Romania is a sovereign state located in Southeastern Europe. It borders the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, and Moldova. It has an area of 92,043 square miles (238,391 square kilometers) and a temperate-continental climate. With over 19 million inhabitants, the country is the seventh most populous member state of the European Union. Its capital and largest city, Bucharest, is the sixth-largest city in the EU, with 1,883,425 inhabitants as of 2011. The terrain is distributed roughly equally between mountains, hills and plains.
The River Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, rises in Germany and flows in a general southeast direction for 1,775 miles (2,857 km), coursing through ten countries before emptying into Romania’s Danube Delta, which is the second-largest and best-preserved delta in Europe. The river forms a large part of the border with Serbia and Bulgaria, and flows into the Black Sea,
The Carpathian Mountains dominate the center of Romania, with 14 mountain ranges reaching above 6,600 feet or 2,000 meters, and the highest point at Moldoveanu Peak (8,346 feet or 2,544). They are surrounded by the Moldavian and Transylvanian plateaus and Carpathian Basin and Wallachian plains. There are almost 3,900 square miles (10,000 km²) — about 5% of the total area — of protected areas in Romania covering 13 national parks and three biosphere reserves.
Modern Romania was formed in 1859 through a personal union of the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The new state, officially named Romania since 1866, gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. At the end of World War I, Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia united with the sovereign Kingdom of Romania. During World War II, Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union, fighting side by side with the Wehrmacht until 1944, when it joined the Allied powers and faced occupation by the Red Army forces. Romania lost several territories, of which Northern Transylvania was regained after the war. Following the war, Romania became a socialist republic and member of the Warsaw Pact. After the 1989 Revolution, Romania began a transition towards democracy and a capitalist market economy.
Following rapid economic growth in the early 2000s, Romania has an economy predominantly based on services, and is a producer and net exporter of machines and electric energy, featuring companies like Automobile Dacia and OMV Petrom. It has been a member of NATO since 2004, and part of the European Union since 2007. A strong majority of the population identify themselves as Eastern Orthodox Christians and are native speakers of Romanian, a Romance language. The cultural history of Romania is often referred to when dealing with influential artists, musicians, inventors and sportspeople.
Human remains found in Peștera cu Oase (“The Cave with Bones”), radiocarbon dated as being from circa 40,000 years ago, represent the oldest known Homo sapiens in Europe. The Neolithic-Age Cucuteni area in northeastern Romania was the western region of the earliest European civilization, known as the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture. The earliest known salt works in the world is at Poiana Slatinei, near the village of Lunca in Romania; it was first used in the early Neolithic, around 6050 BC, by the Starčevo culture, and later by the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the Pre-Cucuteni period. Evidence from this and other sites indicates that the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture extracted salt from salt-laden spring water through the process of briquetage.
Prior to the Roman conquest of Dacia, the territories between the Danube and Dniester rivers were inhabited by various Thracian peoples, including the Dacians and the Getae. Herodotus, in his work “Histories”, notes the religious difference between the Getae and other Thracians, however, according to Strabo, the Dacians and the Getae spoke the same language. Dio Cassius draws attention to the cultural similarities between the two people. There is a scholarly dispute whether the Dacians and the Getae were the same people.
Roman incursions under Emperor Trajan between 101–102 AD and 105–106 AD resulted in half of the Dacian kingdom becoming a province of the Roman Empire called “Dacia Felix“. The Roman rule lasted for 165 years. During this period the province was fully integrated into the Roman Empire, and a sizeable part of the population were newcomers from other provinces. The Roman colonists introduced the Latin language. According to followers of the continuity theory, the intense Romanization gave birth to the Proto-Romanian language. The province was rich in ore deposits (especially gold and silver in places like Alburnus Maior). Roman troops pulled out of Dacia around 271 AD. The territory was later invaded by various migrating peoples.
In the Middle Ages, Romanians lived in three Romanian principalities: Wallachia (Țara Românească — “The Romanian Land”), Moldavia (Moldova) and in Transylvania. The existence of independent Romanian voivodeships in Transylvania as early as the ninth century is mentioned in Gesta Hungarorum, but by the eleventh century, Transylvania had become a largely autonomous part of the Kingdom of Hungary. In the other parts, many small local states with varying degrees of independence developed, but only under Basarab I and Bogdan I the larger principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia would emerge in the f0urteenth century to fight the threat of the Ottoman Empire.
