Romania has seen empires come and go and remains today a unique and rapidly growing nation.
Every country has a story. Some are longer than others, but there isn’t a place with borders in the world that doesn’t have tales of war, immigration, development, and independence in its past, and Romania is no different.
I’ve encountered a surprising number of people, both in real life and in my medical translation work, who believe quite strongly that Romania is a country of Roma (sometimes deprecatingly referred to as “Gypsies”), demonstrating a firm but misguided belief that everything in the world is clearly labelled by language. As I know from document translation, this is not the case. Still, Romania has a fascinating history.
The area today known as Romania was first settled by a people known as the Dacians. The Dacians formed a significant empire that reached its peak in the 1st Century BCE, and you can actually still find plenty of evidence of their structures and culture littered all over Romania. The reason you likely have never heard of the Dacians is similar to why you have not heard of many small civilisations over the years: Because the Roman Empire marched in around 106 CE and conquered them!
Unlike some areas the Romans conquered, however, Romania was located in an advantageous spot, rich in gold deposits and geographically located along trade routes and near (or in) the Balkan peninsula. As a result, something happened in Romania that didn’t happen in many other areas: It became heavily Latinised as Romans moved in, establishing cities, building roads, and importing Roman culture. Rome’s hegemony over Romania only last about two hundred years, but in those centuries it had an incredible impact on the people and country.
When Rome pulled out of the area, Hungarians and German tribes moved in, and the area developed into three main principalities: Romania, Wallachia, and Moldavia. The Ottoman Empire conquered the area in the 15th Century. A century later the territories were briefly united into a single country – but it did not last long. In the 17th Century, finally, a nationalist movement swept Romania and it was united again, emerging as the modern country we recognise today, although including Moldova as part of its territory.
During World War II, Romania was one of many countries to have the bad luck of being freed from the Nazis by the Soviet Union, who made certain that Romania emerged as a communist nation. From 1947 until 1989, Romania was ruled by two communist dictators who did immeasurable damage to Romania’s culture and economy. Where there had once been a stable nation there was soon a shell of a country.
Romania found true independence again after the fall of the Soviet Union and has made great strides in economic recovery since then, though its damaged national culture retains the scars of the communist years. Today Romania is a rapidly growing member of the European Union.
Image courtesy romaniadacia.wordpress.com