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Romania, republic, in south-eastern Europe, bordered on the north by Ukraine; on the east by Moldova; on the south-east by the Black Sea; on the south by Bulgaria; on the south-west by Serbia (part of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro); and on the west by Hungary. The total area of Romania is about 237,500 sq km (91,700 sq mi). Bucharest is Romania’s capital and largest city. l7j13jy
Land and Resources
Romania is roughly oval in shape, with a maximum extent east to west of about
740 km (460 mi) and north to south about 475 km (295 mi). The topography is
varied. The Transylvanian Basin, or Plateau, which occupies central Romania,
is very hilly for the most part, but also has wide valleys and extensive arable
slopes. The Transylvania region is almost completely surrounded by mountains.
To the north and east are the Carpathian Mountains, and along the south are
the Transylvanian Alps, which continue south to the Danube gorge at the Banat
Mountains. Moldoveanul (2,544 m/8,395 ft), the highest peak in the country,
is in these Alps. A smaller group of ranges, the Bihor Mountains, is west of
Transylvania. The remaining areas of Romania are predominantly lowlands. In
the west are the lowlands of the Tisza Plain, which are usually referred to
as the Banat, adjacent to the Serbian border, and Crisana-Maramures, adjacent
to Hungary. The most extensive plains are the lowlands of Walachia, located
between the Transylvanian Alps and Bulgaria, and the region of Moldova (Moldavia),
east of the Carpathian Mountains. Bordering the Black Sea in the extreme east
and forming part of Dobruja, or Dobrogea, is a low plateau, which continues
south into Bulgaria.
For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 40 counties and the
municipality of Bucharest. Bucharest has a population of 2,080,363 (1994), and
it is also the prime industrial and commercial centre of the country. Other
major cities are Constanta (348,575), the only Romanian port on the Black Sea;
Brasov (324,210), noted for the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, and metal
products; Timisoara (327,830), an industrial centre; Iasi (339,889), a commercial
centre; Cluj-Napoca (326,017), a commercial and industrial centre; Galati (326,728),
a naval and metallurgical centre; Craiova (306,825), a textile, electrical,
and chemical centre; and Ploiesti (254,408), hub of the oil industry.
Romanian literature is rich and varied and may be roughly divided into five periods. The literature from the 15th to 18th centuries was primarily religious, often in the form of hagiographies of the saints. The dominant literary form in the late 18th century was preoccupied with national history, and a number of major works promoted the idea of the Latinity of the origins and language of the Romanian people. In the century before World War I, Romanian literature reached maturity and reflected national unity. A major figure of the period was Vasile Alecsandri, a narrative poet and dramatist. Others whose work had a profound influence on later writers included the Romantic poet Mihail Eminescu and Ion Luca Caragiale, a dramatist whose plays satirized the bourgeois life of the late 19th century. Between World War I and World War II, Romanian literature largely dealt with national themes, and the novel first came into the foreground. The most outstanding novelist was Mihail Sadoveanu. From the late 1940s through the 1980s, the literature was characterized by Soviet realism except for a brief period in the late 1960s when cultural controls were relaxed. The Romanian-born playwright Eugcne Ionesco became famous after World War II while exiled in France.
Art and Music
Romanian art, like Romanian literature, reached its peak during the 19th century. Among the leading painters were Theodor Aman, a portraitist, and the landscape painter Nicolae Grigorescu. Romanian art during the period from 1945 to 1990 period was dominated by Soviet realism. A notable contribution to modern concepts of 20th century art was the work of the Romanian-born French sculptor Constantin Brancusi.
A number of Romanian musicians achieved international recognition in the 20th century. Most notable among them were Georges Enesco, violinist and composer, who is perhaps best known for his Romanian rhapsodies, and the pianist Dinu Lipatti.
Libraries and Museums
The principal libraries are the Central State Library and the Library of the Academy of Romania, both in Bucharest. The Art Museum of Romania, in Bucharest, contains fine collections of national, Western, and Oriental art. Many other museums of art are located throughout the country.
Primarily agricultural before World War II, the Romanian economy was subsequently transformed through a series of five-year plans and is now dominated by manufacturing; among the consequences of an emphasis on heavy industry were chronic shortages of consumer goods and severe degradation of the environment. In 1994 the gross national product (GNP) was US$27.9 billion, or about US$1,230 per capita (World Bank estimate; 1992-1994 prices), and had decreased at around 6 per cent over the previous seven years. Transition to a market economy has been gradual.