By 1541, the entire Balkan peninsula and most of Hungary, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania were under Ottoman suzerainty, preserving partial or full internal autonomy until the mid-nineteenth century (Transylvania until 1711). This period featured several prominent rulers such as: Stephen the Great, Vasile Lupu, Alexander the Good and Dimitrie Cantemir in Moldavia; Vlad the Impaler, Mircea the Elder, Matei Basarab, Neagoe Basarab and Constantin Brâncoveanu in Wallachia; and Gabriel Bethlen in the Principality of Transylvania, as well as John Hunyadi and Matthias Corvinus in Transylvania, while it was still a part of the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1600, all three principalities were ruled simultaneously by the Wallachian prince Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul), who was considered, later on, the precursor of modern Romania and became a point of reference for nationalists, as well as a catalyst for achieving a single Romanian state.
During the period of the Austro-Hungarian rule in Transylvania and of Ottoman suzerainty over Wallachia and Moldavia, most Romanians were given few rights in a territory where they formed the majority of the population. Nationalistic themes became principal during the Wallachian uprising of 1821, and the 1848 revolutions in Wallachia and Moldavia. The flag adopted for Wallachia by the revolutionaries was a blue-yellow-red horizontal tricolor (with blue above, in line with the meaning “Liberty, Justice, Fraternity”), while Romanian students in Paris hailed the new government with the same flag “as a symbol of union between Moldavians and Wallachians”. The same flag, with the tricolor being mounted vertically, would later be officially adopted as the national flag of Romania.
After the failed 1848 revolutions, not all the Great Powers supported the Romanians’ expressed desire to officially unite in a single state. In the aftermath of the Crimean War, the electors in both Moldavia and Wallachia voted in 1859 for the same leader, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, as Domnitor (“ruling prince” in Romanian), and the two principalities became a personal union formally under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire. Following a coup d’état in 1866, Cuza was exiled and replaced with Prince Carol I of Romania of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. During the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War, Romania fought on the Russian side, and in the aftermath, it was recognized as an independent state both by the Ottoman Empire and the Great Powers by the Treaty of San Stefano and the Treaty of Berlin. The new Kingdom of Romania underwent a period of stability and progress until 1914, and also acquired Southern Dobruja from Bulgaria after the Second Balkan War.
Romania remained neutral for the first two years of World War I. Following the secret Treaty of Bucharest, according to which Romania would acquire territories with a majority of Romanian population from Austria-Hungary, it joined the Entente Powers and declared war on August 27, 1916. After initial advances the Romanian military campaign quickly turned disastrous for Romania as the Central Powers occupied two-thirds of the country within months, before reaching a stalemate in 1917. The October Revolution and Russian withdrawal from the War left Romania alone and surrounded, and a cease fire was negotiated at Focșani that December. Romania was occupied and a harsh peace treaty was signed in May 1918. In November, Romania reentered the conflict. Total military and civilian losses from 1916 to 1918, within contemporary borders, were estimated at 748,000. After the war, the transfer of Bukovina from Austria was acknowledged by the 1919 Treaty of Saint Germain, of Banat and Transylvania from Hungary by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, and of Bessarabia from Russian rule by the 1920 Treaty of Paris. All cessations made to the Central Powers in the ceasefire and treaty were nullified and renounced.
The following interwar period is referred as Greater Romania, as the country achieved its greatest territorial extent at that time (almost 120,000 square miles or 300,000 km²). The application of radical agricultural reforms and the passing of a new constitution created a democratic framework and allowed for quick economic growth. With oil production of 7.2 million tons in 1937, Romania ranked second in Europe and seventh in the world. and was Europe’s second-largest food producer. However, the early 1930s were marked by social unrest, high unemployment, and strikes, as there were over 25 separate governments throughout the decade. On several occasions in the last few years before World War II, the democratic parties were squeezed between conflicts with the fascist and chauvinistic Iron Guard and the authoritarian tendencies of King Carol II.
During World War II, Romania tried again to remain neutral, but on June 28, 1940, it received a Soviet ultimatum with an implied threat of invasion in the event of non-compliance. Again foreign powers created heavy pressure on Romania, by means of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of non-aggression from August 23, 1939. As a result, the Romanian government and the army were forced to retreat from Bessarabia as well as from northern Bukovina in order to avoid war with the Soviet Union. The king was compelled to abdicate and appointed general Ion Antonescu as the new Prime-Minister with full powers in ruling the state by royal decree. Romania was prompted to join the Axis military campaign. Thereafter, southern Dobruja was ceded to Bulgaria, while Hungary received Northern Transylvania as result of an Axis powers’ arbitration.
