output and assumed control of the Danube and Romania's oilfields, railroads, wharves, and other economic assets. The Central Powers intended to ruin Romania's economy, and Hungary launched an all-out effort to create a wholly Magyarized zone along Transylvania's Romanian border and undermine the Orthodox and Uniate churches.
By mid-1918 the tide of the war had turned and engulfed the Central Powers. Bulgaria soon capitulated, Austria-Hungary was disintegrating, and Germany was retreating on the Western Front. The leaders of Transylvania's National Party met and drafted a resolution invoking the right of self-determination, and a movement began for the unification of Transylvania with Romania. In November near-anarchy gripped Hungary, and the Romanian National Central Council, which represented all the Romanians of Transylvania, notified the Budapest government that it had assumed control of twenty-three Transylvanian counties and parts of three others. A similar Romanian national council in northern Bukovina announced its union with Romania, and Bessarabia's government also voted for unification. In Romania itself, King Ferdinand appointed a new government that repealed all laws enacted under Marghiloman's administration. On November 8, Romania declared war on Germany and forced enemy troops from Walachia. The king returned to Bucharest on November 30, and Romanian units occupied most of Transylvania by December 1. A mass assembly later that month in Alba Iulia (southern Transylvania), passed a resolution calling for unification of all Romanians in a single state.
In late 1918 Romanian leaders traveled to Paris to forward the kingdom's broad territorial claims at the upcoming peace conference, which opened on January 18, 1919. At the conference, Romania insisted that the Allies respect the principle of national self-determination and fulfill the territorial promises made in 1916 that had brought Romania into the war on the side of the Allies. The Allies had promised Romania the Banat, a fertile agricultural region bounded by the Tisza, Mures, and Danube rivers, which Serbia also claimed because of the region's large Slavic population. The conference participants supported almost all of Romania's claims, including those to Transylvania, Bessarabia, and northern Bukovina, but arbiters finally partitioned the Banat between Romania and Serbia.
In March 1919, the French head of the Entente mission in <"http://worldfacts.us/Hungary-Budapest.htm"> Budapest handed Mihály Károlyi, the fledgling Hungarian republic's leftist president, a diplomatic note dictating the last in a series of border rectifications that stripped Hungary of large swaths of its traditional lands. Károlyi resigned in disgust and turned power over to a coalition of social democrats and communists, who promised that the Soviet Union would help Hungary restore its prewar borders. The communists, under Béla Kun, immediately seized control and announced the founding of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. In late May, Kun backed his promises to restore Hungary's lost territories with military action against Czechoslovakia. When the French threatened to retaliate, Kun turned his army on Romania. Romanian units, however, penetrated Hungarian lines on July 30, occupied and looted Budapest, and scattered the members of Kun's government. When the Romanian troops finally departed Budapest at the beginning of 1920, they took extensive booty, including food, trucks, locomotives and railroad cars, and factory equipment, in revenge for the Central Powers' plundering of Romania during the war.
Romania's occupation of Budapest deepened ongoing Hungarian bitterness at the Paris conference against Bratianu, who stubbornly opposed the partition of the Banat and provisions of the treaties guaranteeing rights of minority ethnic groups. When Bratianu resigned rather than accept the treaty with Austria, King Ferdinand appointed a nonpartisan government and called for elections. In 1919 Romanians voted in the country's first free elections and swept away the Liberals' artificial parliamentary majority. Victory went to Iuliu Maniu's National Party, the major prewar Romanian party in Transylvania, which quickly carved out a niche in the political life of Greater Romania by attracting peasant support in the Old Kingdom, the territories of pre-World War I Romania. Maniu's colleague, Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, became premier and rapidly signed the treaties. Vaida-Voevod ran the government until 1920, when the king named General Alexandru Averescu premier.
Two postwar agreements that Romania signed, the Treaty of Saint-Germain with Austria and the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary, more than doubled Romania's size, adding Transylvania, Dobruja, Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, and part of the Banat to the Old Kingdom. The treaties also fulfilled the centuries-long Romanian dream of uniting all Romanians in a single country. Although the newly acquired regions brought added wealth and doubled the country's population to 16 million, they also introduced foreign nationalities, cultures, and social and political institutions that proved difficult to integrate with those of the Old Kingdom. These differences aroused chauvinism, exacerbated anti-Semitism, and fueled discrimination against Hungarians and other minorities. In the foreign arena, Romania faced Hungarian, Soviet, and Bulgarian demands for restoration of territories lost under the treaties; Romania geared its interwar network of alliances toward maintaining its territorial integrity.
King Ferdinand's fear of revolution and wartime promises of land reform prompted the enactment of agrarian reform laws between 1917 and 1921 that provided for the expropriation and distribution of large estates in the Old Kingdom and new territories. The reform radically altered the country's land-distribution profile as the government redistributed arable land belonging to the crown, boyars, church institutions, and foreign and domestic absentee landlords. When the reform measures were completed, the government had distributed 5.8 million hectares to about 1.4 million peasants; and peasants with ten hectares or less controlled 60 percent of Romania's tilled land. Former owners of the expropriated lands received reimbursement in long-term bonds; peasants were to repay the government 65 percent of the expropriation costs over twenty years. The land reforms suffered from corruption and protracted lawsuits and did not give rise to a modern, productive agricultural sector. Rather, ignorance, overpopulation, lack of farm implements and draft animals, too few rural credit institutions, and excessive division of land kept many of the rural areas mired in poverty. Expropriation of Hungarian-owned property in Transylvania and the Banat created social tensions and further embittered relations with Hungary.
In October 1922, Ferdinand became king of Greater Romania, and in 1923 Romania adopted a new constitution providing for a highly centralized state. A chamber of deputies and a senate made up the national legislature, and the king held the power to appoint prime ministers. The constitution granted males suffrage and equal political rights, eliminated the Romanian Orthodox Church's legal supremacy, gave Jews citizenship rights, prohibited foreigners from owning rural land, and provided for expropriation of rural property and nationalization of the country's oil and mineral wealth. The constitution's liberal civil rights guarantees carried dubious force, however, and election laws allowed political bosses to manipulate vote tallies easily. The constitution enabled Bucharest to dominate Transylvania's affairs, which further fueled resentment in the region.
The war and the land reform obliterated Romania's pro-German, boyar-dominated Conservative Party. Bratianu's Liberal Party, which represented the country's industrial, financial, and commercial interests, controlled the government through rigged elections from 1922 to 1928. The Liberal government's corruption and Bratianu's hard-handed measures eroded the party's popularity. In 1926 Maniu's National Party and the Peasant Party, one of the political remnants of the Old Kingdom, merged to form the National Peasant Party. Taking full advantage of a broadened franchise, the new party soon rivaled the Liberals. The Social Democratic Party was Romania's strongest working-class party, but the country's labor movement was weak and Social Democratic candidates never collected enough votes to win the party more than a few seats in parliament. Despite this meager showing, a faction of Social Democrats in 1921 founded the Communist Party. Communist agitators worked among Romania's industrial workers, especially ethnic minorities in the newly acquired territories, before the government banned the party in 1924. Communism was unpopular in Romania between the wars, partly because Romanians feared the Soviet Union's threat to reclaim Bessarabia; Moscow even directed Romania's communists to advocate detachment of Romania's newly won territories.
Complicating an already unstable situation, the royal family in the mid-1920s suffered a scandal when Crown Prince Carol, exhibiting a Phanariot's love of pleasure, married a Greek princess but continued a long-term liaison with a stenographer. Rather than obey Ferdinand's command to break off his love affair, in 1927 Carol abdicated his right to the throne in favor of his six-year-old son Michael and went to Paris in exile. Ferdinand died within several months, and a regency ruled for Michael. The Liberal Party lost control of the government to the National Peasant Party in fair elections after Bratianu's death in 1927, and Maniu soon invited Prince Carol to return to his homeland. In 1930 Carol returned, and Romania's parliament proclaimed him king. King Carol (1930-40) proved an ambitious leader, but he surrounded himself with corrupt favorites and, to Maniu's dismay, continued his extramarital affair. Maniu soon lost faith in the monarch he had brought out of exile and resigned the premiership. In 1931 Carol ousted the National Peasant Party and named a coalition government under Nicolae Iorga, a noted historian. The National Peasant Party regained power in 1932, only to lose it again to the Liberals a year later.
Romania's economy boomed during the interwar period. The government raised revenue by heavy taxation of the agricultural sector and, after years of Liberal Party hesitation, began admitting foreign capital to finance new electric plants, mines, textile mills, foundries, oil wells, roads, and rail lines. Despite the industrial boom, however, Romania remained primarily an agricultural country. In 1929, when the New York Stock Exchange crashed, world grain prices collapsed, and Romania plunged into an agricultural crisis. Thousands of peasant landholders fell into arrears, and the government enacted price supports and voted a moratorium on agricultural debts to ease their plight. In 1931 Europe suffered a financial crisis, and the flow of foreign capital into Romania dried up. Worse yet, the new industries could not absorb all the peasants who left their villages in search of work resulting in high unemployment. When recovery began in 1934, the government used domestic capital to fund new industries, including arms manufacturing, to pull out of the agricultural slump. The depression slowed capacity growth, but industrial production actually increased 26 percent between 1931 and 1938, a period when practically all the world's developed countries were suffering declines.
In the early 1930s the Iron Guard, a macabre political cult consisting of malcontents, unemployed university graduates, thugs, and anti-Semites, began attracting followers with calls for war against Jews and communists. Peasants flocked to the Iron Guard's ranks, seeking scapegoats for their misery during the agrarian crisis, and the Iron Guard soon became the Balkans' largest fascist party. Corneilu Zelea Codreanu, the Iron Guard's leader who once used his bare hands to kill Iasi's police chief, dubbed himself Capitanul, a title analogous to Adolf Hitler's Der Führer and Benito Mussolini's Il Duce. Codreanu's henchmen marched through Romania's streets in boots and green shirts with small bags of Romanian soil dangling from their necks. Codreanu goaded the Iron Guards to kill his political opponents, and during "purification" ceremonies Guard members drew lots to choose assassins.
After an Iron Guard assassinated Premier Ion Duca of the National Liberal Party in 1933, Romania's governments turned over in rapid succession, exacerbating general discontent. Iron Guards battled their opponents in the streets, and railroad workers went on strike. The government violently suppressed the strikers and imprisoned Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and other Communists who would later rise to the country's most powerful offices.
