Understand Romania

Romania represents, like many other countries, an example of millennia-long usage of a complex territory by indigenous people, adapted to the environment in which it was borne and later developed.

Because of this link between the people and the land, in order to understand Romania as a country with a specific individuality it is important to learn about both its geography and history.


Geographically, Romania sits at the intersection of Eastern, Central, and Southern Europe. Romania has largely been shaped by the ascent of the Carpathians; its most defining features are a mountain range shaped like a crown in the middle of the country, and tectonic valleys on its outskirts. These outer valleys, as well as the interior one, are filled with debris transported by rivers from the mountains. Thus the characteristics of the climate, water, soils, vegetation, and fauna are largely determined by the presence of the Carpathians.

Romania has a balanced geographical structure given by the geological developments and the complementary nature of its features, as well as the homogeneity of its native population.

The most well known and obvious characteristic of Romania’s land is the arrangement of its mountains, hills, valleys and plains in a  concentric display, similar to an amphitheatre.

The Transylvanian plateau is placed, like a fortress, in the centre of the country, with a difference in altitude of 700-1800 meters lower than the mountains that surrounds it. The Carpathian Mountains are the highest and massive feature in Romania’s geography.

The Subcarpathian hills unfold on their outskirts characterized by large valleys and well populated depressions. The next geographical levels are represented by plateaus and plains, which are cut through by large, wet valleys of rivers flowing from the Carpathians into the Danube, Tisa, Prut, Siret rivers and the Black Sea.

When considering Romania’s weather, vegetation, and fauna, the Carpathians are again a major contributing factor, bringing a distinctive mark which differentiates Romania from nearby countries. The rainfall in the mountains (up to 1200 mm/year) compensates for the lack of precipitation in the plains (in the Delta and coastal areas under 400 mm/year).

Vegetation is also influenced by the land, and thus is equally as varied. In Romania, we have: meadows, forests of coniferous trees, beech and oak, plains of steppe grasses, flowers, and endemic plants. Closely linked to the vegetation is the animal world (which live in the meadow, forest, steppe, plain, ponds, and sea).

In conclusion, the population has always been closely linked to the land and the existing natural resources, capitalizing on them in increasingly more efficient ways as technology and society progresses.


Archaeological discoveries, found throughout previous centuries, indicate that this territory has been occupied for over four millennia. The Getae-Dacians, a branch of the Thracians, are the ancestors of the current population.

Between the 1st and 2nd century AD, Romania’s territory was known as Dacia. Around that time a part of it became a Roman province thus laying the foundation for the Romanian people and  language. After the Romans left Dacia in the first millennium, the territory was invaded by various migrating peoples from Asia and Eastern Europe.

By the end of the first millennium, the population was organized into smaller states (voivodeships), and, at the beginning of the second millennium, colonization was occurring in various parts of Transylvania, led by Szeklers, Saxons, and Hungarians.

Between the 14th and 19th century in Romania, there were three principalities: Wallachia (Ţara Românească), Moldova and Transylvania. During different periods these relied or were vassals  of the neighboring empires (Ottoman, Habsburg or Russian), but simultaneously managed to maintain close ties between them, securing the unity and continuity of the Romanian language and traditions.

In 1859 Moldavia was united with Wallachia and in 1918 Romania received all its rightful territories: Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina. In 1940, and after World War II, parts of its territories were included in neighboring countries.

After the second world war, the fraudulent coming to the power of the Communist Party forced King Michael to resign, transforming Romania into a people’s republic. Between 1947 and 1965 Romania’s leader was Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, who demonstrated a clear pro-Soviet position for most of his administration. In 1965, he was succeeded by Nicolae Ceauşescu. Ceauşescu was less close to the Soviet Union and maintained a more neutral external politics than his predecessor, but simultaneously was associated with a tough internal terror regime. During the ‘80s, the secret police became a powerful force in Ceauşescu’s Romania, playing an important part in maintaining a climate of terror and making itself guilty of numerous violations of human rights. In December 1989, Ceauşescu was overthrown from power and executed.

The years following the fall of Ceauşescu—in which Romania was transitioning towards a capitalist society—were challenging in regards to the evolution of Romanian society. During this period, various political parties, whose members have always been linked in one way or another to the communist period, succeeded in the government.  From 1990 to 2014, the three presidents that succeeded at the head of the state -Ion Iliescu, Emil Constantinescu, and Traian Basescu—tried to either preserve or remove the traces of the communist mentality, lately characterizing the Romanian government by systematic corruption.

An important step in the history of modern Romania occurred in November 2014: Klaus Werner Iohannis, a Transylvanian Saxon, was elected as head of the state, thus greatly increasing Romanian’s hopes for political stability.