The Antonescu fascist regime played a major role in The Holocaust in Romania, and copied the Nazi policies of oppression and genocide of Jews and Romanian Gypsies (Roma), mainly in the Eastern territories reoccupied by the Romanians from the Soviet Union. In total between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews in Romania (including Bessarabia, Bukovina and the Transnistria Governorate) were killed during the war and at least 11,000 Roma were also killed. In August 1944, a coup d’état led by King Michael toppled Ion Antonescu and his regime. Antonescu was convicted of war crimes and executed on June 1, 1946. October 9 is now the National Day of Commemorating the Holocaust in Romania.
During the Antonescu fascist regime, the Romanian contribution to Operation Barbarossa was enormous, with the Romanian Army of over 1.2 million men in the summer of 1941, fighting in numbers second only to Nazi Germany. Romania was the main source of oil for the Third Reich, and thus became the target of intense bombing by the Allies. Growing discontent among the population eventually peaked in August 1944 with King Michael’s Coup, and the country switched sides to join the Allies. It is estimated that the coup shortened the war by as much as six months. Even though the Romanian Army had suffered 170,000 casualties after switching sides, Romania’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany was not recognized by the Paris Peace Conference of 1947, as the Soviet Union annexed Bessarabia and other territories corresponding roughly to present-day Republic of Moldova, and Bulgaria retained Southern Dobruja, but Romania did regain Northern Transylvania from Hungary.
During the Soviet occupation of Romania, the Communist-dominated government called for new elections in 1946, which were fraudulently won, with a fabricated 70% majority of the vote. Thus they rapidly established themselves as the dominant political force. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, a Communist party leader imprisoned in 1933, escaped in 1944 to become Romania’s first Communist leader. In 1947, he and others forced King Michael I to abdicate and leave the country, and proclaimed Romania a people’s republic. Romania remained under the direct military occupation and economic control of the USSR until the late 1950s. During this period, Romania’s vast natural resources were continuously drained by mixed Soviet-Romanian companies (SovRoms) set up for unilateral exploitative purposes.
In 1948, the state began to nationalize private firms and to collectivize agriculture. Until the early 1960s, the government severely curtailed political liberties and vigorously suppressed any dissent with the help of the Securitate (the Romanian secret police). During this period the regime launched several campaigns of purges in which numerous “enemies of the state” and “parasite elements” were targeted for different forms of punishment, such as deportation, internal exile and internment in forced labor camps and prisons, sometimes for life, as well as extrajudicial killing. Nevertheless, anti-Communist resistance was one of the most long-lasting in the Eastern Bloc. A 2006 Commission estimated the number of direct victims of the Communist repression at two million people.
In 1965, Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power and started to conduct the foreign policy more independently from the Soviet Union. Thus, Communist Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country who refused to participate at the Soviet-led 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Ceaușescu even publicly condemned the action as “a big mistake, [and] a serious danger to peace in Europe and to the fate of Communism in the world”. Romania was also the only Communist state to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel after 1967’s Six-Day War. It also established diplomatic relations with West Germany the same year. At the same time, close ties with the Arab countries (and the PLO) allowed Romania to play a key role in the Israel–Egypt and Israel–PLO peace talks.
As Romania’s foreign debt sharply increased between 1977 and 1981 (from US$3 billion to $10 billion), the influence of international financial organizations (such as the IMF and the World Bank) grew, gradually conflicting with Ceaușescu’s autocratic rule. The latter eventually initiated a policy of total reimbursement of the foreign debt by imposing austerity steps that impoverished the population and exhausted the economy. The process succeeded in repaying all foreign government debt of Romania in 1989. At the same time, Ceaușescu greatly extended the authority of the Securitate secret police and imposed a severe cult of personality, which led to a dramatic decrease in the dictator’s popularity and culminated in his overthrow and eventual execution, together with his wife, in the violent Romanian Revolution of December 1989 in which thousands were killed or injured. The charges for which they were executed were, among others, genocide by starvation.
After the 1989 revolution, the National Salvation Front (NSF), led by Ion Iliescu, took partial multi-party democratic and free market measures. In April 1990, a sit-in protest contesting the results of the elections and accusing the NSF, including Iliescu, of being made up of former Communists and members of the Securitate — rapidly grew to become what was called the Golaniad. The peaceful demonstrations degenerated into violence, prompting the intervention of coal miners summoned by Iliescu. This episode has been documented widely by both local and foreign media, and is remembered as the June 1990 Mineriad.