In December 1937, when the National Liberals were voted out of office, King Carol handed the government to a far-right coalition that soon barred Jews from the civil service and army and forbade them to buy property and practice certain professions. Continuing turmoil and foreign condemnation of the government's virulent anti-Semitism drove Carol in April 1938 to suspend the 1923 constitution, proclaim a royal dictatorship, and impose rigid censorship and tight police surveillance. Carol's tolerance for the Iron Guard's violence wore thin, and on April 19 the police arrested and imprisoned Codreanu and other Iron Guard leaders and cracked down on the rank and file. In November police gunned down Codreanu and thirteen Iron Guards, alleging that they were attempting to escape custody.
Codreanu's violent activities were endorsed and funded by Nazi Germany, which by the late 1930s was able to apply enormous military and economic leverage on Bucharest. Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, however, Romania's foreign policy had been decidedly anti-German. In 1920 and 1921, Romania had joined with Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia to form the Little Entente, agreeing to work against a possible Habsburg restoration and oppose German, Hungarian, and Bulgarian efforts to seek treaty revisions. France had backed the agreement because it hemmed in Germany along its eastern frontiers, and the three Little Entente nations had signed bilateral treaties with France between 1924 and 1927. In February 1934, Romania had joined Yugoslavia, Turkey, and Greece to form the Balkan Entente, a mutual-defense arrangement intended to contain Bulgaria's territorial ambitions. By the mid-1930s, however, support for Romania's traditional pro-French policy waned, and right-wing forces clamored for closer relations with Nazi Germany; at the same time League of Nations-imposed trade sanctions against Italy were costing the Balkan countries dearly. Germany seized the opportunity to strengthen its economic influence in the region; it paid a premium for agricultural products and soon accounted for about half of Romania's total imports and exports. The Little Entente weakened in 1937, when Yugoslavia signed a bilateral pact with Bulgaria, and Hitler gutted it altogether in September 1938, when he duped Britain and France into signing the Munich Agreement, which allowed Germany to annex Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. After Munich, Romania and Yugoslavia had no choice but appease Hitler. On March 23, 1939, Romania and Germany signed a ten-year scheme for Romanian economic development that allowed Germany to exploit the country's natural resources.
On April 13, 1939, France and Britain pledged to ensure the independence of Romania, but negotiations on a similar Soviet guarantee collapsed when Romania refused to allow the Red Army to cross its frontiers. On August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a nonaggression pact containing a secret protocol giving the Soviet Union the Balkans as its sphere of influence. Freed of any Soviet threat, Germany invaded Poland on September 1 and ignited World War II. The Nazi-Soviet pact and Germany's three-week blitzkrieg against Poland panicked Romania, which granted refuge to members of Poland's fleeing government. Romania's premier, Armand Calinescu, proclaimed neutrality, but Iron Guards assassinated him on September 21. King Carol tried to maintain neutrality for several months more, but France's surrender and Britain's retreat from Europe rendered meaningless their assurances to Romania, and therefore Carol needed to strike a deal with Hitler.
Romania suffered three radical dismemberments in the first year of the war that tore away some 100,000 square kilometers of territory and 4 million people. On June 26, 1940, the Soviet Union gave Romania a twenty-four-hour ultimatum to return Bessarabia and cede northern Bukovina, which had never been a part of Russia; after Germany's ambassador in Bucharest advised Carol to submit, the king had no other option. In August Bulgaria reclaimed southern Dobruja with German and Soviet backing. In the same month, the German and Italian foreign ministers met with Romanian diplomats in Vienna and presented them with an ultimatum to accept the retrocession of northern Transylvania to Hungary; Carol again conceded. These territorial losses shattered the underpinnings of Carol's power. On September 6, 1940, the Iron Guard, with the support of Germany and renegade military officers led by the premier, General Ion Antonescu, forced the king to abdicate. Carol and his mistress again went into exile, leaving the king's nineteen-year-old son, Michael V (1940-47), to succeed him.
Antonescu soon usurped Michael's authority and brought Romania squarely into the German camp. His new government quickly enacted stricter anti-Semitic laws and restrictions on Jewish, Greek, and Armenian businessmen; widespread bribery of poor and corrupt Romanian officials, however, somewhat mitigated their harshness. With Antonescu's blessing, the Iron Guard unleashed a reign of terror. In November 1940, Iron Guards thirsty for vengeance broke into the Jilava prison and butchered sixty-four prominent associates of King Carol on the same spot where Codreanu had been shot. They also massacred Jews and tortured and murdered Nicolae Iorga. Nazi troops, who began crossing into Romania on October 8, soon numbered over 500,000; and on November 23 Romania joined the Axis Powers. Hitler now cast Romania in the role of regular supplier of fuel and food to the Nazi armies. Because the Iron Guard's disruptive violence no longer served Hitler's ends, German and Romanian soldiers began rounding up and disarming ill-disciplined members. In January 1941, however, the Iron Guard rebelled and street battles erupted. During this fighting, Iron Guards murdered 120 helpless Jews and mutilated their bodies. German and Romanian troops finally crushed the Iron Guard after several weeks.
On June 22, 1941, German armies with Romanian support attacked the Soviet Union. German and Romanian units conquered Bessarabia, Odessa, and Sevastopol, then marched eastward across the Russian steppes toward Stalingrad. Romania welcomed the war. In a morbid competition with Hungary to curry Hitler's favor and hoping to regain northern Transylvania, Romania mustered more combat troops for the Nazi war effort than all of Germany's other allies combined. Hitler rewarded Romania's loyalty by returning Bessarabia and northern Bukovina and by allowing Romania to annex Soviet lands immediately east of the Dniester, including Odessa. Romanian jingoes in Odessa even distributed a geography showing that the Dacians had inhabited most of southern Russia.
During the war, Antonescu's regime severely oppressed the Jews in Romania and the conquered territories. In Moldavia, Bukovina, and Bessarabia, Romanian soldiers carried out brutal pogroms. Troops herded at least 200,000 Jews from Bukovina and Bessarabia--who were considered Soviet traitors--across the Dniester and into miserable concentration camps where many starved or died of disease or brutality. During the war, about 260,000 Jews were killed in Bessarabia, Bukovina, and in the camps across the Dniester; Hungary's Nazi government killed or deported about 120,000 of Transylvania's 150,000 Jews in 1944. Despite rampant anti-Semitism, most Romanian Jews survived the war. Germany planned mass deportations of Jews from Romania, but Antonescu balked. Jews acted as key managers in Romania's economy, and Antonescu feared that deporting them en masse would lead to chaos; in addition, the unceasing personal appeals of Wilhelm Filderman, a Jewish leader and former classmate of Antonescu, may have made a crucial difference.
Romania supplied the Nazi war effort with oil, grain, and industrial products, but Germany was reluctant to pay for the deliveries either in goods or gold. As a result, inflation skyrocketed in Romania, and even government officials began grumbling about German exploitation. Romanian-Hungarian animosities also undermined the alliance with Germany. Antonescu's government considered war with Hungary over Transylvania an inevitability after the expected final victory over the Soviet Union. In February 1943, however, the Red Army decimated Romania's forces in the great counteroffensive at Stalingrad, and the German and Romanian armies began their retreat westward. Allied bombardment slowed Romania's industries in 1943 and 1944 before Soviet occupation disrupted transportation flows and curtailed economic activity altogether.
By mid-1943 the leaders of Romania's semi-legal political opposition were in secret contact with the Western Allies and attempting to negotiate the country's surrender to Anglo-American forces in order to avoid Soviet occupation. Mihai Antonescu, Romania's foreign minister, also contacted the Allies at about the same time. Western diplomats, however, refused to negotiate a separate peace without Soviet participation, and the Soviet Union delayed an armistice until the Red Army had crossed into the country in April 1944.
In June 1943 the National Peasants, National Liberals, Communists, and Social Democrats, responding to a Communist Party proposal, formed the Blocul National Democrat (National Democratic Bloc--BND), whose aim was to extricate Romania from the Nazi war effort. On August 23 King Michael, a number of army officers, and armed Communist-led civilians supported by the BND locked Ion Antonescu into a safe and seized control of the government. The king then restored the 1923 constitution and issued a cease-fire just as the Red Army was penetrating the Moldavian front. The coup speeded the Red Army's advance, and the Soviet Union later awarded Michael the Order of Victory for his personal courage in overthrowing Antonescu and putting an end to Romania's war against the Allies. Western historians uniformly point out that the Communists played only a supporting role in the coup; postwar Romanian historians, however, ascribe to the Communists the decisive role in Antonescu's overthrow.
Michael named General Constantin Sanatescu to head the new government, which was dominated by the National Peasant Party and National Liberal Party. Sanatescu appointed Lucretiu Patrascanu, a Communist Party Central Committee member, minister of justice. Patrascanu thus became the first Romanian communist to hold high government office.
The Red Army occupied Bucharest on August 31, 1944. In Moscow on September 12, Romania and the Soviet Union signed an armistice on terms Moscow virtually dictated. Romania agreed to pay reparations, repeal anti-Jewish laws, ban fascist groups, and retrocede Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union. Representatives of the Soviet Union, the United States, and Britain established an Allied Control Commission in Bucharest, but the Soviet military command exercised predominant authority. By the time hostilities between Romania and the Soviet Union ended, Romania's military losses had totaled about 110,000 killed and 180,000 missing or captured; the Red Army also transported about 130,000 Romanian soldiers to the Soviet Union, where many perished in prison camps. After its surrender, Romania committed about fifteen divisions to the Allied cause under Soviet command. Before the end of hostilities against Germany, about 120,000 Romanian troops perished helping the Red Army liberate Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
The armistice obligated Romania to pay the Soviet Union US$300 million in reparations. Moscow, however, valued the goods transferred as reparations at low 1938 prices, which enabled the Soviet Union to squeeze two to three times more goods from Romania than it would have been entitled to at 1944 prices. The Soviet Union also reappropriated property that the Romanians had confiscated during the war, requisitioned food and other goods to supply the Red Army during transit and occupation of the country, and expropriated all German assets in the country. Estimates of the total booty reach the equivalent of US$2 billion.
On October 9, 1944, British prime minister Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin met in Moscow. Without President Franklin D. Roosevelt's knowledge, Churchill offered Stalin a list of Balkan and Central European countries with percentages expressing the "interest" the Soviet Union and other Allies would share in each--including a 90 percent Soviet preponderance in Romania. Stalin, ticking the list with a blue pencil, accepted the deal. In early February 1945, however, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agreed at Yalta to a declaration condemning "spheres of influence" and calling for free elections as soon as possible in Europe's liberated countries. The Soviet leader considered the percentage agreement key to the region's postwar order and gave greater weight to it than to the Yalta declarations; the United States and Britain considered the Yalta accord paramount. The rapid communist takeover in Romania provided one of the earliest examples of the significance of this disagreement and contributed to the postwar enmity between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.
