An east European country with its east coast on the Black Sea; it is bounded by Ukraine and the republic of Moldova on the north and east, Hungary and Serbia on the west, and Bulgaria on the south.
Roughly half of Romania is mountainous. The Carpathians, curving from the north-west, meet the Transylvanian Alps in the centre of the country, where rainfall is heavy and there are large forests. The rest of the country is plain, much of it providing the richest soil in Europe. The Danube forms the southern border as it flows east to its delta on the Black Sea.
Despite the fall of the repressive communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989, economic conditions remain bleak. Ceausescu's ‘systemization’ programme, which forced resettlement in towns, ostensibly to free land for agricultural use, has been reversed, and collective and state farms have been privatized in the hope of boosting food supplies. Businesses have likewise been freed from state control. Principal crops are maize, wheat, rye, potatoes, sugar beet, plums, and apples; mineral resources include coal, iron ore, petroleum, and natural gas. Major industries are metallurgical, mechanical engineering, and chemicals, with mineral fuels, machinery, and transport equipment the principal exports.
Although the regions known as Moldavia and Walachia were part of the Ottoman empire from the 15th century onwards, Turkish domination was increasingly challenged by both Russia and Austria. In 1812 Russia gained control of north-east Moldavia (present-day Moldova). During the next 40 years Romanian nationalism precipitated many insurrections against the Turks. Following the Crimean War, during which the region was occupied by Russia, Walachia and Moldavia proclaimed themselves independent principalities; in 1861 they united to form Romania, electing a local prince, Alexander Cuza, as ruler. On his deposition (1866) Prince Carol Hohenzollen-Sigmaringen was elected. At the Congress of Berlin independence was recognized, and Prince Carol crowned king as Carol I (1881–1914). His pro-German policy led in 1883 to Romania's joining the Triple Alliance of 1882 (Germany, Austria, and Italy). In World War I Romania remained neutral until, in 1916, it joined the Allies. At the Versailles Peace Settlement the country was rewarded with the doubling of its territories, mainly by the addition of Transylvania from Hungary. Carol I was succeeded by Ferdinand I (1914–27) and then by Carol II (1930–40), who imposed a fascist regime. He was forced to cede much territory to the Axis powers in 1940. Romanian forces cooperated with the German armies in their offensives (1941–42), but after the Battle of Stalingrad the Red Army advanced and Romania lost territory to the USSR and Bulgaria. A communist regime was established in 1948 and for the next 20 years the country became a Soviet satellite. A much greater degree of independence was restored during the presidency of Nicolae Ceausescu (1967–89), whose rule became increasingly brutal and autocratic. Stringent economic measures had to be enforced in 1987. During 1989 a movement towards democracy culminated in a violent revolution and the execution of the President and his wife on Christmas Day. A National Salvation Front (NSF) was formed, led by Ion Iliescu, who was elected President. He and many of his colleagues had been communists, and popular demonstrations against the government were brutally put down. Ethnic violence against Hungarians in Transylvania and against the large indigenous gypsy population increased. In spite of opposition from groups such as the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), Iliescu retained power in the 1992 presidential election, having secured a $748 million IMF loan. In 1995 the Chamber of Deputies enacted a Mass Privatization law affecting over 3000 businesses. In 1996 Iliescu was defeated in presidential elections by the CDR candidate, Emil Constantinescu. Social unrest and attacks on ethnic minorities continued. Iliescu was again President from 2000 to 2004, when the centre-right Traian Basescu was elected to succeed him. Romania joined NATO in 2004.