After the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime in December 1989, the domestic economy virtually collapsed, and exports plummeted. Economic reform programmes introduced in 1990 called for devaluation of the currency, removal of subsidies on most consumer goods, and privatization of state-owned companies in order to move Romania towards a free-market system. By 1991 the estimated gross national product had fallen to US$31 billion, or US$1,620 per capita. In May 1994 the International Monetary Fund granted a US$700 million loan to Romania on the pledge that the country would decrease its rate of inflation (at 256 per cent in May 1994) to below 100 per cent. The budget of 1995 envisaged revenue of US$8.1 billion and expenditure of US$9.1 billion.
About 65 per cent of the total area of Romania is used for pasturage and cultivation,
which in the mid-1990s employed about 35 per cent of the labour force. Almost
90 per cent of the land was worked as collective farms in the mid-1980s. Because
of government emphasis on industrial development, agricultural improvements
and investments were neglected, and food shortages developed in the 1980s. A
new government decollectivization programme had returned 46 per cent of agricultural
land to its original owners or their heirs by 1994, and by the mid-1990s about
80 per cent of agricultural land had been privatized.
From the mid-1940s through to the 1980s, foreign trade in Romania was a state monopoly. A programme of trade liberalization was instituted among other reforms in 1993 in an attempt to boost the declining economy. Exports were about US$4.2 billion per year in the early 1990s; the principal items included fuels, machinery, furniture, textile products, and chemicals. Imports, valued at about US$5.2 billion annually, included crude oil and industrial equipment. The Soviet Union and other Communist nations were Romania’s leading trade partners, but Romania has also significantly increased its trade with Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Egypt since the early 1970s. In 1992 Romania signed a Black Sea economic cooperation pact to create a Black Sea economic zone together with ten other countries. In the same year, it signed a free trade accord with the European Free Trade Association, and in 1993 it entered into an association agreement with the European Community (now the European Union).
Romania has about 11,374 km (7,067 mi) of railway track and about 72,800 km (45,235 mi) of roads. The principal seaports are Constanta, on the Black Sea, and Galati and Braila, neighbours on the lower Danube; Giurgiu, which has pipeline connections to the Ploiesti oil fields, is an important river port. A canal, opened in 1984, links Constanta with Cernavoda, a Danube River port. The merchant fleet has a total displacement of about 5.8 million deadweight tonnes. The state airline TAROM and the independent airline LAR link Bucharest with other Romanian and foreign cities.
Throughout the period of Communist rule, Romania suffered the highest degree of censorship in the world. Every means of communication, including the ownership of a personal typewriter in the home, had to be officially licensed, and permits were often withheld. Today, postal, telegraph, and telephone services in Romania remain State owned. In the early 1990s the country had some 2.6 million telephone subscribers. In addition, about 4.6 million radios and 4.6 million television sets were in use. The Romanian press is highly regionalized, with newspapers and periodicals appearing in all administrative districts. Many are published in the languages of the various nationalities living in the country. Following the fall of the Ceausescu regime in 1989, the number of daily newspapers increased from 36 to 65, and there were about 95 in the mid-1990s.
In the mid-1990s the Romanian workforce numbered about 10.01 million people. About 22 per cent of them were members of the seven principal workers’ organizations.
Romania is governed according to a constitution drafted in 1991 to replace that of 1965. After the Ceausescu regime was brutally deposed in December 1989, the Council of National Salvation, consisting predominantly of former Communists, wielded executive power. Presidential and legislative elections were held in May 1990. Under pressure from foreign aid donors a new constitution was approved by popular referendum in December 1991 and declared Romania to be a multi-party presidential republic which guarantees human rights and a free-market economy.
Executive and Legislature
Under the 1991 constitution, a president heads the government of Romania. The president is elected by the voters to a four-year term and is assisted by a prime minister, whom he or she appoints. The bicameral National Assembly is the country’s legislature. The lower house, or Chamber of Deputies, has 341 seats, including 13 guaranteed to ethnic minorities; the upper house, or Senate, has 143 seats. All members are selected to four-year terms. Executive power is vested in the President. In the 1992 presidential elections, Ion Ilescu was re-elected for a second term, but in the November 1996 presidential elections he lost to the centre-right candidate Emil Constantinescu.
The Supreme Court is Romania’s highest judicial authority, and its members supervise the lower courts. Lesser tribunals include district and local courts.