In late 1944, the political parties belonging to the BND organized openly for the first time since King Carol had banned political activity in 1938. The key political forces were: Maniu's National Peasants, who enjoyed strong support in the villages and had the backing of democratic members of the middle class, rightists, nationalists, and intellectuals; the Social Democrats, who were backed by workers and leftist intellectuals; and the Communists, who had reemerged after two decades underground. The National Liberals still campaigned, but their leaders' close association with King Carol and quiet support for Antonescu compromised the party and it never recovered its prewar influence.
Romania's Communist Party at first attracted scant popular support, and its rolls listed fewer than 1,000 members at the war's end. Recruitment campaigns soon began netting large numbers of workers, intellectuals, and others disillusioned by the breakdown of the country's democratic experiment and hungry for radical reforms; many opportunists, including former Iron Guards, also crowded the ranks. Two rival factions competed for party leadership: the Romanian faction, which had operated underground during the war years; and the "Muscovites," primarily intellectuals and nonethnic Romanians who had lived out the war in Moscow and arrived in Romania on the Red Army's heels. The leaders of the Romanian faction were Patrascanu, the intellectual prewar defense lawyer who became the minister of justice, and Gheorghe Gheorghiu, an activist railway worker who added Dej to his surname in memory of the Transylvanian town where he had been long imprisoned. The Muscovite leaders included Ana Pauker, the daughter of a Moldavian rabbi, who reportedly had denounced her own husband as a Trotskyite, and Vasile Luca, a Transylvanian Szekler who had become a Red Army major. Neither faction was a disciplined, coherent organization; in fact, immediately after the war the Romanian Communist Party resembled more a confederation of fiefdoms run by individual leaders than the tempered, well-sharpened political weapon Lenin had envisioned. The party probably would not have survived without Soviet backing.
Soviet control handicapped the Romanian government's efforts to administer the country. The National Peasants called for immediate elections, but the Communists and Soviet administrators, fearful of embarrassment at the polls, checked the effort. In October 1944, the Communists, Social Democrats, and the Plowmen's Front and other Communist front organizations formed the Frontul National Democrat (National Democratic Front--FND) and launched a campaign to overthrow Sanatescu's government and gain power. The Communists demanded that the government appoint more pro-Communist officials, and the left-wing press inveighed against Sanatescu, charging that hidden reactionary forces supported him. Sanatescu succumbed to the pressure and resigned in November 1944; King Michael persuaded him to form a second government, but it too collapsed in a matter of weeks. After Sanatescu's fall, the king summoned General Nicolae Radescu to form a new government. Radescu appointed a Communist, Teohari Georgescu, undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior; Georgescu in turn began introducing Communists into the police and security forces.
Chaos erupted in Romania and civil war seemed imminent just days after the Yalta conference had adjourned. Communist leaders, with Soviet backing, launched a vehement anti-Radescu campaign that included halting publication of National Peasant and National Liberal newspapers. On February 13, 1945, Communists demonstrated outside the royal palace. Six days later Communist Party and National Peasant loyalists battled in Bucharest, and demonstrations degenerated to street brawls. The Soviet authorities demanded that Radescu restore calm but barred him from using force. On February 24, Communist thugs shot and killed several pro-FND demonstrators; Communist leaders, branding Radescu a murderer, charged that government troops carried out the shootings. On February 26 Radescu, citing the Yalta declarations, retaliated by scheduling elections. The next day, the Soviet deputy foreign minister, Andrei Vyshinsky, rushed to Bucharest to engineer a final FND takeover. After a heated exchange, Vyshinsky presented King Michael an ultimatum--either to appoint Petru Groza, a Communist sympathizer, to Radescu's post or to risk Romania's continued existence as an independent nation. Vyshinsky sugared the medicine by offering Romania sovereignty over Transylvania if the king agreed. Portents of a takeover appeared in Bucharest: Red Army tanks surrounded Michael's palace, and Soviet soldiers disarmed Romanian troops and occupied telephone and broadcasting centers. The king, lacking Western support, yielded. Radescu, who lashed out at Communist leaders as "hyenas" and "foreigners without God or country," fled to the British mission. Meanwhile, Western diplomats feared that the Soviet Union would annex Romania outright.
Groza's appointment amounted to a de facto Communist takeover. Groza named Communists to head the army and the ministries of interior, justice, propaganda, and economic affairs. The government included no legitimate members of the National Peasant Party or National Liberal Party; rather, the Communists drafted opportunistic dissidents from these parties, heralded them as the parties' legitimate representatives, and ignored or harassed genuine party leaders. On March 9, 1945, Groza announced that Romania had regained sovereignty over northern Transylvania, and in May and June the government prosecuted and executed Ion Antonescu, Mihai Antonescu, and two generals as war criminals.
At the Potsdam Conference in July and August 1945, the United States delegation protested that the Soviet Union was improperly implementing the Yalta declarations in Romania and called for elections to choose a new government. The Soviet Union, however, refused even to discuss the question, labeling it interference in Romania's internal affairs. The Soviet Union instead called for the United States, Britain, and France to recognize Groza's government immediately, but they refused. The Potsdam agreement on Southeastern Europe provided for a council of foreign ministers to negotiate a peace treaty to be concluded with a recognized, democratic Romanian government. The agreement prompted King Michael to call for Groza to resign because his government was neither recognized nor democratic. When Groza refused to step down, the king retaliated by retiring to his summer home and withholding his signature from all legislative acts or government decrees.
In October 1945, Romania's Communist Party held its first annual conference, at which the two factions settled on a joint leadership. Though the Soviet Union favored the Muscovites, Stalin backed Gheorghiu-Dej's appointment as party secretary. Pauker, Luca, and Georgescu emerged as the party's other dominant leaders. The party's rolls swelled to 717,490 members by mid-1946, and membership exceeded 800,000 by 1947.
At a December 1945 meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow, the United States denounced Romania's regime as authoritarian and nonrepresentative and called for Groza to name legitimate members of the opposition parties to cabinet posts. Stalin agreed to make limited concessions, but the West received no guarantees. Groza named one National Peasant and one National Liberal minister, but he denied them portfolios and FND ministers hopelessly outnumbered them in the cabinet. Assured by Groza's oral promises that his government would improve its human- and political-rights record and schedule elections, the United States and Britain granted Romania diplomatic recognition in February 1946, before elections took place.
The Communists did all in their power to fabricate an election rout. Communist-controlled unions impeded distribution of opposition-party newspapers, and Communist hatchet men attacked opposition political workers at campaign gatherings. In March the Communists engineered a split in the Social Democratic Party and began discrediting prominent figures in the National Peasant and National Liberal Parties, labeling them reactionary, profascist, and anti-Soviet and charging them with undermining Romania's economy and national unity. On November 19, 1946, Romanians cast ballots in an obviously rigged election. Groza's government claimed the support of almost 90 percent of the voters. The Communists, Social Democrats, and other leftist parties claimed 379 of the assembly's 414 seats; the National Peasant Party took 32; the National Liberals, 3. Minority-party legislators soon abandoned the new parliament or faced a ban on their participation. The regime turned a deaf ear to United States and British objections and protested against their "meddling" in Romania's internal affairs.
During its first weeks in power, Groza's government undertook an extensive land reform that limited private holdings to 50 hectares, expropriated 1.1 million hectares, and distributed most of the land to about 800,000 peasants. In May 1945, Romania and the Soviet Union signed a long-term economic agreement that provided for the creation of joint-stock companies, or Sovroms, through which the Soviet Union controlled Romania's major sources of income, including the oil and uranium industries. The Sovroms were tax exempt and Soviets held key management posts.
Allied aerial bombardment and ground fighting during the war had inflicted serious damage to Romania's productive capacity, particularly to the most developed sector--oil production and refining. Furthermore, the excessive post-war reparations to the Soviet Union and Soviet exploitation of the Sovroms overburdened the country's economy. In 1946 Romanian industries produced less than half of their prewar output, inflation and drought exacted a heavy toll, and for the first time in 100 years Moldavia suffered a famine. By mid-1947 Romania faced economic chaos. Foreign aid, including United States relief, helped feed the population. The government printed money to repay the public debt, bought up the nation's cereal crop, confiscated store and factory inventories, and laid off workers. Romania, like the other East European countries under Soviet domination, refused to participate in the Marshall Plan for the economic reconstruction of Europe, complaining that it would constitute interference in internal affairs.
In February 1947, the Allies and Romania signed the final peace treaty in Paris. The treaty, which did not include Romania as a co-belligerent country, reset Romania's boundaries. Transylvania, with its Hungarian enclaves, returned to Romania; Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, with their Romanian majorities, again fell to the Soviet Union; and Bulgaria kept southern Dobruja. The treaty bound Romania to honor human and political rights, including freedom of speech, worship, and assembly, but from the first, the Romanian government treated these commitments as dead letters. The treaty also set a ceiling on the size of Romania's military and called for withdrawal of all Soviet troops except those needed to maintain communication links with the Soviet forces then occupying Austria.
Announcement of the Marshall Plan, expulsion of communists from the French and Italian governments in 1947, and consolidation of the Western bloc unnerved Stalin. Anticommunist forces, though in disarray, still lurked in Eastern Europe; most of the region's communist governments and parties enjoyed meager popular support; and the Polish, Czechoslovakian, Bulgarian, and Yugoslav communist parties began pursuing independent lines regarding acceptance of Marshall Plan aid and formation of a Balkan confederation. Fearing the Soviet Union might lose its grasp on Eastern Europe, Stalin abandoned his advocacy of "national roads to socialism" and pushed for establishment of full communist control in Eastern Europe with strict adherence to Moscow's line. To further this goal, in September 1947 the Soviet Union and its satellites founded the Cominform, an organization linking the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the communist parties of Eastern Europe, Italy, and France.
In the second half of 1947, the Romanian Communists unleashed full fury against the country's other political parties, arresting numerous opposition politicians and driving others into exile. The government dissolved the National Peasant Party and National Liberal Party, and in October prosecutors brought Iuliu Maniu, his deputy, Ion Mihalache, and other political figures to trial for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government. Maniu and Mihalache received life sentences; in 1956 the government reported that Maniu had died in prison four years earlier. In late 1947, the Communists struck against their fellow travelers, ousting the opportunistic members of the main opposition parties who had cooperated in the Communists' takeover. A terror campaign claimed many lives and filled prisons and work camps. After ridding themselves of all active political opponents, Groza and Gheorghiu-Dej met with King Michael in December 1947 and threatened him with a government strike and possible civil war unless he abdicated. After several refusals, the king submitted.
The Romanian Communist Party and one wing of the Social Democratic Party merged in early 1948 to form the Romanian Workers' Party (Partidul Muncitoresc Român--PMR). Communists held the party's key leadership posts and used the principle of democratic centralism to silence former Social Democrats. The PMR's First Party Congress, in February 1948, chose the triumvirate of Gheorghiu-Dej, Luca, and Pauker to head the Central Committee; Gheorghiu-Dej remained general secretary but still lacked the power to dominate the others. The Congress also transformed the National Democratic Front into the Popular Democratic Front, the party's umbrella front organization. In the same month, the Soviet Union and Romania signed a treaty of friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance.
