In ancient times, the area of modern-day Romania was mostly populated by Dacian tribes, who had a unique, though little-known, civilization. The Dacian empire reached its zenith in the first century BC, when its monarch Burebista reigned over a large area extending from Central Europe to the Black Sea from his power base in the Carpathian Mountains. The fascinating network of walls and temples constructed around the Dacian city Sarmisegetuza in today’s south-western Transylvania has been remarkably well maintained throughout the centuries and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Dacians were vanquished by the Romans in 106 AD, and the majority of their country became part of the Roman Empire. The area thrived under Roman rule because it was rich in natural resources (particularly gold): towns grew quickly, major highways were constructed, and people from all over the Empire moved here. As a result, despite the fact that Roman control lasted less than 200 years, a population with a unique Latin character and language developed, influenced by the Slavic peoples with whom it subsequently came into touch.
In the early Middle Ages, Hungarians started to settle in what is now known as Transylvania, which would later become a part of the Kingdom of Hungary and, subsequently, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Germans also arrived in the region (in waves), some as early as the 12th century. To defend themselves against Tartar and Turkish invasions, they began to construct fortified towns and castles, many of which still stand today. In the 14th century, the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia were established south and east of the Carpathians. Beginning in the 15th century, both of them (as well as Transylvania for a while) came under the control of the Ottoman Empire.
Michael The Brave (Mihai Viteazu) reigned over all three kingdoms for a brief time in 1600, thus becoming the de-facto monarch of an united Romania. However, the world landscape was not yet ready for a united Romania, and so his union was short-lived.
In the late 1700s, a Romanian national revival movement spread throughout the Carpathians, motivating the 1859 unification of Moldavia and Wallachia and thereby establishing the prototype of modern Romania. Transylvania and Eastern Moldavia (now the Republic of Moldova) were unified with Romania in 1918-1919.
“Romania joined with the Axis forces in 1940 and took part in the 1941 German invasion of the USSR. Romania signed an armistice three years later, after being overtaken by the Soviets. The postwar Soviet occupation resulted in the establishment of a communist “people’s republic” and the abdication of the monarch in 1947.” Between 1947 and 1965, Romania was governed by Gheorghiu Gheorghiu-Dej, who was pro-Soviet throughout the majority of his tenure. He was replaced in 1965 by Nicolae Ceauşescu, who was less passionate about the Soviet Union and pursued a more neutral international and domestic policy than his predecessor; nevertheless, “Throughout the 1980s, his Securitate police state grew more repressive and draconian. In late 1989, Ceauşescu was deposed and executed.”
Former Communists, regrouped around the Front of National Salvation and later the Romanian Party for Social Democracy, dominated the government until the 1996 elections, when they were ousted by a fractious coalition of centrist parties (Democratic Convention of Romania); however, after failed reforms and internal infighting, the DCR lost the elections to the Social Democratic Party. Both parties sought to repair relations with Hungary, which had been severely strained since the 1980s, when Ceauşescu either supported or expelled the country’s substantial Hungarian population (5.000 Hungarians left Romania per year). The National Liberal and Democratic parties established an alliance in the 2004 elections, which propelled them to power. They ruled with the backing of the majority of Romania’s minority parties. Romania conducted parliamentary elections in 2008, with the right-wing PDL (Democratic Liberal Party) emerging victorious despite being outpaced by the left-wing PSD by a narrow margin (Social Democratic Party). Following an untimely political crisis in 2012, the centrist alliance USL currently controls both the Parliament and the cabinet (Social Liberal Union, consisting of PSD and PNL). Klaus Iohannis is the current Prime Minister.
Romania is doing well in terms of economic, social, and political growth as compared to other nations in the Western Balkans area and neighboring Eastern European countries such as Ukraine and Moldova. However, as compared to Western Europe, Romania still has a long way to go before reaching the level of development that Western Europeans enjoy.