Until the 1989 uprising, the leading political organization of Romania was the Romanian Communist Party, which was known from 1948 to 1965 as the Romanian Workers’ Party. The Party’s General Secretary, Nicolae Ceausescu, was the most powerful political figure in the country, and the Communist Party controlled almost all aspects of the government and pervaded every aspect of social life.
After Ceausescu’s fall the Communist Party dissolved, and many former members formed the National Salvation Front (NSF). In May 1990, in Romania’s first free multi-party elections since World War II, the NSF scored an overwhelming victory. The Democratic National Salvation Front (DNSF), which had broken from the NSF, won the 1992 parliamentary elections. The Democratic Convention of Romania (DCR), Romanian National Unity Party, and Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania also won seats in parliament. In July 1993 the DNSF changed its name to the Social Democracy Party of Romania (SDPR). In November 1996 the SDPR lost the legislative elections, which were won by the DCR under Emil Constantinescu. The DCR formed a coalition government with the Social Democratic Union (USD).
A reorganization of local government in 1968 divided Romania into 39 (now 40) districts plus the city of Bucharest.
Health and Welfare
Average life expectancy at birth in the mid-1990s was 66.5 years for men and 73 years for women. The Romanian government oversees a social insurance system that includes medical care, holidays at health resorts, family allowances, and retirement pensions. Although official statistics credited Romania with 40,182 doctors (about 1 per 568 people) and 173,187 hospital beds (about 1 per 132 people) in the mid-1990s, conditions in hospitals, orphanages, and mental institutions were condemned worldwide as insanitary and inadequate. Contraception and abortion, which had been outlawed by the Ceausescu regime in an effort to increase the nation’s birth rate and had left a legacy of unwanted and neglected children, were made legal after the December 1989 uprising. Efforts were made to close down the worst orphanages and mental institutions and integrate their inmates into a more humanitarian environment.
Military service is compulsory for all men for a period of 12 months in the army or air force or 18 months in the navy. In the mid-1990s the armed forces numbered 217,400, of whom 128,800 were in the army, about 19,000 in the navy, and 54,000 in the air force.
The territory that is modern Romania first appeared in history as the greater part of the Roman province of Dacia, conquered by Emperor Trajan in around AD 106. Most of its inhabitants, known as the Daci, had originally emigrated from Thrace in northern Greece. Roman colonists were sent into the province, and Rome developed the area considerably, building roads, bridges, and a great wall, its ruins still visible, from the present Black Sea port of Constanta across the Dobruja (Dobrogea) region to the River Danube. During the 3rd century AD, raids by the Goths became so grave a menace that the Roman legions were withdrawn across the Danube. While successive waves of invaders, including Goths, Huns, Slavs, and Bulgars, made Dacia a battleground, the Romanized population preserved a Latin speech and identity. Gradually, through intermarriage and assimilation with Slavonic tribes, these people developed into a distinct ethnic group, called Walachians or, in Slavonic, Vlachs, whose nomadic and warlike customs became a constant threat to the neighbouring Byzantine Empire. Under Bulgarian rule, in the 9th century, the Orthodox form of Christianity was introduced.
About the end of the 13th century Hungarian expansion by Magyars drove many of the people from the western provinces to settle south and east of the Carpathians. Here they established the principalities of Walachia and later that of Moldavia, each ruled by native princes, or voivodes (Russian, voevoda, “leader of an army”), many of whom acknowledged the suzerainty of the kings of Hungary or Poland. With the defeat of the Hungarians by the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Mohacs in 1526, Moldavia and Walachia came under Turkish rule, which lasted for three centuries. At the close of the 16th century Moldavia, Transylvania, and Walachia were temporarily united by Prince Michael of Walachia, who made continual war on the Turkish sultan in an attempt to gain and maintain independence. For a time Michael successfully opposed the Ottomans; he conquered Transylvania in 1599 and Moldavia in 1600, but he was assassinated the following year, and the spirit of independence waned.
The Ottomans restored their control of the principalities after Michael’s death, imposing severe political restrictions. Finally the Romanians turned to Russia, which had offered to protect fellow Orthodox Christians, for help. In an effort to fend off the growing influence of Russia in the early 18th century, the Ottoman government established the so-called Phanariot system. Moldavia and Walachia were ruled through Turkish-appointed hospodars (Old Slav gospodi, “lord”), usually members of Greek families from the Phanar district of Constantinople. Many Romanian boyars, or nobles, allied themselves with ruling Greek families, and Greek became the official language.