In March 1948 the government held elections that for the final time included the facade of opposition-party participation; the Popular Democratic Front took 405 of the 414 seats. On April 13, 1948, the new National Assembly proclaimed the creation of the Romanian People's Republic and adopted a Stalinist constitution. The assembly ostensibly became the supreme organ of state authority; in reality, however, the Communist Party's Politburo and the state Council of Ministers held the reins of power. The constitution also listed civil and political rights and recognized private property, but the authorities soon renounced the separation of the judiciary and executive and established the Department of State Security (Departamentul Securitatii Statului), commonly known as the Securitate, Romania's secret police. In 1949 acts considered dangerous to society became punishable even if the acts were not specifically defined by law as crimes, and economic crimes became punishable by death. The central government also created and staffed local "people's councils" to further tighten its hold on the country.
In June 1948, the national assembly enacted legislation to complete the nationalization of the country's banks and most of its industrial, mining, transportation, and insurance companies. Within three years the state controlled 90 percent of Romania's industry. The nationalization law provided reimbursement for business owners, but repayments never materialized. In July 1948, the government created a state planning commission to control the economy, and in January 1949 Romania joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon), an organization designed to further economic cooperation between the Soviet satellites.
Romania launched an ambitious program of forced industrial development at the expense of agriculture and consumer-goods production. In the First Five-Year Plan (1951-55), planners earmarked 57 percent of all investment for industry, allotted 87 percent of industrial investment to heavy industry, and promised the workers an 80 percent improvement in their standard of living by 1955. The government began construction of the Danube-Black Sea Canal, a project of monumental proportions and questionable utility.
In 1949 the government initiated forced agricultural collectivization to feed the growing urban population and generate capital. The state appropriated land, prodded peasants to join collective farms, and equipped machine stations to do mechanized work for the collective farms. Government forces besieged rural areas and arrested about 80,000 peasants for being private farmers or siding with private farmers, who were reviled as "class enemies;" about 30,000 people eventually faced public trial. Forced collectivization brought Romania food shortages and reduced exports, and by late 1951 the government realized it lacked the tractors, equipment, and trained personnel for successful rapid collectivization. The forced collectivization campaign produced only about 17 percent state ownership of Romania's land. The authorities shifted to a policy of slow collectivization and cooperativization, allowing peasants to retain their land but requiring delivery to the state of a portion of their output. Large compulsory-delivery quotas drove many peasants from the land to higher-paying jobs in industry.
Industrialization proceeded quickly and soon began reshaping the country's social fabric. Although Romania remained a predominantly agricultural country, the percentage of industrial workers increased as peasants left the fields and villages for factory jobs and overcrowded city apartments. Trade school and university graduates also flocked to the cities. By 1953 government decrees had made most professionals state employees, eliminated private commerce, and bankrupted the commercial bourgeoisie.
In 1948 the regime determined to reform the social structure and inculcate "socialist" values. The authorities tackled illiteracy, but they also severed links with Western culture, jailed teachers and intellectuals, introduced compulsory Russian-language instruction, rewrote Romania's history to highlight Russia's contributions, and redefined the nation's identity by glossing over its Western roots and stressing Slavic influences. Party leaders ordered writers and artists to embrace socialist realism and commanded teachers to train children for communal life. The state transformed the Romanian Orthodox Church into a government-controlled organization, supervised Roman Catholic schools, jailed Catholic clergy, merged the Uniate and Orthodox churches, and seized Uniate church property. After 1948 Stalin encouraged anti-Semitism and the Romanian regime restricted Jewish religious observances and harassed and imprisoned Jews who wished to emigrate to Israel. Despite this pressure, however, a third of Romania's Jews had emigrated by 1951.
On June 28, 1948, the Yugoslav-Soviet rift broke into the open when the Cominform expelled Yugoslavia. Gheorghiu-Dej enthusiastically joined in the attack on Yugoslavia's defiant leader, Josip Broz Tito, and the Cominform transferred its headquarters from Belgrade to Bucharest. Romania sheltered fleeing anti-Tito Yugoslavs, beamed propaganda broadcasts into Yugoslavia denouncing Tito, and called on Yugoslav communists to revolt. Tito's successful defiance of Stalin triggered a purge of East European communists who had approved Titoist or "national" approaches to communism.
Romania's purge of Titoists provided cover for a major internal power struggle. The authorities imprisoned Patrascanu as a "national deviationist" and friend to war criminals. In 1949 the party purged its rolls of 192,000 members. The Muscovite party leaders fell next. In 1951 Pauker and Luca celebrated Gheorghiu-Dej as the party's sole leader, but in May 1952 Pauker, Luca, and Georgescu lost their party and government positions. A month later, Gheorghiu-Dej shunted Groza into a ceremonial position and assumed both the state and party leadership. The government soon promulgated a new constitution that incorporated complete paragraphs of the Soviet constitution and designated for the PMR a role analogous to that of the CPSU in the Soviet Union--the "leading political force" in the state and society. In 1954 the military tried and shot several "deviationists" and "spies," including Patrascanu.
Through the purge, Gheorghiu-Dej established a unified party leadership of Romanian nationals and forged a loyal internal apparatus to implement his policies. Gheorghiu-Dej elevated young protégés, including Nicolae Ceausescu, a former shoemaker's apprentice who had joined the party at age fourteen and had met Gheorghiu-Dej in prison during the war, and Alexandru Draghici, who later became interior minister. The PMR's unity allowed it successfully to assert its interests over Moscow's in the next decade.
After Stalin died in March 1953, Gheorghiu-Dej forged a "New Course" for Romania's economy. He slowed industrialization, increased consumer-goods production, closed Romania's largest labor camps, abandoned the Danube-Black Sea Canal project, halted rationing, and hiked workers' wages. Romania and the Soviet Union also dissolved the Sovroms.
Soon after Stalin's death, Gheorghiu-Dej also set Romania on its so-called "independent" course within the East bloc. Gheorghiu-Dej identified with Stalinism, and the more liberal Soviet regime threatened to undermine his authority. In an effort to reinforce his position, Gheorghiu-Dej pledged cooperation with any state, regardless of political-economic system, as long as it recognized international equality and did not interfere in other nations' domestic affairs. This policy led to a tightening of Romania's bonds with China, which also advocated national self-determination.
In 1954 Gheorghiu-Dej resigned as the party's general secretary but retained the premiership; a four-member collective secretariat, including Ceausescu, controlled the party for a year before Gheorghiu-Dej again took up the reins. Despite its new policy of international cooperation, Romania joined the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) in 1955, which entailed subordinating and integrating a portion of its military into the Soviet military machine. Romania later refused to allow Warsaw Pact maneuvers on its soil and limited its participation in military maneuvers elsewhere within the alliance.
In 1956 the Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, denounced Stalin in a secret speech before the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU. Gheorghiu-Dej and the PMR leadership were fully braced to weather de-Stalinization. Gheorghiu-Dej made Pauker, Luca, and Georgescu scapegoats for the Romanian communists' past excesses and claimed that the Romanian party had purged its Stalinist elements even before Stalin had died.
In October 1956, Poland's communist leaders refused to succumb to Soviet military threats to intervene in domestic political affairs and install a more obedient politburo. A few weeks later, the communist party in Hungary virtually disintegrated during a popular revolution. Poland's defiance and Hungary's popular uprising inspired Romanian students and workers to demonstrate in university and industrial towns calling for liberty, better living conditions, and an end to Soviet domination. Fearing the Hungarian uprising might incite his nation's own Hungarian population to revolt, Gheorghiu-Dej advocated swift Soviet intervention, and the Soviet Union reinforced its military presence in Romania, particularly along the Hungarian border. Although Romania's unrest proved fragmentary and controllable, Hungary's was not, so in November Moscow mounted a bloody invasion of Hungary.
After the Revolution of 1956, Gheorghiu-Dej worked closely with Hungary's new leader, János Kádár. Although Romania initially took in Imre Nagy, the exiled former Hungarian premier, it returned him to Budapest for trial and execution. In turn, Kádár renounced Hungary's claims to Transylvania and denounced Hungarians there who had supported the revolution as chauvinists, nationalists, and irredentists. In Transylvania, for their part, the Romanian authorities merged Hungarian and Romanian universities at Cluj and consolidated middle schools. Romania's government also took measures to allay domestic discontent by reducing investments in heavy industry, boosting output of consumer goods, decentralizing economic management, hiking wages and incentives, and instituting elements of worker management. The authorities eliminated compulsory deliveries for private farmers but reaccelerated the collectivization program in the mid-1950s, albeit less brutally than earlier. The government declared collectivization complete in 1962, when collective and state farms controlled 77 percent of the arable land.
Despite Gheorghiu-Dej's claim that he had purged the Romanian party of Stalinists, he remained susceptible to attack for his obvious complicity in the party's activities from 1944 to 1953. At a plenary PMR meeting in March 1956, Miron Constantinescu and Iosif Chisinevschi, both Politburo members and deputy premiers, criticized Gheorghiu-Dej. Constantinescu, who advocated a Khrushchev-style liberalization, posed a particular threat to Gheorghiu-Dej because he enjoyed good connections with the Moscow leadership. The PMR purged Constantinescu and Chisinevschi in 1957, denouncing both as Stalinists and charging them with complicity with Pauker. Afterwards, Gheorghiu-Dej faced no serious challenge to his leadership. Ceausescu replaced Constantinescu as head of PMR cadres.
Khrushchev consolidated his power in the Soviet Union by ousting the so-called "anti-party" group in July 1957. A year later Gheorghiu-Dej, with Chinese support, coaxed the Soviet Union into removing its forces from Romanian soil. Khrushchev's consolidation freed his hands to revive Comecon and advocate specialization of its member countries. Part of his plan was to relegate Romania to the role of supplying agricultural products and raw materials to the more industrially advanced Comecon countries. Gheorghiu-Dej, a long-time disciple of rapid industrialization and, since 1954, a supporter of "national" communism, opposed Khrushchev's plan vehemently. Romanian-Soviet trade soon slowed to a trickle. With no Soviet troops in Romania to intimidate him, Gheorghiu-Dej's defiance stiffened, and his negotiators began bringing home Western credits to finance purchases of technology for Romania's expanding industries. Khrushchev apparently sought to undermine Gheorghiu-Dej within the PMR and considered military intervention to unseat him. The Romanian leader countered by attacking anyone opposed to his industrialization plans and by removing Moscow-trained officials and appointing loyal bureaucrats in their place. The November 1958 PMR plenum asserted that Romania had to strengthen its economy to withstand external pressures. Industrialization, collectivization, improved living standards, and trade with the West became the focal points of the party's economic policy.
