A brief history of Romania from 35,000 BC to EU membership


Some of the history that has shaped Romania
What is now Romania has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Age as evidenced by carved stone tools unearthed there. Included here are many of the major milestones Romania has undergone, highlighting just how rich in subject matter the country is. As time passes, this history seems to continuously extend.

35,000 B.C.

34,950-year-old modern human remains with a possible Neaderthalian trait were discovered in present-day Romania when the Peștera cu Oase (“Cave with Bones”) was uncovered in 2002.

30,000 B.C.
Approximate date of the first known art in present-day Romania: cave paintings in Apuseni nature park, northwest Transylvania.  Previously, Romania could boast only one example of cave art, Cuciulat Cave, which was discovered about 30 years ago and featured drawings of only two animals. Two other painted caves in the Ural Mountains of Russia are also known, the only other examples of cave art this far east. And none of these three caves are thought to be much older than 15,000 years. The new cave, Coliboaia, was also found about 30 years ago in the Apuseni Nature Park in northwestern Romania. But its original discoverers did not see any animal drawings. Indeed, the cave is very difficult to explore because an underground river keeps many of its galleries flooded.

5,000 B.C.
Approximate date of pottery (dated to the Neolithic Age) that is found in all regions of Romania. Pottery figurines are normally extremely stylized and show standing naked faceless women with emphasized breasts and buttocks. Two figurines known as “The Thinker” and “The Sitting woman” (see photos) are considered masterpieces of Neolithic art.

3,000 B.C.
Thracian tribes of Indo-European origin, who migrated from Asia, occupied the actual territory of Romania.  The Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting a large area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe.[1] They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family. The study of Thracians and Thracian culture is known as Thracology.

2,000 B.C.
A distinctive Thracian sub-group emerged in what is now Romania.
The Greeks called these people Getae, but to the Romans they were Dacians.  Herodotus called them “the fairest and most courageous of men” because they believed in the immortality of the soul and were not afraid to die.

700 B.C.
Greeks arrived and settled near the Black Sea.
The cities of Histria, Tomis (now Constanta) and Callatis (now Mangalia) were established. Western-style civilization developed significantly.  The Greek presence in what is now Romania dates back as far as the apoikiai (colonies) and emporia (trade stations) founded in and around Dobruja (see Colonies in antiquity and Pontic Greeks), beginning in the 7th century BC. Starting with the Milesian colony at Istros, the process reached its height after Tomis was founded in the 5th century BC

70-44 B.C.
Dacian king Burebista controlled the territory of modern-day Romania. Burebista created a powerful Dacian kingdom.  Burebista was a Thracian king of the Getae and Dacian tribes from 82/61 BC to 45/44 BC. He was the first king who successfully unified the tribes of the Dacian kingdom, which comprised the area located between the DanubeTisza, and Dniester rivers and modern day Romania. In the 7th and 6th centuries BC it became home to the Thracian peoples, including the Getae and the Dacians

100 A.D.
Dacian civilization reaches its peak.  “The Dacians had a civilization of which they could be proud.  Their lands were rich in minerals, and they acquired great skill in metalworking. They traded with the Greek world, importing pottery, olive oil, and wine, and may have engaged in slave dealing. Compared with their neighbours they enjoyed a high standard of living, as well as a rich spiritual life. Military, the Dacians were less advanced. Unlike the Roman legions, they did not field a standing army, although there was a warrior class, the Comati, or ‘long-haired ones’. ” (attribution: Anthony Everitt, Hadrian and the triumph of Rome).

106 A.D.
Romans conquer and colonize Dacia (modern-today Romania).  Roman Dacia (also Dacia Traiana “Trajan Dacia” or Dacia Felix “Fertile/Happy Dacia”) was a province of the Roman Empire from 106 to 274–275 AD. Its territory consisted of eastern and south-eastern Transylvania, the Banat and Oltenia (regions of modern Romania). It was from the very beginning organized as an imperial province, fitting a border area, and remained so throughout the Roman occupation. Historians’ estimates of the population of Roman Dacia range from 650,000 to 1,200,000.  In 271 A.D, after fighting off the barbarian Goths, most Roman troops abandon Dacia.

4th Century
Christianity is adopted by the Daco-Roman, Latin-speaking people.  Both “Byzantine Empire” and “Eastern Roman Empire” are historiographical terms created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire as the Roman Empire(Ancient Greek: Basileia Rhõmaiõn; Latin: Imperium Romanum or Romania) and to themselves as “Romans”.

4th – 9th Centuries
Nomadic tribes from Asia and Europe (Goths, Visigoths, Huns, Slavs) invade Dacia.  The Goths were an East Germanic people, two of whose branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire through the long series of Gothic Wars and in the emergence of Medieval Europe. The Goths dominated a vast area,[1] which at its peak under the Germanic kingErmanaric and his sub-king Athanaric possibly extended all the way from the Danube to the Don, and from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea.

896 — late 1100s
Magyars (Hungarians) invade regions in western and central present-day Romania
(Crisana, Banat and Transylvania).  The local population — Romanians – were the only Latin people in the eastern part of the former Roman Empire and the only Latin people to belong to the Orthodox faith.  The oldest extant Hungarian chronicle, “Gesta Hungarorum” or The Deeds of the Hungarians, (based on older chronicles) documents the battles between the local population in Transylvania, lead by six local rulers, and the invading Magyars.

12th Century

Saxon (German) settlers begin to establish several towns in Transylvania. (Germans were invited to settle in Transylvania by the king of Hungary who wanted to consolidate his position in the newly occupied territory).  Szeklers people – descendants from Attila’s Huns – were also brought to eastern and southeastern Transylvania as border guards.