Russian influence became pre-eminent after 1750 and remained so for a century. In 1774 Russia defeated Turkey, which was then forced to promise lenient treatment of Moldavia and Walachia. In 1802 Russia obtained a voice in the appointment of hospodars, and in 1812, having again defeated Turkey in the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812, obtained Bessarabia, which had previously been part of the principality of Moldavia. The weakening of Turkish influence became more evident after the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. By the Treaty of Adrianople, which ended the Greek war in 1829, Moldavia and Walachia, although remaining nominally under Turkish control, became more autonomous. The Phanariot system was ended, and Russia became the unacknowledged suzerain of the two states, a situation disapproved of by the great European powers, which had begun to intervene in Balkan affairs during the Greek war.
After the Russian defeat in the Crimean War, the powers ended the Russian protectorate and returned part of Bessarabia to Moldavia. Under the joint control of France, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Turkey, the question of union became a major concern. It was resolved by Walachia and Moldavia themselves when, in 1859, Colonel Alexandru Ion Cuza was elected as the common prince. In 1861 the two states were united and recognized by the Turkish sultan as the autonomous principality of Romania. A single ministry and legislature were established at Bucharest.
Prince Alexandru Ion I was deposed by a conspiracy in 1866. A provisional government then elected Prince Karl Eitel Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who took office as Carol I and was invested as hereditary prince by the sultan. A constitution based on the Belgian charter of 1831 was adopted on his arrival. Carol entered the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 as a Russian ally and proclaimed the complete independence of Romania. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 recognized Romanian independence, but Romania was forced to restore its part of Bessarabia to Russia.
In 1881 Carol was proclaimed King and Romania proclaimed itself a kingdom. Neutral during the First Balkan War against Turkey in 1912, Romania joined Serbia and Greece in the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria in 1913. By the Treaty of Bucharest on August 10, 1913, Romania obtained the southern Dobruja region, which its army had occupied, and thus became the largest Balkan power.
World War I
When World War I began, Carol, despite his friendship with Germany and Austria, declared Romania neutral. The king’s death, in October 1914, placed his nephew Ferdinand I on the throne. The kingdom remained officially neutral until 1916, when Romanian forces invaded Hungarian Transylvania, but Austro-German and Bulgarian armies shattered Romanian power in less than six months and by the end of January 1917 controlled most of the country. With the triumph of the Allies in November 1918, however, Romania re-entered the war on November 10 and reoccupied Transylvania and other territories. By the Treaty of St Germain (with Austria) and Trianon (with Hungary), Romania was awarded sovereignty over most of Bukovina, all of Transylvania, a strip of the Hungarian plain west of the Transylvanian uplands (Crisana-Maramures), and the eastern portion of the Banat, a total of 133,765 sq km (51,647 sq mi). Romania also occupied Bessarabia and was confirmed in its position there by the Allies, although Russia refused to acknowledge Romanian sovereignty of the area. As a result of the post-war settlements, Romania more than doubled its area.
After World War I the Romanian government struggled with domestic problems of constitutional reform, agrarian reform, and lagging economic reconstruction. The Liberal Party was in power, led by Ion Bratianu, who from 1922 to 1926, and again in 1927, was virtually dictator. A new constitution was adopted in 1923; one of its provisions was the political emancipation of the Jews. Peasant opposition to the Liberal government and the regime’s dictatorial policies caused almost constant political discord, however. In foreign relations, dissension continued with the Soviet Union concerning the ownership of Bessarabia. In 1925 the crown prince renounced his right to the throne, preferring to live in exile with his mistress, Magda Lupescu; his son Michael was declared heir-apparent and succeeded to the throne in 1927, with his uncle as regent.
In 1928 opposition to the policies of Bratianu resulted in the rise to power of the National Peasants’ Party, under the leadership of Iuliu Maniue. Maniue became Premier in 1928 and supported the exiled Crown prince, who returned to Bucharest in 1930 as King Carol II, despite bitter opposition by the Liberals. The new king imposed a fascist regime, and economic conditions within Romania became increasingly grave. Political dissension was heightened by the growth of the Romanian Fascist Party, the so-called Iron Guard, under Corneliu Zelea-Codreanu. A growing tendency towards fascism in government was evidenced by severe anti-Jewish laws, rigid censorship, and attempts by King Carol to make himself dictator, in which he ultimately succeeded (1938).