The Sino-Soviet split, which Khrushchev announced at the PMR's 1960 congress, and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis increased Gheorghiu-Dej's room to maneuver without risking a complete rupture with Moscow. At a Comecon meeting in February 1963, Romania revealed its independent stance by stating publicly that it would not modify its industrialization program for regional integration. In subsequent months, the Romanian and Albanian media were the only official voices in Eastern Europe to report China's attack on Soviet policy. Also Gheorghiu-Dej and Tito established a rapprochement and broke ground for a joint Yugoslavian-Romanian hydroelectric project. In 1964 the PMR issued the "April Declaration," rejecting the Soviet Union's hegemony in the communist bloc and proclaiming Romania's autonomy. After the April Declaration, Romanian diplomats set out to construct loose alliances with countries of the international communist movement, Third World, and the West. China and Yugoslavia became its closest partners in the communist world; Hungary and the Soviet Union were its main communist opponents.
At home, the PMR maintained a firm grip on authority but granted amnesties to former "class enemies" and "chauvinists" and admitted to its ranks a broader range of individuals. Gheorghiu-Dej ordered "de-Russification" and nationalistic "Romanianization" measures to drum up mass support for his defiance of Moscow and deflect criticism of his own harsh domestic economic policies. Bucharest's Institute for Russian Studies metamorphosed into a foreign-languages institute, and Russian-language instruction disappeared from Romanian curricula. To promote Romanian culture, official historians resurrected Romanian heroes; the PMR published an anti-Russian anthology of Karl Marx's articles denouncing tsarist Russia's encroachments on Romania and backing Romania's claim to Bessarabia; workmen stripped Russian names from street signs and buildings. Cultural exchanges with the West multiplied; jamming of foreign radio broadcasts ceased; and Romania began siding against the Soviet Union in United Nations (UN) votes. The Romanianization campaign also ended political and cultural concessions granted to the Hungarian minority during early communist rule; subsequently Hungarians suffered extensive discrimination.
In March 1965 Gheorghiu-Dej died. A triumvirate succeeded him: Ceausescu, the party's first secretary; Chivu Stoica, the state council president; and Ion Gheorghe Maurer, premier. Ceausescu wasted little time consolidating power and eliminating rivals. Alexandru Draghici, his main rival, lost his interior ministry post in 1965 and PMR membership in 1968. After Draghici's removal, Ceausescu began accumulating various party and government positions, including state council president and supreme military commander, so that by the Tenth Party Congress in 1969, Ceausescu controlled the Central Committee and had surrounded himself with loyal subordinates.
Ceausescu, like Gheorghiu-Dej, preached national communism, and he redoubled the Romanianization effort. In 1965 the PMR was renamed the Romanian Communist Party (Partidul Comunist Român--PCR) in conjunction with the leadership's elevation of Romania from the status of a people's democracy to a socialist republic, a distinction ostensibly marking a leap forward along the path toward true communism. The leadership also added a strong statement of national sovereignty to the preamble of the new Constitution. By 1966 Ceausescu had ceased extolling the Soviet Union's "liberation" of Romania and recharacterized the Red Army's wartime action there as "weakening fascism" and "animating" the Romanians to liberate the country from fascist dominance. Romanians heeded the nationalist appeal, but Ceausescu so exaggerated the effort that a cult of personality developed. Propagandists, striving to cast Ceausescu as the embodiment of all ancestral courage and wisdom, even staged meetings between Ceausescu and actors portraying Michael the Brave, Stephen the Great, and other national heroes.
Romania's divergence from Soviet policies widened under Ceausescu. In 1967 Romania recognized the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and maintained diplomatic relations with Israel after the June 1967 War. In August 1968, Ceausescu visited Prague to lend support to Alexander Dubcek's government. Romania denounced the Soviet Union for ordering the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Ceausescu met Tito twice after the invasion to discuss a common defense against a possible Bulgarian-Soviet military action and reassert their insistence on full autonomy, equal national rights, and noninterference. Popular acceptance of Ceausescu's regime peaked during his defiance of the Soviet Union following the invasion of Czechoslovakia; most Romanians believed his actions had averted Soviet re-occupation of their country.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, thanks mostly to ample domestic energy and raw-material production, easily tapped labor reserves, forced savings, Western trade concessions, and large foreign credits, Romania enjoyed perhaps its most prosperous economic years since World War II. Although industrial production had tripled in the decade up to 1965, the inefficiencies of central planning and inadequate worker incentives signalled future problems. In 1969 the regime launched an ephemeral economic reform that promised to increase efficiency and boost incentives by decentralizing economic control, allowing private enterprise greater freedom, and increasing supplies of consumer goods. Ceausescu soon halted decentralization, however, and renewed the effort to develop heavy industry.
During his early years in power, Ceausescu sought to present himself as a reformer and populist champion of the common man. Purge victims began returning home; contacts with the West multiplied; and artists, writers, and scholars found new freedoms. In 1968 Ceausescu openly denounced Gheorghiu-Dej for deviating from party ideals during Stalin's lifetime. After consolidating power, however, Ceausescu regressed. The government again disciplined journalists and demanded the allegiance of writers and artists to socialist realism. As a result of his China visit in 1971, Ceausescu launched his own version of the Cultural Revolution, spawning volumes of sycophantic, pseudohistorical literature and suppressing dissidents.
In the early 1970s, Ceausescu painstakingly concentrated power at the apex of the political pyramid. The arrest, and probable execution, of the Bucharest garrison's commanding officer in 1971, possibly for planning to oust Ceausescu, prompted an overhaul of the military and security forces. After his China trip, Ceausescu removed Premier Maurer and thousands of managers and officials who advocated or implemented the earlier economic reform, and he replaced them with his protégés. In 1972 the government adopted the principle of cadre rotation, making the creation of power bases opposed to Ceausescu impossible. In accordance with the PCR's claim that it had ceased being an organization of a few committed operatives and become a mass party "organically implanted in all cells of life," Ceausescu began blending party and state structures and named individuals to hold dual party and state posts. In 1973 Ceausescu's wife, Elena, became a member of the Politburo, and in 1974 voters "elected" Ceausescu president of the republic.
The Eleventh Party Congress in 1974 signaled the beginning of a regime based on "dynastic socialism." Ceausescu placed members of his immediate family--including his wife, three brothers, a son, and a brother-in-law--in control of defense, internal affairs, planning, science and technology, youth, and party cadres. Hagiographers began portraying Ceausescu as the greatest genius of the age and Elena as a world-renowned thinker.
Having assumed a cloak of infallibility, Ceausescu was unchecked by debate on his economic initiatives. He launched monumental, high-risk ventures, including huge steel and petrochemical plants, and restarted work on the Danube-Black Sea Canal. The government boosted investment and redeployed laborers from agriculture to industry. Central economic controls tightened, and imports of foreign technology skyrocketed.
In 1971 Romania joined the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and in 1972 it became the first Comecon country to join the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, which broadened its access to hard-currency credit markets. Romania also supplied doctored statistics to the UN, thereby gaining the status of an undeveloped country, and, after 1973, receiving preferential treatment in trade with developed countries.
Halfway through the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1976-80), the economy faltered. All manpower reserves had been tapped; shortages of consumer goods sapped worker enthusiasm; and low labor productivity dulled the effectiveness of relatively modern industrial facilities. After decades of growth, oil output began to decline; the downturn forced Romania to import oil at prices too high to allow its huge new petrochemical plants to operate profitably. Coal, electricity, and natural-gas production also fell short of plan targets, creating chaos throughout the economy. A devastating earthquake, drought, higher world interest rates, soft foreign demand for Romanian goods, and higher prices for petroleum imports pushed Romania into a balance-of-payments crisis. In 1981 Romania followed Poland in becoming the second Comecon country to request rescheduling of its hard-currency debts, notifying bankers in a telex from Bucharest that it would make no payments on its arrears or on the next year's obligations without a rescheduling agreement.
Ceausescu imposed a crash program to pay off the foreign debt. The government cut imports, slashed domestic electricity usage, enacted stiff penalties against hoarding, and squeezed its farms, factories, and refineries for exports. Ceausescu's debt-reduction policies caused average Romanians terrible hardship. The regime's demand for foodstuff exports resulted in severe shortages of bread, meat, fruits, and vegetables--Ceausescu even touted a "scientific" diet designed to benefit the populace through reduced meat consumption. The authorities limited families to one forty-watt bulb per apartment, set temperature restrictions for apartments, and enforced these restrictions through control squads. Slowly, however, Romania chipped away at its debt.
Romania's foreign policy in the 1970s and early 1980s consisted of propagating its message of autonomy and noninterference and explicitly rejecting the "Brezhnev Doctrine," named after Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who asserted the Soviet Union's right to intervene in satellite countries if it perceived a threat to communist control or fulfillment of Warsaw Pact commitments. In 1972 Romania redirected its military defenses to counter possible aggression by the Warsaw Pact countries, especially the Soviet Union. Romania continued to express resentment for the loss of Bessarabia, condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and ignored the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Soviet leaders used proxy countries, especially Hungary, to criticize Romania's foreign and domestic policies, especially its nationalism. Romania's intensified persecution of Transylvania's Hungarians further aggravated relations with Hungary, and Ceausescu's bleak human rights record eroded much of the credibility Romania had won in the late 1960s through its defiance of Moscow.
Despite the population's extreme privation, at the Thirteenth Party Congress in November 1984 the PCR leadership again emphasized order, discipline, political and cultural centralism, central planning, and Ceausescu's cult of personality. By then the cult had gained epic dimensions. Ceausescu had assumed the status of Stephen the Great's spiritual descendant and protector of Western civilization. In the severe winter of 1984-85, however, Bucharest's unlit streets were covered with deep, rutty ice and carried only a few trucks and buses. The authorities banned automobile traffic, imposed military discipline on workers in the energy field, and shut off heat and hot water, even in hotels and foreign embassies. Shoppers queued before food stores, and restaurant patrons huddled in heavy coats to sip lukewarm coffee and chew fatty cold cuts. Although the Romanian people endured these hardships with traditional stoicism, a pall of hopelessness had descended on the country, and official proclamations of Romania's achievements during the "golden age of Ceausescu" had a hollow ring.