13th Century
The first formal division of the formerly unified Romanian population. The principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania are established. Transylvania becomes an autonomous principality under Magyar rule, until 1526. Magyar forces tried unsuccessfully to capture Wallachia and Moldavia.

14th-15th Centuries
Wallachia and Moldavia offered resistance to the Ottoman Empire expansion.1526 Transylvania (a semi-autonomous principality) becomes subject to Ottoman (Turkish) authority. After the Battle of Mohács in 1526 it belonged to the Eastern Hungarian Kingdom, from which the Principality of Transylvania emerged. During most of the 16th and 17th centuries, the principality was a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire; however, the principality had dual suzerainty (Ottoman and Habsburg)

16th-17th Century
Threatened by the Turks who conquered Hungary, the three Romanian provinces of Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania are able to retain their autonomy by paying tribute to the Turks.  The principality of Transylvania prospered as a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.

Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania (map) are briefly united under Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave), prince of Wallachia. Unity lasted only one year after which, Michael the Brave was defeated by the Turks and Hapsburg forces. Transylvania came under Hapsburg rule while Turkish suzerainty continued in Wallachia and Moldavia.

Transylvania and Bucovina (the smaller region north of Moldavia) are incorporated in the Habsburg Empire.

Transylvania was declared a Grand Principality of Transylvania, further consolidating its special separate status within the Habsburg Empire.

Moldavia loses its eastern territory east of river Prut (also called Bessarabia) to Russia.

The principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia — for centuries under the suzerainty of the Turkish Ottoman Empire – secured their autonomy.

Alexandru Ioan Cuza is elected to the thrones of Moldavia and Wallachia.

Wallachia and Moldavia unite to form a national state: Romania.

Carol I (GGerman-born succeeds Alexandru Ioan Cuza, as the prince of Romania.

Transylvania falls under the direct rule of Hungary and a strong push for
Magyarisation (of names and official language) follows.

On May 9 the Romanian parliament declared the independence of Romania from the Ottoman Empire.  A day later, the act was signed by Prince Carol I.

The Kingdom of Romania officially proclaimed.

The leaders of the Romanians of Transylvania sent a Memorandum to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Joseph demanding an end to persecutions and Magyarization attempts.

King Carol I dies. He is succeeded by his nephew King Ferdinand I (1914-1927).
Romania enters WWI on the side of the Triple Entente aiming to regain its lost territories
(part of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina).

During large public assemblies representatives of most towns, villages and local communities in Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bucovina declare union with Romania.

Carol II, Ferdinand’s I son, becomes king of Romania and establishes a royal dictatorship.

Germany demands a monopoly on Romanian exports (mainly oil, lumber and
agricultural products) in exchange for the guarantee of its borders.

The Soviet Union annexes Bessarabia (eastern Romania – today Republic of Moldova)
and Northern Bucovina (NNE Romania).  Germany and Italy forced Romania to cede Northern Transylvania to Hungary.  Widespread demonstrations against King Carol II. Marshall Ion Antonescu forces him to abdicate in favour of his 19-year-old son Michael. Carol II flees Romania.

Marshall Ion Antonescu imposes a military dictatorship.  In order to regain Bessarabia, Romania enters WWII against the Soviet Union.

King Michael I engineers a royal coup and arrests Marshall Ion Antonescu.
Romania reenters war on the Allies side.

The Yalta Agreement makes Romania part of the Soviet system.  The communist-dominated government installed.

With Soviet troops on its territory, Romania enters the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union.  The communists, who gradually took the power, force King Michael I to abdicate
and proclaim Romania a People’s Republic.  King Michael leaves the country and moves to Switzerland.

After Stalin’s death, Romania begins to distance itself from Moscow.

Romania declares autonomy within Communist Bloc.

Nicolae Ceausescu becomes President of the Council of State merging leadership of state and party.

Romania condemns the Soviet-led Warsaw Pacy invasion of Czechoslovakia;
Romania’s communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu earns praise and economic aid from the West.

Romania was the first country of the Soviet Bloc to have official relations with the European Community.  (and sign a treaty that included Romania in the Community’s Generalized System of Preferences).

Obsessed with repaying the national debt and megalomaniac building projects Ceausescu orders a ban on importation of any consumer products and commands exportation of all goods produced in Romania except minimum food supplies. Severe restrictions of civil rights are imposed.

Romania calls on the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Ceausescu indicates Romania will not follow Soviet reform trends.

Romanians unite in protests against the communist leadership and local demonstrations sparked a national uprising that finally ousted communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu and his cabinet.  The Romanian Revolution started in the city of Timișoara and soon spread throughout the country, ultimately culminating in the show trial and execution of longtime Communist Party General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena, and the end of 42 years of Communist rule in Romania. It was also the last removal of a Marxist-Leninist government in a Warsaw Pact country during the events of 1989, and the only one that violently overthrew a country’s government and executed its leader.

First free, multi-party elections after WWII are held in Romania.

Romanians vote for a new Constitution.  The new constitution was approved by 79.1% of voters. The seventh permanent constitution in the country’s history, it was approved that same year in a national referendum on 8 December and promulgated on the same day. It remains the current fundamental law that establishes the structure of the government of Romania, the rights and obligations of the country’s citizens, and its mode of passing laws. It stands as the basis of the legitimacy of the Romanian government.

The constitution was amended once by a referendum on 18 October 2003. The new text took effect on 29 October 2003.

Romania joins NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).  On 29 March, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia formally became members of NATO by depositing their instruments of accession with the United States Government.

Romania becomes a member of the European Union.  This enlargement of the European Union saw Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union (EU) on 1 January 2007. Together with the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, it is considered part of the fifth wave of enlargement of the European Union