World War II
Although Romania was initially neutral in World War II, its internal policies aligned it with the Axis powers and led to a policy of friendship towards Germany. In June 1940, without opposition from Germany, with which it had signed a non-aggression pact in August 1939, the Soviet Union occupied Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. On August 20, at the demand of Germany and Italy, Romania ceded 44,988 sq km (17,370 sq mi) of northern Transylvania to Hungary, and on September 7, southern Dobruja was ceded to Bulgaria. The German army occupied Romania, whose oil pipelines were crucial to the Reich’s energy supplies. In the ensuing unrest Carol named General Ion Antonescu, a sympathizer with the Iron Guard, as dictator. The king was forced to abdicate on September 6, 1940, and left the country. Carol’s successor, Michael, was king only in name, the real power being held by General Antonescu and the Iron Guard. Popular riots were met with massacres.
Romania, led by Antonescu, entered World War II in June 1941 by attacking the Soviet Union at the same time as Germany did. Romanian troops reoccupied Bessarabia and Bukovina and by October 1941 had penetrated as far as Odesa. In December the kingdom declared war on the United States. Opposition to Antonescu and political unrest continued, led on one hand by the anti-German Iron Guard and on the other by the National Peasants’ Party. The swift Soviet advance in the spring of 1944 brought the Red Army back to Bessarabia and Bukovina and deep into Romanian territory. Aided by the imminent arrival of Soviet troops, King Michael and several loyal generals led a coup on the night of August 23, arrested Antonescu and his cabinet, and announced the surrender of Romania. On September 12, the Soviet Union signed an armistice with Romania in Moscow.
The Democratic Front, approved by the USSR, took over Romanian administration as a coalition of Communist, Liberal, and National Peasants’ parties. Gradually the Communist Party acquired supreme control. In March 1945 a coalition cabinet was formed under Petru Groza, leader of the Ploughmen’s Party (a splinter group of the National Peasants), with the key positions held by Communists. In January 1946, at the request of the Council of Foreign Ministers (Great Britain, United States, USSR), two opposition members were added, but they had little voice. On official pledges by the Romanian government that free elections would be held, the United States and Great Britain recognized the government on February 5.
The results of the election on November 19, 1946, were declared fraudulent by the various opposition parties, who received a total of 66 out of 414 seats. On December 30, 1947, King Michael abdicated under Communist pressure, and the government at once proclaimed Romania a people’s republic and vested supreme authority in a five-member state council. A new constitution was adopted on April 13, 1948, based on that of the USSR.
By the peace treaty signed in Paris on February 10, 1947, between Romania and the Allies, northern Transylvania was returned to Romania, and the other land transfers of 1940 were validated. Reparations to the Soviet Union of US$300 million in raw materials, machinery, sea and river craft, and other commodities were designed to be paid within eight years but were reduced by half in 1948. The peace treaty also limited the strength of the Romanian armed forces and stipulated that the Romanian people should be granted personal liberties.
The reorganization of Romanian cultural institutions to conform with Soviet models was the chief domestic development during 1948 and 1949. The process of sovietization included frequent purges of dissidents, and twice in 1949 the United States and Great Britain accused Romania of systematic violation of human rights guarantees in the peace treaty. In November 1950 the charge was upheld by the United Nations General Assembly.
New constitutions were adopted in 1952 and 1965, but the Soviet pattern of government was followed in each change. Throughout the post-war period Romanian leadership remained stable. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Secretary of the Communist Party since 1945, became Premier in 1952. He turned the latter office over to Chivu Stoica in 1955. Petru Groza, who had assumed the largely ceremonial office of President in 1952, died in 1958 and was succeeded by Ion Gheorghe Maurer, who in turn became Premier in 1961, Gheorghiu-Dej assuming the presidency. At the latter’s death in 1965, Stoica assumed the presidency, and Nicolae Ceausescu became Party Secretary. Ceausescu, Maurer, and Stoica functioned as a collective leadership, but Ceausescu was the dominant figure, becoming President in 1967.
Throughout the 1950s the government emphasized the nationalization and development of industry. This effort proved successful in the short term, and in the 1960s the official estimates of the national industrial growth rate averaged about 12 per cent annually—among the highest in Eastern Europe. Agricultural collectivization was begun in July 1949, and in 1962 the government announced that all arable land had been absorbed into the socialized sector. Farmers were permitted, however, to retain half-acre plots for private use.