UNTIL LATE DECEMBER 1989, it appeared that the Socialist Republic of Romania would enter the final decade of the century as one of the few remaining orthodox communist states. Revelling in his recent political triumphs at the Fourteenth Congress of the Romanian Communist Party (Partidul Communist Român--PCR), President Nicolae Ceausescu adamantly refused to bow to international pressure to relax his iron-fisted rule. Ceausescu cast himself as the last true defender of socialism and rejected the liberalizing reforms adopted by other Eastern European states and the Soviet Union. Instead, his regime unflinchingly continued its Stalinist policies of repression of individual liberties, forced Romanianization of ethnic minorities, destruction of the nation's architectural heritage, and adherence to failed economic policies that had reduced Romania's standard of living to Third World levels.
Despite Ceausescu's growing international isolation, Romania's state-controlled media continued to lionize the "genius of the Carpathians." The period after 1965 was termed the "golden age of Ceausescu," an era when Romania purportedly had taken great strides toward its goal of becoming a multilaterally developed socialist state by the year 2000. The international community regarded the regime's depiction of its achievements as self-serving distortions of reality. But no one could deny that Ceausescu's long rule had radically changed Romania.
When he came to power in 1965, Ceausescu inherited a political model that differed little from the Stalinist prototype imposed in 1948. Under his shrewd direction, however, new control mechanisms evolved, giving Romania the most highly centralized power structure in Eastern Europe. After his election to the newly created office of president of the republic in 1974, Ceausescu officially assumed the duties of head of state while remaining leader of the Romanian Communist Party and supreme commander of the armed forces. Also in 1974, Ceausescu engineered the abolition of the Central Committee's Standing Presidium, among whose members were some of the most influential individuals in the party. Thereafter, policy-making powers would increasingly reside in the Political Executive Committee and its Permanent Bureau, which were staffed with Ceausescu's most trusted allies.
Ceausescu tightened his control of policy making and administration through the mechanism of joint party-state councils, which had no precise counterpart in other communist regimes. The councils went a step beyond the typical Stalinist pattern of interlocking party and state directorates, in which state institutions preserved at least the appearance of autonomy. The fusion of party and state bodies enabled Ceausescu to exercise immediate control over many of the functions the Constitution had granted to the Grand National Assembly, the Council of State, the Council of Ministers, the State Planning Committee and other government entities. Five of the nine joint party-state councils that had emerged by 1989 were chaired by Ceausescu himself or by his wife, Elena.
The appointment of close family members to critical party and government positions was a tactic of power consolidation that Ceausescu employed throughout his tenure. Indeed, the extent of nepotism in his regime was unparalleled in Eastern Europe. In 1989 at least twenty-seven Ceausescu relatives held influential positions in the party and state apparatus. Elena Ceausescu was elected to the Central Committee in 1972 and immediately began amassing power in her own right. From her position as chief of the Party and State Cadres Commission, she was able to dictate organizational and personnel changes throughout the party and the government. And as head of the National Council of Science and Technology, she played a central role in setting economic goals and policy. Ceausescu's brother, Ilie, became deputy minister of national defense and chief of the Higher Political Council of the Army after an alleged military coup attempt in 1983. Ceausescu's son, Nicu, despite a playboy reputation, headed the Union of Communist Youth and was a candidate member of the Political Executive Committee. Western observers coined the term "dynastic socialism" to describe the Romanian polity.
Another control mechanism perfected by Ceausescu was "rotation," a policy applied after 1971 to bolster his personal power at the expense of political institutions. Rotation shunted officials between party and state bureaucracies and between national and local posts, thereby removing Ceausescu's potential rivals before they were able to develop their own power bases. Although rotation was clearly counterproductive to administrative efficiency and was particularly damaging to the economy, Ceausescu continued the policy with vigor. In one month in 1987, for example, he dismissed eighteen ministers from the Council of Ministers-- about one-third of the government body established by the Constitution to administer all national and local agencies.
In the Stalinist tradition, Ceausescu exploited a ruthlessly efficient secret police, the Department of State Security (Departmenatal Securitatii Statului--Securitate) and intelligence service to abort challenges to his authority. Relative to the country's population, these services were the largest in Eastern Europe. And they were perhaps the most effective, judging by the relatively few documented acts of public dissent in Romania as compared with other communist states. Ceausescu generously funded the secret services and gave them carte blanche to preempt threats to his regime. In direct violation of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Securitate agents maintained surveillance on private citizens, monitoring their contacts with foreigners, screening their mail, tapping their telephones, breaking into their homes and offices, and arresting and interrogating those suspected of disloyalty to the regime. Prominent dissidents suffered more severe forms of harassment, including physical violence and imprisonment.
In addition to the feared Securitate, Ceausescu directly controlled a force of some 20,000 special security troops, whose primary mission was to defend party installations and communications facilities. Heavily indoctrinated in Ceausescu's version of Marxism, these soldiers, in effect, served as a "palace guard." Moreover, as chairman of the Defense Council from its inception in 1969, Ceausescu could rein in the regular armed forces and minimize the threat of a military coup. Further diminishing the military as a potential rival to his authority, Ceausescu developed a unique military doctrine that deprofessionalized the regular armed forces and stressed mass participation in a "War of the Entire People."
As Ceausescu consolidated his power, he was able to pursue his own agenda in economic and foreign policy. For the most part, he continued the classic Stalinist development strategy of his predecessor and mentor, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. The goal of that strategy was economic autarky, which was to be attained through the socialization of assets, the rapid development of heavy industry, the transfer of underemployed rural labor to new manufacturing jobs in urban centers, and the development and exploitation of the nation's extensive natural resources.
Romania's progress along the path of "socialist construction" was acknowledged in 1965 when the country's name was changed from the Romanian People's Republic to the Socialist Republic of Romania. The nationalization of industrial, financial, and transportation assets had been largely accomplished by 1950, and some 90 percent of the farmland had been collectivized by 1962. Whereas industry had produced only about one-third of national income on the eve of World War II, it accounted for almost three-fifths in 1965. Industrial output had risen by 650 percent since 1950. This dramatic growth had been achieved by channeling the lion's share of investment capital to heavy industry while neglecting light industry and agriculture. Industrialization had unleashed a massive migration from the countryside to the cities, creating the urban proletariat that, according to Marxist theory, was essential for attaining socialism and, ultimately, communism.
During the first twelve years of Ceausescu's rule, exceptionally high levels of capital accumulation and investment produced one of the most dynamic economic growth rates in the world. The metallurgical, machine-building, and petrochemical industries, which Ceausescu believed were essential for securing economic independence, showed the most dramatic development. Ceausescu mobilized the necessary human and material resources to undertake massive public works projects across the country. He resumed construction of the Danube-Black Sea Canal, abandoned by Gheorghiu-Dej in the mid-1950s. Finally opened to traffic in 1984, the canal was the costliest civil-engineering project in Romanian history. Meanwhile, agriculture continued to receive fewer resources than its importance to the economy warranted. The exodus of peasants from the countryside to better-paying urban jobs continued unabated, leaving an aged and increasingly poorly qualified labor force to produce the nation's food.
After 1976 the economy began to falter as Romania failed to make the difficult transition from extensive to intensive development. Although the highly centralized command system had served the country well in the bootstrap industrialization effort, it was poorly suited for managing an increasingly complex and diversified economy. The regime's Stalinist gigantomania had produced sprawling steel and petrochemical plants with capacities far exceeding domestic supplies of raw materials and energy. To repay the West for the technological and financial assistance it had provided in building the plants, Ceausescu had counted on increased export revenues. But even as the facilities were being built, world market prices for steel and refined oil products collapsed, making repayment of the loans difficult and painful. A combination of negative factors (a devastating earthquake in 1977, a prolonged and severe drought, high interest rates charged by Western creditors, and rising prices for imported crude oil) plunged Romania into a financial crisis.
During the 1980s, Romania's economic problems multiplied. A worsening labor shortage hindered growth, and worker dissatisfaction reached unprecedented levels. A persistent shortage of consumer goods made monetary incentives increasingly meaningless. Wage reforms penalizing individual workers for the failure of their factories to meet production targets proved counterproductive and in fact spurred the traditionally docile labor force to stage strikes and demonstrations. Largely because of labor's demoralization, Romania ranked last among the European members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) in per capita gross national product, and its agriculture ranked twentieth in Europe in terms of output per hectare.
During the 1980s, Ceausescu's top economic priority was the quickest possible repayment of the foreign debt. His regime took draconian measures to reduce imports and maximize export earnings. Food rationing was reimposed for the first time since the early postwar years, so that agricultural products could be exported for foreign currency. Electricity, heat, gasoline, and numerous other consumer products also were strictly rationed. The Western media began publishing reports of widespread malnutrition and suffering caused by these measures. But the regime's commitment to its policies remained unshaken, and in early 1989 Ceausescu announced that the debt burden had finally been eliminated. Blaming "usurious" Western financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, for many of his country's economic difficulties, Ceausescu proposed, and the Grand National Assembly enacted, legislation banning any agency of the Romanian government from seeking or obtaining foreign credits.
Ceausescu's obsessive drive to retire the foreign debt at virtually any cost was consistent with a centuries-old theme of Romanian history--a longing for national independence and economic self-sufficiency. Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the Romanian lands from earliest history were vulnerable to marauding tribes. Over the centuries, the region was dominated by powerful neighbors, including the Roman, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires. These and other foreign powers plundered the natural wealth of the Romanian lands and held the native population in abject poverty. Although a Walachian prince, Michael the Brave, fought a war of national liberation against the Ottoman Empire in the late sixteenth century and, for a short time, united the three Romanian states of Walachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania, it was not until the late nineteenth century that an independent, unified Romania finally emerged. But for decades after gaining independence, Romanians remained second-class citizens in their own country. Outside interests continued to control much of the nation's industry and agriculture, and non-Romanian ethnic groups dominated commerce.
Throughout the twentieth century, Romania's leaders repeatedly exploited the nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments that the long history of foreign domination had instilled in their countrymen. During the 1930s, these sentiments gave rise to the violently anti- Semitic and anticommunist Iron Guard, the largest fascist movement in the Balkans. The Guard promoted the establishment of a pro-German military dictatorship led by General Ion Antonescu, who brought Romania into World War II on the side of the Axis Powers. But his dream of regaining the territories of Bukovina and Bessarabia, annexed by the Soviet Union in the first year of the war, was not to be realized. Indeed, by joining Hitler's forces and attacking the Soviet Union, Antonescu sealed Romania's tragic postwar fate. Occupied by the victorious Red Army, Romania in 1948 suffered a communist takeover and was forced to pay heavy reparations to the Soviet Union.
