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Romania is a republic in southeastern Europe and although rich in culture and natural resources, it has long been one of Europe’s poorest and least developed nations. Foreign powers, including the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, controlled the country for much of its history.
From historical point of view, the territory that is now Romania first appeared in history as Dacia. Most of its inhabitants were originally from the region of Thrace, in Greece; they were called Getae by the Greeks, and later, by the Romans, they were known as Dacians. Later on, the territory was dominated by different empires, starting with the Roman Empire and ending with the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Romania has gained its independence in 1877, after a painful war. At the beginning of the century, Europe found Romania as a kingdom, but, as the World Wars emerged, its governmental status changed to a republic.
In 1948 Communists took control of Romania and modeled the government and economy after those of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. However, in the 1960s Romania’s Communist leaders began to distance themselves from the USSR and develop their own domestic and foreign policies. Romania’s economy grew during the 1960s and 1970s, but by the 1980s most Romanians were suffering from food shortages and other economic hardships. In 1989 Romanians revolted against the repressive dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s president and Communist Party leader. Ceausescu was executed, and a non-Communist government was installed. The first free multiparty elections took place in Romania in 1990.
The political and economic changes that have taken place in Romania since the 1980s have made daily life difficult for many ordinary citizens. Food prices are high relative to the country’s low minimum wage, and few Romanians can afford luxuries. One-family houses are common in Romania’s villages, while most city dwellers live in one-family apartments. Most apartment buildings were built during the Communist period and are cramped with minimal facilities.. Popular Romanian foods include mititei (seasoned grilled meatballs) and mămăligă (a cornmeal porridge that can be served in many different ways). Wine and a plum brandy called tuica are popular beverages among Romanians, and plăcintă (turnovers) are a typical dessert. Soccer is the favorite national sport.
The most serious social problem in Romania is the high rate of unemployment and low standard of living resulting from the country’s transition from a state-run to a market economy. Other social problems surround the rights and treatment of Romania’s minority populations. Since the end of Communism, the Roma minority has been a target of harassment and hostility. In the early 1990s a large number of Roma left Romania for Germany, but the German government sent many of them back the following year. Conflicts have also occurred between ethnic Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania, as Hungarians’ demands for greater autonomy and linguistic rights have provoked responses from nationalist Romanian groups.
At the moment, Romania is facing a time of transition, a time when concepts and ideas have to change, and the economy has to improve.