While the USSR and the Eastern European states were the primary Romanian trade partners in the 1960s, trade and diplomatic relations with the non-Communist world improved steadily. In January 1967 Romania became the only Communist nation other than the USSR to establish full diplomatic relations with West Germany, and at about the same time the first Communist nation to open consular relations with Spain. Trade with the Soviet Union, which had accounted for more than 50 per cent of Romanian foreign trade in the late 1950s, was reduced to an estimated 30 per cent in 1967.
In 1964 Premier Maurer visited Beijing and Moscow in an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the two Communist powers. Thereafter, Romanian foreign policy indicated continuing independence. Ceausescu urged the withdrawal of Soviet troops from East Germany, Poland, and Hungary. Also, in the face of Soviet attempts to strengthen the Warsaw Pact, Ceausescu suggested the abolition of the Warsaw Pact and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He refused to participate in the pact manoeuvres. In mid-1967 Romania boycotted a conference of Communist countries called by the USSR, chiefly to criticize US activity in Vietnam. When the Warsaw Pact nations, led by the Soviet Union, invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, Romania took a strongly anti-Soviet stand.
The 1970s and 1980s
Romania continued to pursue a foreign policy of non-alignment, despite the disapproval of the Soviet bloc. It actively increased its contacts with the West. After a visit from the US President Richard Nixon in 1969, it sent President Ceausescu several times to the United States; his missions resulted in the United States granting Romania “most-favoured-nation” status in 1975 and a ten-year economic pact in 1976. Romania joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1972 and in 1976 signed the first formal pact (on textiles) between the European Economic Community and an East European state. As head of the only East European nation to recognize both Israel and Egypt, Ceausescu helped arrange the Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat’s historic peacemaking visit to Israel in 1977.
Romania signed a friendship treaty with the USSR (1970). Taking an unprecedented step outside the Soviet bloc, Ceausescu visited the People’s Republic of China in 1971, subsequently signing economic and air transport agreements. In 1980, he refused to endorse the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Pragmatic in foreign policy, Ceausescu was opposed to Gorbachev’s concepts of glasnost and perestroika, and enforced Communist orthodoxy, often brutally, in domestic affairs. In 1971 he used every means to destroy all deviation in party, government, and cultural leadership. Nevertheless, he was re-elected Head of State in 1975, and the party and government were reorganized in 1977. Despite enormous damage caused by severe floods in 1970 and 1975 and an earthquake in 1977, and in the face of severe domestic deprivation, the economy grew, especially heavy industry and foreign trade. Real wages rose slowly, and Romania was beset with shortages of food, fuel, and electricity in the 1980s, as Ceausescu used virtually all of Romania’s hard currency reserves to pay off the nation’s US$11-billion foreign debt. Popular resentment of the Communist leadership was aggravated by a forced resettlement programme, announced in 1988, that called for the bulldozing of up to 8,000 villages, the rehousing of agricultural workers and their families in high-rise concrete blocks, and the erection of grandiose, impractical monuments to the regime. Domestically, Romania remained one of the most backward and repressive countries in the Eastern bloc.
The Regime Changes
During the rapid collapse of Communist governments in Eastern Europe in 1989,
Ceausescu brutally suppressed anti-government demonstrations in Timisoara: the
Romanian army turned against him, and he was forced to flee Bucharest with his
wife, Elena, on December 22, 1989. They were captured and tried secretly, and
executed on Christmas Day, 1989. An interim ruling body, the Council of National
Salvation, led by Ion Iliescu, revoked a number of Ceausescu’s repressive
policies and imprisoned some of the leaders of his regime. In May 1990 the National
Salvation Front, consisting mostly of former Communists, won multi-party elections
for parliament and the presidency, and Iliescu became Romania’s President.
In June thousands of miners were brought to Bucharest to suppress anti-government
demonstrations with a brutality that shocked the world. An economic austerity
programme was introduced in October and a new constitution took effect at the
end of 1991. President Iliescu won re-election in October 1992, and in November
a new government was formed by independents and members of the Democratic National
Salvation Front (DNSF), one of two parties formed by the split of the NSF. In
February 1993 thousands of people demonstrated in Bucharest against inflation,
unemployment, and low wages. Labour unrest continued throughout the spring after
the government removed subsidies for goods and services, and public sector and
steel workers demanded higher wages. In February 1994 as many as 2 million workers
staged a general strike protesting at the lack of economic reform. A motion
of impeachment of President Iliescu was rejected in July 1994.
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