During the first decade of communist rule, Romania quietly complied with Moscow's foreign policy requirements and joined the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) and Comecon. Bucharest curried favor with Moscow by strongly endorsing the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, hoping to be rewarded with the removal of Soviet forces from Romanian territory. After Moscow withdrew its troops in 1958, however, Gheorghiu-Dej was emboldened to set an increasingly independent foreign policy. Tensions over Romania's economic development strategy and relationship to Comecon soon emerged. Gheorghiu-Dej's determination to industrialize his country outraged Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who had intended to relegate Romania to the role of supplier of agricultural products and raw materials to the industrialized members of Comecon. To lessen dependence on Comecon, Gheorghiu-Dej established economic relations with noncommunist states and contracted with Western firms to build industrial plants in Romania. During the Sino-Soviet dispute, he supported the Chinese position on the equality of communist states and audaciously offered to mediate the disagreement. And in the famous "April Declaration" of 1964, Gheorghiu-Dej asserted the right of all nations to develop policies in accordance with their own interests and domestic requirements.
Accepting the April Declaration as the guiding principle of his foreign policy, Ceausescu further distanced Romania from the Soviet bloc. He defied Moscow by establishing diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in 1967 and by maintaining relations with Israel after the June 1967 War. He denounced the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and thereafter refused to permit Warsaw Pact military maneuvers on Romanian territory. And he brought Romania into such international organizations as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the IMF, and the World Bank. In the early 1970s, Romania claimed the status of a developing nation, thereby gaining trade concessions from the West and fostering relations with the Third World. Championing the "new economic order," Romania gained observer status at the conferences of the Nonaligned Movement.
The West enthusiastically welcomed Romania's emergence as the maverick of the Warsaw Pact and rewarded Ceausescu's independent course with the credits and technology needed to modernize the country's economy. Prominent Western political figures, including Richard Nixon and Charles de Gaulle, made symbolic trips to Bucharest and paid homage to Ceausescu as an international statesman. When the United States granted most-favored-nation trading status in 1975, the noncommunist world accounted for well over half of Romania's foreign trade. To enhance his growing international status, Ceausescu made highly publicized visits to China, Western Europe, the United States, and numerous Third World nations. By 1976 he had visited more than thirty less-developed countries to promote Romanian exports and to secure new sources of raw materials. As a result of these efforts, in 1980 less-developed countries accounted for one-quarter of Romania's foreign trade.
In the late 1970s, with the onset of Romania's economic difficulties, particularly its foreign-debt crisis, relations with the West began to deteriorate rapidly. Throughout the following decade, Ceausescu's trade policies and domestic programs exhausted the reserves of good will he had built through his defiance of Moscow. Accusing the West of economic imperialism, he slashed imports from the advanced capitalist countries, while selling Romanian goods on their markets at dumping prices.
It was the regime's human rights record, however, that most damaged relations with the West. As early as the mid-1970s, the United States, West Germany, and Israel protested Romania's increasingly restrictive emigration policies. The regime attempted to stem the outflow of productive citizens through various forms of intimidation. Applicants were routinely demoted to menial jobs or fired; some were called to active military duty or assigned to public works details; others were interrogated and subjected to surveillance by the Securitate. Concerned for the fate of the large number of ethnic Germans who wanted to leave Romania, West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt travelled to Bucharest and negotiated a program to purchase emigration papers for them. Over the 1978-88 period, West Germany "repatriated" some 11,000 persons annually, paying the equivalent of several thousand United States dollars for each exit visa.
Ceausescu's restrictive emigration policies seemingly conflicted with another of his primary goals--assimilation of ethnic groups into a homogeneous, Romanianized population. The tactics used to achieve that goal grew progressively harsher during the 1980s and further tarnished Romania's international image. The regime's attempts to assimilate the Transylvanian Hungarian community--with nearly 2 million members, the largest national minority in non-Soviet Europe--were particularly controversial and inflamed relations with Budapest. The "Hymn to Romania" propaganda campaign, launched in 1976, glorified the historical contributions of ethnic Romanians in unifying and liberating the nation. Hungarian and German place-names were Romanianized, and history books were revised to ignore key minority figures or to portray them as Romanians. Publishing in minority languages was severely curtailed, and television and radio broadcasts in Hungarian and German were suspended. Educational opportunities for minority students desiring instruction in their native languages were reduced, and Hungarians seeking employment in their ancestral communities encountered hiring discrimination that forced them to leave those communities and settle among ethnic Romanians.
Potentially the greatest threat to the Hungarian community, however, was Ceausescu's program to "systematize" the countryside. Conceived in the early 1970s--ostensibly to gain productive farmland by eliminating "nonviable" villages--systematization threatened to destroy half of the country's 13,000 villages, including many ancient ethnic Hungarian and German settlements.
Ceausescu's assimilation campaign forced large numbers of ethnic Hungarians to flee their homeland, triggering large anti-Ceausescu demonstrations in Budapest. In retaliation, Ceausescu closed the Hungarian consulate in Cluj-Napoca, the cultural center of the Hungarian community in Transylvania. In early 1989, Hungary filed an official complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, accusing Romania of gross violations of basic human rights. The Swedish representative to the commission cosponsored a resolution with five other Western nations calling for an investigation of Hungary's allegations against the Ceausescu regime. Earlier in the year, Romania's international reputation had been badly damaged by its conduct at the Vienna Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Failing in its attempt to delete human rights provisions from the conference's final document, the Romanian delegation declared it was not bound by the agreement. This action was condemned not only by Western delegations but also by delegations from some Warsaw Pact states.
Treatment of ethnic minorities was only one of numerous sources of friction between Romania and the rest of the Warsaw Pact during the late 1980s. Despite his country's growing economic vulnerability, Ceausescu continued to defy Soviet-backed Comecon initiatives to integrate further the economies of the member states. He rejected the efforts of President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union to create supranational manufacturing enterprises and research and development centers, and he opposed mutual convertibility of the national currencies of the member states. Adamantly rejecting economic decentralization and privatization, Ceausescu became Comecon's most outspoken critic of Gorbachev's perestroika campaign. Despite Ceausescu's polemics, however, Romania's economy became increasingly dependent on the Soviet Union, which provided all the natural gas, more than half the crude oil, and much of the electricity, iron ore, coking coal, and other raw materials that Romania imported after the mid-1980s. The Romanians gained access to these materials by participating in numerous ventures to develop Soviet natural resources. Moreover, Moscow transferred an ever larger volume of manufacturing technology and know-how to Romanian industry, including state-of-the-art steel-casting and aircraft-manufacturing technologies.
In the late 1980s, Romania's growing reliance on the Soviet Union as a source of raw materials and technology, as well as a market for noncompetitive manufactured goods, placed Ceausescu in a delicate position. Estranged from the West, Romania could ill afford to antagonize its most important trading partner. Nevertheless, the defiant Ceausescu did not moderate his criticism of Gorbachev's dramatic reforms. Indeed, the Romanian president had cause for concern, as the peoples of Eastern Europe responded to Gorbachev's cues and demanded liberalization. From the Baltic to the Balkans, in 1989 hardline communist regimes gave way to a new generation of politicians willing to accommodate their populations' desires for democracy and market economies.
Ceausescu would not willingly yield to the forces of historic change sweeping Eastern Europe. His faith in the massive control structure so carefully erected over the previous quarter century remained unshaken. Indeed, the regime had stifled the scattered voices of dissent and had prevented the emergence of a grass-roots political movement analogous to Poland's Solidarity or Czechoslovakia's Civic Forum. Following his November 1989 reelection for another five-year term as general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party, there appeared to be no serious internal threat to Ceausescu's continued totalitarian rule.
The agent who would galvanize the nation's discontent and hatred for the Ceausescu regime suddenly appeared in December 1989, in the person of László Tökés, a young Hungarian pastor in Timisoara. Tökés had been persecuted for months by the Securitate for his sermons criticizing the lack of freedom in Romania. When his congregation physically intervened to prevent the government from evicting the popular pastor, hundreds of other Timisoara residents took to the streets to express their solidarity with the congregation. Inspired by the democratic changes that had occurred elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the swelling crowds defied government orders to disperse and began calling for the end of the Ceausescu regime.
Believing he could abort the Timisoara rebellion, Ceausescu ordered the use of deadly force. At a December 17 meeting of the Political Executive Committee, he furiously charged that the uprising had been instigated by Hungarian agents supported by the Soviet Union and the United States. Repeating his order to fire on the demonstrators, Ceausescu departed for a scheduled three-day visit to Tehran. During his absence, the protest in Timisoara exploded in violence. Although Minister of National Defense Vasile Milea had not obeyed the initial order to use deadly force, by the afternoon of December 17, Securitate forces opened fire, killing and wounding scores of demonstrators. But the rebellion could not be contained by intimidation, and the protestors' bravery won increasing numbers of soldiers to their side.
Word of the Timisoara uprising spread to the rest of the country, thanks in large part to foreign radio broadcasts. When Ceausescu returned from Iran on December 20, accounts of heavy loss of life in Timisoara had already incited protests in Bucharest. At a televised proregime rally the next day, Ceausescu addressed a large crowd of supporters assembled in front of the Central Committee headquarters building. As he spoke, a few brave students began unfurling anti-Ceausescu banners and chanting revolutionary slogans. Dumbfounded by the crowd's rumblings, the aged ruler yielded the microphone to his wife as the television broadcast was interrupted. The once unassailable Ceausescu regime suddenly appeared vulnerable. As the crowd sang "Romanians Awake," shots rang out. The revolt had claimed its first martyrs in Bucharest.
On the morning of December 22, Ceausescu again appeared on the balcony of the Central Committee headquarters and tried to address the crowds milling below. Seeing that the situation was now out of his control and that the army was joining the protesters, Ceausescu and his wife boarded a helicopter and fled the capital, never to return. They were captured several hours later at Cîmpulung, about 100 kilometers northwest of Bucharest. The desperate fugitives' attempts to bribe their captors failed, and for three days they were hauled about in an armored personnel carrier. Meanwhile, confused battles among various military and Securitate factions raged in the streets. Fighting was especially heavy near the Bucharest television station, which had become the nerve center of the revolt. The media's grossly exaggerated casualty figures (some reports indicated as many as 70,000 deaths; the actual toll was slightly more than 1,000 killed) convinced citizens that Romania faced a protracted, bloody civil war, the outcome of which could not be predicted. Against this ominous backdrop, a hastily convened military tribunal tried Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu for "crimes against the people" and sentenced them to death by firing squad. On Christmas Day, a jubilant Romania celebrated news of the Ceausescus' executions and sang long-banned traditional carols.
In the tumultuous hours following the Ceausescus' flight from Bucharest, the power vacuum was filled by one Ion Iliescu, a former Central Committee secretary and deputy member of the Political Executive Committee who had fallen into disfavor with Ceausescu. Iliescu took charge of organizing a provisional ruling group, which called itself the National Salvation Front (NSF).
