A member of the European Union, Romania sits at a crossroads between Eastern and Southeastern Europe. The country is home to the oldest known Homo sapien remains in Europe, dated to about 40,000 years ago. It has long been a site of complex civilizations and fluctuating national boundaries.
Middle Ages Through World War II
Between the Middle Ages and the 19th century, the territory of Romania shifted and subdivided many times. The region of Transylvania was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary in 1867. Between World War I and World War II, Transylvania joined Romania, lost its northern territory to Hungary, and was then reclaimed by Romania. The regions of Wallachia and Moldavia remained independent from the Kingdom of Hungary, but were overseen by Ottoman suzerainty. After fighting on the (victorious) Russian side of the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War, the Ottoman Empire recognized Romania as an independent nation. Unity against Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman rulers laid the groundwork for 19th and 20th century Balkan-region nationalism.
Soviet aggression during WWII pressured Romania to join the Axis powers, leading to Ion Antonescu’s fascist regime. Antonescu oversaw the Romanian Holocaust, including the murder of approximately 380,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma people. After a 1944 coup, Romania switched sides, joining the Allied powers. After WWII, Romania experienced Soviet rule, and in 1965, Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power as the country’s second, and last, communist leader. In the later half of the 20th century, the World Bank instituted severe austerity measures in response to Romania’s ballooning national debt. While Romania’s debt to foreign governments was paid in full, the national economy plummeted and poverty rose. In 1989 the Romanian Revolution violently deposed Ceausescu.
After 1989, Romania established a series of social democrat coalition governments. The country joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007, and has enjoyed rapid economic growth in the 21st century thus far. In 2017, Romania had an annual economic growth rate of seven percent—the highest in the EU.
European Migrant Crisis and Treatment of Roma People
Romania remained largely uninvolved during the peak of the European migrant crisis, but ultranationalist border policies and practices in neighboring EU states have forced some migrants to reroute through Romania. Additionally, Romania and some of its neighboring nations continue to discriminate against Roma people, often lumping migrants and Roma people together as economic and racial scapegoats.