The subsequent disintegration of the Front produced several political parties, including the Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Party. The former governed Romania from 1990 until 1996 through several coalitions and governments with Ion Iliescu as head of state. Since then, there have been several other democratic changes of government: in 1996 Emil Constantinescu was elected president, in 2000 Iliescu returned to power, while Traian Băsescu was elected in 2004 and was narrowly re-elected in 2009. In November 2014, Sibiu mayor Klaus Iohannis was elected president, unexpectedly defeating Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who had been in the lead in the opinion polls. This surprise victory is attributed by many to the Romanian diaspora, of which almost 50 percent voted for Iohannis in the first tour, compared to 16 percent for Ponta.
Former President Traian Basescu (2004–2014) has twice been impeached by the Parliament of Romania (in 2007 and in 2012), the second time on the background of street protest earlier in the year. Both times a popular referendum was called. The second time, in the Romanian presidential impeachment referendum, 2012, more than 7 million voters (88% of participants) voted to oust Basescu, compared to the 5.2 million voters who initially supported him in the Romanian presidential election, 2009. However the Constitutional Court of Romania, in a split decision, invalided the outcome of the referendum, stating the turnout (46.24% by official statistics) was too low. Supporters of Basescu were called upon by him and his former party to not participate in the referendum, so that it would be invalidated due to insufficient turnout.
The post-1989 period is also characterized by the fact that most of the former industrial and economic enterprises which were built and operated during the Communist period have been closed, mainly as a result of the policies of privatization of the post-1989 regimes. According to Valentin Mândrăşescu, a Romanian-language editor of the Voice of Russia, the national petroleum company Petrom has been sold to foreigners for significantly undervalued prices. Furthermore, other major privatizations like that of Banca Comerciala a Romaniei are criticized by opponents for being detrimental to the Romanian people.
Post-1989 regimes are also criticized for allowing foreign exploitations of mineral, rare metals and gold reserves at Rosia Montana, as well as for permitting American multinational energy giant Chevron to prospect for shale gas using the hydraulic fracking technique which has been claimed to pollute the vast underground freshwater reserves in the affected areas. Both these actions have led to significant protests by the population in 2012–2014.
Scott #1258 was released on November 15, 1958, part of a set issued commemorating the centenary of Romanian postage stamps. The 2 lei dull violet stamp, engraved and perforated 14½ x 14 features the 81 parale blue on blue laid paper value of Moldavia (Romania Scott #4), issued in 1858.
The principality of Moldavia issued stamps immediately upon gaining autonomy in 1858, with the first cap de bour stamps being issued in July 1858. These were produced by handstamping on laid paper, and are now quite rare. The initial round design was shortly followed by one using a square frame with rounded corners, and using blue or white wove paper. These are somewhat more common.
After the union of Moldavia and Wallachia in 1861, the design was adapted to show the emblems of both principalities side-by-side, and inscribed FRANCO SCRISOREI (Scott #11-18). The first stamps inscribed POSTA ROMANA were issued in January 1865; the stamps depicted Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza in profile, facing right (Scott #22-27).
These did not last long in use, as Cuza was deposed the following year, and new stamps depicted Prince Carol I, also in profile, but facing left, and in a style very similar to contemporary French stamps (Scott #29-32). The adoption of the leu in 1867 required stamps in new denominations, which appeared in 1868 (Scott #33-36).
In 1869, a new design consisted of the profile as before, but enclosed in an oval frame, a change lasting only until 1872 (Scott #37-52), when the previous round frame once again came into use, with an overall design reminiscent of the contemporaneous stamps of France. They were originally printed in Paris (Scott #53-59), and then reprinted in Bucharest from 1876, the reprints having a rougher appearance and coarser perforations (Scott #60-65). New colors and values appeared in 1879 (Scott #66-72).
In 1885 a new definitive series used larger and more readable numeric tablets, and surmounted Carol’s profile with a bird (Scott #75-87). In 1889 the stamp paper was also impressed with a coat of arms, similar to, but not a true watermark (Scott #88-93). In 1891, Romania issued its first commemorative stamps, a series of five in which the usual profile of the king was framed by an inscription marking 25 years of his reign (Scott #108-112). The series of 1893 introduced a variety of frames, and the first stamps denominated in lei (Scott #117-131).
In 1891, Dimitrie C. Butculescu founded the Romanian Philatelic Society. He became its first president, running the society from his private house, and published The Official Gazette of the Romanian Philatelic Society.
In 1896, Romanian stamps were overprinted in Turkish currency for use on ships passing between Constanța and Constantinople. These are listed in the Scott catalogue as “Romanian Post Offices in the Turkish Empire” (Scott #1-6 and 10-11).
In 1903, the first pictorial designs were issued to note the opening of a new post office in Bucharest (Scott #158-172a), followed by a series of ten designs in 1906 for the 40th anniversary of Carol’s reign (Scott #176-185).