As the fighting subsided after Ceausescu's death, the NSF proceeded to garner public support through several astute policy decisions. Food exports were suspended, and warehouses of prime meats and other foodstuffs were opened to the long-deprived citizenry. Ceausescu's energy restrictions on households were lifted, whereas wasteful industrial users were subjected to mandatory conservation. The despised systematization program was halted. Abortions were legalized. And the feared Securitate was placed under military control.
Despite the early popular decisions taken by the NSF, in mid- January, thousands of protesters again took to the streets of Bucharest, demanding that Securitate criminals and Ceausescu's associates be brought to justice. President Iliescu and his designated prime minister, Petre Roman, placated the crowds with the promise (subsequently revoked) that the PCR would be outlawed. To defuse charges that the NSF had "stolen the revolution" from the people, a Provisional Council of National Unity was formed, ostensibly to give voice to a broader spectrum of political views. The council pledged that free and open elections would be held in April (subsequently postponed until May) and that the NSF would not participate. By late January, however, the NSF announced that it would form a party and would field a slate of candidates.
During the following weeks, the NSF consolidated its control of the political infrastructure it had inherited largely intact from the deposed regime. Supported by entrenched apparatchiks in the media, the postal service, municipal administrations, police departments, and industrial and farm managements, the NSF was assured of a landslide victory.
More than eighty political parties (many of them single-issue extremist groups) competed in the spring elections. The NSF- dominated media accorded these exotic groups the same limited coverage as the reemergent "historical" parties (the National Peasant Party, the National Liberal Party, and the Social Democratic Party). The historical parties, which had been banned for some four decades, lacked the resources and political savvy to wage effective campaigns. The parties failed to harness the public frustration manifested in frequent spontaneous anti-NSF rallies, some of which involved tens of thousands of disgruntled citizens. The NSF ensured that the opposition parties would not be able to deliver their message to the voters. Opposition candidates were prevented from campaigning in the workplace; the postal system intercepted opposition literature; and NSF propagandists in the media grossly misrepresented the platforms and personal backgrounds of opposition candidates.
The May elections gave the NSF a resounding victory. Presidential candidate Iliescu won more than 85 percent of the popular vote. NSF candidates for the new bicameral legislature collected 92 of 119 seats in the Senate and 263 of 396 seats in the Assembly of Deputies. International observers generally agreed that despite some tampering and intimidation by the NSF, the outcome of the elections reflected the majority will. The abuses of the electoral process, however, had been committed long before the ballots were cast. The National Peasant Party alone reported that during the campaign police had stood by as thugs assaulted party members, killing at least two persons and sending 113 others to hospitals.
The NSF campaign had successfully submerged the communist roots of its leadership while extolling Romanian nationhood and the Romanian Orthodox Church. The NSF had exploited long-simmering interethnic tensions to gain votes. In March these tensions had led to violence in the town of Tîrgu Mures, the capital of the former Hungarian Autonomous Region. The celebration of the Hungarian national holiday by the town's Hungarian residents enraged a radical Romanian nationalist organization known as Vatra Românéasca (Romanian Cradle). Reminiscent of the fascist Iron Guard, Vatr Românéasca orchestrated brutal assaults on innocent Hungarians. For hours, the police ignored the violence, which claimed eight deaths and more than 300 severe injuries. The NSF sided with Vatr Românéasca in blaming the violence on Hungarian revanchists. When National Liberal and Social Democratic politicians condemned the attacks, Vatra Românéasca thugs ransacked the headquarters of these opposition parties.
The NSF's reaction to the clashes in Tîrgu Mures was an ominous sign that the Ceausescu policy of forced Romanianization had survived the "revolution." In subsequent months, the number of ethnic Hungarian refuges fleeing Transylvania reached unprecedented levels. But Hungarians were not the only ethnic group seeking to emigrate; reportedly, half of the approximately 200,000 ethnic Germans residing in Romania at the beginning of 1990 had already departed by September, as had untold thousands of Gypsies.
Soon after his lopsided election victory, President Iliescu ordered the removal of several hundred anti-NSF demonstrators who had occupied Bucharest's Victory Square since April 22. On June 13, a force of about 1,500 police and military cadres moved against the peaceful demonstrators, arresting many of them. But as the arrests proceeded, the ranks of the protesters were replenished, and outraged mobs attacked the Bucharest police inspectorate, the Ministry of Interior, the television station, and the offices of the Romanian Intelligence Service (the successor of the Securitate).
Perhaps recalling the army's role in deposing his predecessor, Iliescu did not rely on the military to contain the demonstrations. His national defense minister, Victor Stanculescu, had made it clear that he wanted to keep politics out of the army and the army out of politics. Iliescu appealed to the coal miners of the Jiu Valley to come to Bucharest, as they had done in January, to restore order and save the democratically elected government from "neofascist" elements. Within one day of his appeal, some 10,000 club-wielding miners arrived in Bucharest aboard 27 specially commissioned railroad cars. During a two-day binge of violence, the vigilantes killed an estimated 21 persons and severely injured 650 others. Immediately upon arriving in Bucharest, the miners headed for the offices of the two main opposition parties, which they ransacked. They also attacked the homes of opposition party leaders and assaulted anyone they suspected of being sympathetic to the opposition. Having dispersed the demonstrators, the miners received Iliescu's warm thanks and returned to the Jiu Valley.
The international community universally condemned the Iliescu government's use of violence to suppress dissent. The European Community postponed signing a trade and economic cooperation agreement with Romania. The United States government withheld all nonhumanitarian aid and boycotted the June 25 inauguration of President Iliescu. Bucharest somewhat rehabilitated its international standing by supporting the boycott against Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The European Community heads of state, meeting in Rome in December 1990, voted to extend emergency food and medical aid to Romania and to consider compensating Bucharest for the economic hardship caused by its support of sanctions against Iraq. The United States government supported this assistance but continued to withhold most-favored-nation trading status in light of Bucharest's unsatisfactory pace of democratization and suspect human rights record.
The international community and many Romanian citizens believed that the chief perpetrator of human rights abuses during the Ceausescu era, the infamous Securitate, continued to operate, even though it officially had been disbanded in early 1990. In February, some 3,000 army officers, cadets, and conscripts demonstrated in Bucharest to protest the presence of more than 6,000 Securitate officers in their midst. But the government responded to such protests with only token prosecution of former Securitate agents known to have committed crimes before and during the revolt. As of late December 1990, no independent commissions had investigated securitate abuses. Moreover, the NSF had established the Romanian Intelligence Service, which employed many former Securitate members. And following the June demonstrations, when Iliescu found he could not rely on the army to rescue his government, a gendarmerie reminiscent of Ceausescu's Patriotic Guards was created.
The NSF's unwillingness to purge former Securitate agents and other close associates of Ceausescu confirmed many Romanians' suspicions that their revolution had been highjacked by a neocommunist cabal. By October, the growing perception that the NSF had exploited the spontaneous uprising in Timisoara to disguise a palace coup gave rise to an umbrella opposition group demanding the government's resignation. Known as Civic Alliance, the loose coalition of intellectuals, monarchists, labor activists, and various other interest groups claimed a membership of nearly one million. In mid-November, Civic Alliance organized the largest nationwide demonstrations since Ceausescu's overthrow. Some 100,000 persons in Bucharest and tens of thousands in Brasov marched to protest the continued presence of communists in the government and to express outrage over sharp price increases for consumer goods. The demonstrations forced the government to postpone the second phase of its price-adjustment program (initiated largely to satisfy IMF requirements for economic assistance).
Despite the government's concessions on price hikes, however, Civic Alliance, student groups, and labor union leaders continued to organize antigovernment demonstrations and strikes throughout the country. Teamsters, airline workers, teachers, medical personnel, and factory workers joined student-led protests, which became increasingly disruptive. Civic Alliance and the major opposition parties in parliament called for a government of national unity, new elections, and a referendum on the country's future form of government. Some members of Civic Alliance called for the restoration of King Michael to the that throne he had been forced to abdicate in 1947. Living in exile near Geneva, Michael declared himself willing and able to serve Romania as a stabilizing force during its transition to democracy.
The political ferment threatening to bring down the Iliescu government in late 1990 was fired by Romania's unmitigated economic misery and a pervasive sense that life would only get worse. The NSF government had inherited a decrepit economy struggling with an obsolete capital stock, underdeveloped transport system, severe energy and raw materials shortages, demoralized labor force, declining exports, and a desperate need for Western financial and technical assistance.
The economic decline accelerated during 1990, and as winter approached, Romanians faced many of the same hardships they had known during the worst years of the Ceausescu regime. Preliminary estimates indicated a decrease in GNP of between 15 percent and 20 percent, a 20-percent decline in labor productivity, and a 43- percent reduction in exports. Declining fuel and electricity production was particularly worrisome because of reductions in Soviet deliveries and the shortage of hard currency needed to purchase energy elsewhere. Furthermore, Romania's support of United Nations sanctions against Baghdad during the Persian Gulf crisis cut off that important source of crude oil. Before the sanctions were imposed, Iraq had been delivering oil to repay its US$ 1.5 billion debt to Bucharest.
The NSF's early attempts to win support by raising personal consumption levels resulted in the rapid depletion of inventories and generated a large trade deficit. Its decision to raise wages and shorten the work week caused severe inflation and lowered labor discipline. The rise in personal incomes badly outstripped the availability of consumer goods, so that anything of potential barter or resale value was instantly bought up as soon as it appeared on the store shelves.
The government addressed Romania's daunting economic problems with a tentative and ineffective reform program, fearing that citizens would not tolerate the sacrifices that a "shock-therapy" approach would require. Peasants on cooperative and state farms were granted slightly larger plots, and prices at farmers' markets were officially decontrolled. To encourage creation of small businesses, especially in the service sector, private individuals were given the legal right to employ as many as twenty persons. In addition, an agency was set up to administer the privatization of state assets.
As Romania's economic deterioration accelerated, Prime Minister Roman assumed greater personal control of reform efforts. In October he addressed a special session of parliament and requested exceptional powers to implement a more radical reform program. In addition to the aforementioned price hikes on various consumer goods and services, which were supposed to be cushioned by compensatory payments to the nonworking population, Roman's plan called for replacing the leu in 1991 with a new monetary unit at the rate of ten to one to absorb some of the surplus lei in circulation. The new currency gradually would be made convertible, thereby attracting foreign investment. Roman indicated that the government would also remove surplus money from circulation by allowing private citizens to buy land, state-owned housing, and stocks and bonds.
In late 1990, Roman's reform program appeared to have almost no chance of succeeding. Public outrage had thwarted the attempt to establish more realistic prices. The government had failed to overcome bureaucratic inertia on the part of anti-reform officials and managers fearful of losing their special privileges. More importantly, the government's loss of legitimacy with the people and the threat of a potentially violent "second revolution" left Romania's future course in grave doubt.
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