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Romania's History

The history of Romania cannot be isolated from the history of the European peoples as a whole, though it could be seen as among the most eventful. As with other Romance peoples, their origins lie at the beginning of the Ist millennium AD. They have continuously inhabited the same geographical space to this day, a space inhabited by their Thracian kin as long ago as the 2nd millennium BC. Today the Romanians are the sole descendent of the Eastern Roman world, and their language, along with Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian, is a major offspring of Latin. They are the only people who through their name - roman (derived from the Latin "romanus") - have preserved to this day the memory of the Seal of Rome, a memory to be further perpetuated in the name adopted by the national state - Romania. It is a Romance island that has survived among a sea of Slavic and Finno-Ugric neighbors, in a region that has been devastated for more than a millennium by wave after wave of migrants and invaders. Christians of the Orthodox rite, the Romanians lived from the Middle Ages to modern times in three neighborhoods self-dependent principalities - Walachia, Moldavia and Transylvania - which despite their location at the crossroads of great expansionist empires - Czarist Russia and the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires - managed to preserve their statehood, faith and civilization, at a time when neighboring kingdoms like Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Poland were being wiped off the map of Europe. Later, despite the hostility and open opposition of the same great and powerful neighbors, they managed to achieve national unification in 1859, a process eventually completed in 1918. At the and of World War I, the centuries old dream of reuniting all Romanians within the boundaries of a single state became reality, an achievement paid for with the sacrifice of over 800,000 lives. The ensuing two decades of economic, political and cultural advances were cut short in 1940 by the outbreak of World War II, when one third of the country's area and population were annexed. In 1945, after four years of war, leaving another 700,000 dead, the almost century old democratic tradition of the Romanian state was cut short by the arrival of Soviet troops and the imposition of a communist regime. The hopes awakened by the Party's deviation from the Soviet model between 1960 and 1968 were soon dispelled by the rise to power of Nicolae Ceausescu with his oppressive and absurd totalitarian regime. That devastating period of dictatorship was brought to an end by the revolution of December 1989, closing the historical black hole into which Romania had descended for the previous 45 years, and opening a new page in Romania's contemporary history.


With an area of 238,391 sq. km, Romania is the largest country in Eastern Europe. The River Danube drains the whole of Romania, apart from the Black Sea coast. It finishes the 2850-km course it has taken through nine countries in Romania's Danube Delta. Most of Romania's rivers are tributaries of the Danube. Much of northern and central Romania is made up of the U-shaped Carpathian Mountains, which loop north through Romania, western Ukraine, southern Poland, and Slovakia. The loftiest peak in the Romanian Carpathians is Mount Moldoveanu (2544m), which belongs to the Fagaras range, southeast of Sibiu. Campia Transilvaniei, or the Transylvanian plain, a worn down plateau of hills and valleys, takes up the center of the U. To the east is the Moldavian plateau. In the south and southwest of the country earthquakes are not unusual. The recent major earthquake in Turkey was felt in Bucharest. Geographers usually split the Carpathians up into the southern Carpathians, or "Transylvanian Alps"; the western Carpathians, which consist mainly of the Apuseni Mountains; and the eastern Carpathians, often known as the "Oriental Carpathians". It is in this latter region than 40% of Romania's forests are to be found. Almost a third of the country's territory is taken up by the Carpathians, with their alpine pastures at higher altitudes and thick forests of beech, fir, spruce and oak lower down. Hills and tablelands rich in orchards and vineyards account for another third, while the fertile plains with their cereals, vegetables, herbs and other crops, make up the remainder of rural Romania.

Transport Network

Road network: Romania has 72,816-km of roads, of which 14,683-km is trunk motorways (including 4,508-km of European motorways), and 53,133-km county and commune roads. Railway network: there are 22,367-km of railway lines, of which 8,643-km are electrified, 5,825-km are double track and 16,542-km are single track. Inland waterways: these come to a total length of 1,690-km, of which 1,075-km is on the internationally navigable River Danube, 524-km on navigable tributaries of the Danube and 91-km on man-made navigable routes: the Bega and the Danube-Black Sea canals. Air network: Romania has 17 airports, of which 4 are for domestic and international flights and 13 are for domestic flights only. Bucharest Underground (Metro): this has a total length of 59.2-km, four main lines and 42 stations, and is expanding.


Average annual temperatures range from 110 C in the south of the country to just 20 C in the mountains. Winters are often very cold, with large quantities of snow between December and April, while summers are usually hot and sunny. +40 degrades Celsius is not unusual in Bucharest in July and August. Spring can be very wet, with a good portion of each year's 600 to 700 mm rainfall occurring at this time. Most rains fall in the mountains, while the Danube Delta gets the least.


Just over half of Romania's population of 22,502,803 million (on 1 July 1998) lives in towns and cities. Average population density per sq. km. is 94.4 people. With a population of 2 million Bucharest dwarfs its closest rivals, Iasi (348,070), Constanta (342,264), Cluj-Napoca (332,498), Timisoara (324,304) and Brasov (314,225). Ethnically, Romania's population is as follows: 89.7% Romanian, 7.2% Hungarian, 1.8% German and 0.3% Jewish. Other ethnic groups make up another 1%.


Romania is the only non-Roman Catholic Romance speaking country. 86% of the population is Romanian Orthodox, while only 5% are Roman Catholic. However, the Pope's 1999 visit proved popular with both religious communities. There are 14 recognized religious denominations in Romania: 1. Orthodox (the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Vicariate), 2. Catholic (Catholic Church of Latin Rite and Uniate Church); the Armenian Catholic Ordinariate; 3. Armenian; 4. Old Rite Church; 5. Reformed; 6. Evangelical; 7. Lutheran Evangelical; 8. Unitarian; 9. Baptist; 10. Christian Evangelical; 11. Pentecostal; 12. Christian Adventist; 13. Mosaic; 14. Muslim. 3.5% of Romanians are Protestant, 1% Greco-Catholic, 0.3% Muslim and 0.2% Jewish. Romania's Protestant church is mostly made up of members of the country's German and Hungarian minorities. Transylvanian Saxons were traditionally Lutherans, while a large proportion of the Hungarian community belongs to the Hungarian Reformed, or Calvinist, Church. The Roman Catholic Church was brought to the country by the Habsburgs, during their attempt to convert Transylvania during the 17th century. Most Muslims can be found in the Constanta, Mangalia area, among the small Turkish communities existing there. A very few Jewish synagogues are still in use, serving a congregation with an average age of 60.


English and French are the main languages taught in Romanian schools, and Hungarian can be useful in Transylvania. Romanian is much closer to classical Latin than are, and than it is to, other Romance languages. Speakers of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French won't understand much spoken Romanian, but may be able to comprehend written Romanian. Even the English language's stock of Latin-rooted words means that a certain amount of overlap in meaning exists, making Romanian words easier to understand and remember.


The Romanian currency is known as the Leu (plural Lei), or "Lion". At the time of writing (15'th of January 2006) $ US would buy 2,9 Lei. This is extremely liable to fluctuation. The Lei is in a permanent state of decline against foreign hard currencies. The largest bill is 1,000 Lei, followed by 50, 10, 5, 1, 50 coins, 10 coins, 5 coins and 1 coin. If you are bringing cash ensure it is in the form of unmarked bills. Exchange offices will often refuse marked, torn or well-used notes. US dollar notes issued before 1990 are also not usually acceptable.


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